“Philosophers have merely interpreted the world, the point however is to change it.” —Karl Marx
I’m a product of the Occupy movement, and like many who flocked to Zuccotti Park and other public demonstrations across the US in 2011, I hoped to create a profound change in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression.
Looking back, we were asking the right questions and raising relevant points. People were justifiably upset at the 1%, but without the proper leadership, or any programmatic points of agitation, an ephemeral tide of protest passed with no substantive improvements for the American working class.
Since that time, the economic crisis has deepened, even during the years of so-called “economic recovery” touted by the Obama administration and bourgeois economists who believe that a neoliberal austerity program that substantially diminishes the standard of living for average Americans will somehow rectify an ailing economy. However, even a cursory glance at the state of living conditions today in the US, the richest country on earth, and the “beacon of free market capitalism,” illuminates a simple reality: capitalism has long outlived its usefulness and no longer plays a progressive role in human development.
Consider the reality produced by the crisis of overproduction, whereby roughly 18 million homes sit empty while millions are homeless without a safe place to live. The public reclamation of vacant homes for the eradication of homelessness is logical, humane, and well within reach under socialism, but utterly impossible under an insane system that values profits and private ownership for a few over the wellbeing of the many.
Consider too that the US produces enough food to feed the world several times over, yet thousands starve every day. Farmers destroy crops, pour out perfectly good milk, and tons of edible food goes to waste simply because it cannot be sold at a profit. Unemployment rises, students collectively owe more than $1 trillion in loan debt, imperialist wars continue abroad—the list of systemic tragedies continues seemingly ad infinitum and we’re told that everything is A-OK, that this is simply the modus operandi of the best possible economic system. I beg to differ.
I joined the WIL because housing, healthy food, quality education, transportation, and access to health care are human rights, not commodities to be bought and sold on the open market. The productive output of the working class organized on the egalitarian basis of human need could easily provide these (and more!) to every man, woman, and child on the planet.
How then to best replace what is undeniably a brutal, regressive system? Without a long-term dialectical perspective, left activism appears to be the best, only option for liberating the working class from the miseries, the excesses, and the contradictions of capitalism. It’s the camp I came from not too long ago. However, after studying with comrades from the WIL it became abundantly clear that petitioning a bourgeois government for redress is a hopeless endeavor, much like begging for crumbs when someone else is holding the loaf.
The state doesn’t serve as an impartial mediator between classes, but rather, as a tool for the repression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie. The late Gore Vidal was spot on when saying, “The US has one property party with two right wings.” Only by building a mass party of labor to counter the two parties of Wall Street and by taking control over the commanding heights of the economy can we resolve what are irreconcilable class antagonisms that exist under capitalism.
The path to abolish capitalism is a difficult one, but by building a cadre from the most advanced layer of the working class, I see the WIL, with its unparalleled dedication to theory and historical perspective as an indispensable organization that can play a crucial role in helping the working class achieve political independence and ultimately complete liberation from capitalist oppression. Our numbers are small and building in the belly of the beast is often difficult, but conditions are beginning to validate our positions.
Barely two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the supposed “end of history,” we are witnessing the very beginning of a profound shift in working class consciousness as evidenced by the small, but certainly not insignificant fast food strikes, WalMart walkouts, Occupy, and the Wisconsin union uprising. Throw in a Congressional approval rating of an abysmal 9 percent after the government shutdown, and we’re on the precipice of making real headway in recruiting, training, and consolidating a new layer of the proletariat. It’s not hyperbole to think that recruiting ones and twos will sooner rather than later lead to the recruitment of tens and hundreds.
I joined the Worker’s International League in the fight for socialism because another world is possible and necessary if humanity is to survive growing existential crises: war, disease, poverty, and global warming, to name just a few. It’s not enough to recycle a few cans, shop at the farmers’ market, drive a hybrid car, and give some money to charity, hoping that everything will work out. Our mandate instead is to abolish a system that creates the conditions whereby charity is necessary in the first place. It’s achievable and I’m proud to join the revolutionary struggle to make it happen.