It is quite clear that with production carried on for profit and not for use, with the means of production used, not for the purpose of satisfying human needs but for exploiting human labour in the extraction of surplus value, waste is absolutely essential. The capitalist system involves the persistent production of a mass of commodities which must be got rid of somehow if the wheels are to be kept going around. Thus, under capitalism, wilful waste is the essential corollary of woeful want. There exists waste in every industry, represented by the production and distribution of things which are useless and worse; adulterated and shoddy, made only to sell and to fall to pieces as soon as sold.
Under the capitalist system, with production geared to private profit, society’s resources are squandered in a thousand and one ways. Any High Street demonstrates this, with shops full of goods made more expensive by the duplication of product brands and built-in obsolescence. To combat waste, we are often urged to recycle. Recycling is, of course, a good thing. It is often the first step that most people take down the road towards environmental awareness or action. However, it is also very much a diversion. Simply putting “Please recycle this product when finished” on the outside of a drink can gives the manufacturer a green image, even though they are producing millions of “use once”, throwaway containers. The recycling industry gives the impression that something is being done about waste and stops people questioning why so much stuff is produced in the first place. Packaging companies want to shift the blame for “waste” onto the individual consumer. Why don’t we have reusable bottles? Why do we need disposable razors?
All the waste traceable to operations of a capitalist system, waste which drain the wealth of the world at a hundred thousand points, will never be fully uncovered this side of a socialism. Capitalism is inherently wasteful. If we are to save the planet, we have to fundamentally change how society uses, manufacture and treats the goods that currently form such an important part of our lives. All those unrepairable appliances, change with the fashion clothes, and the mountains of disposable packaging are actually not the product of an economy that delivers its benefits to most people. On the contrary, the biggest beneficiaries of consumerism are those at the top. a system that unscrupulously exploits not only nature, but also human life and labour.
Nothing at all approaching to such stupendous outlay on sheer economic waste has been heard of in the entire record of the human race is that of war and the armament industries preparations for war. One would think that if the true costs of waging a war were dispassionately examined, war would be deemed unacceptable by all. Unfortunately, there are those who stand to benefit.
One of the biggest waste is undoubtedly unemployment at the cost of the demoralisation and misery of the unemployed and their families. Unemployment represents a monstrous waste of society’s resources in terms of what the unemployed could contribute to production. Capitalism’s attitude to people is the same as everything else. Cast aside when no longer required. It is a system that unscrupulously exploits not only nature, but also human life and labour.