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Charity versus equity

Just before Christmas last year a letter arrived from Action Aid citing a number of manifestations of the iniquities of global capitalism. The letter was an appeal for funds, specifically for the ‘Global Campaign for Education’ to ‘make sure the governments of the world keep their promise to provide free primary education for all by 2015.’

Action Aid stressed that a donation isn’t a hand-out or an imposed solution but a project that puts power, decision-making and responsibility back into the hands of a whole community. In fact the appeal had a letter within the letter. Two teenage Guineans appealed by letter for the world’s poorest people to the people of Europe, wanting to give their message of a life of poverty in Africa, believing that the people of Europe could bring a solution. All they wanted was education, the key, they believed, to a better life in their home country. They said that because their families were poor the choice was between food and education. In attempting to carry their letter to Europe (believing their oral message may not reach its destination) they both perished in the undercarriage of the plane in which they’d stowed away, but their message did arrive in Brussels International Airport with their dead 14- and 15-year-old bodies.

The main points of their letter were wishing to seek help with the development of Africa; help to fight poverty; and to bring war to an end in Africa. (Guinea, with a population of about 9 million, shares borders with Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau and has had to contend with tens of thousands of refugees and numerous cross-border incursions in the last decade.) Finally, ‘however, our greatest need is education.’

Action Aid and other charities may be able to make a dent in alleviating some of the pressing problems affecting impoverished societies in Africa and other areas of the world, but these can only be dents because they don’t aim to change the system to one that can continue to support all societies in an equitable and sustainable manner.

Appropriate development such as desired by local communities, poverty elimination, an end to war everywhere and universal lifelong education are some of the fundamental principles of socialism as are power, decision-making and responsibility to be firmly in the hands of the people.

Certainly, support and compassion are needed meantime, but just imagine teams of people like these already established with logistics skills, people on the ground experienced in organising, a worldwide workforce empathetic to the importance of working for and with the community for common goals, at the time when the majority of the world’s people – in Africa, in Europe, in Asia and the Americas – are intent on working together with the sole aim of establishing a socialist world for the benefit of all, with no hindrance of class, colour, religion or wealth.

What better tribute could we give to these two courageous youths and to the thousands of others dying daily from malnutrition and preventable and curable diseases than to double our efforts at bringing about an end to the horrific, inhumane system called capitalism and replacing it with one based upon common ownership and democratic control by and in the interest of the whole community?

JANET SURMAN