Why is a social revolution against capitalism needed? Could it not be gradually reformed out of existence? Capitalism cannot be reformed so as to work in the interest of the majority. For a start, it is based on their economic exploitation. Because most people are deprived of access to means of production they have to sell their working abilities for a wage or salary to those who do have access. But employers are not philanthropists. They only employ people if there is something in it for them – a profit. If there isn’t, they won’t employ people or else they make people redundant. This happens all the time.
Profit is the difference between the value of what wage and salary workers produce and the value of what they are paid as wages and salaries. The extraction and accumulation of profit is the aim of production under capitalism. A good alternative name for capitalism is the profit system. Because that’s what it is. It’s a system whose economic aim is the accumulation of more and more capital out of profits. It’s a profit-making system in which profit always has to come before meeting people’s needs. If a profit is not made, economic activity slows down, stops or declines. One of the basic economic laws of capitalism is ‘no profit, no production’. Production is geared only to what people can pay for, not what they need. The rich get their whims met while the poor have to go without heating. Luxury flats are built while many live in unfit accommodation. In fact, while technologically there could be plenty for all, the profit system means that production stops well below that point.
All these problems – housing, stress, pollution, and many others – are interconnected. They are not just isolated problems that can be dealt with one by one. They all have the same root cause in the capitalist system of production for profit and are unavoidable consequences, inevitable effects, of it. This is why capitalism cannot be reformed to work in the interest of the majority by putting ‘people before profit’. Any government that tried to do this would provoke an economic slowdown, even an economic crisis, and would sooner or later have to give up and accept, and even apply, the economic law of ‘profits first’. It is surprising how widespread this belief is that governments can change the way capitalism works when they obviously can’t. This is why we say that socialists should direct their energies to ending capitalism not to mending it, to abolishing it, not managing it. In other words, ‘Revolution not Reform’. That’s our policy and that’s what we advocate.
The media loves to have a bogey man to feel threatened by, especially when the threat of real change is a fiction and personified in such a gentleman as Jeremy Corbyn. The Left has taken him to its heart as their new hero. Just as some workers are led to fear this imaginary threat, so others are led to regard it as their greatest hope of salvation. History is not made by great men. Indeed, there are no great men. Great men are the inventions of politically myopic journalists and indolent historians who cannot be bothered to look for real causes. There are great myths and often men and women are motivated to put great faith in them. One such myth is that leaders can create democracy while those who want it need do no more than cheer from the sidelines. Yet, you cannot be a socialist and have a leader. You cannot be a socialist and be a leader. Socialism means self-emancipation of the working class by the working class. Only when a majority of workers understand and want it will socialism be a practical possibility. It is all a question of consciousness allied with democratic political action. Good or bad intentions do not enter into it. They are irrelevant. Good motives do not stand a chance against the limits of historical possibilities. Leaders can be good, bad or indifferent, but they will still do the same thing. They were elected to run capitalism for the capitalist class. That is what they will always do for as long as they are allowed to.
The Socialist Party has never had time for leaders who aim to come into the working class political movement and get socialism on our behalf. Maybe Corbyn will displace May. If he does, it will not take him long to shock his fans and pacify his critics by acting in just the way that every useless Labour Prime Minister has done in the past. Then he too will be rejected as a traitor and another radical hero will emerge to stab him in the back. Opportunist leaders come and go, and they plot and intrigue and pat themselves on the backs, for riding on the backs of their followers.