Politicians and bosses rushed to denounce failed firm Carillion as the latest in a long list of companies described as the “unacceptable face of capitalism”.
But Carillion was not some extraordinary deviation from the norm. It is the reality of capitalism, a system based on maximising profits.
Capitalism is driven forward by competition between firms—and bosses can’t escape this.
If a capitalist firm doesn’t try to grab as much profit as possible, it will be driven out of business by its competitors.
The Daily Telegraph newspaper was much more candid about capitalism this week.
“Firms going bust is not capitalism failing, it is capitalism working,” it said.
“It is, of course, distressing for those personally affected,” the article noted, but “it is capitalism at work”.
Under capitalism, everything is subject to the logic that stems from creating profit—our jobs, our pay, and even the environment. Just this week the Norwegian government won a court case against a group of environmentalists who tried to stop it drilling for oil in the arctic.
Profits come ahead of the future of the planet.
Support for Jeremy Corbyn has shown that millions of people want an alternative to these horrors—and many now describe themselves as socialist.
The right have never been able to accept Corbyn’s leadership. They cried foul when left wing Labour members won the three positions on the party’s national executive committee (NEC) this week. While they complained, the left celebrated.
Momentum founder and victorious NEC candidate Jon Lansman hailed, “At last the 21st century version of the socialist party I joined 44 years ago.”
But victories inside Labour can’t win socialism because Labour itself can’t get rid of capitalism.
Lansman thinks that a Corbyn-led government will deliver the “promised land” from the Labour left’s wilderness years.
Labour has promised to win important reforms in our society—and these reforms can be won. But ultimately it’s not possible to reform capitalism to work for us.
Working within capitalism means accepting its logic and its rules. That’s why shadow chancellor John McDonnell now talks about “fiscal rules” and “balanced budgets”. It’s why he says he wants to convince businesses that Labour’s planned reforms can work for them.
And that’s also why winning real, lasting gains for working class people needs a socialist society based on meeting social need, not maximising profit.
That means breaking with capitalism—and building a working class movement outside of parliament that can do it.