U.S & World Politics

Capitalism vs. Life Itself

By Bonnie Weinstein

In a December 9, 2019 New York Times article by Sarah Almukhtar and Rod Nordland titled, “What Did the U.S. Get for $2 Trillion in Afghanistan?”:

“The Taliban are gaining strength. Opium production has quadrupled. Osama bin Laden is dead. Most Afghans live in Poverty…More than 2,400 American soldiers and more than 38,000 Afghan civilians have died. …the cost of nearly 18 years of war in Afghanistan will amount to more than $2 trillion dollars.”

And according to the Watson Institute Costs of War, U.S. military emissions since the beginning of the Global War on Terror in 2001 has produced “1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gasses.”1

These figures are a drop in the bucket if you consider the human and environmental costs of the U.S.’s massive war industry and trillions of dollars necessary to keep the threat of the destruction of the planet for profit on the agenda.

War is a top priority of capital. The U.S. war machine is the most profitable industry in the world.

In a February 21, 2019 USA Today article by Samuel Stebbins and Evan Coman titled, “Military Spending: 20 Companies Profiting the Most from War:”

“…the United States is the world’s largest defense spender by a wide margin. …The United States’ position as the top arms-producing nation in the world remains unchanged, and for now unchallenged. …The United States is home to five of the world’s ten largest defense contractors, and American companies account for 57 percent of total arms sales by the world’s 100 largest defense contractors…. Maryland-based Lockheed Martin, the largest defense contractor in the world, is estimated to have had $44.9 billion in arms sales in 2017 through deals with governments all over the world. The company drew public scrutiny after a bomb it sold to Saudi Arabia was dropped on a school bus in Yemen, killing 40 boys and 11 adults. Lockheed’s revenue from the U.S. government alone is well more than the total annual budgets of the IRS and the Environmental Protection Agency, combined.”

Life in service to the war machine of capital

The commanders of capital protect their wealth through the threat of war. They not only protect themselves through war but enrich themselves as well—all by utilizing our labor and our lives to accomodate their rule by threat of death over us.

But, what about us? How are we, the toilers, faring under the rule of profit for the few above all else?

In an October 27, 2019 Alliance for Sustainable Communities article by Elizabeth Oram, titled, “Dollar Meals and Diabetes,” (also appearing in this issue of Socialist Viewpoint):

“Public health indicators between the rich and the poor continue to diverge, but now it is chronic illness, not infection, that is the killer. Insidious and poorly understood biologic processes are driving accelerating rates of cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. And, like the infectious pandemics of the 18th and 19th centuries, these illnesses claim more victims among the poor…. The number of people diagnosed with diabetes has skyrocketed since 1980, increasing more than fourfold. The global prevalence has doubled. …when we analyze maps of diabetes incidence, it is zip code, not genetic code, that appears to confer risk.”

Our health is the “collateral damage” of capital’s quest for profits. The food industry also targets the health of the poor because they, along with the medical insurance and pharmaceutical industries, profit off of our illnesses caused by the poverty and pollution capitalism creates:

“The modern western diet is high in sugar, denatured white flour, vegetable oils, and meat; it is low in fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains. More importantly, it is spiked with hidden sugar and fats, highly processed, and laced with chemicals to make it feel good in your mouth. …The tax-subsidized food industry spends billions on saturation marketing, chemical flavor manipulation, and portion creep—this expenditure has been highly effective in changing eating behavior over the years. Opting out is a luxury that takes time and money.”

Capitalism profits in every way it can

Capitalist economic exploitation of the working class and our environment sustains a vicious cycle of poverty and pollution that can only be broken if the system itself is eradicated from the planet.

By its very nature, the drive to increase the rate of profit is supreme. It is the driving force of war, poverty, sickness and environmental destruction.

It can’t continue, of course. The planet is dying and the human and material resources to maintain and increase their war profits are not limitless.

Choosing life

Every which way we look, the world is in turmoil.

The irony is, working people across the globe are suffering from the same calamity—capitalism.

The capitalists are at war with everyone, including themselves.

Their power and wealth depend upon their ownership of all the means of production, the weapons they have, and upon the cannon fodder—us—whom they rely upon to follow their orders and carry out their wars so that only they can increase their profits.

Our world, our choice

But we do not have to follow their orders.

We can decide ourselves what kind of a world we want—a world without war, poverty, squalor, pollution, racism and bigotry, slavery, and destruction.

We can build a world where all of society contributes their labor; where the decisions of what to produce are decided democratically; where work is performed communally, with the goal to produce what every individual needs and, finally, bringing an end to war and the destruction of our environment.

Only in this direct and democratic way can we carefully monitor our use of raw materials; make sure to leave no contamination whatsoever from production; and ensure that health and safety remain our first priority.

There are two possible ends to capitalism

One, is the complete and utter destruction of life on earth from capitalism’s necessary and relentless exploitation and plunder for ever-higher profits for themselves.

Or, we change the whole dynamic of our relationship to social production on Earth.

We can change from production for private profit to production for the needs and wants of all, prioritizing the health and wellbeing of ourselves and all life on our planet.

We can build a socialist society.