Reminding Ourselves of The Line of March
There is much to do about the state of the world's poor emanating from the UN these days. It is important that we can have access to the statistics on this subject as, unlike the UN, most of us don't have the resources to compile such data; 1.6 billion without decent drinking water, 2.5 billion with inadequate sewage.
All the "experts agree" that these "structural" deficiencies are the cause the disease and death inflicted on the world's poor.
However, the UN can't do anything about this situation, as it is an organization designed to defend the market. Its main function is to ensure that capitalism thrives as an economic system. And it is the market, capitalism, that is the root cause of world poverty and hunger. The massive wealth created by labor and the resources that flow from this are in private hands; workers do not control our own life activity.
This week a Chinese porcelain bowl sold at Christies in Hong Kong for $19.4 million. Last month, Andy Warhol's portrait of Mao sold for $17 million. When measured in terms of global wealth, these figures are a paltry sum but do give an example of what is out there. Christie's CEO, Edward Dolman agrees, ""The amounts of money sloshing around are huge," he says. "What's $17 million for a Warhol in the scheme of things?" "There is a feeling of stability about the clients' source of wealth," Mr. Dolman adds. (Financial Times 12-2-06)
The money traders are doing very well. This year, according to the Times, 170,000 employees of the five US investment banks and brokerages will earn bonuses totaling $36 billion and that overall compensation at these banks will be around $55 to $60 billion.
The UN recently estimated that a mere $20 billion a year would bring people decent housing, health care and sewage. This would also have an effect on environmental degradation. In its UNICEF report released in October 2004, the UN claimed that deaths of children under the age of five averaged 158 per 1000 births in the world's poorest countries in 2002. In industrial countries the figure is 7 per 1000 and 90 per 1000 for the remaining poor countries. The worst cases are sub-Saharan Africa with 174 and Sierra Leone that has the world's highest child mortality rate, where almost one in five children die before their fifth birthday. Africa bears the brunt of capital being used to buy porcelain bowls for the pleasures of he rich and famous.
The report's explanation for these tragic death rates of much of the world's children is interesting. Nearly a quarter of the deaths occur at birth or right after due to lack of healthcare including doctors. Acute respiratory infections account for 18%, diarrhea 15% and malaria 10%. The biggest killer is malnutrition that accounts for over half (54%) of the deaths. HIV/Aids accounts for 4% of the deaths according to the reports findings. This crisis is due to one cause and one cause only; the ownership and control of global resources by a few private individuals and the market economy they perpetuate.
In the middle ages the rising capitalist class in the growing urban centers were waging a war against the feudal ruling class of the time and the social relations that held back the growth of capital and the development of a free market economy. These mercantilists, traders and increasingly powerful capitalists received certain privileges and exemptions form the restraints of what was in general a self-sustaining rural based economy that restrained trade. Chartered towns like Venice and Hamburg gained strength and were the part of opposition to feudal rule. The Hanseatic and Lombard League's were the product of this rising capitalist class. As the Encyclopedia Britannica explains, "Early concentrations of population in settlements occurred for political, ecclesiastical, or defensive reasons as often as for commercial ones; but the period from the 11th century onward saw the widespread rise of classes of men engaged in the commerce of exchange or manufacture and settled for that purpose in urban groups.
As capitalism grew, we grew with it, Workers moved from rural to urban centers. We were freed from the individual existence of the rural community and entered mass urban life and developed the consciousness that accompanies it.
The capitalist class settled matters with the feudal aristocracy and we are where we are today. But as we weave our way through all the solutions put forward by the apologists of capitalism and the panaceas that emanate from the Vatican, the caves of Afghanistan or the halls of the great university's of the world. We must not let one fact escape us; like the bourgeois of the old chartered towns, the working class of the world has to break the restraints that the laws of the market and the social relations that flow from this place on global resources. Capitalism socialized production; socialism must socialize capital.
When capital is socialized it ceases to be capital. This resource is only capital when it is put to use in order to multiply itself and it needs to exploit living labor to do that. As Marx explained, this resource becomes capital "By maintaining and multiplying itself as an independent social power, that is, as the power of a portion of society by means of its exchange for direct, living labor power. "
Capital is accumulated labor, but accumulated labor only becomes capital when it plays the role described above. As Marx explains, "Capital does not consist in accumulated labor serving living labor as a means for new production. It consists in living labor (humans at work rm) serving accumulated labor as a means for maintaining and multiplying the exchange value of the latter." In other words as a means of multiplying itself and consequently, increasing the wealth of its owners.
Like the merchants of the early-chartered towns, the working classes have historically attempted to free ourselves from the restraints of capitalist society. From the Paris commune of 1871, the successful revolution in Russia in 1917 before the rise of Stalinism, to the factory occupations in Argentina and the embryonic rise of workers rule, in Oaxaca or even the great Seattle strike of 1919, workers struggle to control our life activity and the wealth that flows from it.
This is the task that confronts us and it is the only solution to the crisis of global capitalism that travels the road to environmental and social disaster.
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