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Editorial: The future capitalism offers

The last century saw two world wars and a prolonged cold war as up-and-coming capitalist states tried to challenge the domination of the world by the powers that had got there first Britain and France with their colonial empires. Each time the top dogs beat off the challenge. In the end, America reduced Britain and France to second-rate status too. Now a new challenger is emerging: China.

The rulers of China have set themselves the task of building up their state as an industrial and military super-power to rival America and have begun investing in Africa and Latin America with a view to securing supplies of raw materials such as iron ore, copper, nickel, cobalt and, of course, oil. And the world’s currently-dominant power America and its satellites like Britain are worried. Insatiable Beijing scours the world for power and profit was the shrill headline in the Times of London on 12 January. Already their defence (the Orwellian word for war) strategists are planning to build up their military might yet further to counter the challenge from China. So much for the so-called peace dividend of which there was briefly talk after the challenge from Russia was seen off.

Access to oil has already caused many wars in the Middle East and was a factor in the last world war. Hitlers apparently mad decision to invade Russia was prompted by a desire to gain control of the oil resources of the Caspian area. One of Japans aims, too, was access to oil in British-controlled Burma and Dutch-controlled Indonesia.

China today is in the same position as Japan before the last world war. That is the analysis of the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute in its annual State of the World report, for 2006, published last month. According to the summary in the Times, the report draws the parallel between Japan in the 1930s and China today. It recalls that it was Japans inability to secure its oil supplies from South-East Asia that prompted its entry into the Second World War. Today Beijing is strengthening its Navy to protect its energy supplies, shipped at great distances from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

The report risked an understatement:

“The prospect of countries ranging from the United States and China to Japan and Saudi Arabia – together with the world’s terrorists – vying for physical control of the world’s oil does not sound like a prescription for global security.”

After adding that India too would be involved in the scramble for oil and other resources, Worldwatch President, Chris Flavin, concluded: We therefore face a choice: rethink almost everything, or risk a downward spiral of political competition and economic collapse.

Yes, that’s the choice we really do face. The Worldwatch Institute was set up by the advocate of world government, Lester Brown, in 1974. Treating the world as one unit, so that issues such as resource allocation and protection of the global environment could be tackled on the only scale they can be, is certainly rethinking on the right lines. But world government in the context of continuing capitalist production for profit would not work. What is required as the only way to avoid the risk of the 21st century being a repeat of the 20th is world socialism as

 a world community without frontiers where the natural and industrial resources of the Earth have become the common heritage of all Humanity.