Capitalism’s Greatest Illusion: That it is Permanent


Following the worldwide financial crash of 2008 the horrors of capitalist economics have been laid bare.  Far from seeing the trickle-down economics of growth that brings even the poorest a higher standard of living we have seen the cascading upwards of unimaginable wealth – well it’s unimaginable for most of us – from the poor to the rich.  As one of the newest union reps said in my office a few weeks ago “we’ve got rid of the slave trade but now we’re just wage slaves”.  We are exploited for our labour.

The crisis led the neoliberals clamouring to inflict major changes on the state and society in an effort to liberalise the very markets that were the cause of the problems in the first place.  Bizarrely the stripping of state assets and greater liberalisation is accompanied by calls from all sides of the political spectrum for a different capitalism, often involving greater regulation, which of course should in reality mean a larger state (or at least a state with greater power).  As they haven’t actually tackled regulation what we are really seeing is the finance sector advancing as never before.  One of the issues that caused the crisis was the speculating on commodities that was rampant in the previous few years.  We are now seeing this extend with speculators even betting on the prices of food.

In mainstream politics what you don’t get is anyone calling for a new system.  That is out of the question.  The mantra is still one of growth within the system, despite the fact that most economists expect a flatlining economy in the UK until at least 2018, maybe much longer.  A flatlining economy in which the vast majority are getting poorer, some with extreme life or death outcomes whilst executive pay rises by 27%.

They get richer and improve their standard of living even without economic growth.  Fancy.  It takes some thinking.  A flat lining economy could be fine for everyone if we shared the wealth.  Why should anyone get poorer?  Or even better we could seek ways to redistribute wealth to bring the poorest up.  Or even betterer we could start afresh.

This system is not secure and has never been secure.  The illusion of permanency is strong though.  The media backs it up, the economists back it up and the job of offering an alternative becomes very difficult.  We are born into the system and we’ve seen people die in it.  We’ve seen alternatives come and go.

If capitalism is the final economic system it would be rare indeed.  Humanity has gone through a few and I suspect they all looked permanent when living within them.  We also have to remember that anything permanent is likely to be unchanging or at least change little and yet the capitalist system has undergone remarkable changes since it developed.  Indeed, why talk of regulation if you can’t change it?

It is highly unlikely that the system we currently live under will be here forever.  What we all now know is that if it works at all it is only really in the interests of a minority.  That minority has huge influence via their wealth over politics and the media, arms manufacture and pharmaceuticals, our privately financed public services and the financial community.  Their vested interests are in keeping the system going and convincing us all that there is no alternative.

But there is an alternative.  In the rotten shell of our society we can begin to build again.  That involves working together in communities, building up linkages of mutual help where we can.  In turn that can lead to great solutions to these problems.  It’s how food banks start, it’s how community libraries and other initiatives spring up and it’s the foundation of a future society.  We need to start believing again in the possibilities of revolutionary change as a positive force.  It isn’t about old labels or party allegiances – it’s simply about people working together to create an alternative vision.

We can all either get involved or accept what we see projected back at us via the mainstream media: they have no new ideas, no hope and they offer you nothing.  Destroy the illusion.

Get involved.

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