We are entering a new year. As cases of the omicron variant grow exponentially, after almost two years of the pandemic, and environmental problems worsen, the prospects of the future seem gloomy.
We are not all in the same boat in this storm; inequality is growing as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. In December, a report on global inequality going into 2022 was released, prepared by a hundred researchers and led by French economist Thomas Piketty. One of their central conclusions is that
the richest 10 percent of the global population currently takes 52 percent of global income, whereas the poorest half of the population earns 8.5 percent of it. On average, an individual from the top 10 percent of the global income distribution earns USD 122,100 per year, whereas an individual from the poorest half of the global income distribution makes USD 3,920 per year.
In the United States, “while the bottom 50 percent earns USD 20,520 per person, the top 10 percent earns on average 17 times more at USD 350,440.” Moreover, “the top 10 percent captures 45.5 percent of total income while just 13.3 percent goes to the bottom 50 percent.” This tendency has been accentuated since the 1980s and the following decades of neoliberalism.
Furthermore, they add, “the poorest half of the global population barely owns any wealth at all, possessing just 2 percent of the total. In contrast, the richest 10 percent of the global population own 76 percent of all wealth.”
This brings to mind a short passage from The Communist Manifesto, written by Marx and Engels more than 170 years ago, addressed to the bourgeoisie:
You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society.
The problems exposed by the World Inequality Report cannot be addressed by reforms that do not question capitalism as a system, going to the root of the problem. Decade after decade, capitalism shows us that it is an obsolete system. It is a system based on private property and exploitation whose irrationality and profit-driven logic is pushing us to the brink.
Capitalism cannot generalize the advances of science and technology to all branches of industry and services, nor to all countries. Its survival depends on stealing a part of workers’ labor in order to make profits and maintain the privileges of the capitalist class. This contradiction, which generates enormous social inequalities, leads to economic crises, new pandemics, wars between countries, and the destruction of the environment. There is no solution within capitalism to the sufferings of the majority of the population.
While under capitalism new technologies and machines have been developed to increase the productivity of labor, to produce more in less time, with less effort, this social achievement has been used only to increase profit, not to provide necessities to the vast majorities of the planet. There have been growing numbers of billionaires at one pole, while at the other pole, long hours, wrecked workers, and unemployment.
A year with a lot of challenges is waiting for us. We need to go beyond the “misery of the possible.” There is nothing “natural,” “inevitable,” or “immutable” that condemns us to live under this system. At Left Voice, we want to devise a strategy collectively that will help us to end capitalism instead of only imagining the end of the world.
The recent uptick in workers’ struggles, the millions who took to the streets against racism and police violence, a new generation that doesn’t expect anything from capitalism and thinks of socialism as a better option, the struggle around the world against imperialism and the fight to protect our environment, are some of the political phenomena on which we must stand.
Capitalism won’t fall alone. It must be subverted through a socialist revolution, overcoming the resistance of the exploiting and oppressing classes, to establish a social regime based on cooperation, collective ownership, and the pursuit of the broadest freedoms for the people.
That’s our goal.