Friday, May 23, 2008

Capitalist Catch-22

From New York Times we hear that President Bush is threatening to veto a bill that “would pay tuition and other expenses at a four-year public university for anyone who has served in the military for at least three years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” The main reason for this? Fear that it would cause an exodus from military ranks.

In a society in which workers have faced a 35 year-year downward pressure on their standard of living (Independent (UK) 23 March), i.e. the cost of living has increased whereas wages have remained stagnant or decreased, many young people turn to military enlistment in hopes of obtaining a college education and/or career training - known as the “poverty draft.”

We can only urge workers not to look for the better carrot at the end of the rope, but to look for the source of this economic instability and wealth inequality.

As stated in the March ‘08 Socialist Standard:

As socialists we analyze social affairs in class terms. We approach problems in the field of economics and politics from a consideration of what we see as being the real interests of the world working class. It is our contention that there are only two classes in present day society. Firstly, the working class, who collectively produce the wealth of society and who, in order to live, have to sell their ability to work for a wage or a salary. Secondly, the capitalist class who accumulate profit through the economic exploitation of the working class.

This situation leads to an inevitable conflict of interests and the generation of social and economic problems that cannot be solved while capitalism of whatever form continues. Commodity production (production of wealth for sale with a view to profit) inevitably brings conflict over access to markets and sources of raw materials, and for the control of trade routes, and for strategic points around the globe. Attempts are made to resolve these conflicts through discussion and diplomacy. Where diplomacy fails there remains the threat of force of arms to get what is wanted. From time to time this clash of interests breaks out in armed conflict. For the Socialist Party “capitalism and war are inseparable. There can be no capitalism without conflicts of economic interest.” ( SPGB: War and the Working Class. 1936. p.1)

And so it is a vicious circle, wars are waged abroad with a view to capitalist profit, and wages are continually driven down for the same reason. Bodies are needed to fight these wars, however, and the capitalists are not going to do the fighting themselves. The only way the ruling class can garner these bodies (other than through force by a draft) is by offering some small hope of economic alleviation from the conditions they have created, lets not forget the nationalistic exhortations, to coax workers into killing each other and dying for causes which do not serve their own interests, but that of their masters.

As President Bush seems to have found himself in a catch-22, the WSP says don’t buy it either way. The only solution to the plethora of problems such as war and poverty is the dispossession of the ruling class through the conscious, political self-emancipation of the working class and the establishment of a system of common ownership and democratic control of the means of wealth production – socialism.

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