Despite the world's rulers boasting about 'progress' the planet is not in good shape.
Everywhere the same processes are being repeated, namely the rich getting richer, insecurity growing and working class people being told to tighten their belts in the hope of getting jam tomorrow. Which tomorrow and how much jam are not specified!
The crisis is most stark in what the western media call the 'less developed countries', really the neo-colonial world. Countries which have won their independence from the old Empires but which are still dominated by the major imperialist powers. Today 20% of world's children do not attend school and there are 250 million child labourers. Offically 840 million people, 20% of world's population, do not get enough to eat.
But this need not happen. Even the World Bank says "hunger is largely a function of poverty". However it is the very system that the World Bank defends and promotes which produces this situation.
The figures of those living on an income of less than US $1 a day are breathtaking. In south Asia 43% of the population, 515 million people, are under this level. In sub-Saharan Africa the numbers are 219 million and in Latin America 110 million, respectively 39% and 24% of these two continents' populations. Even in east Asia and Pacific, home of the 'Tiger economies', 446 million or 26%, have this low level of income.
The November 1996 World Food Summit said the solution was "through a fair and market-orientated world trade system". But experience shows that the market system cannot provide an all rounded, secure development. Even in the industrial countries there are wild swings in the economy, in the one month of January 1997 half a million Germans officially lost their jobs. Stock market booms, like the current one, always cast the shadow of later financial collapse.
The market economy functions in a completely chaotic way. No government can really plan it, at best they try to soften it. The boom/slump business cycle rules, both in the real economy and on the financial market casinos. The profit motive means that production is not for people's needs but for what be sold at a profit. For bosses working people's labour is just another commodity which can be bought and sold or simply thrown away when no longer useful.
While there has always been a battle for market share and higher profits between the competing bands of bosses this has got much sharper since the mid-1970s. A slowing down in the world economy and falling profit rates forced the bosses to launch a broad attack on living standards in the developed capitalist countries. The result is that in these countries there are over 30 million jobless and 100 million officially living under the poverty line. These attacks have now started to spread to the 'Tiger' economies. In less than two generations South Koreans have passed from being a largely peasant society to one where workers are being lectured on the need to accept 'flexibility' and less security.
Against this background the 1990s have seen the start of a new wave of resistance to the attacks on living standards but also fights for democratic rights and against the so many scandals of corruption, racism, fascism, the destruction of the environment and the special oppression of women, minorities and gays. These struggles have often involved very broad layers of working class people, youth and other strata in society.
In many countries activists in the different national affiliates of the Committee for a Workers International have played a part, often an important one, in these struggles. We battle hard to win the demands of these struggles while working to win support for the ideas of socialism and build an international movement.
For a time a combination of factors seemed to have undermined the idea of socialism. There was disillusion caused by sharp right turn, often accompanied by massive corruption, in Labour, Social Democratic or 'Socialist' parties in government.
The collapse of USSR and reintroduction of capitalism there and in central and eastern Europe seemed to show the failure of 'real existing socialism', although those regimes were not either democratic or socialist. While not having a market economy they were ruled by a totalitarian elite. This elite in the end stifled the continued development of society.
But now it is clear that the overthrow of the old bureaucratic elites in the former USSR and eastern Europe has not opened the way to heaven. Parts of some of these countries have been destroyed as competing elites, each backed by different world powers, encouraged and exploited divisions among the different nationalities. Generally in these countries a new capitalist elite has become very rich while the mass struggle to survive.
In Russia, while the gangster elite moved US $ 60 billion out of the country between 1991 and 1996, average male life expectancy dropped from 64 in 1990 to 58 in 1994. Even where new investment has raised productivity to Western levels workers are not paid Western rates, this is even true in east Germany. As time goes on more and more will ask who has really gained from the market economy?
In all countries the effects of capitalism in crisis is preparing the way for a revival of socialist ideas and movements. Socialism fundamentally means a world where there is genuine democratic control, no elites and where all the world's resources are used to satisfy needs not profit.
On the most basic level there is absolutely no reason today why hundreds of millions still do not even have permanent clean water, proper sanitation or electricity. The technology is there the question is that profit and domination of the world's economy by the imperialist countries blocks the development of much of neo-colonial world. The satisfaction of these kind of basic needs would start to transform the lives of millions. For strategic reasons the USA sponsored the rapid development of South Korea, with a plan the rest of the planet could be transformed as well.
Opponents say that this is utopian and impossible. They say it is impossible to plan the economy. Yet if you look at any multi-national you see that within its own structure it has an economic plan, even though it cannot plan the market outside. If giant corporations, often richer than many countries, can plan the use of their own resources then the world's economy can be planned. The question is who would plan it and in whose interest?
Currently 37,000 companies, 70% of them based in either the USA, European Union or Japan, control one-third of the world's private assets. Just placing these companies under democratic public ownership would mean that a start could be made to plan a real rise in living standards and the creation of a socialist society.
Both individually and collectively the activists within the Committee for a Workers International are working to help hasten this development and play their part in the creation of a socialist world.
Originally formed in 1974 the CWI currently (2008) has affiliates, members or supporters in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland-North, Ireland-South, Israel/Palestine, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Ukraine, Venezuela, USA.