Capitalism: Symptom or Disease?

T-shirt Global warming is the symptom, capitalism is the ...

It seems that the popularity of ‘anti-capitalism’ that is growing around the world has caught up with New Zealand. Like the word socialism it is much abused. Usually it is a critique of the symptoms, rather than the cancerous disease of capitalist society. The election of the Labour led Coalition to power is a good test of the futility of trying to heal capitalism’s symptoms instead of eliminating the disease.

A Labour led Coalition with the Greens and New Zealand First is a better option to yet another NACT regime, but only because it has promised to roll back marginally some of NACTs reactionary policies. If it succeeds in forming a stable government and delivering on some of these promises, this will generate even more hysteria on the right.

Working people should defend it from the right but criticize it from the left when it fails to deliver. Workers must learn to exercise their independent class interests because the Labour led Coalition cannot.

Working people will decide the future. From our experience of this capitalist Coalition we will learn how far center-left populism can go before risking the retaliation of international capital.

Not very far. For all the talk about ‘capitalism failing’ from Peters and Ardern, what they really mean is that the state has to intervene to correct the ‘excesses’ of the market.

This is the promise made by all social democrats for over a century. As part of the Liberal Government of the 1890s the Fabian socialists stood for state intervention to control the market by forming a Labour Party to represent workers in parliament. Ever since social democracy has acted as a brake on workers political development.

In Russia in 1917, the social democratic Provisional Government collaborated with the Tsarist generals to mount a coup to smash the soviets. It failed because workers, soldiers and poor peasants who had begun to form their own government from below could see through its treachery. In Germany in 1919 German social democracy collaborated with the ruling class to join a Government that repressed the armed workers uprisings. It succeeded because the masses still had illusions that in government social democracy would protect their interests.

The lesson is that social democracy always serves capital before labour. Social Democracy always puts profits before people.  Its job is to manage capitalism by promising to reconcile the opposing classes and make us all ‘middle class’. Yet capitalism cannot be rendered classless. For more than a century it has been in a terminal, destructive, cataclysmic, decline. Either we go down with it or we fight to replace it with survival socialism.

When the new Coalition’s promises to feed the poor, build affordable houses, boost the unions, clean up the water, drive the speculators out, etc., are broken, it will because they are more scared of their capitalist masters than they are of working people they claim to represent.

They panicked in 1984 when they feared a Chile type coup unless they destroyed economic protectionism. In 2000 they learned from the ruling class push-back against Clark’s ‘Closing the Gaps’ that they cannot tax the rich to put people before profits without facing a bosses’ strike. Already the new Coalition has backed off its promises as in the case of the TPPA. It talks against neo-liberalism yet won’t act to break with it’s fetish of fiscal responsibility.

Workers will learn that parliamentary politics was always a talk shop where workers were frustrated, bored into passivity, criminalized and repressed, while the bosses stole our labour, our basic rights, our livelihood and our lives. Class struggle is a steep learning curve and we are losing.

Workers will understand that they have to form their own working class party to make the changes needed to right the wrongs of poverty, inequality, suicide, climate change, and the destruction of basic democratic rights of privacy, freedom from surveillance and dirty politics. A workers’ party would stand for what Labour once professed but has long renounced, the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange.

It wouldn’t be a top-down policy wonk party of middle class bureaucrats. It would be run by the democratically organized rank and file in the unions and workers’ councils. Self-employed would overcome their indoctrinated fear of socialism expropriating their toothbrushes when they see that crisis-ridden capitalism forces them to fight to survive by blaming the workers below them rather than the bosses above them.

So, whatever happens to this new Coalition government, New Zealand’s downward trajectory as part of a global capitalism in terminal decline, means that workers have to wake-up to their class interests, reject the parliamentary circus, and organize a genuine workers’ government capable of playing a part in rescuing humanity from extinction before it is too late.