|Illustration accompanying the original editorial.|
Editorial from the December 1981 issue of the Socialist Standard
What’s been happening in the world this year? Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed or injured in wars; some of these we’ve read about in newspapers or seen on television screens; others, in Eritrea, Timor or Cambodia have been ignored or forgotten about. Many more hundreds of thousands of people, in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America, have been fleeing from these wars and filling the world’s refugee camps. Tens of thousands of people have been arrested, tortured or murdered. Millions of people (about 30 million) have died of starvation and many millions more have been left so weak from undernourishment that irreversible damage has been caused to their mental and physical faculties. Millions of children, from Thailand and South Korea to Africa and South America have worked in semi-slavery and under conditions that defy description.
It has to be admitted that none of this is new. Equally horrific things have taken place at other times in human history. But the difference today is that, for the first time, these scourges could be eliminated. Famine, torture, disease and war need no longer plague the human race. There could be enough food, shelter, clothing and other things to satisfy everyone’s needs the world over. Much infectious illness could be a thing of the past everywhere. Wars are popular with virtually no one and most people would like nothing better than to see all the inhabitants of the earth live in peace together.
Yet nearly all of us, without knowing it, give our support to and help perpetuate the very things we find unacceptable. We endorse the poverty, hunger, cruelty and warfare that blight humanity. We do it every time we express support for the big political parties, every time we vote for them. Because all of these parties stand for the continuation of a world system of which poverty, hunger, cruelty and warfare are an integral part. They stand for a system that will only produce goods when there is a profit to be made and which can never therefore hope to put food in the belly or clothes on the back of people who have no cash to pay for it. And when profits can’t be made, even goods that have already been produced aren’t given to needy people. They’re stored, burned, dumped or buried - anything else would “upset the market”. So large ‘gluts’ of food and other goods are produced in some parts of the world while millions go starving or undernourished elsewhere. All the big parties say they are opposed to this, but they are all committed to administering the system that makes it happen.
The big parties also say they are opposed to war. But when it comes to it, they all accept war and prepare for it. They give encouragement or help to one side or the other in bloody conflicts taking place in other parts of the globe. They insist that they themselves must have ready the best and most sophisticated weapons in order to “protect the country”. But when we consider that, in all countries, the vast majority of the wealth is owned by a tiny minority of the population, we can see who is getting the best deal from “protection”. Wars break out - as a nuclear war could break out — when the economic interests of this wealth-owning minority (their markets, trade routes and sources of raw materials) are threatened and their profits are endangered. And then the only protection ordinary people get is to be told to fight and die for the country. The protection that even civilian populations get is derisory. As many modern examples have shown, they suffer death, misery and destruction on a large scale.
How then do we go about not supporting poverty, famine, disease and war? The answer is to take a long hard look at the world around us, to see that all attempts to improve the nightmare system of production for profit are futile, and to join a vigorous democratic movement determined to replace it by the society of abundance, equality and security which is there for the taking. But it can only be taken when a majority of men and women use their votes not to elect leaders who promise to run things for them but send to the seats of political power democratically elected delegates from a mass socialist party who are committed to one thing and one thing only the abolition of the outdated system of money, wages, profit and buying and selling and the bringing in of a new, truly humane society which will produce only for people’s needs and will make full rational democratic use of the abundant resources of planet earth.