Thirty years ago, in 1989 – the year that the Berlin Wall came tumbling down – American political scientist Francis Fukuyama famously proclaimed the “end of history”. He argued that capitalism, and its analogous political configuration (in the West at least) of liberal democracy, was probably the ‘final form’, the highest stage in development of human society.
Poor old Francis has a lot of egg on his face, but allow me to lay the boot in once more (smug defenders of the status quo deserve it, really):
It’s 2019, and a rapist billionaire reality TV star is still the president of the United States of America. All around the world, far right and fascist politics continue to make a comeback – like in Brazil, with the recent election of Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency, who has previously stated he is for returning the country to military dictatorship, or the formation of the Lega/Five Star Movement government in Italy, which has vowed to deport 500,000 migrants, most of whom fled war and famine in North Africa and the Middle East. Australia may have escaped such political polarisation for now, but the neo-Nazi demonstration at St Kilda this summer should shake us out of complacency.
We are witnessing the emergence of yet another great power rivalry – and associated arms race – between the United States and China, greatly increasing the likelihood of war in our time. Laying the ground for that, we’re already seeing anti-Chinese rhetoric reemerge in Australian political discourse.
The ecological crisis continues to reach new heights, with the announcement that we are on track for a 3 degree temperature rise by 2100, one degree more than that 2 degree ‘tipping point’ that scientists are constantly shouting at us about. And to add insult to injury, governments the world over justify their fossil fuel addiction by crying poor – “there’s no money for a transition to renewable energy!” – while the world’s billionaires added $762 billion to their wealth in 2017, and half the world’s population gets by on less than US$5.50 a day. Disgustingly, the global gender pay gap has now widened to 20 percent.
In fewer words: capitalism has failed humanity.
That favourite conservative mantra, “There Is No Alternative” (to capitalism, the free market, globalisation), today not only appears obscene, but hilarious. Their arguments don’t stand up anymore, even on their own terms. No one from the neoliberal, centrist political establishment which has dominated global politics since the end of the Second World War can explain, or could predict, why the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 happened. Nor could they explain why Brexit, why Trump, why the European Union is tearing itself apart, or why the once seemingly infallible US empire is now on notice from other emerging powers.
The answer they cannot grasp is that we have entered a dangerous, unstable new phase of capitalism, characterised by increasing political polarisation. The world’s problems have not been solved by the political centre – which is intellectually, morally and spiritually dead – in fact they were created by them.
So what to do?
The answer is: we need a radical solution. We need to get to the root of the problem and overthrow capitalism, replacing it with a genuinely democratic society run by the majority, organised around meeting human need instead of profit-making. In one word: socialism.
Try as the powers-that-be might to discredit or banish these ideas, the ideas of Karl Marx, they just keep coming back, and that’s because no other theory has so accurately described the actual laws of motion of our society.
If you’ve never read Marx (something I strongly recommend), his main point is this: under capitalism it is the working class, through our collective labour, that produces all the wealth in society; and yet that wealth is hoarded by the capitalist or boss class by virtue of their monopoly over society’s wealth-producing resources. Furthermore, production is not organised to meet the needs of the population (as it should be), but to make profit for the property-owning class. This explains why more food is produced in the world each year than is required to feed every mouth, and yet 30,000 people starve to death daily – bizarrely, food isn’t produced for eating under capitalism, it’s produced to sell on the market for profit. And so it goes for every other commodity.
Even moderates can laud Marx’s veracious critique of capitalism, but they all shy away from his solution which is this: the bosses need the workers, but the workers don’t need the bosses! If the working class all stopped working for the bosses’ profits, and started to organise production ourselves, we could create a society actually fit for humanity. And that is what we mean by a revolution – the self-emancipation of the working class. One final but important thing to note is that this bears no resemblance to those horrific Stalinist regimes like the USSR, which despite draping themselves in the language of socialism or communism, also exploited and oppressed the working class. As genuine socialists who held the line through those years used to say: “Neither Washington nor Moscow, but International Socialism!”
So if you’re somebody with a conscience, who recoils at exploitation and oppression and wants to fight for a better world, then being a socialist is probably for you. So what are you waiting for? Join us!