3. Capitalism: a system of exploitation, misery and destruction

We are in the era of imperialism, the highest stage of decaying capitalism. In this stage, capitalism has henceforth reached the limits of its development and can no longer foster the development of human productive forces. At this stage its negative aspects prevail on its positive ones. The longer it continues to exist, the more […]

We are in the era of imperialism, the highest stage of decaying capitalism. In this stage, capitalism has henceforth reached the limits of its development and can no longer foster the development of human productive forces. At this stage its negative aspects prevail on its positive ones. The longer it continues to exist, the more it wreaks havoc worldwide in every way: destruction of the environment and human life through wars, unemployment, intensification of exploitation, famine.

The lives of all men and women are closely tied to the social relations that proceed from this mode of production. They are determined by the exploitation of the workers, the ruining of the peasantry, the massacre and enslavement of entire people, especially in America, Africa and Asia. In Canada, capitalism has already followed the same path of development as elsewhere in the world, running the devastating course of systematic and organized theft of the lands of aboriginal peoples and those of mixed ethnicity and the brutal repression of popular rebellions. As a consequence of this and due to the exploitation of the proletariat and the exportation of capital, Canada has become an important imperialist power.

The ferocious competition capitalists wage with one another has progressively led to the centralization of their monetary funds. To pursue this fierce competition, they must acquire more and more money. These changes take on the form of a more powerful scientific division of work, in which the ruling class of each country strives to fully control technology and science that is put to use as an instrument to dominate the proletariat, which in return is forced daily into the limited role of a simple task performer, as a mere instrument to produce surplus value. On an international scale, the control of high-tech science serves as an instrument to dominate poorer and weaker countries. This results in an international division of labour where the resources of semi-colonial countries are plundered by imperialist countries. Imperialists derive super profits by savagely exploiting millions and millions of people living in very backward conditions.

This is how wealth and poverty are created throughout the world. Super abundance lives side by side with utter poverty, from which suffers the vast majority of the inhabitants of our planet. The three wealthiest people in the world are richer than the 48 poorest countries.

Capitalism, a system that spreads poverty

While four big corporations share 90% of the worldwide cereal markets and reap super huge profits, 800 million people living in Asia and Africa are struggling to carve out an existence. Every day, 24,000 poor die of starvation. Two million children in oppressed countries die each year because of problems linked to water supply. At this rate, in a few years’ 4 billion men, women and children will not have any water and more than 6 billion will be deprived of water filtration systems. Seven million children die each year in oppressed countries simply on account of debt owed to rich imperialist countries. The gap between rich and poor countries is widening: in 1820 we were looking at a 3 out of 1 ratio in wealth difference; in 1992 this figure has climbed to a ratio of 72:1 in favour of rich countries.

This dreadful the state of affairs in which capitalism has led poor countries into has more dire consequences than one may believe. For example, the spread of deadly diseases that cannot be cured because of lack of resources and that kill millions of people in Africa, Asia and in the poor regions of America. Seventeen million children each year, which represents 46,500 per day, die of diseases that are easy to cure. Several diseases or injuries that are not taken care of in time leave the poor with after effects that prevent them from earning their living later on in life. Millions of people are unable to learn how to read and write because they are too busy providing for their basic needs or because government infrastructures cannot offer them with an education. One billion people entered the 21st century without knowing how to read or write their name. In a nutshell, if it is possible to sum up so much horror, famine, thirst, the spread of diseases, debt and conflicts due to capitalism kill each year as many men, women and children than did World War II.

Capitalism is a system of exploitation

In rich countries, poverty and misery are on the rise. In imperialist countries, more than 100 million people live under the poverty line. In 1990, figures in Western industrialized countries indicated that 25 million unemployed made up the ranks of long term unemployment. This number climbed to 39 million in 2001. In Canada, 20% of the population lives in need on a permanent basis.

Thirty million poor live in the most powerful imperialist country—the United States of America. Half of its Afro-American population lives in poverty and 13 million of children are suffering from hunger. In Great Britain, since the 1980s, the number of poor people has risen from 9 to 15%. Currently, one and a half million families do not have enough to eat. In Germany, there are six million poor; one foreigner out of five lives under the poverty line. In Canada, millions of people are left jobless or work in poor paying jobs, especially among youth, women, immigrants and indigenous peoples.

The gap between the rich and the poor is continually increasing. In 1960, 20% of our richest citizens owned 30 times as much as the 20% poorest. In 1994, this ratio grew to 78.6 times as much. While the rich are always becoming wealthier, the poor are getting poorer. All of the wealth created in the last years has been snatched up by 5% of the richest citizens.

LEFT: A 19th century publicity for a valuable slaves sale. MIDDLE: A 1990 publicity praising the merits of modern day slaves in El Salvador: “Rosa Martinez produces apparel for US markets. You can hire her for 57 cents an hour.” RIGHT: The same publicity, a year later: as we can see, the hourly wage went from 57 to 33 cents. Clearly, there’s no limit to capitalist “progress”…

The capitalist factory is nothing but a prison where workers are exploited to the hilt in order to make profits for their bosses. These workplaces cause mental illness and injuries to workers. Workers do not have the right to express themselves; they must simply perform the tasks they are paid for. In such a context, they cannot be excited about their work and must act as mere robots, otherwise they will crack psychologically. For capitalists, a harmed worker is nothing more than a broken piece of machinery. It is only a matter of replacing him or her through a mere increase in expenditure. The “murder” of a worker that died on the job is nothing for a capitalist because he or she can be replaced by hundreds of thousands of unemployed.

The massive upheavals wrought by this system of capitalism, which destroys in its path ancient modes and relations of production, explain the ongoing existence of an enormous “reserve army of labour.” These profound changes free entire populations and ready them for exploitation by the capitalists. This was the case for farmers in imperialist countries who had to give up their properties indebted as they were to the banks. Women have to seek jobs on the working market in order to help their families survive. Even though this new gained freedom represents progress for women, capitalism has not provided them with the infrastructure to liberate them from household toil.

Another source of unemployment is the fast growing sizes of firms that put to use an increasing amount of mechanized production. It is not machinery, however, but exploited manpower that allows capitalists to make a profit. This means the rate of profit is on a steady decline as the development of technology follows its course. To counter this decline in profits firms are forced to merge, which in turn creates more unemployment. As for the workers that avoid being laid off, they have to work harder in order to assure profits. The hiring of new workers is stalled by this reality. In the meantime, other firms act likewise to gain an edge on the competition. The exploitation of workers has its physical limits: this is why new machinery is always in the making. This tactic allows capitalists to survive longer. For firms, new investment becomes less and less profitable. Often, it is because they are incapable of selling their products on a clogged market. Bankruptcies ensue, more mergers and more unemployment. After the crisis, the stronger survive with enough capital to be able to reproduce the cycle that led them into this dead-end.

Capitalism destroys the environment

Imperialist capitalism causes much waste of human productive forces. These productive forces, under a different and more just mode of production, would allow the needs of all of earth’s inhabitants to be satisfied. The pursuit of profit will always be in contradiction to the harmonious development of productive forces. This could also comprise new economic policies regarding the improvement of our environment. The problem of environment management is tied into the prevailing mode of production; every environmental disaster is provoked by blind economic interests related to profit-making. Despite the claims of bourgeois environmentalists who say that environmental issues are ones that reach beyond class interests, that they are a “common cause” that we all share on an even basis and that all modes of production are equally destructive and polluting, we deem that the question of environment revolves solely around the capitalist mode of production. That capitalism destroys human life and the environment is not at all surprising to us: its feverish quest of profits has no bounds and does not back away from destroying human lives or the environment

The whole planet is devastated by outrageous exploitation throughout. Exploitation and destruction on such a scale has never been witnessed before: draining of the earth’s minerals, air and water pollution, global warming, extinction of animal and plant species, ecological disasters, poisoning of populations, etc. The big corporations of imperialist countries also plunder poor countries with the subservient help of the ruling classes of the latter. They also use these poor countries as dump sites to get rid of their waste and by introducing some of their antiquated and toxic technologies.

The capitalist mode of production brings with it environmental disasters because the security of waste disposal is neglected to cut costs. Toxic leakage and nuclear accidents occur all around the planet on a regular basis. The thousand causalities caused by the pesticide firm Union Carbide in Bhopal, India, or the oil spilt by the Exxon Valdez off the shores of Alaska, the nuclear accident in Tchernobyl, Russia, or the tinted water in Walkerton, Canada are a few reminders.

When imperialism doesn’t harm the environment accidentally, it harms it to meet its production needs. Thousand of acres of forest are destroyed, rivers set off course, oceans polluted so that natural resources can be dredged up from their beds in order to be used for the aim of making more profits.

Lands as large as entire countries are spoiled by the use of imperialist arms of mass destruction. Thousand of tons of depleted uranium contaminate the soils of ex-Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Such countries as France and the United States sacrifice broad expanses of territory in testing their nuclear arsenals. Companies who pollute are sometimes thrust upon regions of certain imperialist countries or poor countries to solve severe problems of unemployment. The say of locals has no bearing. Protests and struggles take place, of course, but local authorities and regional despots side with the companies. People who want to preserve a healthy environment see their right to express themselves fully denied. It is the people who are concerned by environmental issues and not the tycoons of finance.

In the imperialist countries of America and Oceania it is the indigenous peoples’ territories that are plundered by imperialism. It is promoting oil extraction sites, uranium mines, hydro-electric dams, installations that often pollute indigenous traditional hunting and fishing grounds. After having prevented them from developing their own territory as they wanted to and having destroyed their environment, authorities find no other solution than cramming them into small reserves and introducing them to “civilizations” vices such as alcohol and drugs.

Capitalism generates wars

Capitalism, exploitation and wars are inseparable. All wars in the past century are directly related to the perpetuation of the capitalist mode of production. Whether it is colonial wars, world wars or conflicts of low intensity, interventions by imperialist countries in dominated countries as in Iraq, capitalism through war seeks to survive and preserve its upper strata, the imperialist bourgeoisie which does not hesitate to kill millions and millions of people in order to maintain its dominance. As Marx put it, “capital comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.”

To insure its domination and to grab hold of as much surplus value as possible, imperialism is responsible for the deaths of millions of workers and innocents during the 20th century. Let’s think of the First and Second World War (1914-1918 and 1939-1945); the colonial wars led against the people of Indochina, Vietnam, Algeria; imperialist interventions during the Gulf War; interventions by US imperialists in Latin America (Nicaragua, Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, etc.).

Bombs stocked in Guam before being used in Vietnam. The United States dropped 7.8 million tons of explosives on this country (comparatively to 3.5 million during the whole Second World War).

The crisis of capitalism impels the war machine. To snare the surplus value which is wrestled out of the hands of oppressed people and workers all around the world, the imperialist crooks, trying to beguile us with hypocritical and handy catch phrases and buzz words about the fight for freedom and democracy, human rights, vital interests, the war against terrorism, vie through armed struggle to stake and claim their economic territories.

In this respect, the warmongering by the United States, an imperialist superpower, clearly indicates that if capitalism survives any longer it will usher the planet into a third world war. Billions of dollars are invested in arms that are tested in poor countries. The bombing of the civilian population in Spain served likewise as a testing ground for Nazi arms development. A glimpse of what is to be expected can already be seen by the deployment of US troops throughout the Middle East, by the unflinching US support to Israeli Zionism and US intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, the open threats dealt to Iran, the increased tensions in Asia (threat of intervention in North Korea and the redeployment of US troops in the Philippines, where the Yankees had been expelled.)

When the Berlin wall came down, the capitalists celebrated: “At last, communism is dead!” Strangely enough, communism still remains a threat. Everywhere where proletarians, peasants, oppressed people are fighting to better their lives, communism looms. It can be seen in the rioting of hungry people, in demonstrations that get out of hand and mostly where communist revolutions are taking place such as in Nepal, the Philippines, Peru and in all of those other places where conditions favour revolutionary struggle and the development of communism. Communism is the future. Capitalism has no solutions to offer, there is only one solution—to abolish this unjust and rotting system through revolution!