Competition: Built into Capitalism, Deadly for Workers

Capitalism arose gradually hundreds of years ago, mainly through competition among various trades and businesses. They grew into giants that continue to devour their smaller rivals. As corporations try to beat each other to market to sell their products, some inevitably outdo others, leaving the losers with products they can’t sell. But to maintain profits as much as possible, the smaller rivals cut their costs by laying off workers. Even those able to sell their products continually replace some workers with machinery and then speed up the rest.

Capitalists call this process “productivity” and claim that, despite the inevitable layoffs, it is good for both workers and capitalists. After all, they say, this represents progress.

So the underlying cause of unemployment is instability in profits caused by competition among capitalists, combined with their control over employment. Competition is built into the system. Capitalists cannot do away with it, even if they wanted to.

Competition is so commonplace that we rarely notice its harmfulness. We’re taught competition is “natural in human society.” We’re even trained to enjoy competition through such things as sports and contests. We’re taught to focus on winners, rarely being reminded that for every winner there are losers, unless we’re among those losers. This process of competition produces losers, psychologically and often monetarily.

Competition inevitably harms some, and often most, whether participants or fans. It fosters individualistic concentration on one’s own welfare, whether real or imagined, and works to destroy class solidarity. Therefore, competition is not good for workers and certainly isn’t “natural.”

A fundamental aspect of capitalism is its use of racism: both to set up competition between white workers and black, Latino, Asian and others, dividing our class and reaping super-profits for the bosses, as well as dragging down conditions for all workers.

Capitalists must maximize profits and expand their business in order to survive. But as winners eat up losers and grow, eventually monopoly results, and competition in that line of business ends — until foreign capitalists move in. For example, Japanese auto manufacturers began to crowd out GM, Ford and Chrysler in the 1970s. Capitalist competition inherently has a tendency to abolish itself, although prolonged through international rivalry.

Each nation’s capitalist class is forced to grab resources, cheap labor and markets. Often this grab requires war; the capitalists become imperialists. Inter-imperialist rivalry is now the cause of every war on the planet, whether local or a world war.

While imperialists invent excuses to fight, in order to gain the loyalty of “their” workers — such as “weapons of mass destruction”; “humanitarian reasons”; “we were attacked”; and scores of other pretexts — the real reason is always international economic competition, To induce “their” workers to fight for them, imperialist governments are forced to lie — the bigger the lie, the more likely workers may believe it — impelling the illusion that, “if it were untrue, no government could get away with it.”

Inter-imperialist rivalry is why the U.S. ruling class, through its government, is sending working-class men and women (usually not their own sons and daughters) to kill other workers, and to risk death themselves, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That’s why U.S. rulers fought in Korea, Vietnam and in the first Gulf War. That’s why World Wars I and II developed, first among European and Asian bosses and later involving the U.S., and killed tens of millions of workers and others. Competition, with its inevitable outgrowths, is truly a death sentence for millions.

Additionally capitalist competition causes the waste of natural resources and continual pollution of air and water. Pollution heats the atmosphere with oil, coal, and natural gas-derived global warming and the melting of glaciers that provide water to drink, wash in, and to grow food.

The resulting rise in sea level will eventually force billions to move inland and create dislocations that will have unimaginable consequences for the working class (see the article “Global Warming Driven by the Profit System – Only Communism Can Create a Better Sustainable World,” in the Winter 2010 issue of “The Communist” magazine, also available on the PLP website).

Communism the Answer

The opposite of competition is cooperation. Only cooperation can produce winners with no losers. Only the complete absence of competition can produce general well-being. Why should we settle for a system that always produces losers? Particularly when losing under capitalism often spells death. Capitalism is like a gigantic gladiator sport, in which only some who enter the ring will leave it alive, and even the survivors suffer varying degrees of misery.

Communism will produce cooperation without losers. Sporting events can be for exercise and fun without keeping score. Economic winners under capitalism are always capitalists, while the losers are workers. We must destroy this death-dealing system and replaced it with communism.

Communism is run by the world’s working class under the leadership of its communist party for the benefit of our entire class worldwide. Work will then allow us to contribute to the welfare of our class, not just ourselves and our families. We will be able to distribute our needs without money. We will produce only what we need, instead of billions of unnecessary products whose only purpose is capitalist profits. We will eliminate waste of resources and pollution that sickens and kills millions.

Then we will eliminate wars — wars caused by competition between capitalists, that kill millions of workers while capitalists sit home counting their profits. For our long-term future, capitalism-caused climate change will then be brought under control, though it has already started on a course that will be increasingly difficult to reverse. Global warming already causes, and threatens to accelerate, violent weather events that kill hundreds of thousands, though such deaths will become preventable even in the face of such events.

Join and build the PLP to hasten the day that this noble goal is reached around the world. We and our children and grandchildren deserve no less.

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