Just watched a Michael Moore documentary film ‘Capitalism – a love affair’. It was an eye-opener even for a committed Socialist like myself. Did you know that companies in America can take out life insurance policies on their employees for millions of dollars so they are worth more to them dead than alive? They even refer to these as ‘Dead Peasants’ policies, you couldn’t conjure up a more insulting term. When the employee dies or (one has to consider the very real possibility) is murdered by the company, the employer gets rich and the family is left destitute. I hope this law at least is changed by the Barack Obama administration, but even when Moore’s film was made back in 2009 he’d already been got at by the big corporations throwing money at him. Corruption everywhere, that was the message thruout Moore’s film.
Another aspect of the film and capitalism in general was Americans being forced out of their homes by unscrupulous mortgage companies. The film was an eye opener in so many ways. Did you know, for instance, that Franklin D. Roosevelt when President proposed a Bill of Rights which would have guaranteed virtually everything the Soviet Union and the other Socialist countries guaranteed their citizens? The right to employment, a decent wage, to a health service, education, security in old age or in the event of an accident? He conveniently died at the end of World War II and so this Bill of (Socialist) Rights was never enacted.
What this film brought home to me was that unless people rise up and fight for their rights, and then continue to fight and organize, then people will exploit them. Moore featured several cooperatives in America where the workers democratically ran the enterprise and shared in the profits. I’ve always thought cooperatives were the way forward rather than vast State monopolies, and we know from past experience that the capitalist class will, if their system is overthrown, find other ways to try to cling on to their wealth and privilege. What better way than by a new ruling class of State bureaucrats creaming off the best that the State monopolies produce? It does sound remarkably like state capitalism, throwing a few crumbs of comfort to the ‘peasants’.
I think many of the Socialist countries managed a little better than that, but neverthless it is true that they were corrupt at the top and were not true democracies, and their Socialism was badly distorted by a ruling class of privileged bureaucrats who creamed off the best for themselves.
Moore even consulted priests, and they said capitalism was totally evil and against everything Jesus, the Bible and other religions preached about. Granted he could have talked to other priests and evangelists who would have said the opposite, but we can judge for ourselves. No religion says that gathering extreme wealth at the expense of others is a good or desirable thing; all say that material wealth is not the key to happiness or eternal life and that the rich should help the poor.
Of course the ruling classes have twisted this message to keep the ‘peasants’ in their place by saying it is good to be poor and they’ll get their reward in heaven. This is why many of the founders of Communism were atheists and why Karl Marx said that religion was the opiate of the people. We know from experience, however, that an avowedly atheist Communist State can also become very twisted and warped. We have only to look at extreme examples like the Pol Pot regime in Kampuchea/Cambodia, or Stalin’s rule in the Soviet Union. Or listen to people like my friend’s mother who said she joined the ruling Hungarian Workers’ Party not because she was a worker, a Communist or wanted to help the working masses, but to further her career and get perks for herself and her family.
All this tells me that the ordinary people can’t trust anybody, politicians of any description. This is why it is such a tragedy that when Soviet power was handed to people on a platter after the Great October Socialist Revolution they allowed it to slip away from them. In no Socialist country did the people join and become active in the ruling political organizations in sufficient numbers to defeat the careerists and opportunists, and so a new ruling bureaucratic class arose.
The big question is how you get ordinary people to take control of society. Communists believe that the people must govern themselves, that the State must wither away eventually so society becomes fully democratic and self-governing. In order for this to happen people must get used to doing things for themselves and not relyng on others to do it for them.
It seems to me this is yet another argument for a system of cooperatives, such as existed in former Yugoslavia. This not only promotes healthy competition in a Socialist market place, but it means people are organizing for themselves and reaping the benefits.
If they do this in their workplace in a worker cooperative, then they can also do so in their local community thru a soviet or local council, and upward to national and international level.
It is far too dangerous to have a one-party system as I have said many times before because there is then no way of getting rid of this party or coalition without a revolution of some sort. So any future Socialist society must have a multitude of political parties, but the important thing is that people join them and become active in the organization of their choice. You cannot just delegate responsibility to others because power corrupts, and not only that, opportunists will join the political organizations in order to further their own careers and feather their own nests. Relax for one minute, and some bugger will shaft you.
Another lesson from the Moore film. Time and time again workers in America (and other countries of course) had to band together and occupy workplaces, go on strike, support the strikers, etc. to win basic rights. The exploited workers in the developing countries do not do this. The ruthless multinationals paying starvation wages in sweatshop factories, often employing child labor, pick off rebellious workers one by one. Charities whine that these people can’t unionize themselves because the employers will victimize them. What nonsense! That is a cop out – they MUST stick together and organize!
The workers everywhere must stick together and act as one. United we are invincible, but of course if it is left to individuals they will pick us off one by one. We learnt that in the West years ago, but that lesson is being forgotten as the unions get weaker or taken over by bureaucrats themselves.
Again and again the lesson is, trust nobody. You have to take action yourself, you cannot even leave it to union bosses. It is hard for people in the developing countries, but ultimately the answer is to unionize themselves and demand decent wages and working conditions like we in the West did.
The lure of endless credit, also featured in Moore’s documentary, has weakened workers’ resolve to unionize themselves and band together, and also of course got them into terrible debt hence the loss of their homes as in Moore’s film. Credit is no answer as it is unearned income and eventually it will come home to roost, hence the banking crisis. Paper money chasing too few goods and services will eventually prove to be worthless. Short-term profit or wealth is illusory. The whole capitalist system is not only totally evil, it is built on sand and is totally unstable, always on the verge of collapse.
Yet by dangling the carrot of ‘you too could get rich’ Americans in particular have been led to believe that capitalism and the free enterprise system is the best one, the goal to the American dream. In reality it is as false as the pyramid share schemes sold to people in some of the former Socialist countries after they collapsed. There is only one way to create real wealth, and that is by hard work. Karl Marx saw that only labor creates true value and true wealth, and it also creates surplus value, that is wealth over and above what the laborer needs for their own subsistence.
This is why it is necessary to organize society in such a way that the wealth is shared fairly and cooperatives pay a big role in this form of society. They maintain the competitive element of capitalism, without the exploitation. The fairness of common ownership of the means of production, without the inefficiency of State monopolies and the exploitation by the bureacrats who run them.
By sticking together and organizing ourselves, whether it be in a privately owned work place, a cooperative, a political organization, or in running society itself, we can guarantee that decent wages and working conditions are obtained, and eventually, that society as a whole becomes much fairer.
America was described by the Citibank organization in Moore’s film as not a democracy but a plutocracy, in which the 1% owning 95% of the wealth in effect ran the country. Even when Congress voted not to bail out the banks due to public pressure, Wall Street had Congress in their pockets and reversed this decision. It makes you think that the rumors about secret societies like the Illuminati actually running the United States might actually have some basis in fact, and who knows, this could apply to the old Soviet Union and other countries as well. So that whatever system was in place anywhere in the world, they looked after their own.
Whatever the truth, it seems we cannot trust employers or politicians and need to get actively involved ourselves in order to protect rights already won and certainly to create a fairer society worldwide and a more equal share of the world’s wealth.
It is also true that the position of wealth and privilege of the few will not be given up without a fight, but on the other hand bloody revolution usually leads to bloody repression which is then turned against the people themselves. Apparently, according to an article in the Weekly Worker (organ of the Communist Party of Great Britain), even Lenin and Trotsky contemplated shooting one in ten of every idle workers, and other repressive measures were used such as massacres of whole families of those who supported the White armies. Then Stalin came along and killed millions, many of them loyal Communists and Socialists, and Pol Pot of course is yet another genocidal maniac hiding behind the banner of Communism.
When faced with those who hold wealth, power and privilege who refuse to give it up the only answer is for total solidarity by the ordinary people they exploit. Wherever and whenever they must stick together and by sheer weight of numbers they will win. Only in the very last resort when absolutely necessary should violence be used, such as if striking workers are faced with being shot for instance, then of course the necessary action must be taken to prevent such atrocities taking place.
But all over the world many victories have been won without resorting to such extremes just by workers coming together and organizing, and no better example is there than the cooperative venture which can exist in a capitalist society or a Socialist one. Indeed by organizing ourselves into cooperatives we could have a form of creeping Socialism or Communism which comes about via the back door.
Exploited workers in the developing countries should take note. If unions are too difficult to organize because of ruthless employers, then they should consider forming worker cooperatives and use their skills to obtain a fair renumeration for their labor.
Unions, cooperatives, political organizations – we must be active in all of these constantly if we are to make this world a fairer and better place and rid the world both of capitalism and the corrupt, distorted form of Socialism which has existed previously.