Tuesday, December 01, 2015

The power of the people is stronger than the people in power


Reformism is a proven failure. Reformism by its nature means class collaboration. At the dawn of the 20th century, social democracy re-modelled itself within the workers’ movement and began preaching the utopian lie that capitalism could be reformed and made humane through concessions and compromises with the ruling class. It cannot be denied that reformists derailed workers’ struggles. Reformism is not a moderate or gradual form of socialism, but its foe. Socialists never support candidates of capitalist parties because there is nothing more dangerous for the workers than endorsing a class enemy. We want the working class to become conscious of itself and its power in society. Genuine revolutionaries understand that all political consciousness begins with recognition of the fundamental class division: the working class versus the ruling capitalist class. Success in the class struggle demands working-class independence from all capitalist parties and platforms. Some political activists promote reformists leaders today and think they will outsmart them tomorrow by recruiting their supporters. This will supposedly help the socialist and working-class struggle. But all they are doing is giving a radical cover to capitalist reformism and diverting activists from the necessary tasks. For any organization claiming to be socialist to endorse reformism is a shameful betrayal of the principles they allegedly stand for. The Socialist Party uses electoral campaigns to advance socialist consciousness among workers. The only real solution for the working class is the socialist revolution and the overthrow of the capitalist state.

The present capitalist system is based on a central contradiction. On the one hand it depends on networks that merge the labour of most of the world’s seven billion people into what is in effect a global system of cooperation. Just look at the clothes you wear. They are made from materials from one part of the world, carried by ships made from steel from somewhere else, woven in a third place, stitched in a fourth, transported using oil from a fifth, and so on. A thousand individual acts of labour are combined in even the simplest item. On the other hand, the organisation of these networks is not based on cooperation, but on ruthless competition between rival highly privileged minorities who monopolise the means that are necessary for production – the tools, the machines, the oil fields, the modern communications systems and the land.

What motivates the capitalists is not the satisfaction of human need. It is the pressure to compete and keep ahead of other capitalists. The key to keeping ahead in competition is making profit and then using the profit to invest in new means of keeping ahead. Sometimes these investments do indeed produce things of use to the mass of people. But they are just as likely to be directed towards building a new supermarket next door to an existing one owned by a rival, spending money on rebranding old drugs rather than researching new ones, establishing a monopoly of cumbersome software to keep out better rival systems, invading countries to seize control of their oil or hoarding food that is short supply to force its price up. Such a system necessarily leads to repeated crises, since the drive for profit leads rival capitalists to rush to pour money into any venture that seems profitable, even though the result of them all doing so is to force up prices of raw materials and to produce goods that the world’s workers cannot afford to buy because their wages have been held down to boost profits.

The socialist alternative to such a state of affairs is simple. It is to replace decision making on the basis of competition between rival groups of capitalists by a genuine democracy where people democratically decide what the economic priorities should be and work together to plan how to achieve these. It is said that such planning cannot work because modern productive systems are too complex. Yet every major capitalist enterprise undertakes planning to fulfil its objectives.

Tesco does not rely on the local street market to restock its shelves. It plans months, even years in advance to guarantee the supplies of the thousands of products available in every big store. In the same way Nissan try to plan in detail the production of the thousands of components that go into any one of their car models – even if the planning involves imposing their demands on smaller firms that supply them. Those who do the planning, it should be added, are very rarely the owners of the giant corporations – rather they employ technical staff to do the job for them. In the same way it is employees, not owners or directors, who carry out scientific research, develop new production techniques and make all of the advances to which the capitalist system then lays claim. If planning and innovation are possible under the present system, they are just as possible under a system based upon meeting human need through democratic decision making, rather than competing in order to make profits to direct towards further competition. Indeed, under such a system, planning would be easier. The planning that takes place in any capitalist corporation at the moment is always distorted by the impact of the planning taking place in rival corporations. Nissan can spend billions on a new car only to find the market is already flooded with products from Volkswagen or Toyota. Tesco can lay out grandiose plans for the next half dozen years only to find that the crisis caused by blind competition in financial markets is cutting people’s ability to buy what it has to sell.

To reshape society it is necessary to take control of those planning decisions, subordinating them to the fulfillment of democratically decided priorities. A socialist society would involve the mass of people in democratic debate to plan production to meet human need. What stands in the way of such an approach is not its lack of viability but the vested interests who own and control the production of wealth today that will do anything in their power to keep things that way. The capitalist class will try to cling on to their own economic power to the end.

The international character of the capitalist process means that the only way to make a final escape from its grip is by developing struggles that spread from country to country. Only then can the new democratically controlled productive networks have at their disposal all the resources needed to provide a better life for the bulk of humanity.

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