The politics of Workers' Liberty

We live in a capitalist world. Production is social; ownership of the social means of production is private. Ownership by a state which serves those who own most of the means of production is also essentially "private".

Those who own the means of production buy the labour power of those who own nothing but their labour power and set them to work. At work they produce more than the equivalent of their wages. The difference (today in Britain it may be more than 20,000 a year per worker) is taken by the capitalist. This is exploitation of wage-labour by capital, and it is the basic cell of capitalist society, its very heartbeat.

Everything else flows from that. The relentless drive for profit and accumulation of capital decrees that all things in existence must be judged by their relationship to productivity and profitability.

From that come such horrors as the savage exploitation of Brazilian goldminers, whose life expectancy is now less than 40 years, and the working to death - it is officially admitted by the government! - of some of its employees by advanced Japanese capitalism. From this comes the economic neglect and virtual abandonment to ruin and starvation of "unprofitable" places like Bangladesh and parts of Africa.

From that also comes the cultural blight and barbarism of our own society' forcefed on profitable pap. From it come products with "built-in obsolescence" in a society orientated to the grossly wasteful production and reproduction of shoddy goods, not to the development of leisure and culture.

From it come mass unemployment, the development of a vast and growing underclass, living in ghettos, and the recreation in some American cities of the worst Third World conditions.

From it comes the unfolding ecological disaster of a world crying out for planning and the rational use of resources, but which is, tragically, organised by the ruling classes around the principle of profitable anarchy and the barbarous worship of blind and humanly irrational market forces.

From it come wars and genocides: twice this century capitalist gangs possessing worldwide power have fallen on each other in quarrels over the division of the spoils, and wrecked the world economy, killing many tens of millions. From it come racism, imperialism and fascism.

The capitalist cult of icy egotism and the "cash nexus" as the decisive social tie produce societies like British society now, where vast numbers of young people are condemned to live in the streets, and societies like that of Brazil, where homeless children are hunted and killed on the streets like rodents.

From the exploitation of wage-labour comes this society of ours where the rich - who through their servants and agents hold state power - fight a relentless class struggle to maintain the people in a mental condition to accept their own exploitation and abuse, and prevent real democratic selfcontrol developing within the forms of what they call democracy. They use tabloid propaganda or - as in the 1984/85 miners' strike - savage and illegal police violence: whatever they need to use. They have used fascist gangs when they needed to, and they will use them again, if necessary.

Against this system we seek to convince the working class - the wage slaves of the capitalist system - to fight for socialism. Socialism means the abolition of wage slavery, the taking of the social economy out of private ownership into common cooperative ownership. It means the full realisation of the old demands for liberty, equality and fratermty.

Under socialism the economy will be run and planned deliberately and democratically: market mechanisms will cease to be our master, and will be cut down and reshaped to serve broadly sketched-out and planned, rational social goals.

We want public ownership of the major enterprises and a planned economy under workers' control.

The working class can and should win reforms within capitalism, but we can only win socialism by overthrowing capitalism and by breaking the state power - that is, the monopoly of violence and reserve violence - now held by the capitalist class. We want a democracy much fuller than the present Westminster system: a workers' democracy, with elected representatives recallable at any time, and an end to bureaucrats' and managers' privileges.

Nevertheless, neither socialism nor even effective trade unionism can be built in one country alone. Capital is moved freely around the globe in search of cheap labour and to undercut strong labour movements. The workers in every country have more in common with workers in other countries than with their own capitalist or Stalinist rulers. We support national liberation struggles and workers' struggles worldwide; we back the struggles of workers and oppressed nationalities in the ex-Stalinist states of Eastern Europe and in still-Stalinist China.

What are the alternatives now? Poverty, inequality and misery are growing. We are deep in the worst capitalist slump for 60 years. Fascism is once more a power in European politics. We may, in the years ahead, face new wars as European, Japanese and US capitalism confront each other.

Face the bitter truth: either we build a new, decent, sane, democratic world or, finally, the capitalists will ruin us all - we will be dragged down by the new fascist barbarians or new massive wars. Civilisation will be eclipsed by a new dark age. It will be socialism or barbarism.

Socialists work in the trade unions and the Labour Party to win the existing labour movement to socialism. We work with presently unorganised workers and youth and with oppressed communities.

To do that work the Marxists organise themselves in a democratic association, the Alliance for Workers' Liberty.

To join the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, write to: PO Box 823, London SE15 4NA. Or e-mail us at:

How Solidarity Can Change the World was first published as a double issue of Workers' Liberty magazine, numbers 46 and 47, in April 1998.

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