Saturday, October 20, 2012

Protesting is just the start

Socialist Courier is cheered that our class is once again on the move, marching to protect its interests and talking about its future. But optimism sometimes needs to give way to gloomy realism.

The world is dominated by profit, and that a relatively small number of people, the owners and employers, benefit in terms of wealth and power. As this economic crisis deepens at home and aboard, its human toll becomes even more evident. Recovery will only come when the rate of profit is restored. Which employers are actively seeking to bring about by imposing wage freezes, even wage cuts, watering down pension schemes, and anything else they can think of to reduce their labour costs. Thousands are facing job losses or being offered an enforced shorter working week as this malignant disease spreads. Workers have been warned to brace themselves for even worse to come. All those on  benefits' will be affected, as the aim is to force people on out-of-work benefits into low paid jobs or doing  community work", previously only undertaken by people ordered so by courts for criminal convictions. Incapacity claimants face harrowing questioning and ever more frequent tests from someone other than their own GP. The government have dressed up the proposals as part of an austerity programme. We are talking about death by a thousand cuts.

The short-term well-being of workers is determined by the degree to which they submit and co-operate in the intensification of their own working conditions. Labour power is a marketable commodity that causes workers to globally compete for jobs; this carries the tacit acceptance that if greater profit can be made elsewhere then production will be switched to an alternative location. This inevitably sets worker against worker in a downward scramble to offer the most ‘attractive’ conditions conducive to investment and future profitability. In these circumstances the working class should not be surprised when they become the ‘collateral damage’, the unfortunate but necessary casualties of a ‘war’ in pursuit of profit. The sectional interests of the owners and shareholders must always take precedence over the interests of workers. We are facing the cold reality of the simple fact that our class enemies hold state power, and will use it, ruthlessly to protect their interests. Which is why the Socialist Party argues for the prime importance of taking state power out of their hands. For socialists the rule of government can never be democratic. Governments implement policies for which no one voted, or would vote for. No one voted to cut care services for the old and the disabled. No one voted to close hospital departments. People getting what they didn’t vote for shows that capitalism is incompatible with democracy as an expression of “the people’s will”. Governments work for a privileged section of society. They make the laws which protect the property rights of a minority who own and control natural resources, industry, manufacture and transport. These are the means of life on which we all depend but most of us have no say in how they are used.

 Workers should fight back. The unions today may appear weak yet they still remain an important social movement. The activities of trade unions are important to defend the interests of workers against the bosses but they should also be encouraging the spread of ideas that would end the capitalist economic system. If you accept the logic of capitalism, you play by its rules.  Ask yourself this: Why should we have to fight the same battles over and over again? The crisis has shifted the balance of forces in favour of employers. Even under the best of circumstances unions have to work hard to get wages to go up but with the recession unions can only try to put a brake on the downward slide and try to stop things getting worse. Is this the only future? Yes, within the context of the capitalist system, it is. But capitalism is not the only possible way of organising the production and distribution of the things we need. Without a decent anti-capitalist argument, and an idea of what we are fighting for, we¹ve lost before we’ve begun.

Socialists argue that our current economic system is fundamentally undemocratic because those that produce all of the wealth have no say in how it is put to use, and those that control most of the wealth had nothing to do with creating it. Workers have little control over their future and must decide whether life under capitalism is really the future they want. Workers can and should organise to end capitalism which forces them to work for wages to live. We need to get rid of the master, take the means of making a living under our collective ownership and control, and organise our own lives, democratically. We should organise a system based on producing the things we need simply because we need them and not to make a profit. Production for use, not production for profit. We need socialism, the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production.

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