The rebirth of Socialism; the Jeremy Corbyn factor

September 13, 2015

But first, a brief history of capitalism.

Capitalism is the motor for the industrialised US-dominated planet we live on. Although the Romans were capitalists, modern capitalism was started by the British with the industrial revolution.  It was then  adopted by the nascent America (who did it more rapaciously) and has now been embraced by China.  All hail.  But let’s look at what capitalism really is; it is the ultimate expression of Darwinist ‘survival of the most adaptable’.  Darwin showed that species evolve through natural selection and competition, red in tooth and claw, and capitalism is this law of the jungle wearing a suit and tie.  But is evolved, civilised mankind naturally competitive or naturally cooperative?  Darwin noted that certain species naturally cooperate when it suits the entire species. Even lions cooperate within their prides. So, is humankind cooperative or competitve?  Both, of course.  However, the competitive aspects can be seen as crude and primitive whereas cooperation fits in well with our higher aspirations.  If you were walking past a burning house and a geriatric neighbour told you that there was a child in there, would you go inside to try and save him?  A child you don’t know?  Most people would not hesitate. Yes, we are cooperative if we would risk our own life to save the life of a stranger.

Capitalism works through competition but, over time, this is polarising because it rewards greed.  The weaker go to the wall and ultimately you could envisage, for example, only two car companies in the world whereas originally there were hundreds (we already have that in aviation, Airbus and Boeing).  Similarly all industry would become polarised in this way.  The polarisation isn’t limited to industry because capitalism ultimately results in a massive imbalance of wealth, food, water and resources, so we have half the world who are dying of obesity and the other half are starving and don’t even have clean water .  The majority of the world’s wealth is in the hands of less than a hundred individuals.  So that’s capitalism and you might think it’s good if you are on the right side.  However, remember that it is based on continuing unlimited economic growth and the rape of the world’s resources which are limited.  Capitalism will continue to polarise but, and this is important, it will destroy the planet in the process.  It is a statement of the obvious to observe that we only have one of those.

Continued unlimited economic growth.  Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Well, that’s what we have but are you feeling richer than ten years ago?  Will your chidren have the same ability to buy their own home as you did?  Are you working less than you did ten years ago?  Has technology made your life easier?  Has your leisuretime increased?  Do your children communicate with you?  Are you optimistic of an easy pension-funded retirement?  Do parents have enough time to bring up their children or must they both work to make ends meet?  Do you trust your bank manager to look after your money honestly?  Do you trust your politicians?  Do you have confidence in your health-care system? In other words, is a modern, western capitalist society working for you?

I suspect that the answer to some or all of these questions will be in the negative and the reason is that capitalism requires that We, The People, provide more wealth for the wealthy minority; the poor get poorer, the rich get richer. Since the 2008 economic collapse, it has become clear that rampant capitalism is creaking at the seams and cannot be sustained indefinitely.  Actually, it was also clear in the 1930s and that led to fascism and a world war in which 70m people died.  So, what is the alternative?  Well, actually….it’s probably a form of Socialism.  I don’t mean a Soviet-style command ecoomy, but one that recognises that unlimited growth cannot continue, that there’s nothing wrong with workers owning the means of production, that the state should provide free education and health care.  It’s not revolutionary.  However, whenever any country has tried to do that, it has either been undermined from outside (Cuba, Chile, most of Central America) or has morphed into a system which is indistinguishable from fascism (Soviet Union, North Korea etc).  Top-down government has ceased to work. Bottom-up organisation is the key to the future to allow We, The People, to organise Society in a way that suits us, not the minority who already own most of the world.

And that’s why Jeremy Corbyn is such a breath of fresh air.  He is a conviction politicial and, aside from his views on the UK Monarchy, everything he says pretty well agrees with my way of thinking and I wonder whether the time is right for a return of Socialist values.  The alternative has, I think, been shown to be unsustainable.  I’m not talking about a revolution (that’s not British, don’t you know) but an evolution and I’ll vote for that process.  That has to be done by the young to create a society that they want and one of the most encouraging things about the Corbyn factor is that he has energised the minds of progressive youngsters and got them involved in the political process again.  That’s got to be the future.  I just hope that he can sustain his good intentions in the face of the opposition from his own side.  I think the country might be persuaded to get behind him.  I’m there already.