|CP PROGRAMME OUTLINE: Britain's Road to Socialism|
Capitalism is economically, socially and politically bankrupt. So argues the new edition of Britain's Road to Socialism (BRS), the Communist Party strategy for a society which puts ordinary people first, explained by CP Women's Organiser Liz Payne.
As a system, capitalism no longer makes a progressive contribution to human development. Its sole purpose - to make maximum profit for the private owners of industry and commerce - is exposed, together with its deep general crisis and the suffering it causes.
Billions of the world's people live in poverty, without access to education, medical services and sanitation. Populations starve while in other parts of the world food mountains are destroyed. Environmental destruction goes unchecked. Big business fails to cut carbon emissions, depletes finite resources and refuses to invest in safe, renewable energy.
Corruption discredits politics. Culture is usurped to try to ensure that selfishness and individualism permeate society. Social inequality is deep-rooted and endemic.
BRS outlines the development of capitalism, concentrating on its imperialist stage from the late 19th century.
As monopolies grew, each sector of the economy came to be dominated by a handful of giant enterprises. Industrial and banking capital merged to form finance capital. Monopoly capitalists invested abroad, moving some operations overseas and forming vast transnational corporations.
Rivalry between empires for resources and markets intensified. State functions were enhanced during the first world war between the imperialist powers. The ruling class in each of the main capitalist countries used the power of the state to protect their monopolies. Economic and political power fused, giving birth to state-monopoly capitalism.
But after the 1917 October Revolution imperialist domination was challenged by socialism. In response fascism - the terroristic weapon of the most reactionary capitalists - was unleashed in Italy, Germany and elsewhere to crush the demands of working people expressed through their trade unions and communist and workers' parties.
Following World War II imperialism entered its second phase.
States regulated the unprecedented demand for commodities, promoted monopoly profits and co-ordinated international trade and currency relations. At home, working people were kept "on side" through enhanced living standards. Elsewhere the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and transnational corporations controlled newly free colonies.
Rivalry between capitalist empires was moderated by the need to collaborate in hot and "cold" wars against the Soviet Union, the new socialist states of eastern Europe and communist regimes in North Korea, Cuba and Vietnam.
And, despite every attempt to "manage" capitalism through regulation following the 1930s Depression, the economic crises returned.
The long, post-war boom ended in the late 1960s. Neoliberalism gained ascendancy from the late 1970s with a ruthless agenda enforcing lower wages, labour "flexibility," the suppression of trade unionism, privatisation, banking deregulation, and the free movement of capital.
The dismantling of socialism in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe allowed monopoly capitalists to seize opportunities in those countries and act with impunity to extend control over resources, labour and markets across the developing world. This heralded the beginning of this third and present phase of empire.
Led by the US and backed by Britain, imperialism has pursued its agenda with all "necessary" force, blitzing whoever stands in the way - Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia and Yugoslavia. China has been ringed with military bases.
Terrorist attacks on the US in September 2001 provided the pretext for a "war on terror" allowing seizure of the oil, gas and strategic supply routes of the greater Middle East. The end of the cold war has brought intensified conflict, not peace.
The new edition of BRS explains the inherent contradictions and crises of capitalism.
Production is privately owned by capitalists and run for the maximum possible profit. But the interests of working people to maximise wages and improve living standards are diametrically opposed to this. This means that capitalist society is always divided between the capitalist class and the working class.
Capitalism's drive to produce more and more commodities is the source of its cyclical crises. Workers must buy most of the goods and services but, as real wages decrease to maximise profit, they can afford less and less.
In the end a point is reached when working people can no longer buy commodities at prices that sustain profit. Production is cut. Workers are laid off. Demand is further depressed. The economy enters recession. Now, big companies take over failing ones, increasing productive capacity through super-exploitation and grabbing market share.
The cycle begins again, only to repeat itself in the succession of booms and crashes.
Counter-revolution in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe and the liberalisation of financial markets temporarily reinvigorated capitalism. But the huge bubble burst in 2007, once again starkly revealing the underlying general crisis. Capitalist governments and central banks had to rescue their financial monopolies with the biggest bailouts in history.
Millions of people were thrown out of work in the leading capitalist countries, while the drive to exploit the developing world was intensified.
But the experience of deepening crisis has made working people aware of the inhuman nature of capitalism. They are realising that the economy can and must be run for the benefit of all, not for the few. They recognise the liberating potential of culture and that new technology can enhance life rather than reinforce the apparatus of war and oppression.
How capitalism can be overthrown and a progressive, just and peaceful society built is precisely what Britain's Road to Socialism goes on to propose.
Liz Payne is Communist Party of Britain women's organiser.
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