=By= Silvano Agosti
A different society is possible and it’s needed! Only the working class can build it!
“The true slave defends the master, he does not fight him. Because such a slave is not so much the one who is in chains but the one who is no longer able to imagine freedom.”
[dropcap]C[/dropcap]apitalism, i.e. the present, now centuries-old, model of society that we are told is the best of all possible worlds, is not a system which aims to share out the goods produced by human labour. This labour is now completely socialised and, moreover, highly productive through the operation of the most modern and sophisticated machines and production processes.
“Simple people” think that all capitalism’s faults stem from its “unfair” or “dishonest” distribution of social wealth, and that the solution is as easy as a “fair” redistribution. However, every form of social distribution is determined by the mode of production and the purpose for which production is carried out. So if the goal is the profit of a few, any “fair” redistribution vanishes, because it is subordinate to the exclusive priority of that goal.
And the one and only purpose of capital is to grow, to multiply continuously (valorisation). To achieve this it must constantly centralise and concentrate ownership in ever fewer hands to increase the amount that can be more profitably invested whilst at the same time reducing production costs. This can only take place by investing on the one hand in more powerful and larger instruments of production (machinery and equipment), and on the other in the living instruments of labour (of increasingly docile and browbeaten workers): the former are constantly modernised (restructuring), increased and subject to depreciation. The latter must be ever more exploited by reducing their cost (wages) and maximising (thanks to the domination of the workforce mentioned above) their ability to churn out as many goods as possible in the same unit of time as before (so-called “productivity”) (1).
The progressive impoverishment of huge masses of workers, rendered superfluous (and thus laid off) by the drive for higher productivity in the pursuit of profit, is accompanied by a huge increase in goods produced. However they need to be sold to realise the profit in monetary form, and this impoverishment hinders the sale of these commodities (and therefore the realisation of profit), not because production is surplus to the needs of society, but because society is no longer in a position to buy the means to satisfy its needs as it lacks the income to do so. Hindering the sale of the products of labour and the realisation of the business’ profit reduces the very incentive to produce, regardless of the needs that society may have. And the destruction or deterioration of unsold goods – whether they are stored in warehouses or left on supermarket shelves – is the consequence.
The overproduction of goods (and of redundant workers) is not overproduction compared to need, but compared to society’s (in)ability to purchase them. The mediator is money.
So, if under capitalism, needs can be met only through the purchase of goods produced, it is clear that the purpose of the production process is not to _meet needs_ and deliver products in a more or less fair (and more importantly, even otherwise efficient) manner, but to sell more and more goods produced only for those who can buy them at the “price” that guarantees capitalist profit. If goods are sold just to make a profit — this even causing the artificial stimulation of consumer needs and means to consume (think of advertising bombardment and hire purchase) — but do not provide the necessary income to the worker-consumer to buy the goods, then production is not about meeting needs but simply to sell commodities.
Here is the fundamental contradiction of capitalism and the source of its constant crisis of overproduction: the relationship between capital (under the control of an ever more limited layer of society) and wage labour (a limitation for most of society) and the consequence this relationship imposes, i.e. the continuous growth of capital with absolute indifference to the satisfaction or otherwise of real social needs.
From this contradiction arise all subsequent contradictions that the current crisis, like previous ones, so strikingly shows. Above all, in the face of a huge development of society’s productive capacity, human labour time — instead of being distributed among all as light, brief work for a few hours a day — is growing dramatically for those workers who are employed, condemning millions of people to misery and insecurity, essentially mere survival, and preserving the same levels and rates of fatigue and stress as in the past with a technological capability far less developed than today’s. And so, as occurred in the first industrial age, today not less than 9-11 hours a day are “dedicated” to work (counting actual work and travel time). All this is topped by the propaganda of “having to create more work” because there is not enough for everyone, that is, for all to work 9-11 hours per day, at best.
The submission to modern work slavery—that goes as far as the most extreme docility, the offering of free labour in exchange for a promise of future employment—is brought about by the most subtle strategies: “Work is a right guaranteed by the sacred Constitution”, “work must be protected and guaranteed for all”, “the money made through honest work is clean and righteous!”,”work is dignity!”, “work makes you free “(remind you of anything?!). But what work? And, especially, under what conditions?
The massive introduction of automation and robotics and modern computerised processes in production, distribution and services—that under capitalist organisation constitute an impediment to the liberation from working increasingly long, frenetic, repetitive, alienating and exhausting hours and rhythms—would allow us right now to distribute to everybody, and for a few hours a day, the amount of work required (automating as much as we can, to lower the amount of work needed even more), alongside an abundance of available products which could be distributed to all without the need for the mediation of money.
The planning of production based on real collective needs would replace the anarchy of competition between companies (as well as ruthless reciprocal trade wars), while the distribution of the products would replace the lethal mechanism of buying and selling mediated by money, to ensure the satisfaction of the various and diverse needs of every one of us. The two measures would allow us to put a stop to the destruction of the environment and our health, as well as the waste resulting from (for example) producing different packaging for identical goods), and so on.
This wouldn’t give everyone a full-time job; it would reduce working time, leaving machines and robots doing a large share of the more stressful and alienating tasks. This would decrease working time for all, and increase time for living.
But all this is impossible under capitalism, the “wonderful” world dominated, like some sort of social insanity, by all sorts of contradictions: poverty, inequality, hunger, wars, unemployment, insecurity, widespread destruction of human beings and other things rendered unnecessary and excessive in capital’s eyes, i.e. “useless regarding generation of profit.” These perversions and injustices are congenital to capitalism and the ultimate product of its inner workings.
A “wonderful” world in which we praise the great, excellent technological capabilities developed by capitalism, in which robots are already able to replace the most alienating human labour and/or to alleviate fatigue, and yet we are more and more slaves of time, stress and tiring work schedules (for those who have work) more even than when robots did not exist and when productive capacity or productivity was a tenth of the current one.
A wonderful world in which 30 million rich and 7 billion poor “live together”; where poverty and hunger in the world “coexist” alongside an enormous waste of food on supermarket shelves; in which—we are told—there is no money for pensions, healthcare and the millions of poor, but it always appears when it comes to buying weapons, or financing wars, banks, and allegedly bankrupt companies which then quickly disappear.
In Italy—the Bank of Italy reports—10% of the richest families own 46.6% (almost half) of total household net wealth (2).
10% of the world’s adult population holds 87.7% of the world’s wealth while 90% of the rest have to share a measly 12.3% and that part of the population declared “well-off” (those with an income from employment, owners of a house and a car) amounts to less than 10% of the total. All this in the face of the financial elite of only 123,800 adults (ultra-high-net-worth) with capital assets in excess of $50 million per capita who, for obvious reasons, control or exert a decisive influence on banks, businesses, governments and international institutions (3).
Currently, the total world military expenditure is close to the frightening figure of $1.5 trillion ($1,500 billion), and is consistently increasing in almost all “developed” countries over the last few years. Meanwhile they continue to spin the yarn that there is not enough money to eliminate extreme poverty, or for pensions, health and education.
At the same time, a devastated environment—whether it be due to incessant and unscrupulous use and waste of natural resources; whether it be air, marine and land pollution; pesticides and chemical fertilisers that contaminate groundwater and soil entering our food chain through the products we consume—is massively increasing deaths from cancer and the onset of disease, food intolerances and allergies. All while the WHO has recently launched its hypocritical warning against the consumption of meat and sausages, which could hurt one’s health.
Global warming is linked to the recent surges of atmospheric and meteorological phenomena which are completely “out of control” and their disastrous destructive effects. Besides melting glaciers, or the “plastic islands” floating in every ocean, entire territories are becoming deserts. On top of this, we see the worsening greenhouse effect with the consequent increase of temperature, gasses and radiation harmful to health and also to crops, the ecosystem and the lives of millions of human beings forced to move from place to place. In 2012, the World Health Organisation estimated that 7 million deaths were due to air pollution.
A global production of municipal and industrial waste, which amounts to 4 billion tons per year (650 kg per capita), mostly disposed of by polluting combustion or landfill (only 19% is recycled: source ISWA, quoted in the Repubblica newspaper), causing enormous damage to health.
Meanwhile, the world is currently fighting hundreds of wars involving no less than 62 countries (4), while migration flows of “biblical” levels testify to the desperation of thousands and thousands of human beings who are fleeing war, misery, famine, hunger, persecution, pressing against the borders that the beautiful and democratic Europe tries in vain to “seal”.
Meanwhile, about 870 million people do not have enough food and hunger kills more people than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, with 24,000 deaths a day. A third of deaths of children under 5 in developing countries is due to malnutrition. Meanwhile tons of food are thrown away per year, a quantity four times greater than that required to feed the starving population. In Italy alone, food waste was estimated by the 2015 Waste Watcher Report, with the scientific validation of the University of Bologna-Distal, at about 13 billion Euros each year; food thrown in the household rubbish bin. (Source: Repubblica 10.15.2015).
And in the meantime the TV strives to bombard us with a giant “sense of guilt”, inviting us to alleviate the suffering of some poor man on the planet because … “it’s still better than nothing” and anyway—do you want to get involved?!—With your newly cleansed conscience you can perhaps sleep more soundly, maybe between a Papal Angelus and the Holy Rosary…
Average monthly wages of workers are declining, especially in countries where companies relocate to reduce their costs of production, ranging from 630 Euros in Poland, to 414 Euros in Serbia (where Fiat-Serbia workers are paid 300 EUR) to 200 Euros for a Foxconn (the company contracted by Apple to produce the iPhone) worker in China. In the world about 3 billion people are living on $2.5 a day (about 2 Euros).
The payroll is also reduced for state enterprises, as certified by the latest ISTAT figures, which show how from 2010, when the freeze started, to 2014, when last updated, the loss was equivalent to 390 Euros, in terms of gross per capita income. The calculation is made on current figures, regardless of erosion due to inflation.Source: Ansa
All the while the simultaneous dismantling of pensions (deferred wages) and the “welfare state” (indirect wages through services and benefits), comprehensively reduces—wherever these were previously enjoyed—the total actual monthly wage (purchasing power) of workers. For others, there remains only insecurity, underemployment, unemployment, illegal work and. . . some charitable soup kitchens.
Average working hours range from 30 hours per week in the Netherlands to 40 hours for Italy, and up to 12-14 hours a day for workers exploited in the developing (and other) countries (5), while the exploitation of children remains the norm in many countries of the world. Human beings are forced to work 8-14 hours a day in poor safety conditions, at an inhuman pace, and performing tasks which are repetitive, boring and consequently alienating, exhausting body and mind, in exchange for a wage less than needed to survive while for millions of people between unemployment, underemployment, illegal and precarious employment, etc., work remains a desperate mirage.
How can one believe that the present society is the best society possible and continue to perpetuate it in spite of all this?
In fact, it isn’t at all. Cut off and kept in cages under blackmail, it is easy to convince us (and convince ourselves) that there is no viable alternative to modern wage slavery.
To this social organisation, however, there is—clearly!—only one possible alternative: a communist society (real communism, not the version we were palmed off with which is now bankrupt, dead and buried), where production is planned for needs (and not for the profit of a few) by freely associated workers who will replace the capitalist enterprise. Abundance for all will replace generalised misery and distribution according to the different needs of each will replace buying, selling and money. The social organisation of cooperation and solidarity, in which working time will be minimised and shared by all, and where possible carried out by machines instead of humans, and where the daily living time thus finally regained will lead to a new human, no longer a mere individual, no longer an atom, but one finally free. We will then be able to develop our potential and creative skills to the maximum, to pursue our aspirations and cultivate our passions, to devote ourselves to those we love, leisure, culture, friends, to ourselves and others.
This is the society we fight for and for which we will always fight. To be able to create it will require (of necessity) a concrete and organised revolutionary process that, through the conquest of political power by the workers (overthrowing the bourgeoisie), eliminates the infernal laws of profit, finally freeing us from exploitation and parasitism, from violence, alienation and wars.
United and organised workers will be its protagonists; the revolutionary party will be the indispensable tool of guidance and political orientation of this process for the eradication of class society and, with it, every state that has always served as its protection.
(1) If I, the entrepreneur, pay my worker 100 (my cost) to produce 150 I have gained 50; if I pay 100 (the same price) but I can make the worker produce 200 (increasing the pace and introducing more sophisticated machinery), my earnings will be doubled. Obviously, this is if I can sell all the merchandise produced. The amount of produced goods increases, but what will not increase—indeed!—is the purchasing power of workers, who will have been partly laid off because they were rendered redundant and regarding the rest (which I kept at work) I paid the same salary
(2) Source: Survey of Household Income in 2012 by the Bank of Italy. Meanwhile, Oxfam, in its official forecast for next year, states that, in 2016, 1% of the population will be even richer than the other 99 %.
(3) Global Wealth Report 2015, a report published by Credit Suisse Research.
(4) In Africa alone there are 25 countries involved in mostly civil wars (Mali, Central African Republic, Congo, Somalia and Nigeria, Sudan, etc.) These also involve terrorist groups. In Asia there are 15 states involved in bloody wars (Afghanistan , the Philippines, Pakistan, Burma/Myanmar, Thailand, etc.). In Europe, Ukraine, Chechnya and Dagestan, in the Middle East, conflicts, clashes and civil war have been recorded in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, the Palestinian Gaza Strip, etc. In America, as many as 5 South American countries are fighting internal conflicts (Colombia, Mexico, etc.)
(5) An article in “Republicca” reported the news that employees of Kingmaker Footwear—authorised under license to manufacture Timberland shoes—work from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. with mandatory overtime, more than nineteenth-century factories did during the First Industrial Revolution …
Silvano Agosti is an Italian writer and director of films such as “the Garden of Delights,” “Be United,” and “Azzurro Scipioni.”
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