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The Case for Socialism
The Case for Socialism
At the start of 2016, 62 people - barely more than a bus full - owned as much wealth as half the people on the planet. Never before has inequality reached these gargantuan levels. Prolonged economic crisis has meant growing impoverishment for the majority but it has not halted the enrichment of a few at the top, either globally or in Britain, where the richest five families own more wealth than the poorest 20% of the population. Meanwhile average pay in Britain has fallen by 10.4% since 2007, second only to Greece in the economically developed economies.
In Britain, hopes that economic crisis was an aberration and that life would soon return to 'normal' have faded as austerity has become the 'new normal'. A temporary and weak economic recovery barely registered for most workers, many of whose wages continue to fall. Now a renewed economic crisis is on the horizon, not caused by Brexit but the underlying failures of capitalism. This will be a nightmare for the millions in Britain who are already struggling with debt and doing low-paid, insecure work - with no prospect of ever having somewhere decent and permanent to live.
A profound anger is developing at the meagre future that British capitalism is offering. For a long time that anger had no outlet and so remained hidden beneath the surface of society. As the Socialist Party predicted, however, it was inevitable it would start to find an expression. In different ways the majority in society, the working class, along with many young and middle-class people, have been able to shake the establishment by collectively voicing their anger.
The clearest example of this was the EU referendum. At base, notwithstanding the right-wing racist campaign run by the official exit campaigns, the vote to leave the EU was a working-class revolt against everything we have suffered: cuts in public services, low pay, insecure work, expensive housing and more. Many workers voted Leave in defiance of a gigantic 'project fear' campaign, and by doing so struck a blow against the establishment and ended the careers of Tory politicians from both sides of the referendum debate, including the hated Cameron and Osborne. Of course, many of those who voted Remain were also angry about austerity. But, particularly in the absence of a mass left campaign for exit - despite the best efforts of the Socialist Party - voted remain for positive reasons: internationalism and opposition to racism.
The growing revolt against the existing order also found a different expression in the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader and the subsequent campaign to defend him against the Blairite pro-capitalist wing of the Labour Party. Prior to Corbyn's election Labour had become a party that could be relied onto act in the interests of the capitalist class, the 1%. It was not for nothing that Maggie Thatcher claimed New Labour as her greatest achievement. Corbyn's election put Thatcher's triumph into danger and has resulted in a ferocious campaign to attempt to reclaim Labour for the capitalist establishment. Hundreds of thousands of people have responded, however, by rallying to Corbyn's defence.
In response to these events the political representatives of capitalism have been forced to pay lip service to standing up for the majority. Theresa May, the new Tory prime minister, has insisted she will stand up for the working class. No Tory prime minister has ever done anything of the kind, and she will be no different, but the language she uses reflects the growing anger from below. Meanwhile Owen Smith, the candidate of the right in the Labour leadership election, started talking about supporting "socialist revolution". Whatever he said before, make no mistake, if he was somehow to win the contest he would attempt to preside over a counter-revolution in the Labour Party, marginalising and driving out anti-austerity policies and the new generation that has been enthused by them.
Both of these examples - the Brexit vote and Corbyn's election - show the growing anger against the existing order, and the ability of ordinary people to change things when we act together collectively. In different ways, however, they also show the limits of what we can achieve if we are not organised with a clear goal. This pamphlet puts the case for being organised in a democratic and cohesive party that is fighting for a completely different kind of society. The last decade has demonstrated beyond doubt to millions that capitalism means crisis and misery. Here we put the case for socialism.