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Too good to be true

We are conditioned to accept the absurdities and contradictions that capitalism throws up.

It is possible now to build a world where every single human being is adequately provided with the material means of a full and happy life in a truly meaningful democratic society; where there is no such thing as world hunger; where wars and armaments no longer exist; where all have access to the knowledge and information they desire and where the system of rich and poor, the brutal class system that alienates human beings from one another, is a historical memory.

Actually that statement is not correct. It is not possible to create such a world now because one feature essential in its creation does not exist. In order to discern the missing element in a world of such promise it would be useful to examine the components that would be required to make a reality of what, from our present perspective, must seem like a dream world.

First we might look at the physical requirements of the world we are considering; is there the means, real or potential, to create the enormous quantities of food and other materials to provide sufficiency for all? To answer that question we must look at how wealth is produced now and how it would be produced in the world we are considering.

One thing is common to the production of wealth in whatever form of society we live in: it is produced from the resources of nature by human labour power whether, as in the past, by a human hand or, as now or in the future, by the most advanced technological means. However, the factors that currently determine what is produced and how it is distributed would differ fundamentally in the society we are considering from those that obtain today.

Current economic crisis
We could not make this point more graphically than by referring to the current chapter in the cyclic crisis which our present mode of production has thrown up.

These crises, which cause an intensification of poverty through unemployment and most often the restricting or slashing of vital public services, are an inevitable result of the normal capitalist way of organising the production and distribution of wealth. The terrible effects of these breakdowns in the productive and distributive process of what is increasingly a globally integrated system are usually, as now, world-wide and, given that the countries affected are governed by parties right across the political spectrum, from Right to Left clearly shows that neither national identity or political labelling offers protection from global capitalism's trade cycles.

By looking briefly at 'the Credit Crunch' – the media's sobriquet for the latest in slumps – we can discern why millions of people have lost their jobs, why political parties are making policies out of which set of politicians will be least savage in cutting social welfare 'benefits' including health care and education. The wealth-producing equation (the providence of nature plus human labour power) is the same now as it was three or four years ago when, in capitalist terms, the economy was flourishing. As then, both the human factor and the material potential of nature remain available; there is no physical bar to full production not only to its previous levels but to the levels required to provide adequately for every human being on the planet within the system we are contemplating Why then is there such a dramatic slowdown in the production of human needs which, in turn is expressed in massive increases of unemployment and poverty within the working class?

Legal right
The answer clearly is the motive currently underpinning the production of goods and services and that motive arises from the fact of ownership. Legally the great majority of the world's population have no right to the food, clothing and shelter they need in order to continue to exist as human beings. That sounds an utterly outrageous statement to make but it is quite clearly demonstrated by the fact that the means of life, the resources of nature, and the tools of production and distribution are legally owned by a relatively small minority class of people who generally enjoy rich lives of wealth and privilege based on the profits they extract from their ownership.

If you lived in an area of the world where death frequently occurs from malnutrition of lack of necessary medication you would know that what is said in the foregoing is true. You would know that the victims of hunger and preventable disease are people who are unable to get the food or medicine they desperately need to sustain their lives not because the means to satisfy these needs are not available but because they do not have the money to buy them.

In more politically and economically sophisticated countries such evidence is less evident. Nevertheless, the things that people need are directly or indirectly the property of the capitalist class and are released by way of sale with a view to profit. In other words, goods and services are produced in the form of commodities for the market and, generally, will not be produced if a viable market does not exist.

Obviously minority ownership of our means of life, either directly or through the state, could not form the basis of the politically and economically free society mooted at the beginning of this article. To achieve that it is necessary to abolish the legal framework on which minority ownership of our means of life is based; which means we need to bring about a democratic social revolution to get control of the law-making process vested in government.

Achieving control of government throughout the world for the purpose of establishing a system of common ownership in which everyone has the freedom to contribute their physical and mental skills to the production of the needs of their society and all have the right to freely avail of their individual needs will be a monumental task of political and social organisation. Its achievement will require a vast and willing effort in social co-operation on the part of humanity and yet looked at against our collective skills and wisdom it is a relatively simply job – always provided that we have the collective will to bring it about.

That collective will is the single factor we referred to at the commencement of this article; the single prevailing condition that stands between us and a world where civilised history will begin. A world without the greed and savage competition that breeds conflict, alienation and war; a world where our collective energies are directed to the nurture of ourselves and our planet. That collective will is the political consciousness that will bring about what we clearly define as Socialism.

The really hard bit
Most people today do not question the organisation and value systems behind the way we live. From an early age we learn that when we need something we have to pay for it either directly or indirectly or else, however essential it is to our health or happiness, we have to do without it. At an early age we commence our 'education', a process orientated towards inculcating the beliefs and values of the world we live in; its morality, its inflexible system of social organisation and how to compete for a place in the pecking order.

Effectively we are conditioned to accept the absurdities and contradictions that capitalism throws up. In our daily relations with one another we can identify and condemn those contradictions but when, as we are now doing, it is suggested that we should consider another way of organising the affairs of humanity the armour of rejection too often comes into play; the belief that we who run the world for the capitalists cannot run a considerably less complicated and rational alternative world society for ourselves.

The really hard bit is the beginning: simply considering that it might not be too good to be true.

RICHARD MONTAGUE