Our Say

After G8 and the London bombings - the way forward

London terror attacks condemned

After Live 8:
from pressure to action

The G8 summit and political power

Make the G8 leaders history

A sham election

10 good reasons to boycott May 5

Don't be blackmailed into voting

Reject ‘dependency’ politics

No votes for New Labour!

Parliament seals its own fate

A secret policeman's government

Vote for "none of the above"

How to remember the victims of the tsunami

A state of crisis

New Labour and the big lie

Yasser Arafat - a revolutionary life

After the US election

Blood on New Labour's hands

Butler and weapons of mass deception

With 'leaders' like these, who needs enemies?

How to meet the threat from the right

Barbarians at the gate

Torture, values and lies

The silence of the lambs

War crimes in Iraq

The slaughter in Madrid

The unfinished business of the miners’ strike 1984-85

L’état – c’est New Labour

The death of liberal democracy foretold

Hutton washes the state whiter than white

Top-up fees and the market economy

Our challenge for 2004

New Labour's march to a police state

Bush & Blair - partners in crime

London Region revolts against FBU leaders

Postal workers in the front line

No turning back

Where we go from here

Stop the War Coalition leaders and political fabrication

Regime change begins at home

Blood on New Labour's hands

There's more involved than just Blair

New Labour, lies and spies

Firefighters should reject deal and disown leaders

BECTU vote on New Labour link a step forward

Time runs out for FBU leaders

New Labour's one-party state

The blind alley of crude anti-Americanism

Occupation of Iraq - time to move beyond protest

War is a test for principles

Iraqi defiance shocks and awes

FBU leaders who backed capitulation should resign now

Down with New Labour's war - for regime change in Britain

FBU at war with New Labour

New Labour, not just Blair, is the target

50 years since the death of Stalin - an assessment

FBU finds itself in Precott's trap

War is Peace - Blair's fictitious 'push for peace'

15/2: Global marches put power on the agenda

Crisis of globalisation behind attack on Iraq

Tell it how it is

An injury to one is an injury to all

War plans expose fraudulent 'democracy'

A 'regime change' in Britain is the answer to war on Iraq

FBU needs a new strategy

Challenging New Labour

A moment of truth in the fight against New Labour

Gilchrist says it how it is

Time to defy the anti-union laws in support of the FBU

FBU must ask for solidarity strikes

FBU leaders must ask for support now

New Labour provokes confrontation

Italian police attack No-Global movement

New Labour declares war on FBU

Don't let the FBU fight alone

UN writes a blank cheque for war

Blood on Putin's hands

Unions must support firefighters with action not words

Support the firefighters - defeat New Labour

Bush-Blair war agenda revealed

Seeing through New Labour's weapons of mass deception

The US media and the new garrison state

The BEGINNING of Politics

How technology could
free humanity

'Terminator' engineering: A threat to humanity

The future is socialist

Asylum legislation fuels racist attacks

Road map to the future

E-mail to hear about site changes, placing 'update' in body of message



Road map to the future

This article is a contribution to the debate inside and outside the Movement for a Socialist Future, about how socialism can be achieved. Paul Feldman and Corinna Lotz show that the seeds of a new form of society are growing within globalised capitalism.

Karl Marx put forward the revolutionary idea that each class-based society in history develops within itself the conditions for the emergence of a new kind of social order.

In social, as in organic life, the new begins within the old as a fragile, tiny cell or tendency, but then takes on more

and more features, grows larger and differentiates into a more complex organism until it can no longer coexist with the old, and must break free of it.

This profound idea, strongly inspired by Hegel's dialectical method of thinking, has become reality in today's globalised capitalist economy. Marx explained how the changes in the forces used in economic production come into conflict with the existing forms of property ownership and control.

He used this approach to explain how forms of capitalism had arisen from within the womb of feudalism, reaching a point where the two could no longer cohabit. To enable its continued development and satisfy their growing interests, the new class of capitalists overthrew the feudal landowners in social revolution.

The fundamental conflict in capitalist society is between the concentration of ownership of the productive forces in the hands of the capitalist class and the unbridled development of those very same forces, which include machinery, technology and last but not least, the working class.

The conflict between these two produces insoluble and repeated crises, because the ever-expanding productive forces are imprisoned within the narrow confines of private ownership. This is the driving force for instability and economic slump.

Despite the fact that the means of production are privately owned, the productive process from its early days in manufacture compelled the capitalist system to adopt collaborative, social forms of labour and technique.

These were manifested in the division of labour, in the rise of the factory system and international market and are usually referred to by the term "socialisation". Thus from the start there was a coexistence (and conflict) of the private and the social.

Over the last 30 years, the increasingly globalised systems of production and distribution, driven on by new technology, together with the transformation of financial markets, have given rise to a qualitatively new forms of socialisation.

  • The growth of vast transnational corporations (TNCs) through mergers and monopolies. Fifty-one of the world's largest 100 economies are corporations. The TNCs own 90% of all patents and account for 70% of world trade. They organise production on a global scale, using advanced planning and marketing techniques.
  • Each sector is dominated by one or two companies.
  • The dismantling in many sectors of hierarchical organisational structures and the introduction of horizontal team working by management and employees. Today's firm should function as a flexible "learning organisation", according to latest managerial thinking.
  • Instantaneous reciprocity between demand and supply to end wasted production and raw materials and labour (e.g. just-in-time production, supermarkets, airline ticketing systems).
  • The rise of the service economy, "replacing" the production of things, showing the possibility of a non-manual labour society.
  • A sizeable proportion of economy is now involved in mental labour, making information "products". The emergence of global financial markets, where money is used to make more money through the rapid movement of bonds, securities, derivatives and foreign currencies. Banks, national and central, are subordinate to the "socialisation" of finance.
  • A socialisation of ownership, from private capitalists to individual shareholders, and then to corporate ownership by pension funds, unit trusts and insurance companies.

Information products are becoming cheaper to produce and are turned out in greater and greater quantities. This lowers the per unit rate of profit, and, with competition forcing prices down, creates an accelerating crisis for producers and the need to launch new models with ever greater frequency. Manufacturers desperate to make profit are linking apparently free products to service contracts (computers, mobile telephones, etc). Competitive edge is improved by making IT products more and more user- friendly.

All this creates a population of more than 100 million digitally-literate people who can communicate in a way that transcends states and governments, not only in the wealthier countries, but also countries such as India, the second most populous in the world.

New structures such as the Internet have arisen, which are not profit-driven and did not originate from a capitalist firm's desire to compete with its rivals. These structures demonstrate the concrete possibility of organising society in an entirely different way.

The Internet began as an academic communication system run on a non-profit basis, which allowed different computer systems to "talk" to each other. Through collaborative free association it has established a world-wide standard for a global communication system used for a thousand different purposes by countless millions of people, anarchic and out of control.

What we see here is a tendency towards the abolition of capitalism from within, which Marx noted. Writing about the emergence of shareholding companies and monopolies in Volume III of Capital, he insisted: "This is the abolition of the capitalist mode of production within the capitalist mode of production itself, hence a self- dissolving contradiction, which prima facie represents a mere phase of transition to a new form of production.

"It manifests itself as such a contradiction in its effects. It establishes a monopoly in certain spheres and thereby requires state interference. It reproduces a new financial aristocracy, a new variety of parasites in the shape of promoters, speculators and simply nominal directors...It is private production without the control of private property."

Capitalism itself, in its need to overcome its internal crisis – including the tendency of the rate of profit to fall – thus creates "counter-capitalist" forms. Embryonic socialist forms therefore come out of the system which tend towards its own abolition. Private property is being eroded and undermined at its very core.

As many have pointed out, the new technology of globalised capital has meant changes which have undermined traditional labour organisations, broken down forms of social protection developed by the workers' movement and led to increased exploitation in factories, offices, shops and call centres.

Commentators point to these facts to claim that capitalism has established a new, supreme form of control, a "new world order". Socialism, they say, is no longer possible, and only imaginable as a quaint utopian pipe dream.

But these observations about the new shape of capitalism miss out the most fundamental changes of all. Private ownership and control of the means of production is increasingly outstripped by the changes in the forms of production, the features of which we have outlined above.

Writers such as Alex Brummer of The Guardian, when studying today's world economy, believe that the capitalist system only survived the collapse of the Russian economy in 1998, and its "domino effect" on emerging markets from the Far East to Latin America, due to "America's love-affair with the cyber-world and the extra-productivity and wealth that has generated".

If this is the case, then it follows that the world economy cannot possibly survive a crash of the "virtual economy and financial markets".

The mushrooming value of e-commerce and Internet shares over the past months is recognised by experts in the

history of capitalist markets as no more than an illusory "bubble.com".

Exactly when and how the bubble will burst cannot be predicted. But it is certain that the trillions of dollars being recycled through the world's financial markets every day do not generate new value. They themselves are an expression of the underlying instability of the entire system.

The mass use of information technology, its increasing cheapness and availability means that countless millions of ordinary people can now have access to ideas and information which previously was the prerogative of the few, with revolutionary implications.

Capitalism cannot, of course, abolish itself. The development of ideas and concepts which can release the power of the masses and transform the socialisation of the system into socialism itself, is the key to the future.

This article first appeared in Socialist Future magazine