May 2015        

Real, existing capitalism
and the challenge for an alternative

Eoghan O’Neill

There are times and certain processes in the production of human needs that have become the catalyst for change in society, a change in which the old order of doing things—whether it is ruling, governing, trading, building, creating, destroying, or a myriad of different complexities that steer human development—are incapable of satisfying, or can no longer satisfy, the new social and productive forces in society.
     Over time, what once was the exception to the rule becomes the rule, and those that once dominated and steered the functions of society have, because of the development of society, been overtaken by new and more advanced forms of social and economic relations.
     Primitive communal societies, slave societies, feudal societies, capitalist societies and socialist societies, and the transition from one type of society to another, have been the constant and turbulent advancement of mankind. Masterful inventions and ingenuities, such as the wheel, the printing press, the steam engine and internal combustion engine, the harnessing of electricity, natural resources and the elements, exploration in the fields of science, mathematics, engineering and computing, all of which and many more have to one degree or another been developed to satisfy our basic human needs, are based upon the stage of development within a given society.
     It is very easy to settle into the notion that what is shall for ever be, and that what has gone before must remain as it was, a relic of its time irrelevant to today’s world. But humankind is not a victim of its own self-importance: there has been and continues to be a dynamic relationship between ourselves and the world into which we are born. The time and the age in which one lives is just a chance, a lottery of sporadic consciousness, untamed and uncontrollable.
     Those who have been before us and those who will come after us, just as we are now, are conditioned by the environment in which they are brought up. The social and productive forces evolve and develop as we master and manipulate the material world around us. But there are limits to what can be achieved by any given society, and that limit is set by its productive forces. This is the key to understanding the history and lineage of mankind, which Karl Marx and Frederick Engels correctly observed and first presented to the world in the Communist Manifesto of 1848.
     To understand where we place ourselves now, in 2015, in the grand scheme of things, and how we may seek to shape and improve our future and that of our children, we must bring Marxist theory to the fore, as it alone can guide the majority of people, the working masses, away from the abyss of exploitation, poverty, and environmental destruction. Engels in his oration at Marx’s funeral said: “Just as Darwin discovered the law and development of organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history.” And it is these laws that we must study and develop to get a real understanding of our place within society at this time. Without this guiding theory to direct our practice we will continue to walk blindly into a struggle without knowing who or what we are struggling against.
     To understand the development of human history we must first of all go back to the basics: human needs. These needs at the primary level are food, water, and shelter, and then we have more advanced needs, such as education, health, services, work, pastimes, relationships, etc. These needs are provided to sustain life physically and culturally, and they are both individual and collective needs.
     Human needs are “conditioned by the stage of development” of society and are satisfied by goods and services, which are the material means by which we satisfy those needs. The ability, for example, to call an ambulance in case of a medical emergency is relatively new and is possible only because an array of different fields have been sufficiently developed and have merged to give us this one vital service.
     All the small links form this one chain for one particular service, and this chain is woven into countless other links and chains to form a social fabric, all servicing our human needs. This whole process, then, can only be thought of as social in both fabric and delivery and is a product of thousands of years of human development.
     We are at a particular historical stage of development—capitalism, and, as Lenin critically observed more than a hundred years ago, the highest stage of capitalism—imperialism, where the competitiveness of industry has been replaced by the dominance of monopoly corporations. This has seen the merger of industry and finance, national and international business. The governments, groups or institutions that have a vested interest in the monopolies will ensure their dominance in the economy. The stage of development we are at now really is a dictatorship of the monopolies.
     Being aware of this class divide brings us to one of the fundamental aspects of Marxism: class-consciousness. To be class-conscious is to know which class you belong to and, to that end, where your class interests lie. This raises the question, Why aren’t people more class-conscious? Just as there is class-consciousness, there is also a social consciousness, and people in their daily lives are not made conscious of the social relations that have been formed—the class nature of society. They are aware of the distribution relations, in that they deal with this every day of their working lives: wages, rent, interest, etc.
     From social relations (class division) emerge legal and political, moral and religious, philosophical, scientific and artistic ideas, which form a social consciousness. This, taken as a whole, forms an ideology. This ideology is an expression of the whole or a part of society, and in a class society the ideology of the dominant class, the class that owns the means of production, will reproduce its ideology and repress any alternative ideology, because it solely has the means of doing so.
     The struggles of today, which may vary from country to country and place to place, all come back to a class struggle, a struggle over the control, ownership and command of the means of production, i.e. the economy. Capitalism as a historically developed stage, and its adherents create and reproduce their ideology to maintain and to proliferate their privileged position in society.
     The real existing conditions of poverty, hunger, homelessness, exploitation etc. can only be eliminated by depriving the possessing class of their privilege in our society. This has been and will continue to be the goal of communists, here in Ireland and around the world. We need a strong revolutionary party of working people that will challenge the dominant ideology of the 1 per cent and their lackeys, challenge for political power and economic power by setting about the dismantling of the capitalist system of private ownership of the means of production and its institutions and replacing them with the only viable alternative: social ownership of the means of production, i.e. socialism.

Some facts about real, existing capitalism

1. 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day.
2. 500 people have more than $3 billion each in wealth.
3. The richest 1 per cent have 46 per cent of the world’s wealth; the bottom 50 per cent have just 1 per cent.
4. Half of all children in the world live in poverty
5. 13 per cent of birds, 25 per cent of mammals and 41 per cent of amphibians face extinction
6. Arctic temperatures have increased by 5°C over the last 100 years. There will be almost no summer sea ice left in the Arctic by 2020.
7. Five monopolies (ADM, Bunge, Cargill, Glencore and Louis Dreyfus) control 90 per cent of the global grain trade.
8. 21 per cent of land on earth is owned by a mere fifteen people, leaving the rest to all 7 billion of us.
9. The top 10 per cent of earners in Ireland receive more than 35 per cent of all income; the top 1 per cent receive more than 12 per cent.
10. Government debt went from €47 billion to €192 billion as a result of private-sector inefficiency.
11. The United States has militarily intervened in seventy-five sovereign countries since the Second World War—the most war-hungry state on earth.
12. Percentage change in disposable income in Ireland:

Home page  >  Publications  >  Socialist Voice  >  May 2015  >  Real, existing capitalism and the challenge for an alternative
Baile  >  Foilseacháin  >  Socialist Voice  >  Bealtaine 2015  >  Real, existing capitalism and the challenge for an alternative