Capitalism will not simply vanish

Capitalism will not simply vanish

from The People, March 5, 1983, page 5

Why haven't we had a socialist revolution? How much longer can capitalism last? How bad must conditions become before workers take action?

These questions trouble classconscious workers. They are particularly troublesome given the conditions existing today. Capitalism long ago developed the material conditions prerequisite for socialism. It has created production on a scale sufficient to banish forever want and the fear of want-the forces that historically have fostered class division. Moreover, necessary production is carried out by socialized labor-by a working class organized at the point of production by the very nature of capitalist production itself.

At the same time, capitalism no longer works. It is no longer a progressive social system. Instead, its inherent contradictions stand in the way of further progress and disrupt the workings of the productive forces already developed.

Yet there has been no revolution. Rather the working class, while angry, has been mired by confusion, uncertainty and despair. Meanwhile, a desperate ruling class is increasingly turning to reaction and repression at home and threatening more and more to use military force to advance its material interests abroad. If capitalism continues to exist, the likely results are dictatorship and an unthinkable world war that could end human civilization.

Faced with such dangers, workers cannot afford to wait for capitalism to collapse. Such fatalism, Daniel De Leon observed almost 75 years ago, "spells bleeding to death in inactivity."

"The Socialist Republic is no predestined inevitable development," said De Leon. "The Socialist Republic depends, not upon material conditions alone; it depends on these-plus clearness of vision to assist the evolutionary process. Nor was the agency of intellect needed at any previous stage of social evolution in the Class Struggle to the extent that it is needful at this, the culminating one of all."

Because socialism is not an automatic affair, workers as a class must play an active role in the socialist revolution. As De Leon noted, "Capitalism will not vanish. It will remain until it is overthrown." And capitalism can be overthrown only as the result of classconscious mass struggle.

Promoting classconciousness, however, is no easy matter. Workers are bombarded daily with capitalist propaganda in the newspapers and on television. Politicians and economists obscure the capitalist roots of economic crisis and falsely predict a better future after a painful period of "adjustment." And labor leaders tell workers that they need to make concessions to their exploiters instead of fighting back.

Even worse, many so-called socialists confuse workers by talking about myths such as "structural reforms" or by raising false hopes that workers can force the political state to solve the problems of unemployment and poverty. Such notions can only help convince workers that they have a future under capitalism and that capitalism is, at this late date, somehow capable of being reformed.

In truth, ending the effects of capitalism requires ending their cause -- the capitalist system.

As socialists become involved in workers' daily struggles, they must try to bridge the gap between the establishment of socialism and the present consciousness of the working class. It is important that workers come to recognize that there is an alternative to capitalism. For the sooner the working class realizes that the misery imposed by capitalism need not be endured, the sooner will workers turn to socialism.

Yet even the most thoroughgoing classcon-sciousness by itself is not enough for revolution. Above all else, organization is required. Workers already hold in their collective hands the potential power capable of restructuring society. As capitalism is weakened by the maturing of its own contradictions, workers need to transform that potential power into the active force-revolutionary organization-that is needed to establish socialism.

On the political field, workers need to form a mass revolutionary party to challenge and defeat the political state for the purpose of dismantling it. That will clear the way for the workers' organization on the economic field-a class-wide socialist industrial union-to administer the classless socialist society by ousting the capitalist class from the seat of its economic power and by taking, holding and operating the economy in workers' interests.

Socialist revolution is a complex process. It will not occur overnight nor as the result of a heroic act of will. It is the result of the interaction of economic crisis, classconsciousness and working-class organization.

Capitalism can be counted on to produce economic crises in superabundance. However, economic crisis is not a sufficient condition of revolution. Even if the economy should utterly collapse, the result would not necessarily be socialism. For in the absence of revolutionary working-class organization, the ruling class would readily impose its own totalitarian alternative.

Yet economic crisis is a necessary condition of revolution. It produces the discontent, the social unrest and the objective need for change that provide opportunities for effective socialist agitation and education, for raising classconsciousness and for creating the working-class organization required for a victorious ending of the class struggle.

It is up to us, the working class. Capitalism won't vanish. It must be overthrown.