It’s a difficult time to be a capitalist.
Not from an economic perspective. Research by Oxfam reveals that an incredible 82 percent of wealth produced around the world last year went to the top 1 percent, and that the 1 percent in Australia now have more wealth than the bottom 70 percent of us.
Our unions – the usual way that people respond to these inequities – are constrained by undemocratic laws that deny workers the right to strike in the vast majority of situations. Our penalty rates are being cut, and the costs of health care, education and housing are rising astronomically.
Despite this, the billionaires of our world and their representatives are deeply worried. They’re haunted by a spectre: the spectre of millions of young people discovering that the system doesn’t work.
It’s not that surprising. Politicians will spin their lies, the mainstream media can try to convince us that ISIS is lurking in our backyards, and social media have been tweaked to prioritise cat pictures and selfies. But the truth will come out eventually. Capitalism sucks.
No decent person who looks at the dizzying gap between rich and poor can think this is a fair or reasonable way of organising society. It’s infuriating to read reports of the social and environmental devastation already being caused by climate change and yet know that global carbon emissions are still rising thanks to the fossil fuels industry.
Soon, there will be millions of climate refugees for Western governments to detain indefinitely in concentration camps, their only crime the refusal to abandon hope for a better life. And let’s not forget the systematic oppression of women and racial minorities exposed by the Black Lives Matter movement and the MeToo hashtag.
This widespread desire for a political alternative to austerity, bigotry and ignorance has been reflected in the massive surge of support for politicians such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. Though Sanders was crushed by a Democratic Party machine committed to the status quo, his campaign left an undeniable legacy: polls now regularly show that more US millennials support socialism than support capitalism.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump was elected president of the most powerful empire the world has ever seen. His tiny hands can now start a nuclear war as easily as a Twitter storm. Enthused by his racism, far right organisations across the US and Europe have redoubled their efforts to deflect popular anger over economic decline onto immigrants and asylum seekers.
Just last month, an Italian fascist shot six African migrants in a small town. Before being arrested, he wrapped himself in an Italian flag and gave the fascist salute.
So we live in an age of extremes, of wealth and poverty, of crisis and resistance, of despair and hope, of violent racism and heartfelt solidarity.
In polarised times like these, the most important thing that left wing people can do is to join the socialist movement.
The first reason to get involved is because being an active socialist is the best way to resist the injustices we see all around us – and there’s no shortage of things that need resisting. And unlike parties such as Labor and the Greens, who sometimes offer verbal support to progressive causes, socialists are always on the front lines organising protests, occupations and strikes to demand change on a range of issues.
We saw the success of this approach last year with the brilliant victory of the marriage equality campaign, in which members of Socialist Alternative initiated and led protests of tens of thousands of people across the country. Nobody who attended will ever forget being part of those marches, or the joy and solidarity beaming from the faces of thousands of people who knew they were making history through their actions.
That’s the kind of movement it takes to win social change, and we want to have it replicated for refugees, for Indigenous rights and everything else.
But the main reason to join the socialists is if you, like us, understand the need to go beyond band-aid solutions and overthrow the whole social system that makes it so hard to win the most basic human rights.
We were proud to lead the campaign to stop the Americanisation of our universities back in 2014, but the government is still trying to cut funding to universities to invest in the arms trade.
We have thrown ourselves into the campaign to stop the Adani coal mine – and we have a good chance of winning – but there will always be other coal mines. And while we celebrate every wage rise won by workers, inflation and cutbacks will undermine them in the end.
Only by abolishing capitalism can we put an end to this Sisyphean struggle for a humane and rational society. But history shows that we need a mass socialist movement to abolish capitalism. We’re not there yet, but with your help we will be one step closer.