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Millions of human beings cannot satisfy their fundamental needs. They lack clean water, sufficient food and decent accommodation, and they do not have access to health and education. Therefore, the capitalist system failed to improve people's lives or to put an end to the great plagues that make humanity suffer. Worse still, in the last thirty years, that is, since the implantation of neoliberal capitalism, the situation has deteriorated in both the North and the South of the planet. When considering the situation from a global point of view, the balance of capitalism is extremely negative.
Man always made war; man is fundamentally selfish; capitalism always existed and always will exist; Despite its defects, the capitalist system is the least bad of the systems; capitalism is the only model that has shown its aptitude. All other societies ended in catastrophes. These statements that are heard everywhere, and for a long time, fulfill a very precise function: to annul any serious debate, any critical analysis and any alternative proposal to the economic model in which we live.
Accepting these statements prevents us from seeing the bottom line: we live in a world based on exploitation, poverty and inequalities. We also live in a world that is immersed in a global, planetary crisis, unprecedented in the history of humanity. These statements, by leading us to withdraw into ourselves and fatalism, also prevent us from becoming responsible citizens who put their energies and intelligence at the service of an emancipatory project.
If we want to fight in the most efficient way possible against social injustice, it is necessary to deconstruct, combat and overcome these assertions that are nothing more than antiphrases and preconceptions. It is necessary to accept that humanity must find the means to advance concretely by another path than that of capitalism. It won't be easy at all. The road will be long and with multiple obstacles, but it is the only solution if we want to build that other possible world, socially just and respectful of nature. Today being anti-capitalist, it is urgent, necessary and reasonable.
1. Being anti-capitalist, is simple, consistent and morally fair
First of all, what does it mean to be anti-capitalist? According to the dictionary, he or the one who opposes capitalism is anti-capitalist (1). But what is capitalism? It is an economic and social model whose fundamental values are: profit, private ownership of the means of production, competition, and economic growth.
Indeed, being anti-capitalist is very simple: it is only against the fact that profit, private ownership of the means of production, competition, selfishness and economic growth constitute the fundamental values that determine our human societies.
Being anti-capitalist is not the same as being a communist, a Leninist, a Stalinist, a Trotskyist, an anarchist, or other such "-ists." Being anti-capitalist does not mean "defending" regimes such as Stalin's Soviet Union, Pol Pot's Cambodia, Mao's China, or today's China. Being anti-capitalist does not mean rejecting "progress" and living miserably by refusing to accept everything that comes from this society. Living in a system and being against it is not the same, nor is it incompatible.
To be anti-capitalist is to think that these values (profit, private property, competition and growth) must not and cannot constitute the basis of a socially just society, respectful of nature, supportive and emancipatory for humanity.
2. The capitalist system failed to improve people's lives
On the side of defenders of capitalism, you often hear statements such as: Obviously, capitalism is not perfect, no system is. But it must not be forgotten that capitalism has allowed an improvement in living conditions for millions of people. For example, people have never reached such an advanced age. Nor should we forget that it is thanks to capitalism that millions of people were able to access technologies such as television, aviation, cars, mobile phones, the Internet.
It cannot be denied that there is a part of truth in that statement, but it is very small, almost minuscule. Why? We must begin by remembering that most of the wealth that some of us benefit from was created on the basis of the exploitation of peoples and the looting of their natural resources. What has been the price paid for allowing a minority of human beings to 'benefit' or 'enjoy' a high standard of living and so-called 'progress'? How many wars, how many crimes against humanity, human and ecological catastrophes have been necessary to reach such "progress"?
On the other hand, capitalism is in force in almost all the economies of the planet and has become global, that is, all these economies are interconnected. This implies that a serious assessment of capitalism can only be done on a global scale and the question must be asked: how many human beings have benefited and are really benefiting from this system? Let us remember here that according to the World Bank more than half of humanity lives in poverty. For these 3 billion beings, the concern is not television, the Internet, or other technological assets. It's about working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, to get enough resources for the family to survive, simply not to die. And if we speak of "reaching old age", it should not be forgotten that all the United Nations reports show that life expectancy fell in several countries, reaching, for example, 41 years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In the South as in the North, the majority of citizens, social movements and international institutions admit that the current situation is inhuman and intolerable. Millions of human beings cannot satisfy their fundamental needs. When considering the situation from a global point of view, the balance of capitalism is extremely negative.
3. The crisis we are facing is, neither more nor less, a crisis of the capitalist system
The current situation (social, economic, ecological…) is appalling, since it has been deteriorating in the course of the last thirty years, and that is the reality that must be taken into account. In addition, another fundamental question must be asked: How will the situation evolve in the short or medium term? In which direction are we going? Towards an improvement or a deterioration? Without being a fortune teller, the answer to this question is quite obvious. It is painful but we must accept it honestly and without falling into catastrophism: not only is there the risk that the situation will continue to deteriorate, but that mere human survival may be in danger. It is clear that humanity must face several crises of unprecedented planetary scope: food, financial, economic, ecological, migration, energy, civilization crises.
When you investigate the details of these crises, you quickly find that they are not the result of "mismanagement" or the absence of rules, but the product of the nature and logic of capitalism itself. A system whose sole objective is the maximum profit in the short term, whatever the social and ecological consequences caused. This analysis offers us an additional reason to be anti-capitalist, and to seek, find and implement solutions that are framed in a process of rupture against this system and that, therefore, place the satisfaction of fundamental needs at the center of all options. political and economic.
4. Capitalism cannot be humanized
Another very important question is whether capitalism is capable of reversing this trend. According to the dominant discourse, we should make reasonable a capitalism that would have gone mad. The financial crisis would be the result of unacceptable behavior by some capitalists and therefore it would be a question of "saving capitalism from the capitalists." To reverse the current trend and get out of the crisis, we should re-found capitalism, humanize it, returning to greater regulation.
Now there has been a change in relation to the neoliberal discourses of the last thirty years. But you have to be careful not to confuse the speeches with reality. State interventions in the economy, such as plans to bail out the financial sector, do not aim to defend the popular classes, but rather to save the capitalist system to resume growth and, consequently, restore the profits of the capitalists. It is about managing the crisis by regulating the system provisionally to avoid total bankruptcy, and then distribute on the same bases as always. The chances of them being able to re-launch growth are slim. All the figures and all the reports from international institutions indicate that, without radical change, we will enter a deep and long crisis. The banking and financial one continues; the economic one has become general. The crisis is now global.
In any case, in the framework of the current correlation of forces, there is no government that puts a change in the system on the agenda. It has not done so until now and is not preparing to do so. What governments do prepare (and have already started) is to make the workers and peoples pay for the crisis. It is about applying the usual recipe, that is, the privatization of profits and the socialization of losses. For them, the question is resolved in waiting for the crisis to end and for business to resurface. Is that re-founding capitalism? Is that what we want? Some limited rules, a bit of interventionism, speeches about the need to end tax havens. However, no measure enunciated is truly pressing to avoid the worst at this time, but to relapse into an even deeper crisis in the coming years. And we say: No!
In a long-term perspective, it is not possible to humanize or rationalize capitalism. There is no "good" and a "bad" capitalism. The search for maximum short-term profit, private ownership of the great means of production, unlimited exploitation of workers, speculation, competition, the promotion of individual private interest to the detriment of collective interest, the frenzied accumulation of riches for a handful of individuals or wars are inherent characteristics of the capitalist system. Capitalism does not have a human face but that of barbarism. Capital cares little about the destruction of the planet, that children work, that people eat or do not eat, that they have a home or do not have it, that they have medicine when they get sick or a pension when they get old. No, none of that matters to capitalism. In order to face the crisis, it is necessary to go to the root of the problem and implement alternatives as quickly as possible to end the capitalist system.
5. Utopia is not what is said
Capitalism is not capable of realizing this "alternative", since it cannot guarantee the universal satisfaction of fundamental human needs. Capitalism cannot and does not want to get involved in the great social and ecological challenges of our time. Once this idea is accepted, the logical thing is to consider abandoning capitalism and building another model. And it is at this moment that the fight against capitalist ideology really begins. Indeed, the great victory of capitalism is having succeeded in instilling in most minds the idea that another model is not only impossible but, above all, is very dangerous.
“There is no need to dream. Capitalism always existed and always will exist. There have always been wars and there will always be. There was always poverty and inequalities and there will always be! Those who claim otherwise are utopians. You have to look at the truth head-on: man is fundamentally selfish and since the dawn of time he has always sought profit and capitalism assumes it. Capitalism is the natural order of human societies. Creating another model in which everything is shared is not only unthinkable but would automatically lead to catastrophe. Just look at what happened in Russia with its 100 million dead to be convinced of this. "
At first glance, these ideologies are coherent as a whole and permeate our daily lives in such a way that it is not easy to fight against them. It is not easy but it is possible and it is necessary to do it.
First: It is necessary to remember that capitalism, in its current form, has existed for just three centuries. On all continents, civilizations developed during the preceding millennia that did not know capitalism. It did not always exist, it was born in the interstices of feudal society a dozen centuries ago and came to dominate the Western scene in its industrial form for only two years. In other parts of the world, its imposition was later. Therefore, it only represents a small part in the history of our humanity. Capitalism has not always existed and will not exist forever. On the other hand, it is about the sheer survival of humanity. And this can be organized in another way, without capitalism.
Second: As it was created by man, it can be said that capitalism is a human model. But, above all, it is necessary to add that capitalism is inhumane, since it feeds everything that is most negative in man: competition, selfishness, individualism, etc. Make no mistake, competition and selfishness, individually and moderately, have nothing wrong and may even have some positive aspects. There is selfishness in each of us, no one can deny it, but there is also solidarity and altruism. And that is the most important thing: do we live in a society that nurtures and reinforces solidarity and cooperation or in a society that does it for competition and selfishness? More generally, it is necessary to ask whether selfishness and the pursuit of profit, which are the basis of the capitalist system, can be the engines of the construction of a socially just society, respectful of nature, supportive and emancipatory for humanity. Of course not!
Third: It must be stated emphatically that the society that we must build must not, in any case, resemble the so-called socialist experiences of the 20th century. Although the Stalinist regimes in the Soviet bloc, Pol Pot in Cambodia or Mao's China are traumatic experiences that must be criticized with energy and seriousness, it should not be forgotten that external factors have been systematically underestimated in the explanation of the failures of previous socialist experiences. It is evident that a socialist system, that is, a system that puts social needs above those of capital, is in contradiction with the interests of capitalists. If it is certain that a model based on cooperation and exchange cannot work, then why have the capitalist powers spent so much time, energy and money to ideologically fight, politically destabilize, financially stifle and militarily overthrow the regimes that did they want to go down that road? Why were Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, Salvador Allende in Chile, Mossadegh in Iran and Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso assassinated by the Northern powers? They did so because these leaders wanted to apply policies that went against the logic of profit. Why were Mobutu, Pinochet, the Shah of Iran or Compaoré supported technically and economically for more than thirty years? Because they agreed to maintain a system based on the transfer of wealth from the working classes to the capitalist classes.
And were Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, the Japanese expansionist and militarist regime (before and during the Second World War), General Franco, General Salazar, the apartheid regime not enthusiastic followers of capitalism? They were responsible for tens of millions of deaths.
Finally, to those who affirm that thinking about another model and acting to implement it is not realistic, we must simply answer that what is not realistic is to think that humanity will be able to continue living within the current model. Let us remember that capitalism's balance sheet speaks for itself: it has brought nothing but poverty, inequalities and an exhausted planet. Therefore, it is necessary and urgent to abandon this model and invent another. Another model is possible and you have to think collectively about how to implement it. It is an affront to human creativity to think that we are not capable of doing it. Humanity needs a utopia that instead of being a brake, is a motor to break with the logic of fatality and propose concrete measures, here and now, and at the same time offer interesting perspectives for the human community.
6. We must reinvent the socialism of the XXI century
Faced with the dramatic experiences of real socialism of the last century, the society to be built, which could be called 21st century socialism or ecosocialism, must constitute a deeply democratic and self-managed response to the negative experiences of the past. Faced with this global crisis of the capitalist system, it is necessary to implement anti-capitalist, socialist and revolutionary policies that compulsorily integrate the feminist, environmentalist, internationalist and anti-racist dimension. It is necessary to articulate these different dimensions in a coherent way so that they are fully integrated into the projects of 21st century socialism.
It is absolutely possible to guarantee social justice in Belgium, in Europe and anywhere in the world. It is absolutely possible to move towards a model that, while respecting nature, ensures that each person has adequate housing, quality food, decent and well-paid work, social protection, access to health, education and transport. However, one has to go further. A true democracy must be established. Of course, political democracy, where citizens take part, in particular, in the great options that determine the nature and functioning of our societies. But economic democracy is also needed where a different distribution of wealth is possible, which is combined with a control of these wealth by those who produce them, that is, the workers in the cities and in the countryside.
But that will not come alone. It will need to be a conscious and collective choice. For the moment it is true that there are not enough forces to overthrow capitalism. But in all parts of the planet and at different scales, social, economic, democratic, original and self-managed alternatives are being set in motion. More and more people think that we have the right to live in a system other than the capitalist order. More and more people think that another world is not only possible, but that it is necessary and urgent to build it here and now. As citizens of the world, our task is to make use of these concrete experiences and fight in the best way to build and organize all anti-capitalist forces.
It is about building a model in which the needs of the people are at the center of political decisions. A world in which cooperation, mutual aid, sharing and solidarity are more important than competition and competition. A world where there is room for debate and where citizens are no longer considered ignorant. Although there is no reason to be happy about the crisis, since it will hit (and already hits) hundreds of millions of people, both in the North and the South of the planet, it nevertheless has an advantage: it beats all the neoliberal ideologies and shows the true face of governments that systematically act in the interests of the rich. It is necessary to look around us and reappropriate politics. Politics are not governments. Politics is not complicated nor is it a matter for specialists. Politics is us, with our differences, our knowledge, our energy, our creativity and our poetry.
7. Fighting does not cause sadness. Unlike
With injustices so great and we so weak in relation to power, it is often heard, particularly among young people trying to change things, that the task is impossible and that, inevitably, the only result will be to make us sad. It is not true. Analyzing the world in which we live, becoming aware of its deeply unjust nature and making the decision to fight the best we can against this injustice is to understand the place we must occupy in society, and the role that, with humility, we can play. This, instead of saddening us, should allow us to become aware of ourselves and give meaning to our passage on earth.
Have to fight. Collectively demand measures that go against the interests of the capitalists and those who support them. It will be necessary to mobilize and be on the street. The peoples will have to regain control of their future. The revolution will take place in the street and at the polls. As Marx recalls it, it is up to the peoples to liberate themselves and for themselves. The road will be long and full of obstacles. The model that we want will remain as an unfinished process full of contradictions, failures, but also joys and victories. However, the path is as important as the ideal we want to achieve. And it is not because we are going against the current that we are walking in the wrong direction. Marx tells us that the history of humanity is the history of the class struggle.
No one needs the certainty of victory to undertake (a fight) or to achieve success in order to persevere (in it).
Author: Olivier bonfond - Translation Virginie de Romanet Y Griselda Piñero. Posted at www.cadtm.org
(1) This is the definition given by Le Nouveau Petit Robert from 1993. In the DRAE there is no term