Say the word “communist” to a large audience in the year 2009 and you will be ridiculed and scorned. The political ideology founded by Karl Marx has been discredited, disabled, chucked into the dustbin of history. It is synonymous in the public consciousness with hammers and sickles, Stalin’s purges, Mao’s famines, and Kim Jong-Il’s erratic behaviour. North America has all kinds of people descended from the old Eastern bloc who left the bleak misery of their desolate homelands to prosper in the land of oppurtunity. Their firsthand accounts of brutality give credence to the chorus in the media that speak of this great monster, who failed spectacularly against its adversary, all at once, on November 9th, 1989.
That narrative has become so entrenched in people’s minds that anyone who dare question it is written off as deluded and grossly mistaken, a sympathizer of corrupt dictatorships and misguided left wing ideology. The comments underneath the article on the worldwide climate protests today responding to the photo of a protest banner that said “Save the World – Scrap Capitalism”, left by ordinary people but identical echoes of which we could expect from our media and politicians, confirmed my suspicions.
There is simply no tolerance of any critique of capitalism as a system. But there is an important distinction to be made about its “failed” younger brother – communism is not a failure, totalitarian dictatorships are. And we effectively live in a global totalitarian capitalist dictatorship that has not yet failed for some that currently benefit from it. Those words are not a polemic on my life – I’ve never stood in a breadline – but turning the world into a gigantic free market has made a system that already has failed for the majority of its inhabitants, and will certainly fail for almost all of its inhabitants if it keeps going the way its going.
I have the good fortune of living in a developed nation and being born into the upper middle class of it. And during my life time the entire world has embraced free trade and it is now accepted as dogma. I did a presentation once about Adam Smith’s visionary work “The Wealth of Nations”, considered the basis of modern laissez-faire capitalism. The thing is, when Smith talks about why there is no reason there should be any trade barriers between nations who want to trade, it makes sense because he presupposes these nations will be more or less equal. Unfortunately how that has played out is rich countries going into poor countries and taking all their resources to sell back to their citizens. We have here more or less a modern, justified form of slavery. This is why I laugh at comments bragging about America’s “225 years of prosperity” “400 years of prosperity”. Prosperity from stealing land and indentured servitude, sure, if you want to admit those last words, which nobody does.
Today, the people who’ve decided they like the status quo just fine and the political-media cabal that enables this belief have decided that the global warming issue is a hoax and business as usual should continue on earth. Meanwhile, if you look for some real information and forget about that stupid debate, you will see that capitalism, and most industries will starve to death in 30 to 40 years when humans burn through the few petroleum reserves left on earth. As long as people don’t see any physical changes in front of them or in their bank accounts, and are permitted to keep doing what they’re doing, we will certainly be given to oppurtunity to see what this ugly reality looks like. But if we could start thinking about the earth as a public asset, which every being born onto it has equal claim to, the same way the taxpayers of this province think of its crown corporations, then maybe we’ll think of a better way than capitalism to organize and manage ourselves. Until then, we’ll content ourselves to be called “irresponsible” by all the “responsible” politicians and oil companies.