Friday, April 22, 2016

Socialism or Common Ruin for All

The history of capitalism is its quest for profits. The profit system is the horrific and soulless essence of capitalism. The Socialist Party sets itself the aim of spreading socialist ideas to expose the consequences of this profit system we live under. The emancipation of the working class will be achieved only by the transfer to common ownership by the working people of all means and products of production and the organisation of all the functions of social and economic life in accordance with the requirements of society. This radical economic revolution will entail most fundamental changes in the entire constitution of social relationships. The Left no longer thinks in terms of “socialism” as a society that will some-day come into being, but only of improvements upon present-day society. Few on the left now accept that out of the struggle between capital and labour, which means between those profiting and those suffering from exploitation, there will arise a non-exploitative society. They believe that if capitalists learn to think socialistically and the socialists learn to think capitalistically then it will lead to a harmonious new world. They seek an equitable re-division of income and re-distribution of wealth and willingly compromise the original goal of the socialist movement to achieve this. The line they offer is that government can take from Paul to give to Peter in order to safeguard the existence of the capitalist system of labour exploitation.

The Labour Party is based on the premise that there is no irreconcilable contradiction between labour and capital and that concessions and the gradual transformation of capitalism into socialism are possible. It has led to to-day’s Labour Party's only platform that is to be able to manage the capitalist ship of state better than the Tories. It has failed to use its position within working class to popularise any real vision of socialism distinct from capitalism. And none of the current arguments around Corbyn and the question of party democracy or policy has raised the slightest prospect of what could be achieved by socialism but, rather, advance arguments for improved efficient management of capitalism. Nowhere do they indicate how the fundamental contradiction within the capitalist mode of production can be resolved by the establishment of a socialist society. It is significant in their definition of the enemies of the working class generally consists of the greedy bankers and financiers  in the City while industrialist and manufacturing capitalists are largely excluded from their criticism but are, indeed, seen as the lifeblood of the nation. The nature of production for profit is not questioned. If the Labour Party holds out no solution, what are the alternatives?

To most reform-minded politicians the socialist vision of the future with a modern technological cornucopia of abundance has always seemed either too unreal or too remote to be taken very seriously. The left imagined that socialism would re-model capitalism rather than abolish it. Marx and Engels assumed, however, that economic phenomena which they saw as being peculiar to capitalism would vanish with capitalism. Wages, profit and rent represented such social relationships, peculiar to capitalism and unthinkable in socialism. The same was true of the modern division of labour, especially the separation of brain work from manual labour.  Workers in their opinion are able to end class relations by abolishing their own class position, thus clearing the way for a further unfolding of the social forces of production. This would result in further technological development leading toward the abolition of human labour or, at any rate, of unwanted and disagreeable human labour. Capitalism is an obstacle to technological advance. The capitalist “solution” to the problem of automation is to be found not in higher wages and a shorter work-week for employees but in higher profitability expressed in increased capital and will try to secure its profitability at the expense of the work-force. Each entrepreneur, or corporation, employs the minimum of workers relative to capital investment; each, of course, tries to increase this minimum by a correspondingly larger investment. They are interested, economically speaking, not in a larger or smaller work-force but in the one which proves most profitable. They are not, and cannot, be concerned with the unemployed who are the government’s responsibility.

Workers in democracies have the right to vote in parliamentary and local elections. This right they exercise through the secret ballot. Thus each voter exercises his or her ‘power’ in isolation from any community, as an individual in a polling booth. Voting is not a matter for public discussion, or for meetings. It is utterly individualised. Many have always argued that mass assemblies are more democratic than secret ballots, since they permit the exercise of wider kinds of political reasoning than can be applied by the isolated voter. At a mass assembly, issues can be discussed, arguments refuted. In a mass meeting, estimates can be made of the general level of support for some proposals for action, and thus of the likelihood of that action being successful. This is not possible with the secret ballot.  Nor do voters have no real control over their elected ‘representatives’. There is no effective right of recall, no effective mandate which voters can exercise over MPs, etc. The voters elect the MP as isolated voters, and as such have no control over him or her. The MP is protected from control by constituents by a whole gamut of ‘parliamentary privileges’ once he or she is elected. The MP ceases to represent anyone once elected. Thus, in the parliamentary system, the exercise of political freedom and power consists in the few seconds, every few years, it takes the voter to express a choice between parliamentary misrepresentatives – marking a ballot paper with a cross, like an illiterate. Legislature are elected by powerless parliamentary constituencies who exercise no control over the remaining part of the state machine: We do not elect our judiciary or ‘civil servants’. Nor have we effective means of control over them. It is exceptional for the legislature itself, i.e. Parliament, to exercise real control over the state bureaucracies. The non-elected part of the state is protected from popular control by a whole variety of institutional means and official. Even the MPs are excluded from scrutiny of large parts of the bureaucracy’s personnel and actions. Many will declare that parliamentary democracy and peoples’ power are incompatible. For the Socialist Party the mechanics of voting and getting elected exists and despite its limitations political power does lie in the chambers of the legislatures, otherwise the squabbling factions of the ruling class would not be so intent upon taking control of them by using chicanery to dupe the voters. It is the knowledge behind the ballot rather than determines power in the end. We must not let an uncontested profit system bring about the common ruin of all.

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