Theory & History

Capitalism shows we don't need capitalists

By Allen Myers

When industrial capitalism developed in Western Europe in the 19th century, the great majority of businesses were privately owned. That is, they were the property of a single individual, or sometimes a family, or sometimes two or three partners with defined shares. There was no normal mechanism by which some outsider could become a part owner of the business.

Why reformism doesn't work

By Allen Myers

A revolution is needed in order to overcome the evils that capitalist society is subject to. But that doesn’t mean that nothing can be improved in the meantime. Quite the contrary: struggles for improvements — reforms — can be successful to one degree or another, depending on many different factors. In 19th century Europe, there were socialists who thought that an “iron law of wages” existed in capitalism, and that this made it pointless for workers to try to win wage rises. Marx and Engels clearly and emphatically disagreed with that idea. Workers’ resistance to capitalists’ attacks and their efforts to win reforms were essential parts of the class struggle that will eventually lead to socialist revolution.

Why capitalism needs oppression

By Allen Myers

Capitalism is a system based on exploitation. For Marxists, this has a precise scientific meaning. Capitalists take for themselves the monetary values created by or belonging to other people — usually workers, but also small farmers and, to varying degrees, small shop owners and nominally independent tradespeople. This value is what their capital consists of.

Vietnam: How 'state capitalism' misleads Australian socialists

By Allen Myers

In the current international economic crisis, we can expect both attacks on the living standards of workers in the imperialist West and increased economic exploitation of the countries of the Third World by the imperialist powers, as the richest of the capitalists try to solve their problems at working peoples’ expense. A fight-back needs to be waged in both areas. In particular, it is necessary for socialists in the West to provide whatever support we can to those in the Third World who are resisting imperialist exploitation.

A page in revolutionary history: The 1979 general strike in Mauritius

By Lindsey Collen, in Port Louis

Thirty years ago this Indian Ocean island nation of 1 million people experienced the most massive upsurge of working-class struggle in its history. Today Mauritius is known as a “paradise”, especially for honeymooners. There are apparently no working people here other than those serving the needs of foreign tourists.

What causes recessions?

By Allen Myers

Only a few years ago, the economic “experts” quoted in the commercial media were assuring us that major recessions were a thing of the past. The economists had figured out how to manage the economy, and as long as governments followed their advice, there would be nothing more serious than the occasional statistical blip. Then the real world intruded.

What makes a revolution?

By Allen Myers

Marxists believe that a revolution is necessary to open the road to socialism. But what does a revolution actually consist of? Advertisers and capitalist politicians would have us think a revolution is a pretty ordinary event, with their talk of “a revolutionary new soap powder” or an “education revolution”. The reality is quite different. A revolution is the overthrow of the existing ruling structures through the political actions of great masses of people and the replacement of those structures by new bodies. If the revolution is a socialist one, rather than the capitalist revolutions that took place in past centuries, then these new bodies will seek to institutionalise mass involvement in political affairs.

The revolutionary as economic manager

Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution
By Helen Yaffe
Palgrave Macmillan, 354 pp. $59.95
Reviewed by Allen Myers

Capitalist democracy and workers' democracy

By Allen Myers

It is meaningful to modify the word “democracy” with a word such as “capitalist” or “workers” because democracy always has a social content, specifically a class content. Democracy is a system of class rule, in which one class advances its own interests at the expense of another class. To put it in other words, “democracy” refers to the form of rule — voting on decisions and/or the officials who will carry them out. But, in addition to form, there is a content to any state. Be it ever so democratic in form, a state always has a dictatorial content: it defends the interests of a particular class and suppresses any other class that threatens the ruling class.

Clarrie O'Shea and the 1969 victory for union rights

By Ian Jamieson

Forty years ago, on May 19, 1969, Victorian tramway workers union secretary Clarrie O’Shea was jailed for refusing to obey a court order that his union pay $8100 in fines under the penal sections of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Within six days, he walked out of the gates of Pentridge prison in Melbourne a free man after a massive industrial campaign demanding his release.