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Every year since 1990, the United Nations publishes its Human Development Report. It contains the most authoritative data on the state of the world. These reports are available online:
Based on those reports (referred to by year, followed by page), what does our world look like?

We live in a capitalist world. Capitalism is a very dynamic system
that produces a tremendous amount of wealth. Never has the world been
so rich.

Global output increased more than eleven fold between 1850 and 1960,
from $611 billion to $6,936 billion in 1993 dollars. The world's
population more than doubled during the same period, rising from 1.2
billion in 1850 to 3 billion in 1960. The net outcome: nearly a
fivefold increase in per capita income. During the same period, the
goods and services produced in the industrial countries expanded
nearly thirty fold, from $212 billion to $6,103 billion (1996, 12)

Between 1960 and 1993, global income increased from $4 trillion to $23
trillion, and per capita income more than tripled. (1996, 12) If
trends continue, it should grow form 23 trillion in 1993 to 56
trillion in 2030. (1996, 36)

Global GDP increased nine folds from $3 trillion to $30 trillion over
the past 50 years. (1999, 25)

It has allowed a huge development of consumerism. Private and public
consumption expenditure reached $24 trillion in 1998, twice the level
of 1975 and six times that of 1950. In 1900, real consumption
expenditure was barely $1.5 trillion. (1998, 1)


But capitalism has made the world a very unequal place.

The people living in the 20% richest countries in the world have 86%
of global GDP (global income), 82% of world export markets, 68% of
Foreign Direct Investment. (1999, 3)

The richest 1% of the world received as much income as the poorest
57%. The richest 10% of the US population (around 25 million people)
have a combined income greater than that of the poorest 43% of the
world population (around 2 billion people). (2001, 19; 2003, 39)

The poorest 40% of the world's population account for 5% of global
income, the richest 10% account for 54%.(2005, 4)

The 20% of the world's people in the high income countries account for
86% of total private consumption expenditure. The poorest 20% for a
mere 1.3%.

The richest fifth consume 45% of all meat and fish, 58% of total
energy, 65% of electricity, 84% of all paper, have 74% of phone lines
and own 87% of the world's vehicle fleet. The poorest fifth
5%, less than 4%, 1.1%, 1.5%, and less than 1% of all this. (1998, 2)

The poorest 20% of the world's people saw their share of the global
income decline from 2.3% to 1.4% in the past 30 years, meanwhile the
share of the richest 20% rose from 70% to 85%. (1996, 2)

Capitalism not only creates inequality, but it increases it both
between and within countries. The income gap between the richest
countries and the poorest countries was a ratio of 1:3 in 1820. This
increased to 1:7 in 1870 and 1:11 in 1913. In 1960 it was 1:30 and in
1990 1:60. In 1997 it was 1:74. (1999, 3)

Measured at the extremes, the gap between the average citizen in the
richest and in the poorest countries is wide and getting wider. In
1990 the average American was 38 times richer than the average
Tanzanian. Today the average American is 61 times richer. (2005, 37)

A Zambian today has less chance of reaching thirty years of age than
someone born in England in 1840. (2005, 4, 26)


A study of 77 countries with 82% of the world's population shows that
between the 1950s and the 1990s, inequality rose in 45 of those
countries and fell in 16 countries. (2001, 17)

Inequality within countries has been increasing over the last 30
years. Among the 73 countries with data (and 80% of the world's
people), 48 have seen inequality increase since the 1950s, 16 have
experienced no change, and only 9 (with 4% of the world's people) have
seen inequality fall. (2002, 20)

Between the 1980s and the late 1990s inequality increased in 42 of 73
countries with complete and comparable data. Only 6 of the 33
development countries saw inequality decline, while 17 saw an
increase. "In other words, within national boundaries, control over
assets and resources is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a
few people." (2003, 39)

Inequality is on the increase in countries which account for 80% of
the world's population. (2005, 6)

Between 1979 and 1997, US real GDP per capita grew 38%, but the income
of a family with median earnings grew only 9%. So most of the gain was
captured by the very richest people, with the incomes of the richest
1% of families growing 140%, three times the average. The income of
the top 1% of families was 10 times that of the median family in 1979
and 23 times in 1997. (2002, 20)


The USA has the same infant mortality rate as Malaysia, a country with
an average income one quarter that of the USA. And the Indian state of
Kerala has an infant death rate lower than that for African Americans
in Washington DC. (2005, 58)


At the end of the 1970s, the richest 10% of the UK population received
21% of total disposable income. Twenty years later, it received 28%,
nearly was much as for the entire bottom half of the population.
Average annual incomes for the richest 20% increased at about ten
times the rate for the poorest 20%. (3.8% compared with 0.4%) The UK's
GINI coefficient climbed from 25 to 35 by the mid-1990s, one of the
biggest increases in inequality in the world. (2005, 68)


As a system, capitalism does not work for the vast majority of the
world's population; it fails to provide for their basic needs.

Of the 4.4 billion people in developing countries, nearly three fifth
lack basic sanitation. A third have no access to clean water. A
quarter do not have adequate housing. A fifth no access to health
services. (1998, 2)

More than one billion people lack access to safe water. (2005, 24)
More than 2.6 billion lack access to improved sanitation. (2005, 24)
More than 850 million people, including one in three preschool
children suffer from malnutrition. (2005, 24)

$1 A DAY

One in five people in the world, more than one billion, still survive
on less than $1 a day in abject poverty. (2005, 24) "Living on $1 a
day does not mean being able to afford what $1 would buy when
converted into a local currency, but the equivalent of what $1 would
buy in the United States, a newspaper, a local bus ride, a bag of
rice." (2003, 41)

Another 1.5 billion people live on $1-2 a day. (2005, 24) "One fifth
of humanity lives in countries where many people think nothing of
spending $2 a day on capuccino. Another fifth of humanity survives on
less than $1 a day and live in countries where children die for want
of a simple anti-mosquito bed net." (2005, 3)


There are 854 million illiterate adults, 543 million of them women,
325 million children (one in seven) out of school at primary and
secondary levels, 183 million of them girls. (2001, 9) More than one
billion people live without adequate shelter, sanitation, electricity,
and there are 100 million people homeless sleeping in the street.


But capitalism allows a tiny minority to accumulate a vast amount of

The 350 largest companies in the world account for 40% of global trade
and their turnover exceeds the GDP of many countries.

The turnover of General Motors ($168.8 billion) exceeds that of the
GDP of Denmark ($146.1 billion).

The turnover of Ford ($137.1 billion) exceeds the GDP of South Africa
($123.3 billion).

The turnover of Toyota ($111.1 billion), Exxon ($110 billion) and
Royal Dutch/Shell ($109.8 billion) exceeds the GDP of Norway, Poland
and Portugal ($109.6, $92.8, and $91.6 billion respectively).

The turnover of IBM ($72 billion) is greater than that of Malaysia
($68.5 billion). The combined assets of the top five corporations
($871.4 billion) is greater than that of the combined GDP of South
Asia ($451.3 billion), Sub-Saharan Africa ($246.8 billion) and least
developed countries ($76.5 billion). (1997, 92)


Between 1989 and 1996 the number of billionaires increased from 157 to
447. Today the net wealth of the ten richest billionaires is $133
billion, more than 1.5 times the total national income of all the
least developed countries. (1997, 38)

The world's 200 richest people more than doubled their net worth in
the four years to 1998, to more than $1 trillion. The assts of the top
three billionaires are more than the combined GNP of all least
developed countries and their 600 million people. (1999, 3)

The world's 225 richest people have a combined wealth of over $1
trillion, equal to the annual income of the poorest 47% of the world
($2.5 billion). It is estimated that the cost of achieving and
maintaining universal access to education for all, health care for
all, reproductive health care for all women, adequate food for all and
safe water and sanitation for all is roughly $40 billion a year (0.1%
of world income). This is less than 4% of the combined wealth of the
225 richest people in the world. (1998, 30)


The material resources to end poverty and inequality are there.

To provide universal access to basic social services and transfers to
alleviate income poverty with efficient targeting would cost roughly
$80 billion. That is less than 0.5% of global income and less than the
combined net worth of the seven richest men in the world. (1997, 112)

Redistributing 1.6% of the income of the richest 10 percent of the
global population would provide the $300 billion needed to lift the
one billion people living on less than a dollar a day out of extreme
poverty. (2005, 4)


However, meeting the basic needs of the world's population is not a
priority for capitalism.

The annual expenditure necessary to provide basic education for all
around the world is $6 billion. In comparison, the annual expenditure
for cosmetics in the USA is $8 billion.

Annual expenditure to provide water and sanitation for all is $9
billion. In comparison the annual expenditure on ice cream in Europe
is $11 billion. The annual expenditure to provide reproductive health
for all women is $12 billion. In comparison, the annual expenditure on
perfumes in Europe and the USA is $12 billion.

Annual expenditure necessary to provide basic health and nutrition is
$13 billion. In contrast, annual expenditure on pet foods in Europe
and USA is $17 billion. Compared to all those, annual military
spending in the world is $780 billion. (1998, 37)

For every $1 that rich countries spend on aid, they allocate $10 to
military spending. Current spending on HIV/AIDS, a disease that claims
3 million lives per year, represents three days' worth of military
spending (2005, 8)

The $7 billion needed to provide 2.6 billion people with access to
clean water is less than European spends on perfume and less than
Americans spend on elective corrective surgery. This is for an
investment that would save an estimated 4,000 lives each day. (2005,


This is because capitalism is a system based on profit rather than
need. Food production has increased and prices fallen.

"If all the food produced worldwide were distributed equally, every
person would be able to consume 2,760 calories a day -- hunger is
defined as consuming under 1,960 calories a day." (2003, 87)

But as a result of the operations of capitalism, every day, 800
million people (almost one in five) go hungry, and every year ten
million people die of hunger.


Millions of people are in desperate need of medicines. But as the
pharmaceutical industry is capitalist in nature, less than 10% of
global spending on health research addressed 90% of the global disease
burden and health problems of 90% of the world's people. (2002, 7)
People dying of hunger in a world where there has never been so much
food, and people dying because they lack essential medicines because
less than 10% of global spending on health research and production
addresses 90% of the global disease burden shows that a system based
on profit rather than need is irrational and inhuman.


The human costs of maintaining the present system are far too high.
Every year, 10.7 million children died before five of preventable
causes (2005, 24) This means that every hour of everyday, 12000
children die of preventable causes. (2005, 1)

In the 1990s the number of children killed by diarrhea exceeded the
number of people killed in armed conflicts since the Second World War.
(2003, 104)

Some 500,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth each year, one for
every minute of the day. In Sub-Saharan Africa, a woman is one hundred
times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than in a
high-income OECD country. (2003)


The environmental costs of maintaining capitalism are also too high.
The problem is that corporations resist regulations and do not take
into account damage to the environment; resulting in water scarcity,
deforestation, desertification, pollution and natural disaster.
Annual carbon dioxide emissions quadrupled over the past 50 years.
Sulphur dioxide emissions have more than doubled during the same
period. (98, 4)

Burning of fossil fuels has almost quintupled since 1950, consumption
of fresh water has doubled since 1960, marine catch has increased
fourfold, wood consumption is now 40% higher than 25 years ago.
(1998, 2)

In industrial countries, per capita waste generation has increased
threefold in the past 20 years. Water's global availability has
dropped from 17,000 cubic meters per capita in 1950 to 7,000 today.

A sixth of the world's land area (2 billion hectares) is degraded as a
result of poor farming since 1945. Forests are shrinking, since 1970
the wooded area per 1,000 people has fallen from 11.4 square kilometer
to 7.3. Some eight million to ten million acres of forest land are
lost each year.

Fish stocks are declining with about a quarter in danger of depletion
and another 44% being fished at their biological limits. Wild species
are becoming extinct 50 to 100 times faster than they would naturally.
(1998, 4)

And during 1967-1993 natural disasters affected three billion people
in developing countries with more than seven million deaths and two
million injuries. At current rate of loss, 15% of the earth's species
could disappear over the next 25 years. (1996, 26)

Air pollution is a serious problem for 700 million people, primarily
women and children. 2.7 million deaths each year from air pollution
(1998, 5)


A common objection is that capitalism might not be good, however there
are no alternatives. Socialism does and did not work, the fact that
countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union abandoned it
and adopted capitalism proves it.

However, the UN's Human Development Reports show the achievements and
successes of socialism. It notes that socialism was one of the world's
history's "great ascent from human poverty". "There have been two
great ascents from human poverty in recent history: the first in
industrial countries during the late 19th and the early 20th
centuries, and the second in developing countries, Eastern Europe and
the former Soviet Union after the Second World War. They had similar
elements, but the second had a larger scale and a faster timetable.
Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union made advances: infant
mortality was reduced by half, from 81 to 41 per 1,000 live births.
Life expectancy increased from 58 to 66 years for men and from 63 to
74 years for women. And income poverty was declining. In Hungary
between the early 1960s and 1972, the proportion of people living
below the poverty line fell from 60% to 14%". (1997, 25)


If we compare similar countries today on the basis of Human
Development Indicators, socialist China and capitalist India, or
socialist Cuba and capitalist Latin America, the achievements
successes of socialism compared to capitalism are evident.

Since 1949, China has made impressive reductions in human poverty.
Between 1949 and 1995 it reduced infant mortality from 200 per 1,000
live births to 42 per 1000 live births, and increased life expectancy
at birth from 35 years to 69. Today almost all children go to school
and adult illiteracy, 80% in the 1950s has fallen to 19%. The
incidence of poverty from widespread fell to 9% in the 1980s. Hunger
has been totally eradicated. (1997, 49-50)

By contrast, in India, 53% of children under age four, 60 million,
remain undernourished. Infant mortality is 74 per 1,000 live births,
and there are each year 2.2 million infant deaths, most of them
avoidable. Rural poverty is 39% and urban poverty 30%. Half the
population is still illiterate. Life expectancy is 61, eight years
less than China. (1997, 51-52)

In China, public spending on education is 2.3% of GDP while that on
health is 2.1% of GDP. The outcomes for human development are clear.
Literacy stands at 84%, infant mortality rates at 32 per 1,000 lives
birth and under-five mortality rates at 40 per 1,000 live births.
(2003, 73)

Proportional to population, China spends three times as much as India
on health care. In India health spending stands at 1.3% of GDP.
(central and state governments combined) Human development indicators
remain much lower for India than for China. Literacy stands at 65%,
infant mortality at 68 per 1,000 live births, and under five mortality
rates at 96 per 1,000 live births. (2003, 73)

If India provided the same health care as China, every year 1.7
million children could be saved. (1998, 156-157 and 176-177)


In Cuba, there is one medical doctor for 170 people. In the rest of
Latin America, the proportion is of one doctor for 613 people. Cuba
spends per inhabitant twice as much on health care and education than
the rest of Latin America. (2003, 255)

Cuba's per capita income is a small fraction of that of the USA, yet
it has the same infant mortality rate and has kept HIV/AIDS under
control. (2003, 87)

If the rest of Latin America invested as much as Cuba on health care,
every year 400,000 Latin American children could be saved and 20,000
fewer women would die in pregnancy or child birth.

In Latin America, the ten per cent richest people earn 46 times what
the poorest earn. In Cuba the proportion is five times. (2003, 283)

A quarter of Latin Americans have to survive on two dollars a day or
less. In Cuba, less than two per cent do. (2003, 245)


Evidence shows that countries that abandoned the construction of
socialism and adopted capitalism experienced a massive regression.
Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS experienced the sharpest
increase in poverty in the 1990s, the only other region with worsening
trends in poverty is Sub-Saharan Africa. (2005, 21)

Ukraine fell 17 places and Russia 15 places while Tadjikistan fell 21
places. Russia fell 48 places in world life expectancy ranking from
1990 to 2003. (2005, 22) Life expectancy for men has fallen from 70
in 1990 to 59 today, lower than India. If this remains constant, 40
percent of 15 years old Russians will be dead before they reach 60.
(2005, 26)

Between 2.5 to 3 million people died during the 1992-2001 period. "In
the absence of war, famine or health epidemics, there is no recent
historical precedent for the scale of the loss." (2005, 23)

Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS experienced a dramatic increase
in poverty. The number of people on less than $2 a day there rose from
23 million in 1990 to 93 million in 2001, from 5% to 20%. (2005, 34)

In the countries of the former Soviet Union, transition brought with
it one of the deepest recessions since the Great Depression of the
1930s, and in many case despite positive growth over the last few
years, incomes are still lower than they were 15 years ago. (2005,

Since 1990 real per capita incomes have fallen by more than 10% in
Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Ukraine and by 40% in Georgia, Moldova and
Tajikistan. In Russia, 10 percent of the population live on less than
$2 a day and 25 percent live below the national subsistence level.
(2005, 35)


These are the main reasons why we believe that capitalism, as a way of
organizing society and the economy, fails and is not sustainable; and
advocate socialism as a viable alternative and a better way of
organizing the world.


Back copies of The Plough can be accessed at:

The Real Threat of Fascism 05.Oct.2005 11:38

by Paul Bigioni from commondreams.org reposted by z3r0b0y

Paul Bigioni - is a lawyer practicing in Markham, Ontario, Canada. He is a commentator on trade and political issues. This article is drawn from his work on a book about the persistence of fascism.

Observing political and economic discourse in North America since the 1970's leads to an inescapable conclusion: the vast bulk of legislative activity favors the interests of large commercial enterprises. Big business is very well off, and successive Canadian and U.S. governments, of whatever political stripe, have made this their primary objective for at least the last 25 years. Digging deeper into twentieth century history, one finds this steadfast focus on the well-being of big business in other times and places. The exaltation of big business at the expense of the citizen was a central characteristic of government policy in Germany and Italy in the years before those countries were chewed to bits and spat out by fascism. Fascist dictatorships were borne to power in each of these countries by big business, and they served the interests of big business with remarkable ferocity. These facts have been lost to the popular consciousness in North America. Fascism could therefore return to us, and we will not even recognize it. Indeed, Huey Long, one of America's most brilliant and most corrupt politicians, was once asked if America would ever see fascism. His answer was, "Yes, but we will call it anti-fascism".

By exploring the disturbing parallels between our own time and the era of overt fascism, I am confident that we can avoid the same hideous mistakes. At present, we live in a constitutional democracy. The tools necessary to protect ourselves from fascism remain in the hands of the citizen. All the same, I believe that North America is on a fascist trajectory. We must recognize this threat for what it is, and we must change course. I propose to identify the core economic elements of fascism. In doing so, I will show that present-day political fashions are leading us down the path already trodden by Italy and Germany.

Consider the words of Thurman Arnold, head of the Anti-trust Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in 1939:

"Germany, of course, has developed within 15 years from an industrial autocracy into a dictatorship. Most people are under the impression that the power of Hitler was the result of his demagogic blandishments and appeals to the mob... Actually, Hitler holds his power through the final and inevitable development of the uncontrolled tendency to combine in restraint of trade."

Arnold made his point even more clearly in a 1939 address to the American Bar Association:

"Germany presents the logical end of the process of cartelization. From 1923 to 1935 cartelization grew in Germany until finally that nation was so organized that everyone had to belong either to a squad, a regiment or a brigade in order to survive. The names given to these squads, regiments or brigades were cartels, trade associations, unions and trusts. Such a distribution system could not adjust its prices. It needed a general with quasi-military authority who could order the workers to work and the mills to produce. Hitler named himself that general. Had it not been Hitler it would have been someone else."

I suspect that to most readers, Thurman Arnold's words are bewildering. Most people today are quite certain that they know what fascism is. When I ask people to define fascism, they typically tell me what it was, the assumption being that it no longer exists. I have asked this question on numerous occasions, and the usual answer contains references to dictatorship and racism which trail off into muttering when the respondent realizes that he or she knows almost nothing about fascism's political and economic characteristics.

Before the rise of fascism, Germany and Italy were liberal democracies. Fascism did not swoop down on these nations as if from another planet. To the contrary, fascist dictatorship was the end result of political and economic processes which these nations underwent while they were still democratic. In both these countries, economic power became so utterly concentrated that the bulk of all economic activity fell under the control of a handful of men. Economic power, when sufficiently vast, becomes by its very nature political power. The political power of big business supported fascism in Italy and Germany.

Business tightened its grip on the state in both Italy and Germany by means of intricate webs of cartels and business associations. These associations exercised a very high degree of control over the businesses of their members. They frequently controlled pricing, supply and the licensing of patented technology. These associations were private, but were entirely legal. Neither Germany nor Italy had effective antitrust laws, and the proliferation of business associations was generally encouraged by government. This was an era eerily like our own, insofar as economists and businessmen constantly clamored for self-regulation in business. By the mid 1920's, however, self-regulation had become self-imposed regimentation. By means of monopoly and cartel, the businessmen had wrought for themselves a "command and control" economy which effectively replaced the free market. The business associations of Italy and Germany at this time are perhaps history's most perfect illustration of Adam Smith's famous dictum: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices".

How could the German government not be influenced by Fritz Thyssen, the man who controlled most of Germany's coal production? How could it ignore the demands of the great I.G. Farben industrial trust, controlling as it did most of that nation's chemical production? Indeed, the German nation was bent to the will of these powerful industrial interests. Hitler attended to reduction of certain taxes applicable to large businesses, while simultaneously increasing the same taxes as they related to small business. Previous decrees establishing price ceilings were repealed such that the cost of living for the average family was increased. Hitler's economic policies hastened the destruction of Germany's middle class by decimating small business. Ironically, Hitler pandered to the middle class and they provided some of his most enthusiastically violent supporters. The fact that he did this while simultaneously destroying them was a terrible achievement of Nazi propaganda.

Hitler also destroyed organized labor by making strikes illegal. Notwithstanding the socialist terms in which he appealed to the masses, Hitler's labor policy was the dream come true of the industrial cartels that supported him. Nazi law gave total control over wages and working conditions to the employer. Compulsory (slave) labor was the crowning achievement of Nazi labor relations. Along with millions of people, organized labor died in the concentration camps. The camps were not only the most depraved of all human achievements, they were a part and parcel of Nazi economic policy. Hitler's untermenschen, largely Jews, Poles and Russians, supplied slave labor to German industry. Surely this was a capitalist bonanza. In another bitter irony, the gates over many of the camps bore a sign that read "Urbeit Macht Frei" - "work shall set you free". I do not know if this was black humor or propaganda, but it is emblematic of the deception that lies at the heart of fascism.

The same economic reality existed in Italy between the two world wars. In that country, nearly all industrial activity was owned or controlled by a few corporate giants, F.I.A.T. and the Ansaldo shipping concern being the chief examples. Land ownership in Italy was also highly concentrated and jealously guarded. Vast tracts of farmland were owned by a few latifundisti. The actual farming was carried out by a landless peasantry who were locked into a role essentially the same as that of the share cropper of the U.S. deep south. As in Germany, the few owners of the nation's capital assets had immense influence over government. As a young man, Mussolini had been a strident socialist, and he, like Hitler, used socialist language to lure the people to fascism. Mussolini spoke of a "corporate" society wherein the energy of the people would not be wasted on class struggle. The entire economy was to be divided into industry specific "corporazioni", bodies composed of both labor and management representatives. The corporazioni would resolve all labor/management disputes, and if they failed to do so, the fascist state would intervene. Unfortunately, as in Germany, there laid at the heart of this plan a swindle. The corporazioni, to the extent that they were actually put in place, were controlled by the employers. Together with Mussolini's ban on strikes, these measures reduced the Italian laborer to the status of peasant.

Mussolini the one-time socialist went on to abolish the inheritance tax, a measure which favored the wealthy. He decreed a series of massive subsidies to Italy's largest industrial businesses and repeatedly ordered wage reductions. Italy's poor were forced to subsidize the wealthy. In real terms, wages and living standards for the average Italian dropped precipitously under fascism.

Even this brief historical sketch shows how fascism did the bidding of big business. The fact that Hitler called his party the "National Socialist Party" did not change the reactionary nature of his policies. The connection between the fascist dictatorships and monopoly capital was obvious to the US Department of Justice in 1939. As of 2005, however, it is all but forgotten.

It is always dangerous to forget the lessons of history. It is particularly perilous to forget about the economic origins of fascism in our modern era of deregulation. Most Western liberal democracies are currently held in the thrall of what some call market fundamentalism. Few nowadays question the flawed assumption that state intervention in the marketplace is inherently bad. As in Italy and Germany in the 20's and 30's, business associations clamor for more deregulation and deeper tax cuts. The gradual erosion of antitrust legislation, especially in the United States, has encouraged consolidation in many sectors of the economy by way of mergers and acquisitions. The North American economy has become more monopolistic than at any time in the post-WWII period. Fewer, larger competitors dominate all economic activity, and their political will is expressed with the millions of dollars they spend lobbying politicians and funding policy formulation in the many right-wing institutes which now limit public discourse to the question of how best to serve the interests of business. The consolidation of the economy, and the resulting perversion of public policy are themselves fascistic. I am quite certain, however, that President Clinton was not worrying about fascism when he repealed federal antitrust laws that had been enacted in the 1930's. The Canadian Council of Chief Executives is similarly unworried about fascism when it lobbies the Canadian government to water down our Federal Competition Act. (The Competition Act regulates monopolies, among other things, and itself represents a watering down of Canada's previous antitrust laws. It was essentially written by industry and handed to the Mulroney Government to be enacted.)

At present, monopolies are regulated on purely economic grounds to ensure the efficient allocation of goods. If we are to protect ourselves from the growing political influence of big business, then our antitrust laws must be reconceived in a way which recognizes the political danger of monopolistic conditions. Antitrust laws do not just protect the marketplace, they protect democracy.

Our collective forgetfulness about the economic nature of fascism is also dangerous at a more philosophical level. As contradictory as it may seem, fascist dictatorship was made possible because of the flawed notion of freedom which held sway during the era of laissez-faire capitalism in the early twentieth century. It was the liberals of that era that clamored for unfettered personal and economic freedom, no matter what the cost to society. Such untrammeled freedom is not suitable to civilized humans. It is the freedom of the jungle. In other words, the strong have more of it than the weak. It is a notion of freedom which is inherently violent, because it is enjoyed at the expense of others. Such a notion of freedom legitimizes each and every increase in the wealth and power of those who are already powerful, regardless of the misery that will be suffered by others as a result. The use of the state to limit such "freedom" was denounced by the laissez-faire liberals of the early twentieth century. The use of the state to protect such "freedom" was fascism. Just as monopoly is the ruin of the free market, fascism is the ultimate degradation of liberal capitalism.

In the postwar period, this flawed notion of freedom has been perpetuated by the neo-liberal school of thought. The neo-liberals denounce any regulation of the marketplace. In so doing, they mimic the posture of big business in the pre-fascist period. Under the sway of neo-liberalism, Thatcher, Reagan, Mulroney and George W. Bush have decimated labor and exalted capital. (At present, only 7.8 per cent of workers in the U.S. private sector are unionized - about the same percentage as in the early 1900's.) Neo-liberals call relentlessly for tax cuts which, in a previously progressive system, disproportionately favor the wealthy. Regarding the distribution of wealth, the neo-liberals have nothing to say. In the result, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As in Weimar Germany, the function of the state is being reduced to that of a steward for the interests of the moneyed elite. All that would be required now for a more rapid descent into fascism are a few reasons for the average person to forget that he is being ripped off. The racist hatred of Arabs, fundamentalist Christianity or an illusory sense of perpetual war may well be taking the place of Hitler's hatred for communists and Jews.

Neo-liberal intellectuals often recognize the need for violence to protect what they regard as freedom. Thomas Freidman of the New York Times has written enthusiastically that "the hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist", and that "McDonald's cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the U.S. Air Force F-15... ". As in pre-fascist Germany and Italy, the laissez-faire businessmen call for the state to do their bidding even as they insist that the state should stay out of the marketplace. Put plainly, neo-liberals advocate the use of the state's military force for the sake of private gain. Their view of the state's role in society is identical to that of the businessmen and intellectuals who supported Hitler and Mussolini. There is no fear of the big state here. There is only the desire to wield its power. Neo-liberalism is thus fertile soil for fascism to grow again into an outright threat to our democracy.

Having said that fascism is the result of a flawed notion of freedom, I respectfully suggest that we must reexamine what we mean when we throw around the word "freedom". We must conceive of freedom in a more enlightened way. Indeed, it was the thinkers of the Enlightenment that imagined a balanced and civilized freedom which did not impinge upon the freedom of one's neighbor. Put in the simplest terms, my right to life means that you must give up your freedom to kill me. This may seem terribly obvious to decent people. Unfortunately, in our neo-liberal era, this civilized sense of freedom has, like the dangers of fascism, been all but forgotten.


EXCELLENT SUMMARY ... 05.Oct.2005 13:23

reader 2

... of the whole world experience at this time.

I would just add that the link needs the "http" stuff to become clickable:


Dorothee Soelle wrote in her last book "Mysticism and Resistance":

"Since 1989 we have lived in a standardized globalized economic order of technocracy that claims an absolute control of space, time and creation. The machine driven by the pressure to produce more is confirmed by inconceivable technological successes. It is programmed for more speed, productivity, consumption and profit for 20% of humanity. This program is more effective and violent than all historical empires with their Babylonian towers."

From article posted by mbatko translations --


Why Socialism? by Albert Einstein 05.Oct.2005 19:18

A good read,Found first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949).

 http://www.monthlyreview.org/598einst.htm Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.

Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called "the predatory phase" of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.

For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.

Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: "Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?"

I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?

It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.

Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior. The abstract concept "society" means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society—in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is "society" which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word "society."

It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.

Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.

If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time—which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.

For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call "workers" all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is "free," what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists' requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the "free labor contract" for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from "pure" capitalism.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an "army of unemployed" almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers' goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.