Poverty under capitalism is ‘killing people on a grand scale’


‘SOCIAL injustice is killing people on a grand scale.’ This is the conclusion of the World Health Organisation’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health, headed by professor Sir Michael Marmot, which published its report this week.

The WHO found that social factors are responsible for huge variations in ill health and life expectancy around the world.

Its report states: ‘[The] toxic combination of bad policies, economics, and politics is, in large measure, responsible for the fact that the majority of people in the world do not enjoy the good health that is biologically possible.’

Marmot added: ‘The key message of our report is that the circumstances in which people are born, grow, live, work and age are the fundamental drivers of health, and health inequality.’

Figures produced by the commission reveal that the life expectancy in Iceland, Japan and Sweden is 79, while that in India is only 62.

The report illustrated this difference between the richer capitalist countries, where there is some form of ‘welfare state’, and semi-colonial countries in Africa and Asia, by the fact that a girl in Japan is likely to live 42 years longer than one in the African country of Lesotho.

In Sweden, the risk of a woman dying during pregnancy and childbirth is one in 17,400, but in Afghanistan it is one in eight.

When dealing with health and social inequality, the commission was not merely concerned with differences between rich and poor countries, but inequality within countries.

Life expectancy in predominantly white Montgomery County in the US is 80, but that of the black population of Washington DC is 63, only marginally higher than India.

In Britain a boy living in the poor Glasgow suburb of Calton (life expectancy 54) will live on average 28 years less than a boy born in nearby well-off Lenzie (life expectancy 82). The average life expectancy in Britain is 77.

While using the term ‘social inequalities’, the WHO studiously avoids considering why there are inequalities between semi-colonial countries and the imperialist states, and the class differences between rich and poor within countries.

What this report makes clear is that exploitation of the working class and the labouring masses by the capitalist ruling class is killing people.

The imperialist super-exploitation of the semi-colonial countries is responsible for poverty in the sub-Saharan countries and those in southern Asia.

In countries like Cuba, where American businessmen were thrown out 50 years ago and where health and welfare are government priorities, life expectancy is 75, the same as its rich neighbour, the US.

In Britain, health inequality between the rich and poor has increased over the past 11 years, under the Blair and Brown Labour governments.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson admitted: ‘We haven’t closed the gap, in fact the gap has widened . . .’ He then promised that the government would reduce health inequalities within the next two years!?

The WHO called on governments to take action to ensure a living wage for workers, and working conditions that reduce work-related stress and ensure a healthy lifestyle.

However, it is clear that the imperialists are not going to stop robbing the former colonial peoples of their valuable raw materials, or raise living standards of the working class at home as the present capitalist crisis gathers momentum.

The WHO report is an indictment of the major imperialist powers and world capitalism.

Only the overthrow of corrupt rulers, who act as compradors of the imperialists in the semi-colonial countries, and the creation of revolutionary workers’ and farmers’ governments, can ensure that the wealth of these countries benefits the poor and provides them with a decent future.

In Britain, only getting rid of the Brown regime and the creation of a workers’ government can abolish the poverty of capitalism through socialist policies to provide jobs, defend living standards, build homes and guarantee universal free education, healthcare and welfare.