Fight Capitalism - Not its Symptoms

A growing gulf between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ is in itself only a symptom of the disease. The real problem is that capitalism in crisis has nothing left to offer but increasing misery for the mass of the population. And 2019 will be no different.

Submitted by Internationali… on January 24, 2019

The leading article in this issue of Revolutionary Perspectives [13], “A Decade On from the Financial Crash” focuses on both the state of the world economy and the dangerous ways in which the capitalist world order proposes to deal with it in 2019.

It is not just the analysis of revolutionaries that predicts trouble ahead. The UK’s former chief banking regulator, Howard Davies, recently wrote in the Guardian that “… reasons to stay awake at night are multiplying”. And in relatively stable Germany even Der Spiegel is lamenting about “damn uncertainties” ahead. As we argue in this issue, with real profits low and debts at unprecedented historic highs, a new financial shock is on the cards. In any event, the world is certainly not going to be a safer place.

Bankers like Davies congratulate themselves that they “saved the system” after the 2007-8 financial crash. What they “saved” was the fortunes of the very people whose financial gambling had triggered the crash in the first place. States took on the financial debt around the world and then imposed austerity on the rest of us to pay for it. But the working class had been paying for it for 30 years before that financial crash.

In Britain the portion of GDP going to wages fell from a peak of 64% in the mid-1970s to a low of 52% by the mid-1990s. Since 2008 hourly wages have fallen in real terms by a further 3.7%. No surprise then that workers now work longer hours than they used to. Likewise, the record number of people “in work” is due to financial necessity only exacerbated by the state policy of increasing the retirement age alongside constant harassment and intimidation of people without jobs (including the severely disabled) to force them into taking whatever rubbish work is presented to them.

Massive state cutbacks in just about every aspect of social and welfare spending, have reached scandalous proportions. The UK is one of the richest countries in the world yet, according to the latest UN report, 14 million people – one in five of the population – live in poverty and of these 1.5 million are destitute (live on less than £70 a week and/or go without essentials). At least 320,000 people are homeless in the UK and 8,000 of these sleep rough on the streets. Last year 600 of them died on those streets whilst local councils faced a shortfall of £100 million for provision for the homeless. According to the Trussell Trust, the largest food bank provider in the UK, the introduction of Universal Credit has led to a 13% rise in people’s need for support (now estimated at almost 1 million families). No wonder given that the DWP expects people to live on fresh air for 5-12 weeks.

The injustice of all this is striking more and more people. And many get even more angry when they read stories such as that of top civil servant, Sir Robert Devereux. He planned the raising of the state pension age for everyone yet retired this year at 61 with a pension pot worth £1.8 million. Even more outrageous is the fact that Fred Goodwin, the man who brought down RBS, still enjoys a pension worth over £400,000 a year. These are not isolated tales and the story is not limited to the UK.

Inequality is rising everywhere. In the year to March 2017 82% of the new wealth created went to the top 1% of the population whilst half the world (3.7 billion people) saw almost nothing of this wealth (which they played a great part in producing). But a growing gulf between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ is in itself only a symptom of the disease. The real problem is that capitalism in crisis has nothing left to offer but increasing misery for the mass of the population. And 2019 will be no different. Many campaigners still don’t get it. They focus on either “kick the Tories out”, “end austerity” or scrap neo-liberalism but they forget that these policies have been adopted by all governments whatever their supposed political ideology. It’s like asking for aspirin to cure cancer.

All the struggles to fight austerity, pension cuts and precarious working conditions need to be linked to something much more realistic than the fantasy that bankrupt capitalism which threatens us with never-ending war and ecological devastation can provide us with a better future. As we recently wrote

We need to link immediate demands to the historical programme – communism. For that a global organisation which provides a political compass to rally around is necessary. Not to reform the system, to tinker around the edges, but to put an end to wage labour, money and the state, the source of our misery. Our aim is to contribute to the formation of such an organisation, and we call on others to join us.1

We not only have a world to win but a human species to save. Socialism or barbarism – there is no third way.

The above article is the editorial in the current issue of Revolutionary Perspectives (Series 4 No. 13). It is now available for £4 post paid in the UK, £5 in Europe, and £6 for the rest of the world.