When at long last war and capitalism, terrorism and religious fanaticism have had their final day, when a communist society breaks out like the glorious sun after the most savage storms, what will our new world look like? Only the science fiction writer knows, and the utopian novelist. But surely we all feel in our bones that its basic tenets must be peace and plenty, love and kindness. Certainly there can be no cruelty. And yet I wonder whether a most monstrous cruelty — rampant in this ugly age — will hang on to mar our future. I mean the incarceration, torture and slaughter of billions upon billions of animals.

Each year 10 billion chickens — their beaks cut off with a hot knife — are jammed into cages with less room per bird than a piece of paper. Hanging by their feet the birds are conveyed to assembly line slaughter. They are stunned electrically, then by mechanical blade their throats are slashed.

A cow is given a severe blow to the head then hung up by her hind legs. The animal — who often remains conscious — is “stuck” in the throat and then a knife is plunged into her heart. Kicking, blood gushing from her body, the animal moves down the line to the tail cutter, the belly ripper, and the hide puller.

Paul and Linda McCartney wrote, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” Author Charles Patterson agrees because through those walls, he says, we would gaze horrified into a place that looks much like a Nazi death chamber. In his shattering book “Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust,” Patterson draws an astonishing analogy between a slaughterhouse for Jews and a slaughterhouse for animals. In both we find the annihilation of “life unworthy of life,” the wholesale depersonalized day-after-day butchery and the lying prattle of “humane killing.”

But we cannot look through the walls of the slaughterhouse; the owners of “our” TV airwaves will not permit it, reports Gail A. Eisnitz, who interviewed workers with 2 million hours on the kill floor and photographed the carnage there. In her book “Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment inside the U.S. Meat Industry,” Eisnitz writes of the monopoly control of the meat industry. Their gluttony for profits leads to a speedup of production lines and arrant contempt not only for worker safety but even dignity. “Workers,” writes one reviewer, “are having to urinate in their pants rather than being accorded the simple dignity of being able to leave the line to take care of their affairs.”

Health reasons for vegetarianism are just as compelling as ethical ones. Dr. Michael Klaper reports, “Every 30 seconds on this continent somebody grabs their chest and falls over with a heart attack. This is animal fat clogging up the arteries.”

As for ecology: to produce a one-pound steak requires 16 pounds of grain and 2,500 gallons of water. More than 70 percent of the grain grown in the United States is fed to slaughterhouse animals. The waste is criminal.

But returning to moral reasons: “The awful wrongs and sufferings forced upon the innocent, faithful animal race form the blackest chapter in the whole world’s history.” This statement by Edward Augustus Freeman would be called “sentimental” by August Bebel. In his book “Woman and Socialism” (50 editions in many languages), Bebel writes, “A purely vegetable diet is neither likely nor necessary in the future.” Let us hope Bebel’s is not the last word of Marxism on vegetarianism.

Rather let us heed the socialist Albert Einstein: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”

World socialism/communism, apparently, is as far off as the highest mountain on the horizon. Certainly as we climb higher and higher up that mountain we will with each step advance morally. It is inconceivable that a communist society can be attained without ethical, compassionate people leading the way.

Come, let us be soybean socialists. Must we have slaughterhouses under communism? No, let us have a cruelty-free communism — Marxism without meat! Let us climb that mountain with “vegetarianism” on our banners and say, with H.G. Wells, “In all the round world there is no meat. There used to be. But now we cannot stand the thought of slaughterhouses. I can still remember as a boy the rejoicings over the closing of the last slaughterhouse.”

Gene Gordon (wochica@msn.com) is a California writer who, with June Levine, wrote “Tales of Wo-Chi-Ca: Blacks, Whites and Reds at Camp.”