Capitalism's Lethal Legacy

Capitalism's Lethal Legacy

One of the accusations levelled at socialists is that we are utopian. However, we are practical men and women and look at society rationally, basing are arguments on reason and experience. We are under no illusion that in the early days of socialism there will be innumerable problems to resolve. Poverty will have to be eradicated as swiftly as possible as will environmental pollution and degradation.

Marx made a valid point about Socialism. Fully operational Socialism, with its principle of "from each according to ability to each according to his needs", what we call "free access" to what society produces to meet human need, cannot operate immediately after the conquest of political power because the rate of production and the type of production necessary will be too low. Until production has been greatly increased fully operational socialism has to wait.

Marx made the point in the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO in 1848 and again in the CRITIQUE OF THE GOTHA PROGRAMME in 1875 for Socialist society to increase the volume of production.

There were then and there are people now who hold that regards total quantity capitalism already produces enough.

Marx said that these people were mixing up two separate and unrelated issues. The fact that periodically capitalism produces too much for the market does not mean that it produces enough to meet human need.

Marx said that capitalism never had produced enough to meet the needs of the masses "decently and harmoniously" (CAPITAL VOLUME III, p. 302, Kerr edition). It is still true today.

However there will be one problem a future socialist will face in its early years. And that is unexploded ordnances - the consequence of capitalism's conflict and war.

Even under capitalism this is a problem. In February 2020 two bombs were discovered in London. They had been dropped by the Luftwaffe during air raids in the Second World War. Socialism will need the skills of bomb disposal experts and the technology they use for many decades into the socialist future.

Unexploded ordnance is everywhere throughout the world. It is a truly global problem. Unexploded ordnance consists of explosive weapons such as bombs, shells, grenades, land mines, cluster munitions and so on. These unexploded ordnances still pose a risk, sometimes many decades after they were used or discarded. Unexploded ordnance can also be found in military training facilities.

According to the United Nations, seventy-eight countries are contaminated by land mines, which kill or maim 15,000-20,000 people every year (Unicef, Children and Landmines: A Deadly Legacy) Approximately 80% of casualties are civilian, with children the most affected age group. In recent years, mines have been used increasingly as weapons of terror specifically against local civilian populations (United Nation, De-mining, 2017)

In addition to the obvious danger of explosion, buried unexploded ordnance can cause environmental contamination. In some heavily used military training areas, munitions-related chemicals such as explosives and perchlorate (a component of pyrotechnics and rocket fuel) can enter soil and groundwater.

North Africa, and in particular the desert areas of the Sahara, is heavily mined with serious consequences for the local population. Nearly 20 percent of the world's active landmines and unexploded remnants of war can be found in Egypt which has been losing lives and limbs to the deadly devices for nearly 75 years. Plagued with approximately 20 million landmines and other active munitions buried in its soils, Egypt may be considered the country with the most explosive remnants of war in the world. In plots of land known as Hadayeq al-Shaiytan (The Devil's Gardens), thousands have been killed or maimed by unexploded munitions, which date back to the World War II Battle of Al-Alamein, 1942 in the Western Desert (Mada April 4th 2017).

Land mines and other explosive remnants of war are not limited to North Africa, however; they pose a persistent threat to local people all over the continent, including the countries of Ethiopia, Somalia, Nigeria, Senegal, Angola, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa to mention just a few. In the Tropics, typhoons and floods often displace and spread landmines, further aggravating the problem. In Mozambique, as much as 70% of the country is now contaminated with mines because of this.

Laos and the Vietnam War

The US did not only bomb Vietnam during the two decades war but also adjoining countries like Laos. From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped over 2 million tons of ordnance over Laos in 580,000 bombing missions, the equivalent of one plane load every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day, for 9 years. At least 270 million cluster bombs were dropped as part of the bombing campaign; approximately 80 million failed to detonate.

Data from a survey completed in Laos in 2009 indicated that unexploded ordnance, including cluster bombs, has killed or maimed as many as 50,000 civilians in Laos since 1964 (and 20,000 since 1973, after the war ended). From 2009 there have been over one hundred new casualties each and every year. About 60% of accidents result in death while 40% of the victims are children.

At least one third of Laos is contaminated with unexploded ordnance based on surveys and U.S. military strike data. Given the sheer magnitude of the problem, it is infeasible to clear all of the land.

As for Vietnam, since 1975, more than 40,000 Vietnamese are believed to have been killed and about 60,000 others maimed by land mines, artillery shells, cluster bombs and the like that failed to detonate decades ago. Quang Tri Province alone, along the border that once divided Vietnam into North and South, is said to have been more heavily bombed than all of Germany was in World War II.

Chemical and nuclear weapons

A socialist society may well be presented with chemical and nuclear weapons. What to do with them and how to dispose of them will be a major problem. It will mean not only dealing with the chemical and nuclear war heads but the treatment of those exposed to chemical warfare and nuclear war testing.

One of the most notorious chemical weapons is a defoliant, designed to destroy vegetation only. Agent Orange was sprayed over large areas of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the 1960s and 1970s. As a form of duioxin, it causes a wide variety of diseases, many of them fatal. It is an extremely toxic substance that has been linked to several forms of cancer, the birth defect spina bifida, type 2 diabetes, and disorders of the nervous systems. There may also be links to several other birth defects and reproductive disorders. In addition, land and forests previously contaminated with Agent Orange have still not recovered - after 40 years! The human toll includes US military veterans as well as thousands of Vietnamese civilians.

The number of nuclear weapons in the world is actually down from 70,000 in 1986 to around 14,000 today (BBC 14 January 2020). The United States and Russia account for 92 percent of them. However, Israel has never come clean about its nuclear weapons, India is heavily armed - and who knows how many China North Korea have. And the UK is about to embark on upgrading its trident submarine programme, the US is investing millions of dollars into its nuclear capability recent nuclear treaty has been rescinded.

A socialist society will have to decommission and make safe these obscene monuments to capitalism as quickly as possible.

Socialism will mean no war and no conflict.

The priority of a socialist society is to end world poverty. The consequences of capitalism's wars will have to be one of socialism's immediate objectives but it will mean resources will have to be devoted to clearing up this mess. Skilled workers capable of finding and making safe unexploded ordnance will still have to be trained. Those injured will still need to be tended to and looked after. Areas which are littered with unexploded ordnance could not be immediately used to grow crops and other necessary goods. Socialism will probably still have to face, with sober senses, the legacy of capitalism's wars for some unknown time into the future.

However, not all will be doom and gloom. Socialism will mean that the profit system will no longer cause chaos, war and conflict across the globe. Capitalist competition on a world-wide scale will have given way to co-operation. Socialism like capitalism will be a global system. Unlike capitalism with its wars and conflicts there will be no buying and selling of commodities, no class exploitation, no artificial borders and nation states. Production will take place just to meet human needs. Instead of the profit motive there will be common ownership and democratic control of the means of production and distribution by all of society.

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Object and Declaration of Principles


The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.

Declaration of Principles


1. That society as at present constituted is based upon the ownership of the means of living (ie land, factories, railways, etc.) by the capitalist or master class, and the consequent enslavement of the working class, by whose labour alone wealth is produced.

2. That in society, therefore, there is an antagonism of interests, manifesting itself as a class struggle, between those who possess but do not produce and those who produce but do not possess.

3.That this antagonism can be abolished only by the emancipation of the working class from the domination of the master class, by the conversion into common property of society of the means of production and distribution, and their democratic control by the whole people.

4. That as in the order of social evolution the working class is the last class to achieve its freedom, the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex.

5. That this emancipation must be the work of the working class itself.

6. That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the workers, the working class must organise consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.

7. That as all political parties are but the expression of class interests, and as the interest of the working class is diametrically opposed to the interests of all sections of the master class, the party seeking working class emancipation must be hostile to every other party.

8. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labour or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labour, and that poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.