There’s never been, nor is there, a communist country on the planet today. As I wrote in a previous post, the capitalist mode of production is the more ‘important’ institution, much more important than countries, the one that drives the evolution of all other institutions, at least in their general character. So, for 400 years or so now, capital accumulation in the form of commodity trade, distribution and consumption has driven human economic production. It took some time before the capitalist mode of production displaced the feudal one, but with time and lots of bloodshed the deed was done. By the mid-19th century when there was so much profound intellectual activity generated by the change in mode of production, the British manufacturing class controlled parliament and pursued its goals on a global scale. But these weren’t quiet times. The working class was being created at a blinding pace and wasn’t too happy with its lot. Eventually laws were passed like the 10 hour day law that protected to some extent the working class. Pressure was brought to bear on government, which at the time was dominated by the manufacturing class. Workers were thereby putting pressure on their own employers who also sat in the House of Commons (in Britain). They were also contemplating alternatives to the capitalist mode of production. They came up with communism, communalism, the co-operative movement and others. The fight was now on for the hearts and minds of the average worker. In the early part of his career Karl Marx (1818-1883) was front and centre in the fight against capitalist exploitation of the working class. Later in his career, while writing Capital, he settled down to study scientifically the historical replacement of dominant modes of production as I note in a previous post. He stated in the Introduction to Capital, Volume I that what he was trying to do was apply to political economy the same method applied by Darwin in The Origin of the Species. In other words he was using an evolutionary framework of analysis. Technology was huge in his analysis and for that he’s been called a technological determinist. Technological development certainly plays a role in Marx’s analysis but his work is always dialectical and I don’t detect any reductionism or determinism anywhere in it. For Marx, then, slave-based modes of production (Ancient Rome) were replaced by the feudal mode of production, which was in turn replaced by the capitalist mode of production which will be replaced by the communist mode of production but only when all the productive forces of the capitalist mode of production are exhausted. This means that when labour is replaced by capital (automation, etc.) to a point where the possibility of exploiting the working class no longer exists because the working class no longer exists as a major force in human production, then communism happens. That transition may hurt, but transitions often do. Marx, then, sees an evolution of dominant productive forces with communism yet to come.
So, what happened to produce this legacy of (Manichean) stupidity that says that there are different political systems that countries can adopt, like on a menu? Countries can be either capitalist or communist or somewhere in between. But it’s plain to note that from this perspective, countries are doing the choosing here. Plainly enough, some countries came to be dominated by ‘communist’ governments (e.g., The Soviet Union, China, North Korea, etc.) while others were part of the ‘free’ world (Britain, France, Canada, the US, etc.). However, the ‘communist’ countries were never ‘communist’ and the ‘capitalist’ countries preferred to refer to themselves as democratic, free countries. Of course they were self-professed supporters of the ‘free enterprise’ system, but within a supposed democratic political form where the people ruled. Not!
So, the ‘communist’ countries were pretty much totalitarian, but communist they weren’t. Still, they liked to say they were to contrast themselves to the ‘evil’ capitalist countries of the ‘West.’ And of course, the ‘West’ was only too happy to exploit the lies Stalin and the like were telling about themselves. Everybody became ‘an evil empire’ for someone else. Brilliant. It’s a great way to keep people at home in line: “We need to stick together in the face of the threat from the evil empire (take your pick depending on what side you’re on)!
Now, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the remaining ‘communist’ countries like China to maintain the charade that they are in fact ‘communist.’ China (the country) is now merely a tool of capitalist production as is every other government on the planet and all of them are rapidly becoming redundant in the face of the still rising dominance of global finance capital. Canada now has a government that wants to do away with itself in the worst way. It’s there to do the bidding of its capitalist masters and Stephen Harper and his cronies seem to revel in the role they are playing on the global capitalist push for complete dominance. So far, we’re just along for the ride. But like in the 19th century, workers will rebel in any number of ways. They will be unsuccessful, though, in any attempt at getting control of human productive forces until the time is right, and we’re not there yet.
Lies, lies, everywhere…what can we believe?