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Fight For Socialism!: Why we need system change in the 21st century

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Fast food workers striking in the US in 2016 (Fibonacci Blue on Wikimedia Commons)

We are repeatedly told that we don't need socialism. It's been tried and it didn't work. In 1992, political scientist Francis Fukuyama proclaimed that, with the fall of the Soviet Union, humanity had reached the end of history. Capitalism would reign supreme forever as the superior ideological system.

And why not? The free market continues to prove its superiority, with the number of food parcels given out across the UK increasing by 73% in just five years, one in ten people working through precarious 'gig economy' platforms, and over a quarter of children in Sheffield Central alone living in relative poverty as of May 2019. To top it all off, Boris Johnson is now our second unelected Conservative Prime Minister in three years. Capitalism it is, then.

Profits are the problem

Our working and living conditions continue to worsen because of the economic base of our society: the profit motive. Time and time again, the profits of huge businesses and multi-millionaires are put above the lives of the majority of working people. Profits are the problem, because as long as profits are the main driver behind the economy, major decisions in business aren't made with the aim of improving people's lives. They are made in order to make a very small group of people wealthier. That's why it's system change, not politician change, that we need.

That said, in 2015 UK politics was transformed as not-so-well-known 'known Marxist' Jeremy Corbyn was voted in as Leader of the Labour Party. Thousands of people swarmed to join the party in support of Corbyn's policies, such as nationalising key areas of the economy and creating a National Education Service. Labour Party membership stood at 512,000 in February 2019, up from around 200,000 before the 2015 Labour leadership election. This makes the Labour Party the largest social democratic party in Western Europe, showing a very clear appetite for alternative politics that is only growing with time.

There is also a huge movement in society to fight back against inequalities in the workplace. In the last two years there have been strikes from university lecturers, McDonalds workers and Deliveroo couriers. This bold action taken by workers in many sectors is yet another indication of the desire for change. People are sick of being forced to pay the price for capitalism's inability to provide stable work and decent living conditions. Even so, any future government can only go so far under capitalism before it must either concede to the will of banks and big businesses, or break past the current system altogether, a societal transformation which would require the collective power of a mass movement.

being a Marxist is also about democratic freedom

But Marxism is not purely an economic theory designed to free workers from exploitation. For me, being a Marxist is also about democratic freedom. Everyone should have the right to have a say in the running of society, not be shut out from the inner workings of parliament, except for a token vote every five years to elect someone to (mis)represent them. Workers should have the chance to run their workplaces in the way they know works best, not what an absent manager tells them to do in order to boost profits.

Socialism is a system that takes back profits, squeezed from workers in the first place, and puts them to use building homes, eradicating poverty and ensuring a decent standard of living for all. Socialism may have been tried, once. The USSR fell because of its totalitarian dictatorship, undeveloped infrastructure and bureaucratic machinery, but 21st century socialism will not suffer the same fate.

We need to fight for real socialist policies and worker control of all industries. The push for greater democratic control through the structures of the Labour Party and growing strike action are just the start. As another financial crash threatens to rear its ugly head, it's more important than ever that people fight against a system that clearly doesn't work for the majority.

Lilly Cockwill, Sheffield Marxist Society

Next article in issue 138

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