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M’membe says Zambia ready for Socialism, discusses religion

M’membe says Zambia ready for Socialism, discusses religion

Socialist Party 2021 presidential candidate Dr Fred M’membe recently spoke to Pan African television anchor Sadia Seiduin an interview over a range of issues. Read the full interview below:

Q- You are presidential candidate for the Socialist Party… do you think Zambians are ready for a Socialist government?

FM- Every country where there is a working class is ready for a socialist government. The challenges that the working class are facing today all over the world today, the only answer lies in socialism – capitalism cannot answer those questions, cannot resolve those problems.

Q- So you feel that people are ready to employ socialism?

FM – The working class is ready but it’s the capitalist class that cannot be ready to employ socialism, together with petty bourgeois and comprado bourgeois that work for capitalist class.

Q – Would you say that when Zambia becomes a socialist country it won’t be stressed coming from the western countries and these capitalist countries – would you say that Zambia will be able to stand strong and firm to the ground?

FM – It will depend on how we organize ourselves – what is needed is building a working class organization, a strong working class movement, entrenching the revolution in the working class, and masses of our people to support it. And also working out a strong internationalist position, we need to mobilize the world, the whole world is running for a socialist revolution, or to support a socialist revolution, in several parts of the world…. but of course, we don’t expect the defeated capitalist to take it like that. Capitalism, when its hit hard it fights like a wounded buffalo and we are seeing that in Venezuela, we have seen that over the last 60 years in Cuba – we will not be an exception.

Q- Since the inauguration of your party you saw some (international guests who were coming for the launch expelled from the country) ….Do you think that Socialist Party is a threat to them?

FM – If we were not a threat they would not have done those things, they did what they did because they fee we are a threat, and indeed we are a threat because we are not just talking in the media, and so forth. We are organizing the working class from where the working class is located, within the poor neighborhoods, we are working from there, we are situated where the working class is and they know it, and they don’t have the means of stopping that other than humiliating our guests who came here to pay solidarity to our cause, which is also their cause.

They sent away Ghanaians, they sent way people from Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and others. They know those comrades came to pay solidarity and they don’t want that solidarity, but they cant stop it.

Q- It feels that you are a threat to them. So, what measures are you putting in place to make sure that they don’t get all your rights?

FM – The enemy creates or never gives freedom to an opponent, we have to win that freedom for ourselves, we to win the space under which we operate inch by inch, we have to liberate certain areas of our country where we can operate freely. Liberate them in terms of mobilizing our supporters. The more of our people support us, the more we become stronger, the more we can crush this.

Q- what measures are you putting in place to ensure that this thing does not repeat itself in subsequent meetings? (arbitrary abuse and harassment of the opposition witnessed a few days earlier when comrades were arrested during a house meeting).

FM – I don’t think they will stop doing that, the only thing that will stop them is the defense of our people for what they are doing. If (we get)into certain areas and our people support us in those areas, they will not be able to come and stop us from holding meetings in those areas or the people will rise against them.

Q – Some people are saying the socialist party is anti religious. Is that the case?

FM – We (Socialist Party) can’t be anti religious, we respect faith, we respect convictions, we respect all the religions, we respect our people’s convictions. Although we are not a religious organization, we are a political organization but a political organization comprising of people coming from various religions and we respect that. Our party spokesperson (Fr Richard Luonde) is an Anglican priest. Nobody in this party is discriminated on the basis of their region or is hindered from professing the region.

We are one party that can say we have Muslims in our formations, we have Christians and we can even say we have some Hindis in some way … we are not anti religion. If you are going to be anti-religion, you are going to be anti-the working class because they are religious. Can we turn against the working class elements because they are religious?. Whats the purpose of anti-religion? Christ was a revolutionary per-excellence, his whole doctrine was devoted to the downtrodden, it was devoted to the poor. How can you oppose that and still remain a revolutionary? Who can question the efforts, the sacrifices of the early Christians? Who was Christ? Wasn’t Christ a working class element, who was Jesus’ father? Joseph, isn’t it, wasn’t Joseph a carpenter, isn’t a carpenter a working class element, so how do you turn against Jesus. How do you turn against Christianity whose founder, Christ was a working class?. How do you oppose what Christ speak for? Christ speak for honesty, Christ speak for equity, Christ speak for humility and Christ speak for solidarity. How do you remain a socialist if you turn against Christ and his doctrine?

Free education was a historic gain that must be brought back 

Free education was a historic gain that must be brought back 

I belong to a generation that was extremely luck when it comes to education. We were the first children of this country to start school in an independent Zambia in January 1965. Before independence on October 24, 1964, there was no free education – all had to pay for everything.
We didn’t have to pay anything at any level of our education. We were given free uniforms, exercise and text books. We went to school not only to learn but also to eat. We were given milk and milk biscuits at school.
Humble workers and peasants’ children went to same schools as the children of our leaders, including the children of our president – Dr Kenneth Kaunda.
Today it is almost impossible for humble workers and peasants’ children to be in the same class, sleep in same dormitory, eat in the same dining hall with children of ministers, presidents.
In those days, even children from rural schools could easily make it to the University of Zambia. The best Cambridge ‘O’ Level student in 1976 was my classmate, Charles Malata, from St Francis Secondary School, Malole, Kasama – a son of a humble mine worker from Luanshya. Today Charles, based in Cambridge, is Professor Mister Malata, one of the world’s best plastic surgeons. The best student in geography that year for the whole Commonwealth came from Kalabo Secondly School – Dr Cosmas Musumali, the general secretary of the Socialist Party. Two years later Cosmas got a scholarship to study in West Germany where he obtained his bachelor’s, master’s and PhD in economics.
This is what equal access to education could do! Can a son of a humble worker or peasant achieve this in today’s Zambia?
There are millions of working class people who agree that free education, despite all its problems, was a historic gain that must be brought back and defended.
But the question that arises now is what kind of free education system is actually needed. So while stating clearly what we are against, we also need to define what we are for.
In our opinion, providing a truly rounded education for working class children, in fact for anybody, is not possible under our current neo-liberal capitalist order.
Of course, this is not to deny the enormously beneficial impact on young people of the hard work done by the  thousands of dedicated teachers in this country. But at the same time our education system is inevitably deeply marked by the class divisions of a neoliberal capitalist society. The needs of the market will always deform education.
We therefore must fight for every real progressive reform, no matter how limited, which could make our schools better while articulating the need for a socialist alternative to capitalism, for an economic system based on the needs of society rather than the profits of a few.
Evidence shows that the highest performing education systems are those that combine quality with equity. By equity in education we mean that personal or social circumstances such as family background, should not be obstacles to achieving educational potential and that all individuals reach at least a basic minimum level of skills.
By educational equity we also mean an educational and learning environment in which individuals can consider options and make choices throughout their lives based on their abilities and talents, not on the basis of stereotypes, biased expectations or discrimination.
In his essay, Anti-Dühring (1877), Frederick Engels talks of equality as one of the fundamental human rights, which transcends national boundaries. “It was a matter of course that the demand for equality should assume a general character reaching out beyond the individual state, that freedom and equality should be proclaimed human rights” (Engels).
There is a common misconception that equity and equality mean the same thing – and that they can be used interchangeably, especially when talking about education. But the truth is they do not – and cannot. Yes, the two words are similar, but the difference between them is crucial. What’s the difference? Should per student funding at every school be exactly the same? That’s a question of equality. But should students who come from less get more in order to ensure that they can catch up? That’s a question of equity.
Making sure all students have equal access to resources is an important goal. All students should have the resources necessary for a high-quality education. But the truth remains that some students need more to get there. Here’s where equity comes in. The students who are furthest behind — most often low-income students — require more of those resources to catch up, succeed, and eventually, close the achievement gap. Giving students who come to school lagging academically, because of factors outside of a school’s control, the exact same resources as students in higher income schools alone will not close the achievement gap. But making sure that low-income students have access to exceptional teachers and that their schools have the funding to provide them with the kind of high-quality education they need to succeed will continue us on the path toward narrowing that gap.
Equality has become synonymous with “leveling the playing field.” So let’s make equity synonymous with “more for those who need it.”
Ensuring the educational rights of working people’s children is the main task of our socialist education agenda. And this must be achieved without sacrificing quality of education and depriving the non-working classes of their educational rights.
The purpose and educational objectives in general secondary schools must comply with the principles of thorough improvement to guarantee that young generations gain all-round maturity in intellectual, moral and  physical arenas.
All our young  people must be educated so that each gains the necessary knowledge to be full citizens of our nation.
Education is one of the important ways to realize the maximum potential of individuals.
And to Karl Marx, it is in society’s best interests to provide “an education that will, in the case of every child over a given age, combine productive labour with instruction and gymnastics,
not only as one of the methods of adding to the efficiency of production, but as the only
method of producing fully developed human beings”.
Engels also observes that “education will enable young people quickly to familiarize themselves with the whole system of production and to pass from one branch of production to another in response to the needs of society or their own inclinations. It will, therefore, free them from the one-sided character, which the present-day division of labor impresses upon every
individual”.
Learning as interpreted through the socialist lens is the acquiring of either skills or knowledge that better either oneself or, more ideally, the whole of society.
Education is a process that is social in the broadest sense. With all the highly complex world of ambient activity, the child enters into an infinite number of relationships, each of which constantly develops, interweaves with other relationships and is compounded by the child’s own physical and moral growth.
As a devout socialist, Lenin proposed bold changes: transforming the very purpose of education as it had been preached for centuries. No longer was education’s purpose to educate the loyal subjects of one particular government on the duties of citizenship – rather, Lenin envisioned education as a key tool in creating a workers’ paradise.
“We say that our work in the sphere of education is part of the struggle for overthrowing the bourgeoisie. We publicly declare that education divorced from life and politics is lies and hypocrisy” (Lenin).
Education is one of the component parts of the struggle we are now waging. We can counter hypocrisy and lies with the complete and honest truth.
In school, the middle classes use their material and cultural capital to ensure that their children get into the best schools and the top sets. This means that the wealthier pupils tend to get the best education and then go onto to get middle class jobs. Meanwhile working class children are more likely to get a poorer standard of education and end up in working class jobs. In this way class inequality is reproduced.
In reality money determines how good an education you get, but people do not realise this because schools spread the ‘myth of meritocracy’ – in school we learn that we all have an equal chance to succeed and that our grades depend on our effort and ability. Thus if we fail, we believe it is our own fault. This legitimates or justifies the system because we think it is fair when in reality it is not.
Our approach to education, as socialists, is broadly constructivist, and emphasises activity, collaboration and critique, rather than passive absorption of knowledge, emulation of elders and conformism; it is student-centred rather than teacher centred, but recognises that education cannot transcend the problems and capabilities of the society in which it is located.
Karl Marx’s position about the ruling class was they have the power to control the working classes not with force but with ideas. These ideas justify their dominant position and conceal the true source of their power along with their exploitation of the subject class. Socialism is a belief that capitalism allows the owners of capital to exploit the workers and this causes conflict between the two classes, known as social-class conflict.
In Marx’s view this ruling class ideology is far more effective in controlling the subject classes than physical force, as it is hidden from the consciousness of the subject class – this is known as ‘false consciousness’. One example socialists might use is the role of meritocracy in education to control the working classes by getting the working classes used to being rewarded for being good and doing as you’re told.
The main role of education in a capitalist society is the reproduction of an efficient and obedient work force. And this is achieved through schools: transmitting the ideology that capitalism is just and reasonable, school teaches you to compete with your fellow pupils by trying to do better than them, train future workers to become submissive to authority, schools teachers you to accept as normal to do as you’re told, this way when your boss orders you what to do, it seems perfectly normal.
Ideology in capitalist society is fundamental to social control and education is instrumental in transmitting this ideology. Education is an ideological state apparatus which helps pass on ruling class ideology in order to justify the capitalist system.
Marx made it clear that “life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life” and what he meant by life was actual living everyday material activity. Human thought or consciousness was rooted in human activity not the other way round as a number of philosophers felt at the time. What this meant was the way we went about our business, the way we were organised in our daily life was reflected in the way we thought about things and the sort of world we created. The institutions we built, the philosophies we adhered to, the prevailing ideas of the time, the culture of society, were all determined to some extent or another by the economic structure of society. This did not mean that they were totally determined but were quite clearly a spin-off from the economic base of society. The political system, the legal system, the family, the press, the education system were all rooted, in the final analysis, to the class nature of society, which in turn was a reflection of the economic base. Marx maintained that the economic base or infrastructure generated or had built upon it a superstructure that kept it functioning. The education system, as part of the superstructure, therefore, was a reflection of the economic base and served to reproduce it. This did not mean that education and teaching was a sinister plot by the ruling class to ensure that it kept its privileges and its domination over the rest of the population. There were no conspirators hatching devious schemes. It simply meant that the institutions of society, like education, were reflections of the world created by human activity and that ideas arose from and reflected the material conditions and circumstances in which they were generated.
Of course, in a socialist Zambia, education will be made to serve working class interests and politics. And education will combine with production to make certain educated people develop their moral, intellectual and physical aspects, to become workers with working class consciousness and culture.
But education combined with production shouldn’t be misunderstood as education plus physical work. An overemphasis of physical work in the education system can lead to the systematic learning of knowledge being neglected, which can cause a serious  decline in educational quality.
There’s need for us to create in our country an atmosphere of respect for knowledge and respect for trained people.
And when it comes to education, we have a lot to learn from the Cuban Revolution. The record of Cuban education is outstanding: universal school enrollment and attendance; nearly universal adult literacy; proportional female representation at all levels, including higher education; a strong scientific training base, particularly in chemistry and medicine; consistent pedagogical quality across widely dispersed  classrooms; equality of basic educational opportunity, even in impoverished areas, both rural and urban.  In a recent regional study of Latin America and the Caribbean, Cuba ranked first in mathematics and science achievement, at all grade levels, among both males and females. In many ways, Cuba’s schools are the equals of schools in OECD countries, despite the fact that Cuba’s economy is that of a developing country.
What has allowed Cuba’s education system to perform so well, even under the severe resource constraints of the past decade, is the continuity in its education strategies, sustained high levels of investments in education, and a comprehensive and carefully structured system, characterized by: quality basic education and universal access to primary and secondary school comprehensive early childhood education and student health programmes, established as part of the commitment to basic education; complementary educational programmes for those outside school-literacy, adult and non-formal education, again as part of the basic education commitment; mechanisms to foster community participation in management of schools; great attention to teachers, extensive pre-and in-service training, high status and morale, incentives, transparent system of accountability, strategies for developing a culture of professionalism, rewards for innovation; low-cost instructional materials of high quality;
teacher and student initiative in adapting the national curriculum and developing instructional materials locally; carefully structured competition that enhances the system rather than the individual; explicit strategies to reach rural students and students with special needs; strategies to link school and work; and an emphasis on education for social cohesion.
The importance of these factors is affirmed by a growing body of school quality and effectiveness research carried out in other parts of the world, mostly subsequent to or at least independently of their adoption in Cuba. Thus, Cuba’s experience is instructive in several ways. It provides evidence of the importance of certain critical inputs, around which research consensus is growing. Though unlikely to be replicated in full, many of these inputs can be adopted-clear standards of accountability, provision of textbooks, attention to the professional development of teachers, and so on and so forth. Most importantly, perhaps, the Cuban case demonstrates that high quality education is not simply a function of national income but of how that income is mobilised. A highly-mobilised people can realise high quality education by ensuring the necessary inputs, paying attention to equity, setting and holding staff to high professional standards, and caring for the social roles of key stakeholders-teachers, community members, children.
The challenges have been daunting, but then who would have predicted that Cuba – after a decade of economic turmoil – would have built the region’s, or indeed the world’s, highest-achieving schools?
Many young people are not going to school because of fees

Many young people are not going to school because of fees

Education is very important for our country and our people. If we want to develop our economy to overcome poverty, we have to improve the skills and capacity of our people. A free education policy is necessary to ensure access for all despite a citizen’s wealth. Without a free admissions and school fees policy, equal access is not possible.

Today we have increasing number of young people from poor families who are not attending school at all levels because they are not able to pay school fees.

No young person should be excluded from attending school because they cannot afford to pay school fees.
No one should be sent home from school or refused results of tests or exams if fees have not been paid. All our young people must be entitled to a free, quality education.

When any young person fails to acquire the basic skills needed to function as a productive, responsible member of society, society as a whole – not to mention the individual young person – loses. The cost of educating our young people is far outweighed by the cost of not educating them. Adults who lack basic skills have greater difficulty finding well-paying jobs and escaping poverty. Education for girls has particularly striking social benefits: incomes are higher and maternal and infant mortality rates are lower for educated women, who also have more personal freedom in choices.

Even the International Monetary Fund in its report of 2004 – Educating Children in Poor Countries – concluded, “User payments for basic education should never be more than a temporary solution: the ideal arrangement and the appropriate goal of education policy remain universal education financed by government out of public revenues. User payments are undesirable because they are a regressive tax when school attendance is compulsory. Voluntary user payments are undesirable because children are excluded from schooling if their parents are unable or unwilling to pay school fees.”

And why should the burden of educating our young people be solely left on the already overburdened shoulders of the parents? Do these parents, in the true sense of the word, really “own” these children for them to alone bear the burden of their education? What one truly owns one can easily sale. Can these parents sale “their” children without risking going to jail? Why should we jail them for selling that which is theirs? The truth is that these children don’t belong to the parents – they are collectively our children. But how can we have rights to these children without the duties of educating them, feeding them and so on and so forth? There can be no rights without duties. It is, therefore, our collective duty as a nation to educate these children of ours.
Education is the cornerstone of economic and social development. This is why we socialists argue in favour of free, decent education for everyone – so that individuals and society as a whole can maximise the potential for improving our lives through innovation, efficiency and imagination.

In a period of capitalist upswing, capitalism can afford to grant reforms such as free education. In fact during such a period it is profitable for the capitalist state to invest in education as a way of developing the forces of economic production. But capitalism requires constant expansion into new markets in order to survive. Thanks to globalisation capitalism has few foreign markets left to penetrate, so the capitalists must look to areas of the domestic market previously untouched by private capital – areas such as education – to quench their thirst for profit. Thus we have generally seen incremental increases in tuition fees over the last decade or so – a reflection of the marketisation of education.

The crisis suffered by capitalism a decade ago brought the capitalists an opportunity to intensify the process of tearing open education and subjecting it to exploitation by capital. This intensification has also been motivated by the extremely unstable economic climate which drives individual capitalists to be even more brutally competitive than they were in the previous period.

Crucially, this crisis is not a cyclical crisis but an organic crisis of overproduction – a crisis of the system as a whole. The only way the capitalists can get out of such a crisis is by destroying the forces of production through austerity, attacks on working conditions and casualisation of labour. At a time when they are so intent on destroying the excess productive capacity in the system, the last thing they want to do is invest in the education of young people which would result in an increase in productive capacity.

This is the context in which the working class and its allies must wage the struggle for free education. What should be immediately obvious is that capitalism cannot afford free education. This is not an ideological question – governments of all shades across the world are faced with the same task of cutting back the forces of production and implementing privatisation programmes in order to keep capitalism afloat. The point is that this isn’t a case of badly managed capitalism, it’s a product of the inherent contradictions of capitalism that require the pursuit of profit at all costs and precipitate economic crises of overproduction.

This gloomy future is all that capitalism can offer: a world in which the increased marketisation of education is inevitable as the capitalists constantly seeks new avenues of profit in the midst of a globally stagnant economy. There is no going back to the golden age of the post-war boom when it was possible to win reforms under capitalism.

This is why we socialists are fighting for an alternative to capitalism in the form of a democratic, socialist plan of production. We argue that free education can be won and safeguarded to serve the needs of everyone, not just those with the money. We understand that education and research have to be funded.
We are not short of money to fund education.And moreover, the children of the well-to-do have free education – paid for by these same humble workers whose children can’t go to school because of fees. And we shouldn’t forget that all the money in government coffers and in private enterprises is generated by the workers!

There’s a lot of workers’ money – NAPSA and other pension funds – sitting in banks and being misused to build shopping malls and other unnecessary things of no or little benefit to the workers. Instead of leaving it up to individual profit-seeking capitalists and their agents in government to decide how this money should be invested, the working class should decide on a democratic basis where the wealth produced by them is invested – without a doubt there would be reasonable amounts available for investment in free education at every level.
The working class needs to take the economy and political power into its own hands in order to provide decent education, public services and standards of living for all – a society in which the full benefits of economic development can be enjoyed by all. Capitalism, by its very nature, cannot provide this; it is only a socialist transformation of society that holds a brighter future for our people

Unemployment undermines human dignity

Unemployment undermines human dignity

Joblessness in Zambia is an extremely serious problem.

One of the main reasons for our very high rates of poverty – 82.2 per cent in Western Province, Luapula Province 81.1 per cent, Northern Province 79.7 per cent, Eastern Province 70 per cent, Muchinga Province 69.3 per cent, North Western Province 66.4 per cent, Southern Province 57.6 per cent, Central Province 56.2 per cent, Copperbelt Province 30.8 per cent and Lusaka Province 29.2 per cent – is the failure of the economy to provide sufficient jobs.

In order to derive a benefit from an economy, people must be able to participate in it; and for most people, the primary means of economic participation is through work.

Unemployment undermines human dignity. It is a terrible frustration and humiliation for a parent to be unable, due to unemployment, provide for the family.

It is equally demoralising for young people to find there’s no work waiting for them when they leave school, college or university.

There is an old joke that the only thing worse than being exploited by capitalism is not being exploited by capitalism.

Things are not easy for the great majority of our people, especially the workers and the peasants. But we cannot abandon our moral responsibilities, even when it is difficult to fulfil them.

Much more needs to be said and to be done if we are to meet effectively the massive problems of human suffering in Zambia today. We all know our people’s suffering. But there seems to be very little action taking place in responding to the suffering of our people.

Unemployment is not an inevitable and necessary part of human life. Unemployment is ultimately a product of human decisions and can be eradicated by human decisions.

When we speak of the economy or an economic system, we are speaking of policies and plans which control the wealth and resources of a country, about how resources are distributed between people, and about how the means of production – such as land, factories and technology – are owned and controlled.

At the heart of every economic system lies human needs, human abilities and human decisions, and it is the choices which we make in addressing those needs, sharing those abilities, and making those decisions, that determine justice or injustice of economic system. The more powerful our economic position, the greater our freedom of choice, with the working class, the peasants and the poor in general having very little effective choice in their economic decision making. There is thus a moral quality about an economy, a quality which has its roots in the morally correct or incorrect choices by people. And it is the moral quality of the economy that enables us to make judgments about whether or not it is a just economy.

Karl Marx believed that capitalism needed unemployment: the very workings of capitalist production for profit created unemployment, even in the best of economic times.

Marx argued that capitalists are always in competition with one another to create larger profits – by lowering their costs, largely by increasing labour productivity. A key way to do this is to replace variable capital – living labour – with fixed capital, machines.

And because the purpose of capitalist production is to maximise profit, whenever new technology is introduced it usually means a reduction in jobs – the capitalist can make as much, or more, than before, with fewer workers.

“It is the absolute interest of every capitalist to press a given quantity of labour out of a smaller, rather than a greater number of labourers, if the cost is about the same,” Marx wrote.

As productivity increases, capitalists can use fewer workers to produce more, with surplus workers being retrenched.

However, Marx argued, capitalist production is not just a one-way street. While new technology can displace workers from one industry, new industries are continually being developed. Workers are continually being re-employed and then set free. Although it may rise or fall, unemployment itself is a permanent feature of capitalism.

The unemployed are more than just a permanent reserve army of labour on which capital may call, however. They also serve capital by placing a permanent pressure on the wages of those who are employed, encouraging them to work harder for less, at pain of losing their job to someone else.

“Taking them as a whole, the general movements of wages are exclusively regulated by the expansion and contraction of the industrial reserve army, and these again correspond to the periodic changes of the industrial cycle,” wrote Marx.

Capitalism has unleashed the massive productive potential of humanity. It has socialised production, unlocking the possibility of a better world — one based on the power of society-wide organisation and cooperation. Such immense productive power — if placed under the control of workers — could solve the world’s crises. Hunger and unemployment could all be things of the past, but not while production remains geared to profit alone and not to satisfy needs.

Marx believed that working people had both the right and the ability to run society better. In order to do so, however, first they had to take political power from the capitalists and use it to reorganise production in a socially useful way.

We are having such very large numbers of unemployed people became capitalism both creates and needs unemployment.

Capitalists’ investments can be divided into two parts: the part that hires workers, and the part that buys or rents the means of production – machines, raw materials, factories. As capitalism grows, two processes reduce the part of capital that hires workers. Competition leads to concentration: the big fish eat the little fish, or two medium or large companies merge to become a bigger fish. The merged company enjoys greater economies of scale, which basically means that one worker can operate a larger amount of the company’s capital. And whenever there is a merger of two firms, one guaranteed result is retrenchments.

The other process is the capitalists’ drive to increase productivity, which is imposed by competition. Greater productivity means producing a larger number of products from a smaller investment. One way to do this is to drive down wages and drive up working hours. The other way of increasing productivity is to provide workers with more efficient machines or tools. But if workers switch to using more efficient machines, then of course fewer workers are required to produce any given number of products. In a capitalist system, labour-saving technology necessarily destroys the jobs of some workers. This doesn’t mean that the number of jobs falls continuously. Particular industries can find new markets and expand; new industries can be created that need workers; the demand for labour rises and falls with changes in the business cycle. But it does mean that capitalism has an inbuilt tendency to drive workers out of production.

And that is precisely the condition that capitalism needs. Capitalists need a pool of workers who can be drafted into and thrown out of production according to the capitalists’ changing requirements. When the economy is improving, they need workers immediately: hire some of the unemployed. When business turns down, save money ­– retrench them. You can always get more when things pick up.

Whatever the situation of the economy, the pool of unemployed helps keep workers’ wages and other demands down.

Capitalist economists talk about the supply and demand of labour. Marx pointed out: “The industrial reserve army, during the periods of stagnation and average prosperity, weighs down the active labour army; during the periods of over-production and paroxysm, it holds its pretensions in check. [The industrial reserve army] is therefore the pivot upon which the law of demand and supply of labour works. It confines … this law within the limits absolutely convenient to … exploitation and to the domination of capital.”