There was a time, not so long ago, when revolutionaries were greeted with scepticism or mockery when they argued that the capitalism system was heading towards catastrophe. Today, it’s the fiercest partisans of capitalism who are saying the same thing. “Chaos is there, right in front of us” (Jacques Attali, previously a very close associate of President Mitterand and former director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; now an adviser to President Sarkozy, quoted in the Journal du Dimanche, 27/11/11). “I think that you are not aware that in a couple of days, or a week, our world could disappear...we are very close to a great social revolution”(Jean-Pierre Mustier, bank director, formerly at the Société Générale. www.challenges.fr/finance-et-marche). It’s not with any joy in their hearts that these defenders of capitalism are admitting that their idol is on the way out. They are obviously shattered by this, all the more so because they can see that the solutions being put forward to save the system are unrealistic. As the journalist reporting Jean-Pierre Mustier’s words put it: “as for solutions, the cupboard is bare”. And with good reason!
Whatever their lucidity about what’s in store for capitalism, those who think that no other society is possible are not going to be able to put forward any solutions to the disaster now threatening humanity. Because there are no solutions to the contradictions of capitalism inside this system. The contradictions it is confronting are insurmountable because they are not the result of ‘bad management’ by this or that government or by ‘international finance’ but quite simply of the very laws on which the system is founded. It is only by breaking out of these laws, by replacing capitalism with another society, that humanity can overcome the catastrophe that is staring us in the face. It is only by putting forward this perspective that we can really understand the nature of the crisis that capitalism is going through.
The only solution: free humanity from the yoke of capitalism
Just like the societies which came before it, such as slavery and feudalism, capitalism is not an eternal system. Slavery predominated in ancient society because it corresponded to the level of agricultural techniques which had been achieved. When the latter evolved, demanding far greater attention on the part of the producers, society entered into a deep crisis – the decadence of Rome. It was replaced by feudalism where the serf was attached to his piece of land while working for part of his time on the lord’s land or giving up part of his harvest to the lord. At the end of the Middle Ages this system also became obsolete, again plunging society into a historic crisis. It was then replaced by capitalism which was no longer based on small agricultural production but on commerce, associated labour and large industry, which were themselves made possible by progress in technology (the steam engine for example). Today, as a result of its own laws, capitalism has in turn become obsolete and must give way to a higher system.
But give way to what? Here is the key question being posed by more and more people who are becoming aware that the present system has no future, that it is dragging humanity into an abyss of poverty and barbarism. We are not prophets who claim to describe the future society in all its details, but one thing is clear: in the first place, we have to abolish production for the market and replace it with production whose only aim is the satisfaction of human need. Today, we are confronted by a real absurdity: in all countries, extreme poverty is growing, the majority of the population is forced to go without more and more, not because the system doesn’t produce enough but because it is producing too much. They pay farmers to reduce their production, enterprises are closed down, wage earners are sacked en masse, vast numbers of young people are condemned to unemployment, including those who have spent years studying, while at the same time the exploited are more and more forced to pull in their belts. Misery and poverty are not the result of the lack of a work force capable of producing, or of the lack of means of production. They are the consequences of a mode of production which has become a calamity for humanity. It is only by radically rejecting production for the market that the system that succeeds capitalism can put on its banner “From each according to their means, to each according to their needs”.
The question then posed is this: “how do we get to such a society?? What force in the world is capable of taking in charge such a huge transformation in the life of humanity?” It is clear that such a transformation cannot come from the capitalists themselves or the existing governments who all, whatever their colouring, defend the present system and the privileges it gives them. Only the exploited class under capitalism, the class of wage labourers, the proletariat, can carry out such a total change. This class is not the only one that suffers from poverty, exploitation and oppression.
For example, throughout the world there are multitudes of poor peasants who are also exploited and often live in worse conditions than the workers in their countries. But their position in society does not enable them to take charge of constructing a new society, even if they also have a real interest in such a change. More and more ruined by the capitalist system, these small producers aspire to turning back the wheel of history, to go back to the blessed days when they could live from their own labour, when the big agro-industrial companies didn’t take the bread from their mouths. It is different for the waged producers of modern capitalism. What’s at the basis of their exploitation and their poverty is wage labour - the fact that the means of production are in the hands of the capitalist class (whether in the form of private owners or state capital), and the only way they can earn their daily bread and a roof over their heads is to sell their labour power. In other words, the profound aspiration of the class of producers, even if the majority of its members are not yet conscious of this, is to abolish the separation between producers and means of production which characterises capitalism, to abolish the commodity relations through which they are exploited, and which are the permanent justification for the attacks on their income since, as all bosses and governments say: “you’ve got to be competitive”.
Therefore the proletariat has to expropriate the capitalists, collectively take over the whole of world production in order to make it a means of truly satisfying the needs of the human species. This revolution, because that’s what we are talking about, will inevitably come up against all the organs capitalism uses to preserve its rule over society, in the first place its states, its forces of repression, but also the whole ideological apparatus which serves to convince the exploited, day after day, that capitalism is the only possible system. The ruling class will be determined to stop by all possible means the ‘great social revolution’ which haunts the banker mentioned above and many of his class companions.
The task will therefore be immense. The struggles which have already begun today against the aggravation of poverty in countries like Greece and Spain are just the first necessary step in the proletariat’s preparations for the overthrow of capitalism. It’s in these struggles, in the solidarity and unity that they give rise to, in the consciousness they engender about the possibility and necessity to get rid of a system whose bankruptcy is daily becoming more obvious, that the exploited will forge the weapons they need to abolish capitalism and install a society finally free of exploitation, of poverty, of famine and war.
The road is long and difficult but there isn’t another. The economic catastrophe on the horizon, which is creating such disquiet in the ranks of the bourgeoisie, will bring with it a dire worsening of living conditions for all the exploited. But it will also enable them to set out on the path of revolution and the liberation of humanity