National Sections of the L5I:

The US empire’s war on the poor

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The United States of America is the mightiest empire the world has ever seen. No Emperor, Tsar, King or Fuhrer ever held such global power as the American President wields today.

The USA stations troops on every continent – it spends more on arms than the next fifteen strongest states combined. The president casually informs sovereign peoples who they can choose as their leaders. He judges which states have failed and which must face regime change. And he passes sentence: economic blockade, carpet bombing or full-scale invasion and occupation.

A handful of major states – the G8 – can try to influence, modify or delay his actions. But they cannot to bend his will to theirs. All other states in the world, though formally independent, are subservient to the sole superpower, many of them totally dependent on the USA.

With the twin towers of the World Trade Centre still burning, President George W. Bush declared an endless war on all who resist or rebel against the power of America. On the pretext of defending his people against terrorism, Bush set out a new justification for aggression – the right to launch pre-emptive action against anyone he says threatens US interests.

He called it “homeland defence”. But whose homeland is he defending? Not the homes, living standards or liberties of the working people of the United States. The interests of the USA’s ruling class – ‘hawk’ and ‘dove’, Republican and Democrat, oil magnate and high-tech billionaire – run directly contrary to those of the great majority of its citizens.

In the USA and other highly developed countries the rich and powerful are pursuing a relentless assault on the living standards of the majority. Welfare is stripped away, rates of pay are held down or cut, and the burden of taxation is systematically shifted from the rich to the poor. Education is steadily converted from a general right to a private privilege; benefits and pensions are slashed. For working people, modern life means permanent insecurity from cradle to grave.

When the White House bombs Baghdad, arms Tel Aviv and levies tribute from cruelly underdeveloped countries, it acts not for its people but for the ‘right’ of its giant banks and corporations to exploit the whole globe.

Outside the USA and other Western oases of ‘development’, the global system denies two thirds of the world’s population enough food to eat and clean water to drink. In Latin America, Africa, and Asia, mass unemployment coexists with cruel underdevelopment. Despite a superabundance of resources and products, the ‘free market’ cannot banish famine from Africa or provide medicine for millions of AIDS sufferers.

The system the USA is fighting for – global capitalism – makes a sustainable future for the globe impossible. It blocks relief to the crippling burden of foreign debt; it prevents concerted action against climate change; it threatens fratricidal wars over oil and water supplies; it foments ethnic cleansing and the mass flight of hundreds of thousands of refugees.

And capitalism’s destructive work is far from done. It is creating economic crisis, trade wars, clashes between Europe and America. The very aggression and arrogance of the USA and its British ally are forcing other powers to combine against them. In the decade ahead – at first covertly and then more openly – this alliance against the USA will harden. Sooner or later a new hi-tech arms race will break out. The spectre of another world war – distant as yet – appears on the horizon of the new century.

Who benefits? An infinitesimal minority. Never in human history have so few owned and disposed of the products of the labour of so many. As a result, never before has the gap between rich and poor been so wide. As the last century closed, the richest 225 people had a combined wealth greater than that of the poorest 47 percent of the world’s population.

The capitalists’ much-vaunted democracy is strictly limited and curtailed. Money buys access to influence, mass communication and the levers of power; representatives are neither accountable nor recallable; the real decisions are made not in the legislative talking shops but behind closed doors by unelected civil servants, generals, police and security officers – all bound to the ruling elite of multi-millionaires by a thousand personal, cultural and class ties.

And at the workplace gate, even the appearance of democracy vanishes. The individual worker in the factory, office, call centre or fast-food outlet can expect neither security nor rights. Workers have no right to determine hiring, firing and conditions of labour, let alone the fate of their products.

At the ballot box and at work, the citizen cannot change anything of real importance. So what choice is left? Why, reply the apologists of capitalism, the answer is obvious: consumer choice ... if you can afford it. Two thirds of humanity can’t.

Even for those who can exercise “consumer choice”, what a narrow and impoverished choice it is. A selection of meaningless brands and empty “values”, carefully devised by marketing executives who are well rewarded for turning deception into a science. They stop us controlling our own lives and offer us a choice of life styles instead. Consumerism – the cult of the commodity – has become the true religion of our age. The chance to “buy into” a branded dream world is now the soul of our soulless condition.

Scores of millions are casting off this gaudy blindfold. Working class people want change. A new movement has erupted against capitalist globalisation and imperialist war. There have been huge demonstrations wherever the leaders of the world financial system have held their summits. Trade unionists have linked up with new social movements to oppose the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund and the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. Solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinians against the USA’s Israeli gendarme in the Middle East unites the movement in the west with anti-imperialist movements in the third world.

On one day in February 2003, more than twenty million people demonstrated against the attack on Iraq in every major city of the world.

Everywhere new forces are resisting – but everywhere they encounter old obstacles. The movement is diverted, held back, divided and compromised by the living embodiment of the defeats of the twentieth century – the cynical bureaucracies that control the trade unions, the pro-capitalist leaders of the Social Democratic or Labour parties, the abject reformists of the traditional Communist Parties.

If the new anticapitalist initiatives fuse with the class struggles in the “first” and the “third” worlds, this movement can form a new International, a world party committed to a programme of global revolution. But in the global north and south alike, union federations and “workers’ parties” are obstructing this unification.

The removal of these misleaders is the burning task of the period ahead. New leaders must replace them – not another set of unaccountable bureaucrats but democratically elected and recallable representatives that can express the will of the workers and youth themselves. We need not overpaid officials with a personal interest in compromise but fighters, determined to mobilise millions not just to resist the capitalists but for an alternative to the system itself.

And there is an alternative. A new social system can be built based on co-operation instead of competition, on democratic planning instead of the market. This system has a name: socialism.

The world is more than ready for it. Already humanity produces a superabundance of necessities and luxuries alike. Global production could meet the needs of all if it were organised to do so.

The vast extension of formal education and the development of information technology mean that a worldwide plan of production and distribution could be drawn up democratically, genuinely involving the producers and consumers themselves. The present sophisticated planning between units of the same multinational or between the warehouse and supermarket can be applied to the whole global system of exchange in goods and services. We could determine priorities democratically and share the work between all those able to work. With every new labour-saving advance, instead of throwing people out of work we could steadily reduce the length of the working week and lighten the load on all of us.

Capitalism has paved the way for this global transformation. It has created a world economy and global communications. And it has created an international working class – billions strong, better organised and more closely connected than ever before. But there are two great obstacles to further advance, two great evils that hold humanity in servitude. The first is private ownership of industry, banking and the land. The second is the armed power of the capitalist nation state.

All history proves that the capitalists will never relinquish their property peacefully – to claim otherwise in the age of ‘Shock and Awe’ is either hopeless naivety or wilful deception. There is only one way: their apparatus of state repression must be overthrown by force. The capitalists’ monopoly of military power – armies, police and security forces, prison systems, civil servants, judiciaries – must be smashed to pieces and replaced with the rule of the working people themselves.

This can be done – the majority of humanity can cast off the tiny minority of parasites. It will take mass organisation, an unambiguous strategy and, when the hour strikes, courageous and ruthless action.

Some may baulk at this, but the alternative to revolution is not decades of undisturbed peace. Basing a global civilisation on the empowerment of a few thousand and the impoverishment of six billion is like lodging depth charges in the planetary core. If the logic of capitalism is left to unfold, our world will be torn apart by starvation, disease, poverty, environmental catastrophe, and war.

In the struggle against capitalism, greater energy is equivalent to greater humanity. For with the suppression of our exploiters and an end to the tyranny of profit, human history can truly begin.