Classical Marxism views the progression of capitalist systems as increasingly detrimental to the condition of the working class. This is due to a few a simple reasons I will briefly expound. As productive capacity increases, the capitalist is able to make more profit from the same or less quantity and quality of labor. This takes the creative dynamic out of most work and so forces the worker to become just an extension of a machine with no autonomy over their work, alienating worker from work. On top of this, real wages are predicted by Marx to stagnate, increasing income inequality and therefore exacerbating inequality of political power and social alienation between those who have and those who do not. By some measures, even absolute poverty has increased. Additionally, capitalist influenced social norms are directly linked to higher depression, anxiety, and death, including but not limited to smartphones, prescription painkiller addiction, and even mass incarceration (yet a multifaceted issue). So, the sooner this system is overthrown and replaced by a classless society, the more exploitation of the working class by the ruling class can be avoided.
However, it is not necessarily the most beneficial, nor most practical, to spend all efforts hastening the spark of socialist revolution. This is not to say that revolution hasn’t been immensely successful, or that revolution won’t continue to be effective around the world. What I intend to suggest is that in locations like America, accomplishing an internal revolution similar to that of Russia, Cuba, and China is in some sense unrealistic without a spark, which cannot be easily predicted nor catalyzed without strong labor organization. Although teacher, nurse, and some small industrial strikes have been increasing within the past ten years, the size is not at the scale to be any detriment to major industrial sectors. On the other hand, with issues like Brexit, the Gilets Juanes, and the boarder wall issue and government shutdown, the state of world finance is surely up in the air.
Firstly, when the capitalist government has such a tight grip on education, media, and politics, the perception of basic facts concerning socialism by the populous is hard to change. Contrary to mainstream media efforts though, the negative view of capitalism among young people is higher than any other generation and approaching the majority. With media so dominated by pro-war and capitalist agendas, it is difficult for the layman to change his view, although Trump had been changing that on an unprecedented level. Tarnishing socialism’s reputation is important for the bourgeoisie to maintain their executive hold on power. And, because of these views, the immense political and economic power of America is turned against the struggle for a working class state. However, with the advent of the global internet, people now have more access than ever to a wide range of material, allowing for the possibility of self education like never before. Social media, however, is able to tailor news and stories to the viewers opinion, in order to secure more views, and has self-education at an impasse.
Also within the United States is the view that conditions are improving for the average person. This is what is seen in front of them. The increase in affordable consumer products and food has allowed even the lowest of incomes to survive with comfortable accommodations. For them it follows that as the upper class gets wealthier, so does the lower. Hence, a workers uprising in the United States does not seem plausible with current conditions, let alone the prospect of a successful one. If we look elsewhere, we see that the conditions of workers in impoverished locations are about as bad as they always have been, and that everywhere the wealth gap widens. We are stuck with a naturally progressing capitalist system, and one which we can hardly speed up through force, other than technological improvement to radically alter the mode of production to enable new relations of production. A.I. seems to be one of those technologies.
Currently, democratic reform to socialism is nearly impossible for two main reasons. The first being that reforming legislature will probably never be introduced, because of the conditions of popular opinion, which is of course being determined by the powerful minority. Let alone that legislation is introduced itself by a powerful bourgeoisie minority. The second being that if such reforms were to be introduced - reforms that threatened the fundamental existence of capitalism (the only reforms that would really make progress towards socialism) - the bourgeoisie class would make every effort possible to suppress these power-threatening measures. Resistance backed by weapons would be met whether or not change came through reform or revolution. Nations and their allies rarely hesitate to use military force to suppress threats to social or economic relations, and why should they? Clinging to and accumulating power is all they know; to ensure survival, and to threaten a seizure of that power from them is to threaten their existence. And one may ask; “Will social-democratic countries ever transition to socialism?” Currently, for the same reasons this is improbable. In social-democratic countries, capitalists still control the majority of wealth and therefore power and continue to do so more and more with labor rights and power diminishing since initial reform, and so they would oppose the relinquishing of this.
Essentially, America is not yet ripe for the grassroots societal upheaval socialists long for. If any ground is to be made in the fight for the betterment of society, human rights, equality, and preservation of the environment, we must continue to spread the truth about socialism, but also stress development of capitalism towards its demise with the progression of technology, while pushing for better conditions for the working class, and waiting in earnest for that spark.
Because revolution is unlikely, concessions are not retardants to the realization of working class freedom. They do improve conditions of the oppressed in America, for whom things are generally improving, which does little to prevent revolution from occurring because that relies on an inciting incident which we cannot control. For this reason, it is not a farce to assist reformists or unionists to push for a (diluted) sort of equality here and now. Remember the Economic Collapse of 1929; the whole country was ready for change, but the education of workers was not adequate enough on the whole to allow for that change, and concessions were allowed to be made and realized that were essential to ensure the survival of the capitalist class, lest force be used - a time when concessions were worse for revolutionary desires.
What is more probable than revolution is the continuous transformation of society to guide us to equality through necessity. When looking at the development of human society, we know that social and material relations change with the advancement of technology, the form of production.
For example the creation of language materialized roughly out of the agricultural revolution as irrigation technology enabled new social relations with more surplus goods, specialization, and trade. Powerful civilizations, fed by technological driven abundance, have given rise to unique culture repeatedly and similarly; Mesopotamian cuneiform and Mesoamerican Olmec and Mayan Writing are independently formed written languages on opposite ends the world, and whose development led to other famous cultural phenomena; city-states and government (Hammurabi code), and Mayan temples and culture. Innovative technology like writing itself, as well as more efficient means of production - the plough, irrigation, and the mill - led to a more productive stage of human existence, allowing for large scale trade and the establishment of massive empires, each forming unique social relations and ways of life, and therefore cultural development; social progress from economic.
By dissecting the catalysts of change we can make predictions about what is to come. Thought experiment; one hundred years from now; capitalism has toppled the remaining socialist societies, has developed every third world country through industrial production, has adopted cleaner energy out of necessity for survival of labor, so capitalism has become a worldwide technological entrepreneurial state, with social programs that provide free education and health care for most if not all. Is this not acceptable to those us who see the value in improving the lives of every person? As we have seen in Europe and Canada, social democracies can do relatively well for most of the people within them. If things continue to improve in those countries for the people within them, can we not exist in a free market society with social benefits and regulations imposed by government? And, when wealth continues, and say a Universal Basic Income is introduced, would that not be on the way to socialism, assuming a continuation of democratic institutions and basic rights? Although, of course, the most efficient use of wealth would be through a centralized, planned economy, what drawbacks would there be to a highly regulated and socialized free enterprise state?
This would inevitably lead to greater socialization of industry, specifically the basic necessities; health care, education, housing, childcare, food, and as technology advances, abundance allows for short working hours and other favorable conditions for workers. But, lets take a step back. For one, capitalism will not last that long if looking at the falling rate of profit. Secondly, profit would fall even more rapidly if third world countries were allowed higher wages and any other benefits. Also, do capitalists ‘need’ to regulate themselves to slow climate change? This could destroy whole industries, so what incentive is there for them, they are still realizing profit after all. The environment does not take priority over profits; a contradiction is met and must be overcome. A.I. creating abundance only funnels that abundance to the owners of the A.I., and so does not directly achieve what we desire. Either way, revolution or heavily socialized capitalism, we can continue to take legislative improvement for working people from the government and capitalists if they so choose, and while we wait, organize communities of determined progressives for when that spark allows a seizure of production.
Or, should we lessen regulation and avoid concessions in order to polarize society and increase class consciousness to manufacture revolution? Comments welcome and encouraged.