by Malcolm Martin
December 27th, 2007
Much like Charles Darwin, who discovered immutable truths regarding of the origins and evolution of life, Karl Marx was a pioneering scientist. He guided humanity through the reasons capitalism was born, why it would thrive and dominate for a time, and how its inherent contradictions condemn it to death. Marx forecast capitalism, once dead and buried, would be replaced by a superior economic system. Under socialism the shots would no longer be called by a wealthy few but by all the productive people in society in a genuine democracy. For the sake of human survival, sharing rather than competition would be at the foundation of the new system.
History up to Marx’s day and time recorded the transition from feudalism to capitalism as a bloody mess. So Marx well knew that it was likely to be just so when capitalism was forced to make way for socialism. One thing he could not gauge was the scientific and technical advance capitalism would make before it reached its dying days.
So the problem humanity faces is that capitalism in its last throes, rotting internally, irrational and increasingly insane, is now armed with doomsday weapons and has created the technology to create the Orwellian state. The system infects culture and controls the mass media and education across a growing part of the world. It places its servants in seats of political and military power, and creates philosophy and myth to glorify its own existence. It is complete amoral. It has now evolved into a system that would not bat an eye before killing every single human being on the planet.
In the near term, capitalism will take increasing advantage of war, disaster, disease, terror, and slavery to feed itself. Wholesale destruction and regime change will be visited on the oil producing states like Iraq, Iran and Venezuela and other resource-rich areas. Left unchecked, eventually the United States, China, India and the European Union will fight wars for control of world markets and access to resources.
Capitalism depends on profits to live and the appetite for those profits simply cannot be satisfied! For example U.S. oil companies have realized world record profits every quarter for the past several years yet Big Oil must continue to raise the price of gas. The fact is, unless they make ever-greater profit into the indefinite future ExxonMobil and Chevron will whither and die. That is why, against every instinct toward justice, the oil company’s servants in the Congress reject a windfall profits tax, have given away billions of dollars of royalty rights revenues, and will eventually give up drilling rights prohibitions on the Gulf Coast and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Today, even the largest corporations, like General Motors, Nissan and Renault, seek the comfort of each other’s arms. They will only survive in combination as wealth is consolidated in fewer and fewer entities!
But wars for resources, higher commodities prices and mega-mergers are only putting off the day of reckoning for capitalism. There is only so much technology can boost production or wages can be depressed until a slave system must be created. Even at that, the system will then stare into the eyes of its fatal contradiction. Slaves cannot buy the products they produce.
The American electorate again slogged through the political muck to try to be heard in 2006. Their effort turned out to be an exercise in complete futility or the nation’s symbol of anti-war motherhood Cindy Sheehan would not be challenging the nation’s first female House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2008. The experience, frustrating as it was, will open more minds to the real source of our oppression and the true telling of our nation’s history. The fact is that the story of the United States of America is bound up in the birth and rise of capitalism, and the nation’s present descent into dictatorship is part of the same economic system’s decline and inevitable death.
Coincidental with the birth of the US, fueled by the Industrial Revolution, the capitalist system was beginning to break the brutish shackles of feudalism on the people of that day. At the same time capitalism began creating the only force capable of destroying it—the working class. Nascent capitalism enjoyed explosive growth and it spawned revolutions around the world, including the American Revolution. The young and dynamic economic system found that a bourgeois democracy was the most fertile soil for development. The new nation and several other rising industrial countries adopted this form of government.
From the birth of the republic, capitalism has been able to provide the American people with several powerful incentives to buy into the program. Five percent of the world’s population is invited to consume 30% of the world’s resources by way of imperialism. Then the white American majority is invited to enjoy a disproportionate share of that material wealth by way of racism. An especially comfortable place is provided to politicians, intellectuals, academics, bureaucrats, and entertainers in the narrow strata of society Marx called the petty bourgeois.
Nowadays though, the deal with the capitalist devil is becoming more and more difficult to keep! The U.S. is being integrated into a global economy as capitalism searches for the lowest possible wage and the greatest possible profit. The process is steadily reshaping ours into a subsistence-wage service economy. The jobs of elite industrial workers, from auto and steelworkers to airline pilots, are disappearing across the country along with their health benefits and pensions. Even white Americans have begun to feel the pain of a declining standard of living. It is a process that will not be reversed.
Capitalism’s contradictory impulses have begun bumping into each other. It’s happening in the ongoing national debate on immigration and it happened in the recent Dubai Ports World controversy. Profits remain the system’s lifeblood so the ruling class craves an immigrant guest worker program and the United Arab Emirates’ petrodollars but the rabid anti-immigrant and anti-Arab sentiment coursing through U.S. society blocked that path to greater riches. The situation is worsening though. No matter the potential backlash now, desperate crumbling financial pillars of the system like Citicorp and Morgan Stanley are happily accepting the sovereign wealth funds of Abu Dhabi, Singapore and China.
Racism and xenophobia and nationalism and patriotism and every other tactic of division have been promoted relentlessly by capitalism with good reason. White supremacy, Black Nationalism, religious fundamentalism, sexism, homophobia, and all the crackpot schemes and the nihilistic cults of the bourgeoisie, like al-Qaeda, are dead ends for all of us who work. In contrast, our unity would be a poison arrow shot into this system’s Achilles’ heel.
Now as capitalism enters its final stage, a nearly seamless political transition to fascism is well underway in the United States. The mass media, the electoral machinery, and both major political parties are under corporate control. The trappings of bourgeois democracy are a hindrance on profits and so they are being shredded. The Constitution and its Bill of Rights are being rendered meaningless by plans for perpetual war, by presidential signing statements and the theory of the unitary executive, extraordinary rendition, government surveillance programs and the like. Programs based on democratic principles like the public schools, Social Security, and Medicare are being starved to death. Separate and parallel Internet and military forces are being constructed along with internment camps and the legal construct for a martial law declaration. Blackwater is the growing private military force of the ruling class, protecting them in Baghdad and patrolling the streets of New Orleans for them now. Because there are too many sons and daughters of the working class in the US military it can not be trusted by the bourgeoisie when the order is given to attack the American people. Likely the two militaries will one day face each other in combat.
Bloodless coups in 2000 and 2004 installed George W. Bush in the White House and it would take a team of psychoanalysts and profilers to catalogue the many and varied mental pathologies of Bush and his henchmen in the U.S. government. The point to keep in mind is that in this time and in this place the capitalist system required barely human persons in power capable of carrying out insane and grotesquely inhumane policies, up to and including nuclear warfare. Capitalism, like the HAL 9000 computer on board the spaceship Discovery in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey is out of the control of its makers. The system now has only human sentinels, best represented by the so-called Neo-Conservatives in ruling circles.
American bourgeois democracy is being held under water. It will drown, never to be resuscitated. The liberal intelligentsia of the petty bourgeois spins its wheels in the mud of this reality. On this point Al Gore’s quixotic campaign to sound the alarm on the ecological disaster right around the corner is instructive. In An Inconvenient Truth Gore lays out the incontrovertible facts of global warming, hoping to organize and agitate to a tipping point that changes governmental policy. A young Al Gore saw Dr. Martin Luther King do just that in his confrontation with racism. Despite titling his recent book “The Assault On Reason” Gore and clings to the idea that rationality still has influence in American ruling circles. The real inconvenient truth is that even the great Dr. King could not generate an effective civil rights movement in this era and that the rape of the planet will not end until a stake is driven into the heart of capitalism.
The sad truth is that the petty bourgeois cannot defeat the capitalist ruling class! They are a timid and passive group who, in this time for warriors, gather at the gates of the palace to nag and complain essentially to each other. There are scores of Internet websites, magazines, newspapers, radio programs and networks, and some small television networks where liberal, left, progressive, and other commentators show up to whine out loud. They rail against the outrages and inhumanity of the U.S. government and the Bush Administration. They point out the duplicity, the corruption, the hypocrisy, the inhumanity, and the utter criminality loosed in the world today but to no useful end since capitalism will not be reformed nor shamed to death. Pointing out the defects of capitalism has become as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. The ruling class brushes its liberal democratic critics off like gnats as long as they stay away from the third rail. But let one of these voices dare mention unity based on working class-consciousness and a mobilization to strike at profits and great danger would shortly thereafter visit.
No matter the danger, it must begin to be spoken by a warrior vanguard: socialism is the only way humankind will live into the distant future on this planet. Only a working class with a consciousness of itself and united across all racial, national and cultural boundaries is capable of seizing power. Only a working class in power will see to the end of this madness and willingly share our available resources for the sake of human survival.