How ever you look at it, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the present system of social economic organisation - capitalism - is breaking down all over the planet.
It can no longer feed its wage slaves, let alone the millions who aren't even given the chance of being wage slaves. Because of the sudden rise in food prices that is hitting those who are already living in dire poverty, "at this very moment, 100,000 people are dying of hunger every day across the world; a child under 10 is dying every five seconds; 842 million people are suffering from chronic malnutrition and are being reduced to the status of invalids. And right now, two out of the six billion human beings of the planet (i.e. one third of humanity) are in a daily fight for survival because of the rise in the cost of basic foodstuffs" (International Review 133).
It can no longer maintain the illusion of economic prosperity. The ‘credit crunch' is exposing all the slurry about economic growth fed to us by politicians and media for the past decade and more. Alongside the spiralling price of oil and fuel, we are seeing the world's major economies, drawn by the former world ‘locomotive', the USA, plunging into recession. The ‘economic miracles' of India and China are also beginning to lose their sheen. In recent months, the Chinese central bank has been intervening on the foreign exchanges to the tune of nearly $50 billion in an attempt to push down the value of the Yuan. Over 67,000 companies have gone bust in China in the first half of 2008, laying off 20 million people and there now seems to be an outright contraction in manufacturing. As for Britain, with its allegedly stable economic base, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has himself warned that we are approaching the worst economic crisis for 60 years (see the article on p2).
It can less and less hide its nature as a system of military rivalry and warfare. The war between Russia and Georgia is being presented in the media as a revival of the Cold War between Russia and NATO. So how come the ‘end of communism' in Russia at the end of the ‘80s was supposed to bring us a world of peace and harmony? Could it be that the struggle between Russia and America was not a struggle between different societies or ideologies, but between different imperialist states struggling for spheres of influence - just as it is today? What's more, the hypocrisy of countries like Britain and the US condemning Russian atrocities in Georgia is pretty clear when you look at what the ‘democratic' powers have been doing in Afghanistan and Iraq in the last seven years. All the world's states, from the biggest to the smallest, are warmongers, and the conflicts between them are becoming more and more chaotic and dangerous.
It can no longer conceal the threat its very continuation poses to the planetary environment. The ‘debate' about global warming - in the sense of whether it's real and whether it's a result of ‘human activity' - is effectively over. All the world's governments and big corporations are falling over themselves to show us their green credentials - while at the same time every pompous international conference on climate change and pollution only confirms how little each government is prepared to do about the problem the minute the interests of its ‘national security' and its ‘national economy' are put into question (see the article starting on page 3).
False hopes about ‘change'
The capitalist system is openly condemning itself as a system capable of satisfying the basic needs of humanity. The longer it goes on the more it poses the real danger of engulfing society in an apocalypse of starvation, war and ecological catastrophe.
But those who run this system will never admit this ‘inconvenient truth'. They cannot hide the scale of the problems facing humanity but they can certainly do all they can to obscure their real causes and above all to divert us with all sorts of illusory hopes and false prospects for change.
Hope and change are the ‘keynotes' of the election campaign in the world's leading military power, the USA. Barack Obama is being presented across the world in almost messianic terms as a man who offers hope to the world: hope for a different US foreign policy which "leads by the power of our example rather than the example of our power", to use Obama's stirring phrase. Hope that America's internal divisions between racial groups, the poison of slavery's legacy, can be healed by a man who is black, but also a little bit white. Hope that the shocking gap between rich and poor in the US can be drastically reduced through a bold redistribution of wealth.
Many a critic of the farce of American ‘democracy', where elections are contested by two parties who are not only indistinguishable but equally tied to big business, organised crime, the CIA and the military colossus, is leaping onto the Obama bandwagon, urging in particular the younger generation and the poor and dispossessed, those most disillusioned by the democratic game, to embrace this new illusion and thrown themselves into the pro-Obama camp.
But Obama is no ‘anti-war' option. He has made it perfectly clear that his opposition to the Iraq war did not mean any let-up on the ‘war on terror' which is the USA's pretext for military action to maintain its global domination. He criticised the Iraq adventure because he saw it as a diversion from the war in Afghanistan, which he supported from the outset, and to which he wants to commit even more military resources - including the extension of bombing raids deep into Pakistan.
Yes, the US has lost a great deal of credibility thanks to the blunderbuss foreign policies of the Bush clique. That's why it needs to change its image on the world stage and Obama is the man for the make-over. But the imperialist drives that lead to its military adventures here there and everywhere will not go away with a change of personnel in the Whitehouse and a new lick of PR paint.
The same applies to the problems of impoverishment, economic crisis and environmental destruction, whether in the US or world wide. They are inseparable from the way that capitalism works. It is a system which must crush all the needs of humanity and nature under the merciless wheel of accumulation, and every company, country, government and politician has to obey this logic if they are to survive.
To stop the juggernaut of capital, a fundamental revolution is required, a profound uprising of the exploited and the oppressed against the very logic of production for profit. But this requires not only an economic change, but a shattering of the political apparatus which maintains the present social/economic relations. It means the destruction of the capitalist state and the creation of new organs of political power. The noisy show of ‘democracy' is there to prevent us, the proletariat, from seeing the real nature of the capitalist state. Participating in the show only delays the dawn of consciousness about the need to take the power into our own hands and rebuild society from top to bottom.