Monday, October 17, 2016

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

Another of those supposed special days to draw attention some problem or other that could be solved but won’t be.

The comfort of the rich depends upon an abundant supply of the poor,' The French philosopher, Voltaire, said.

So what causes poverty? Clearly, this is the key question since if you don't get the answer right, you're not going to get the solution right either. Many say it is the policies of governments that are keeping people poor so they lobby and campaign for changes. Is poverty caused by the mistaken policies of governments?

As socialists, we say that governments don't pursue policies that put profits before poor people because they have chosen to do this rather than chosen not to. Nor have they given in to pressure from the rich and powerful to pursue policies that favour them. They don't have any choice in the matter because they are not in control of things. Politicians operate within the framework of an economic system based on wealth being produced for sale on a market with a view to profit and on the competitive pressures of the market dictating that these profits be accumulated in the form of more and more capital invested so to make even further profits. The aim of production under capitalism is not to satisfy people's needs but to accumulate profits. This is not a policy choice but an economic necessity imposed by the operation of impersonal and uncontrollable economic laws which governments have to abide by. Governments put profits before poor people because they are obliged to by the impersonal workings of world market forces, not out of choice. The same goes, even more forcefully, for capitalist corporations. Their whole purpose is to make a profit on the capital invested in their businesses so that their shareholders can benefit. That's the nature of the beast.

Those who promote “International Day for the Eradication of Poverty” are making a classic reformist mistake. They are blaming policies pursued by governments rather than the economic system, and so seeing the solution as changing the government or even just its policies rather than changing the economic system. To be frank, these good-intentioned folk have got no chance at all of getting governments, much less the corporations, to change their practice of putting profits before people. As long as the capitalist system exists, governments will dance to its tune.

What is required is the abolition of capitalism and its replacement by socialism in which the Earth's resources become the common heritage of all humanity. Only on this basis can these resources be mobilised to eradicate world poverty and ensure a decent life for every man, woman, and child on the planet. Yes, the world does have the wealth and means to end world poverty. And, yes, it is high time we tackled the problem.

In 2005 a quarter of a million people marched through the streets of Edinburgh to “Make Poverty History”, just as the Jarrow Crusade marched this same month in 1929.  Poverty is still here and it is growing. 

Yes, the remedy is so simple, and the method simpler still. The cause of poverty is the ownership of the means and instruments of wealth production by the capitalist class. The remedy, therefore, is to dispossess that class of its ownership. The method - the ballot-box.

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