Posts Tagged ‘Communists

15
Jun
10

[In]tolerable Evil

The myth that Capitalism is a great and fair system is becoming rapidly dispelled. Such disasters as the Bhopal gas catastrophe, the BP oil spills, the Minamata bay dumpings,  the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire, and the general level of corruption, ecological devastation, poverty, and exploitation brought on by our current economic structure have brought many to an understanding that Capitalism is in fact an inherently evil system that benefits a lucky few. Even so, the contemporary attitudes toward towards Capitalism are tolerant. In spite of the repeated evils brought on by this system, the simple fact is people don’t care!

People are angry at BP, sure, but not angry enough to illicit action. We’ll scream our heads off after an hour in traffic, but what do we do when we hear about a sweatshop in Indonesia? We’ll tear apart a stadium during a football riot but do we riot when we hear about waste being dumped in the ocean? We’ll get into fistfights when the neighbor’s playing music too loud but do we so much as lift a finger when a man dies because he’s too poor to afford insurance or pay for medical bills?

Why? Because we’re the ones benefiting from Capitalism? Because the evils of Capitalism aren’t oppressing us? What makes me different than a coltan miner in the Congo, or a child slave in Bangladesh? If it weren’t for pure and simple dumb luck– I’d be the one working fourteen hours a day for pennies. I am not where I am today because I worked hard. I am not where I am today because I was smart or because I took advantage of the opportunities offered to me. I am where I am because I was simply born. Others are simply born into poverty, slavery, and starvation and no matter how hard they work, no matter how much they struggle they never advance. Is Capitalism a tolerable evil to them?

One of the greatest ills of Capitalism that affects not merely the proletariat but the middle and upper class as well is the concept of individuality- a flimsy facade for the uglier terms selfishness and egocentricity. We are led to imagine that we are rich because of our own hard work. We’re responsible only for ourselves. It is because of this concept that shrug and walk away from tragedies, be it a mugging or a multinational corporation paying 12 cents a day for designer jeans to be made. And we continue to hold this egomaniacal point of view because we are terrified of what it would mean if we were responsible for each other. If an old woman gets mugged, it’s not just the fault of the old woman for being more careful or the fault of the mugger for choosing to rob her- it our fault for doing nothing to stop it. If a manufacturing plant in Peru has children working for little or no pay, we’re just as much to blame for doing nothing to resist!

And for those who insist upon tolerating the evils of Capitalism and the suffering of others, I can only offer you these words written with greater urgency and eloquence than I could ever hope to have:

THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

-F.G.E. Martin Niemoller, 1892-1984

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22
Sep
09

Communism, Capitalism, and Culture

In film and literature, Communist (or at least, Communistic) societies are often portrayed as dark, Spartan places where variety is almost non-existent. Indeed, Communism is sometimes portrayed as espousing complete and utter uniformity- and perhaps this is understandable. After all, Communism does demand a single class where all citizens are equal without exception, and Soviet city-planning and architecture tended to be more than slightly lacking as far as aesthetics go.

However, as has been repeatedly stated throughout this blog, Soviet Russia was not a true Communist country and as far as equality goes, “equality” doesn’t mean “identical”. For the average foundry worker to live in an equal society, the rest of society doesn’t have to be average foundry workers- they must simply have the same rights, responsibilities, and opportunities. Within equality lies endless variety- more so than can ever be achieved in the Capitalist society.

Now this statement may seem to be based on faulty reasoning, after all, if Capitalism presents opportunity for anyone and everyone to sell their own product or service, then there will be an unending fountain of culture, technology, art, music, and so on. Now if Capitalism were only the opportunity of every individual to sell his own product or service, this might be true. In reality, Capitalism doesn’t quite work that way. You see Capitalism based heavily on competition- the struggle for dominance over others. In order to attain Capitalism’s end goal- capital (money)- the individuals selling their products and/or services forced to compete with each other for the customers. In short, if there are two tailors in one town, they are going to be at war with each other for customers. “But surely this would cause their quality to increase, their prices to drop, and the variety of products to expand!” You might retort. Now this is partly true- and only temporarily so at that. As much as the competitors will try to undercut each other’s prices, there is a point they will not drop below to ensure a profit is still made. Eventually, one of the competitors, either through poor planning or just bad luck, is going to lose and the moment that happens, the winning competitor no longer has any reason to keep prices low or variety wide. In a free, Capitalist society, this is what inevitably happens- the weak are killed off and devoured by the strong until eventually, one company reigns supreme and becomes a monopoly. We can see this battle of giants all around us- Pepsi versus Coke, Apple versus Microsoft, Nintendo versus Xbox versus Play Station 3, and so on. Do we actually imagine this to be some sort of dualistic system- that these companies will forever be locked in a fight for dominance? No- eventually, Pepsi is going to fall to Coke or Coke will fall to Pepsi or both of them will be conquered (somehow) by Jones Soda. “But this will never happen- there’s always going to be some fresh competition to challenge the old dinosaurs. Monopolies are impossible.” Really? Just take a look at history- read about Standard Oil and the British East India Company. “Granted,” one might reply “but the consumer still has a basic level of control over the monopolies- if there’s a Pepsi monopoly and Pepsi raises its prices too high, the people can’t be forced to buy Pepsi. In fact, Pepsi is limited to selling its products at the price the public will pay for them.” Very well then, but what about a different kind of monopoly. What about a lumber monopoly, or an oil monopoly? Society is dependent on these resources to function without regressing to the stone age. Even if a single monopoly were to arise that controlled the mining of Coltan (a rare mineral used in cell phones and communication), the world could be brought its knees.

But perhaps I’m getting a little off-track. The point is, after enough expansion, Capitalism can trade variety for cut production-cost profit. “So what if that is true? We don’t have monopolies at this point in time- Capitalism still offers us variety now.” For the sake of space, we’ll skip addressing the issue with concentrating only on the here-and-now and focus on how Capitalism, which, even at a pre-monopoly stage, reduces variety rather than promoting it.

As I was traveling through the US this summer, I was presented with an interesting thought. No matter how many towns and cities I drove through, there were always (to varying degrees) the same stores, restaurants, and hotels. Every hamlet in America now has a Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Starbucks, etc. Granted, it’s not dramatic, but let us keep in mind that this is only in a single country. Lets take a look at the world. Now with distances of over a thousand miles between some of these countries, one would imagine the cultures would be diverse- alas, this is no longer true. Due to the imperialistic march of McDonalds, Starbucks, and other companies, the cultures already present within are suddenly forced to compete with the Western culture these companies represent. Take the cases of Syria and Jordan, for example. Syria has, on the whole, resisted foreign interference in its affairs, and, after pretty much closing its borders to would-be investors such as McDonalds, has managed to retain much of its cultural heritage and traditions. The same cannot be said for its neighbor to the south, Jordan. Jordan has embraced the West and Western companies, such as McDonalds, Papa John’s, and various clothing outlets, have thrived there. If you were to walk down the fashionable area of Amman, it would be hard for you to tell if you were in the Middle East or Southern California. While Jordan does still have a unique culture, that culture has been drowned out by the commercialism of the West. Is this the West’s fault? No- not entirely, anyways. The companies that attempt to exploit foreign markets are spreading Western culture, but doing so only because they themselves are part of Western culture. Quite simply, if you are told it is fashionable to dress in Western clothes (and Western clothes outlets are more than happy to let you have that illusion), then chances are your traditional dress will be forgotten. If local restaurants are forced out of business by fast-food, then chances are the aspect of eating (a form of socializing in almost every culture) will change dramatically. In short, along with expansion of companies is the expansion of the cultures of those companies. As we can see by looking at the world today, rather than promoting diversity, Capitalism destroys it.

But what about Communism? Doesn’t it, like Capitalism, attempt to spread across the globe? Yes, Communism does attempt to encompass the world, but Communism has nothing to gain from a monocultural society. Quite the opposite, Communism can only flourish if variety and diversity are accepted- we can’t expect a society to exist if everyone acts the same way and holds the same values. Indeed, the very lack of corporations telling you what is and is not fashionable or desirable can lead nothing other than a diverse society. In conclusion, don’t be sold on the Capitalist illusion of culture.

16
Sep
09

The Common Good

It has been postulated by some that the way to a true utopia is the privitization of all industry. To these people, I present this BBC article as evidence that unregulated companies don’t exactly have the common good as their top priority.

Article linked here.

11
Jul
09

Fighting Facism

Nearly a century ago, Communist leader Leon Trotsky defined Fascism as “…Nothing but Capitalist reaction…”. A reaction to what? There are a number of factors that can result in the rise of Fascism but in order to understand the events that cause this reaction, we must first understand what Fascism is.

One’s might make the assumption that Fascism is the same as Nazism. This is only partly true. Nazism is a white supremacist ideology that originated in Germany, based roughly off of a twisted interpretation of the works of Friedrich Nietzsche. Nazism can perhaps best be described as a subdivision of Fascism (in other words, all Nazis are Fascists, not all Fascists are Nazis). Fascism itself could best be described as the polar opposite of Communism. While Communism demands the eventual abolition of the state, Fascism requires the existence of an almost all-powerful centralized government. While Communism calls for the abolition of private property and traditionalism, Fascism is based on conserving Capitalism and tradition. In short, Fascism can be described as a far-right Capitalist police state.

From this definition it’s easy to see why people turn to Fascism. Whenever people feel that their traditional values, social/economic standing, or status quo is facing the threat of change, there will be some who turn to Fascism as a form of defense. People, if sufficiently frightened, will trade freedom for safety (or at least, the illusion of safety). However, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both…”. During the 1950s, the US was gripped by the idea that treacherous, subversive Communists were infiltrating the country’s government and infrastructure. Fascists, particularly Senator Joseph McCarthy and his following (though of course, they never indentified themselves with Fascism), exploited the public’s fear and used it to further their own ends, namely by removing political rivals and silencing media opposition by accusing them of having leftist sympathies. At the height of his power, Joseph McCarthy was one of the most powerful (and feared) men in the US, with the support of the FBI and various members of the US government. With promises of protecting the American way of life, exposing the disloyal and subversive, and defending Capitalism from Marxism (by any means possible, no matter how unethical), McCarthy fits all the criteria of a Fascist. Of course, one could argue that McCarthy wasn’t an actual Fascist but a simple megalomaniac who used Communist witch-hunts as a way of seizing power. That may or may not be true- no one is sure of how much McCarthy actually believed the things he said. That aside, it is undeniable that McCarthy led a massive following that actually did believe in the “threat of Communism” and supported and even took part in McCarthy’s Fascist actions.

Of course, the “red scare” of the 1950s is only one example of Fascism; in this case, a reaction to the perceived threat of Marxist infiltration. But people will turn to Fascism for many reasons- take immigration for example.

Throughout the 1870s, 80s, and 90s, America was flooded with immigrants. Millions from Italy, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, etc. traveled to the US in search of a better life. Some, such as factory owners and industrialists, saw this as a good thing- a sudden (and seemingly endless) supply of cheap labor had become available. Some saw this as a testament to the superiority of American democracy and the liberties set down in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Others, however, saw this as a threat to the known balance of life. The sudden surge of new citizens had upset the previous social order, and in reaction to this, Fascism rose up in the form of the Klu Klux Klan. Granted, the KKK had existed since the end of the US civil war (a reaction to the massive social and cultural changes taking place due to both emancipation and rapid expansion) however, it was the massive immigration of the 1890s that turned the KKK from a mere white-supremacist group to a full-fledged Fascist organization. Before immigration, the KKK’s sphere of influence was limited primarily to the South and parts of the Midwest, the areas where the effects of the civil war were most pronounced. Immigration, however, affected the entire US and during this time, the KKK’s empire expanded across the country, fueled by the fires of racism, xenophobia, and hatred. By the 1920s, the KKK had well over five million members, and was capable of murdering anyone it wanted with no fear of action from the authorities (who often enough were members of the Klan themselves). “Why would any rational society not be horrified and disgusted enough by the actions of these Fascists to take action against them? Why would any reasonable and free society tolerate this?”. Quite simply, fear is neither rational nor reasonable. Even at their largest, the KKK never numbered at more than five and a half million members- a fraction of the general population. The only reason the Klu Klux Klan had the power it did was because the general populace tolerated and accepted them out of misdirected fear. The public, terrified of the thought that their way of life was being taken from them, reacted to the change immigration was bringing by turning to Fascist murderers and terrorists. The Klu Klux Klan, like every Fascist organization, has never admitted to the charges of racism and murder. What we would call racism, a Fascist would call “patriotism” or “nativism” (a word meaning “the rights of a native population [or at least, a group claiming to be native] superseding those of newcomers and immigrants [i.e. ethnocentric racism]). What we would call murder, a Fascist would call “the actions of a non-representative extremist group” (effectively shifting blame without condemning the crime) or even “self-defense” (of the imaginary attack on the traditional values of said group, of course). The admonition of American writer Sinclair Lewis have proven true, “When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross…”. Fascism- even in all its terrorizing, murdering, big-brother glory- will still attempt to pass itself off as the reasonable, patriotic, pious, tradition-oriented movement existing only to serve and protect. Take the words Thomas Robb, the national director of a Fascist group called the “Knights of the Klu Klux Klan”, for example. According to Robb “… Our people- my white brothers and sisters- will stay committed to a non-violent resolution… The hatred for our children and their future is growing and is being fueled every single day. Stay firm in your convictions. Keeping loving your heritage and keep witnessing to others that there is a better way than a war torn, violent, wicked, socialist, new world order. That way is the Christian way- law and order- love of family- love of nation. These are the principles of western Christian civilization. There is a war to destroy these things. Pray that our people see the error of their ways and regain a sense of loyalty. Repent America!”. In this diatribe (for that is what it is, once you cut through the thinly veiled propaganda), key words and phrases stand out: “hatred for our children and their future”, “convictions”, “heritage”, “way”, “the Christian way”, “law and order”, “love of family”, “love of nation”, “principles”, and “loyalty”. All of these words fit with the Fascist creed- the “defense” of traditional values and ideals (in the case of the Klu Klux Klan, an America dominated by conservative, protestant Christian, pro-Capitalist  Caucasians) through any means necessary. Of course, Robb states that actions must be “non-violent”. Quite simply, this is a lie. Robb insists that there is “…a war to destroy these things…” yet insists that his organization is non-violent and based on the love of law, order, and family. When a man- any man- is woken up in the middle of the night and believes that someone is breaking into his house (whether this is true or not), he will get up, grab a baseball bat/fire poker/golf club/etc. and start prowling the house. How then are we expected to believe that such a group as the KKK (with a long history of violence), fully believing that there is a war against their very value system, will not react to this threat (whether it’s real or not). One might as well use that logic to argue that a bear won’t maul you if kick it’s cub, or that a snake won’t bite you if you try to tie it in a knot. To believe that the Klu Klux Klan, an organization responsible for hundreds of lynchings, beatings, hate crimes, and savage acts of intimidation, will suddenly stand back and passively allow their dreams (delusions, is perhaps a better word) of white-supremacy be destroyed is simply ridiculous. Where there is fear (particularly the fear of change), there are those who will turn to Fascism.

Of course the Klu Klux Klan still exists, as does racism and hate crime. Fortunately, however, the KKK is barely a shadow of its former self. No longer a unified group and having long since lost any credibility or respectability among the general populace, the Klan is- at most- a tiny (yet still toxic) fringe group and a sad reminder of a part of American history we’d rather (but cannot and should not) forget. Of course, one could argue that Fascism in the US didn’t die with the Klan but transferred to the industrial-military complex (an issue to be discussed in a later post), however one could just as easily counter that (like McCarthy) these groups themselves are not Fascist, but would merely benefit most from a Fascist or Fascist-style government.

“So what’s the point of all this?” one might ask, “The Nazis, Klansmen, McCarthyites, and Blackshirts are dead and gone and the Neo-Nazis and Skinheads are few in number and have most of the population turned against them!”. Now that is partly true. Yes, the KKK’s power is broken but there has been increased growth in their numbers, and while estimate believe that there are about eight thousand KKK members currently spread across the country (which is about eight thousand too many, if you think about it). Please, keep in mind that while the Klu Klux Klan is a nauseatingly racist and potentially dangerous organization, I am by no means advocating any physical attack (no need to lower ourselves to their level). According to US law, everyone has the right to peaceably assemble. To use the KKK’s own tactics would not help defeat Fascism but help lead it to victory. After all, if we violently attempt to preserve our value system from those who would change it, we ourselves become Fascist.

So why write a lengthy explanation (and condemnation) of a dead ideology? Because Fascism isn’t dead!

Yes, Hitler is dead, as is Mussolini, and Disney (yes, Walt Disney was a supporter of Nazism), and countless others. Fascism, however, survives and has recently taken hold in Europe, primarily Britain. Like America in the 1890s, Europe is currently experiencing a similar wave of immigration. And as the power of the KKK expanded in 1890s America, so has the support for various Fascist groups in Europe. Take the British Nationalist Party (BNP) for example.

The British Nationalist Party (founded 1982) is the quintessential Fascist organization. The BNP is unconditionally pro-Capitalist, nativist to the point of ethnocentrism (“Sink the [immigrant] boats!” has become a BNP slogan), violently anti-leftist (The Propaganda Director of the BNP was convicted for attempting to plant a nail-bomb in the headquarters of a British Communist party), and vehemently anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic, anti-racial mixing, and anti-Homosexual (while none of these last four are technically Fascist, they are traits commonly found in Fascist organizations). “So Britain’s got a Fascist party that actively spreads propaganda and in some cases, perpetrates acts of violence- America has the KKK and neo-Nazis groups, but that doesn’t mean they’re about to win seats in the Senate!”. In America, that is true. Not so in Britain. Earlier this year, two seats in the European Parliament were won by the BNP, and the party has made increasing strides in both popularity and elections (which are small victories, but victories nonetheless). Let the facts be faced, in Europe, Fascism is rising again.

So what’s to be done? How does one go about fighting Fascism?

Fascism, one must remember, is a social, economic, and political system based on fear. People turn to Fascism when they are afraid, trading freedom, rights, and privacy for security (or at least, the illusion of security). The easiest way to combat Fascism is to combat fear. If people are afraid that immigrants are changing their way of life, remind them that it’s the immigrants who have uprooted themselves to become part of the society they’re moving to. If people are afraid that Communism (or general leftism) is threatening them, explain that they will probably benefit from the socio-economic and political change. If people are afraid that they may lose some of their traditions as a result of change, instruct them that just because something is tradition it doesn’t mean it’s right, important, or useful. Attacking the roots of Fascism (fear, xenophobia, ignorance, and racism) essentially wipes Fascism out before it can take root, and keeps it from spreading if it already exists. Protests, anti-Fascist (also called “Antifa”) groups, and general participation in counter-Fascist movements also helps. Indeed, even having a basic education about Fascism helps in combating it.

Let there be no mistake, Fascism, while battered and broken, is far from dead and buried. The world is changing and many across the globe are turning to Fascism out of fear. I submit that FDR was right when he stated that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”. In short, it not we who should be afraid of the Fascists- it is the Fascists who should be afraid of us!