Socialism or barbarism?

In 1916, strongly denouncing the then raging First World War, Rosa Luxemburg wrote: “Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to socialism or regression into barbarism.”

Luxemburg went on to explain what she meant by “regression into barbarism”: “This World War (WW1) is a regression into barbarism. The triumph of imperialism leads to the annihilation of civilization.”

Once again, we stand at the crossroads. Capitalism and imperialism have brought humanity to the point of self-annihilation.

These past two weeks, we have seen the leaders of most of the countries around the globe meet in Paris to discuss, once again, the threat of climate change. Once again, we will see these leaders exit the meetings expressing meaningless rhetoric rather than substantive change in how we will do business. After all, we don’t want to interfere with the profit margins of global corporations.

Climate change has already demonstrated how it will result in rising seas. loss of land mass, more violent and more frequent storms. People will be forced from their homes and add to the number of refugees looking for salvation . . . a place to live, food to eat, etc.

The prognosis for these people is dire. We have already seen how the U.S. and NATO countries have responded to the tens of millions of refugees driven from their homes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria by the continuous military conflicts and bombings initiated by the imperialist countries of the West. Hundreds of thousands of citizens from the targeted countries have been killed, wounded, rendered homeless, jobless or all of the above, and have responded with predictable anger at the sponsors of these attacks on their homes.

Acts of “terrorism” have increased among the victims of these attacks causing much anxiety around the world. ISIS, al Qaeda, al Nusra, and the Taliban have continued to grow despite the bombings conducted by the U.S. and NATO. Could this be because for every “terrorist” killed in the bombings, 28 innocent, unarmed civilians are killed as well? Could this be because the U.S. and NATO have destroyed the economy and infrastructure of the above-mentioned countries? And yet, the U.S. continues its drone program, its assault on the Syrian government of Bashar al Assad, and its support of Ukraine’s new government, a government dominated by neo-Nazis.

What is terrorism? Is it only acts committed by frustrated, impotent, individuals or groups, or can it include state sponsored acts of terror? The U.S. drone program terrorizes the people of Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan. The Israeli government imposes daily acts of terror on the Palestinian population. Yet, the U.S. stands shoulder to shoulder with this ally. Saudi Arabia has beheaded many more people than ISIS and while we label ISIS barbaric, we remain silent where the Saudis are concerned.

The Saudis continue to bomb civilian sites in Yemen and have created a humanitarian crisis. Yet, the U.S. continues to support the effort with more and more weapons. Are these not acts of terror?

All the above mentioned are directly related to global capitalism and the imperialistic aspirations of the U.S. and its European friends. The motivation for all this conflict is to control the diminishing natural resources, production and distribution, as well as the human resources available to provide cheap labor. In other words, to maximize the profits for the ruling class . . . the global capitalists.

This is where the other option, socialism, must be considered. I am not referring to the socialism of Bernie Sanders or other Social Democrats for they are not really standing for socialism. They want to make capitalism more palatable for the masses or working class.

To raise the minimum wage or provide universal healthcare are important in providing temporary relief to working people. But, to do these things under the umbrella of a capitalistic system means that we are destined not only to periodically fight the same fights, but to participate in the continuous killings and destruction of infrastructures around the world and to the eventual end of life on Earth as we know it. Capitalism will not change because we make the outer facade look prettier.

For socialism to work, it must exist separate and apart from capitalism. It cannot be a substructure within the capitalist structure. That is what the Social Democrats want . . . to make capitalism kinder and gentler but maintain its ability to dictate the terms of production and distribution.

What is socialism? Socialism is an economic system where the means of producing wealth (factories, offices, etc.) are owned by society as a whole, meaning the value produced belongs to everyone in society as opposed to a small class of private owners.

In a socialistic economy, the workers own the means of production and distribution. Such production and distribution is centrally controlled and is responsive to the needs of the people, not the needs of private ownership whose main goal is to enjoy expanding profits.

Socialism also means that the people enjoy affordable housing, health care, affordable medical drugs, free public education through college, a safety net for people in need, financial support for those unable to work, etc. These benefits will be a right, not a concession given by the ruling class. In other words, the profit motive is removed and individual entrepreneurs no longer exist to use and exploit working people for their own benefit.

In a capitalistic economy, the goal is to encourage consumption in order to increase the profits of the private business establishments. As a result, we experience tremendous waste as excess products fill our landfills and seas as throw away garbage. Because of the high amount of waste, we are also running out of many natural resources which people need to live comfortably or, in many cases, actually survive.

The waste generated by both overconsumption and the profit motive adds to the pollution of both the air and water as well as resulting in the man-made warming of the Earth.

I am often amazed that capitalism is equated with human freedom while socialism is described as an oppressive system. When the Berlin wall came down in 1989, Tom Brokaw, news anchor for NBC News proudly stated to those in East Germany who would now have access to West Berlin, “Welcome to the free world.”

What is true is that those at the top of the wealth and money chain, are very free . . . free to control the economic, political, and social policies, not only in the U.S., but in countries around the globe. They are free to exploit the labor of millions of working people; they are free to destroy the economies of countries who do not submit to their needs and desires for profits; they are free to poison the air and water we, the people, need to exist and survive, etc.

It is also true that socialism will not offer these people the same freedom. Economic policy decisions, the production and distribution of goods and services, will be centrally controlled and the profit motive will be eliminated. The use of the finite resources we need for survival will be made according to need, not to ensure the wealth of the top 10%.

Is it worthwhile to hold onto a system like capitalism in the hope and fantasy that one day, one of us may have the good fortune to become a member of the ruling class (the American Dream)?

Man is falling deeper and deeper into a state of barbarism, a state in which mass murders and massacres are becoming commonplace. We have to look at capitalism and our way of life and then determine how we want to live and what we want to leave for our children and grandchildren. Only working together as a global community can we save humanity from extinction. Capitalism with its focus on individual gratification, even when it makes the community vulnerable, must end.

Man did not survive as individuals. The history of man shows that our survival depended on community support. We must return to basics and change our lifestyles. Only socialism will allow us to survive the imminent catastrophe that threatens our future.

So, we must decide and decide quickly . . . do we want socialism or barbarism for humankind?

Dave Alpert has masters degrees in social work, educational administration, and psychology. He spent his career working with troubled inner city adolescents.

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