Put socialism back on the agenda!

Submitted by on 22 July, 2002 - 11:02

"You can't argue with facts," says the good old short-sighted adage.

Well, yes you can: you can put "the facts" in context and perspective; you can see "the facts" as "moments" in a living, permuting reality that will, more or less quickly, subvert "the facts" against which only yesterday no argument seemed possible, and throw up new facts.

The scandal-fuelled crisis into which world capitalism seems to be spiralling is a case in point. For a long time now, many socialists have, if only subconsciously, felt that they couldn't "argue" with the gigantic facts of capitalism's unprecedented prosperity, or with its overwhelming predominance all across our planet.
They could argue that this prosperity was patchy, that large parts of the world - most of Africa for example - were smothering in poverty, recurrent famine, treatable diseases.

That millions of children die senseless, cruel avoidable deaths each year.

That in the most prosperous countries on earth the vast "prosperous" majority live lives dominated by their own exploitation.

That even in the richest countries many millions still live in poverty.

That the peoples in large parts of the big cities of the capitalist world - in New York and Los Angeles for example - live in Third World slum conditions.

That most human beings live lives of ignorance and cultural, moral and spiritual deprivation in a world wherein the commercial interests that control our means of communication serve the lowest common denominator - and exert continuous pressure to drive it down - so as to enlarge their catchment area and increase their revenue.

Criticism, radical, bitter, indignant, heart-felt criticism - yes.
Proposals for ameliorations - such as cancelling the Third World debt, and reforms - yes.

But overthrow and dismantle the capitalist system and replace it with a different system, a rational system run democratically to serve not profit but human need?

That has for a long time now seemed unthinkable. A dead dream. Look at the facts!
In the whole of its 500 year history, capitalism had never been so prosperous, buoyant, bullish.

Capitalism as such could not be challenged. It was "natural". It corresponds with immutable human nature. It was the culmination and the peak of all human history. Nothing better was possible. It was impregnable and invincible.

That creeping conviction, which entered the minds and political souls even of long-time socialist enemies of capitalism, was one aspect of the triumph of capitalism in the 1980s and 90s: it embodied the victory of capitalism on the "ideological front" of the class struggle.

It is the great unspoken fact underlying such phenomena as the irrationalism that has engulfed so much of the left and led to such absurdities as "revolutionary" "Marxist" socialists sucking up to Islamic fundamentalism (because in some of its forms it is an enemy of the capitalist great powers).

Only a deep underlying demoralisation and despair for the rational socialist alternative to capitalism could have produced such disorientation among people who subscribe to the great goal of human liberation from money lord, landlords, and priests.

People who used to see the primary role of socialists to be that of helping prepare a
politically educated, self-confident and self-respecting working class that would rise and settle accounts with the capitalists and their system.

Things begin to look differently now! Yesterday's seemingly unchallengeable "facts" about world capitalism fall into place and into perspective. The self-confidence of the rampant rulers of billions of dollars and millions of human beings is revealed as the self-confidence of the con man and the charlatan.

World capitalism is hit by a series of scandals. We have seen the big telecom company WorldCom collapse after revealing that it had fraudulently puffed up its profits by no less than $3.8 billion. The WorldCom fiasco followed the Enron crash, earlier this year, and came just before a scandal at Xerox. Other scandals are brewing.

Markets are experiencing a major collapse in confidence and the whole capitalist system is experiencing a deepening crisis of self-confidence. World capitalism is closer than for decades to a big economic dislocation, perhaps to a major slump.

Of course socialists are not indifferent to the human consequences of such a development. The point is that socialists have the answer to capitalist crisis: socialism.

Those socialists who lost their bottle in the '90s and retreated into chicken-shit reformism or into demented fantasies of the sort that lines up the SWP with Islamic fundamentalists, now have a chance to take stock.

Capitalism is not invulnerable. It is not eternal. It has won no definitive triumph. It is riddled with contradictions and sapped by hidden decay. It is morally indefensible - even in terms of a morality that could excuse mass poverty and economic mass slaughter of the peoples of the poor countries of the world on the ground that
capitalism was dynamic in the "First World" and would eventually pull even the less developed countries after it into something like prosperity.

This system stinks. This system not only eats the lives of millions of children every year in order to sustain itself: it does not work except in fits and starts and at enormous and unnecessary cost in terms of human lives, human well-being, human health, human security.

Its cost in terms of the human potential that is sacrificed in order to keep the dog-eat-dog system buoyant, is incalculable.

Against this system socialists need to confidently proclaim once more the crying need for democratic control of the economy and society, for the substitution of a planned socialist economy for the crazed anarchy revealed by the scandals to be the very stuff of capitalism.

We need to go to the labour movement - fundamentally to the trade unions - and once more convince our own class that we don't have to live in this filthy system.
Socialism is necessary.
Socialism is possible!

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