Editor’s Note: The value of any theory is proved by the accuracy of its predictions and its ability to describe reality. On both counts Marxian theory continues to prove far superior and reliable to bourgeois social science (the latter often an oxymoron if not a hoax when dealing with the political economy, sociology and the rest of the disciplines that profess to track social reality). After more than a century of badmouthing, of being declared irrelevant, obsolete, and even dangerous by capitalist apologists, Marx and Engels stand tall, fully vindicated and more relevant than ever in this time of global crisis triggered by capitalism. As many true socialists have warned over the years, the choice for humanity is clear: it’s socialism or barbarism. —P. Greanville
By Brian P. Stetten
When on Earth are we going to wake up and begin questioning the very nature of our economic and political systems?In June of last year, Conservative Member of Parliament Cecil Parkinson on BBC made the surreal statement, “The capitalists are destroying capitalism.” He stated this with a certain amount of surprise, as if he was saying to himself, “Why are they doing this? Eventually, they will only hurt themselves.”
Karl Marx warned of this over a hundred years ago. He predicted that capitalism would destroy itself through liquidity crisis, through competition driving down workers wages to the point where they could not afford to buy the products or services they produced, that competition would lead to powerful monopolies that would destroy small businesses.
Yet the collapse of capitalism never happened. As the worse of abuses and exploitation took its toll on workers, the workers found ways of pushing back. Recently, Times Magazine in its early July issue, in an article “The American Dream-has seen better days-much better”, the author makes it clear that the income inequality between the rich and the poor is even greater than it was during the Great Depression. In actuality, the income inequality has never been this bad throughout America’s entire history. During the Great Depression, labor movements and far left parties united and pushed the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration towards the New Deal. Government regulations were put in place to prevent some of the worst abuses of capitalism. Unions gained more prominence and power. After this period, we had the growth of the middle class.
So, Karl Marx’s prediction was proven wrong, or was it?
Beginning in the early 1980s, Ronald Reagan in the United States and Margaret Thatcher in England, began a program of what was referred to as ‘The Washington Consensus,’ an economic program which comes under many names, be it neo-liberal economics, supply side economics, free market fundamentalism; it is all basically laissez faire capitalism. After the stagflation that occurred under Jimmy Carter, conservative think tanks jumped in and pushed a highly ideological program that consisted of deregulation, free trade agreements which meant setting workers in varying countries in direct competition with each other while capital can flow freely. Free market ideology also meant sharply reducing taxes on the rich on the notion that their wealth will ‘trickle down ‘to the remaining population. This ideology also meant the further suppression and destruction of the labor unions and their ability to collectively bargain.
As the New Deal apparatus was dismantled over the past four decades, the measures that once saved capitalism are no longer there to protect the system from abuses. Karl Marx is currently being proven correct as a huge transfer of wealth has shifted from 99% of the population, into the hands of less than one tenth of one percent of the total population. A highly class conscious war has been waged on the majority of Americans, and yet we stand by apathetic, hoping that if we just happen to elect that right person, perhaps it will all go away. Ever since the beginning of the Washington Consensus, wages have been stagnant to down for the majority of Americans while those of the elite have increased by nearly three hundred percent. The middle class itself is effectively becoming a dream of days past. Yet the system experiences financial crisis after financial crisis, and each time it becomes far more expensive to bail out the system. However, as Professor Colin Crouch points out in his book, “The Strange Non-Death of Neo-Liberalism”, as the current economic system benefits the top elite so well, they will do anything in their power to make sure it stays in place.
At this point, we have to realize that we are a primarily a society run by transnational corporations, which are effectively tyrannies, with a CEO/dictator at the top, that are only accountable to their owners and no one else. The investor class behind these corporate entities makes key decisions that influence our politics, and their demand for profits completely subordinate human rights and basic human needs. Indeed, the extreme nature of this economic inequality has led to extremely corrupted moral and spiritual values that has distorted the very moral fabric of our society. Chris Hayes in his book “Twilight of the Elites” refers to Desmond Tutu’s observations of the white ruling class during the period of South Africa’s apartheid, and how it dehumanized that very ruling class. However, this is nothing new, but the old maxim of how power corrupts. As the rich elite can buy their way seemingly through anything, there is one set of laws for us and another for them. So for instance, as Jon Corzine was CEO of MF Global, he apparently took $1.5 billion from customer accounts before the firm collapsed, and no one is on the TV screaming that he should go to jail. I found it rather ironic that at the time this was out in the news cycle, a homeless man in Florida was arrested and jailed for stealing a soda from a McDonalds.
It is becoming apparent to more and more people, that the ruling elite have become a mafia. In the robo-signing scandal where documents where fraudulently signed, no one went to jail. CEO Mike Duke of Wal-Mart was involved in covering up bribes to the Mexican government for store locations, and no one is fined or threatened. Bob Diamond of Barclay Bank was involved in a scandal fixing the Libor interest rate that impacts millions of people and literally trillions of dollars in transactions, and you can be sure, he will not be facing any jail time.
The behavior of this class is borderline psychotic, and yet they have most of the wealth and hence the political power. In the 1950s, sociologist C. Wright Mills, in his book, ‘The Power Elite’, stated “the US power elite has been getting increasingly immoral, irresponsible, ignorant, stupid (in terms of not valuing reason as one’s key characteristic in life), and mindless in its quest for wealth and power.” As the 1950s are looking like a golden age to Americans now, it has obviously become far worse.
The influence of the elite on the politics and the media, has led to what Chris Hayes refers to as a ‘Post Truth Politics” period, where a politician can state absolute nonsense, and it goes by unquestioned. President Obama is described as going on ‘apology tours’, while he is waging brutal wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Obama is described as a socialist, while corporations are at their most profitable in over 50 years and the stock market is up 60% since the beginning of his administration. At a Republican debate, the audience gives a standing ovation as the presidential candidates raise their hands to the answer of ‘who would bring back torture?’
As the moral fabric of our society ends up in shreds, you can see it filter down through the media, and then to our people. Who can forget the behavior of youthful Americans hitting the streets and cheering the death of Osama Bin Laden? What Americans would cheerfully send in donations to George Zimmerman adding up to $150,000 for killing a black youth? Who can forget Tea Party members marching with extremely racist signs? At another Republican debate, audience members cheering on the idea of a fellow citizen dying due to lack of health insurance coverage. This is not surprising if one refers back to C.W. Mills who states that the higher immorality of the elites becomes accepted and essentially a feature of our mass society. In other words, the mass society itself is also left without any moral standards to hold on to, or even rise against.
To the joy of the ruling elite, the conservatives pander to the religious right and use falling moral values as an excuse to attack gay rights or women’s reproductive rights. A type of divide and conquer strategy to keep people’s eyes off their own worsening economic positions. When Barry Pateman interviewed Noam Chomsky in 2011 in a discussion over anarchism, Noam pointed out that the elite have used the corporate controlled media to create a consciousness of subordination among the population that is deliberately intended to suppress normal human emotions of sympathy and solidarity. Noam Chomsky, states, ‘Why threaten Social Security? It’s a normal feeling to care if the disabled widow that lives across town has enough food to eat. However, they are trying to drive that idea of our skulls. They want you to think, if that disabled widow that lives across town does not have enough to eat it is her own fault because she didn’t save up enough money in her lifetime. Why should you care?” This bizarre Ayn Rand type of morality represents the values of the corrupted elite as they become part of the rest of our society. It is also deeply ingrained in our system of capitalism. Our economic system rewards greed and self-centered behavior and depends on it to thrive. As the economic inequality worsens, the morality declines and the inhumanity floats to the surface. Do we truly want to become a society of backstabbers?
Worse yet is the total failure of our institutions of democracy, as the elite easily buy the politicians through campaign donations, heavily lobby and write their laws, or define their character through the media. Just this past June 15, former Prime Minister Tony Blair of the U.K. admitted that Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corp., pressured him into joining the Untied States in the war on Iraq. Just recently, it has been reported a number of times, that casino billionaire, Sheldon Adelson wants a war with Iran, and he is willing to pay for it. He will donate up to $100 million to former Governor Mitt Romney to get that war at all costs. Sheldon Adelson is the same character that funded the Clarion Project to produce the film ‘The Third Jihad’ with the deliberate intention of promoting Islamophobia.
What right do the elite have to impact our foreign policy to such an extent? What right do they have to influence any of our policy to an extent that benefits their greedy needs or sick desires? They have made a complete mockery of our democracy, and effectively the capitalism itself destroys democracy. With our variant of capitalism, you have a concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and that automatically converts to political power. China has managed to create a very highly effective system of state sponsored capitalism that requires no democracy at all. The notion that capitalism and democracy go hand in hand is simply a myth. Matter of fact, the notion of ‘economic freedom’ those on the right like to push as equivalent to personal freedom is also a false equivalency. Economic freedom for corporate America is the freedom of the rich few to exploit the poor masses. Many deep Marxist thinkers believe that our current form of capitalism is heading toward barbarism. In other words, a world where workers are enslaved to the rich elite who live in gated communities completely out of touch with the rest of society. I think we are already part of the way there.
What should wake up everyone once and for all is that our current system of capitalism may very well drive the human species to extinction. The system simply is not sustainable as you cannot assume infinite economic growth when the world has a finite amount of resources. More to the point, we are a mere five percent of the world’s population, and yet we consume about a third of the world’s resources. We may have only five years to stop carbon dioxide emissions to prevent conditions that will not be survivable by humans, assuming it is not already too late. Once again, the greed of the elite and their control over the political system and media completely controls the discussion and destroys all political will for effective action. As the average global temperature increases and more energy is placed into the system, water vapor content increases in the atmosphere and we have far more energetic storms and unusual storm activity like tornados in Brooklyn or western Pennsylvania. Areas that tend to be dry have increased rates of evaporation and heat waves, areas that typically have precipitation have harsher storms. The results are major wild fires and floods that haven’t been experienced for hundreds of years. Yet the news media will not even connect the increasingly volatile weather with the phenomena of global warming/climate change. The precious profits of the greenhouse gas emitting coal and oil companies are far more important than the future of the human race. Tens of millions are spent on programs to convince the public that global warming/climate change is a mere liberal hoax. Glaciers are disappearing before our eyes while anywhere from a third to half the public is in a state of denial as to what is actually happening. As the glaciers melt, massive amounts of water enter the oceans and that weight is redistributed over the surface of the Earth. Think of squeezing a balloon at one end and seeing the other side bulge. This effect, called glacial rebound, shifts tectonic plates and increases seismic and volcanic activity. Should one be surprised that we have a natural disaster of the month?
It doesn’t get any better, a recent report from the United Nations Environmental Program also warned of the following: about 20 percent of vertebrate species are under threat of extinction, coral reefs have declined by 38 percent since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions could double over the next 50 years, and 90 percent of water and fish samples from aquatic environments are contaminated by pesticides. The oceans are particularly becoming impacted by the increase in carbon dioxide which dissolves in the water and chemically reacts to form carbonic acid. The acidity or pH of the ocean has increased by 30% over the past two decades. Kill the oceans and we kill the well spring of life from whence we originally came. Over half of our oxygen comes from phyto-plankton in the ocean and the rest coming from land based vegetation. That is particularly bad news as we may have killed nearly half the ocean’s phytoplankton. British astrophysicists Sir Martin Reese gives the human race a 50/50 chance of survival over the next 100 years. There are some scientists that believe that is optimistic.
Now, here is the issue. The failure of the Democratic Party to be able to seriously even breach the surface of the above issues is a clear indication that there is no third way possible between neo-liberal policies and a radical anti-capitalist alternative. As both parties have moved so far to the right, you have Republicans acting as fascists and Democrats acting as capitalism apologists. The Marxists are proving that they were right all along as we face barbarism unless we move to a socialist alternative. The very fate of the human race hangs in the balance of whether we can actually change the underlying nature of our economic and political systems. So the question remains, can social mobilization break the resistance of the dominant rich elite class and seriously contest the neo-liberal order? As past experience tells us, it certainly will not come from dependence on the electoral system.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Brian himself will probably agree, for a man who sees clearly the bankruptcy of the capitalist system, and is so determined to remedy the situation, he shows some curious and interesting incongruencies in his background and even present. With an early start in physics, he eventually switched to a career right within the bowels of the monster, as an equity trader for The Vanguard Group, the second largest mutual fund company in the world. He then used that background to provide stock market commentary on MarketTalk chats for America Online and Multex.com where he was chief market commentator and equity analyst. After that Brian focused on the alternative investments arena, providing consulting services and capital introduction to hedge funds via HedgeCo.net, as well as offering commercial mortgages for investment properties through Capstone Funding.
The preceding should sound already like a huge contradiction of sorts, but we must also add that he still lists (we hope only temporarily) membership or support for the Democratic party. Given his restless intellect and grounding in the natural sciences, we hope Brian’s journey will eventually take him to a solid socialist track. The world needs fighters like him. —PG
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