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Opinion

May 8, 2018

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The point is to change the system

Another May Day was observed last week and a series of protests were held all over the world. Fragmented trade unions across the globe vowed to fight the ruthless and inhuman effects of capitalism. But this battle cannot be won without launching a multi-front assault on the system and waging a relentless struggle to achieve the much-vaunted victory that the toiling masses have been dreaming about for decades.

Attacks against the people under capitalism were never as audacious as they are today. The ideologues of this system are calling for the withdrawal of all facilities extended to the working classes to avert the spectre of a red revolution in the West in the aftermath of World War II. Some ideologues who have blindly followed this gospel of the free market are questioning the rationale of supporting the handicapped, the elderly and single mothers. To them, only those who have the financial means to survive should be allowed to continue their feeble existence in a world that is already burdened with people who struggle to make ends meet.

It is widely believed that the philosophy of laissez faire is only harmful for the toiling masses. But this only reflects a half-truth. The indoctrination of greed, selfishness and destructive egoism is pushing the entire world towards a conflagration that will jeopardise our existence. Today, the competition between capitalists is not confined to carving out a sphere of influence within an ever-shrinking market. A senseless war of monopoly and hegemony is also in full swing.

The US has more than 700 military bases in over 150 states. France, the UK and other capitalist states have also ensured their military presence in various parts of Asia and Africa. China and Russia, with their own models of capitalism, are also making efforts to carve out areas of influence in a bid to challenge the unipolar global world order.

It is believed that nature and human labour are important components for creating wealth. Today, capitalism is pushing both these elements towards annihilation. It has slaughtered around 20 million people in World War I; 70 million in World War II; three million in the Korean War; seven million in the Vietnam War; over two million in the Afghan wars since 1979; 2.5 million in the Iraq War; and more than 500,000 in the Syrian Civil War.

These statistics reflect the atrocities of only a few wars. If you add the shameful killings in Rwanda, Bosnia and Columbia, and other civil wars and conflicts that have been fought since 1945, your calculator might stop working. On average, 10 people are wounded for every person who dies in a war. Add this and you will have startling figures for war casualties since the end of WWII.

But the atrocities of this system are not only confined to battlegrounds. The inhuman face of this economic ideology is visible everywhere. Starvation in various parts of Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and other parts of Africa, on the one hand, and the dumping of wheat in the South Pacific Ocean, on the other, flies in the face of the claim that the system has fuelled prosperity. The death of over 500,000 children due to the milk scarcity in Iraq and other parts of the world while Western capitalist countries waste several gallons of milk in speaks volume about the pain that is felt for people’s suffering.

Capitalism has created islands of opulence amid oceans of hunger and starvation. It is ruthlessly exploiting both nature and man to enrich a small minority. A recent study conducted by Oxfam has revealed that the top one percent has owned more wealth than the rest of the world’s population since 2015. The study claims that the wealth of the eight richest people in the world is equal to that of nearly four billion people who live in the poorest half of the world.

The NGO’s report suggests that if these top billionaires continue to seek returns on their wealth, we could see the world’s first ‘trillionaires’ in as little as 25 years. According to the study, there are currently over 1,500 billionaires in the world, with more than 560 in the US alone. China, Germany and India each have 100 or more billionaires.

These 1,500 minarets of opulence and prosperity mock at 795 million people who are bereft of enough food to lead a healthy life. The combined wealth of the world’s richest people cannot help around 815 million people who are suffering from chronic undernourishment. This wealth cannot shelter the 100 million homeless people whose existence has been threatened by rising temperatures across the globe. The combined fortunes of 500 billionaires of the world, which amounts to $5.3 trillion, cannot help 1.6 billion people around the world that live in “inadequate shelter”.

The oligarchs that capitalism has produced can spend over $1,700 billion on arms sale; pour over $3 trillion into the killings fields of Iraq and Afghanistan; enjoy a space trip for millions of dollars; throw away around $500 million for a yacht; spend a large amount on houses that they never visit; and shower tonnes of money on weddings, honeymoons and gambling. They appear to be the most generous people when it comes to extravagance. But their generosity evaporates when international bodies make passionate appeals for a mere $50 billion to provide basic health, primary education and sanitation facilities to those living in developing countries.

This inhuman system has gifted us with the phenomenon of overproduction and wastage after exploiting precious natural resources and arduous human labour. There is an abundance of food. But instead of being provided to those who face hunger and starvation, this food is wasted.

According to a report released a few years ago, almost two billion tonnes of food are wasted every year, which is equivalent to 50 percent of all food produced. Overproduction – what the pundits of the free-market world call ‘overcapacity’ – is not limited to the agricultural sector alone but also remains a problem within the industrial sector. More than 700 million tonnes of steel are produced in surplus.

Imagine the time, energy, labour and resources that are invested in this unplanned production that not only turn human labour into a useless entity but also result in the ruthless exploitation of nature’s precious gifts. For instance, the amount of water wasted globally to grow crops that never reach consumers is estimated at 550 billion cubic metres. This is the case in a world that is already grappling with the scarcity of water, threatening wars over this precious gift that is fast depleting because of the reckless policies of those who firmly believe in the gospel of free-market economy. Add pesticide, seeds, fertilisers, human labour, transportation, and other components of production into the equation and imagine the mammoth losses that we may have incurred.

Merely taking out rallies on May Day will not help. We need to make loud demands to change the definition of the economy. An economic system is not maintained to perpetuate the monopoly of the elite. It doesn’t exist to satiate the gargantuan appetite of the capitalists. It cannot be used to just maximise profit. We need an economic system that fulfils the basic needs of human beings, liberating people from the exploitative clutches of the corporate world that mercilessly exploit them. If we accept that everything revolves around profit and that this profit is blind, then under what moral principle can we ask an arms manufacturer to produce anything else except arms?

Since we have accepted that the economy must advocate the profitability of products rather than meet human needs, we don’t have any moral justification to stop anyone from producing profitable things. So, the point is that this exploitative economic system cannot be reformed because it is based on a philosophy that is innately inhuman. So, the point is not just to talk about this system but to change it as well.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Email: [email protected]

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