Saturday, February 17, 2024

Voice From The Back: Outdated Marxism? (2002)

The Voice From The Back Column from the January 2002 issue of the Socialist Standard

Outdated Marxism?

A gap of over a 150 years separates the following two quotations, but they surely give the lie to the notion that Marxism is now outdated. “Paris: Junior doctors in France went on an indefinite partial strike in protest at their long working hours. Members of the ISNTH union, which represents 8,000 junior doctors, said they will refuse night shifts or be on call at home until demands are met.” The Times (20 November, 2001) “The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honoured and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage-labourers.” Communist Manifesto 1848

The wasteful society

Socialists are always arguing against supporters of capitalism that it is a wasteful and destructive society. A recent item from the Herald (26 November) illustrates our point very well. “Every time a single B2 Spirit stealth bomber makes the gruelling 34 hour round trip from its base in rural Missouri to unload its precision-guided payload over rural Afghanistan half a world away, it costs the American taxpayer more than £2.5m in fuel for the mission. Each laser-guided bomb dropped adds another £50,000 to the bill.”

The fearful society

It is often said by sociologists that social trends that first surface in the USA eventually appear in the UK. If such were to prove true about crime and punishment then the future is very gloomy indeed. According to the journalist Simon Jenkins writing in the Times (28 November) the US have a real problem. “What is known is that America now imprisons a staggering 700 people per 100,000, against 124 in Britain and 89 in France. One in three young black males in American inner cities is in prison or on parole . . . Meanwhile, half a million Californians feel they must live in armed and gated estates.”

Progressing backwards

Amidst the phoney euphoria of the Labour Party’s electoral victory of 1997 the British working class were promised an end to poverty or “social exclusion” as Labour prefer to call it. But what is the reality today? David Plachaud of the London School of Economics in the current issue of the Political Review is quoted in the Guardian (26 November) as remarking: “Child poverty remains higher than it was in 1979.” and “Britain still has the highest child poverty rate of any major industrialised country apart from the United States.”

The unhealthy society

In a revealing article in the Observer (2 December) it was shown that so pathetic is Labour’s running of the NHS that one in eight of the population now have private medical insurance, and that even those without private insurance won’t use the NHS. “Even those without medical insurance boycott the NHS in record numbers. Last year, more than 200,000 people jumped NHS waiting lists by paying for private operations – double when Labour came to power.” The most revealing aspect was the reason put forward for many employers providing health cover. Surprise, surprise it wasn’t the bosses concern for the workers they exploit; it was a commercial one. “Fergus Kee, managing director of BUPA’s UK insurance business, said: “Companies are increasingly recognising the value of medical insurance to get sick employees back to work faster.”

For my next trick

The Rev. Andrew Thompson is concerned about falling Church of England attendances, so he has come up with a super wheeze. He has written a booklet “Gospel Magic” that advocates flaming torches, trick guillotines and disappearing handkerchiefs to get the punters back to church. This has aroused a lot of opposition from more conservative elements in the church but it is difficult to sympathise with them. After all, their main man the Cunning Carpenter was reputed to have been a dab hand at conjuring tricks like water into wine and fish teas for the five thousand.

Bought it fair and square

In last month’s issue we reported that Michael Bloomberg had bought the office of Mayor of New York for $60 million; we were wrong. The official figures are now out and reported in the Times (5 December) – he spent $68,968,185! Even by American standards this is a phenomenal election expenditure for such an office. President Bush spent $193 million on his presidential campaign against Al Gore’s $133 million and Hillary Clinton spent $29.9 million, a record in New York, to become a Senator. Bloomberg spent more than five times his Democratic Party opponent Mark Green, in fact it is reckoned that he spent $92.60 for each of his 744,757 votes. The really staggering aspect of this corruption of democracy is that the Times can report it boldly, under the headline” $69m buys election as Mayor of New York” and that Mr Green’s campaign manager Richard Schrader could say: “He bought it fair and square. By spending a historic amount on television ads, he controlled the airwaves and altered people’s perception of reality.” Capitalism has reduced everything to the cash nexus. Why don’t they just dispense with voting altogether and have an auction for all the offices of power between the capitalists and their puppets? The whole thing has become a farce and has no claim to the term “democracy”.

Capitalism’s facelift?

“All companies must strive to give capitalism a name that doesn’t result in riots. Capitalism is good. But benevolent capitalism is better!” Sir Richard Branson. Yorkshire Post (1 December).

Editorial: Happy New Year? (2002)

Editorial from the January 2002 issue of the Socialist Standard

“Happy New Year” we all said to one another on New Year’s Eve. Even though we meant it sincerely what are the chances of it becoming a reality?

Looking back to the year just passing, 2001 will be remembered for one really major and horrific event (11 September) plus others whose significance is only now dawning, such as the beginning of what appears to be an economic downturn. Is it likely 2002 will be any better?

If you are one of the unfortunate billions living in much of Asia or Africa then the obvious answer is very likely to be no, these being continents where war and famine stalk the land as habitually as the jungle predators. In most of the rest of the world the bulk of the population may not face the same harsh realities of grinding absolute poverty and destitution, but insecurity and fear are never far away. The fear of losing our jobs. The fear of being mugged or attacked. The fear of family break-up and the escapism of drugs and drink which has become a feature of so many lives. In other words, the fear of falling victim to the ruthless, competitive society that is capitalism, with all its attendant social pressures.

This is why 2002 is unlikely to be any better than 2001. Even at a subliminal level, the majority have chosen to put up with capitalism and the misery it causes them rather than seek an alternative to it. They are victims, and as victims they “muddle through” and hope there is light at the end of the tunnel. But as the office joke goes, when the light eventually appears it is only the boss with his torch, bringing more work for those “fortunate” enough to have it.

As socialists, we argue that we should stop being the helpless victims in society, prey to the mercenary forces of the market, and instead get up off our knees.

History shows that capitalism won’t go away if we shut our eyes to it, it will merely attack us all the more mercilessly. That is why unless we do something about it, there will be more recessions, more crime and more terrorist atrocities committed by misguided, power-hungry and disgruntled fanatics. The market system is nothing if it is not relentless.

Because of the problems and suffering it causes, we have to put capitalism out of its misery, and in so doing, we will help lift ourselves out of our own. Nobody else is going to do it for us, that’s for sure – all the leaders and politicians are part of the problem itself not the solution. They are the ultimate representatives of the system that will have to be swept aside if the bulk of the population are to be free of the shackles imposed by money and the market.

But what is the next step as we enter the new year?

The next step is to organise – to organise for change. In groups and meetings and on the internet we need to band together to fight against the reason most of us fell fearful or miserable – the market economy itself and the politicians who oversee its operation. Without this, “Happy New Year” will be the empty platitude it usually becomes every year. If we democratically organise for change, so that we can build a society based on co-operation, respect and peacefulness, then next time we utter that phrase it may, for once, carry some real meaning. Until then, it will be devoid of resonance, and as relevant and useful as the deflated balloons and discarded party poppers are when we trudge back into work when the parties are over.

So let’s do something positive and organise to make 2002 a truly happy new year – and that of course means a year worth remembering for the right reasons, and not, like 2001, all the wrong ones.

The euro and the sovereignty myth (2002)

From the January 2002 issue of the Socialist Standard
The euro debate is a dispute between rival sections of the capitalist class and is of no concern to workers
On 1 January in 12 of the 15 countries of the European Union new notes and coins came into circulation. After a shortish transition period these will replace existing francs, marks, pesetas, liras and the others and the same money—euros and eurocents—will come to be used throughout the whole area.

In terms of capitalism, it will be a historic event. As many people for years (more in fact) have used dollars and cents in a single area will now be using a single currency in another area. And that, of course, is what it is all about from a capitalist point of view. The capitalists of Europe have decided they have a better chance of winning out in the competitive battle on world markets if they get together as a single economic bloc. To do this, they have already created—some time ago now—first, a customs union, then a single market and, now, a single currency. They are still divided on whether to take the next step, a single economic policy which would require a single “economic government”. But some are determined to go down this road and envisage, at the end, a single, federal United States of Europe as a powerful state to rival the USA for world hegemony.

As far as us ordinary workers are concerned, it’s going to have no effect on our wages nor on our standard of living generally. The introduction of the euro will be as neutral—and as irrelevant—in this respect as was the introduction of decimal currency in Britain in 1971. So, there’s no cause to get worked up either way over the issue.

Having said this, it is clear that being able to use the same money throughout the greater part of Europe will remove one of the minor inconveniences that has existed up till now: having to change your coins and notes every time you cross a frontier (and having to pay the money-changers a commission for the privilege). Of course the major inconvenience of having to use money at all to have access to things which should be ours as of right will remain but, as long as the money system continues, it can’t be worse to have fewer currencies than more.

Divided capitalist class
So, joining or not joining the euro is nothing to get upset about. But there are people who do, especially in Britain. You can’t open a local paper there these days without reading a letter from someone complaining about “our loss of sovereignty” or about the disappearance of the queen’s head from “our” money (actually, it could still appear on the coins, but who cares?).

This reflects the fact that the capitalist class in Britain is split on the issue. A section, with capital investments mainly in North America, would prefer Britain to join the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) rather than become irrevocably tied to the European Union. They include the newspaper tycoons, Rupert Murdoch of the Times, Sunday Times and Sun and Conrad Black of the Telegraph, who have not hesitated to use their control of these papers to beat the anti-euro drum to defend their own personal capitalist interests. The Tory Party, too, has also decided to throw in its lot with this section of the capitalist class, perhaps unwisely since this section is only a minority.

The dominant section of the capitalist class in Britain want to join the euro, but they have a political problem. Their representatives, in the Labour and Liberal parties, have for some reason committed themselves to holding a referendum on the question. This was unwise, from their point of view, as this is to subdelegate a decision of vital interest to them to a population of workers that is largely uninformed on the issue and whose heads have been filled over the years with patriotic nonsense for other purposes. It is by no means certain that they would win a referendum, though they might be if they time it right and craft the question carefully and put the media organs they control into top gear. But that’s Blair’s problem.

The main argument put forward by the anti-euro section of the capitalist class is that joining the euro would involve a loss of “our” sovereignty. It may well involve a loss of their sovereignty but the rest of us have no “sovereignty” to lose. Certainly, we have the vote and we can use it to elect politicians to Westminister. But neither Parliament nor the government can control the way the economy works. They can try but if they go against the profit logic of the system they just make things worse. The most they can successfully do is go along with this logic.

What is sovereignty?
Old-fashioned radical liberals like Tony Benn (who, as he said of the Labour Party, is not and never has been socialist) who use the same argument concentrate only on the formal side of things. They emphasise Parliament’s “constitutional right” to control the economy, completely ignoring the fact that experience has shown this to be a purely paper right. The capitalist economy works according to certain economic laws which no government or legislative body can over-ride.

So the argument about sovereignty is not really about what the constitution may or may not say. It’s about the effective power that a capitalist state can exercise within the capitalist economy. Capitalism has always existed within a framework of competing states, none of which is strong enough to impose its will on all the others. States, as weapons in the hands of rival groups of capitalists, intervene to further the interests of the capitalists that control them. They do this by using state power to set up protected markets, raw materials sources, trade routes and investment outlets. In normal times their weapons are tariffs, taxes, quotas, export rebates and other economic measures. When they judge that their vital interest is at stake their weapons are . . . weapons. They go to war.

The extent to which a capitalist state can distort the world market in favour of its capitalists depends both on its industrial strength and on the amount of armed force at its disposal. This is why all states are under pressure to acquire the most up-to-date and destructive armaments that they can afford. In the jungle world of capitalism might is right. “Sovereignty”—the margin of independent decision-making that a state has—also depends on might.

Over the years capitalism has become more and more international, more and more globalised. This has tended to reduce the margin of manoeuvre open to states, i.e. has reduced their “sovereignty”. Fifty years ago, six West European states—France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries—realised this and decided to pool some of their economic decision-making powers in order to increase their total sovereignty. In the capitalist world, just as much as for workers bargaining over wages, “unity is strength”. Certainly, this involved the individual states concerned giving up some of their sovereignty but the objective was to increase the collective sovereignty of the members of the Common Market as a whole. Thirty years ago the majority section of the capitalist class in Britain, too, decided that this made sense and joined along with Ireland and Denmark. Since then Spain, Portugal, Greece, Austria, Sweden and Finland have also signed up.

Not our concern
The sovereignty argument is really an argument within the capitalist class as to whether they should give up some of the might of their state to be able to benefit from the greater might of a larger grouping. Tony Benn, the UK Independence Party and the BNP really seem to believe that a capitalist Britain would be better off going it alone. Murdoch, Black and the less stupid Tories are more circumspect. They realise that Britain can’t really go it alone, but has to be associated with some larger grouping. Their argument is about which this should be: North America rather than Western Europe.

The Trotskyists, who feel that they must have a “line” on everything, too, join in the argument, predictably alongside Benn and the Green Party, but also the UKIP and the BNP. They want a capitalist British state to have the full, paper power to pass the reformist programme they dangle before workers.

As socialists, we don’t take sides in this inter-capitalist argument. We don’t support one section of the capitalist class or the other, and we don’t have any illusions about the “sovereign power” of Parliament to pass reformist legislation that can make capitalism work in the interest of the exploited class of wage and salary earners. Capitalism just cannot be reformed to work in this way; so transferring some of the powers of the House of Commons to a European Parliament in Brussels or Strasbourg makes no difference.

Whether or not the British capitalist class join the euro is not a working-class issue. Let the capitalist class and their parties and supporters settle the matter for themselves. In the meantime we continue to campaign for the establishment of a world society without frontiers where the resources of the Earth are the common heritage of humanity and are used to produce the things we need to live and to enjoy life for us to take directly. Under these circumstances they won’t be any need for money and both the euro and the pound can join the Roman and Anglo-Saxon coins in local museums.
Adam Buick

Letter: Vanguardism (2002)

Letter to the Editors from the January 2002 issue of the
 Socialist Standard


Dear Editors,

We in the Socialist Party have often been accused by members of various Leninist parties and groups, from the defunct Communist Party to the nearly defunct Militant Tendency, of being irrelevant, and not being, like them, in the vanguard of the working class.

Certainly we are not “in the vanguard”, have no intention of being; as this could not lead to the establishment of a world socialist society. But what of the so-called vanguard of the working class here in Britain? Have they achieved more with their “transitional demands” and ever-changing reform programmes?

Prior to the last election, a ragbag of Leninist, Stalinist and Trotskyist parties and sects, dominated largely by the thoroughly undemocratic Socialist Workers Party, but also including the also completely dishonest remnants of Militant, came together to form, for electoral purposes (despite most of them claiming that socialism would not be established by democratic means) the “Socialist (sic) Alliance”.

Not surprisingly, despite their boasts and disdain for genuine socialists, they received no more, and often fewer, votes than socialists who advocated socialism and not numerous reforms and demands.

Here in Colchester, the SA fielded no candidate. But in Ipswich, a few miles to the north, they had a candidate, Peter Leech. On a turnout of 57 percent, he received 305 votes (0.78 percent). At the by-election held in Ipswich on Thursday, 22 October, on a turnout of 40.16 percent, Leech managed to come eighth out of nine candidates, with a grand total of 152 votes (0.55 percent).

So much for the vanguard of the working class!
Peter E. Newell, 

Letter: Afghanistan (2002)

Letter to the Editors from the January 2002 issue of the Socialist Standard


Dear Editors,

Very little has been heard on the media to counter the general assumption that the Afghanistan war is an example of the result of an inevitable ideological/religious antagonism in capitalism between religions, languages, cultures – in this case Islam and Christianity.

In giving the lie to this theory as the cause of war in capitalism, an early Socialist Party pamphlet on war gave examples of countries or groups of the same and of different religions etc. who had fought both against and in alliance with, each other at different times. If the Socialist Standard could provide such information if could prove very useful in countering such theories at the present time.
W. Robertson, 
Hove, Sussex

Letter: Hypocrisy? (2002)

Letter to the Editors from the January 2002 issue of the Socialist Standard


Dear Editors,

Having read your monthly journal, it seems to me the main theme of your articles are the negative criticisms of capitalist and non-socialist processes and organisations. Your articles present themselves as the font of all socialist wisdom, and only you know the answer to the world’s problems. Were it so simple. The problem is not in the economic system, but in the minds of humanity. Those minds are based on egotism, possession, self-centredness, exclusiveness, what can I gain and accumulate, and how much will I be worth in the future, etc, etc.

For nearly a hundred years your comments about capitalism, the Labour Party and governments etc have been in the pejorative vein, and the majority of people couldn’t care less. You go on month after month in the same useless jargon thinking that one day you’re going to change the world. I’m sorry, but human beings have made a mess of their relationships with each other, and this has gone on for 10,000 years. Don’t you realise that the only thing that will change people into a better product, is when they become aware of their selfish-egotistic basis and learn to share with each other, spiritually, socially and materially. In conclusion, I can recall a number of socialists, who had businesses, employed workers and therefore exploited them, and who when they were confronted with this fact, answered that they were living under capitalism and wanted the benefits that could be got from it. How could a socialist, who abhors the capitalist system, exploit and make a profit out of the surplus value extracted from the workers. What blatant hypocrites they were. At least the capitalist does it without having to justify it. To the capitalist it’s a logical, way of life.

But when a so-called socialist does it, this is hypocrisy, par excellence.
J. Gleason, 
London N4

We agree that the problem lies in the minds of humanity, more specifically the working class. They represent the majority, so they are the only ones who can bring about socialism. Socialists don’t blame the capitalist class or governments for the continuation of capitalism. The real enemy is the ideas that workers hold in their heads, although it is true that the capitalist class (and their political or governmental agents) take full advantage of the situation.

Regarding a “number of socialists” who had exploited workers. You later refer to them as “so-called socialists”. Do you mean by this that because they exploit workers they are no longer entitled to consider themselves “socialist”? Or that they weren’t genuine socialists in the first place? Anyway, our case for socialism exists regardless of the alleged behaviour of individual members of the socialist movement. In fact, it makes the case against capitalism even stronger as it highlights the corrupting influence of present-day society.

Before you can convince workers of the need for socialism it is essential to point out, not only that capitalism is not a great system to live under – they realise that, but don’t know what to do about it – but that there is another way of running human affairs. People become self-centred not because they are naturally greedy or selfish, but because they have been inculcated with the capitalist ethos of private property (of which the working class own relatively little) and the need to struggle to maintain what little they have, setting worker against worker. It just goes to show how deeply workers are imbued with capitalism’s values – they choose (albeit unwittingly) to be exploited. They vote for it at every general election.

We don’t offer ourselves as having the answers to all problems, indeed it is to the rest of the working class that we need to turn to for solutions to many questions about how socialism will be organised. If you agree with us about the establishment of socialism (and there is nothing in your letter to indicate otherwise), join us and offer your expertise in assisting us to spread our ideas in the most effective way.

Our case against capitalism is not a moral one – morals are constantly changing – but putting the socialist alternative to workers and it being up to them to do something about it.—Editors.

World View: Poverty entrenchment (2002)

From the January 2002 issue of the Socialist Standard
"Poverty eradication” programmes in Africa only act to further entrench manufactured poverty
In Africa it has become imperatively fashionable for governments to embark upon “Poverty Eradication” programmes. It is an initiative forced upon them, as usual, by the World Bank and the IMF. And the rapidity with which the programme is gaining momentum is so great that it will be no surprise to see, in the foreseeable future, ministries being created to take charge of Poverty Eradication.

What is “Poverty Eradication”?
It is a term that the “experts” at the IMF/World Bank drawing rooms coined to add to two earlier terms – “Poverty Reduction” and “Poverty Alleviation”. In spite of the semantic differences of the three terms, they are meant to be one and the same and as such they are used interchangeably. By these terms the “experts” in the West and their cronies in the South simply mean helping the poor and vulnerable in society to get out of their poverty. To achieve this goal, they adopt a three-dimensional strategy. In the first place there is what they call “capacity building”. This concerns efforts at reaching out to the poor and sensitising them on their poverty. It stems from an arrogantly elitist and childishly paternalistic notion that the poor do not know that they are poor or why they are poor. So they sink huge sums into organising seminars and workshops during which they try to let the poor “realise their potentials”. But that the organisers are mere parrots repeating their masters’ voice is clearly discerned through the hollow and meaningless phrases they use anywhere in Africa that they meet – “civil society”‘; “grassroots groups”; “gender equality”; “empowerment”; “awareness”, etc.

The second strategy they use is what they call their “social service window”. Under this category such “social services” as erecting waiting sheds at village clinics and health centres; constructing dwarf-walled sheds to be used as classrooms; organising the villagers to dig pits to bury rubbish; periodic clean-up campaigns in and around the market or church or mosque etc, and are what they pursue.

The third component of poverty eradication programmes involves the provision of small-scale loans which they euphemistically call “grants” to groups or individuals. It takes two forms: in cash or in kind. The latter is realised through the provision, on credit, of a milling machine; a kiln (for pottery); a tractor or ploughing services and provision of imported seeds for those in agriculture; or providing biogas facilities to provide household fuel for lighting and cooking, etc.

The kitten gift 
There is a popular parable among the Dagbamba of northern Ghana which is similar to the story of the Trojan Horse. A man wanted to help out a friend who was going through hard times. He gave the poor fellow a kitten so he could sell it when it grew up. The poor man was very happy with the gift but it did not take any length of time for him to realise that the gift was after all a curse. He used whatever little money that came his way to buy milk for the kitten while he himself kept starving.

The poverty reduction/alleviation/eradication scheme tells a similar tale. In the first place the amount of cash and material devoted to the programme is usually appallingly infinitesimal. On the individual level, the amount of money loaned out to a person is always not enough to start a viable business. As such the money soon evaporates into thin air and the beneficiary is now left with the more burdensome task of repaying the loan. I saw this kind of situation myself when as an elected member of the municipal parliament in Tamale (Ghana) in the early 1990s, I organised the women of my constituency into a group. A NGO (the 31st December Women’s Movement) in collaboration with a financial institution in town, approached us with the aim of granting our women soft loans under the Poverty Eradication Scheme. The funds came from IFAD. Ten of our women were to benefit from the programme. However the NGO who were our benefactors would only assist us on condition that the tenth person was one of them (the NGO). Our women agreed. The amount per head was fifty thousand cedis, about US$70.00 at the time.

The whole programme ended with some of the beneficiaries being threatened with court action. None of them benefited from the project.

In Gambia it was recently reported that the micro finance officer, Mr Mohammed Jammeh, boasted that the Social Development Fund which is responsible for poverty alleviation had disbursed 3,022,275 dalasis to 6,129 individuals between 1999 and October 2001. This means that on average each person received less than 500 cedis, the equivalent of about $30. How can one start a business with less than $30?

The story is equally grim with groups or associations who are assisted collectively. Here the funding agencies normally make these groups to contribute an initial amount to which the benefactors add whatever they have to dispose of. The total amount is then used to set up the project – usually kilns for pottery; looms for weaving projects; food processing projects; ploughing services or even tractors, land, imported seeds (cowpea, cotton, cashew, etc). In most cases women are the beneficiaries or target groups. Contrary to the initial hopes that are whipped up by the donors, a good lot of these projects end up as white elephants. Those that get going usually benefit only the leadership of the target groups and the officials of the implementing agencies. But most often than not petty squabbles arise and eventually the projects collapse.

Competitive markets 
Even where a few projects manage to see the light of day, their relative successes are negated by the capitalist globalisation of production and distribution of products. Needless to say the end products of these poor, mostly rural, folk have to compete against goods dumped cheaply from the West. Here again the case of the women at the Nalung Weaving Project in Tamale reveals a lot. These women were trained to weave material for smocks. After the training they were sold looms on credit. Their main input for their business was thread which they could only buy from the capital, Accra, about 500km away. Two problems soon arose. First to sell at a price that would enable them to cover the cost of production meant that no-one would buy as it was seen to be rather exorbitant. Secondly the quality of the thread used, which was even imported, was of an inferior quality and consequently the cloth woven was far inferior to the type produced by the traditional weavers. Added to these was the presence, in the markets, of relatively very cheap second-hand clothes from the West.

In Gambia there is something similar taking place, at the Bakau Women’s Horticultural Project. These women toil morning and evening and produce vegetables. They all harvest at the same time and so prices are very low as a result of glut. Even the onions and shallots they produce are shunned in favour of onions from the Netherlands. No wonder therefore that the women keep marking time economically. As for those who are into cash crops such as cashew, cotton, cowpea, groundnuts etc, the least said about them, the better, considering the pitifully disadvantaged bargaining power of the producers of primary products (in the poor countries) under the current capitalist world economic arrangement.

Wasted energies
One other factor which needs highlighting in this hoax of poverty eradication is the magnitude of human resources deliberately channelled into such unproductive, in fact retrogressive work. Millions of people world-wide are enticed into taking part in this futile venture. Having been made poor by the system, the people, like a drowning man who will cling to a straw, keep flocking to the system only, each time, to be hoodwinked. But more agonising is the fact that people who champion this global ruse are the elite who, most often than not, know they are engaged in an activity which is worthless to the target groups. These elite are the staff of government ministries and agencies (NGOs). They pilfer items and embezzle funds meant for the projects in addition to their bloated salaries. In short they are used as willing tools in the entrenchment of poverty.

Ending poverty 
Experts of development studies are often heard saying that “the poor will always be with us”. That may be why we see the phrases “poverty alleviation”; “poverty reduction” and “poverty eradication” as being the same. Their confused use of terms gives expression to the real nature of the capitalist system – a system of legalised deceit and thievery.

But even what the sentence quoted above, tries to conceal is the fact that these poor that we have with us are growing in number and intensity. As more and more people join the class of the poor, the poverty grows worse and worse. In other words, global poverty is increasing both horizontally and vertically. All this, in spite of the alienation/reduction/eradication propaganda.

Poverty is caused by the unjust economic order prevailing in the world today. The wealth and resources of this world – land, factories, transport and communication, etc – are owned and controlled by a few people, who use these resources to make more wealth. They majority own nothing but their ability to produce. They are therefore forced to work for the few idle owners. These workers are paid wages just enough to keep them alive in order to continue to work.

As long as such production relations persist, more and more people will continue to join the ranks of the poor. For just as the IMF and the World Bank and the West give loans to poor countries in order to get them more into economic crisis, so do the peanuts these institutions trickle down as loans to poor women and groups only serve to deepen their poverty.

The only choice lies in a radical change in the ownership and control of the world’s wealth and resources. There must be collective rather than today’s minority ownership. Control over social wealth must be democratic with all having an equal say in the management, production and distribution of the products of human labour. Under such a system, everybody gets involved in determining what to produce; takes an active part in the production process; and finally has a free and equal access to goods and services. It is only then that poverty will be eradicated (not even alleviated nor reduced – empty phrases). Then there will be no room for some to have more than they need whilst others have less than they need. Attaining such a society is our collective responsibility.