Editorial: the Problems Facing Humanity

The problems facing humanity? Where to start? In fact, where to finish? The list is endless. With the millions of children under five who die each year from starvation or starvation-related diseases – unnecessarily, since enough food exists in the world to keep them alive and when farmers in Europe and America are being paid to take their land out of agricultural production? Or with the millions of others in the world who live in appalling housing and sanitary conditions while resources are wasted on the development of the most sophisticated weapons of mass destruction? Or with the millions of people in this country who live in conditions which even the government classifies as unfit or who are actually homeless, while at the same time there are unemployed building workers and huge stockpiles of bricks and other building materials? Or with the problems of health care, pollution, crime and financial insecurity that affect all of us to one degree or another?

Socialists contend that all these problems are inter-related in that they have a common root cause – in the fact that today production is carried on not to meet people’s needs but to make a profit.

If we lived in a world where production was geared to meeting people’s needs then we would go on producing food as long as there was anybody would needed it. Nobody would starve. Nobody would go without enough decent food to eat. Similarly, nobody would go without adequate health care or housing. How could they where the main aim of production would be to satisfy people’s needs, beginning with their basic needs?

But we are not living in a world that is geared to satisfying people’s needs. We are living in a world where production does not take place unless those who own and control productive resources think they can make a financial profit out of selling what is produced. The basic economic law today is “no profit, no production”. If something can’t be sold at a profit, then it won’t be produced. That’s what production for the market means. If you don’t have any money, then you don’t count as far as the economic system is concerned. That’s why millions of people go without enough food in the world today. They need food but because they’ve no money, they don’t constitute a market; or, as the economists put it cynically, their demand is not “effective”.

That’s how the profit system works. It puts the profits of the few before the needs of the many. We Socialists say that this is the only way it can work and that it is therefore a waste of time and energy to try to reform it, to try to make it work in the interests of the majority. This just can’t be done. It’s impossible. The profit system can only work as a profit-making system in the interests of those who live off profits. “Profits first, People second” is an iron law of the system which can’t be altered. So, the choice is clear: either you accept the logic of the system and go along with it or you work to end the system altogether.

Keeping the system and trying to make it work against its logic is not a viable option. Such reformism has been tried over the years and has failed. What we advocate is the replacement of the profit system by socialism. Real socialism, that is, which has nothing to do with Labour administration of capitalism and even less with the state-capitalist dictatorships which failed so miserably in Russia and East Europe.

Socialism is the opposite of capitalism in that it means the application of the principle “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”, whereas capitalism only distributes goods and services to people according to their ability (and non-ability) to pay for them.

Common ownership, democratic control, production for use, “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs” is what socialism means and it alone provides the framework within which the problems currently facing humanity – world poverty and hunger, global pollution, etc, etc, etc – can be solved. But it can only come into being democratically, when a majority of people want and understand it. So the urgent task of the minority of Socialists who exists today is to help make more Socialists so as to become the majority. Which is what the Socialist Party is all about.

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