1990s >> 1993 >> no-1061-january-1993

Capitalism and the Comet

This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper.—The Hollow Men.

T.S. Eliot, it seems, was wrong. Dr Steel, an expert on asteroids and leader of the world’s largest team involved in sighting new pieces of celestial debris, recently informed the second Australian Space Development Conference that Comet Smith- Tuttle, first sighted in 1862 and rediscovered in September 1992, is on course to collide with the planet Earth on 14 August 2116.

Comet Smith-Tuttle is a 3.1-mile-wide ball of rock and ice travelling through space at a speed of 37 miles per second. The comet’s collision with the Earth will create an impact force of 20 million megatonnes, or about 1.6 million times the force of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. A head-on crash could destroy up to 95 percent of humanity.

With the plot of a thousand sci-fi novellas becoming fact, is any action likely to be immediately instigated to safeguard the future of our children’s children’s children? Having been given one hundred and twenty four years’ notice of this impending event, do we agree with Samuel Johnson that “when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully”? Or, is it pointless to concern ourselves with something which will not directly affect a single person alive today?

Putting one in mind of Sir Boyle Roche who asked “what has posterity done for us?’’, the leader column in the Times (26 October) takes a very facetious view of the whole affair. Whilst contemplating the effect of Comet Smith-Tuttle’s arrival upon the stock market and property prices in 2116, the paper concludes that placid contemplation of the world’s fate has always worked up to now. The Times is, however, surprised at the prospect of civilization being brought to and end by a comet. It shares the existing belief that Armageddon is likely to occur through man-made pollution or nuclear war.

Should we placidly accept that the present world-wide system of society— capitalism—will still exist in the twenty-second century? Will the natural competitive elements of a system dedicated to the exploitation of the planet’s resources for financial gain, and to the economic exploitation of the majority of people living on the planet, be suspended whilst global co-operation is exercised in finding some way of averting the threat to ruling class and working class alike?

The odds of a head-on collision with Comet Smith-Tuttle are calculated at 400 to 1. The odds on the world being destroyed by an “internal’’ agency rather than an external one must be considerably shorter. Contemplate the effect of another hundred years of a social system based upon production for profit, not need. A system where political and economic control rests with a small minority. A system where the majority are forced to sell their mental and physical labour power to that minority in order to live. A system where the increasing wealth created by the majority is appropriated by the minority.

Threat from down here
Although no-one now living aged one hundred years has ever experienced the effects of a major collision with the Earth of an extraterrestrial object, they would certainly have experienced several times over the effect of a capitalist crisis of over-production. The same edition of the Times that carried the report of Comet Smith-Tuttle. carried stories with a more contemporary significance. We learn that George Soros, an Hungarian-American financier made £589 million profit from Sterling speculation during ‘‘Black Wednesday”. There are reports covering the march through London of 200,000 workers in support of the redundant miners.

The protests and demonstrations by workers against the effect of yet another capitalist crisis of over-production are understandable but misplaced. Instead of agitating for a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work the working class should be engaged in political action with the object of abolishing the wages system completely. It must be obvious that the bumblings and blusterings of hypocritical politicians and “labour leaders’’ can no longer disguise the fact that they arc powerless to influence the actions of the market system.

Capitalism has run its course. The only question is how much longer the working class are prepared to see capitalism thrash about continuing to do untold harm to millions of workers. The working class has a choice. It can continue to choose to support a social system which brainwashes them, which bullies them, which suppresses them, which makes them homeless, which makes them hungry, which makes them poor, which exploits them and which kills them. Or the working class can choose to realize that we are many and they are few. It can choose to stop its own exploitation and decide to hasten the demise of capitalism and bring about a social system based upon common ownership of the means of production and distribution. The working class can choose to abolish poverty, abolish famine, abolish want, abolish lack of opportunity, abolish the wages system. abolish capitalism.

Without an understanding of the present social system and a desire to bring about the social changes needed if we are all to have a future, simply rioting in the streets will not bring about the social revolution required to implement real global cooperation. After bringing about, and winning, that revolution, the task of preventing a comet from colliding with, and destroying the world must surely be a simple task for a world which by then has known many years of working together to clear up the mess left by capitalism.

There is evidence that the dinosaurs, rulers of the Earth in their time, were made extinct when an asteroid collided with the Earth sixty-five million years ago. We are not dinosaurs, but the social system has become one. It needs to be made extinct. Human beings are the most highly evolved species which has ever inhabited this planet. It seems ludicrous and unlikely that we should allow capitalism, which long ago fulfilled its historical purpose, to continue to prevent us all from progressing toward a collective and individual potential which individuals in the past could only dream about.

Nemesis is not a comet named Smith-Tuttle. Nemesis is the world-wide working class deciding that capitalism has served its purpose and that the time has come to end capitalism now before capitalism has any more opportunities to put an end to us.

Dave Coggan