Written by Tommy Strade
“History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among peoples’ environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves”Jared Diamond
Click to navigate to the corresponding sections:
- The Analysis of Soviet Russia
- The Analysis of the People’s Republic of China
- The German Example
- The ‘State Capitalism’ Question
- Famine, Disease, War, and Drought
- The Prosperity of Oppression
Development, decay, and depression; Wash, rinse, and repeat. This inevitable, never-ending cycle is the Capitalist mode of production.
On March 14, 1883, the most influential economic philosopher met his end: Karl Marx. Yet, every criticism he made of Capitalism continued to weed itself into our society, infecting the minds and the freedoms of the modern proletariat. The methods of exploitation pointed out by Marx have not gone away in the 136 years since his death, but only become more abstract, more destructive, more invasive, and more unstable.
One hundred million deaths一an incomplete and ever-growing death toll一hung upon Capitalism’s neck, starting its count in the 20th century, by Le Livre noir du Capitalisme. This indictment is a response to Le Livre noir du Communisme by Courtois, which is where our historical preface will begin.
Le Livre noir du Communisme disregards the severe historical contexts of the more considerable powers such as the USSR and the People’s Republic of China, and by doing so, seriously inflates the supposed “death toll” of Communism. Courtois falsely attributes World War I, World War II, and civil war deaths to Communism. Let us examine this closer.
Specifically, in the case of the USSR prior to the October Revolution, the Russian Empire was economically and politically one of the most underdeveloped nations in all of Europe for three main reasons.
First, the Russian people were still ruled by a Czar, who had absolute control over the Russian political, economic, and social sphere. Second, the former serfs got stuck in a vigorous and deadly cycle of poverty after the 1861 Emancipation Manifesto. Finally, the Russian Empire had yet to endure the grueling process of industrialization that had swept through the rest of Europe.
Ultimately, the Russian Empire’s loss in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) highlights this underdeveloped nature, surprising all of Europe that an East-Asian nation beat a Western power.
Next, we move into a critical period: 1914-1925. The Russian Empire lost about three million people (estimates range from 1.7 million to 5.5 million deaths), in World War I. The mismanagement during the war by Czar Nicholas II led to the February Revolution, Russia’s bourgeois revolution, and the establishment of the Russian Provisional Government, a period in which chaos and mutiny frequented.
This period allowed the grassroots worker’s movement of the Soviets, specifically the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, to gain power and climax into the October Revolution. There are two crippling aspects of the October Revolution. First, the Soviets were forced into signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (in which Russia lost 34% of its population, 54% of its industrial land, 89% of its coalfields, and 26% of its railways.
Additionally, Russia was fined 300 million gold marks. Second, they were immediately plunged into a war of “Reds vs. Whites,” otherwise referred to as “The Russian Proletariat vs. The Western Bourgeoisie.” This war was fought because the foreign bourgeois powers vehemently opposed the new Socialist state. The Russian Civil War lasted for five painstaking years, claiming approximately 1.5 million Soviet soldiers’ lives, in addition to total estimates of anywhere between seven million and twelve million deaths in total.
The combination of World War I, the October Revolution, and the Russian Civil War had massive implications for the Soviets for years to come. An introduction consisting of millions of deaths and total resource destruction faced the new Soviet government. The 1921 Famine and the rampage of typhus only added insult to injury; industrial and agricultural production values were reduced to fractions, material output dropped drastically, harvests suffered, and the United State’s sanctions and military threat loomed over the new government.
These insufferable conditions created a reactionary response supported by various parts of the Soviet government, such as the imprisonment of all political enemies (instead of just of the Capitalist enemies). We can be both critical and understanding of such a reaction, given that it is the historical precedent of most nations to tighten governmental control during war and other hardships.
It can be presupposed that the argument of gulags (which are labor camps) will inevitably be brought against us, so let us address it now. The idea behind the gulags of the USSR proposes a dilemma: although the concept motivating the imprisonment was understandably necessary, it can be conceded that the physical execution behind the USSR and other Socialist states’ was indeed poor一in a modern revolution, counter-revolutionaries would not be sent to gulags, but prison, just as any other lawbreaker would be. The necessity of such imprisonment is only inherent to a radical revolution.
If one has gone through the trouble of raising class consciousness, of rising against one’s oppressors, of violently overthrowing an oppressive system and upheaving the social foundations as one knows them, it can only be seen as a logical conclusion that one would not allow counter-revolutionaries (otherwise known as former oppressors, or capitalists, or militant bourgeois, or whatever one may refer to them as) to organize, plot and defy the new order. Just as post-World War II Germany would understandably suppress Nazism into the present day, the post-revolution government should also be expected to punish their formerly fascistic and oppressive opponents.
To not do so would be like not punishing former slave masters, and instead allowing them to work towards the re-establishment of slavery: this unacceptable situation is what all Communists intend on avoiding. The USSR’s execution of this plan was also heavily influenced by all the prior factors: substantial war losses, resource deprivation, and foreign destabilization attempts (all causes for a strengthening of governmental power). A post-revolutionary government is already in its most fragile state, but those of the 20th-century were exposed to a harsh and reactionary environment.
Criticizers will continue to try to make the argument that because these enemies of the state get imprisoned, Communism means dictatorship will ensue. These criticizers have failed to look upon their institutions — for example, seditious conspiracy, conspiring to overthrow the state, is a crime in the United States. The mere planning, not even execution, of replacing the government is a crime in the supposed cornerstone of democracy in the Capitalist world: this law was used extensively to imprison Communists in the 20th century during the rampage of McCarthyism.
During World War I, American socialist Charles Schenk spoke out and persuaded groups against the draft. This action was illegal under the Espionage Act of 1917, and thus it was taken to the Supreme Court on a violation of the First Amendment Right. Schenk unjustly lost the case. Even earlier was the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798), which were implemented to suppress and disorganize the Republican party of Jefferson.
We can now systematically refute the irrational arguments against the USSR made by Courtois. First and foremost, Courtois included deportations as a part of his fabricated death toll, a testament to the fact presented by his peers that he was obsessed with reaching 100 million deaths. We discussed the role of the state towards counter-revolutionaries, such as kulaks and a small portion of Cossacks (roughly 10% of the overall Cossack population), who were targeted by the Soviets.
Furthermore, the Capitalists are ecstatic to point out periods such as the Red Terror (1918) in which political suppression was carried out, but then hypocritically ignore the White Terror (1917) in which the White Army, the Western bourgeoisie, systematically executed approximately 100,000 to 300,000 people.,
Aside from blatant hypocrisies, delving into the first twenty-five years of Courtois’ estimates has made it abundantly clear that his so-called “death toll” was exaggerated. Here’s how: in the twenty-five years as mentioned earlier, the Russian population and economy were subject to two wars that resulted in a massive decrease in the Russian people, a revolution that radically changed society and upset bourgeois populations worldwide, and a devastating treaty that would not be resolved until twenty years after its signing.
These factors create two distinct outcomes: severely limited resources and tense political suspicion via reactionaries. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk alone slashed Russian resources, but in addition to the resources spent on wars and a substantial population decrease, it should only be all too obvious that the process of industrialization would be an arduous one.
The process in Britain was by no means a delightful one: millions of children worked for hours, the proletariat had little to no rights, and thousands upon thousands of deaths occurred due to neglect of the proletariat (such as disease, famine, etc.), in addition to the millions of deaths that the British caused during their imperialist-industrialist expansion.
The deciding factor in whether a given country would have a better or worse time industrializing was their prior economic mode of production. For example, Britain and the United States of America had the relatively most natural time industrializing because they had already begun to develop a bourgeois class (i.e., they already existed within the Capitalist mode of production).
As industrialization moved East, and society became more feudal and more autocratic, the process became deadlier, such as in Prussia. We can now correctly explain the reason that so many died during the USSR’s industrialization.
They had supplies and population slashed by wars that can by no means be attributed to Communism, as well as a political mistrust created by Western attempts to topple the USSR from the inside (in addition to typical power feuds that are not limited to any one system, especially under the given circumstances).
Recognizing the historical context of the USSR in no way excuses any authoritarian action that may have arisen from the state but rather rids of falsely inflated numbers and correlations that do not have any direct connection with Communism.
Let us apply this proper perspective of history to the People’s Republic of China. Just as the Russian Empire was significantly underdeveloped, the People’s Republic of China faced a strikingly similar situation with a damaging colonial twist. We will begin by concerning ourselves with the First and Second Opium Wars (1839-1842 and 1856-1860, respectively). Shortly after the British East India Company began its colonization of India, the British discovered the papaver somniferum, the Opium Poppy, and thus the illegal opium trade started.
Despite the Chinese Emperor’s attempt to ban the opium trade in 1729, 1799, 1814, and 1831, the British continued to pay smugglers to trade opium to the Chinese at ports like Canton. This lucrative trade is just another example of how Capitalism will stop at nothing to gain a profit一it will colonize sovereign people for profit, it will force millions to become addicted to drugs for profit, it will go to war and obliterate those in its path for profit. This heinous path is revealed by the Western bourgeoisie actions in China, starting with the opium trade.
After the British ignored the pleas of the Chinese government, and as tensions rose among the Chinese population, Chinese High Commissioner Lin Tse-Hsu had no choice but to seize all opium at Canton, confiscate all supplies, and order a blockade of foreign ships. Despite only reacting in an appropriate and sovereign manner, the British responded with a brutal military strike that defeated the Chinese, all in the name of upholding an illegal trade for a private company. The results were devastating for the Chinese:
The Treaty of Nanking (Nanjing) in 1842 forced China to allow the British to colonize the Hong Kong island with surrounding smaller islands; established five treaty ports in Shanghai, Canton, Ningbo, Fuzhou, and Xiamen; and demanded a twenty-one million dollar payment to Great Britain. An additional treaty added provisions for British extraterritoriality. This loss resulted in the cutting in half of China’s global gross domestic product (G.D.P.) as well as a loss of sovereignty not to be returned until after World War II.
The next period of bourgeois intervention is the Yihetuan Movement, otherwise referred to as the Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901). After the authoritarian Treaties of Nanking and Tientsin (Tientsin is similar to the Treaty of Nanking; however, it was signed after the Second Opium War), anti-imperialist rebels began various insurgencies in response to Western colonialism. After brutally and unjustly suppressing the Chinese once again, the Western powers executed leaders and officials of the rebellion and forced the Chinese government to pay approximately $10 billion of silver (at 2018 silver prices).
To make this ridiculous exploitation clear, the West forced the Chinese to pay for wanting sovereignty. This exploitation is the paradox of Capitalism: the sheer hypocrisy of their claims to democracy should be an outrage to any reasonable thinker. A system built off of slavery, imperialist expansion, exploitation, and war is not a sustainable system. Even though Western countries lay claims to freedom and democracy, their actions hollow their words into husks.
Now we delve into the portion of Chinese history that begins to align with their northern comrades一the 20th century. The tensions that stirred the Chinese population climaxed into the Xinhai Revolution (1911), in which the last imperial dynasty fell to a republic. This initial revolution was China’s bourgeois revolution that delivered the nation into decades of political division and warlordism. The Beiyang government that formed after the revolution quickly dissolved, only to be replaced by Sun Yat-sen’s Kuomintang (K.M.T.) government; however, China remained greatly decentralized and separated into factions. Let us look at who the K.M.T. was
The K.M.T. was a fascistic nationalist government that wanted to implement American-inspired federalism; they also were known to have used terror tactics against suspected communists, through the utilization of a secret police force, who were employed to maintain surveillance on suspected communists and political opponents.
This direct attack against the Communist Party of China (C.P.C.) led to a collapse of the K.M.T.-C.P.C. Alliance, from which the Chinese Civil War was fought, intermittently, from 1927-1949. This war was fought in two main phases: the Early Phase (1927-1937) and the Concluding Phase (1945-1949). The K.M.T. was supported by Nazi Germany in the Early Phase and later by the United States of America in the Concluding Phase.
The result was 7.5 million deaths in total, including civilians, and mainland China becoming the People’s Republic of China (run by the C.P.C.) and Taiwan becoming the Republic of China (run by the K.M.T.). In addition to fighting off bourgeois powers in the Civil War, the Chinese had to deal with the Japanese, who had occupied resource-rich Manchuria in 1931 and would continue to do so until 1945. China’s role in World War II would be characterized by what was the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), a fight against a Western-esque, bourgeois imperialist power.
The Japanese would continue to occupy more and more of mainland China after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident (1937). From there, the fascist regime of Japan would commit unspeakable horrors against the Chinese populace, such as the Rape of Nanking (1937) and the employment of biochemical warfare through Group 731. The total civilian and military death count after the end of World War II and after the Japanese finally surrendered was estimated to be anywhere between 20.8 million to 30.6 million., ,
Once again, historical context can begin to reveal how Courtois inappropriately assigned millions of deaths to Communism. By 1945, China had lost tens of millions of lives due to imperialist endeavors, experienced a revolution that radically restructured society, and escaped a century of foreign bourgeoisie colonization. These are devastating conditions that no system could miraculously fix. Often, those quick to criticize point out the famines that happened under the C.P.C., as Courtois did; however, this is a straw man.
The conditions that the C.P.C. took over were set up for famine: heavy war losses, extended resource inaccessibility, rapid onset industrialization, and foreign bourgeois destabilizing attempts. In addition to those factors, China has had a history stretching back thousands of years of having famines, spanning a variety of economic modes.
To hold the C.P.C. or Communism solely accountable for these deaths is to ignore the real historical context of the nation and fabricate a false narrative that pushes the agenda of the global bourgeoisie. As previously stated about the USSR, in recognizing the real historical preface of the C.P.C. is in no way ignoring any authoritarian action that may have taken place, nor does it mean that they are impervious to criticism; however, it sets up the proper conditions for a dialectical materialist perspective of the 20th and 21st century.
Just as we did with gulags, let us do with the actions of the C.P.C. and their various plans. Many Communists disagree about the nature of the USSR, often comparing Stalinism to State Capitalism, which is the same case for the C.P.C. under Mao Zedong. The extent to which Stalin and Mao were genuinely devoted to the Communist cause is questionable. Stalin did better than Mao, but still had flawed plans such as fixed wages.
Mao was obsessed with creating a Cult of Personality, enacting failed policies such as the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). This flaw can be seen as a part of Maoism, not as a flaw of Communism as a whole. Before we continue to discuss the failures of the C.P.C., it should be noted that death tolls are frequently listed as-is to alter others’ perspectives; however, relative (or proportionate) losses are what we are genuinely after because countries with massive populations will have ‘higher’ tolls.
This proportionality exemplifies itself with the Great Leap Forward (1958-1962): the failure of this plan can be traced back both to the historical context from which it arises (history of famines, World Wars, civil wars, and industrialization) and the mistakes of the C.P.C. Many estimates place the deaths caused by the Great Leap Forward at about thirty million; however, when compared to the Great Irish Famine (1845-1849), the relative losses are obsolete.
The Great Irish Famine has often been retold as purely the fault of a blight, but the British government, who had colonized Ireland, was not oblivious to this famine and chose to ignore the Irish for the sake of laissez-faire economics; as a result, 20% to 25% of the Irish population died. Now when we look back at the Great Leap Forward, a mere 5% of the population that died of famine seems insignificant (that is not to say it is negligible, but the false dichotomy created by Capitalists is readily apparent).
Overall, looking at a detailed history of the world, we see that the conditions of a country are not merely created with Socialism or Communism, as these two modes emerge into existence, meaning that all prior conditions are passed on. Although this is true in the USSR and China, we will provide yet another example for the skeptics: Germany. We will investigate into the East and West divisions, but first, an ancient history lesson.
From the time of ancient civilizations to the Industrial Era, society developed around accessible bodies of water for the sake of trade and agriculture. Because of this, cities, population, and wealth grew along rivers and coasts. Since all nations are not made up of homogeneous geographics, it is apparent that the wealth and the population distribution is dependent upon a nation’s heterogeneous geography.
This geographical variance is precisely the case in Germany: the western portion has always been more populated, heavily industrialized, and wealthier because of demographic patterns that formed due to the Rhine River; the eastern part has been its opposite. Now when we look at the East-West division of post-WWII Germany, the placement (or displacement) of wealth is readily apparent. First, the Western powers controlled ⅔ of Germany, that is, the already-wealthy western portion. In addition to having a historical demographic advantage, the West paid the educated elite of Eastern Germany to defect, sometimes paying them as much as $100,000 and providing free apartments, which resulted in a 10% decline in the eastern portion’s population.
This German example is present in a vast majority of Communist cases for the simple reason that Capitalism breeds inequality; inequality breeds Communism. If we were to go through every single country that has had a sizable Communist movement or even a revolution, we would find that they are frequently formerly imperialized and third-world countries that have endured exploitation since as far back as the 15th century.
Any historian should realize that countries that were poor before the advent of Communism are more than likely to be poor afterward, especially in the wake of the United States of America’s fervent and fascistically militant anti-Communist policies. Cuba would experience the economic harassment of the world’s Capitalist superpower, which effectively froze its economy. Nowhere has there been a claim that Communism can immediately transcend the effects of Capitalism, especially when the Capitalists decide to actively embark on a mission of suppressing Communism through any means possible.
Because of the frightening prospect or actualization of a Capitalist attack (either militarily or economically), many Socialist states of the 20th century produced reactionary responses, such as tightening government control over political activity instead of allowing the government to progress into total popular democracy.
This reactionary response allowed a flood of criticism to enter the political sphere; however, the accuracy of this criticism is highly subject to debate on both ends of the political spectrum for not only historical pretenses, but for ideological and theoretical objections. If the Capitalist intervention turned many countries into reactionary messes, then were they truly Communist and therefore susceptible to the argument against Communism? Or do they meet a different ideological qualification that ultimately phases them into the Capitalist mode of production?
Materialist dialectic tells us that all properties of society are emergent properties originating from the economic mode of production. The Capitalist mode of production is one in which the means of production (i.e., factories, machines, etc.) are privately owned. The Communist mode of production is one in which private property is abolished. Private property should be distinguished from personal property in that it is a bourgeois construct. Marx argues this point in the following:
In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property. We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man’s own labour, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal freedom, activity and independence.
Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the property of the petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily…. You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property.
But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society.
It can now be asked that if the Communist mode of production requires the abolition of private property, then to what extent were some of the highly and popularly criticized authoritarian Socialist states and the corresponding Communist parties actively Communist? It is not enough to merely do away with the bourgeoisie in power; it is not enough to only establish a Socialist state and never progress towards a Communist society. What can happen in authoritarian states is neither Socialist nor Communist, but State Capitalist.
Here’s how: if the bourgeois state is removed in favor of a new state, but the means of production necessarily stay in the same mode without ever falling into the hands of the proletariat, then it can be concluded that the means of production were simply shifted from one elite class to a new elite class (i.e., the new political elite). Although this may be acceptable at first, as a post-revolution society is exceptionally fragile and may require substantial governmental assistance, to lay content with these new relations is to revert into the Capitalist mode of production.
If moving forward is progressive, then to remain in the same relations of an immediately post-revolutionary society ten or twenty years down the road is to be regressively moving to Capitalism. This criticism is not to accuse any Socialist states of the 20th century as the same exploitative atrocities as the Capitalist mode of production, but it is to criticize and put into a materialist perspective the true nature of their state.
However, this justification or excuse is not enough on its own to explain away any issues 20th-century Communists faced. What we are trying to do is introduce a more complex and comprehensive understanding of the political workings of Socialist states. This understanding can be achieved in a variety of ways, one of which is to separate political activity from economic activity.
This separation is a difficult task since they are nearly inseparable, but it is not impossible to consider either one alone. For example, we can now look back on the USSR and have a proper discussion about its successes and failures, such as recognizing their ability to become an economic superpower out of previous poverty, but also criticizing the less favorable political action that arose out of internal and external factors.
The purpose of taking this historical perspective is to gain the opportunity of genuine discussion and discourse instead of mindless one-sided arguments held for the sake of winning and not learning. With this superfluous perspective in mind, we will continue to comment on the state of affairs with Socialist states and their heavily criticized vanguard parties.
Once again, it can be presupposed that criticizers will jump to the conclusion that we have merely made the statement, “But that wasn’t true Socialism!” This conclusion is not the case and an extreme oversimplification of the dialectic at hand. Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that a Socialist state cannot be qualified as such on the sole basis of having a Communist (or Socialist) party in power.
The revolution is mentally liberating as well as physically. With such liberation, an individual must keep up constant reflection and improvement; also, the revolution must be as emancipatory as possible. Consider this: if only 80% of private property is abolished and 20% of the proletariat remains exploited, then does the mode of production not settle into purgatory, stuck between Communism and Capitalism?
This purgatory is the case with many of our 20th-century comrades:on the one hand, Socialism rocketed their societal progression forward; on the other, it was held back by the Capitalist elements of the state. In the end, when considering the mode of production of a particular society, the mode it is qualified as, if not simply Capitalist, is not a binary this or that mode. Out of this nonbinary nature of shifting away from the Capitalist mode of production, we enter fragile ground upon which we need to tread carefully to avoid improperly identifying the materialist characteristics of a society.
The idea that State Capitalism is the result of one-party rule or vanguardism is in no way a new idea and is a common criticism among the Anarchist Left. Peter Kropotkin, the most notable and credited founder of Anarcho-Communism, expressed his disappointment with the Bolsheviks in his Letters to the Workers of Western Europe:
Unhappily, this effort has been made in Russia under a strongly centralized party dictatorship…. I owe it to you to say frankly that, according to my view, this effort to build a communist republic on the basis of a strongly centralized state communism under the iron law of party dictatorship is bound to end in failure. We are learning to know in Russia how not to introduce Communism, even with a people tired of the old regime and opposing no active resistance to the experiments of the new rulers.
Kropotkin’s disappointment begins to answer our previous question on the topic of intensely-reactionary Socialism (i.e., State Capitalism). However, this presents another, more critical problem: can a party-led Communist (or Socialist) revolution be successful without succumbing to State Capitalism? In short, yes. Today, the contradictions and exploitations of Capitalism have caught up to the West as Communist movements gain popularity. The fateful Domino Theory of the 20th century could finally fulfill (or come near to) its prophecy: if one of the major western powers were to realize Communism, then it would only be a matter of time until the rest of the world followed suit.
This definite success is especially true if the Communist revolution were to start in the United States of America. No more could the West use its military and wealth advantages over the revolution as it has become a part of the revolution, a cog in the machine of progress. Both fortunately and unfortunately, the probability of a revolution in the West increases as it continues to suppress and depress the proletariat, unwittingly spreading class consciousness.
Without the Western military and economic threat that was present in the 20th century, the reactionary element that we worry will regress the movement into State Capitalism ceases to exist.
As we did with Courtois’ Le Livre noir du Communisme, we will with Perrault’s Le Livre noir du Capitalisme: disprove it. Perrault started his work in the 20th century and claims that Capitalism killed 100 million people. The issue with this estimate is that Capitalism was put into effect before 1900, meaning the death toll is much higher than 100 million.
First, it can be established that famines that happen under the Capitalist mode of production are the direct result of Capitalism. Natural causes such as disasters or harmful weather patterns may be the indirect cause, but the accumulation and concentration of wealth is the direct cause. The current richest 1% (owning more than half of the world’s wealth) is the epitome of accumulation of wealth. This accumulation is the prime crime of Capitalism. If the labor put into a commodity (i.e., a useful product made purely to be sold) determines its value, and the proletariat produces labor, then we can conclude that that monetary gain as a result of the value of the commodity belongs to the value-creator, the proletariat.
However, under the Capitalist mode of production in which the bourgeois privately own the means of production, it does not matter that the proletariat created the value, for the bourgeois ultimately gains the profits despite not adding any labor, ergo value, himself. Commonplace language assigns the act of unjustly taking others’ personal property as stealing, but we assign a different word to this theft purely because the bourgeoisie owns the means of productionーthat word is expropriation. All capital is accumulated by employing expropriation under the Capitalist mode of production.
This wealth is further accumulated in a variety of immoral manners, but the tactic that mainly concerns our efforts is that of artificial scarcity. Artificial scarcity is one of the means of driving up prices in the Capitalist supply-and-demand economy. As is typically taught, these two independent variables control a third, dependent variable. In this situation, the bourgeois takes advantage of the idea that when supply is low and demand is high, prices are high.
However, because the industrious technological innovations of the past two centuries allowed for the mass production of most commodities, such as fast-food, prices have been driven down. But to make extravagant profits off of a high demand product, the supply must be limited. Now a ‘dilemma’ is apparent: how does the food industry manage to be a several hundred billion dollar industry? Artificial scarcityーthe act of creating a falsely limited supply to drive up prices. Not everyone can afford these raised commodity prices, especially those in formerly colonized nations. Despite the global ability to produce enough food for ten billion people, we fail to feed the current population of seven billion people and let 821 million go undernourished.
If the miraculous ability of mass production is such a fantastic feature of Capitalism, why does it let nine million people die of hunger each year? Because it is not profitable to do so,sixty million tons of produce goes to waste each year in the United States alone. It is easier and more profitable for Capitalists to overproduce and create massive islands of waste than it is to distribute a resource that should be considered a human right. Artificial scarcity is the primary reason famines and deaths via starvation are attributable under Capitalism and not Communism一Capitalism chooses to let others die at the hand of greed and profit; Communism tries to feed all its comrades despite all its externally hostile conditions and preconditions.
Other comparable deaths happen not because we lack the ability to solve the problem, but because it is not profitable to do so. One million people die from a lack of clean water each year. In the Capitalist hotbed itself, the United States, we allow corporations to have access to water over our own citizens, such as in Flint, Michigan. On the surface, the distribution of clean water might seem like a bipartisan and challenging issue to deal with, but there are two factors to consider.
First, the food industry mentioned above, which fails to feed the world’s population despite its capability to do so, wastes millions of gallons of water on the overproduction of meat and other foodstuffs. The food-industrial complex is one area in which resources are being distributed to those who can pay, not to those in need.
Second, governments like the United States of America actively allow private companies to not only steal clean water but contaminate the communities’ water and profit off of these horrible conditions. Such is the state that Flint, Michigan is in with Nestlé. In addition to this water crisis, Capitalists let three million people die from treatable diseases. Note that this toll consists only of deaths by curable diseases, meaning that all of these people could have been saved; however, we observe that people are left to die. The naïve might think that maybe medicine truly is scarce and that prices are naturally high.
This is not true一the United States all too perfectly exemplifies the greed of Capitalists. The pharmaceutical industry shows its preference to profits over people with the current insulin crisis in which the prices were jacked up 5,000%, putting millions of Americans at risk if they cannot afford the exorbitant prices. These few factors alone add up to over twenty million preventable deaths each year, giving Capitalism the winning privilege of surpassing Courtois’ exaggerated toll spanning eighty years in only five.
Capitalism thrives off of desperation: the bourgeoisie profit from the desperate proletariat, from war, from artificial scarcity, from most forms of pain and suffering. These profitable conditions are not natural, and just as scarcity is fabricated, so is war. The goal of the bourgeoisie during wartime is multifaceted一first, expand the market; second, suppress the enemy (who can be any ordinary person or persons at any given time).
Artificial war is perfectly depicted by viewing the United States of America’s war history versus the economic growth in the G.D.P. per capita. The United States of America has actively been at war for 222 out of 239 years of its existence (as of 2017). Since inception, the G.D.P. per capita has grown, on average, at about 1.7% per year; however, there is a period where economic growth reversed一the Great Depression.
After riding out the economic high gained from World War I, the United States of America entered the 1930’s in one of its most prolonged periods of peace一and the world’s most significant economic crash to date ensued. How did the United States dig itself out of this depression? War. Come World War II, the mass mobilization of the United States of America boosted the economy and brought in out of depression. A war-based economy is true not just for the United States during the 20th century, but for Capitalism as a whole because its need for an ever-expanding market is insatiable.
Capitalism is solely dependent on the impoverished many to create a prosperous few. It depends on isolation and disunity to prevent any real gains from being made by the working class. First, we must consider the relations in which the worker and employer have held in the past to understand the relations that are held in the present.
The oldest form of class relations is the master and the slave, a non-consensual relationship based on the (false) assumption that the slave is entirely bestial, undeserving, and incomprehensible. The master, therefore, assumes the ‘gracious’ role of an owner and proceeds to exploit the labor-value produced by the slave.
He works all day under horrendous conditions, being whipped and beaten as his master sees fit, and is then given the minimum amount of value, or produce, required to live and work another day一the rest of the value is expropriated by the master. This cycle continues indefinitely as the slave is passed from owner to owner like a commodity, at least until internal or external liberation forces interfere.
This ancient relation set the precedent of an oppressor expropriating value from the oppressed. Such is the case with feudalism: the lord owns the property, or fiefdom, and allows the serf to work on his land and remain protected in exchange for a certain margin of value produced by the serf in the form of taxes. In the case of the master and the slave, the slave was physically forced into the relationship; otherwise, death would be inevitable. The serf, however, faced a more abstract form of coercion: poverty.
The simple reality of the surf’s impoverished character made him susceptible to any mode of production, no matter how exploitative. Under this perceived liberation, the serf works day in and day out to barely provide for his family, all while the lord expropriates the serf’s value and accumulates wealth. In most situations, lords came into the opportunity of being a property-owner through heritage or aristocracy. In both cases of oppression, the master and the lord, the oppressor prospers by keeping the oppressed in poverty, and therefore dependent on the oppressor.
We can turn now to the Capitalist relationships, the bourgeois and the proletariat, the oppressor and the oppressed. First, these two classes, as with the others mentioned above, were not simply fabricated instantaneously, but instead developed with prior conditions and events. We will follow England’s path into Capitalism to explain the relations. In feudal England, as well as all of Europe, the introduction of Chinese maritime technology influenced an Age of Exploration.
Starting in the late 15th century, the Iberian powers rapidly expanded across the Pacific Ocean, and the English, French, and Dutch followed decades later. This was the initial expansion of the market (as well as colonization) and opening to trade that began to disintegrate feudalism. However, the only people able to profit from this market expansion were the lords, who had sufficient capital to fund expeditions, and the merchants, who gathered new resources from various lands.
Market expansion further alienated the serfs, who already had no economic mobility. Next, the Enclosure Movement expropriated common land from the peasants and gave it to the wealthy landlords, who could now charge rent on the peasants for the use of once common land. Lastly, the Industrial Revolution allowed the English elite to pay minuscule wages to factory workers, all while accumulating capital to buy more machines, which in turn allows more workers on the floor and so on. Capital valorizes capital.
These conditions culminated into what are now the bourgeoisie and proletariat classes. The bourgeoisie rose out of the conditions described above, like in England, and the proletariat followed as a continuation of history’s oppressed, the working class. This is where the idea of wage-slavery is derived from: the proletariat depends on the bourgeoisie for his very livelihood, all while most of the value produced is siphoned away into the accumulation of capital.
Furthermore, the proletariat has absolutely no say in how the workplace is run, and are subject to oligarchical conditions. Capitalists refute the idea of wage-slavery, and instead claim that the proletariat has the freedom of choice in terms of employment: this is simply false. First, most, if not all, bourgeois pay the same dismal wages (i.e., minimum wage); therefore, the place of employment is irrelevant because the conditions are the same. Second, the proletariat’s choices may be limited by factors they can’t control, such as their inability to afford transportation or childcare.
Lastly, the proletariat is often stuck in the same few low-paying jobs because of the commodification of higher education has resulted in the alienation of the working class from specialized careers. The blockade that the bourgeoisie have put up to prevent the working class from receiving a higher education was never enough to hold back the proletariat from advancing towards liberation: military means were the inevitable result.
Capitalism decays into Fascism, the most retroactive and repressive political ideology to date. But before discussing this pathway, we must delve into what Fascism is. It is not simply authoritarianism, although that is one of its prevailing characteristics. Proponents of horseshoe political theory will attempt to claim that Fascism and Communism are two extremes that end up being relatively similar, but this is far from the truth at both a fundamental and a historical level. First off, the fundamentals: as previously stated, Fascism is not merely authoritarianism. Instead, the Fascist dictatorship is built off of racial supremacy, economic inequality, violence, fear, and egoism.
We will use the classic Fascist example, Adolph Hitler. A disturbingly common misconception is that Hitler and the Nazi Party were Socialists because of the name Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers’ Party). Although the original party, the German Workers’ Party, had its origins in left-wing ideologies, the results of World War I caused a heavy reactionary whiplash across Germany. The Treaty of Versailles ruined the German economy with its insane wartime reparation and put in a provisional government, the Weimar Republic. Anger and fear spread like wildfire through the German population, especially the working class.
Enter Hitler: desperate for work, he was employed by the government to spy on the German Workers’ Party; however, he found himself enticed by the newly reactionary conversation and began to speak at the meetings, rising through the ranks. Renaming the party to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party was a political ploy to attract the German working class, given the popularity of Socialism in Europe at the time. Do not be fooled一Hitler and the Nazi Party were not Socialists.
First, Hitler aided the Fascist military forces of Spain during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) against the USSR-backed Republicans. It was here that the Nazi Party tested the boundaries of Western tolerance by bombing civilian towns. During his reign, Hitler bolstered the private industry by developing partnerships with German businesses and suppressing labor unions. Next, Hitler actively persecuted Communists, both domestic and foreign. Once the concentration camps were up and running, Communists were among the groups that were forced into the camps and killed.
In foreign policy, one of the long-term plans was for Germany to invade Russia and claim the land from the inferior Slavs for German Lebensraum.* Stalin postponed this invasion by forging the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact (1939): Britain and France had refused to ally with the USSR, and since the USSR needed time to industrialize and mobilize, this was Stalin’s only option. Despite this pact, Hitler desperately initiated Operation Barbarossa (1941) after losing the Battle of Britain (1941). Here, the Nazis yet again unleashed their Fascist animosity and pretense of racial superiority by starving 3.3 million Soviet prisoners to exterminate the Slavic population.
In addition to starvation, as the Nazi battlefront marched through Russia, they carried out mass shootings, gassing operations, rapes, and pillages out of hatred for the Soviets. In a repeat of Napoleonic history, Russian winter hit the Nazi army hard. The Soviets were able to push the Nazis back to Berlin with the strict enforcement of Order No. 227, Stalin’s not-one-step-back policy. Here, the Soviet soldiers took vengeance on the German people by reciprocating certain cruelties.
As we can see, referring to the Nazis or any other Fascists as Socialists is simply a propagandistic lie that is used to demonize leftist politics. This is a cover-up for the nature of Capitalism to decay into Fascism. As discussed before, the Great Depression was the result of the United States of America maintaining lasting peace, and its adverse effects spread worldwide because of increased globalization in the Industrial Era.
In addition to this, the German currency was extravagantly devalued because of both the war reparations and the Depression. Here is where one of the inherent flaws in Capitalism makes itself apparent: the instability of money. Money is a fickle concept, one that philosophers and economists from Smith to Marx have covered, so we will attempt to summarize and simplify.
Commodities have an intrinsic value, and can, therefore, be exchanged for another commodity of equal value or for a magnitude (amount) that gives rise to equal value (i.e., x magnitude of product Y can be exchanged for v magnitude of product Z). The universal commodity is one that all other commodities are compared to determine a tangible value: money. Initially, humans treated gold as the universal commodity, but it has since developed into paper currency that is based on gold (more accurately, was based on gold, as the gold-standard has faded from practice) and is strengthened by trust.
This means that in modern Capitalism, money is no longer a tangible commodity, but is representative of all commodities. Therefore, the abstract nature of modern currency gives rise to many of the economic problems Capitalist countries face. In post-World War I Germany, the provisional government attempted to pay off the war debt by simply printing more money.
This does not work; instead, an increasing magnitude of currency is being used to represent a constant magnitude of commodities. The currency is then devalued, and what we call inflation ensues. The Great Depression in Germany was characterized by cutting government spending, failing banks, and rising unemployment. From this stage of fear, anger, and desperation, Adolph Hitler was able to make his political rise to the top, and engage in one of the most organized and brutal genocides in all of history.
Often, people view Hitler and Fascism as the distant past, a portion of history that could never repeat itself; yet, it has happened right under the noses of the American people. The insufficiency of Capitalism culminated into yet another crisis, the Great Recession. Ultimately caused by malicious bankers tempting potential homeowners to take out loans much more significant than they could pay off (deemed subprime mortgages), the United States of America entered a period of economic crisis that rivaled the Great Depression.
This crisis was “solved” by bailing out big banks and corporations, all while the working class struggled to make ends meet. Even in 2019, as the Capitalists attempt to confuse the working class into believing we are in a period of prosperity, Americans have experienced anything but. No universal healthcare, expensive higher education, stagnant wages, increasing housing prices, and tax cuts for the rich pay homage to this. Historically, Fascism has been the route that Capitalism takes.
Enter Donald Trump, the American Fascist (Trumpist, if you will) that has tricked a majority of the United States of America into not wanting to admit that he is a Fascist. It should come as no surprise that the son of a rich white nationalist came out to be the racist supporter of the birther conspiracy, the wealthy liar that attempts to connect with the working class, the islamophobe that put a Muslim Ban into effect, the homophobe that stripped rights from the LGBTQ+ community, the sexist that discredits women, and so much more.
Some of his followers revere him as the Second Coming of Christ, while most ignore his blatant flaws. On top of all the sub characteristics of Fascism, Donald Trump has displayed a continuous interest in authoritarianism: calling the media the enemy of the people, befriending and complementing multiple authoritarian leaders, interfering in elections, obstructing justice, inciting violence, indicating he’d like more than the allotted two terms, and profiting off of all this in the meantime. This is the result of Capitalism, and without change soon, Fascism looms.
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