There are few times in history when capitalism gets caught with its pants down. We are ‘lucky’ enough to be in such a time now. The ravaging effects of unregulated capitalism have been laid bare for a new generation to see, and are like a blow to the solar plexus to those who have been directly affected by the Great Depression.
There are no more excuses for CEO’s who are so blind to their own excesses that they cannot see a problem with hopping in separate executive jets to go and ask for $25 billion as though they were hapless victims. It’s just what they do and the CEO’s of the Big Three merely represent the latest examples of how the profit motive is no substitute for just social policies. The crisis currently in vogue is not a financial problem; it is a social problem that was recognized as such many years ago.
Marx and Engels knew that socialism could not take root while want existed and the productive capacity to eliminate want did not yet exist. They believed that capitalism would give way to the means by which people could emancipate ourselves from the tyranny of our own thinking. Socialism will allow us to reorganize the way we think about our relationships with each other, the environment and the production of material goods. Today, we have the productive capacity to end despair, hunger and poverty practically overnight. What has not changed since Marx’s time is our willfulness to engage in short term solutions for individual gain. Socialism is a process by which we can end the tyranny of our own thought. It is a call to transcend the technical and monetary aspects of our achievements and meld them to an order of living that recognizes we all exist in community.
The problems today are the same as all other problems of capitalism. We have built a regime in which the middle class lives in a propagandized world awash in media messages that sell toothpaste as effectively as war and free trade that isn’t free. Free trade cost us dearly and undercut the best the working class could glean from capitalism: Fordism. We worked for a wage good enough to allow us to buy the things we produced. The rise of the investment class is a result of the globalization of production and the increasing use of debt to fuel an unsustainable middle class, suburban lifestyle. The jobs we relied on to create the “good life” disappeared overseas to be replaced by low wage service jobs. A rising professional class appeared to show success for some. The investment class made billions and the media machine cranked out message after message trumpeting the genius of corporate leaders. Underlying all this is the fact that not only is a debt regime unsustainable so is the unrelenting consumption of the very earth we rely on for life itself. Try buying soil, air and water with a credit card. Underlying this race for resources to fuel the madness of consumption is war.
And so we sit, bewildered and afraid for the future, while the media sputters at the ineptitude of those they once touted as gods and all hope is thrown to one man who will enter the White House next January. The real hope lies in all of us acting in our own best interests. We need to examine our past as working class people who were and are able to create our own history instead of remaining hostage to the history of oppression, greed and war: the history of capitalism.
A version of this article appears in the December issue of The Scoop.