Why you should be a communist

Both Sunak and Starmer are offering the same austerity, crisis, and war that Britain has been gripped by for over a decade. Rob Sewell, editor of The Communist, explains here why you should become a communist if you wish to truly transform society.

[Originally published at communist.red]

Keir Starmer has recently called himself a “socialist”. That fact alone should make you seriously consider being a communist.

Today the world is in crisis. Capitalism is crumbling and a new society is struggling to be born.

The wonders of modern science are truly amazing. And yet, apparently, we can’t provide enough homes to prevent people living on the streets, or provide enough to properly care for our elderly, or provide a decent future for our young people.

We are not talking about a backward country starved of resources. People are suffering from this crisis of ‘living’ in Glasgow, Newcastle and London, as well as in São Paulo and Cairo.

Extreme inequality

On the other hand, the billionaires and the super-rich tycoons in London and elsewhere have never had it so good.

They each own multiple mansions and apartments, valuable art collections, super yachts, luxury cars and travel around in private jets. They have servants at their beck-and-call who run around for them at all times of the day and night. This is the life of the infamous 1 percent.

The decadent emperors of Ancient Rome had nothing on these guys – today’s ruling elite. Just EIGHT of these billionaires own the same wealth as half the people on the planet.

As Karl Marx said, at one pole there is extreme wealth, and at the end other poverty and degradation.

Working parents miss meals in order to prevent their children going to school hungry, while the super-rich bask in luxury.

Rickets, tuberculosis, and measles have once again returned to our poverty-stricken cities.

For fear of losing her job, a woman gave birth in the toilet at Sports Direct warehouse in Derbyshire.

Welcome to capitalist society in the 21st century!

Without rhyme or reason

Today, industries are periodically shut down and workers are thrown onto the dole, their talents and skills ‘no longer required’.

Today, in the town of Port Talbot in South Wales, the shutting down of the blast furnaces at Tata Steel will turn the place into a ghost town. This happened in places where Thatcher closed the pits, which are now blighted with all kinds of social problems.

It is like being faced with a natural disaster. But this is man-made.

Under capitalism, while people are in desperate need of things, they can’t afford to buy even the basics. Where is the rationality in all this?

Capitalist apologists say there is no alternative to this ‘creative destruction’; a weird term. They argue this is just the way capitalism works – as if closing factories and throwing people out of work is like pruning a few dead leaves on a tree.

They even say this is human nature! It is the way things have always been (which is not true) and so always will be, they say.

But is it human nature to see people living in slum-housing or struggling to survive on the street, while properties are just left empty for speculative investments?

Is it human nature to see people go hungry, while farmers are paid to leave land fallow, and stores are full of food?

Is it human nature to see people die just because they cannot afford the cost of medicines?

That is the way of capitalism. But this system has had its day.

The barrier of profit

We say, why can’t we plan our lives so that everyone benefits from the wealth we create, rather than just a privileged few?

There are enough trained and talented people around with all the skills needed to tackle the problem. We have the brains to send rockets to Pluto and beyond, and do many wondrous things.

There are clearly enough human resources about, including those not used. Building enough homes for people to live in should be a simple matter. We have land, bricks, cement, and manpower – and we have been doing it for long enough.

So what is stopping us? Well, private landowners and building companies are not prepared to build unless they can make profits. They are not interested in the homeless, or people’s needs.

In fact, in this capitalist world, the fewer houses, the longer the waiting lists, the more prices rise, and the more money they can make. In other words, the more misery and suffering that exists, the more money is to be made from it.

Of course, they would not put it quite like that. Instead they try to hide what is really going on.

The casino of capitalism

The capitalist class, who own pretty much everything, are only interested in making money. They are driven by greed.

They don’t actually work much, if at all. Most wealthy investors employ managers and accountants to invest their cash and make it ‘work’ for them.

But then, they don’t actually produce anything of social value. They get their money from other people working. They eat food, wear clothes, and live in houses produced by the labour of others, and offer nothing in return.

In our current set-up, workers produce a lot more than they get back in their wage packets. And this is where the capitalist’s profit comes from.

Workers only receive enough to keep them going until the next pay packet. Such exploitation – for that is what it is – is not as transparent as, say, in the Middle Ages, where serfs were forced to work for free on the lord’s land, but it is the same thing.

The capitalists make money in all sorts of ways. But it all comes down to receiving more value from their workers than they pay them for.

In previous times, the capitalists actually produced things. Today, they want to make money without the trouble of producing stuff.

If you look at the Sunday Times Rich List, you will see that most rich people get their money from inheritance, property, insurance, banking, financial services, and such like. Few actually make things.

They buy and sell currencies or bonds. They even trade in ‘junk’ bonds. These were not picked up in a car boot sale or scrap yard – they are pieces of paper made by institutions which are considered very high risk, as they include dodgy debts. This was the basis of the ‘subprime’ housing market in the USA which came crashing down in 2007/8.

The stock market itself is pretty much like a giant casino. You win some and you lose some. Well, the rich always gain. Unfortunately, the livelihoods of millions of ordinary people are hanging on the throw of the dice by a billionaire speculator. How messed up is that?

For the billionaires, ‘dealing’ and not ‘producing’ is the thing. That’s what rakes in the big money. Take-overs, acquisitions, buy-outs, share buy-backs: you name it, they do it.

They don’t care what stuff they buy or sell, be it armaments or weapons of mass destruction (which is very profitable these days) or anything else. They would sell their granny if they could make a profit from it.

As one investment banker put it, everything is determined by the “overpowering greed that pervades our business life”.

Capitalists: wealth creators or parasites?

Take the billionaire Warren Buffet. His business has a cash pile of $67bn to invest in ‘acquisitions’, or buying up companies. He described this as being like on an “elephant hunt”, a hobby few of us know anything about.

Mr Buffet managed to turn an ailing textile company into the largest conglomerate in the United States, with a market capitalisation of $354bn. That certainly took a lot of buy-outs!

The company has operations that span insurance and lending, railways, manufacturing, and power companies, and maintains investments in many other large companies.

He financed the merger between Kraft and Heinz and the takeover of Canada’s Tim Hortons coffee chain by Burger King. Another acquisition was Van Tuyl, a network of US car dealerships he picked up for $4.1bn.

“With the acquisition of Van Tuyl, we now own nine-and-a-half companies that would be listed on the Fortune 500 were they independent (Heinz is the half),” Mr Buffett wrote in his annual letter to shareholders this year. “That leaves 490-and-a-half fish in the sea. Our lines are out.”

How could Mr Buffett make all that kind of money single-handedly by fishing? The old fashioned capitalists, who not only owned but managed their businesses themselves, have almost disappeared. Today, people like Buffet employ a multitude of managers to work (or rob) for them instead.

But people such as Mr Buffett seem to work very hard, don’t they? With all this take-over stuff, they must be terribly exhausted by the end of the day. But the question is, is this work indispensable to society?

John Strachey, a one time communist and inter-war Labour MP, answered this question very well over half a century ago.

Let us imagine a country, he said, in which all the roads had toll gates across them (although the roads were maintained at the public’s expense, as now).

Let us suppose that the toll-gate owners lived by their gates, and when vehicles approached, they ran out and opened and shut their gates, while collecting a substantial toll in the bargain.

The economists of such a country would certainly say that these toll-gate owners were earning every penny they received. They would point to the fact that they were working very hard, going out in all sorts of weather to open and shut their gates, allowing the traffic to pass through.

All this activity, the economists would say, proved that these toll-gate entrepreneurs were absolutely indispensable. So much so, that the country could not carry on without them!

If anybody asked whether the traffic would run just as well, or better, if there weren’t any toll gates at all, they would be told in no uncertain terms not to ask such impertinent questions. It was human nature!

Whether a person works hard and is paid a fortune does not mean that their work is of the slightest use.

This does not only apply to the world of the toll-gate owners, but today’s hedge-fund managers, the currency speculators, the city spivs, owners of privatised companies, fat-cat bankers and other investment sharks, namely big business in general.

They are all the same. They just have different ways of making money and getting stinking rich. One company boss described our times as “an era of rewarding ourselves with other people’s money”.

Rigged system

rich pig Image public domainThe share of national income going to labour is going down, while that going to capital is rapidly increasing / Image: public domain

But there is a central problem with this system: despite their growing riches, the capitalists cannot personally consume this wealth.

No matter how much they gorge themselves in caviar and champagne, even this has its limits. You can only live in one mansion or drive one limo at a time. Therefore, most of their money is invested to earn even more money, like a drug addiction.

These super-rich parasites take all the top positions in business, state, and politics. Governments are of the rich, by the rich, for the rich. They are like the robber barons of old, but far more powerful.

They justify their positions by saying anyone can become rich like themselves. “Work hard and one day you too will be rich”, we are told.

A few individuals may manage to crawl out of the working class. But the system is rigged.

Given the way capitalism operates, 99 percent of workers can work as hard and as long as they can, but they will always remain workers. Hard work won’t improve their lot, but only make their bosses even richer.

The share of national income going to labour is going down, while that going to capital is rapidly increasing.

The gulf between the rich and poor has never been greater, as we have said.

The pay of company bosses rocketed by 1,460 percent since 1978. They were paid 399 times as much as a typical American worker in 2021, compared with 20 times as much in 1965.

Since 2020, the wealth of the five richest billionaires has more than doubled. During the same time, more than five billion people have become poorer.

In Britain, average top boss’s pay was £3.81m in 2023, according to the High Pay think tank. That means company directors will earn the average annual salary of a worker in just three days!

Crises of overproduction

These are the inevitable consequences of the dog-eat-dog society of capitalism.

The laws of the system operate in and through the anarchy of the market, as Marx explained long ago. These laws operate behind the backs of society, where everyone thinks for themselves but nobody thinks for all.

As a result, crises are inherent in the capitalist system, as we know to our cost.

The main contradiction is that the working class cannot buy back all the wealth it produces. Overproduction is therefore inherent in the system.

Capitalism has managed to overcome this problem temporarily, in fits and starts, through investment, but this too has now reached its limits. More and more productive capacity means more commodities produced for a shrinking market. Hence the present crisis.

In the past, societies were afflicted with under production: a scarcity of food and goods. Today, we are experiencing crises of overproduction! People are starving, but we are producing too much according to the laws of profitability.

Automation and unemployment

Millions have been forced into low-paid, dead-end jobs. Skilled work is becoming semi-skilled, and semi-skilled is becoming unskilled. Millions, especially young people, have their energies and talents squandered.

With the introduction of AI, the capitalists are rubbing their hands at the prospect of more profits. But a recent study claimed that AI could eliminate nearly eight million jobs in the UK.

Another report by the Oxford Martin School estimated that half the jobs in the US are at high risk of vanishing within a decade or two. According to a McKinsey study, AI could displace 400 million people worldwide by 2030.

The incredible advance of AI and robotics could open a vista of freedom from toil. But under capitalism it serves the opposite end, to create mass unemployment.

Machines replace labour, while those who remain in work are forced to grind away even harder. You no longer work to live, but live to work. Everyone is on a treadmill that is getting faster and faster. Some actually work themselves into an early grave.

“We must raise our productivity”, they say. In other words, we need to produce more with fewer workers! Of course, this is very profitable for the bosses as it cuts down ‘wage costs’.

But who is going to buy these commodities when workers are out of work? Robots or new machines can’t buy or consume the stuff. We end up in an ever-recurrent crisis of overproduction. It is the economics of today’s madhouse.

Paradoxically, we have more time-saving gadgets than ever before, but we have less free time than ever. If used properly, AI, automation, and robotics could do away with most manual work and abolish the burden of long hours of toil for all of us.

Instead of working unbearable hours, as now, imagine working just three hours a day in a four-day working week, with increasing pay? Again, why not work a ten or five-hour working week?

The technology and resources are there. There is nothing to stop us. Except we would need to eradicate the barrier of capitalist property relations.


A real workers’ government would need to expropriate the giant corporations that dominate the economy and our lives, along with the banks and finance houses. We would not compensate the old owners, as they have been bleeding us for far too long.

We would then draw up a democratic plan of production based on peoples’ needs, and harness all the resources to get the job done. Production based on need, not greed, would increase our output by 20 percent or 25 percent every year!

The billions of extra wealth created could be used to launch a mass house building programme, and slash rents to no more than two percent of income (instead of 50 percent today).

We could introduce a living wage for all, provide free gas and electricity, and free public transport. This would cut pollution and improve our health (and would dramatically reduce pressure on the health service).

We would build more schools and hospitals and make all education free, with grants for those who wish to continue their studies in university.

For a rationally planned economy

A democratically socialist planned economy would be able to cut the working day, and reduce the age of retirement to say 50.

The Russian economy after 1917, despite the monstrous bureaucratic regime of Stalinism, gave a glimpse of the colossal possibilities of a planned economy.

For instance, in the ten years from 1958 to 1968, 100 million homes were built in Russia, more than the whole of Western Europe, Japan and the United States combined.

The USSR produced more scientists, technicians, and engineers than the rest of the world put together. Imagine with the democratic traditions of British workers and the high level of culture and technique we possess, what could be achieved here in a democratic socialist Britain.

Of course, this would not be confined to here. We would appeal to the workers of Europe and the rest of the world to join us. We would cooperate on a world-wide plan that would protect our environment, eliminate wars and conflicts, and ensure prosperity for all.

Ah, that is a mad idea, say the capitalists. For sure, under socialism, they would no longer have anyone to exploit.

But for the first time, such a society would free people to become involved in the running of industry and their lives. Genuine workers’ democracy, freed from bankers and capitalists, would thrive.

Workers’ democracy

They claim that workers can’t run things, but it is precisely working people who are the ones that do all the real work around here. The workers will tell you exactly how best to run their own workplace. They could run it far better than the current bosses.

Under a rationally-planned society, the new productivity would mean massive benefits for all.

Of course, the involvement of technicians, computer analysts, engineers, and scientists would give us, not weapons of destruction, but new inventions that could save on labour and reduce the working week even further.

If production was planned, there would be no such thing as unemployment. Everyone would be guaranteed a decent job on a proper high living wage. As production increased, so would living standards.

Production could finally be planned in harmony with the environment. And the colossal wastage under capitalism would be done away. There would be no need for arms spending, for example, which has become a massive drain on society.

The Tories, and now Starmer, want to increase defence spending to 2.5 percent of GDP, reaching £87bn by 2030. The Trident nuclear warhead system costs around £200bn.

They have no money for schools or hospitals, but always plenty when it comes to war! What a waste of money on scrap metal.

Worldwide, there are now 15,700 known warheads, with enough destructive power to destroy the planet several times over. Governments intend to boost their spending on such weapons over the next decade.

What a scandalous waste! They should be scrapped and the armament factories converted to producing socially-useful things, and so raise our standard of living.


“Our democracies are increasingly captured by a ruling class that seeks to perpetuate its privileges”, explained Steve Hilton, a leading Tory political strategist. “Regardless of who’s in office, the same people are in power. It is a democracy in name only, operating on behalf of a tiny elite no matter the electoral outcome.”

There we have it; straight from the horses’ mouth. Capitalism is a system for the rich, by the rich, and of the rich. In place of this dictatorship of bankers and capitalists, we should have the democratic rule of working people, a society run by working people for working people.

Socialist planning of our resources is the only rational way forward. Funnily enough, the capitalists, who preach the virtues of the market, do not apply the market inside their own workplaces. There is no market system there. Everything is planned down to the last item.

All we are saying is that the whole economy should be run on such a planned basis, rather than being left to the vagaries of blind market forces. Of course, by planning, we do not mean the dictates of unelected managers, but the democratic involvement of all.

Despite the colossal potential of today’s highly advanced productive forces to solve all our needs, they cannot be utilised since private ownership, profit, and the nation state stand in the way.

Unless the working class takes power into its own hands, the capitalists will drag us down into a state of barbarism.

Communism is therefore not a ‘nice idea’, like a utopian vision for a new society. It is a historical necessity, the task of which falls to the working class to bring into being.

As capitalism enters deeper and deeper into crisis, society will be pushed towards revolution. The contradictions of the system are producing this outcome.

We must build a revolutionary party to ensure its success in Britain and internationally. This is why we are building the RCP and the Revolutionary Communist International.

The overthrow of capitalism in Britain and elsewhere will introduce a new socialist system of society.

Art and culture, which was the preserve of a privileged minority, would now be available to the mass of people.

Eventually, as productivity expands and the last remnants of capitalism are eradicated, society will be based on the principle “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need”.

In other words, a classless society based upon solidarity and the harmonious satisfaction of everyone’s needs.

This will see the transformation from socialism into the higher stage of communism. The miseries of capitalism could finally end up in the dustbin of history. We could finally progress to a future free of wars and destruction, and the guarantee of prosperity for all.

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