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From The Socialist newspaper, 10 October 2012

Marx was right!

Here we publish an extract from Socialism in the 21st Century by Hannah Sell, Socialist Party deputy general secretary.
This short book was written in 2002, five years before the current deep-going crisis started, but predicted such an event.
At that time also, many commentators were looking to Marx for an explanation of the economy and the growing tensions in the world.
Hannah writes: "In the last few years their [Marx and Engels] ideas have been regaining popularity. At the end of 1999 Marx was voted the 'greatest thinker of the millennium' in a BBC online poll.
"Even some capitalist commentators and Wall Street traders have reread Marx and realised how clearly he described capitalism as it is today."
This is an extract from chapter three, entitled 'Marx was right'.

Reality has hit some commentators between the eyes and has forced them to partially recognise Marx's analysis of the nature of capitalist crises which, he explained, were intrinsic to the system.

Capitalism is a cyclical system: crises can be triggered by a number of factors, such as financial crashes or political unrest.

However, the underlying reasons for crisis are the fundamental contradictions of capitalism as first described by Marx.

These include the antagonism between the social, collective nature of production on the one hand, and private ownership of the means of production on the other; and the antagonism between the world market and the limitations of the nation state.

Capitalism is based on production for profit and not for social need. The working class creates new value but receives only a portion of that new value back as wages.

The capitalists take the rest - the surplus. As a result, the working class collectively cannot afford to buy back all the goods it produces.

The capitalists partially solve this by ploughing a proportion of the surplus back into industry, but this results in the production of more goods which, at a certain point, actually intensifies the problem.

The inevitable results are crises of overproduction and overcapacity. In the long term, the capitalists cannot overcome this problem. As a result, capitalism is a system riven by crisis.

While some commentators have accepted that Marx predicted the fundamental features of the modern economy remarkably well, in general they shy away from the conclusions that he drew. Marx famously declared:

"Philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point, however, is to change it."

This does not mean that Marx saw nothing positive in capitalism. He recognised that capitalism, despite all its brutality, played a necessary historic role in developing the productive forces and the world market. It was therefore an advance from the feudal societies that preceded it.

Today, the idea of capitalism as a progressive force is unthinkable to most of those involved in the anti-capitalist movement.

Yet capitalism has developed the world market and the enormous wealth, science and technique that have laid the foundations for a socialist society.

Under capitalism, however, wealth and power have always been concentrated in the hands of a minority - the capitalists.

And the development of technology is not driven by any rational means but by the need for profit. Capitalism is completely incapable of fully harnessing the productive forces it has brought into being.

This is a system where science and technique are only ever used partially and inadequately. And the anarchy of the capitalist market always results in increasing wealth and power for a few alongside poverty for the many.

What is the working class?

The strength of the British working class remains immense. The London Underground and rail strikes have given a glimpse of how capitalism can be paralysed when a key section of workers takes action.

Even less powerful sections of workers are able to have an effect on the profits of the capitalists. For example, to a far greater degree than in the past, if teachers were to take national strike action millions of parents would be unable to work because of childcare commitments. This would exert real pressure on the capitalist class.

Relevant today

This does not mean that everything Marx and Engels wrote in the 19th century was correct in every detail or has been confirmed by events.

On timing and the proximity of the socialist revolution and on some other issues they were mistaken.

Many of the demands drawn up in 1848 are now obsolete. Moreover, society today is in many ways very different to then.

Nonetheless, an amazing amount of what they formulated about society is as relevant today as when it was written.

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Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
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In The Socialist 10 October 2012:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Tories promise more pain... Kick out the 'nasty party'!

Labour Party conference - not fighting austerity

Arguing the case for a 24-hour general strike

Birmingham Tory conference demo

'Millions crying out for leadership and for an alternative'

Anti-austerity candidates selected for November contests

No welfare cuts

Health workers must fight attacks on jobs and pay

Politicians line up to attack abortion rights

The hidden homeless - "Sofa surfing is my lot"

Them & Us

Transport feature

Send the transport privatisers packing

International socialist news and analysis

Venezuela presidential election

Greece: escalating the action against austerity

South Africa: 'What are we doing about this government that is killing us?'

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Why we're marching on 20 October

More success for Socialist Students

Save East Midlands ambulances

Campaign Kazakhstan: A musical and political evening

Youth Fight for Jobs and Education fortnight of action 13-27 October

Dewsbury fights health service cuts

Waltham Forest: Parents and staff unite against school sell-off

Sunderland anti-fascists stand up against divisive EDL

Socialist Party workplace news

South Wales bus workers receive strong support for strike

Fighting the construction industry blacklist

Workplace nurseries saved in HMRC

Leeds solidarity with Crossrail battle

Mid Yorkshire Health admin staff ballot for strike

Bin workers' strike threat

Workplace news in brief


TV review : Masters of Money - Karl Marx

Marx was right!


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