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March, 2006

The Future is Up to Us!

Editor's note: This column is based on excerpts from the book "The Future is Up To Us: A Revolutionary Talking Politics with the American People " by Nelson Peery. We encourage our readers to join the discussion. Send your thoughts to info@peoplestribune.org. Order the book by sending $12 to Speakers for a New America Books, c/o People's Tribune, PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654-3524.

book cover

What is Society?

Society is a system. A system is a combination of parts forming a complex whole. The foundation of society is made up of two basic interdependent parts of what we call the economy. One side is the way we produce and the other side is the way that production is distributed.

A system of production is called capitalism when the capital (the means of production) are privately owned. An industrial economy is the combination of human labor and power driven machinery. Its political shell can be socialist (where the means of production are owned publicly), or capitalist.

In capitalism, everything is a system of buying and selling.The workers sell their ability to work, their labor power, and buy the commodities that are necessary to live. The capitalist buys this ability to work, the labor power, the nerve and muscle and energy that, once put in motion, becomes work, and sells the commodities that work produces. So long as everyone participates in this buying and selling, the system works. It works unfairly and unevenly, but it works. Like a machine, when something is extracted, or something foreign is added, it will no longer work.

Why isn't the system working?

The social problems of drugs, crime, homelessness and so forth are the result of an increase in a new kind of poverty.The increase in poverty is caused by unemployment. The unemployment is caused by something new - electronic production via labor-replacing robots entering the system. The workers buy commodities and sell their labor power in the process of production.The robots produce, but they don't buy or sell anything.The system is being disrupted; it doesn't work anymore.

What happens in the world and people's understanding of the world are two separate things. Sometimes it takes a long time for people to grasp the meaning of very important events. Nonetheless, when their livelihood begins to change, they react. The inevitable social reaction to changes in the economy is called the spontaneous movement.

Any change in the economy brings about a spontaneous movement for reform. For example, as the industrial process called Fordism developed, a spontaneous movement for labor unions got under way. Such movements are internal, inside the system, and aim to restructure, reform or reorganize the system to reflect the new level of production.

Other movements, under other circumstances, which begin outside the system are not aimed at restructuring, but objectively aim to destroy it. Such a movement is beginning to form today.Very few people involved in that movement call themselves revolutionaries. Yet, their demands for food, housing and health care, without having to pay for any of these things, are revolutionary demands. These demands express the elementary understanding of how and why a new society has to be organized. If production is carried on without wages, then the means of life have to be distributed without money.These demands strike at the very heart of the capitalist system.

These stirrings aren't fully revolutionary yet because the people carrying them out do not realize that they are revolutionary.The main role of the conscious revolutionary is to help the fighters become conscious of what they are doing. Are there any conscious revolutionaries out there? Yes, they are out there by the thousands and hundreds of thousands. This is the beginning of the 21st Century. We are not dealing with an ignorant peasant mass. The intellectual leap to consciousness on a mass scale will happen very quickly once it gets underway.

This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, info@peoplestribune.org.
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