The vast majority of the population of this planet live in want to one degree or another whether they be industrial workers in Western Europe or North America trying to make ends meet, beggars on the sidewalk in India, or even beggars on the sidewalk in the USA.
Yet they seem to blindly accept that this is the inevitable consequence of things—and in the particular context of capitalism, they are right. Various degrees of want will always exist in a private-property-based society where all production is with a view to profit and where the majority sell their labour-power in return for a part only, expressed as wages, of what they produce.
Various governments have introduced various welfare programmes to eradicate poverty and failed hopelessly. Some of the politicians behind these plans may well have been well-meaning people, whereas others were certainly trying to win votes, but whichever, it is immaterial as society as it presently exists cannot eliminate poverty let alone provide everybody with a full and happy life.
With the most advanced technological power, there is a contradiction that when the means exist to give everyone a full and happy life yet the vast majority struggle to make ends meet while a substantial minority live in want of the basic necessaries of life.
Socialists have consistently maintained that the natural resources, technology and distributive capacity exist to feed, clothe and house the world's population many times over. This, however, is impossible in an economic system where all production is geared to profit. In reality, nobody knows how big the earth's absolute supplies of raw materials are. No such investigations have been made. What has been investigated are supplies and resources that capitalism needs, and that is something very different.
So destitution, starvation and deprivation do not exist because the capacity for producing and distributing wealth is insufficient. The technology to eliminate them does exist but is not applied under capitalism where all production is for profit and which also deliberately wastes and destroys resources. Capitalism produces not for use but profit; so if wheat farmers, car makers, TV makers, appliance firms, heavy and light engineering companies can make more profit out of waste than by good quality products they will do so. But it is not enough to say that capitalism makes profits through waste. The fact is that the normal functioning of the system wastes an enormous amount of resources. Every year tons of foodstuffs are destroyed.
When we speak of waste, it is not food and raw materials alone that are wasted under capitalism, but millions of workers who become unemployed during the various trade depressions and recessions which are another logical consequence of an illogical system. The devastating wars that are caused by the need of competing sections of the world capitalist class for markets and raw materials are still further proof if any were needed, of the shocking waste of workers, especially when we consider there were more than 50 million casualties in the Second World War.
No one, whatever their political views, can examine these matters without being appalled at the logical insanity of capitalism. Logical, because these problems are a normal consequence of a society where all production is carried on only with a view to profit on the market. Insanity, because, surely to anyone in their right mind, it is insane that food should be destroyed when people are starving, that houses stand empty where people are homeless, and that factories stand idle when workers are unemployed.
Years of tinkering with these problems by politicians, of all parties, well-meaning or not, has not achieved anything and in some instances, matters have got worse. There is only one solution; which is for the world's workers to examine the contradictions of capitalism and then organise politically for a society where poverty, hunger, unemployment, pollution, waste, planned obsolescence, war and a host of things not even mentioned in this article will be a thing of the past.
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