We live under the capitalist system. A handful of multi-millionaires own the majority of the world’s wealth. While enough food is produced to feed the entire world, farmers are paid to destroy food that cannot be sold at a profit and millions of people go hungry. Every year tens of thousands of us leave school and go straight onto the dole or onto rip-off “training schemes” that have no jobs at the end of them. We are told there is not enough work to go round, but there are homes and hospitals to be built, education and transport systems to be improved, a million and one things that people could be doing to improve life for all of us. Whole countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are held in backwardness, not because these countries have less natural wealth than Europe, Japan or America, but because every decision that is made about what to produce and how to produce it is controlled by the powerful Western banks and companies. All they want is to make huge profits, at the expense of the needs of the vast majority.
Communism is a criticism of the chaos and inhumanity of the capitalist system – but it goes further than that. Some people only want to dream of a better existence. For them there are a multitude of religions, every one of them preaching obedience to authority in the here and now in return for the worst deal ever offered – eternal bliss once you’re six feet under. Communists make no such childish promises. Our answer is not to wait but to fight back now.
Communists believe that the most important thing dividing humanity is not race, nationality, sex or religion. It is class. Alongside the tiny handful of profiteers stands the working class. A billion strong and growing, with 100 million industrial workers at its core, the world working class is made up of people with no stake in the capitalist system. While the capitalists own factories, plant, machinery, huge blocks of shares and money to invest all over the world at the touch of a button, the working class have nothing besides a handful of hard earned possessions and the ability to work. Our work produces everything, all the wealth on the planet, but it is owned and controlled by the capitalists.
From the struggle of black workers in South Africa through to the mass campaign against the Poll Tax in Britain, it has been the working class that has come to the fore in the fight against exploitation and oppression. Out of its struggles the working class has pointed the way forward to a new type of society – in which production can be planned to meet real needs, in which all the work that needs to be done can be divided up between the millions of people available to do it.
Many people say communism is undemocratic. But look at the excuse for democracy that exists in this country today. We get the chance to put a cross on a piece of paper every five years, but all the real decisions are made for us by company directors civil servants, judges, police and military chiefs that no-one ever elected an d who come from the families of the rich and powerful.
The struggles of the working class throughout history show that there is a better way, a type of democracy that really puts people in control of their lives. Time and again, workers have formed their own democratic councils, which draw in delegates from the factories, the workplaces, the estates and the unions, and which elect representatives who can be replaced at any time, who are accountable to the people they are supposed to be fighting for. It was workers’ councils of this type that formed the backbone of the Russian Revolution in 1917. In the early days of the revolution, the Russian working class had more real control, more power over their own lives than any other people in history. They used it to abolish the profit system and plan the economy for the good of the people.
That is what communists are fighting for today. If the working class was in power, then all the inequalities of capitalist society could be gradually overcome. Instead of being used to throw more workers onto the dole, new machinery could be used to ease the burden of work, shortening the working week. Organising work for need rather than profit would enable jobs that are currently done in the home, such as educating children of pre-school age, doing the washing, cooking and so on, to be carried out in decent nurseries, laundries and restaurants, freeing women from the burden of doing the housework.
This would not be a grey, lifeless society, but one in which real democratic control would bring with it a riot of debate and discussion about the sort of world we want to build. We would have more time for leisure, more variety, more culture, more education, and more freedom. Instead of the vast organisations of state repression that the capitalist minority have to maintain to keep the working class majority in our place, a working class state would need no secret bureaucracy or permanent army set up against the people. For as long as the minority of capitalists still existed and fought to get back control, they could be resisted by the armed majority, organised on democratic lines. But without their private property, the capitalist class would eventually wither away, allowing all the tasks of the new working class state to be taken over by society as a whole.
That is our goal – a communist society without classes, private property or a state. It is possible because capitalism has made it possible by developing industries that can produce enough for all, and alongside it developing the working class, which can organise a new system under which all can enjoy what is produced. It is necessary because capitalism has made it necessary, by reducing the majority of humanity to poverty and desperation.
Communism is possible and is necessary, but it is not inevitable. There are tremendous obstacles to it. The first is the state apparatus. The police and army will be used against any serious attempt to get rid of the profit system. That is what they are there for. In Chile in 1973 the Socialist Party tried to change society along socialist lines through carrying out new laws in parliament. The army soon showed where the real power lies under capitalism, by overthrowing the elected government and murdering tens of thousands of the most determined workers.
That is why communists are revolutionaries. We know that all history shows the need for the workers to smash the capitalists’ army, police and bureaucracy through a violent uprising. In their place we want government to be based on workers’ councils and the armed working class.
There is another obstacle to communism. It is the nation state. No one country can hope to produce enough for its people by itself The world economy is international. The Russian Revolution failed in the end because it did not spread to other countries in home. They had to trade and do deals with the West, and a layer of bureaucrats developed who grew rich and powerful from their position as middlemen. These parasites – the Stalinists – abandoned the idea of world revolution and claimed it would be possible to build communism in one country. They smashed the workers’ organisations, abolished working class democracy, scrapped rights for women, national minorities, lesbians and gays. They threw real communists like Leon Trotsky out of the Communist Party and murdered them in their thousands. They tried to plan the economy without allowing the mass of the people any say in what should be produced, and they produced low quality goods and a drab existence for the masses. They have ended up trying to bring back capitalism to Russia, with all the mass unemployment, crime, nationalism and despair that it brings with it.
No wonder communism is a dirty word today. We have to restore its true meaning – world revolution, workers’ democracy, equality and real freedom.