Pathfinders – Up for grabs

Party politics may have been grabbing the UK headlines in the past few weeks, and continue to do so worldwide as 2024 sees a record 2 billion voters going to the polls in 50 countries, but behind the scenes, capitalist states and corporations are continuing their efforts to grab everything they can get their hands on in a relentless pursuit of future profits.

Billed somewhat improbably is ‘the biggest story of the 21st century’, a new documentary called The Grab goes into detail about how, overnight, a Chinese firm became the owner of almost one in four American pigs, while Saudi Arabian investors were behind land acquisitions in Arizona and Zambia, and various other state and corporate actors have been busily acquiring overseas food and water resources in a bid to fence in future supplies that are set to be as contested as oil was in the last century (

It’s hard though to see this as genuinely ‘shocking’ unless one genuinely has no idea how capitalism works. Capitalism is all about grabbing, plundering and poaching, much of it routinely under-reported. Take species extinction, driven by climate change but further exacerbated by retail markets. Wild endangered species are being poached for bushmeat, with the accelerator effect that the rarer the animal becomes, the more valuable it is as a commodity.

The black rhino is now critically endangered due to poaching, with a population collapse of 96 percent. Endangered pangolins are the world’s most poached animal, for use in Chinese so-called traditional medicine or to make American handbags and cowboy boots, while African elephants are predicted to go extinct within 50 years. In Uganda and Rwanda, a perpetual war over gorilla poaching claims lives every year as national park rangers face being murdered by poachers who themselves have no realistic alternative sources of income. In the Congo five million tonnes of bushmeat are exported every year, mostly for the wealthy Asia market. Bonobos – that iconic species much admired for their non-violent and non-hierarchical behaviour – are now endangered by devastating poaching. To this toll can be added antelopes, buffalo, African grey parrots (99 percent population crash in Ghana), orang-utans, chimps and gibbons, lions, tigers, turtles and a variety of less well-known species (

Animals don’t even have to be alive to be poached. A recent story detailed how the private and often illegal trade in fossils is getting in the way of genuine science, because the dollar value of big-ticket items, like a recently discovered complete Stegosaurus fossil, mean that museums often can’t afford to outbid private collectors and so lose much valuable research material. Even worse is the ruthless plundering that accompanies illegal digs, with bones being smashed and fossils removed with no documentation to show where they came from, rendering them useless for future research purposes (

It would be pointless to blame the individuals behind all this, who are simply being pragmatic about what they need to do to survive and thrive in capitalism, just as corporations do. If we collectively abolish the right of private individuals to own socially necessary resources, and thus remove at a stroke the basis of the buying and selling money system, all of the above would cease in an instant.

But while the dollar signs are flashing, there will be no signs of improvement, in any field of endeavour. Readers of this magazine may recall previous articles (eg, December 2015) on the mysterious archaeological site of Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, whose discovery threw the materialist ‘standard model’ of human social development into utter disarray. At the time, only 5 percent of the extensive site had been excavated, with the 95 percent remainder concealing who-knew-what assumption-busting discoveries. So, nearly ten years on, how much more of the site has been excavated and what new exciting things do we know? The answers are none and nothing, thanks to private sector management. A deal with the World Economic Forum has resulted in the site being left ‘for future generations’, which is a thinly veiled excuse to stop funding research and instead start monetising what little has been exposed with the erection of enclosures and walkways, which involve driving huge steel spikes into unexamined archaeology for the purpose of generating tourist dollars (

But perhaps the biggest indictment of capitalism’s disregard of decency in favour of dosh is right above our heads, on most nights of the year. Last month China unfurled its flag on the dark side of the moon, which in the last year has seen landings by India and Japan, along with private US firm Intuitive Machines. Nasa is aiming for a 2026 crewed landing, while China plans to send humans there by 2030, with all parties keen to build permanent bases using frozen water assumed to be in deep craters at the moon’s South Pole. And what of the venerable 1967 Outer Space Treaty, signed by 100 countries to the effect that no nation could own the Moon? Well, that was when nobody had even got there, and the likelihood of finding anything useful there was the faintest of moon glimmers. But now that large quantities of rare earth minerals, iron, titanium and helium-3 are known to be there, states are taking a much less high-minded view. The US in 2015 passed a law allowing itself to mine and sell any space material, and other countries are scrambling to give themselves similar ‘legal’ permissions ( Really, capitalism ought to be called ‘The Grab’. But for all workers who live under the moon, what’s really up for grabs is a vastly better collective future without it.


Next article: Our candidates in the July 2024 election ➤

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