Is Capitalism sustainable? A series of brief essays. Revised.

23 Oct

Summarize critical Marxism, in one page. Then criticize Marxism!

I. Capitalism, according to Karl Marx, means the historical struggle between capital and labor. Sometimes this struggle is latent, and at other times it manifests itself in open conflict in the streets, in the workplace, and in the political system.

a. Capital, meaning, the rich, the bankers, and the corporations– in other words, those who own the means of production and the money to invest or lend.

b. Labor, meaning those who must work for a daily wage– in other words, the working-class, or Proletariat.

The goal of the capitalist is to own the means of production: the company, factory or shop. From this, the capitalist makes a profit. The capitalist seeks to produce things at the cheapest possible price — even if this means the underpayment of labor‘s daily wage. This is a central tenet of Marx. The capitalist exploits the members of the lower class, the workers, and the renters. He pays the politicians to protect his investment, and if necessary, to bust the unions. He makes higher education expensive, in order to keep the working-class down. The protection of the private property-system is in the basic interest of the capitalist. Unfortunately, this system produces class warfare.

The state is the means by which the capitalist achieves this. Its goal is to protect property and life, and create laws that set the rules by which capitalism can best be served.

a. The military and the police are largely drawn from the ranks of the working-class, and are set against them in the event of a violent social confrontation.

b. The politicians are drawn from the ranks of the educated bourgeoisie.

II.

a. The middle-class, means the petit bourgeoisie. The shopkeeper, the tradesman, and the merchant.

b. The bourgeoisie, means the higher middle -class, which emulates the wealthy. These are the professionals: the doctors, the lawyers, the priests, the journalists, the teachers and professors. They support the ideology of capitalism, and are the cultured class. They manipulate ideas and language in order to protect the social order, with the wealthy on top, naturally.

In order to obscure true social relations, religion was developed thousands of years ago. Religion is in Marx’s terms, the ‘opiate of the masses.’ A belief-system that keeps labor from questioning the social order, and which prevents the workers and the poor from rebelling. In addition, religion functions in the social organism by assuaging the conscience of the bourgeoisie.

III. The basic argument of Marx is easily comprehended: the capitalist drive to lower wages and cheapen the costs of production will end up having an unintended consequence: of swelling the ranks of the poor, while concentrating more and more power in the hands of the rich. If the middle class disappears, then this will create a violent confrontation between the workers and the capitalists. The working-class will inevitably win such an upheaval, and will lead the world toward socialism. After the revolution, there will be no more exploitation of the working-classes, and the state will protect their interests.

Q: There are of course objections to the Marxist theory. It fails to protect human rights, as it was practised under the Stalinist Soviet Union. Liberal bourgeois democracy did make gains for the workers for a period of time, as Labor in Britain asserted itself. Marxist doctrine that property is the source of social discontent led capitalist society toward reforms during the “Progressive” part of the Twentieth Century. The conditions of the workers improved during FDR’s New Deal, in America, and the 40 hour workweek was instituted by law.

After WW2, the middle-class grew for numerous reasons, including the GI Bill, and high rates of taxation during the Eisenhower era.

Nevertheless, analytical, critical Marxism remains a vital argument today, as millions of people seem to be falling behind and as the right-wingers (Romney-Ryan) attempted to eviscerate the public sector and the welfare state. Capitalism as a system fails much of the working class, due to the persistence of wage-slavery; and since this has remained the case, then capitalism must be critiqued.

As for Marxism, as practiced in the Soviet Union, it became a dogmatic form of Stalinism which few today would advocate. The problem with Marx is that he believed that he had solved the problem of history, and once a Marxist regime had gained power, it would not have to continue to find means of further cultural and economic growth. In other words, it was not ‘progressive.’ It may turn out that Marx was a better critic of capitalism than he was a planner for a future class-free society. Marxism only held on for a brief period of time, historically. It is being rejected now in China, much as it had been in the West and the Soviet Union. A Marxist system failed to allow for humans to develop their full potential, intellectually, morally, spiritually; in other words, it was guilty of stasis. It failed to produce a dynamic society. Marxism itself became an article of faith both within and without the Soviet Union, rather than a just critique of society, which it has remained in the Western bourgeois liberal world. Marxism today must acknowledge some form of revisionism, as Bernstein had advocated. Instead the Marxists followed Lenin, Trotsky, Kautsky, and other heavily criticized historical figures. It may turn out that Hugo Chavez will be the last great Marxist believer.

So is Marxism then 1. a dream 2. a form of social science 3. a critique of capitalism 4. a failed order for a new society? Or perhaps all of these. Unfortunately Dr Marx and his ally Engels were never able to revise their ideas, but dogmatically insisted on the ‘fall of capitalism.’ The truth is that thanks to progressive reformers like the Roosevelts, capitalism survived and succeeded. Now it is in a moment of crisis, thanks to the failure of the Bush era and 9/15/08, the near collapse of the world financial system. We cannot help but feel that the American system is falling apart.

Hence I would argue that Marxism is still relevant.

Lenin criticized the utopians as ‘idealists’ and dreamers in his book, “What is to be Done?” But the fact remains that the Marxist dream eventually did not succeed for more than a few generations; then it fell apart. The people were repressed and felt stifled under it, and it did not flower into a democratic form of socialism.

The spectre of Marxism remains, however, in terms of the necessary critique of recent developments of Capitalism, which allied with the State and the Military, have given us two bloody wars. Most people today don’t accept the necessity for the Iraq war, and the Afghan war has floundered. American attempts to create a democracy in regions that have NEVER known democracy have largely failed.

We may have to await a new formulation of a democratic critique of postwar American capitalism, which seems to have supplied us with endless unwanted wars; failed gov’t policies; and boom and bust cycles of capitalism, which plunge millions of people into poverty. We are living in the midst of a social, economic and environmental crisis.

Despite Marx’s pronouncement that “heretofore the philosophers have merely interpreted the world; the point is to change it,” Marxism today remains vital and relevant as a critique of society and the social order, rather than as a blueprint for a new society, freed from capitalistic struggle and labour strife.
WalMart’s attacks on the wage-workers is one point of departure for those of us who criticise capitalism itself.

Marx for us remains a great, bold thinker, but Marxism needs updating and rethinking if it is ever again to capture the intelligence and imagination of the enlightened part of the world. Marx remains an inspiration, but he may end up as a name in the history of sociology, rather than as the best articulator of the doldrums of capitalism.

revised, Dec. 26, 2012

====================

“War is peace, peace is war!”

1. America’s internal peace comes at the price of unending, unwinnable wars.

2. A credibility gap exists between the State and the people.

3. Conflict between the haves and the have-nots erupts. On the one side, the well-off, the upper middle-class, the ostentatious people, and on the other hand the oppressed working-class and the poor. The middle-classes begin to feel solidarity with the poor and hatred of the classes above them.

4. Hence, class warfare is inevitable.

5. Crony capitalism, exposed. The combined power of Wall Street and the state leads to corruption.

6. Capitalism entails that greater and greater profits be squeezed from people who are working harder and harder. No matter how hard they work, they never really ‘get ahead.’

7. Our culture in decline, standards being driven downwards, intentionally! The system fears the spark of intelligence that might lead to solidarity among the classes, which would result in a potential rebellion or revolution.

8. Television, the other “opiate of the masses.” God said “Let there be light,” and the Devil said, “let there be television.”

9. “The idea of socialism” must be brought to the working-class so they will storm, yes “storm the bastions of capitalism” [Isaac Deutscher].

10. Throughout history, the wealthy have translated economic power into political power, making a farce of so-called “Democracy.”

11. Globalization: meaning that they sent manufacturing from the US to 3rd World countries intentionally, to vitiate America‘s working-classes!

—————–
On Capitalism. An essay.

In every state of the Union, the wealthy lord it over the so-called middle class. The working class and the poor must suffer. We live under a ‘class system,’ in which most of society’s wealth has been distributed upward to the few.

The state has created a class of people dependant on welfare because the minimum wage is entirely insufficient for human sustenance. The rich want to prevent real wealth redistribution by the State via taxation, which might create a more democratic free society, and they wish to control the harnesses of political and media power.

We are presently witnessing a phony ‘crisis of capitalism.’ The system thrives on cheap labor, so the corporations, the rich, the powerful, the banks, have fundamentally rigged the political system in their favor. Thus they can attack the unions; they can lower educational and work standards. They manipulate the currency, control the mass media, and fund both political parties so that they are almost one and the same. They ship jobs overseas, and then import cheap products made by near-slave labor in the Third World back to the US. They lull people’s minds to sleep via the television, second-rate education, and they promote phony religion.

America today, after years of Reaganomics, a bloody swindle which enriched the privileged few and corporate America, is a virtual ‘banana republic.’ The average person will never live as well as the Bush family or the Rockefellers, but they very well might slide into a lower socioeconomic status. They might see Johnny shipped to the military to fight futile, unwinnable wars, and watch their society slowly being ripped to shreds before their very eyes. Entire towns go under, industries are shipped abroad, and meanwhile corporations make record profits and skimp on paying taxes, thus preventing states from funding things like social services to the extent necessary.

We must ask, what is capitalism? According to Marx, it is a system in which the owners of capital and the means of production wage nearly unrestricted economic warfare against the have-nots. The control of the economic pie by the few is the essence of American democracy.

Capitalism, historically, tends toward the creation of monopolies.

Take for instance, the Rockefellers. They are on the board of Exxon mobil, Rockefeller center (where NBC produces its shows), coal mining in West Virginia, and have countless other shell companies in order to protect their indescribable wealth. Whoever controls the mass media can best influence public discourse and public policy. They were involved the development of the Manhattan Project, ties to Latin America, the development of television, and the Republican Party ‘s liberal wing. Rockefeller was both Gov. of NY State and VP of the USA. He was instrumental in the construction of the trade towers. Hence, why not just call NY, ‘Rockefeller’s playground?’ That is basically what is has become, the backyard of a handful of people where unimaginable wealth stands in stark contrast to the growth of slum-ridden welfare-dependent neighborhoods. Rockefeller built up NY state in order to better control it! Hence the development of SUNY, the NY State Highway System, mass transit, et cetera.

How can anyone claim that NY is anything but a ‘corporate plutocracy?”

======
an essay on the crisis of capitalism

Capitalists are in perpetual conflict with organized labor. Workers working on their own never seem to get ahead, for the dollar loses value every year and the cost of living rises. They can never buy the chic goods of the marketplace, the products and services presented in commercials, except on credit, thus enriching the banks. When jobs disappear, then the members of the working-class fight with one another or are militarized, institutionalized, or imprisoned. The working-class supplies society’s labor power, yet paradoxically it is entirely voiceless. The policeman exists to keep him or her in a state of fear. The bosses of capitalism seek cheap labor, and the right to fire and hire at will. The State obliges them. Hence capitalism means “class warfare of the rich against the poor.” The banks, the corporations, the state, exist to keep the oppressed down, and the mass media supplies them with stupid entertainment.

Capitalism’s crisis is caused by a rising cost of living while wages for the workers stagnate. This leads to social disorder. The bosses crack down on labor unions, keeping the workers in a state of fear. When the members of the upper and middle classes join at last in SOLIDARITY with the members of the lower-classes, then you will have a season of revolt. Since big cities promote an increasingly unattainable, materialistic lifestyle to the poor and the workers, and since banks and firms are located within these cauldrons of alienated labor, it is inevitable that class conflict will openly play out on the streets of cities.

The members of the oppressed classes must become “class-conscious“. The rich associate with one another in their yachts, country clubs and manors; the middle-classes aspire to be like the rich and fear sinking down to the level of the poor, so they also try to segregate themselves in their subdivisions. The rich can see the class-system at work within their own households since they usually have servants of another race or nation feeding them. Hence it is fair to say that “Property“ causes class-divisions to arise. Debates about the inequities of the system emerge at the dinner-tables of all classes. The State cannot afford to ignore the welfare of the poor, so the debate continues onto the floors of Congress and the White House.

Sociologists are needed to analyze the nature of the social system. There is a war between the haves and the have-nots. The rich must protect their own interests, which they translate into political power. They may be sympathetic to the plight of the poor, but they cannot reform the system. The poor and the working classes must translate their power into organized political power with a demand for a “living wage“. Union bosses will cooperate with the capitalists and the state when wars break out, but in times of peace they are all too timid in pressing for reforms. Class warfare inevitably erupts because of the lack of real social democracy. The class divide, thus, is everywhere.

The police and the military, the armed wings of the state, imprison a portion of the working class, on the one hand, or send them into harms ‘ way on the other. This also helps revolution from erupting openly. The alternative to this failed situation is Solidarity. The intelligensia and the students, sons and daughters of the working and middle-class and the rich, are aware that ‘education’ is no real solution, because the system is designed to remain the same! Nothing changes. If some move up or down the ladder, others will take their places. It is only when the classes join with the oppressed and the poor, and take their protests out on the streets that the media’s attention will be captured. The SPARK of consciousness helps to ignite the much-needed rebellion or revolution.

An economic pyramid is the essence of the class system.

The poor, the working-class, the immigrants and migrants are the proletariat.
The lower-middle-classes and the middle-class are the petit bourgeoisie.

The upper-middle-class, educated and often well-traveled, are the bourgeoisie.

The rich and the super rich are the superior classes.

——–
The American class system, analyzed:

How can one deny that there is such a thing as a class system? It is as clear as daylight. The rich, the corporations, the banks are among the top two percent who rule the classes below them. They grab more and more of the economic pie, which seems to be diminishing, leaving the middle-class with the tax bill, student loan debt, higher and higher costs of living, and more and more agita. The lower middle-classes, the working poor and the hopelessly poor below them find themselves increasingly ghettoized and alienated from the system, with few legitimate escapes open to them.

It is the spark of consciousness that is needed in order for social solidarity to emerge, such as we are now seeing in the protests on the streets of cities! We support OWS.

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