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.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.
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.
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 . . . )