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Editorial: Making Capitalism History

Staggering numbers of the world’s people live lives of abject poverty, on one dollar a day or less. They lack access to housing, health care, education, even to clean water, things taken for granted in the ‘developed’ world. Their lives are nasty, brutish and short, brought down by malnutrition and diseases which could be easily treated with simple medicines were these available. They may be victims of wars and expulsions, living in refugee camps or prey to thuggery and violence from governments and other rulers.

It’s not as if nobody knows or cares about their plight. Charities and international aid organisations devote their considerable resources and expertise to valiant efforts to improve the lot of the world’s poorest. Workers in developed capitalist countries willingly make donations to such as Oxfam, believing that they are doing some good in alleviating destitution. Celebrity concerts and fund-raising activities further provide opportunities for collecting money for such good causes.

Yet it all seems to have little effect. Despite the efforts of both the poor themselves and of the aid and charity workers, the conditions of people at rock bottom hardly improve. Indeed more join them as violence, disruptions and natural disasters add to the stock of people with little of their own except their lives. Whole generations are doomed to hunger and squalor until premature death cuts short their misery.

All this is unconscionable. That our fellow human beings are forced to survive in this state is an affront to us all, a vivid demonstration that all is not right with a world where such things happen, alongside billionaires and vastly-expensive military programmes. Nobody surveying the extent of poverty and inequality can be content with such a set-up.

And it is made worse by the fact that it is utterly unnecessary. The world can produce enough food, water and housing materials to provide the basic needs (and more) of all the Earth’s people. The poor simply do not constitute a market — there is no profit to be made out of selling food to the destitute, or from growing food for them. If the one dollar a day will not stretch to buying food, then too bad. Countries supposedly in the grip of famine hardly ever have an absolute food shortage, it’s just that the food available is sold to those who can afford to buy it or exported for consumption elsewhere.

So the solution is not more charity, more fund-raising, more flag days in the local high street. The solution is a world where food —  like all goods — is produced to satisfy need, not to make a profit. Starvation amid plenty would be quite impossible in a socialist society run along the lines of production for use, where there are no poor people and everyone has free access to what has been produced. The knowledge and commitment of farmers, scientists and others would be put towards producing enough food for all. This is technically possible now, but capitalism’s profit motive, its wars and rivalries, do not permit abundance to be realised. A society where all work together will have no problem in achieving the potential that humanity has brought about.