U.S. and World Politics

Thoughts on the News

By Carole Seligman

February 23, 2017—Sometimes reading the news can hit one over the head with the desperate situation humanity is in. I was (hit over the head).

Yesterday, I read an article in The New Yorker magazine of February 27, 2017, “The Children’s Odyssey,” written in a low-key style by Lauren Collins, about unaccompanied minor refugees traveling thousands of miles to seek refuge away from their war torn countries, and the gross failure of the advanced, wealthy countries of Europe to shelter and care for them.

Later in the day, I read, “At Wisconsin Juvenile Prisons, Children Face a Nightmare of Solitary Confinement and Abuse” By Valerie Kiebala—which reports in detail about the abusive treatment of children in solitary confinement in Wisconsin juvenile prisons. Abuse of children is clearly a feature of society across a spectrum of the most “advanced”—read “wealthy”—countries of Europe and North America.

And today’s New York Times has a mind-boggling report “At a ‘Defense’ Expo, an Antiseptic World of Weaponry” by Ben Hubbard. This article begins as a kind of “antiseptic” report on the wares for sale at the International Defense [sic] Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. But, halfway into the article the author says, “As a Middle East correspondent during visits to Gaza, Syria, Iraq and Yemen I have seen up close the human cost to communities on the receiving end of many of these weapons.” And so, the author reports, he was “overwhelmed.”

Reading these three pieces together paints an honest picture of conditions in a world of tremendous wealth in which eight individual billionaires own wealth above that owned by half of humanity.

This is a condition—enormous, unfathomable wealth alongside an unfathomable degree of poverty and suffering of masses of human beings, including millions of children—that characterizes capitalist society. These are conditions that show that capitalist society cannot be moral, cannot solve the most basic needs of the human species for shelter, sustenance (clean water, good food a clean environment), safety, and health.

These conditions have existed for over the last century and, in fact, the whole time that capitalism has been the dominant social system in the world, despite its ability to amass gigantic wealth. And although the Trump Administration personifies the evils of capitalist society and its abuse of children, none of the “alternatives” proposed to the Trump Administration by those who espouse some reformist vision of a kinder and gentler “socialistic” society have had any success in changing these conditions. And, they don’t even seem to have wanted to change them when they were in power. All the capitalist governments have poured the bulk of society’s wealth and resources into war and weaponry.

In the years after World War II, and since the early 1970s when the U.S. capitalist economy ended a period of limited gains for the U.S. working class, these conditions have only worsened. There are literally millions of people on the move—refugees from war and environmental devastation that has caused more frequent famines, extreme weather devastation, environmental deterioration that makes subsistence impossible in more and more places. And the governments at the centers of wealth and power, those whose wealth and resources could be mobilized to feed, clothe, and shelter the whole world’s population, are unwilling and unable to do that. To do so would conflict with profit-making.  And profit-making is the be-all and end-all of capitalist society—human needs be damned. Children’s welfare be damned.

Our job is to say “capitalism be damned,” and to send it into the trash bin of history by any means necessary. Clearly, this means revolution, socialist revolution to end profit-making and war once and for all.