A Capitalist World
The Montreal Review, April, 2010
When Marx wrote in 1883 the Manifesto of the Communist Party a spectre was haunting in Europe, the spectre of communism. Later, as it turned out, the spectre was not of communism, but of the modern type of dictatorship, and communism along with national-socialism were only cover masks of new state tyrannies. There was no communist spectre. There was a communist theatre, a rhetoric, an ideology that supported legitimacy of the illegitimate political regimes in Eastern Europe and parts of Asia.
Is there a spectre that is hunting the world today? Yes, there are spectres of Islam, of the "great recession", of the American imperialism and Chinese Dragon... But our historical mind would whisper that these are only masks of something different. These are only temporary labels that cover the biggest player in the world today - the capital.
Is the capital a source of tyranny?
The communism has not happened, but we should not be too fast to throw out Marx's theories about society, politics and economy. It is not necessary to be a Marxist to notice the adequacy and the durable validity of some Marxist observations. If Marx were not an enemy of bourgeoisie, of capitalism, the Manifesto of the Communist Party would be used with great desire from the proponents of capitalism, especially these parts of the text that depict capitalism as a revolutionary force. The Manifesto offers some basic principles that are still valid.
As Marx notices there are two basic classes in the capitalist world - the class of the capitalists, or the property and capital owners, and the class of the workers. The workers have nothing except their labour, and much of their life is passing in preparation for service and in service. They are nothing if they are not well prepared for service or if their labour and skills, which are simply a commodity, do not cost enough to cover their life expenses. The skills and the labour of everyone must have market value. If they do not have such a value, the laws of capitalism would punish the "useless" existence. The laws of the modern capitalist world require every member of the labour class to modify his personality, skills, thinking and existence in accordance with the goals of capitalist world. In the capitalist kingdom, there is only one king - the capital, and one duty - the production. Production is the source of the power and existence of capital. You must choose not to consume, which is half-punishable, but you must produce, and not what you want or can, but what the market and the capital requires.
Marx is right arguing that the mist of the sentimental, magical old world of aristocracy (which he calls feudalism) disappeared along with its multiple social prejudices under the sunlight of the bourgeois, capitalist cold mind. The calculation, not the prayer is in the mind of the capitalist and the worker. Counting money, counting time - in the numbers are the hopes and the fears of everyone. Words such as pride, nobility, nation, and religion, humanity, and compassion, are nothing. We cannot support a health care reform, say Tea Party Americans today, because it costs money, not because it costs lives. Capitalism changed the structure of our values. It has became more rational, but it is not rational, because after all, humanistic values are not rational according to the standards of the existing world.
We all work for wage, says Marx. Except the capital owners, of course. Last year Vanity Fair magazine published some pictures of summer houses on the Atlantic coast. The rent for some of them was $ 300 000 per month (Wooldon Manor, for example). "...Noels have put their house up for rent. Like Cioffi they are asking top dollar...$ 350 000 for July, $ 375 000 for August..." (VF, July 2009, "The Hamptons Stress Test") Who is the man who depends on a wage and pays $ 300 000 for a month, to stay bored in a big house during the summer!?
The capitalism, writes Marx, cannot exist without constant revolution in the means of production. It creates machines that must save money and that produce more. More, and more technologies penetrate in our world. Monsanto creates odd all-mighty corn beans and punishes the farmers who are still out of its Frankenstein's vegetable kingdom. Software and hardware replace the human hands and minds. The technologies create new means of production; and the new means of production create new social values and social relations.
The capitalism needs markets because the capital needs to sell its product in order to grow. The goods flow around the world. Free market is better than protectionism. The needs of the people for new goods are constantly modeled by advertising and news media propaganda. The capital creates his idols of worship. Humans, labourers, spent their hard earned money in big, empty houses, gadgets, and tons of modified food. All have debts. All are slaves, debtors of the capital. Capitalism penetrates in every place in the world and modifies it in its image and semblance. MacDonald's is everywhere, Ikea is in every house, Ipod is in everyone's pocket. The temples and the churches are empty, or full with tourists. The real life and worship is around the banks, around the factories, the shop-centers and in the Universities that produce in assembly line young, soul-empty serfs. There is no national culture anymore; there are no villages and rural life. The capitalist globalization revolutionise every remote corner of the world. The capitalist missionaries travel over the world with cheap gifts and great promises to convert the last savage.
Everything is moving, growing, puffing gas and poison in air, rivers and oceans. And the capitalism has only one real enemy - over production, the danger of depression, the danger that comes from its own intrinsic suicidal reflex.
Our modern world is a spontaneous system. Its ruler today is the capital, which is not a human, but a collective product our behaviour and actions. Capitalism is a transcendental, unconscious socio-economic system that can be controlled only if we understand its real features, laws, good and vicious sides.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point is to change it," says Marx in thesis 11 in his Theses on Feuerbach. Some of his basic observations, for example his theory of alienated labour, proved right and still are valid, but his conclusions such as the continuing impoverishment of the working class turned out wrong. His mistake was that he did not expect that the capitalism - a hugely rational, and cold-blooded socio-economic system - would realize in order to survive that the pauperization of the workers does not reflect the real interests of the capital. So in the 20th century the capital invented the illusion of the opulence among the workers. After the Great Depression and the Second World War the capital realized that the labourers are the backbone of everything and their exploitation would be more efficient if they have this illusion of stable life (stable job), stable economy, basic labour rights, and high incomes. In the second part of the 20th century in the West the labour unions disappeared, in their place the welfare company has come and the state has become a partner of the business and supposed defender of the working class. Said shortly, the capital has taken all control. The independent opposition of labour has been suffocated not with open war, but with the "engagement" of the bussiness "with the problems of the workers" and with institutional change. In the second half of the 20th century the workers were locked in another matrix - they still worked hard, but they earned more, and more important, borrowed more. And they were encouraged to spend more - with advertising, credit cards, with fake "American dreams", with social narratives and images of good families with house, two cars and lots of gadgets. The excessive lending and borrowing, the intoxication of the capital from the huge successes in the 1990s and the beginning of the 21st century (the fall of communism, the growth of globalization and development of the new technologies) at the end led us to the last financial crisis. Today's "great recession" has been provoked by the illusion that the worker will be growlingly nurtured with debts and efficiently exploited. The capital, as often happens, was on the verge to commit suicide inadvertently...
Everyone knows that Marx does not offer a clear vision for the future. His social and economic critique is a success in the interpretation of the world, but it is a huge failure in the most important thing - the real change of the world. People who wanted power, who were not real social or economic visionaries, used his ideas for their narrow goals and Marxism was utterly discredited. But Marx's failure is also a failure of humanity. Except the religion, we still do not have a general theory that leads to a revolutionary change in the conditions of our existence... Perhaps, we do not need such a theory, but we, unfortunately, do not have even a partial theory that can illuminate some of the realities of our world.
Dear Reader, if you wish to comment this article or to express different opinion please feel free to write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All comments, opinions and suggestions will be published within a week after their submission.
All letters should include your name.