Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were clear; however “unfair” Capitalism was, it liberated people from any servitude based on inherited status or gender (as opposed to class) and had the transformative capacity to deliver justice based on the proletarianisation of all workers whether male or female. Their view was that capitalism’s principles (we call them Contract, Choice and Consent) should become enshrined in the brief socialist phase of history, before being seared into a post-socialist society by the “dictatorship of the proletariat”. Liberation from exploitation, of whatever sort (status, gender or class) was Marx’s “riddle of history solved”.
Socialism is, therefore, a phase on the road to the full liberation of workers, not the end stop of that process. To work as it should, socialism needs a profitable capitalist system upon which to feed prior to the “dictatorship of the proletariat” emerging from the socialist state itself.
There are problems with this essentially 19th-century vision today, however, not least of which is the absence of real profitability generated by the exploitation of the worker within a powerful western capitalist economic system. A capitalist system that can be placed initially under the control of the state and then the working classes.
Today it is the western blue-collar workers who finance the Nation State its politicians, banks and well-paid hangers-on. It is equally true that working class people are also more than likely to be of this unlovely collection, cast out into a kind of economic oblivion brought about by global forces, in particular, relatively high wage levels and low western economic productivity.
The free market racketeer who is often passed off as a ‘capitalist’ offshores profits and gets the Chinese government to exploit its workers on their behalf by producing ‘consumables’ in planet-destroying quantities. Globally this is a racket, not a system. It bears little resemblance to Capitalism, it is gamed by powerful forces including candidates like corporations and global investment, as well as unlikely characters like the BBC and political parties.
Is there any good news in all this?
Well yes, there is excellent news. Firstly with capitalism lasting as long as it did, socialism and social liberalism was able to give “social character” to values based on the capitalist principles of Contract Choice and Consent. We now have solid humane and liberal values within a framework of law which protects groups that in primitive (pre-capitalist) societies are hounded, bullied, persecuted or killed. This includes apostates, dissenters, gay people and women seeking liberation from the tyranny inflicted on their gender by state, tribe or caste. Capitalism has left a legacy of justice even though it was unarguably a very unfair system. To fail to understand this distinction between justice and fairness leaves the “socialist” open to the kind of idiocy one observes within the “Marxist” Labour Party today.
Essentially the current iteration of Labour has a misguided view of capitalism’s legacy fetishised into ‘Tory’ hating. They fail to grasp that Western Capitalism is already dead replaced by global racketeering and that their parochial economic plans will be an insufferable burden on the working class for hundreds of years. They fail to understand the origins of liberal values within the capitalist system and so oblivious to real liberalism, hobnob with a collection of groups who like them might hate capitalism, but also hate its liberation of women and others too. They fail to grasp that control, exclusion and coercion are pre-capitalist principles and that by flirting with people who adopt them (and by adopting them themselves) they place the liberty of us all in jeopardy.
Our economic situation is precarious enough with the racketeering of the global elites undermining our Nation States all over the western world, but with Labour, not only do we as workers have that to contend with but the probability under a Labour Government of a slow and remorseless rolling back of our freedoms to Contract, Choose and Consent to take us back to an age of overt State control. Marx and Engles were wary of the State. As with their mangling of the “many and the few” once again it’s clear to us Labour’s ideas are not what Marx or Engels would have had in mind when crafting their beliefs. Consent is not safe with Labour and we should all worry.