Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Contradictions of Capitalism

Archaeologists and anthropologists have discovered much about early pre-class societies. We know that when people lived co-operatively and there was no division into classes. The end of these egalitarian societies came because of the division of society into classes – one class in which the overwhelming majority of people, women and men, work to produce everything and the other, ruling, class which steals from us the wealth we produce. This transformation did not come about overnight. It was the result of the development of society’s productive forces, and the production of much greater material wealth than had been possible in earlier societies. As human beings worked to control the world in which they lived, they developed tools like the wheel, the plough and irrigation channels, which allowed them to settle in one place, and to produce a surplus to put by for the next season’s planting and for times of scarcity. But the surplus produced was small. It was not enough to be divided out and had to be ‘protected’ by a small minority on behalf of the rest of the group. Gradually this minority grew to have different interests to the rest of their group and started to treat the surplus as ‘theirs’ rather than everyone’s. They employed bands of armed men to protect the surplus from the majority and used metal tools to develop a monopoly on the best weaponry. The emergence of private property and of embryo states.

Profits are the heart of capitalism, markets its circulating system but it is the working class that is its muscles which transforms nature into saleable goods. Capitalist production needs propertyless workers to work for wages anywhere, and this was accomplished by expropriating peasants, driving them from the land. 

Capitalism is full of inherent contradictions:
(a) the contradiction between use value and exchange value; between production for use and production for the market, for profit.
(b) the contradiction between social production and individual appropriation.
(c) the contradiction between increased use of science in production and the tremendous waste (of the soil, of labour-power, and of materials and means of production).
(d) the contradiction between the rational planning in the factory and the chaos and anarchy in the market.
(e) The contradiction between the unlimited possibility for scientific and technological advancement with increased output and the imposition of artificial rationing.
(f) The contradiction between the falling tendency of the rate of profit and the rising proportion of constant to variable capital resulting the increasing hold of dead labour over living labor.
(g) The growth of the unemployed with the growth in strength and energy of capitalism.
(h) The development of private property contradicted by the expropriation of the direct producer from the means of production and the separation of the owner from the productive process. (i) The contradiction between city and country, between industry and agriculture.
(j) The rise of monopolies concurrently with the intensification of competition.
(k) The ruin of ‘middle classes’ and the consolidation of the rentier class.
(l) The development of nationalism with the further internationalisation of markets and division of labour.

The social system is made up of a net of social relations, the most decisive of which are the economic, that is, those productive relations which result in the satisfaction of our basic needs, food, clothing, shelter. In the close to 300 years since the beginning of the industrial revolution, modern capitalism has greatly developed the productive powers of society. But more and more capitalism is now choking these productive powers. The last world war and the present great economic crisis are two outstanding proofs of the fact that capitalism is played out and is hindering the development of humanity.

Again, the contradictions of capitalism:
1. Capitalism is tremendously wasteful and destructive of men, goods, power, land. The ultimate destiny of all useful goods is to be consumed. Yet under capitalism goods are not produced to be consumed, but for profit, and if a greater profit can be made by destroying the goods, the destruction takes place.

2. While production is a social act, the appropriation of the product, under the present system, is individual. As capitalism develops, larger and larger factories are built, thousands of workers co-operate in the production of a single article, yet the article does not belong to them but to the owner of the means of production. The workers are merely paid wages for the use of their labour power, wages which constantly grow less and less an aliquot part of the total product as the total product ever increases. Simultaneously the owner of the industries becomes progressively more divorced from the productive process. As small partnerships become big corporations or are driven out of business by the trusts and monopolies, the original entrepreneurs become mere rentiers. The corporation also develops, becomes more and more a public utility. The state begins to take a hand, and to run the industry. The former individual owner now becomes a purely parasitic hanger-on, his dividends paid regularly by the state apparatus which he controls.

3. While the productivity of man is unlimited and increases in geometric ratio, the markets are limited, increase in arithmetic ratio, later do not increase at all and even decrease. The greater the productivity of labour, and the greater the amount of production, the greater becomes the surplus product in the hands of the owners, the greater the need for markets, the greater, therefore, the competition among the capitalists, and the greater the tendency to lower the rate of profit, the greater the lowering of the wages of the workers, the larger the army of unemployed and paupers, the more vigorous the drive for foreign markets and colonies for exploitation, and the more violent the military struggles to control the world.

4. The greater the internationalisation of markets, the greater the need to have a military machine to defend the market interests, the greater grow the oppressive burdens of the state apparatus, the greater grows the necessity to transform the whole nation into an armed, economically self-sufficient, ruthless, chauvinistic state.

Thus is it not clear that although in the beginning capitalism developed the productive forces, as capitalism reached its maturity, capitalist relations throttle and destroy these productive forces. With what a system are the products we need and want produced? Within the factory a rigid dictatorship, a terrible “rationalization” where the dead machine rules living labour, where the man is transformed into a cog of the machine, where labour becomes wage-slavery. Outside the factory dictatorship is replaced by economic chaos, man is ruled by prices which he cannot control, by the wild forces of the market of which he can be only the victim. It is only through the hectic fluctuations of supply and demand, it is only through the frantic rush of “successes” and bankruptcies that society “decides” and “plans” the division of its labour.

What is the way out of these contradictions? The present economic relations breed different classes, the capitalist class and the working class, with opposing interests. Inasmuch as our ideas rationalize our interests, the ideas of the ruling, capitalist class will be along the line of preserving their property and their right to exploit laborers, while the ideas of the working class will follow their interests and go along the path of solving the contradictions by removing their causes. The capitalists and their agents in the seats of government are blinded by their self-interest, by the profits which they make as beneficiaries of the present system. The workers, on the other hand, having nothing to lose, are free to see that the present society must evolve into a new one; they see that nothing can free society from its convulsions save the change in the mode of production from a capitalist one, of private ownership of the means of production, to a socialist one, where the means of production are socialised and classes are no more.

Who can provide the way out? Certainly, not the capitalist class, the beneficiaries of the present system. But rather the working class who bear the full weight of capitalism upon their backs and who are in a position to see that capitalism is redundant. As the working class fights against its increasingly worsened position it comes to the realisation that the only way out is for they to take what it has produced for itself. To take over the means of production, the mines, mills, factories, resources, utilities and run them for their own benefit. Then we will have production for use and not for profit. Then we will end both despotism in the factory and anarchy in the market. Then society will allocate its resources according to a social plan that will benefit all.

The interest of the workers are diametrically opposed to the interest of the capitalists and exploiters of the workers who, controlling the government strive to keep the workers down. The productive forces have created capitalist relations, capitalist relations have created classes which have opposite economic and thus opposite political interests. The capitalists want to keep the old relations of exploitation. They fight the rise of the workers. But their only alternative is to plunge society into one crisis and one war after another. The victory of the workers cannot be forever delayed. The old relations must be burst asunder. And if the capitalists, blinded by their interests, try to stop the wheels of progress they are ruthlessly pushed aside by the workers just as in the past they themselves pushed aside the feudal lords. When the workers of the world unite to take  power then the rule over persons will begin to give way to an administration over things. The state, along with religion, will begin to wither away. There will be no exploitation. There will be no classes. Each will receive according to needs, giving according to ability and as the productivity of labour will greatly increase. Humanity will have reached a rational system of society where development of mankind will no longer be choked by social relations, where, therefore, society will be a free one and mankind emancipated.

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