by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
What a tragedy. A beautiful little boy who should be experiencing all
the pleasures that a healthy and well fed young life can offer. I can barely look at it without wanting to take him in my arms and caress the little man; hold him like I have my own little ones, or the way we hold our pets. A mother
or father whose kisses and hugs bring such joy to the recipient and the
giver is waiting for that moment when starvation and lack of water,
ensures he breathes his last breath. It's not a nice death is it? Look
at the body and the physical pain it brings to the child and the
emotional pain to the adult, herself, not far from death's door.
The scene in the picture is indeed horrific. It is heart wrenching, sad, makes us angry and makes us want to cry at the same time. But let's get something clear in our heads. What we see in the picture, a starving boy being given water by his equally deprived mother, or female guardian, is not something that occurs because of a lack of resources or money. The condition prevails not because people in that particular part of the world are lazy or stupid or can't govern themselves. It is not as some might argue, god's wrath, or the devil's work or the work of any supernatural beings or ghostly demons. It is not because of overpopulation or that there's too many people on the planet.
This young boy will die of starvation amid plenty. He will die of diseases that were cured long ago. The cause of these events is political and economic. Society has infrastructure and that infrastructure is put in place by directing capital and labor power to do so. The trillion or two the US has spent in Iraq would solve world hunger, would eliminate what we see here forever.
The infant mortality, disease and starvation that engulf millions of people in this world is a product of the market, of capitalism. The communities in which these people live have little public infrastructure, no water system, no sewage system and instead unsafe water and sewage flows openly in the streets if at all. There is no medical and health care system in place. Diet is poor and shelter is inadequate. The money is there to remedy this. But the owners of capital, capitalists as the Wall Street Journal calls them as opposed to many anti-capitalists who choose words like corpocracy, plutocracy, meritocracy, oligarchy and other terms to avoid calling them what they are, will not allocate capital to buy labor power and the necessary materials necessary to end this savagery.
According to Global Issues:
10.6 million children died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (same as children population in France, Germany, Greece and Italy
1.4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation
A conservative estimate for 2010 finds that at least a third of all
private financial wealth, and nearly half of all offshore wealth, is now
owned by world’s richest 91,000 people – just 0.001% of the world’s
The world’s billionaires — just 497 people (approximately 0.000008% of
the world’s population) — were worth $3.5 trillion (over 7% of world
The world spent close to $2 trillion on military hardware in 2012 with the bulk of that coming from the US, the worlds largest arms dealer by far. Corporations are hoarding trillions, private capitalists have stashed away some $26 trillion or more in offshore tax havens. Poverty and most disease can be eliminated, but capitalism cannot do it; it is the cause of it.
The US president Obama, Hilary Clinton and all the other representatives of wall Street and the system that perpetuates the misery we see in the graphic, are prepared to bomb Syria because of the deaths of less than 2000 people. But the policies that these people institute and defend to the teeth kill millions of children and adults yearly; their deaths are not accidents, they are the product of conscious decisions by human beings.
These conditions and the endless wars that we currently see begun by primarily by the US government cannot be eradicated under the present economic system we know as capitalism. It is not simply that they cannot be eradicated in what is often called the developing world, they are on the increase in the advanced capitalist countries also. As an earlier blog pointed out, the cost of making the world safe for US corporations is not only causing untold environmental damage and misery for the world's populations, it is also driving US workers further in to poverty and debt. Even the US troops are facing cuts to necessary services. This will hasten the crisis in the US military much like the crisis that occurred during the imperialist war against Vietnam.
It is pointless feeling guilty about having a better life than the woman and her child in the picture. We are not individually responsible for it and guilt is a pointless emotion that accomplishes little. We can collectively end it though. I was talking to a group of young men the other night, they were all well educated and relatively financially secure. They had good jobs but when it came to understanding the forces at play in society and what was going on in the world around them, especially US capitalism's role in it, they were clueless and actually accepted that they were oblivious to much of what is going on. This is nothing to be proud of even though, the forces against us in the US are considerable as we are faced day in day out with an ideological offensive from the 1% about the merits of their system and how there's opportunity for all if we take the bull by the horns.
Throughout the world, workers are fighting back against the capitalist offensive. Working class women that fill the factories of Bangladesh have waged street battles against factory owners and their hired thugs. Chinese workers have struck foreign multinationals for higher wages and better conditions and won raises of as much as $20% and this is without independent unions.
Indigenous people throughout Latin America, India, Indonesia and the entire world are leading the struggle against the environmental devastation caused by the energy giants and mining companies.
Greek workers, Portuguese workers, women and gays in Russia, are all refusing to be cowed by the worshipers of the market. And we saw the rise of the Occupy Movement in the US that challenged the repressive laws of the 1% and battled the new beefed up security apparatus built in anticipation of the resistance that will occur to the increased offensive of capital.
And here in the US, we should not underestimate the developments that have occurred around Obama's eagerness to bomb Syria. The outpouring of opposition has been intense and this has caused the 1%'s representatives in Congress to push back against Obama's war drive. In a twist of irony, it looks like old Putin might have thrown Obama a lifeline brokering a deal with Syria's Assad to have the UN take charge of that country's chemical weapons stash.
This development is very positive and when we consider the ongoing global resistance to the capitalist offensive we should be inspired and optimistic about it. But we must take the bull by the horns, we must accept firstly in our own
consciousness that the present state of affairs will eventually lead to
the end of life as we know it, market driven wars and environmental
catastrophe all in the pursuit of profits will ensure it. We must recognize that the most destabilizing force in society today and the reason for much of world poverty is US capitalism. American's cannot find a solution to our problems within the borders of our own nation state. The solution to the starvation we see in the graphic, the endless wars and driving back our own 1%'s austerity agenda lies in the building of a global movement. Capitalism is global and the fight against it's destructive effects must be global.
Replacing an economic system of production where a tiny minority of individuals own the means by which we produce the necessities of life and who set these forces in motion only for personal gain, is our goal. Capitalism is an anarchistic unplanned system of production, it cannot advance humanity. It is, as we say here, past its expiration date. Only a democratic socialist economy and political system can solve the crises that capitalism creates.
A couple of things to remember:
The Soviet union was not a socialist or communist society.
Socialism is not a utopian idea it's just a different way of constructing human society
Sweden, Finland or a national health service is not socialism or communism
Obama is not a socialist (for my American brothers and sisters only)
Capitalism overthrew feudalism and socialized production
Socialism will take it one step further and socialize ownership of the process of production, distribution and exchange. It brings economic democracy.
- AFSCME Local 444 negotiations assesment 1997
- Preparing for Revolution: A discussion document
- The Internal lives of Revolutionary Organizations
- Socialist Alternative members: Questions and Answers
- Sanders: Our Alternative
- The Nature of the New European Left
- Catastrophic Climate Change: Caused by Capitalism
- University of California workers and Unions
- An Invitation to Our Readers