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Socialism can 'make poverty history'
TENS OF thousands of people, many of them young, filled Trafalgar Square on 3 February. They heard Nelson Mandela, in Britain to speak to a meeting of G7 finance ministers, call on world leaders to "Make Poverty History".
The tsunami disaster threw world poverty into the spotlight, starkly exposing the appalling living conditions of millions of people in the neo-colonial world. More than one billion people live on less than $1 a day. Eleven million children die due to poverty every year.
After the tsunami, Gordon Brown proposed a moratorium on the debt payments of affected countries. The UN announced a new plan to persuade leading world powers to put their aid to poor countries up from £20 billion to $135 billion. This grand sum equals the debt of just one tsunami-affected country, Indonesia.
World leaders now say they'll cut the poorest countries' debts or even write them off, which most people would welcome. We've heard promises like this before but nothing has been done. Even if it happens this time, what are the strings? International 'help' usually means enforced cuts, privatisation and opening up of poor economies to multinational companies to bleed dry.
Meanwhile, newly-published profit figures of British-owned firms show how much wealth is available in this capitalist world and also the mind-boggling gap between rich and poor this system brings.
Shell announced profits of £9.4 billion - that's £79,000 extracted from each employee while their rivals BP made £8.7 billion.
HSBC recorded profits of £9.5 billion, and Vodafone £10.2 billion - a staggering £170,000 per worker.
This money, on an annual basis, really could make poverty history, rebuild tsunami victims' lives, bring sanitation, health and education to millions, and provide decent homes and wages. But of course it won't do that, it'll just go to finance the lifestyles of a handful of obscenely rich people.
It is only when that massive wealth is in the hands of ordinary working and poor people worldwide that world poverty will really be history.
In The Socialist 12 February 2005: