Friday, April 10, 2020

A Lesson in Capitalism

Most people are aware that something called “inequality” exists in society, but have only vague ideas about how great it is and about how it has been caused. Socialists know that enormous inequalities are unavoidable symptoms of capitalism which can only be eradicated in one way: that is by the abolition of capitalism and by replacing it with socialism, under which the wealth produced by industry and agriculture, as well as the means for producing that wealth, will belong to all the people.

No, capitalism cannot be reformed in the interests of the working class. It can never be made to benefit the working class. Just looking at the history of capitalism and at capitalism today proves this point over and over again. Given that capitalism cannot be reformed to suit the interests of the workers, who are the overwhelming majority of the population, and, remembering all the misery, poverty, destruction, wastage and violence which are an inevitable consequence of capitalism, there remains the urgent task for the workers to say that they have had enough and to abolish capitalism.

Capitalism must be ended by the conscious, democratic action not merely of workers in Britain, but of workers throughout the world. When this happens, it can be guaranteed that the full potential of mankind will be released for the first time in history. The forces of nature have endowed each individual human being with a brain capable of immense creativity in innumerable different forms. For the very first time, socialism will enable Man to use these faculties and energies to the full.

The working class is the wealth-producing class in society. Wealth today is represented by vast numbers of commodities and on average these are bought and sold at their values. When a capitalist employs workers, he pays a wage which is again, on average, the value of their particular commodity, i.e. Labour-Power. Their labour is something different, this is what they leave behind them at their places of work in the form of commodities belonging to their employers. The capitalist is able to sell his commodities at a profit by selling them at their value because of the unpaid labour contained in them.

In a given industry — whether privately or State owned — the owners must immediately meet any increase in wages at the expense of profits. But it is wrong to assume that a capitalist can automatically and immediately recover this reduction in profit by increasing his prices. In the first instance he is in competition with other capitalist concerns, and an arbitrary increase would give his competitors the edge in undercutting him. In fact, in normal market conditions, the seller of a commodity will always ask as much as he thinks the market will stand. Even in monopoly conditions, where prices can be kept artificially high, there comes a point when buyers seek alternatives, or will cut down. Look for example at the increase in oil prices after the 1973/4 shortage, followed by a reduction in consumption, and currently, a petrol price war. If, as you assume, an increase in wages can be covered simply by increasing prices, consider why the capitalist did not put up his prices before granting a wage increase. The fact is that capitalists keep a close watch on their markets and try to keep their prices in line with market conditions. Although you direct your comments to price-rises as they affect the “consumer”, it should be borne in mind that the capitalist class themselves are huge consumers of commodities, and the example you give of coal serves to underline this.

Similarly, when workers sell their commodity labour-power, they will seek the highest possible price and in general this will be equal to the value of the labour-power, corresponding to the amount required to feed, clothe, shelter and generally maintain the worker and his family in accordance with traditional standards. Whether individual groups of workers can enforce a rise in wages in order to maintain or improve these standards will depend on the circumstances at the time, but it must be noted that they cannot be depressed very far. In general the most favourable condition for achieving wage increases is when production is expanding and the capitalist is therefore unwilling to risk stoppages. The owners will view wage demands in the light of their increased profits.

Politicians are the mouthpieces and the lackeys of the capitalist system which needs to dupe the mass of the people in order to maintain itself in power. The contrast between the humbug of political pronouncements and the struggle for survival of the working class worldwide cries out for a solution. That solution can be achieved—Socialism, which will finally make politicians redundant when it replaces capitalism across the globe.

Workers of the world unite—you have nothing to lose but your leaders.

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