We are amidst an economic crisis that is two years old. Unemployment, which is worst in black and Latino communities, is nearly 10 percent nationally. Working people’s homes continue to foreclose at record rates, raids and deportations of immigrant workers continue to escalate and poverty is on the rise. Today, one in seven Americans live below the poverty line. Half of the world’s population lives on less than $2.50 a day.
Not everyone is suffering, though. There is one sector of the population that has been doing just fine in this recession – the capitalist upper class. While the government hasn’t lifted a single finger to help out working people, it has given trillions of dollars to Wall Street bankers and other capitalists in the form of government bailouts and tax credits.
The war industry is also booming. More than half of our federal tax dollars go to funding the military. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, which have already killed millions of people for the sake of corporate profits, rage on with no end in sight. This happens whether Democrats or Republicans are in office.
The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This is capitalism, a system where war, racism, homophobia, exploitation and sexism are all acceptable to the people who profit from it. Under capitalism, the chief means of production (i.e. the banks, factories, businesses, etc.) are all privately owned and the economy is driven by the profit motive. Everything the capitalist ruling class does is for the sake of extending or protecting profits.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In this time of crisis we need to look past capitalism, a system that produces nothing but poverty and misery for a majority of the world, to a system that will meet everyone’s needs. It is my belief that socialism is the solution to the economic and political crisis we are currently in.
Socialism is a system in which the means of production are owned collectively by the working class. The economy is run by working class people according to a democratic plan aimed at meeting the needs of everyone. Society would be governed by workers through workplace councils. Elected representatives would be workers who would be accountable to their workplace constituency and subject to immediate recall if they did not represent the interests of their co-workers.
The former Soviet Union was not a socialist society. Neither are the Western European countries nor China. Barack Obama and all his reforms have nothing to do with socialism either. Socialism requires direct democratic control of the economy and society by working class people.
The Soviet Union initially had workers’ control of the government and the economy, but this was destroyed in the face of economic embargo, civil war and foreign military intervention. The bureaucracy that took control of government instilled a planned economy and near full employment, but in an undemocratic and non-collective fashion. Even so, the Soviet economy grew from one of the least developed in Europe to the second strongest economy in the world in only a few decades. One can only imagine how prosperous it could have been if workers were planning the economy collectively and democratically in the interests of the whole society instead of in the interests of the Soviet bureaucracy.
Capitalism has nothing left to offer humanity except poverty, wealth inequality and endless war. The only way to get out of this endless boom and bust cycle of capitalism and imperialism is to take control of industry out of the hands of individual capitalists and put it under the control of working people. Workers create all of the wealth in society, so they should be the ones who decide how it’s used. This is what socialism is all about.
Dan Bullman is a columnist for the Daily Campus at the University of Connecticut.