Is Capitalism a Force for Good?

In THE OBSERVER, an editorial asked the question “Is capitalism a force for good?” (12th June 2016).

Capitalism as “a force for good” is now a commonplace expression used by the media to defend the interest of the capitalist class.

Here are a few examples at random from the on-line Google list:

* “Capitalism is worth fighting for – it is a force for good… Capitalism must have a social purpose and be used to the long-term benefit of companies and their employees ” - Sir Charlie Mayfield, (DAILY TELEGRAPH 27th May 2014)

* “Capitalism isn’t dead; it can become a force for good in society”: Barbara Stocking (GUARDIAN 5th November 2015)

* “In defence of the c-word: why capitalism is a force for good”; Business Secretary Sajid Javid in a speech to the Legatum Institute, London (16th November 2016)

* “Why Business is a Force for Good, Yes Really” by Lisa MacLeod, (HUFFINGTON POST, July 21st 2015)

There is no real debate as to whether capitalism is in fact a force for good. Socialists are excluded. The owners of the media outlets and government ministers would not want to be challenged. After all, as they see the world today there is supposed to be no practical alternative to the market, buying and selling and the profit motive, so why bother debating the question. Socialism is assumed to be dead and buried. The belief is that there is no alternative. So they wish.

Yes, they are all singing from the same hymn book – capitalism as a social good. Free trade, free markets and global capitalism is the ideology they all subscribe to; the dominant ruling class set of ideas and beliefs which counters no critique, opposition or censure.

What do socialists say about the belief that capitalism is a force for good?

As a social system, capitalism is exploitive, ruins lives, despoils the environment, forces men and women to become a mere “appendage to the machine”, and generates war, death and destruction.

Capitalism divides the world into rich and poor. The world’s top one percent controls half of world’s wealth. The richest 62 people are as wealthy as half the world’s population GUARDIAN 13th October 2013).

From the point of view and interest of the working class, capitalism has nothing going for it. Capitalism ruins workers’ lives, keeps them in poverty, denies them artistic and creative expression in their work, and, makes them unemployed when it is no longer profitable to hire them. Capitalism makes the lives of workers miserable.

There is a force within capitalism but not the force capitalism’s apologists understand it to be. The motor force within capitalism is the class struggle: the struggle of competing interests between capitalists and workers over the intensity and extent of exploitation.

And the class struggle is also a political struggle - a struggle over the ownership of the means of production and distribution.

At the moment the capitalist class own the productive resources of the world, the factories, transport and communication systems and distribution networks. And these means of production are used to make profits not to meet human needs. And they are protected by the machinery of government, including the armed forces.

Politically, a socialist majority through socialist delegates, a principled socialist party and parliamentary action or its equivalent, can and must gain control of the state to ensure production and exchange for profit can be changed from production for profit to production for social need.

Historically capitalism has set the ground for an acceleration in the forces of production including co-operative and social labour to produce abundance; a situation where all human needs could be met - housing, education, health, transport, communication and food.

This was known to Marx and Engels, and they commented on this fact in the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO.

They praised the early capitalist class for the revolutionary role they played in extending the forces of production. They said:

The bourgeoisie, historically, has played a most revolutionary part.

And they went on to say:

It (Capitalism) has been the first to show what man’s activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former Exoduses of nations and crusades.


The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society… Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones.

Capitalism, “as a force for good”, is really a social system shot through with class conflict and contradictions that creates socialists, socialist revolution and socialism.

Capitalism is now conservative and reactionary. It is, as Marx said “a fetter on production” (COMMUNIST MANIFESTO).

Socialism will provide the social framework in which the production and distribution of goods and services will take place solely to meet human needs to enable men and women to play an active, creative and democratic role in the affairs of society something which currently denied them by the profit system.

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Object and Declaration of Principles


The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.

Declaration of Principles


1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.

2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.

3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.

4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.

5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.

6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.

7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.

8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.