The Case for Socialism
The Case for Socialism
Capitalism in crisis
The case for socialism
By Hannah Sell, Socialist Party deputy general secretary
The profound crisis that global capitalism entered in 2008 is resulting in increased hardship for the majority, in Britain and internationally.
Globally the International Labour Organisation estimates that up to 200 million have been pushed below the poverty line.
In Britain millions have been thrown out of work. Many more face underemployment or wage cuts - with half of the workforce in Britain having suffered one or both since the recession began.
Savage cuts in public services are being proposed. Even when the economy starts to grow again it is predicted to be 'joyless and jobless growth'.
No-one today can doubt that capitalism is a system in crisis. The capitalist propaganda of the previous decades lies in tatters. For years the representatives of capitalism have claimed victory for their system, declaring that the 'free market' is the only way of running the world and that it would bring us all peace, democracy and prosperity.
National Shop Stewards Network protest outside Bank of England, photo Paul Mattsson
Socialism was, they declared, dead, buried and gone forever. As far as 'official politics' was concerned this was largely true. In Britain all three establishment parties were wholehearted advocates of neo-liberal, unregulated capitalism.
Labour, which had once had a socialist wing, had become just one more capitalist party.
Despite this, it has consistently been the case that the vast majority of the population stands far to the left of the parliamentary parties.
In a Mori poll in 2001, for example, 72% of people supported the re-nationalisation of the railway system, despite none of the major political parties arguing for it.
In opinion polls opposition to further privatisation of public services has remained consistently above the 70% mark throughout New Labour's time in office.
This was true even before the 'great recession'. Capitalism may have grown for sixteen years in Britain but it did not bring peace, democracy and prosperity.
Instead we have had the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the undermining of our democratic rights.
Above all, the one-sided nature of economic growth meant unimaginable wealth for a few while the majority struggle to get by.
The richest 1,000 people have seen their wealth quadruple under New Labour. Britain is among the most unequal countries in the world; second in the advanced capitalist world's inequality index, beaten only by the US.
Commenting on the economic crisis Will Hutton sneered in The Observer (12 October 08): "This is history's joke: the crisis of capitalism long predicted by communists and socialists who are no longer able to take advantage of it."
In the coming years he will be proved wrong as well. Even in the 'difficult years' of the 1990s, the Socialist Party has been able to build an important basis of support for socialist and Marxist ideas.
Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist on the Unite Jobs demo , photo Harry Smith
We have elected councillors in Coventry and Lewisham. We play a crucial role in the trade union movement, with twenty of our members elected as members of trade union national executives.
In the coming period, however, it will be possible to begin to build mass support for socialist ideas as millions begin to look for an alternative to the nightmare of capitalism.
A little foretaste of what will be possible was shown in the 2009 European elections in Ireland when Socialist Party member Joe Higgins was elected as one of three MEPs for Dublin, receiving more than 50,000 first preference votes.
The year 2009 also gave a glimpse of the support for socialist ideas that begins to develop once workers start to fight back.
For the first time in a generation significant numbers of industrial workers have been forced to take action to defend their pay and conditions.
In a whole number of cases - such as at Lindsey, Linamar and Visteon - they have won important victories.
In every case leading figures in the strikes have become involved in socialist politics as a result of their experiences.
This pamphlet was originally published in 2008 and has been fully updated and re-published in November 2009.