Sunday, June 26, 2022

To build the world we want, we must work together


A common defence of capitalism is that nowadays millions of people are investors, directly or indirectly, in industry. Pension funds, insurance policies and unit trusts are cited as examples. The suggestion is that wealth is more evenly distributed. The whole argument bears all the marks of a public relations trick to gain popular support for Big Business and the Stock Exchange against any measures they feel might harm their interests. There has been a shift from individual to institutional investors on the stock exchanges though not all these institutions hold shares “in trust for the people.’’ The insurance companies and banks are profit-making bodies whose own shares are traded on the stock exchange. It is difficult to see how the growth of institutional investors is a justification of capitalism. In fact it makes the basic absurdity of capitalism—social production yet sectional ownership—even more obvious. When the joint-stock company appeared a hundred or so years ago, Marx wrote that in separating management from ownership it meant that “the capitalist disappears as superfluous from the productive process." Engels was less polite. He spoke of “parasites”. The long list of social functions the capitalists imagined they had has gone: as individuals they can no longer claim to be the main source of finance for industry. Even this function, only necessary under capitalism, is now carried out by anonymous institutions. The individual capitalist — one-time alleged abstainer, organiser and risk-taker —is shown to be superfluous even in the realm of finance.

Having even a few thousand pounds worth of savings doesn’t turn anybody into a capitalist. Even the slaves in Ancient Rome had a fund called a peculium, collected from tips, which they could use to buy their freedom when old. A capitalist is someone who has enough wealth to live without having to sell his mental and physical energies. The real solution should be obvious: convert the already socially-operated means of wealth-production into the property of the whole community. Then production can be organised for use without the restrictions of profit-making, finance and commerce.

 Greed is not a characteristic of working men and women. In fact, the working class is the most charitable body of men ever known to history. Inadequately housed, shabbily dressed, underpaid and overworked, the workers make do with only a tiny portion of the wealth they produce so that the capitalist class can live in idle luxury. In fact, a socialist book written at the turn of the 20th Century had the title “The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.”

When the working class throughout the world has grasped that there is a socialist alternative to. the capitalist system it will use its immense numbers to capture political power. It will make use of the parliamentary machinery to achieve the revolutionary transformation of society. There is, however, unlikely to be very much blood about at the time. The workers, who make up the overwhelming majority of the world's population, will be able to smother any attempt at resistance by a dissident minority. The alternatives facing the working class are socialism or capitalism. There is no middle path nor any compromise with capital possible. None in the Socialist Party would think of referring it to the State as though it were some sort of benevolent society looking after working-class interests. Socialists realise that the State is the executive committee of the ruling class and that it only has a basis in a class-divided social system. We socialists know better.

Many are devising plans for making the world a better place to live in. Ideas thus generated find expression in schemes for remedying the outstanding evils of which the majority of people are victims—unemployment, insecurity, poverty, and war. The Socialist Party claims, and proves, that these evils cannot be remedied within the framework of the existing social order. Nothing less than social revolution offers a sound basis for social reconstruction. The abolition of private ownership of the means and instruments of production and distribution, the end of the wages system, the production of wealth solely for use instead of for profit—this, and nothing else, will provide the foundation for the construction of the social system that we so urgently desire. Any planning for a better new world that does not include these fundamental changes is doomed to bring disappointment to those who hope to experience substantial improvements.

Economic insecurity is bred of capitalism. Men and women are related to one another in a capitalist world, not as individuals, but as commodity owners. The buying and selling of commodities, including the workers’ energies, is the essence of this system. Buying and selling gives rise to competition, competition breeds struggle, and in the struggle no man can claim to be absolutely secure; any adverse turn of the struggle may reduce him to the ranks of the most poverty stricken.Ownership of land, machinery, factories, mines, railways, road transport, sea transport, etc., places some men in the privileged position of employing others. Non-ownership and, in consequence, the necessity to live by selling their physical and mental energies, makes other men seek employment. Socialism, by placing the means of wealth production under the democratic ownership and control of the whole of the community will ensure that everyone contributes to the common effort without entering into contract with his fellows on the basis of economic privilege.

Given common ownership of the means of production and distribution, the wealth produced by the common effort will be accessible to all. Modern scientific methods of production ensure that there shall be plenty and none need be short of the essentials and comforts of life. With the social store available to every one according to their needs, the dependence of wives on their husbands, of children on their fathers, of the sick and aged on charity, of men on their ability to hold down a job, will vanish. Each will enjoy the security afforded by all.

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