|Guardian: Capitalism Cannot Solve This|
Afscme Local 444, retired
We read every day on social networks or the mainstream media about the sorry state of the world. I just read a couple of articles in the Guardian, a media outlet whose political view is that capitalism can be reformed, can be made human and environmentally friendly, and what is now a global system can solve the numerous and potentially catastrophic crises that we face. Pollution, climate change etc. can all disappear if we elect the right people.
One was an article about the floating mass of debris and plastic swirling around in the Pacific Ocean. The author points out that scientists underestimated its size and it is now 16 times larger than they thought, twice the size of France. It’s depressing to read this stuff which is why people avoid it. It’s not that they don’t care; they don’t see any solution to it. An international effort is needed one expert says, not simply to clean it up which would be fairly easy but to change the way we produce things that end up in places like this, plastics in particular which would also be easy but-------not within the framework of capitalism. A non-profit is tackling it which is why it’s not getting done. A coordinating international effort doesn’t happen either. That’s why it’s depressing to read it.
Marx explained why an international effort is difficult. The modern nation state is capitalism’s creation. The world is divided in to competing geographical nations. Their relationships are inherently hostile and the stronger devour the weaker as the struggle for control of the world’s resources and natural wealth as well as human capital, continues. There is no real cooperation between capitalist nation states that can advance the interests of the working class or prevent impending environmental catastrophe.
The other article I read was about another gloomy prediction by Paul Ehrlich that a collapse of civilization is“near certainty”. Ehrich wrote the book, The Population Bomb. Well he’s right about the end of civilization as we know it although capitalism as an economic system of production is not very civilized at all. But like the example, this is another thoroughly depressing and defeatist rant; it doesn’t inspire people to act or encourage it in any way, just the opposite, people will feel bad and avoid it next time. For Ehrlich it’s overpopulation and overconsumption that is the problem. This argument is always made by people who refuse to face the reality that how society is organized has to be changed and they have to participate in that. In other words, they are simply whining about what is, and refuse to accept that class struggle and indeed class war and the building of a democratic collectively owned and rationally planned socialist economy and world federation of states is the answer. For Ehrlich there is no alternative to the present system and the rule of the capitalist class over humanity and he does not see the working class as the force that can change this situation and rescue humanity from extinction. For him, the working class doesn't exist at all it seems. He has a thoroughly defeatist and therefore depressing worldview that can only demoralize as his answer is to ask the foxes to clean up the henhouse.
"it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence but their social existence that determines their consciousness"
As socialists we engage in a struggle for the consciousness of the working class. The working class itself does not see that it is the force that can rid us of a wasteful and destructive inhuman system. The propaganda of capitalism and its agents including the heads of workers' organizations is very strong. But in the last analysis, ideas and consciousness have a material base. Workers are forced by conditions to fight. But this fight for the consciousness of the working class is crucial as capitalism has the ability to and will, end life as we know it if it is not ended.
Reading these pieces its almost like philosophy is dead. Marx himself said in his Thesis on Feuerbach that, “philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it. These two examples above are exactly what Marx is referring to. They in no way help us understand the world or world history and why things happen. This doesn’t mean Marx was perfect, he made mistakes too, he did not predict nor did any Russian Marxist at the time believe, outside of Trotsky, that capitalism could first be overthrown in a backward country like Russia. This in turn led to the rise of the Stalinist monstrosity, but there's a materialist explanation for all things and nothing in this world is guaranteed including life itself. Marxism is not a dogma like religion that goes so far to claim that there are such places as heaven and hell.
The quote below is from the Preface to Marx’s A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. When I first read this I was excited by it; I’d never read anything like it. It resonated with me as a serious and objective analysis of society, of how societies change, how human consciousness arises and in particular social consciousness. It is uplifting and it inspired me. It encouraged me to find out more. No wonder he is so hated by the ruling class and the religious clergy that gives them divine credibility with all their rituals and fancy dress. Their wealth, opulence and social positions are all threatened by it. It is a revelation, a scientific one unlike the Book of Revelations that, like a phantasmagorical Grimm’s fairy tale, talks of demons and angels, chariots and other monsters.
|Eliminating this is about production. Capitalism produces it.|
I hope those workers that read our blog will take the time to read it. I know some workers, particularly those that have been terrified, or brainwashed (as I was) by bourgeois and religious propaganda that deters them from reading the Communist Manifesto as they have as yet been unable to overcome the fear of doing so. What might it do to the way they see the world? What will their friends family and others think? But it’s one of the few things Marx wrote about socialism (a phase of transition toward a communist society) and communism (a classless economy and society. Collective humanity working in harmony with nature).
But read this and if you are new to this subject it is natural that terms and ideas written about over 150 years ago will take some time getting used to. But it is a history lesson, an economic and philosophical lesson but not a philosophy of interpretation. It is an exciting explanation as to how the world works that is clearly a major step to how we can change it. It a basis for action not whining. It is a theoretical basis for understanding the world from the point of view of the worker, practical, concrete.
In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.
In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production. No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.
For those followers of Facts For Working People new to these ideas, we have weekly conference calls where we discuss all aspects of our work and political events and if you are interested in discussing the subject matter in the above paragraphs for example, we do that. Think of that horrible swirling waste in the ocean, or the poverty in Dhaka, Bombay or here in the US, the richest country in the world. Or the threat of nuclear war and whole swathes of the planet being uninhabitable. None of us can escape the consequences of this, but we can act to prevent it if we understand the causes, and a war between Satan and God is not one of them. If you are interested in that contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can talk about that. Or contact us through our blog’s Facebook page @ http://www.facebook.com/FactsForWorkingPeople