by Susan Rosenthal
(Updated at: Solidarity is Better than Charity)
For the past two months, children have been canvassing my neighborhood collecting money for their schools and for a variety of charitable causes. Tonight is Halloween, and they will be at my door again, asking for donations for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund. Youngsters are encouraged to participate in these fund-raising activities to show concern for others. The message is: You can’t change the world but you can make a difference in someone’s life. I have two problems with this:
First: the work that we do every day should provide for human needs, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, treating the sick, and generally raising living standards for everyone. Instead, the surplus produced by working people is confiscated by the bosses to fund their lavish lifestyles and to support a class system that creates hunger, homelessness, and disease.
Second: the taxes that working people pay — the billions of dollars that flow from our paychecks into government coffers — should fund schools, medical care, clean water, sanitation systems, and other social services that promote health and well-being. Instead, this money is used to fund wars of acquisition that spread death, deprivation, and disease.
The working-class majority must pay three times: producing surplus that is taken by the capitalist class instead of being used to meet human needs; paying taxes that support the capitalist class instead of meeting human needs; and donating to charity to bandage the miseries produced by the capitalist system. Adding insult to injury, the more money that charities raise for the needy, the more social resources are diverted to the capitalist class!
Why do we need charity in a world of abundance? If the global wealth produced in 2005 were divided by the world’s population, every human being on the planet would have $9,212, or $36,848 for every family of four. There would be even more to share if everyone who wanted to work were employed. Furthermore, if people in poor nations had access to the same methods of production used in rich nations, world production would triple, providing everyone on the planet with a yearly minimum of $27,636, or every family of four with more than $110,554.
Mass deprivation persists because a tiny group of people take the best and the most for themselves and bamboozle the rest of us into thinking that there is not enough to go around. By standing together, we can claim what rightfully belongs to all. That’s the message our children need to learn, that we can change the world — through solidarity, not charity.
For more on this subject see POWER and Powerlessness, Chapter 16, "Claim the Surplus." Available at www.powerandpowerlessness.com