Why do We Need Socialism?
By Bonnie Weinstein
Capitalism’s inability to solve the most fundamental problems of humankind was revealed to this author while I was watching CNN on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2005, the second day of the brand new year. It was sometime during the early afternoon that TV cameras captured a scene of a relief truck handing out food and clothing desperately needed by what looked like thousands of men, women and children. I watched for about five minutes as the cameras showed how people pressed close to the truck with their hands outstretched ready to catch the meager supplies thrown from the open doors.
Fights broke out over what was enough for only a few hundred in the crowd of thousands. As usual, capitalist charity only threw a few bones to the needy masses. If only we could turn the tables —as my mother, used to say, “It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Navy has to hold a bake sale to buy a ship.” In other words, wouldn’t it be great if the warmongers had to be funded by charity and the war budget, instead, could go for humanitarian aid.
But, one-percent of the human race, the capitalist class, enslaves the other 99%. The capitalists own and control the politicians, the police and the military. They draft unwilling citizens through economic necessity, or through direct conscription, into their military apparatus. Capitalism is handicapped by its own inability to act in any other way but in its own interests and against the interests of 99% of humanity and the planet itself.
The United States capitalists—the wealthiest and most powerful in the world—are in a desperate battle to maintain their hegemony over world finance capital in order to protect their corporate interests above all.
Where were the warnings?
It is a system that has outlived its usefulness. Even though scientists had the technology to warn the affected regions from one to seven hours before the massive waves hit the shores, they didn’t do so. It appears, however, that scientists in Hawaii warned only the British naval base, Diego Garcia, which houses American military personnel and a prison. These scientists had monitored the earthquake that set off the tsunami, and warned the military base that the tsunami was approaching. Personnel at the base, which apparently is naturally protected from such disasters by the extreme depths of its waters, claimed that, “They didn’t know whom to call to warn.”
With the most advanced Earth monitoring apparatus, scientists were unable to save lives by warning of the imminent disaster that was unfolding even though they knew about it. Yet its billion-dollar surveillance systems can photograph you through a window from somewhere in space. We live in the instant information/communication age. Warnings could have been put out worldwide through the internet and telephone. Sirens could have alerted people at the shores to try to escape inland. Thousands of lives could have been saved!
Tourist industry profits protected
According to a report from the Swedish paper Expressen, on December 28, 2004, the tsunami warnings were halted out of concern for the tourist industry.
“Just minutes after the earthquake in the Indian Ocean on Sunday morning, Thailand’s foremost meteorological experts were sitting together in a crisis meeting. But they decided not to warn about the tsunami ‘out of courtesy to the tourist industry,’ writes the Thailand daily newspaper The Nation.
“The experts got the news around 8:00 am on Sunday morning local time. An hour later, the first massive wave struck. But the experts started to discuss the economic impacts when they discussed if a tsunami warning should be issued.
“The primary argument against such a warning was that there had not been any floods in 300 years. Also, the experts believed the Indonesian island Sumatra would be a ‘cushion’ for the southern coast of Thailand. The experts also had bad information; they thought the tremor was 8.1. A similar earthquake occurred in the same area in 2002 with no flooding at all.
“One expert The Nation spoke with also noted that the department had only four earthquake experts among their 900-strong meteorological department. A second told The Nation that a tsunami warning was discussed but that because of the risk, they opted not to issue a warning.
“‘We finally decided not to do anything because the tourist season was in full swing,’ the source said. ‘The hotels were 100 percent booked. What if we issued a warning, which would have led to an evacuation, and nothing had happened. What would be the outcome? The tourist industry would be immediately hurt. Our department would not be able to endure a lawsuit.’”1
Distribution of Aid
And even in the aftermath of the disaster, with the overwhelming outpouring of funds and volunteers from generous people all over the world, capitalism will be unable to distribute this aid to adequately help the victims of this horrible disaster. Many will still suffer needlessly. Many will die from preventable diseases from lack of clean water, sufficient food, and medical care.
Of course, while the U.S. is not responsible for the tsunami, there is a limit to what they can do to help while they are carrying out another “tsunami” of their own making in Iraq. There are just so many helicopters they are able to spare from their war of aggression on the people of Iraq.
According to an article San Francisco Chronicle (January 18, 2004) entitled, “The Defense Budget is Bigger Than You Think,” by Robert Higgs, “…in fiscal year 2004, through which we are passing currently, the grand total spent for defense will be approximately $695 billion. To this amount will have to be added the $58.8 billion allocated to fiscal year 2004 from the $87.5 billion supplemental spending authorized on November 6, 2003, for support of U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq and for so-called reconstruction of those despoiled and occupied countries. Thus, the super-grand total in fiscal year 2004 will reach the astonishing amount of nearly $754 billion—or 88 percent more than the much-publicized $401.3 billion—plus, of course, any additional supplemental spending that may be approved before the end of the fiscal year.”
Clearly, the problem it is not the lack of funds available to bring adequate aid. The problem is that all our tax money is going for the war! And the wealthy are not paying even a small fraction of these taxes. Two-thirds of U.S. businesses pay no taxes at all! And many of them actually get big refunds. That means that the money wasted on this war is money stolen from working people and the poor.
All of the wealthiest capitalist countries in the world do the same. Capitalism leaves it to private charity that never reaches those in need, or is grossly inadequate. Charity, by and large, is the poor giving to the poor. The rich only give if they can get a tax deduction.
Even in the United States, victims of hurricanes, earthquakes, and fires that destroy homes and lives are left to battle with crooked insurance companies. They collect from the victims many times more than they pay out in relief claims. The insurance companies have to make a profit first, and second pay these claims. The poorest suffer the most. The renters and trailer park residents, unable to afford comprehensive insurance, or even medical coverage, get almost nothing in the way of aid. They depend completely on charity and individual acts of human kindness—usually neighbor helping neighbor. The poor are always the most generous. They hand out far more in proportion to their income than the wealthy.
The blame for compounding this natural disaster falls squarely on the shoulders of capitalism. It’s simply a system that puts profit before people. There is no simpler way to put it. Capitalism can be blamed for the high death-tolls from floods, famine, hurricanes, tsunamis, water pollution, air pollution, or oil spills because it is not in business to care about these things or the people they impact—unless the impacts harms its ability to turn a nice profit.
The profit motive is the engine that drives capitalism. And the system itself fuels this engine by consuming the wealth of the world and accumulating more of it. Where do the profits go? The wealth goes into the pockets of the tiny 1 percent of the world’s population, the capitalist class. Their profits are “unquestionable.”
Nothing stands in their way of the accumulation of more wealth. And they are armed to the teeth. The U.S. government is ahead of every other capitalist despot in wealth and military might. They will keep control of this wealth by any means necessary—including the sacrifice of the Earth itself, to maintain their hegemony.
The U.S. government spends billions of dollars on the military even when there is no overt war. Weapons manufacturers are always fully funded—even for frivolous and ridiculous endeavors such as shooting down nuclear devises from space—an endeavor already discredited by top scientists throughout the world.
But the U.S. government can’t make a phone call or send an email out to warn of disaster in the making that has swept away 150,000 people, and still counting.
In contrast to capitalist countries, Cuba has been a model for the whole world in how to protect a vulnerable population from disaster. (See article, “Cuba: A model in Hurricane Risk Management,” in this issue).
A society in transition to socialism, one based on fulfilling human needs and wants instead of profit, is able to turn the tables, and make all efforts to prevent natural disasters from having such a devastating impact.
A socialist world will be able pull all of its resources together—with no mind to profit—to minimize human suffering and look after the welfare of all survivors.
What horrors this insatiable capitalist greed is responsible for! Tens of thousands of unidentified people are lying dead on the beaches. Tens of thousands more will die of starvation and disease because the most advanced, wealthiest capitalist country in the world is concentrating its resources on war in the quest for oil and empire instead of human needs.
What a relief it will be to live in a world socialist society that will consider the health, safety and welfare of people and the planet first and foremost, without having to satiate the greed of private capital ever again.
1 This story was first noted and originally translated at Democratic Underground.