Tuesday, December 06, 2016

We must organise ourselves better and more.

Marx’s materialist conception of history makes the way humans are organised to meet their material needs the basis of any society. Humans meet their material needs by transforming parts of the rest of nature into things that are useful to them; this, in fact, is what production is. So the basis of any society is its mode of production which, again, is the same thing as its relationship to the rest of nature. Humans survive by interfering with the rest of nature to change it for their own benefit. A lot of environmental activists are wrong to see this interference as inherently destructive of nature. For sure, it might do this, but there is no reason why it has to. That humans have to interfere in nature is a fact of human existence. But how humans interfere in nature, on the other hand, depends on the kind of society they live in. It is absurd to regard human intervention in nature as some outside disturbing force since humans are precisely that part of nature which has evolved that consciously intervenes in the rest of nature; it is our nature to do so. True, that at the present time, the form human intervention in the rest of nature takes is upsetting natural balances and cycles, but the point is that humans, unlike other life-forms, are capable of changing their behaviour. In this sense the human species is the brain and voice of nature i.e. nature become self-conscious. But to fulfill this role humans must change the social system which mediates their intervention in nature.

Capitalism is the social system under which we live. Capitalism is primarily an economic system of competitive capital accumulation out of the surplus value produced by wage labour. As a system, it must continually accumulate or go into crisis. Consequently, human needs and the needs of our natural environment take second place to this imperative. Capitalism is an ever-expanding economy of capital accumulation. In other words, most of the profits are capitalised, i.e. reinvested in production, so that production, the stock of means of production, and the amount of capital, all tend to increase over time. The economic circuit is thus money - commodities - more money - more commodities, even more money. This is not the conscious choice of the owners of the means of production. It is something that is imposed on them as a condition for not losing their original investment. Competition with other capitalists forces them to re-invest as much of their profits as they can afford to in keeping their means and methods of production up to date. As a result, there is continuous technological innovation. Defenders of capitalism see this as one of its merits and in the past, it was insofar as this has led to the creation of the basis for a non-capitalist society in which the technologically-developed means of production can be now used to satisfy people’s wants and needs. Under capitalism, this whole process of capital accumulation and technical innovation is a disorganised, impersonal process which causes all sorts of problems—particularly on a world-scale where it is leading to the destruction of the environment. Capitalism differs from previous class societies in that under it production is not for direct use, not even of the ruling class, but for sale on a market. Competitive pressures to minimise costs and maximise sales, profit-seeking and blind economic growth, with all their destructive effects on the rest of nature, are built-in to capitalism. These make capitalism inherently environmentally unfriendly. Under capitalism, there is a very large industry devoted to creating needs. Capitalism requires consumption, whether it improves our lives or not, and drives us to consume up to, and past, our ability to pay for that consumption. In a system of capitalist competition, there is a built-in tendency to stimulate demand to a maximum extent. Firms, for example, need to persuade customers to buy their products or they go out of business. They would not otherwise spend the vast amounts they do spend on advertising. Endless “growth” and the growing consumption of nature-given materials this involves – is built into capitalism. However, this is not the growth of useful things as such but rather the growth of money-values. Socialists, in contrast, seek a "steady-state economy" which is a situation where human needs are in balance with the resources needed to satisfy them. Production would not be ever-increasing and all that would be produced would be products for consumption and the products needed to replace and repair the raw materials and instruments of production used up in producing these consumer goods. There would be no imperative need to expand productivity as exerted under capitalism through the market.

Many political parties profess to exist for the purpose of assisting the working class and they have numerous platforms of social reforms which they guarantee would if the workers would only trust them and vote for them; solve all the ills which afflict the working class. The Socialist Party possesses no programme of palliatives and is opposed to all parties who ask the workers to support a policy of amelioration. Reform of capitalism would still leave workers in their slave position. The Socialist Party point the signs that say “Private Property” and “Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted” and describe them as advertising billboards for the cause of poverty, slums, disease, crime, war and all the other ailments inflicting the human race. It is claimed, not just by supporters of capitalism but those so-called socialists, that it is impossible to have an economy which excludes such things as wages, prices, and money, and that any society’s economy is necessarily going to include those concepts, particularly wages and prices despite it being well documented by anthropologists, that there have been many societies which have not involved a monetary economy – in fact, some exist even today in isolated parts of the world. Pound and pence, wage slips and price tags are not an intrinsic part of the human essence. The Left’s tendency to be nothing more than the reformist advocates of some sort of state-administered capitalism, paying lip service to authentic socialism obstructs any real movement towards socialism. The Left, by and large, does not stand for socialism and persistently misrepresents what socialism is by identifying it with some kind of state involvement in the economy. We are sure the capitalist class will be gratified that the Left springs to the defence of their system against the socialist alternative. The Left has aligned itself with the arguments of the pro-capitalist Ludwig von Mises in asserting the need for a common universal unit of accounting.

Anything less than the demand for free-access socialism does not go far enough. The Left proves to be quite a conservative movement.