In the last chapter of The Rise of Militant we pointed out that at that time (1995) “bourgeois commentators have already drawn the conclusion that Marxism is historically obsolete”. We hope that we have shown in this book that this claim has not been borne out.

True, the collapse of Stalinism, coming after the phase of neoliberalism and the capitulation of the official leaderships of the labour movement to this, has weakened genuine Marxism and socialism. But it did not obliterate completely its ideological and practical attraction for an important layer of the more developed workers and young people, as we hope we have demonstrated.

We showed in advance the reasons for this: “The very idea of socialism came out of the life experiences of the working class. The insoluble contradictions of capitalism, its incapacity to provide even the minimum requirements of employment, shelter and food on a world scale drove the working class to seek an alternative system. Unless the defenders of the capitalist system can now show that late 20th-century capitalism has overcome these contradictions… Marxism… remains as relevant as ever. This… despite the fact that the understanding of the working class of the underlying reality lags far behind the objective situation.”

As we moved into the 21st-century this conclusion was vindicated. We also wrote in 1995 “capitalism is demonstrating its incapacity to furnish the basic requirements of humankind”. We then detailed the deleterious effects inflicted on the British and the world working class with rising poverty, mass unemployment and “a general offensive against welfare and those workers employed in the public sector”; all of which came to pass to a degree that even we underestimated at the time. For instance, on the issue of inequality which has grown enormously, as numerous studies and media stories together with the work of authors like Thomas Piketty have demonstrated. The chasm between the classes – between rich and poor – has grown and is now wider than the Grand Canyon.

The Guardian in March 2017, reporting on the colossal development of new technology warned: “Robots could displace 10 million British workers.” Thirty percent of jobs in Britain are potentially under threat from breakthroughs in artificial intelligence; 2.5 million jobs were at high risk in wholesaling and retailing alone.

The capitalists themselves are half-conscious that the development of technology cannot be fully harnessed by them without precipitating a further rise in mass unemployment and an economic and social crisis. A halfway house is therefore suggested by some – e.g. in Finland and Sweden – involving “special measures” a programme for “lifelong learning and job matching to ensure the potential gains from automation are not concentrated in too few hands”. Proposals such as the need for a “living basic income”, which are already being tested in Finland, indirectly confirm our analysis of capitalism and the impossibility of fully satisfying the demands of the working class within the framework of this system.

In the past the workers’ movement – drawing on the international experience of the working class in periods of mass unemployment – demanded from the bosses ‘work or full maintenance’ i.e. work or full pay.

The capitalists invariably reply, particularly today, that with swollen and rising state debts it is impossible to meet this demand fully. They may under pressure – i.e. a mass movement of the working class – introduce partial measures but they cannot provide the means by which you can guarantee a really human existence with  enough money for everyone to enjoy a house, food and the basics. The reply of the working class should be: “If you can’t afford this then we can’t afford your system!” Evacuate the scene of history and make way for a new democratic socialist society that can provide food and shelter at least for everyone, not just in one country but worldwide.

In this sense the next book – which will cover the period from 2007, including the beginning of the world economic crisis – until today will show how Marxism, the Socialist Party today, held to the vision of a new socialist society in the face of triumphant capitalism. This was in preparation for the economic and political convulsions which we were sure were coming.

We concluded the last chapter in our previous book by stating: “One thing is clear: the ground has been prepared for colossal social and political upheavals in Britain and throughout world capitalism… Marxism will once more arise with such force that it will astound bourgeois sceptics and socialist ‘fainthearts’ alike.”

In our next book, which is already largely written, we will show how our predictions worked out as the crisis of capitalism itself deepened.

Website note, dated 11 May 2023. The Struggle for World Socialism will be made available on this website, serialised over 2023 and possibly into 2024.