Our world has an obscene gulf between rich and poor. The private assets of the 200 richest people are more than the combined incomes of the poorest 2.4 billion people – almost half the world’s population.
In fact, the United Nations “estimated that the additional cost of achieving and maintaining universal access to basic education for all, basic healthcare for all, reproductive care for all women, adequate food for all, and safe water and sanitation for all is roughly $40 billion a year… This is less than 4% of the combined wealth of the 225 richest people.”
Poverty is clearly not due to a lack of resources. It is caused by the way the capitalist system misallocates resources. Agribusinesses and construction industries do not feed the hungry and house the homeless, because it is not profitable for them. The fact that large corporations are privately owned locks them into a ruthlessly competitive market economy where they cannot worry about anything except maximizing their short-term profits, or else they will be out-competed by their rivals.
Capitalist society is organized around profits rather than human need. Brian Moffat, Chairman of Corus, a European steel company, recently admitted this after cutting 6,000 jobs, saying: “Corus does not make steel. It makes money.”
The only way to end poverty, war, oppression, and environmental destruction is by re-organizing society so that profit is not the over-riding concern in all major social decisions. To do this, the top 500 corporations and banks need to be taken out of private hands and into public ownership under workers’ democratic control, laying the foundation for the construction of a new socialist society.
Productivity and the Environment
But if everyone was provided a good income, housing, employment, and healthcare in a socialist society, then why would anyone work hard?
If workers collectively owned and managed their workplaces in a socialist economy, rather than taking orders from a capitalist boss who was exploiting them, workers would take tremendous pride in their work. If all jobs provided excellent pay, benefits and security, then workers would choose work that they love – rather than jobs they don’t like but which provide the best security in an insecure capitalist economy. In a socialist society, people would actually work much harder and produce a much higher quality product.
There is nothing more unmotivating than waking up to the same dreadful daily routine of hard work that you don’t want to do for 8 or 12 hours a day, just to pay the bills. As the American socialist Eugene Debs put it: “[People] do not shrink from work, but from slavery. The [person] who works primarily for another does so primarily under compulsion, and work so done is the very essence of slavery.”
If capitalism is supposedly so efficient, then why are 2.5 billion people struggling to survive on less than $2 a day? Why are 2 million Americans, mostly people of color, rotting away in prisons? Why do companies waste $250 billion a year worldwide on obnoxious advertisements to convince us to buy useless products that we don’t even need?
Productivity in a democratically planned economy would far surpass the productivity of a “free market” economy. A global socialist economy, democratically controlled by all the workers and consumers rather than an elite class of private investors, would employ the fifth of the world’s adult population that is currently unemployed, increasing our workforce by almost a billion people. This would enable us to shorten the workweek to 30 hours by sharing out the work, while raising productivity and living standards.
If capitalism’s insane drive for short-term profits was ended, shoddy products and environmental destruction would become a thing of the past. Products would be built to last. With democratic control over the economy, we would phase out polluting industries, like the oil companies that cause global warming and plunge our world into war for the sake of their profits. We could massively invest in fast, convenient, free public transportation and alternative energy sources that work for people and the environment.
No More War
Under capitalism, $1 trillion a year is wasted worldwide on military spending. The U.S. alone has almost half that amount, $400 billion budgeted for the military each year. That’s over $1 billion a day. Worldwide, nearly a third of all scientists and engineers in research and development are involved in the military.
What if all that money and labor was spent on wiping out poverty instead of war? That would root out terrorism far more than Bush’s wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, which will actually lead to more atrocious terrorist attacks.
It’s not human nature or greed but rather class society that causes war. Capitalism is the modern form of class society where each country’s ruling class is forced to compete endlessly for resources and power with the ruling classes of other nations, economically and militarily. The ruling class of a nation has no qualms about sending working class people of their country off to die in wars to defend the ruling class’ profits and power.
If the working class of each country rose up, took their corporations under public ownership, and created a classless society, we could provide a very high standard of living for everyone. There would be no more wars over resources because everyone’s basic needs would be provided for, and no longer would powerful countries and corporations pillage and plunder poor countries.
Big business owners argue that socialism would take away the freedom and initiative of the individual. But it is capitalism that is running small shops out of business, as the Wal-Marts take over and homogenize the culture of every town.
Corporations have developed elaborate marketing techniques that hook children from an early age on certain consumer habits and products. They use TV to raise generations of passive spectators and consumers. Their ideal society is an entire population of drones, who follow orders and mindlessly work and shop like cogs in a machine.
The ruling class has convinced many working class and oppressed people that their low social status is due to the fact that they are not as talented and hard-working as CEOs, or as special as glamorous (usually white) movie stars. The cosmetics and fashion industries want us to feel insecure so that we will keep buying their latest products. They have women telling themselves: “My thighs are too fat. I am so ugly.” Corporate marketers try to make women focus almost exclusively on their sex appeal, at the expense of developing their minds, skills, and confidence.
The ruling class oppresses certain genders, races, and nationalities in order to have a cheap pool of labor and to try to divide the working class. Politicians try to convince white male workers that their jobs are being taken by women or people of color, while these same politicians trade away our jobs through NAFTA and WTO trade agreements.
If working men and women stood up against all forms of oppression and capitalism, we could create a truly free society where there would no longer be a ruling class interested in exploiting, controlling, and dividing us.
The U.S. is supposedly a democracy, but what kind of democracy only has two parties that are both funded and controlled by corporate cash? The last Presidential election showed how the Electoral College and Supreme Court ultimately decide who is President anyway, regardless of who gets the most votes.
A working class revolution would transform our sham democracy into a real democracy, extending democratic decisions to all aspects of life. Workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, and all institutions would be democratically controlled by elected councils of workers, consumers and communities. In most socialist revolutions, working class people formed community and workplace councils, which began to link up on a regional and national level. A national congress of workers’ councils could form the basis for an alternative workers’ government.
To ensure accountability in a socialist democracy, elected public representatives would be subject to immediate recall, and they would not receive any more money or privileges than the average worker they represented.
A socialist government would have a multi-party system and would guarantee the right to freedom of speech, association, press, and religion. Discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, creed, and disability would be prohibited.
The overwhelming majority of U.S. media outlets are owned by only 5 megacorporations who control the news. By taking these corporations into public ownership, the mass media could be opened up to every point of view.
A Nice Idea in Theory but…
The capitalists’ main argument against socialism is: “Socialism is a great idea in theory, but it doesn’t work in practice. Wherever it’s tried, like in Russia, it always results in a dictatorship because humans are greedy by nature.”
Human beings are not necessarily greedy or selfish, but we are self-interested. However, that is precisely why socialists are confident that socialism is entirely possible – because it is in the material interest of the majority of the world’s population, the international working class, who will only take so much exploiation before they fight back.
Until now, the only countries where capitalism has been overthrown has been in semi-colonial countries like Russia, China, and Cuba. Privately owned industries were taken under state ownership, a planned economy replaced the market system, and living standards rose dramatically for a period. However, these were not “communist” or “socialist” countries as their governments claimed, but rather brutal Stalinist dictatorships.
These dictatorships arose not because human nature is greedy, but because there was not enough industry and material resources for socialism to work in these semi-colonial countries. Socialism can only work in an industrialized country where there is enough resources to satisfy the population’s basic needs.
The working class can take power and begin to build a socialist society in either an industrialized or a predominantly agricultural country, but genuine democratic socialism cannot be established in a country unless the movement succeeds in overthrowing capitalism in at least one advanced capitalist country, which could then support a developing socialist country.
Is Socialism Really Possible?
There has been challenge after challenge to capitalism by the working class in the 19th and especially the 20th centuries, although you’d never know it from most school textbooks. There were working class revolutions in Paris 1871, Russia 1905 and 1917, throughout Europe after the 1917 Russian Revolution, in Spain 1936-9, France and Italy 1945, China 1949, Cuba 1959, France again 1968, Portugal 1974, and Eastern Europe, Russia and China 1989-1991. And this is by no means a complete list, particularly in the colonial countries which experienced a massive wave of revolutions in the past 50 years.
Due to the crisis of U.S. capitalism, the U.S. working class has dealt a serious blow to our living standards over the last 30 years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one out of four children now live below the official poverty line, and over 41 million people have no health insurance. Americans now work six more weeks per year than in 1979.
Corporate America is trying to squeeze more profits out of the workforce, but the working class will not tolerate this forever. As the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, there will inevitably be social explosions around the world, even in the U.S. The recent massive anti-war movement is only a forerunner of bigger movements to come.
The working class already runs society. Nothing would move without the workforce. What we need is for the working class to become conscious of its power as a class, and organize itself into unions, organizations, and our own mass workers’ party, to take power and carry through the socialist transformation of society.
“I am a militant suffragist because I believe suffrage will lead to Socialism and to me Socialism is the ideal cause.”
– Helen Keller, Fighter for the rights of the disabled, women, and workers (1880-1968)
“I still consider myself a socialist. I think that particularly now in the U.S. with the education crisis, the housing crisis, the health crisis, the jobs crisis, we need to place discussions of socialism on our agenda.”
– Angela Davis, Leading African-American feminist and anti-prison activist
“I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those who do the oppressing. I believe there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation. I believe there will be that kind of clash, but I don’t think it will be based on the color of the skin…”
– Malcolm X
“You can’t have capitalism without racism. And if you find a person without racism and you happen to get that person into a conversation and they have a philosophy that makes you sure they don’t have this racism in their outlook, usually they’re a socialist or their political philosophy is socialism.”
– Malcolm X
“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”
– Karl Marx