Tag: Socialism

Speech by comrade Fred M’membe at Fieldmore’s funeral

Speech by comrade Fred M’membe at Fieldmore’s funeral

Speech by Dr Fred M’membe, Socialist Party (Zambia) Deputy General and the party’s 2021 presidential candidate at the funeral of Comrade Fieldmore Mapeto, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, August 25, 2018

Members of the bereaved family;
Leaders of Numsa, SAFTU, EFF and SRWP;
Leaders of ANC, SACP and COSATU;
Leaders of the EFF;
Colleagues of Mkhonto we Sizwe;
Respected comrades and friends,

We have come here to bury a political commissar for national liberation and socialism.

This function must be painful for all of us: first, because we are losing a good revolutionary comrade; second, because we are losing a Marxist-Leninist teacher of the first rank; third, because those of us who were his comrades, friends and colleagues are losing a comrade, a friend, a brother and a colleague. Nevertheless, how should revolutionaries react to the death of a comrade, friend, brother or colleague?

Comrades, Comrade Fieldmore understood very well the fate of a revolutionary fighter when he joined our people’s army, Chris Hani’s army – Mkhonto we Sizwe. Death is the fate of all. It is the only rest for a truly revolutionary fighter. And death is familiar to us all.

Comrades, on behalf of the Socialist Party (Zambia) I wish to convey our feelings of deep sorrow on the death of our dear friend and brother, Comrade Fieldmore.

Over the last three years, cadres of our party learned profound respect for Comrade Fieldmore as one of the most gifted, passionate and profound disseminators of the ideas of Marxism-Leninism, ideas that are guiding our joint and common struggles for a more just, fair and humane world.
United under the banner of those ideas, today we are creating more and more revolutionary organisations and opening up new fronts in our struggle across Africa and other parts of the exploited, oppressed and humiliated world.

Comrade Fieldmore helped our cadres uphold the cause of socialism despite the treachery, vacillation, and irresolution of many of our comrades.

Comrades, there’s a lot to be said – and a lot will continue to be said about Comrade Fieldmore and our struggle – but this is not the best place and occasion for long speeches.

Comrade Fieldmore, we lay you to rest with the pledge that a socialist Zambia, South Africa, Africa and world you struggled for and dreamed of will one day become a reality.

Dear Comrade Fieldmore, we all owe you a debt that can only be repaid through continuing this struggle without respite, pause or improvisation – which was the passion and dream of your life.

Fighter, revolutionary, soldier for national liberation and socialism, we mourn deeply for you. You will remain in our hearts forever.

Fieldmore lives in us!
Chris Hani lives in us!
Fidel lives in us!

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
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

Capitalist political parties dragging Zambia into a state of war

Capitalist political parties dragging Zambia into a state of war

Even before the Chilanga elections were held, it was apparent that innocent people were going to be attacked, harassed, abused and their civil liberties infringed upon. The expected violence truly materialised. Journalists were brutally attacked and threatened with death. Ordinary citizens were brutalised.


In this aftermath, Zambians are traumatised by the senseless violence emanating especially from the PF. The other petty bourgeois political parties do not want to be left behind. Rhetoric and counter-accusations aside, they are all violent. It is the same people, applying similar methods and the lives of ordinary Zambians have become mere collateral damage.

The escalation of political violence is an entry point towards a state of war. Full-scale war does not start abruptly. It is cumulative. It is a process. It is the failure of reason under a corrupt, undemocratic system that creates the objective conditions for war. In Zambia today, a bunch of petty bourgeois politicians are holding the masses hostage. Their rivalries have nothing to do with humanity, equity and solidarity. They are fighting for the spoils of the capitalist system that keeps our homeland subjugated and highly exploited by international capital. They are fighting for the control of public resources so as to sustain their parasitic existence. For this greedy intention, they are ready to kill.

The violence we experienced in 2016 was a mere dress rehearsal. The 2021 elections will be worse. Many lives will be lost. Any political party able to marshal and execute more acts of violence and intimidated the voters will emerge victorious. This is archaic and a reverse of the normal. The normal condition is that people will turn and vote against acts of violence. However, President Edgar Lungu and his cohorts have effectively applied violence and secured many victories. Violence has now been institutionalised in the electoral process. The average Zambian does not want to be at the receiving end. It is apparent that ordinary people are being intimidated and their resolve to withstand systemic violence is weakened.

For the opposition political parties, appeals to the police and Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) get drowned under their own acts of violence and loud celebratory moods of the victors. The police have become an extended arm of the PF – to the dismay of many officers still hoping to see some professionalism in the service.  The opposition political parties will definitely prepare adequately for what is to come. Blows, knives, machetes and even guns will be part of the arsenal punctuated by verbal obscenities A state of war is much closer than we imagine. Many countries that ended up in full-scale war often ignored these obvious signs. We are not behaving differently.

The Socialist Party stands for Justice, Equity and Peace. These are the three pillars of our programme. Peace is a pre-requisite for any meaningful socio-economic developmental. All political parties should ordinarily prioritise it. However, what we see is the complete opposite. The political parties talk peace but behave violently. They do not believe in peace. All talk about peace is a façade meant to blind Zambians. Without violence, they have nothing much to offer. The violence starts with their threatening language; the never ending lies; treachery; physical acts of violence and ends up with counter-accusations plus denial.

In any rational situation, we would have demanded for 1) the nullification of the Chilanga election results; 2) The setting up of a bipartisan commission on political violence that would come up with concrete recommendations for implementation before any other election is held; 3) The resignation of the police command; 4) immediate resignation of President Edgar Lungu and his Minister of Home Affairs. In todays Zambia, however, such demands become naïve and subject to laughter. The moral decay is deep rooted. Nothing short of a revolution will be required to bring back sanity and stop this senseless violence.



High unemployment is an indication of unjust economy

High unemployment is an indication of unjust economy

By Fred M’membe

We are back again to the issue of unemployment – jobs, jobs, jobs!

Socialists are for scientific and technological advances; they are not against high-tech and machines. That would be pushing humanity back to the stone age and not progressive!

Socialists are fully in support of developing advanced technologies: replacing labor with machinery; producing more wealth for society with less work; and reducing the hours of the working day.

In the science fiction of the past writers imagined a future utopia in which the biggest problem facing humanity would be what to do with all our leisure time whilst machines did all the work! Such a society has been made entirely possible by capitalism, which played a most revolutionary and progressive role in the past in terms of its development of the productive forces. But now capitalism is unable to use these productive forces and has become an absolute fetter on further progress. Rather than realizing the dream of a life of leisure for all, millions are consigned to forced idleness by a system that has serious problems creating jobs, whilst millions of others work round the clock in order to feed themselves and their families. What’s more, those increases in living standards that have been seen under capitalism – of better incomes and increased leisure time – have not been benevolently or graciously granted by the capitalists, but have been struggled for by the workers. The welfare state and the minimum wage; the weekend and the eight-hour working day; healthcare and education: all of these were fought for by the working class, and are now under attack from the capitalists due to the crisis of their system.

The potential for a society of superabundance is more real now than ever. One only has to look at the official economic statistics of the capitalists to see what would be possible with a socialist plan of production.

It’s real or a fact that in Zambia today machines have taken up our people’s jobs in the mines, on commercial farms, construction sites, the banks and so on and so forth. But our people need jobs to survive! Where are the jobs going to come from for the so many young people leaving school, college and university and indeed those who are being retrenched? We have to answer this question and solve the issue of jobs. We can’t get tired of talking about ‘Jobs, Jobs, Jobs’ until the solution is found. How else can our people survive without jobs?

One of the main reasons for our high rates of poverty is the failure of the economy to provide sufficient jobs.
In order to derive 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.

Where there is high unemployment we have an indication of an unjust economy.

And it’s not only we socialists who are worried about this problem. Now even the serious capitalists are worried; not only because of the social turmoil caused by this inequality and unemployment, which increasingly threatens their own privileged position within this system, but also because of evidence of a longer term inability for this same system to provide growth, jobs, and a decent standard of living – that is, to develop the productive forces. Every winter they go to Davos in Switzerland for the World Economic Forum to discuss, mainly, the ceaselessly growing inequality and unemployment in the world. The main cause of this growing inequality and unemployment is not because the world is today less capitalist or is producing less goods and services. How more capitalist does one want the United States, Europe and indeed the whole world to be? For last 27 years Zambia has been on an unbridled neoliberal capitalist path – privatizing and commercializing everything, including land, but the net result is what we see: unceaselessly growing inequality and unemployment!

This worry, fear exists among capitalists as well: the worry, fear that rapid technological progress in the modern age could potentially lead to mass unemployment, with machines replacing workers in a vast range of jobs in terms of both manual and mental labor, particularly with the advent of advanced computing techniques, such as machine learning and voice recognition. As The Economist (May 25, 2013) commented: “There is a good chance that technology may destroy more jobs than it creates. There is an even greater chance that it will continue to widen inequalities. Technology is creating ever more markets in which innovators, investors and consumers – not workers – get the lion’s share of the gains.”

Again, we socialists are not the only ones worried about this phenomenon, the capitalists are also increasingly expressing bewilderment.

This worry has been expressed within recent books such as “Race Against the Machine” by two academics from MIT’s Sloan Business School. The authors, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee state: “It may seem paradoxical that faster progress can hurt wages and jobs for millions of people, but we argue that is what has been happening…How can so much value creation and so much economic misfortune coexist? How can technologies accelerate while incomes stagnate?”

Clearly, high-tech and increase in productivity that accompany it, rather than improving living standards, have actually lowered them for the vast majority, creating stagnant wages and permanent structural unemployment. As Brynjolfsson and McAfee point out: “There have been trillions of dollars of wealth created in recent decades, but most of it went to a relatively small share of the population… over 100 per cent of all the wealth increase in America between 1983 and 2009 accrued to the top 20 per cent of households. The other four-fifths of the population saw a net decrease in wealth over nearly 30 years…There has been no stagnation in technological progress or aggregate wealth creation as is sometimes claimed. Instead, the stagnation of median incomes primarily reflects a fundamental change in how the economy apportions income and wealth. The median worker is losing the race against the machine.”
All of these are a clear symptom of the current crisis and the inability of capitalism to provide a future for the vast majority of workers and youth across the world.

The main cause of this crisis is production for profits and not for the satisfaction of human needs. Scientific and technological advances don’t necessarily need to lead to job losses. They can actually lead to more jobs and less working hours for workers – giving them more time for study, physical and spiritual development and to be more and more with their families.

Karl Marx long ago explained how the laws of capitalism – the anarchic competition between capitalists for greater profits – force each capitalist to try and reduce their costs, in order to sell at a lower price, by increasing productivity through the replacement of labor with machinery. This in turn, creates an “artificial surplus population” of the unemployed: “The fall in prices and the competitive struggle, on the other hand, impel each capitalist to reduce the individual value of his total product below its general value by employing new machinery, new and improved methods of labor and new forms of combination. That is, they impel him to raise the productivity of a given quantity of labor, to reduce the proportion of variable capital [wages] to constant [machinery, tools, equipment, raw materials, etc.] and thereby to dismiss workers, in short to create an artificial surplus population…The same causes that have raised the productivity of labor, increase the mass of commodity products, extended markets, accelerated the accumulation of capital, in terms of both mass and value, and lowered the rate of profit, these same causes have produced, and continue constantly to produce, a relative surplus population, a surplus population of workers who are not employed by this excess capital on account of the low level of exploitation of labor at which they would have to be employed, or at least on account of the low rate of profit they would yield at the given rate exploitation” (Capital, Vol. 3, Chapter 15, p363-364).

And again: “It is capitalist accumulation itself that constantly produces, and produces indeed in direct relation with its own energy and extent a relatively redundant working population, that is, a population which is superfluous to capital’s average requirements for its own valorization, and is therefore a surplus population” (Capital, Vol. 1, Chapter 25, p782).
It is, therefore, not technology itself, but the use of technology under capitalism, implemented in an anarchic and unplanned and greedy way, which leads to mass unemployment, and which in turn places pressure on those still in work to accept lower wages, as competition for the remaining jobs increases.

Alongside the creation of an “artificial surplus population”, therefore, there exists also a super-exploitation of those remaining in work, again in the name of increasing profits for the capitalists. Thus arises the contradiction in which mass unemployment can sit side-by-side with millions who must work 50-60 hours per week or take multiple jobs just in order to scrape by: “The over-work of the employed part of the working class swells the ranks of its reserve, while, conversely the greater pressure that the reserve by its competition exerts on the employed workers forces them to submit to over-work and subjects them to the dictates of capital. The condemnation of one part of the working class to enforced idleness by the over-work of the other part, and vice versa, becomes a means of enriching the individual capitalists, and accelerates at the same time the production of the industrial reserve army on a scale corresponding with the progress of social accumulation” (ibid, p789-790).

The existence of such a contradiction emphasizes the fact that such a surplus population is entirely “artificial”. Those who are unemployed are not “surplus” to the needs of society, but merely “surplus” to the needs of capital. Capitalism is unable to use the human resources available, and instead consigns millions to forced idleness. Big business refuses to invest and factories, shops, and offices lie empty, all because of the already existing excess capacity – that is, overproduction. The productive forces outgrow the “effective demand” of the market; commodities cannot be sold at a profit, or even sold at all; the economy grinds to a halt, not for any lack of “needs” in society, but simply because there is no profit to be made for the capitalists.

In addition, capitalism cannot even use the knowledge and technology that society has discovered and invented over millennia of history: innovation is not realized in any practical application because of the private ownership over ideas themselves, whilst new technologies are not introduced for fear of the further excess capacity, unemployment, and fall in demand that they would generate.

Under capitalism, the individual capitalist introduces technology and improves productivity in order to increase their own individual profit, without any regard for the living standards of workers or the needs of society.

Hence the fear of capitalists, such as the authors of “Race Against the Machine”, that it is technology that is responsible for unemployment and inequality.

Capitalism cannot solve this without ending itself. Actually, for capitalism this will be like trying to square a circle.
Under socialism, the anarchy of competition and the market would be replaced by a rational plan of production, allowing technology to be introduced, and productivity to be raised. The human being and the machine could co-exist in harmony rather than in competition. Rather than generating the contradiction of unemployment alongside extreme toil, work could be shared out equally and the hours of the working day could be reduced for all, with further investment and improvement leading to an ever increasing amount of leisure time.

We see, once again, that it is not technology that is the source of social ills, but the capitalist system itself, and the enormous barrier to progress that this system imposes due to private ownership and production for profit and not for the satisfaction of human needs.