Steven Lamini
Steven Lamini

The new superstition: consult the share index

Fuel hikes, exploding food prices, major economic down turns and a world gripped in social instability raise serious questions about the future development of civilisation. This is to be expected, yet not only because the twenty first century poses challenges unique to the era of globalisation, but more so because more and more people get the sense that society is passing through a major transformation, shaping things for generations to come.

The contradiction is this: with the breathtaking advance in both scientific and technological development and humanity’s capacity to produce more than it can consume, this feature of society finds its corollary in negation — social powerlessness and retrogression. The immensity of the changes over the last number of decades have swept aside all certainties on the economic and social plains. The capitalist world is in disarray, to say the least.

Amidst this crisis ridden fiasco, case hardened profiteers remind one of a bygone period, when people consulted the stars (well, to be fair, some are still doing this…) to seek guidance for their actions, or looked for natural signs to ascertain if the gods are smiling upon them. Today scores of people follow the JSE, FTSE, NASDAQ or Dow Jones in just the same manner to see what the future has in store for them. There is no consolation to be found in the number appearing on the share index. The madness of the system is expressed through privately accumulating wealth by a few on the one hand and at the same time the accumulation of misery, agony of toil, brutality and mental degradation of the majority of the world’s people on the other hand.

Lasting answers to the challenges facing humanity cannot be found within the confines of the market. Less so within the boundaries of the nation state. It cannot be addressed by the market, because the raison de’tre of the market is skewed social relations. It cannot be addressed within the boundaries of national economies, for borders of countries have long since been superseded by the internationalisation of capital (expansion of investment, growth in international trade, the scramble for new markets, etc – marked by fierce competition for dominance of the ruling capitalists and almost always culminating in wars). This should be common knowledge by now, for even the current ruling classes of America understand that hegemony in the world and annexing markets abroad only temporarily relieve the crisis on the domestic front. The experiences of their predecessors in the 20th century taught them this, but the predatory business could not be completed then. Unfinished business of the last century becomes a matter of priority in the 21st.

The very fact that profits are extracted by companies and productive capital on a global level collapses any notion that the nation state is simply a geographical phenomenon. It is a political creation of the bourgeoisie to fight for its interests. These days economic relations they are involved in are by and large determined on an international level. Lasting solutions to the crisis of the profit system must be found to the manner in which production is organised, in other words the contradiction between the productive forces and the relations of production must be resolved. Whilst the working class starts with this task on a local/national level, it must ultimately reorganise itself to address the contradiction internationally in cooperation with its class brothers and sisters, under the leadership of a party unapologetic in its claim to champion the interests of the working class.

The only way out of this crisis is for global production to be reorganised so satisfaction of human need is central to the production process. It is both necessary and possible. Necessary, because the inherent paradox of the productive forces with the current skewed social relations of production is the essential obstacle to the harmonious growth of societies and cultures and the development of civilisation beyond the current crisis ridden experiences. Possible, because there is already a system in place internationally complete with planning, information and control mechanisms.

Goods and services are organised for production and distribution on a grand international system. There are transnational companies which extract profits simultaneously in different parts of the world. Some of them have larger economic outputs than entire GDP’s of countries. If it is possible for these individuals and companies to ensure their profit extraction across such distances and with such apparent efficiency, then it is entirely possible to place human need at the very centre of this operation and use these mechanisms to serve human beings rather than dominating them.

The share index does not hold the answer. A strategy to place the working class at the helm of society’s production processes in aide of need certainly does.