Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Spectres

We've all read that famous line: "A spectre is haunting Europe — the spectre of communism."

The socioeconomic analysis offered by Marx and Engels in their "Communist Manifesto" was right on the mark. In essence: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." Its object: universal human freedom in a classless society. The analysis was brilliant, the object admirable. Unfortunately, almost all subsequent experiments along Communist lines have turned out badly. Very badly.

Maybe it's time now for someone (not me) to write a "Capitalist Manifesto." It could open with a very similar statement: "A spectre is haunting the developed world -- the spectre of the free market." Its essence: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the triumph of naked self interest and greed." Its object: the uncontrolled free reign of financial markets and the class that controls them. Unfortunately, as we now know, our experiments with free market capitalism have also turned out badly. Perhaps not as badly as Communism, though it's still too early to say.

No one reading here could possibly assume I'm a capitalist. Some might assume I'm a Communist. But that would be equally untrue. As I see it, it's high time we put both these spectres to rest. Nevertheless, there is something to be learned from their failures, which can be seen in the light of an interesting dialectic:
Communism fails because it will never be possible to rid the world of naked self interest and greed, which will manifest even in the most rigorously "classless" society. Capitalism fails because it will never be possible to completely rid the world of class consciousness, which will always impel certain groups to resist exploitation by others.

Capitalism also fails for the reason given by Marx: it contains the seeds of its own destruction. But so also, in a way, does Communism. Both fail, ultimately, because they presume the existence of certain universals. And, as thinkers such as Derrida, Baudrillard, Lyotard, etc., have taught us, all "universals" are cultural constructs, not givens of either nature or human psychology.
 So. What's the answer? Or, to paraphrase Lenin paraphrasing Tolstoy: what is to be done? And the good news, as I see it, is that there is no need anymore to do anything whatsoever. Unless being amused can be seen as doing something. Or, as in my case, writing compulsively about anything and everything that amuses me about our current socioeconomic situation.

Soviet Communism self destructed back in 1989. But it took another three years before the reality of that event sank in, and the Soviet Union was finally dissolved, in 1991, after a bloody coup.

In the aftermath, there was an attempt, led by the Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, to transform the country via free market "reforms." However,
the Yeltsin era was marked by widespread corruption, economic collapse, and enormous political and social problems in the wake of the disintegration of the Soviet Union into a group fledgling nation-states of which Russia was the largest.
Ongoing confrontations with the parliament climaxed in the October 1993 Russian constitutional crisis, a political standoff culminating dissolution, besieging, and later shelling of the Russian White House, killing hundreds, and injuring hundreds more. Yeltsin then scrapped the constitution under which the parliament had attempted to remove him from office, temporarily banned opposition parties and media, and deepened his economic experimentation. (Wikipedia)
The free-market "reforms" urged by the US and other Western powers were in many ways a disaster, but there seemed at the time no meaningful alternative, so the Russians plodded on, even in the wake of a major default (yes, Virginia, sovereign defaults can happen).

Free market capitalism in the West took a bit longer to self-destruct -- not until 2008. And as with the fall of the Soviet Union, the reality didn't completely sink in until some years later. I.e.: not until NOW!

So why do I find all this so amusing? Because time after time we see history repeating itself, and time after time the lesson is NEVER learned. So what's the point in trying to galvanize the public into taking action, when it's by now so very clear that whatever action is taken will be the wrong action. Better to just let history take its course. If monolithic institutions such as Communism and Capitalism contain the seeds of their own destruction, then, very simply, let them destroy themselves.

In our present situation, as I see it, the worst thing we can do is try to put the broken system together again, by instituting the sort of "reforms" that will enable the pretense to continue for a little while longer. What's the point? The bankers tell us they can't be regulated because tough regulations, of the sort that are "needed," will prevent them from earning the large amounts of money required for the entire US economy to remain on course, i.e., to produce the necessary jobs and consumer demand. And they are right. We're told, "get tough with the banks," but for the last, oh, 30 or 40 years, the shenanigans of these bankers have been by far the greatest source of national income. So. We can't live with them and we can't live without them. The good news is that they are monumentally self-destructive, so we don't really need to regulate them because their own frantic momentum will ultimately drive them into the ground.

(to be continued . . . )


  1. I don't know what to make of Obama anymore, like most of his leftist, progressive supporters. I long ago passed support in any way of him, and I the fool that I be, actually voted for him.

    I'll never be fooled like that again. Yet, you look at the Republican field and no matter how disappointed/hurt with Obama, all of those right wing chrishhhunnn honkeys psychos would be so much worse.

    So is that what our two choices will be in 2012? Vote now on whether you think dog shit or cat shit smells the least offensive?

    I hope someone has the guts (Bill Maher, Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, Nader, etc., to name but a few) to run against Obama in the democratic primaries. I think I'd even consider Hillary over him at this point! Lol...

    I mean, he's just a total, deranged wimp is what he is. Like he's so far gone, he believes his own press, only the positive. Or more likely, he's just another pawn in the game, controlled by God knows who or what forces?

    He threatens Granny or Grandpa with their SS checks, but can't just hold a good ol' Jimmy Cater fireside chat, and tell us all just how crazed and evil these rich, white, priveleged idotic republican thugs really are?

    He seems so scripted. On the last night prior to the debt ceiling "agreement," he walks down this WH corridor like a king and makes this simpleton speech, and asks us to twitter or facebook or email or call our "reprentatives" in Congress. Whoopde-doo-daa-day. Really steppin' out on a limb there, hey?

    I think, therefore I ramble. But it's gone way beyond labels like communist/capitalist. We're living in a new age. We need a new language, whatever that may be. This country, this planet is going to shit in a handbasket awful fast, and yes, we need revolution. Peaceful, thoughtful and evolutionary, beyond these pieces like Obama or Boehner or Cantor (what a total fucking asshole this one), or McConnel or any other of those morons. Palin, Bachman, Santorum, Perry, jeezzz.

    I can only hope if we have no other realistic choice between Obama and any of the Republican scumbag candidates, soon after Obama swears in for a second term, he will have nothing left to lose, and go way to the left. Start standing up to these far right bizzaro world, evil freaks.

    Unfortunately, if Obama doesn't start standing up with and beholden to his base, he only increases the opposition's chances. It would be neat I think if he pulled an LBJ and gave a speech soon saying he's withdrawling his name for re-election. Ahhh, I'm showing my age...

    Good writing as usual, Keep it up, Docg. Have you ever considered a job with the Huffington Post?

  2. The Capitalist Manifest exists already, written by Umair Haque and published earlier this year...

    And one quick remark regarding communism or socialism from a German perspective: I kind of like to pay my taxes and I am not the only one over here. They take away around 50 percent of our family's income (which identifies me as a member of the top tax bracket). And you know what is really nice about it? We get a lot of benefits in return. Social cohesion is not only a nice-to-have, but makes our cities much safer (compared to the US). The less tensions and rifts a society has to endure, the easier daily life becomes for everyone, including very straight forward individual savings related to that. My 12 year old daughter suffers from type one diabetes. She gets the best available treatment possible out of our mandatory public health insurance. I don't want to imagine, what such a chronicle disease would mean to us if we'd live in the US. Most of the best schools in our country are public ones which are for free. And so on. Believe me: this system and lifestyle does not feel like socialism at all. Germany is a very competitive place to live and work in. However, there are many egoistic and selfish motives to collectively invest in a healthy, i. e. stable societal environment.

  3. "Yet, you look at the Republican field and no matter how disappointed/hurt with Obama, all of those right wing chrishhhunnn honkeys psychos would be so much worse." Agreed. Sad, but true. Actually "alarming" is more like it.

    Actually out of all the possible Dems, Hillary might be the only one with sufficient stature to get elected. Problem is, it's Obama's decision to turn himself into Bill Clinton the Second that's a large part of his problem. Would Hillary be much different? I wonder.

    I feel your pain, Anonymous I. I keep hoping Obama will see the light and 1. declare to the world that he will no longer be accepting any campaign contributions from anyone with ties to the financial industry; 2. call for a national referendum on tax reform, where taxes go down for everyone earning less than $100,000 a year and up for everyone else.

    As far as the Huffington Post is concerned . . . I'd love to write for them but so far they haven't asked. :-(

  4. "The Capitalist Manifest exists already, written by Umair Haque and published earlier this year..." Interesting. Didn't know about that.

    "However, there are many egoistic and selfish motives to collectively invest in a healthy, i. e. stable societal environment."

    I agree completely. As I see it, enlightened self interest and concern for the collective well being of society as a whole are fundamentally one and the same thing. Reading what you've written, it becomes especially clear that a viable society, a society that works for everyone is not out of reach. The USA is no longer the model for a "great society," but has in fact become dysfunctional. What a tragedy.

  5. "The USA is no longer the model for a "great society," but has in fact become dysfunctional. What a tragedy." - more than just sad, definitely. The American Dream has inspired so many people inside and outside of the US. So many of its elements still have the power of doing so in the future, except for two: it was built on a) the assumption of unlimited resources and b) the self-perception of superiority. Both have vanished. The faster the US society can adapt to that, the sooner all of us can continue to dream the American Dream... Olaf from Germany

  6. Hello, Anonymous. The quote below is about our President. I have never been a fan for Obama and voted for Nader. Since I live in a voting area that will undoubtedly go for Obama, I will likely turn in a blank ballot. Last time I went blank, it took about an hour to get it straight with the polling people. The idea is not be counted as apathetic, just not given a choice.

    “When I was in Norway one of the Norwegian politicians sat next to me at a dinner and said, “You know, there’s one good thing that President Obama has done that we never anticipated in Europe. He’s shown the Europeans that we can never depend upon America again. There’s no president, no matter how good he sounds, no matter what he promises, we’re never again going to believe the patter talk of an American President. Mr. Obama has cured us. He has turned out to be our nightmare. Our problem is what to do about the American people that don’t realize this nightmare that they’ve created, this smooth-talking American Tony Blair in the White House.”

    I picked up this quote from It is a bit irritating that Hudson could not quote whom he was quoting. It is from
    an hour-interview he did on progressive radio station WBAI on July 16.
    The rest of the show includes:

    Topics: The jobless recovery; the debt ceiling and default charade; China; Greece: banks, not countries, receive the bailouts; financial warfare; IMF and EU; European Central Bank; US credit default swaps; US agricultural exports create food dependency; currency devaluation devalues the price of labor; class war of banks against the rest of society.

  7. Can you imagine that this article was in the conservative Wall Street Journal? And in "Marketwatch" no less.
    "Tax the super-rich or riots will rage in 2012
    Commentary: 6 reasons we can’t stop coming economic meltdown."
    They must be reading your blog Doc!

    Maybe the powers that be are getting a whiff of the fact that their own (physical) survival could be at stake? That they might have, what is the expression? "A little skin in the game". Watch for the 2012 Polar Shift! More will be revealed.
    May you live in interesting times, Kat

    PS Doc, I am buying your alien book online to read on my Kindle!

  8. Hi Kat. Thanks for the link to that very interesting article. (I didn't see any link to the Wall St. Journal though -- and it would really surprise me if they ran anything like that.) So far I don't see many signs of real anger in the USA, aside from the Tea Party, natch, and they're just tilting at windmills.

    The oligarchs in this country have done a great propaganda job of misdirecting all the anger away from themselves. Significant numbers of US citizens actually believe taxing zillionaires is a form of theft. Hmmmm. . . Maybe I should think seriously about finding a Canadian bride. :-/


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