If you were to compile a list of essential workers that your community is currently reliant on you'd very likely not include billionaires, CEOs, businessmen, bankers, economists or the royals or that class of people who live off rent, interest and profit. Your list would include workers we pass every day on the streets, whether medical workers, shop staff, bin men, delivery drivers, those working in power plants or working in front line maintenance of the technology society needs etc. — the class that sells its physical and mental abilities for a wage or salary in order to live — the working class.
This class, the working class, runs the world and it is important to grasp this fact. It is we who build the cities and railroads, the bridges and roads, the docks and airports. It is we who staff the hospitals and schools, who empty the bins and go down the sewers. It is we who fish the oceans and tend the forests and till the land and plantations. It is we, the working class, who produce everything society needs from a pin to an oil-rig, who provide all of its services. If we can do all of this off our own bats, then surely we can continue to do so without a profit-greedy minority watching over us and, more, in our own interests.
The ruling class of capitalists and their executive, the governments of the world, have no monopoly on our skills and abilities. These belong to us. Moreover, it is we who are responsible for the inventions that have benefited humanity and the improvements in productive techniques. Most inventions and improvements are the result of those who do the actual work thinking up easier and faster ways of completing a task, the result of ideas being passed down from generation to generation, each one improving the techniques of the previous. If those who work have given the world so much, in the past say 2000 years, then how much more are we capable of providing in a world devoid of the artificial constraints of profit? Needless to say, any vaccine for the Coronavirus will be the result of the hard work of salary earning scientists, not some fat arsed apologist for the profit system in the White House or Downing St or the class they're really there to pander to.
It is easy to cite the advantages of capitalism over previous economic systems. Many people believe that capitalism, though not perfect, is the only system possible. One thing is certain, though – if we follow the capitalist trajectory, we’re in for some pretty troublesome times. Capitalism has undoubtedly raised the productive potential of humanity. It is now quite possible to provide a comfortable standard of living for every human on the planet. But, to reiterate, capitalism now stands as a barrier to the full and improved use of the world’s productive and distributive forces. In a world of potential abundance, the unceasing quest for profit imposes on our global society widespread artificial scarcity. Hundreds of millions of humans are consigned to a life of abject poverty, whilst the majority live lives filled with uncertainty.
Our ability to imagine has brought us so very far, from the days when our ancestors chipped away at flint to produce the first tools, to the landing of someone on the moon, the setting up of the world wide web, and the mapping out of the human genome. Is it really such a huge leap of the imagination to now envisage a social system that can take over from the present capitalist order of things? Is it just too daring to imagine humans consigning poverty, disease, hunger and war to some pre-historic age?
Do we really need leaders deciding our lives for us? Do we really need governments administering our lives when what is really needed is the administration of the things we need to live in peace and security? Must every decision made by our elites be first of all weighed on the scales of profit, tilted always in their favour? A growing number think not and have mobilised to confront what they perceive to be the major problems of contemporary capitalism.
In recent years there has been a world-wide backlash against neoliberal globalisation, corporate power and the iniquities of modern-day capitalism. Everywhere where the world’s ruling elite have assembled to decide their next step they have been met with protests and demonstrations that have attracted hundreds of thousands. Demonstrations at Seattle, Gothenburg, Prague, Genoa and Gleneagles, for instance, have fuelled the ongoing debate on the nature of modern day capitalism. Thousands of articles have been written on the subject and hundreds of books have been published that explore the alternatives offered by the anti-globalisation movement.
What is now clear is that the anti-globalisation movement, however well-meaning, does not seek to replace capitalism with any real alternative social system. At best it attracts a myriad of groups, all pursuing their own agenda. Some call for greater corporate responsibility. Some demand the reform of international institutions. Others call for the expansion of democracy and fairer trading conditions. All, however, fail to address the root cause of the problems of capitalism.
One thing is certain: capitalism cannot be reformed in the interests of the world’s suffering billions, because reform does not address the basic contradiction between profit and need. The world’s leaders cannot be depended upon because they can only ever act as the executive of corporate capitalism. The expansion of democracy, while welcome, serves little function if all candidates at election time can only offer variations on the same basic set of policies that keep capitalism in the ascendancy.
Capitalism must be abolished if we as a species are to thrive, if the planet is to survive. No amount of reform, however great, will work. Change must be global and irreversible. It must involve all of us. We need to erase borders and frontiers; to abolish states and governments and false concepts of nationalism. We need to abolish our money systems, and with it buying, selling and exchange. And in place of this we need to establish a different global social system — a society in which there is common ownership and true democratic control of the Earth’s natural and industrial resources. A society where the everyday things we need to live in comfort are produced and distributed freely and for no other reason than that they are needed – Socialism.
It is now no utopian fantasy to suggest we can live in a world without waste or want or war, in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation. That much is assured. We certainly have the science, the technology and the know-how. All that is missing is the will — the global desire for change that can make that next great historical advance possible; a belief in ourselves as masters of our own destiny; a belief that it is possible to free production from the artificial constraints of profit and to fashion a world in our own interests. And how soon this happens depends upon us all — each and every one of us.