Socialism or Barbarism: the Choice
by Finian Cunningham
Time is of the essence. Given the descent
into barbarism that the world is witnessing as a result of the
breakdown in capitalism, there is a very real danger that US-led
militarism could escalate even further from its existing criminal
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan into an all-out conflagration
with any number of countries designated to be geopolitical rivals
or miscreants: China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba.
History proves that this is always the brutal outcome when the
profit system is threatened with total collapse.
For those committed to creating a world
of social justice and peace, it is vital to communicate as widely
as possible as to the precise cause of the present economic failure,
with its consequent social misery and violence. Let's not be under
any illusions about the root of barbarism today: it is, as Rosa
Luxemburg and others have pointed out, the failure of capitalism
as a system of production and distribution to meet human needs
in an equitable, democratic and sustainable way.
Equally vital in this hour is the need
to put forward an alternative to barbarism in order to mobilise
the majority of ordinary people ravaged by the capitalist kleptocracy;
to provide a clear set of social, economic and political objectives.
Otherwise, the kleptocrats - the corporate leaders, banks, financial
gamblers and their political and military servants - will attempt
purging the crisis through escalated war (and all the chaos and
disinformation that will ensue).
What also needs to be communicated widely
is that the objective of democratic control of the economy cannot
be achieved within the two-party system of the US and most other
western states. These parties have shown themselves to be willing
partners-in-crime with the oligarchy, which also includes the
leaders of labour unions who have served to emasculate workers
and their rights.
To that end, the case must be made more
than ever that socialism is a viable alternative to this barbarism.
To save time and space here, readers can avail of several existing
statements for practical, socialist change (for example, see www.wsws.org
and www.workerscompass.org). In brief, the objective is to bring
production under democratic control so that basic human needs
for food and accommodation, meaningful work, health and education
become the determinants of the economy - not the private profit
of an elite that has evidently brought whole societies to their
knees. As a first step, the major, vital industries (manufacturers,
energy, communications and banks) must be properly nationalised,
that is, brought under democratic control to meet needs democratically.
A half-baked form of nationalism is already underway with taxpayer
bailouts of automakers and banks. The trouble is that the kleptocrats
are still receiving the lion's share of financial rewards. So,
any baulking by the oligarchy and their media mouthpieces over
"public ownership" should be laughed at with derision.
In communicating the viability of socialism,
the use of language needs to be precise in order to debunk myths
and disinformation so as to help the constituency for change -
the majority of citizens - retain their focus on the required
direction for democratic change. Here are some myths and disinformation:
Myth 1: Capitalism runs on the supply
and demand of free individuals exercising choices in a free market.
This is a powerful myth because it deceptively conflates a deeply
held democratic principle of freedom with economic workings. Whatever
about early capitalism of two centuries ago and more, the present
period of late capitalism is largely bereft of free markets and
choices. Think of Boeing and Raytheon. These "emblems of
American capitalism" would not survive without massive taxpayer
subventions from the $710 billion that the US government lavishes
on the Pentagon every year. President Obama recently congratulated
top Wall Street bankers on receiving multi-million-dollar bonuses,
saying that it was the manifestation of the American "free
market" system. Given the monopoly of these banks, the ruin
that they have plunged societies into, and the taxpayer bailouts
to shore up the unseemly wealth of a financial elite, the espousal
of such a myth by Obama is ludicrous. Also, just what is so free
about the millions of workers who were compelled to take on reckless
mortgage debts in order to make ends meet because their wages
and livelihoods had been bled dry over decades by the oligarchy?
Myth 2: Centrally planned economies don't
work. Try telling that to the world's top transnational corporations,
all of whom plan their production and distribution operations
rationally with massive government (taxpayer) intervention to
facilitate their operations. Oil companies are a classic example.
The biggest oil company in the world, Saudi Aramco, is estimated
to be worth $7 trillion and dwarfs the likes of Exxon and Royal
Dutch Shell. Aramco is rated as one of the most efficient international
enterprises in terms of production, technological innovation and
business. It is 100 per cent state-owned and bankrolls Saudi Arabia's
social development. In the real world, that kind of industrial
success is more akin to socialism than notional free market capitalism.
There is no reason why similar control could not be applied to
all major industries, especially given recent developments in
information technology (another centrally planned success!) which
would ensure production and supply is geared to meet real social
Myth 3: Socialism has been tried and doesn't
work, degenerating into despotic barbarism. References to the
Soviet Union are a red herring. The Stalinist-type dictatorship
came into being under specific historical circumstances, for example,
the immediate attack on the Russian Revolution by the West, creating
an inward-looking bureaucratic state run by a reactionary elite.
Note also the deformities of the Second World War and the ensuing
Cold War (see Jacques Pauwels, www.globalresearch.ca). Many supporters
of socialism were among the most trenchant critics of the Soviet
Union long before its collapse. And anyway, what if a crude attempt
at creating socialism failed? Capitalist economies fail all the
time throughout history, degenerating into despotic barbarism,
as in the present.
Myth 4: Socialism is un-American. While
the Stalinist caricature of socialism is contrary to the values
of US citizens - and other democratic people - the principles
of solidarity, equality, and opposition to elite power are not.
The many accounts of socialist movements throughout American history,
as documented by the late Howard Zinn, are testimony to that.
Myth 5: Socialism already exists in the
form of the US oligarchy. This is a particularly wrong-headed
myth. Some commentators have referred to the White House-Wall
Street complex as Obama's "Marxist/socialist entourage".
Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times, describes the cozy
relationship between government and financiers as "a kind
of socialism". Make no mistake: the deformed, dysfunctional
economies of the US and Europe are the outcome of decades of capitalist
misrule. To label the crisis wrongly with lazy terminology, as
Krugman and others do, only serves to disinform the wider public
as to the true cause of the problem and what can be a viable change
Myth 6: The crisis is caused by "unfettered
capitalism". In other words, capitalism can be controlled.
It can't. The entire history of the US - the unravelling of legislation
and the bending of courts and the constitution by corporate lobbyists
- is a classic case study in itself of how capitalism inexorably
subverts democratic control and concentrates power and wealth
for a minority, leaving the majority dispossessed and disenfranchised.
Myth 7: Class politics and class war is
an anachronism. Ironically, just the opposite. The living standards
of workers, their families and communities are being brutally
savaged by a tiny class - the oligarchy. The constituency for
radical political change in the US, Europe and elsewhere has probably
never been bigger. And of those workers - whether blue or white
collar - lucky enough to still have a job, just ask how many of
them feel as if they are one pay cheque away from poverty. That
amounts to a serious class of people with abundantly more common
interest than the wealthy elite; a serious class of people who
increasingly have "got nothing to lose except their chains".
All the above is only a sketch of what
kind of society and economy is achievable. More details can be
added as people come together to work out, through the consensus
of the "common good", what they need to achieve. The
point for now is to encourage the majority of people to work together;
to think and act independently from the misrulers, with all their
myths and self-serving disinformation; to be confident in the
conviction that real democracy is achievable; that basic human
needs can be met equitably; and that countries can co-exist in
a true spirit of peaceful internationalism free from the barbarism
of capitalist rivalry and war. Socialism is the way for this to
be achieved, not just because it is morally right, but also because
it is arguably a superior form of society and economy.
The emperor has no clothes