From May 2004 issue of the World Socialist newsletter
An Open Letter to the Workers of the World
The world we live in is one that is fraught with contradictions. Some 800 million of our fellow humans are chronically malnourished and at least 1.2 billion will, on any one day, go without food.
At the same time, the governments of the world destroy of vast amounts of food to keep prices high. They stockpile food until it rots and pay farmers to take land out of production. Why? Because the laws of supply and demand insist that you cannot eat unless they can make money from it.
600 million people are homeless, many sleeping on the streets, yet there is no shortage of vacant buildings and certainly no shortage of building materials. Again, we find that the market not only dictates who does and does not eat, but who does and does not have a home.
Over one billion have no access to clean water, while its growing scarcity will cause many wars this coming century. Meanwhile, the technology exists to desalinate millions of gallons each day and to set up treatment plants capable of cleaning the dirtiest water. However, there is not much profit in selling something which covers five-sixth’s of the planet, so the investment never comes.
Millions of children die each year of curable diseases, we still await breakthroughs in medical science. But there are literally thousands of scientists around the world employed in weapons programs – paid by their respective governments to devise new methods of murder, including germ warfare.
The list is as endless as it is insane. At every turn we see how capitalism destroys us physically and emotionally. At every turn we come smack up against the law of our age – “can’t pay, can’t have”. At every turn we find capitalism infecting all it comes into contact with.
Capitalism has enabled some fantastic technological feats. Demands of war sparked a race for rocket technology that has explored the furthest limits of the solar system. The search for oil and other resources has plumbed the deepest oceans and map out the ocean beds. We can split the atom, map the human genome, and perform amazing organ transplants. Nothing, it seems, is beyond us. Our capabilities are awe-inspiring. Sadly, in spite of the technology at our disposal, the never-ending demand for profits means that we have entered the 21st century with us every social ill that plagued the previous century. War, hunger, poverty, disease, and homelessness are still with us, and are rooted in the way we continue to organize our society. The irony is we are already capable of solving the major problems that face us. And we have been capable of solving them for quite some time – just not within capitalism.
Over 20 years ago, the World Health Organization announced that the ability existed to feed a world population twelve times its (then) size. However, the requirements of profit everywhere act as a stumbling block not only to the full use of the productive forces, but also to the full and unhindered use of science and technology in the service of humanity.
Socialists long ago realized that the problems we face are in fact social problems, because they have their roots in the way our world is organized for the production of profit, not need.
When you think about it,you’ll be hard pressed to find any aspect of our lives that is not subordinated to the requirements of profit. And this is the case the world over.
What is to be done?
If this is the case, then what can we do about it? Real socialists believe the only way forward lies in abolishing the money/wages/profit system that we know as capitalism and establishing a world of free access to the benefits of human knowledge. Then can we assert control over our own destiny, where we can enjoy a world in which there is no waste, pollution, want or war.
Since 1904, the World Socialist Movement has been advocating the establishment of such a system: a global society based upon the common and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing the things people need to live.
We advocate a world without borders, social classes, leaders, governments and armies. A world without money or wages, exchange, buying and selling. Where people can give freely of their abilities and take according to their own self-defined needs. A global system in which each person has a free and democratic say in how their world is run.
Human nature no barrier
Many people agree that such a world should be a beautiful place to live in. But they believe that “human nature” will always be a barrier, because humans are “by nature” greedy, selfish and aggressive. It is apparent what they are describing is not innate human nature, but behavior exhibited under particular circumstances. A human behavior shaped by the kind of system people are brought up in. Nobody is born as a racist or a patriot, as a bigot or with a belief in gods. Nobody is born a murderer, a robber or a rapist, and our alleged greed for money is no more a function of the natural human thought process than were slavery or witch burning.
The ideas of working people have been usually been acquired secondhand, passed down from the ruling class above us. Because the class which owns and controls the productive process, they also control the society’s intellectual life. Anti-social behavior is influenced by social circumstances at any given time, i.e., when we are poor, depressed, lonely, angry and frustrated.
Those who produce the world’s wealth are given educations which makes free-thought difficult. Our upbringings conditions us to accept without question the ideas of our “leaders”, bosses and superiors. The education system is geared to perpetuate the rule of an elite, insofar as it never encourages children to question and take issue with the status quo.
We believe that humans are by nature cooperative. For example look when communities are faced with the disasters, our humanity shines through and we “pull together” and cooperate to get through. There are millions of cases of people donating their blood and organs to complete strangers, sacrificing their lives for others, of people giving countless hours of their free time to charitable work – all of this without financial incentive.
Today, world capitalism threatens the human race with extinction. The reason this obnoxious system survives is because we accept it. Rest assured, no gene inclines us to defend the profit system.
Socialism hasn’t been tried
Many tell us that socialism has been tried and has failed. They then point to the former Soviet Union, to China, Cuba, etc., etc. But what was passed off as socialism was in fact state capitalism. A glance at these countries reveals they never abolished the wage system. Workers were exploited to support ruling classes and and those rulers outlawed dissent. They produced only profitable to do so, traded according to the dictates of international capital and were prepared to go to war to defend their economic interests.
Moreover it was believed that socialism could be established by force and that socialism could exist in one country. The Bolsheviks maintained that the revolution could only be carried out by a minority vanguard party and that workers were unable to understand the case for change.
Since 1904, our movement has maintained that socialism, like capitalism, can only exist on a global scale. Socialism will only come about when a majority of the world’s people want it and are prepared to organize for it peacefully and democratically. No vanguard can establish socialism – as Marx said: “the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself”.
We can do it
Agreeing with Marx, the WSM believes that there are two classes in society – the working class and the capitalist class, each determined by its relationship to the means of living. The capitalist class own and control the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, and live as parasites off profits, rent and interest. The working class, own little more than our ability to sell our physical and mental abilities to the highest bidder.
The working class runs the world and it is important to grasp this fact. It is we who fish the oceans and tend the forests and till the land and plantations. It is we who build the cities and railroads, the bridges and roads, the docks and airports. It is we who staff the hospitals and schools,who empty the bins and go down the sewers. It is workers who produce everything society needs and provides all of its services.
The capitalists and their governments have no monopoly on our skills and abilities. These belong to us. Most inventions and improvements are the result of those who do the actual work thinking up easier ways of completing a task. The result of ideas being passed down, each one improving the techniques of the previous generations. If those who work so much in a world hobbled by the profit motive, then how much more are we capable of providing in a world free from profits?
Capitalism must go
We must admit that capitalism has raised some potentials of humanity. It is now quite possible to provide a comfortable living for every human on the planet. But if we follow the capitalist trajectory, we’re in for some pretty troublesome times.
But capitalism is a barrier to the fair and needed use of the world’s productive forces. In a world of potential abundance, profit imposes widespread artificial scarcity. Billions of humans are consigned to a life of abject poverty, whilst millions more live lives filled with uncertainty.
Our ability to imagine has brought us from the days when our ancestors chipped away at the first tools. Is it really such a huge leap of the imagination to envision a social system that can take over from the capitalist order?
Do we really need leaders deciding our lives for us? Do we need governments administering our lives when what is needed is the administration of the things? Must every decision be decided by what is the most profitable? Many don’t think so and have mobilized to confront what they perceive as major problems with capitalism.
There has been a worldwide backlash against globalization, corporate power and other iniquities of capitalism. Everywhere where the world’s elite have assembled, they have been met with protests that have attracted hundreds of thousands. Demonstrations in Seattle, etc. have fuelled ongoing debate on the nature of capitalism. And thousands of articles have been published that explore the alternatives offered by the anti-globalisation movement.
It is now clear is that the anti-globalisation movement cannot replace capitalism with any real alternative social system. It simply is a loose coalition of different groups, each pursuing their own agenda. Some the reform of international institutions. Others call for fairer trading conditions. All, however, fail to address the root cause of the problems of capitalism.
Capitalism cannot be reformed in the interests of the world’s billions, because reform does not address the basic contradiction between profit and need. Governments cannot be depended upon because they only act as an executive of capitalism. An expansion of democracy, while welcome, makes little difference if candidates can only offer variations on the same policies.
Capitalism must be abolished if we as a species are to thrive. No amount of reform, however great, will work. Change must be global and irreversible. It must involve all of us. We need to erase borders and frontiers; to abolish states and governments and false concepts of nationalism. We need to abolish our money systems, and with it buying, selling and exchange. And in place of this we need to establish a different global social system – a society in which there is common ownership and true democratic control of the Earth’s natural and industrial resources. A society where the everyday things we need to live in comfort are produced and distributed freely and for no other reason than that they are needed.
It is not an utopian fantasy to suggest we can live in such a world. We certainly have the know-how. All that is missing is the will – the desire for change that can make that advance possible; a belief in ourselves as masters of our own destiny; a belief that it is possible to fashion a world in our own interests.
Socialists build that new world, by building the understanding of what Socialism will be like. And we need your help. Socialism needs your writing, organizing and artistic skills. Please join us.