Monday, July 06, 2020

Arise, ye who refuse to be slaves.

There are times when social and economic problems become so bad that people must choose between the social system that makes their lives difficult and a new one that will improve their lives. Times like that are often called revolutionary times. Many now believe events in the recent weeks show that we are living under such times. But the questions we should be asking is how to make the change and what that change should be. We now face that kind of choice today. Capitalism—the social system we live under—no longer serves the interests of the people. It creates countless problems that it cannot solve. It creates hardship and poverty for millions, while the few who own and control the economy grow rich off the labour of those allowed to keep their jobs. It destroys the cities that we built up. It is destroying the natural environment that is the source of the food we eat and the air we breathe. Technology could and should be used to lessen the need for arduous toil and to enhance our lives is used instead to eliminate jobs and increase exploitation. Poverty is as widespread as it has ever been. Wages go down even as productivity rises. Joblessness, homelessness, helplessness and despair are spreading. Economic insecurity and social breakdown place an unbearable strain on our families, our children and ourselves. Emotional stress, crime, prostitution, alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, and many more signs of unhappiness and hopelessness, are on the rise. Shall we do the common sense thing by making the means of production our collective property, abolishing exploitation of the many by the few, and using our productive genius to create security and abundance for all?

The principles of socialism explains how and why society evolves, how one social system is replaced by another. It is one of the main conclusions of socialist thought that socialism cannot arise BEFORE the economic basis is ripe for it. And this is sound common sense. Each economic system is a growth—out of the previous system. Capitalism grew out of feudalism, and could not, as a system, precede it. A new society cannot come into being until the need for it and the practicability of it, arises. Hence socialism could not precede capitalism, for socialism requires a very high level of production, giant machines, and an educated and trained population to work them. It is capitalism which provides these, and it is because capitalism cannot use the means of production for the benefit of society that the need for socialism arises.

"No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have been matured in the womb of the old society. Therefore, mankind always takes up only such problems as it can solve; since looking at the matter more closely, we will always find that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation." (Preface to " Critique of Political Economy.")

Progressives ignore this very important lesson of socialism. 

What is capitalism? What are the essentials of capitalism?

Every society has a very definite basis, and every class society a very definite method of exploiting its subject class. This exploitation was not veiled in slave society; one man owned another and made him work. The master gave the slave the necessities of life and retained for himself what was produced over and above the slave's maintenance. The exploitation and slavery of present-day society are to some extent veiled. They are there all right, none the less. The capitalist does not own the worker, but still the worker is dependent on the capitalist class for his livelihood. And how is the worker exploited? Before production takes place today we have capital. This is money invested, for the purpose of profit, in the purchase of machinery, raw materials, factories, etc. But these things are useless without workmen, so capital engages too the energies of the worker. The energies of the worker are used up in producing articles for sale, commodities, but the worker is not paid for the produce of his work for the whole duration of the day. In a working day of eight hours a worker may receive wages equivalent to, say, four hours' produce of his work. The other four hours are given free to the capitalist. It is thus that the worker is exploited under capitalism. Were he paid for the full produce of his eight hours' work there would be no profits for the capitalist class. Whatever minor modifications present-day society may undergo, this is, simply and briefly put, an explanation of the productive process. It is plain to see that wage-labour and capital are the roots of the whole system. Machinery, in simple or complex form, may be employed in any social system—but WAGE-LABOUR AND CAPITAL ARE PECULIAR TO CAPITALISM, and it is by their presence or absence that we can decide whether a society is capitalist or not.

In his "Wage-Labour and Capital" Marx rightly points out that the two are complementary. The one does not exist without the other. He writes: "Capital and wage-labour are two sides of one and the same relation. The one conditions the other in the same way that the usurer and the borrower condition each other. As long as the wage-labourer remains a wage-labourer, his lot is dependent upon capital" And again: "Capital therefore pre-supposes wage-labour; wage-labour pre-supposes capital. They condition each other; each brings the other into existence." ( Emphasis by Marx.)

It is true that with the development of capitalism and in different countries the form of ownership and control of capital may differ. But the form of ownership of capital is not the vital question. It may be owned by the small private trader, the large owner, the trust or by the state—"the executive committee of the capitalist class." But in all cases its presence proves the existence of capitalist society.

Many liberal progressives do not recognise that the roots of capitalism are wage-labour and capital, that these are the features distinguishing capitalism from all earlier forms of society. It is not surprising, therefore, that they fail to understand the need for their abolition if we would be rid of capitalism. So it happens that in their new order" we still have wage-labour and capital—which, as we have seen, spell exploitation and poverty for the working- class.

For progressives, the term "modern capitalism" means unbridled competition, and his solution to the whole problem is the scientific planning of capitalism, so as to cut out competition and make the most efficient use of wage-labour and capital. Their "new order," then, is still capitalism, even if they want wages to be paid according to ability and according to the work done. They relegate to the very distant future, socialism, wherein each will give of his or her best to society and partake of society's products according to his or her needs. It is the old story. Reformists, in that not accepting the socialist case, they are bound to put forward proposals to re-model capitalism—proposals which would still leave the worker a wave-slave and in poverty.

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