Capitalist Media, Ethics and Revolution

Capitalist Media, Ethics and Revolution

[extra to text]

[ I ]

Trotsky, in Their Morals and Ours, observes that in the class struggle…

morality is one of the ideological functions in this struggle.  The ruling class forces its ends upon society and habituates it to considering all those means which contradict its ends as immoral.  That is the chief function of official morality.  It pursues the idea of the “greatest possible happiness” not for the majority but for a small and ever diminishing minority.  Such a regime could not have endured for even a week through force alone.  It needs the cement of morality. [1]

He adds that…

morality more than any other form of ideology has a class character. [2]

To listen to the broadcasting media of the capitalist class, the BBC, ITN, CNN, FoxNews, etc, or to read its print media, tabloid or broadsheet, is to recognise the living truth of Trotsky’s conception here. Their output constitutes the articulation of this ‘official morality’ produced and reproduced daily for the consumption of millions.

Morality in pre-class societies reflected the need of a community, at this early stage, to institute precepts and imperatives which it considered would safeguard its integrity as a community of people in its struggle with nature and in its struggle with other communities. In the age of capital, morality grows out the character of its rule and the need to maintain it against all forms of opposition. This is the bottom line of the role of the capitalist media in its different forms. Ultimately, it means the moral justification of oppression, exploitation and the death and destruction with which the continuation of capital’s rule must always be intrinsically associated. The capitalist media is the central ideological support for this moral justification of the continuing rule of capital. Even as it descends into the most disturbing forms of barbarism.

It is in the interests of the capitalist class and its state power to purvey the conception that its morality is the absolute morality, the eternal ‘natural’ morality, the morality of some eternal, nebulous ‘human nature’ and that anyone who contradicts it is either immoral or even worthy of hospitalisation. It is the morality of subjection to capital and its state power. Always on hand are its willing and well-paid ideologues, chatterers and news controllers in the media and elsewhere to reinforce all those hideous, ahistorical precepts which serve to ‘cement’ the capitalist order together. To keep it in one big ugly piece.

[ I I ]

Television News has a pivotal ideological role to play in maintaining the rule of capital and defending the established social conditions of that rule. Its broadcasts reach into the homes of millions, day and evening. This was very clearly demonstrated in the reporting of the ‘rioting’ which broke out in the English cities in the summer of 2011. I focus on this episode because I am familiar with the events and the reporting of them by the British broadcast media.

In large areas of the English cities – on the housing estates and in the inner city streets – we see a growing and increasingly disenfranchised and marginalised proletarian youth who face a hopeless future of structural unemployment. It is the structural crisis of capital itself which is breeding this structural unemployment. Many are turning to petty crime to survive. In many families, unemployment is transgenerational. Grandparents, parents and children have never had a full-time job. It is what the capitalist media in Britain like to refer to as the ‘Benefits Culture’ in contrast to the ‘respectable culture of hardworking families’. The term ‘hardworking families’ has become a media catchword for bourgeois respectability. ‘Benefits culture’ or ‘claimant’ quite the opposite. The whole social security framework in Britain is operated as a system of meagre handouts conditional on punitive and dehumanising measures implimented by the state power of capital if ‘claimants’ do not follow and remain within very strict conditions laid down by the government department of this state power.

The ‘demonisation’ of the most downtrodden sections of the British proletariat by the capitalist press – echoed in the broadcasting media – has become more or less systematic. The systematic dichotomisation of the employed (‘hard working families’) and unemployed (‘benefits culture’) and putting them against each other like boxers in a ring serves the interests of capital both economically and politically. Even some sections of the migrant worker population have been infected with the notion peddled by the media that whole sections of the proletariat in Britain are ‘lazy’ and ‘unwilling to work’.

However, it is clear that the revolt of the proletarian youth in the summer of 2011 was mediated by, and is truly symptomatic of, the deepening of capital’s structural crisis. This layer of youth have nothing whatsoever to look forward to. They are, like their fathers before them, condemned to a life on the dole (which is being cut, year in year out), without any prospects. The recent events are a manifestation of real despair and a dead-end, cul-de-sac existence which the crisis of the capital order has driven them into. Hence the absolute fearlessness and ‘nothing to lose’ approach and mentality of the youth. If you’ve got nothing then you’ve got nothing to lose, somebody once remarked. One of them – being interviewed by a BBC journalist – said that he’d been in and out of prison ‘a few times’ and that at least there he gets three square meals a day, a warm cell, his drugs and human company. On the outside he has to hussle and thieve to get these things.

This is what Tony Blair’s ‘beyond the pale’ really means. It means beyond the requirements of the capital system in crisis so we leave you to rot, to degrade and then castigate you for rebelling against that order. The proletarian youth are showing that they are prepared to come out fighting. And that they are not prepared to rot on the sacrificial altar of the capitalist order.  With each day that passes, they are realising that they cornered in a cul-de-sac of history and they are having their humanity squeezed out of them. What do you do? You can either submit to it, sink deeper and rot or you come out fighting against the state power that defends this wretched, rancid order. With all the contradictions that characterise such eruptions, we must stand full square behind the proletarian youth and against the state power of capital and against its print and broadcasting media which are only too ready to spring to the defence of this state power when required to do so.

The next phase of ‘rioting’ will probably see the use of water cannon, immediate deployment of Ulster-type vehicles and equipment, tear gas and plastic bullets by the police. Even the possible use of live rounds have been suggested by British Tory politicians and police chiefs.  And with these deployments, we can be absolutely certain that the same news controllers and editors at the BBC, ITN and elsewhere will put the appropriate gloss on their use in order to justify them to millions of viewers. Even if so-called ‘rioters’ are killed by police action, there will be such justifications either explicit or implicit.

What is clearly emerging as the crisis of the whole capital system unfolds is the loyalty and reflex responses of a media that stands as the mouthpiece of a repressive order. Such a media – and especially the broadcasting news media which reaches millions every day – is a vital, integral and indispensable component of such an order. Some journalists and cameramen were actually attacked by the ‘rioters’ because they were seen as being in the ‘camp of the enemy’. Under higher conditions of struggle when the proletariat is struggling to appropriate power, such a media would undoubtedly constitute a legitimate target. They are serving as a central ideological prop for the whole capital order. That prop would have to be kicked away. And thrown into the furnace of history.

The broadcasting media were absolutely rabid in their reporting of these ‘riot’ events in the summer of 2011. They most ably articulated themselves in their appointed role as the collective broadcasting mouthpiece of the state power of capital. The journalists on the BBC News Channel actually were cheerleaders for water cannon and plastic bullets:

“Shouldn’t we be bringing in water cannon?”

“Isn’t it time to bring the troops onto the street?”

“Wouldn’t plastic bullets be more selective and discriminatory and pick off the troublemakers?”

One of the interviewing BBC journalists actually implied ‘on air’ that the black writer and socialist Darcus Howe was involved in the events when he was merely trying to describe the conditions which had given rise to them. Indeed it was because he was endeavouring to explain events that he was cut short and virtually accused of complicity on air. Even the cool, cultivated veneer of so-called impartiality was starting to slip and expose the essential naked truth of the role of the BBC. Since their unqualified support for the Iraq invasion, (’embedded journalism’) the motto of the BBC that “nations shall speak peace unto nations” has been revealed as a complete and utter farce. Independent journalist John Pilger has said that the BBC and ITN is ‘journalism for power and not journalism for people’. And in the unfolding, intensifying class struggle, the same ‘degree of impartiality’ will increasingly reveal itself. In reality, this so-called ‘impartiality’ is a construct of class partisanship. It is an intrinsic part of the ideological agenda of the capitalist class and its state power and remains an indispensable part of its rule.

It is ideologically and politically vital for the broadcasting media to present its content and the expression of it as ‘impartial’ and ‘non-partisan’ in order to conceal its real character as a prop of the capitalist order.

When the Birmingham Six (a group of innocent Irish men and women) were wrongly convicted of bombing pubs in the 1970s, the BBC reported the case as if it were a matter of fact that they had actually carried out the deed which resulted in the deaths of many people in two Birmingham pubs. The accused spent many years in prison. Some died in prison. The rabid ‘impartial’ reporting of the case contributed to anti-Irish sentiment in the country in which people were assaulted, their houses firebombed, verbally abused, etc.

Today, these same media agencies of capital fan the flames against the proletarian youth in revolt against the capitalist order. Later, the Provisional IRA admitted in a communique that one of its ‘cells’ had carried out the bombings in Birmingham.

Needless to say, when the Birmingham Six were acquitted, BBC news did not refer to the fact that it had broadcasted to the nation in the 1970s that they were murderers. The BBC has only been consistent in working to a capitalist state power status quo agenda which is pro-state power, pro-business, pro-monarchy, anti-strike and pro-capital. This has been clearly exposed by eminent independent journalists like John Pilger. This political agenda functions to legitimise a system which has already revealed its complete and utter illegitimacy and bankruptcy under the impact of the unfolding structural crisis of the capital order. Here are a few more examples to consider.

The agenda of the BBC and ITN is revealed in their simultaneous consistency and inconsistency of their coverage of events in Burma, of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ and the street revolt of the youth in England in the summer of 2011. In all these events, the news agenda is consistently bourgeois democratic as long as it does not threaten that bourgeois democracy itself.. From support for the national liberal Ang Sang Suu Kyi in Burma, for those supposedly fighting for ‘democracy’ in the Arab world, (including reporting by ’embedded BBC journalists’ amongst those in revolt in Syria) and the class-hatred reportage of BBC news against the marginalised and disenfranchised proletarian youth in England. We never witness ’embedded BBC journalists’ amongst the ‘rioting’ youth in England’s cities. We never actually see the perspective of the youth as uniformed police thugs charge towards them and meat out their treatment. This, of course, unless it is unavoidable as in the recent case of the street murder by police of a middle-aged newspaper seller in London, captured by an onlooker on the camera of a mobile phone. The paper seller was walking home after a day’s work selling newspapers in London. The police targetted him as an ‘anti-capitalist demonstrator’ (an anti-capitalist protest was taking place on the same day). He died on the street minutes after being charged to the floor by a burly uniformed police thug using a baton.

We witnessed  ’embedding’ in Syria and Egypt where BBC journalists were ’embedded’ with the ‘democracy demanding’ masses. Their inconsistency lies in their treatment of revolt against oppression. Because they perceive the Arab masses and their Burmese liberal heroine as pursuing a bourgeois democratic agenda, the reporting of their struggles is articulated favourably. However, when they witness the proletarian youth in revolt in England, they are castigated as “criminals”, “looters” and “rioters”. The Syrian and Egyptian masses are not described with such pejorativity in their struggle for democratic rights. This, of course, would not neatly slot into the political agenda of broadcasting news and ‘current affairs’ of the BBC and ITN. Aren’t the youth in England expressing, perhaps unconsciously, their historical needs for real changes? Or perhaps they are starting to question in their protest the ‘capitalist democratic’ system itself?

Also of note is the BBC and ITN reporting of the revolts in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia which were suitably tempered because the area is of strategic importance for the transnational oil companies and arms companies and their very close relations with the state power of capital in Britain and with those in the Arabian Gulf. The oil corporations wanted direct access to Libyan oil, with Gaddafi out of the way, but they already control the oil resources in the Gulf.  Hence there is no need to pursue the sham, fake, phoney ‘democracy’ agenda there. Likewise, the BBC’s Burmese heroine is against Marxist and other leftist parties having the right to organise and stand in elections as part of her wonderful Burmese liberal democracy. She has also kept conspicuously quiet about the state and local persecution of the Rohinga people in south-western Burma. Speaking up about all this would antagonise her future cozy relationship with the military. But the BBC and ITN don’t let their viewers know this. After all, this is BBC journalism.

Another example of this utterly nauseating duplicity is the BBC’s reporting of the Indonesian regime. In one report a BBC journalist referred to the extremely brutal Indonesian regime as a “flourishing democracy”. It is not “flourishing”, of course, if you are a female trade unionist trying to organise workers in the factories of transnational corporations and the police arrest you for doing so and then use torture, beatings and rape on you and your brothers and sisters as a means to breaking your will to form trade unions. That is what this BBC ‘foreign correspondent’  referred to as a “flourishing democracy”. Of course, it is a “flourishing democracy” because it’s pro-western, pro-transnational, anti-trade unionist, anti-socialist, pro-US, etc. It would be amusing if it were not so serious and upsetting. A total disregard for what is actually happening in Indonesian society by BBC journalism. In fact, a complete “flourishing democratic” whitewash.

The whole system of news and so-called ‘current affairs’ coverage at the BBC and ITN is geared towards servicing the needs of capital. A day doesn’t pass when we don’t hear the simpering, fretting and troubled voices of BBC and ITN journalists reporting the inability of the capitalist order to ‘grow’ (i.e. to capitalise the uncompensated labour of millions, to transform surplus value into capital, capital accumulation) as its global crisis deepens. And although there are umpteen programmes given over to ‘business’ in all its sad, alienating, gaudy and gory detail, not a single one is given over to ‘trade unionism’ or opposition movements of any kind. Such is the much vaunted ‘balance’ of the BBC and the rest.

We can expect the same degree of ‘impartial reporting’ from the BBC and ITN as the class struggle intensifies in Britain and elsewhere with the deepening of the global crisis of the capitalist order. When Pinochet in Chile in September 1973 (supported by Thatcher and wined and dined by the British royal family) launched his genocidal regime against trade unionists, socialists and others (over 60,000 were tortured and butchered), the media in Chile was the cheerleader for his coup. The same  happened in Turkey in the course of successive military putsches where the broadcasting media actually put out images and names of people which the military butchers wanted to arrest, rape and torture. Could we expect BBC news editors and management not to be complicit with all the ‘D-notices’* and the rest, and therefore complicit in all the crimes that would follow, if such events unfolded here in Britain?

[in the UK, a D-notice is state-imposed blackout on the reporting of certain types of news]*

If the police use plastic bullets, gas, water cannon and even live rounds in any further disturbances, where will BBC news controllers, editors and management stand? Will they adopt the same critical approach to the British police as they have rightly done in news reporting of the Syrian, Yemeni and Egyptian police? Or will they pander to the state power of capital and report as they usually do? In other words, support killer police in their news coverage and justify their actions?

What is amusing is the PR attempt to convey the image of so-called ‘impartiality’ when it is quite clear to anyone  –  who thinks beyond the saccharinated and projected fakery –  that the broadcasting news media are simply the broadcasting mouthpieces of the state power. This has been clearly demonstrated by coverage of events by the BBC since it was founded in the 1920s. An indelible landmark in such ‘impartial’ coverage was the rabid, pro-police, pro-Thatcher position during the historic Miners’ strike in Britain in 1984-85 where state/police terror and violence against the miners, their communities and supporters was reported as self-defence against violence rather than as it really was : a fullscale mobilisation and assault by the state power on the miners and their communities. Only a brainless ‘sponge’ would absorb such reporting as ‘impartial’. Perhaps the BBC news controllers think we are all ‘sponges’?

Whenever there is a strike, the implicit message sent out to millions of viewers is:

“Just look at all these wrecking greedy trade unionists spoiling your day and stopping you getting to work this morning!!”

“How dare they inconvenience us like this ??!!”.

Look at the tone of the news coverage of the trade union days of action in the UK on June 30 and November 30, 2011 to observe this ‘impartially observing journalism’. Even the expressions on the faces of the overpaid, overpampered, (all out of the compulsory licence fee [£150 per annum] paid by the whole population ) regularly dermally-filled and botoxed broadcasting mouthpieces were ones of total disapproval. Perhaps they are trained to alter their expressions in order to denote approval or disapproval: a fawning smile for her majesty the Queen and a scowl for these ‘wrecking’ trade unionists. This is especially observable with strikes in the public sector or public transport where their effects on people’s lives are distorted, whipped up and bent by the capitalist media for the purposes of opposing ‘disruption’ to the capitalist order.

Likewise, the news media’s position on the British Monarchy also typifies their position in relation to the state power. They don’t appear to be aware that millions of people in Britain are simply NOT loyal  flagwaving monarchists. And if they do, then they completely ignore it. The percentage of Scots who are monarchists is absolutely fractional, minimal. Regardless of the fact that they have to suffer the presence of the Royal Family at Balmoral every year. And yet the coverage is consistently pro-monarchy, totally uncritical and slavishly, almost feudally, servile to the point of gut-wrenching nausea.

In Britain, we are graced with some of the most nauseatingly fawning journalists in the world when it comes to their adulation of the Crown. How close must the flattering tongue of the ultra-fawning Nicholas Witchell have to get to the royal anus in order to prove to BBC news controllers and management that he is one of her majesty’s most loyal subjects? Nicholas (or his line manager) must be fishing for a knighthood because every time he presents any coverage of the royals, it is so excruciatingly, even painfully and cringingly, servile that it is enough to make anyone viewing make a beeline for the medicine cabinet.

Such ‘impartial’ positions of the BBC, ITN et al in their news coverage are legion. In fact, too numerous to mention. Take, for example, when a person is killed by the police either on the street or in police custody. The victim is always reported by BBC news to “have died” or to have “been found dead” in police custody but never under any circumstances to have been “murdered” by the police, not even “killed” by the police. The tendency is to adjust the facial expression, mood, tense and grammar in the reportage in order to convey the impression that it just could not be possible that a British policeman has actually “killed” or “murdered” somebody. Whereas when a policeman or policewoman is killed they are invariably “murdered” (grammatical active) without any conclusive, definitive evidence having been put forward. Over 300 people have “died” in police custody in Britain, not to mention those outside custody, and not a single police officer has ever been prosecuted for murder. Even use of the term “died” is made to sound as if they have peacefully gone to sleep in their police cell.

Ex-paratrooper Christopher Alder – who was a black neighbour of mine on the Beverley Road in Hull where I lived at the time – was left to die on the floor of a police station in Hull while police officers stood around joking and laughing. Video evidence of him being carried into the station shows what appears to be his head being used as a battering ram to open swing doors. Chris, earlier in the same evening, had been in a fight with a man at a nightclub and any trauma from that would have been made worse when his head was used as a battering ram to open the swing doors of the police station.

But as soon as a police officer is killed on the street or shot or stabbed to death, the broadcasting media are falling over themselves with slobbering sympathy and calling for the blood of the “murderer”. This was a regular news practice during the struggle of the republican movement in Ulster. The police and army always “shot dead” civilians or PIRA men but the PIRA always “murdered” soldiers, RUC policemen and politicians. Don’t forget, the British people are paying for all this ‘impartial coverage’ out of a compulsory licence fee levied annually.

The broadcasters choose the degree of emotiveness of the broadcasted language in order to reflect their political and moral agenda which is entirely pro-capitalist. The BBC and ITN ideologically supported the British army and the RUC in their dirty little imperialist war against the republican movement in Ulster and against the community that supported it. Hence their language reflected that position.

Many people subconsciously absorb the cleverly-crafted language of the news and current affairs media (like sessile sponges absorbing soluble poisons from the surrounding sea water) when they sit and listen to it. The capitalist broadcasting news media are deploying very specifically chosen language in order to convey the appropriate political message and maintain the news agenda which is essentially that of the state power under which we all exist. But what did somebody once say? You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time?

BBC and ITN news and current affairs will remain the broadcasting mouthpieces of the state power of capital in Britain until the end of their days. They are, taken collectively, what the independent journalist John Pilger aptly refers to as ‘journalism for power and not journalism for people’. And we all know to which ‘power’ he is referring.

[ I I I ]

‘Human nature’, like the precepts of the bourgeois ideologues that seek to absolutise it, is subject to change and transformation. Social consciousness is continually altering in the course of its reciprocal dynamic with changing social conditions so that even ethical ideas become reformed and adapted to  new conditions and relations. Opposed moralities become transformed into each other so that what was understood as ‘moral’ or ‘human’ in one period appears as ‘inhuman’ or ‘immoral’ in the succeeding one and vice versa. Social development is continuously shifting the ground from underneath prevailing forms and established systems of morality. In this historical flux, categorical imperatives and absolutes in the realm of ethics are revealed to be relative forms which begin to become transformed or even vanish completely as new social relations eclipse the old, necessitating the emergence of new forms of morality which serve to justify and perpetuate the establishment of the new social relations in opposition to the old.

Ascribed forms of ‘human nature’ – which are really socio-historically created, ethically-mediated forms of human behaviour – are no more eternal than the social relations and conditions that engender them. There is no eternal, unchangeable ‘human nature’ in this respect. The human personality is an organic part of the unfolding historical process and this is reflected in the changing conceptual content, emotional states and structural configurations of its inner relations and tendencies.

We are not suggesting, of course, that such human activities as eating, drinking, urination, sex, labour, etc, are historically relative. But even the modes of behaviour through which such activities are expressed are themselves historically relative regardless of the continuation of the absolute within the relative, the universal within the particular down the ages. Hunger and thirst drive us to eat and drink but the manner and forms within which the satisfaction of these needs takes place is historically relative. Eating French cuisine with a knife and fork at table in a restaurant is a totally different activity, experience and affair to clawing at and eating the raw flesh of the carcase of an animal that has just been brought down in a shower of hunting spears. However, undeniably, it remains ‘eating’.

The truth of the matter is, therefore, that morality is constantly subject to alteration and changes its forms as human society evolves. In class societies, the precepts and imperatives of morality are socio-historically determined according to the needs and interests of classes. The antagonisms within and between moral positions are sharpened and heightened as the class struggle intensifies. Morality becomes another weapon in the opposed armouries of contending classes; in the ruling class as a means to impose and maintain its rule and in the class struggling for hegemony as a means for overthrowing that rule and establishing the new society.

Morality may take on religious or secular form according to the historical conditions and circumstances within which it has emerged and developed in order to represent the interests of particular groups (tribe, caste, class, etc) in society. Religion and moral positions derived from it have often been pivotal in the history of the class struggle. We only have to look back through English history to see this. For example, the predestinarian morality of Cromwell’s army was thought by its soldiers to be the guide to doing God’s work on Earth. To the Royalist army it was heresy and contravened the divine right of kings, etc. Each saw the other as heretical.

Of course, for the socialist, capitalism is an inherently unethical system of social relations founded, as it is, on exploitation and inequality. It is supremely ethical to put an end to its existence by whatever means are necessary. For if these means be actually necessary to end the age of capital, and these means necessarily realise ends which are historically ethical in themselves, then the means through which these ends are realised are also ethical, indeed the means share the same degree of ethicality as the realised ends themselves. The bourgeois moralist and ideologists of capital and its state power will whinge and whine about this assertion. They will seek to qualify it and convolute it into forms which are designed to confuse, bamboozle and present problematics of one kind or another. Unfortunately, we can do nothing about that. But leave them to their moralistic perambulations. The supremely ethical precept – above all others – is an end to the global epoch of capital and the creation of a communist life for humanity; regardless of what that is going to involve in the course of an unfolding global struggle.

Any form of morality which props up the capitalist order is, accordingly, supremely immoral. We do not agonise about the abstract, metaphysical, transcendental morality aired by the ideologists of the bourgeoisie. We recognise that what we are doing is supremely ethical because it is putting an end to a barbarous social system and putting one in its place which will create human relationships far more human, infinitely better than the present one. It will create a totally different type of human being and human personality to the current one; one in which the oppression and exploitation of man by man has come to a final, irreversible end.

The social relations of the capitalist epoch are based on a social division of labour which corresponds to the prevailing stage of development of its technical productive forces.  The ‘enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour’ [3] creates psychosocial conditions under capitalism within which humans are prevented (circumscribed) from developing an all-round, multifaceted, multi-skilled personality which enables the individual to participate in all spheres of human activity and life. Marx observes that…

If circumstances in which the individual lives allow him only the one-sided development of one quality at the expense of all the rest, if they give him the material and time to develop only that one quality, then this individual achieves only a one-sided crippled development. No moral preaching avails here. And the manner in which this one pre-eminently favoured quality develops depends again, on the one hand, on the material available for its development and, on the other hand, on the degree and manner in which the other qualities are suppressed.

Precisely because thought, for example, is the thought of a particular definite individual, it remains his definite thought, determined by his individuality and the conditions in which he lives…..In the case of an individual, for example, whose life embraces a wide circle of varied activities and practical relations to the world, and who, therefore, lives a many-sided life, thought has the same character of universality as every other manifestation in his life…..From the outset it is always a factor in the total life of the individual, one which disappears and is reproduced as required. [4] (Marx emphasis underlined)

The development of a many-sided human personality – which is not ‘one-sided’ and ‘crippled’ – is dependent on the actual existence of social conditions and relations which provide the social and material ground for such a development. An all-rounded, many-sided, multifaceted development of the capacities of human individuals is therefore only possible in a society which furnishes such conditions. Capitalism is not such a society. Quite the contary. It ‘cripples’ the human being and the human personality.

Indeed, the all-round development and cultivation of the individual becomes a necessity in socialist society. This ‘cultivation’ does not, of course, take the form of a social compulsion or oppressively coercive imposition on the individual where the individual is socially compelled to become ‘cultivated’.  Rather, it springs from the actual nature of human relationships in the life of the commune itself where all forms of oppressive coercion have been transcended and the psychosocial development of the individual is not subject to the social compulsion which characterises human relations in bourgeois society. In his foreword to the Grundrisse, Martin Nicolaus informs us that Marx in….

the Grundrisse speaks of two very broadly and generally defined types of human individuality. The first is the ‘private individual’, meaning the individual as private proprietor, both as owner of the means of production and as ‘owner’ of the commodity, labour power; the individual within the exchange-value relation. The abolition of the relations of private property is the abolition of the conditions which produce and reproduce this kind of individual. The place of this type is taken by the social individual, the individual of classless society, a personality type which is not less, but rather more developed as an individual because of its direct social nature. As opposed to the empty, impoverished, restricted individuality of capitalist society, the new human being displays an all-sided, fully rich development of needs and capacities, and is universal in character and development. [5] (Nicolaus emphasis underlined)

The determinations of the human personality and interpersonal relationships in the age of capitalism derive from the character of its social relations. Thus, for example, psychologically, even….

Dissatisfaction with oneself is either dissatisfaction with oneself within the framework of a definite condition which determines the whole personality e.g. dissatisfaction with oneself as a worker, or it is moral dissatisfaction. In the first case, therefore, it is simultaneously and mainly dissatisfaction with the existing relations; in the second case – an ideological expression of these relations themselves, which does not all go beyond them, but belongs wholly to them. [6]

The commune will educate the individual in all areas of human culture – in technique, science, literature, art, etc – and provide access to all its different spheres. This, in itself, will create the cultural preconditions for the flourishing of the human personality and intellect in the commune where the identification, refinement and realisation of the needs of each and every individual will be the governing principle of social relationships. Hence ‘from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs’.

The development of the crisis of global capitalist economy itself engenders the necessary conditions for this transition to a higher mode of human life: classless, unalienated, free. But this same crisis also creates out of itself the conditions for the further descent into barbarism…

Civilisation can be saved only by the socialist revolution. To accomplish the overturn, the proletariat needs all its strength, all its resolution, all its audacity, passion and ruthlessness. [………] The welfare of the revolution – that is the supreme law! [7]

We all want a peaceful transition to the new society. Nobody wants death and destruction which is what we actually have now with the global rule of capital in crisis. But if we are presented – by the violence of the state power of capital – with the unavoidable condition of having to go through decades of war, death, destruction of cities, the ravaging of the land and all the horror and torment which would inevitably ensue from all that, then so be it. The responsibility for all that will lie at the door of capital, its state power and its various sundry agencies.

It will be necessary and desirable if it means that only by these means can we put an end to this wretched, rancid, system of exploitation and violence. If only by these means we are able cast the epoch of capital into the abyss of history, forever. Gone. Never to return. And to create a higher form of life for humanity, free and full of beauty.

Shaun May


[1] Trotsky.  Their Morals and Ours. (Pathfinder, New York, 1979) p.20

[2] Ibid. p.21

[3] Marx. Critique of the Gotha Programme. Marx-Engels Selected Works. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1973) p.320

[4] Marx.  The German Ideology. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol 5.  p.263

[5] Nicolaus, M. Foreword to Marx’s Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy. (Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1993) p.51

[6]Marx. The German Ideology. Marx-Engels Collected Works, Vol 5. (Lawrence and Wishart, London, 1976)  p.378

[7]Trotsky. Their Morals and Ours. (New York, Pathfinder, 1979) p.65

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