We live in a world which has the potential to adequately feed, house and provide clean water and decent medical care for every single man, woman and child on Earth. The resources exist to banish material want as a problem for members of the human race. Yet millions throughout the world are malnourished, live in squalor or are actually dying of starvation or starvation-related diseases. The big question that faces the human race is what can be done about it?
Last month various pressure groups concerned with the plight of populations in the less developed countries organised a rally in Hyde Park, addressed among others by Bill Gates, to urge the leaders of the G8 countries to take action to ‘stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries.’ They seemed to imagine that if these taxes were paid to governments in Africa, South America, and Asia then the crushing burden of poverty suffered by the mass of people in those regions would begin to lift. A fresh way would be open for development, they argue. Food subsidies and health programmes would attack the deaths from malnutrition and disease. Education and housing would raise the quality of life for millions.
These things would not happen. Even if the big companies paid more taxes to the governments of these countries this would leave the curse of world poverty intact. The beneficiaries would be amongst the ruling elites who own and control production and distribution in the debtor countries. They are the ones who through their governments would get the money but they are not poor. Amidst the poverty of the masses they live in luxury. Holding power often with brutally oppressive methods they care little for their populations. Their aim is their own self-enrichment.
There is of course a case for the populations of the advanced regions giving aid and assistance to the people in areas where infrastructures, services, means of production and distribution are poorly developed. Most people will accept this but it cannot happen under world capitalism which keeps even our ability to help others in economic shackles –or reduces it to the pathetic levels of charity. The tragic illusion of those who organised the rally is their belief that the devastating problems of world capitalism can be tackled by asking governments to re-arrange finance.
The things that are desperately needed –food, clean water, housing, sanitation, transport, medical services and so on, can only be provided by useful labour, of which there is an abundance throughout the world. Finance is part of a system which operates as a barrier to useful labour producing what people need. Useful production must be freed from the constraints of profit and class interest. Only useful labour applied through world cooperation once the Earth’s resources have become the common heritage of all can solve the problems of world poverty.
World socialism could stop the dying from hunger immediately, and provide the conditions for good health and material security for all people across the Earth within a short time. It would do this by producing goods and services directly for need.