The world economies are in a crisis. They cannot provide for the needs and well being of the people, guarantee them peace, nor act in effective concert to stop and reverse the rapid global warming that these have economies created and which will utterly destroy civilisation in our lifetime. The crisis in capitalism has been evident for a century and resulted in two world wars and threatens a third.
The remaining socialist countries that provide another model of economic development and another view of humanity cannot reach their potential as they are surrounded by an international system of capital that cannot tolerate any interference in its search for profit and aggressively undermines and attacks peoples who have chosen the socialist path.
We have seen what the socialist republics in the USSR had to suffer when they succeeded. Only a return to a mixed economy, a revival of some state industries, and the defeat of the gangsters that first appeared as the representatives of capital have improved conditions for the people of those republics, in particular Russia. The new Russian state still holds onto some of the principles, the hopes for international law and sovereignty of nations and peoples, that were a defining characteristic of the Soviet Union. It still believes that the world’s peoples are all one and should live in cooperation with each other. The Communist Party and other left parties are still strong and have an influence among the people and the government. The lingering legacy of the socialist epoch has produced a leadership that seems, at least in comparison to those in other capitalist countries, rational and even, in some ways, enlightened.
But still, Russia is also now part of the capitalist international and subject to its laws. So are the people of the United States and the other NATO countries. Those laws are cruel and criminal. They stipulate that to make more profit working people have to be paid less, for profit does not come out of thin air as western economists would have it; it comes from the value added to products by labour power that is forced from workers without compensation. In other words, the profit is ours but they take it.
This fact dictates that the only way in which President-elect Trump can “bring back jobs to America” is to lower wages to the level that we now see in China, or worse Africa where workers are paid about a dollar a day. American companies moved their production out of the US and Canada with “free” trade to cheap labour markets to increase their profit. They are not going to return to the USA just because Donald Trump promised the people that they will.
To return and pay higher wages, even those which are relatively low by the standards of the 50’s and 60’s, is to return and lose money. If Trump is serious about “creating jobs” then the only way he can succeed is to force the cost of labour down, that is reduce wages. We can expect more attacks on unions and union organising, a freeze or a lowering of the minimum wage, an influx of more cheap labour from Mexico and other countries. His promise to “build a wall” along the Mexican border is a lot of hot air, for to build it will raise the cost of business. Too many small industries and services in the US depend on this cheap labour and its presence depresses wages for the rest.
We have seen this happen across the western world since the capitalists seized power in the USSR. As soon as that occurred every western country began the roll back of all the gains that working people had achieved after the Second World War. This roll-back, this rapid lowering of the standard of living of the mass of the people, in every country, followed by recessions, overproduction and more war as they fight for resources, using our money and bodies, is accelerating.
The rise of the far right parties in Europe and the United States reflects this decline in the lives of the majority. Since the mass media has effectively convinced too many that the socialist path has failed, or as in the United States, cannot even be considered, people seek a remedy with the right-wing populist demagogues who promise them a chicken in every pot and peace in our time. We have seen where this leads; to nationalism and to war and these are always accompanied by xenophobia, racism, and other scapegoating techniques to divert attention from the root causes of the situation and create the atmosphere for war.
Those who hope for better relations between Russia and the United States have the right to hope, but the international situation has not changed overnight. The United States still seeks to dominate the world, and Trump’s promise to “make America great again” in contrast to Clinton’s “America is great” bragging, reflects the struggle inside the United States between those who think it can still succeed in dominating the world with its current structure and resources and those who have decided that a transformation has to take place for the United States to stay top dog in the world.
The internal struggle in the United States has been a bitter one and it still is not settled which faction of the ruling elite will assume the power needed to make such a transformation possible. But the only people to benefit from that struggle, a struggle in which the people are and will be used as pawns to support one faction or the other, will be the already powerful and the already wealthy. The mass of the people will be the playthings of people in dark shadows and will turn on each other before they expose those shadows to the light.
The American election was not about left or right, for there is no effective, organised left in that country. There are only degrees of the right. It was not about making lives better for its people. A large section of the voting population did not vote for there was nothing for them to vote for. The remainder took part in the theatre, played their part, few understanding the role they played and are still playing.
The world stands on edge, wondering if we have been saved from the corrupt, venal war-monger that is Clinton or shackled with another corrupt nationalist reactionary in Trump, who will send us all down the same violent path. But, of course, both are true. For the world crisis continues and can only continue when leaders use “terrorism” to play upon the peoples’ weaknesses and fears, when the peoples doubts are used against them, when a man like Trump wears a mask of peace for one sucker and then is just a businessman for another, a straight talker, misunderstood; who knows how to get to this man with his wallet, this woman with her hatred for her boss, this one through ignorance and that one through the bribe, while offering everything because the offering’s cheap, but who works for those satisfied with nothing less than making the world their personal domain.
In reality the world stands on edge because the dominant ideology in the west offers no solutions to the crisis because it is itself the crisis. Capital cannot rule for the benefit of the people. It does not matter what brand of capitalism they are selling. It produces for profit not for need. The only way out of this crisis is for working people to start to once again sit down with each other and discuss what the cause of their problems is, and what needs to be done to change that. In Europe, and Latin America, Asia, and Africa, the left has a rich and proud history that most have not forgotten and so, perhaps, we can hope they will push back against the forces of the right that are being drawn out of the mud to fool and oppress the people. But in the United States where the left is weak and in disarray and the far right is rising without effective opposition, the situation is very bleak, for the American election did not resolve the crisis but only increased it; and in reaction I can only repeat what the great American poet, Stephen Vincent Benet, once wrote, “Life have mercy on us.”
Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto, he is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and he is known for a number of high-profile cases involving human rights and war crimes, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”