From the November 2003 issue of the Socialist Standard
Today, in the first years of this 21st century, we can look back on the climactic events of the 20th, and see that indeed, that was the defining century of capitalism. Capitalism as an economic system has existed in tiny segments throughout history, but it was not until the 19th and especially the 20th that it became the truly global system it is today.
With the triumph of capitalism over feudalism, many thinkers analysed the new system and saw how it could be converted from the system of continued class tyranny and exploitation into an instrument of global prosperity and progress for all. While Marx was frustrated in his yearning for communism, it was probably not a practical possibility during his time. He died with Europe firmly enthralled in capitalism, and the rest of the world soon to follow.
Now however, in the 21st century, after many years of capitalism as the definitive world system, we have seen at first hand how despicable and outdated the system is. Two massive world wars, with workers butchering each other for the interests of global capital, have caused millions upon millions of deaths. Since then it has been near endless war in some part of the world or another, all perpetuated by the endless demands of capital to accumulate more and more. Untold amounts of resources have been squandered by the rival capitalist states in new and more powerful means of suppression and destruction in order to protect their interests. It has come to the point where they possess the weaponry to destroy all life on the planet.
The Earth's atmosphere itself is becoming less and less hospitable to human life, as pollutants are released because rival capitalists desperately compete with each other to cut costs and gain greater profits. Millions of people are starving amid plenty even as food is destroyed to drive up prices on the markets to yield continued profits. People across the world endure terrible and alienating working conditions, with claims of a “classless society” spouted by the reformists a laughable and unrealisable utopia within the present system. Poverty has not been eradicated in the “developed world” and poverty in the “third world” is not a product of some unassailable trait of human nature, but a matter of the productive system that is capitalism. All this and more assaults the human race as a vast unsolvable problem, a nightmare with no end, and apathy soon sets in. In fact there is a solution; never in history has socialism been so relevant as it is now.
No matter how much it has been lied about, ridiculed and twisted from its original form, scientific socialism is now, more then ever, needed to solve the crisis humanity finds itself in.
Socialism is common ownership. Socialism is production for need. Socialism is real democracy.
Socialism is for the global working class, who can use the vast productive powers for the free development of all. We, in the 21st century, now have that potential. It is possible to house everyone. It is possible to feed everyone. It is possible for everyone to live a decent and fulfilling life as real people, and not just as objects on the labour market. The only thing stopping this is the outdated profit system that constrains production to the will of private property and privilege.
The productive powers have been increased to a vast degree, yet people are still idle, starving, poverty stricken, and homeless, while the machinery of production is misused or neglected. This must change. This will change. This, the 21st century, can be the true century of revolution, of true socialist revolution. We must abandon the faith misplaced in the leaders and apologists of capitalism and move on, ourselves, to our new global society, where the free development of each will be the condition for the free development of all. These words have never been more relevant than they are now, and we have nothing to lose but our chains, and a world to win. Workers of all countries unite!