Editorial from the Winter 1987-88 issue of the World Socialist
The modern age is noted for its declared desire for a world of accord. Over the past century since communications have brought the human population into closer contact, national leaders have never ceased to proclaim their desire for a world of peace. This has been rhetoric without substance. If mere words were enough, the speeches of statesmen would have long since realised the unity of all people. But alongside these "peaceful" tirades, and in spite of international institutions such as the League of Nations, The International Court of Justice, and the United Nations Organisation, humanity has remained divided. We are threatened by mutual annihilation.
During this time, killing techniques have been rapidly developed and have never been so sophisticated or horrific. The century numbers the war dead in many millions. The development of world communications has been accompanied by the greatest mass slaughter in history. Never have so many people been under arms, and never in the past have the productive resources of humanity been so greatly allocated to the means of waging war.
Yet the technology which has given us the long-range nuclear missile has also given us photographs of the Earth from space. These are the images of one world, inhabited by one human species. Those astronauts who have witnessed this view of humanity's home in space describe it as a beautiful place. It contains the natural resources which could provide the needs of everyone if only we could live and work together in cooperation. The question is, why doesn't it happen?
Why is it that in spite of a universal need for peace and material security, in spite of a world system of production and highly developed communications of every kind, humanity still remains divided? Why are we armed to the teeth, living in tension, and in some places, still fighting wars? What happened after the "wars to end all wars'?
Are there reasons, inherent in the differences of history, language and culture, which prevent people from cooperating together? No; to imagine this is to deny the fact that cooperation does take place between people from different countries. It is common that people respond to the desperate plights of others in countries where there is famine, or such disasters as floods or earthquakes. It is not true to say that ordinary people are pre-occupied by a compulsion to bomb and kill others in distant lands. On the contrary, experience shows the reverse to be true. People have to be conscripted for war under penalty of imprisonment or death if they refuse, then trained and mentally conditioned by propaganda to fight. War imposes stress and anxiety on all those who find themselves involved; and when war ends there is relief and celebration. So what are the facts about this divided humanity?
The human population is divided amongst 160 rival capitalist states, including the state capitalist nations of China and those under the dominion of the Russian state capitalist Empire. Within nations populations are divided again by economic class. Privileged minorities own or monopolise natural resources and the means of producing wealth. The vast majority are non-owners, compelled to live by selling their only means of life, their mental or physical energies, for a wage or salary. This is the modern system of wage slavery which divides all communities and all nations, where the rich and the powerful maintain their dominant position through governments who control different portions of the Earth's surface. The world's working class produce the commodities which their national masters then own and sell for a profit on the markets.
Governments stand not the slightest chance of bringing about a world of unity. They are driven under the relentless pressure of economic competition to pursue strategies based on rival capitalist interests. This is the cause of constant international tension, the reason why nations remain armed to the teeth, and why, from time to time, struggles over trade routes, sources of raw materials, spheres of political and military influence, break out into war. Governments and the entire system of exploitation which they represent are an anachronism which must be swept away.
Against the inevitable conflicts between rival capitalist groupings, the world's working class can have no interest in a divided world. Whereas capitalists are bound by the terms of their existence to compete and, through their governments, to organise for war, the interests of workers are in common the world over. In the conflict between wage labour and capital it is capital which is inherently competitive and exploitative, and therefore must maintain a divided humanity. Only labour, the world over, has the common interest which can establish world unity.
Pursuing this interest and organised as the World Socialist Movement, workers must strip the world's capitalist class of their monopoly of the means of life and establish a world system where all resources and all means of production are held in common by all humanity.
This will be a world of common ownership, democratic control, cooperation and production directly for needs. This will be a world without frontiers where machinery of governments will have been converted into a system of democratic administration at local, regional and world levels; where the obscene waste of resources in the military will have been re-allocated for useful production. In Socialism, communications such as transport, information technology, radio, telephone and television links would be immediately adapted for the benefit of all people. Thus the useful structures of existing world organisation, both technical and administrative, would serve the common interests and needs of one people in one world.
The positive action to establish this can only come from one source, which must be separate from the actions of governments; this must be the world's working class organised politically as a single socialist movement. In 1848 Karl Marx declared that workers have no country; that they have a world to win. Against the toll of human misery since that time, and against the appalling prospect of continued world capitalism, we repeat it now with greater urgency.