Thursday, March 30, 2017

What Must We Do? (1990)

Editorial from the August 1990 issue of the Socialist Standard

Something is clearly wrong with the world. We exist as isolated atoms forced to compete in a rat-race to obtain money to buy what we must have to live. There is no real sense of community, because we are not a community but a class-divided society. What people get depends on how much money they have. The rich get the best that money can buy while the rest of us have to put up with what we can afford out of our wage packet or salary cheque—if we have one that is; otherwise we are even worse off.

Problems abound. People are homeless or live in substandard accommodation while building workers are unemployed and construction materials pile up. People starve in one part of the world while farmers in another are paid to take land out of food production. Every day somebody is killed in one of the wars which are always going on somewhere. The major powers have stockpiled enough weapons to destroy humanity many times over. The air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink have all been contaminated or poisoned in one way or another by the processes employed by industry and agribusiness, while global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer, resulting from these same processes, threaten humanity with an alternative sticky end to nuclear annihilation.

All these problems have a single cause; the wages-profits-money system that is capitalism under which production is in the hands of competing, profit-seeking enterprises, whether these be privately or state owned. Those concerned about these problems should be working to eliminate their cause rather than on trying to deal with the symptoms. They should be working to build up a movement to take democratic action to replace capitalism with socialism. Not the fake socialisms that have been tried by Labour governments or in Russia but socialism in its true, original sense of a democratic system of co-operation to produce goods and services solely to satisfy needs not make profits. Within this framework of common ownership and democratic control these problems can be solved once and for all for the simple reason that there will be no built-in obstacles in the way of doing so—such as the need to minimise costs so as to maximise profits.

Attempting to deal piecemeal with one of the symptoms while leaving the cause intact—which is what organisations like CND, Friends of the Earth, Shelter, Help the Aged, War on Want and the others are engaged in—can never solve the particular problem they have targetted. At best, it can only alleviate it a little, for some of the victims. At worst, it delays the solution by encouraging the illusion that the problem could be solved within the present system.

Single-issue organisations are engaged in a never-ending battle to try to limit the damage done in one particular field by the profit system. But this is like running up a downward-moving escalator where "success" consists in staying in the same position rather than slipping backwards. This is sticking- plaster politics when what is required is radical surgery.

The solution lies in establishing a system of common ownership and democratic control of the means of production by all the people. This is the only framework within which humans can control their own destiny instead of being dominated by some privileged elite or by the blind economic forces of the market. The technical means already exist to provide every man, woman and child on this planet with proper food, clothing, shelter, health-care and education. What stands in the way is the profit system. So let's get rid of it and achieve a world without hunger, poverty, pollution, war, oppression or exploitation—a world of co-operation, peace and plenty.



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