2000s >> 2005 >> no-1214-october-2005

Editorial: Time to Move On

As the Berlin Wall fell and the Kremlin’s Empire collapsed in Eastern Europe, Western leaders spoke about a “peace dividend” and how money previously spent on arms would be re-channelled into social programmes; redirected towards the fight against poverty, inequality and ignorance. Some spoke about “the end of history”, how capitalism was at last triumphant. Capitalism, at the dawn of a new millennium, had supposedly seen off its rivals and now, left to develop, would bring prosperity to all.

In reality:

  • World military spending for 2005: $1 trillion (or just over $31,709 per second)
  • Number of billionaires in the world: 691
  • Number of people malnourished: approx 815 million
  • 1 billion people lack access to clean water
  • 2.4 billion people lack access to decent sanitation
  • 17,280 children die every day from hunger
  • According to the most recent UN Human Development Report:

  • 54 countries are now poorer than they were in 1990, which is when world leaders made their “peace dividend” claim.
  • The world’s 225 richest individuals, of whom 60 are Americans with total assets of $311 billion, have a combined wealth of over $1 trillion – equal to the annual income of the poorest 47 percent of the entire world’s population.
  • The estimated additional cost of maintaining universal access to basic education, basic health care, reproductive health care, adequate food and clean water and safe sewers for all is roughly $40 billion a year, or less than 4 percent of the combined wealth of the 225 richest people in the world.
  • The richest fifth of the world’s people consumes 86 percent of all goods and services while the poorest fifth consumes just 1.3 percent.
  • The United Nations Children’s Fund reported in 2005 that one billion children, or half of the world’s population of children, suffer from poverty, violent conflict and the scourge of AIDS.
  • Capitalism may well have advanced the scientific and technological capabilities of humanity to a stage where we can now feasibly establish a world of abundance, a world without waste or want or war. But the facts speak for themselves. There are now more starving, thirsty, homeless and unemployed people on the planet than at any time in human history. Rather than providing for the needs of the world’s people, Capitalism stands as a fetter to the full and improved use of the world’s productive resources in the service of humanity.

    Capitalism need not be the end of history. It is just one station along the railway line of human social development at which we are presently standing. We can move on, progress. By progress, what we mean is socialism, a society based on common ownership, democratic control and production solely for use. Real change is possible, but only if enough of us really do want to move further along the track to where real human history begins.

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