Communism: Lies people tell us

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?

And Capitalism Begat Communism

In my last post I may have given the impression that the capitalist mode of production will implode in a cataclysm or apocalypse.  An Armageddon, if not a Christian type of end story, still an end story.  Well, maybe I was feeling a little conspiratorial in my last blog.  Marx was right, of course, in his prediction of the end of the capitalist mode of production, but a child could have done the same.  It’s obvious that all things come into ‘existence’ at some point and then leave at another point, although ‘come into existence’ is misleading.  None of us is made of ‘new’ material.  We are made of recycled material.  I can’t remember who said it but it seems to be true ( that every  breath you take, you take in some molecules from Julius Caesar’s last breath.  That notion was brought home to me today as I walked through Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver and saw the smokestack spewing smoke out of the crematorium.  Yes, breathing the ‘air’ means breathing all kinds of molecules, many of which previously inhabited people, some just now literally going up in smoke not 30 metres from me.  Doesn’t sound particularly appealing, but it’s true. No, all things come and go, but not completely or finally.  We just get recycled.  I tell me students every year that they are probably eating bits of their ancestor’s molecules when they eat their McDonald’s burgers.  Grosses them out.  The capitalist mode of production is no exception to this rule.

The capitalist mode of production was born in the contradictions between the ruling feudal aristocracy and the peasant classes.  The feudal system of governance was born in the dissolution by internal contradiction  of the Roman empire.  Revolution is a process, not an event. As you can see from the graphic I attach here, European history is based on a series of transformations that take decades if not centuries to complete if they ever really ‘complete.’  Feudalism is long dead, but some of the old monarchies still persist if only symbolically and for hegemonic reasons.  The concentration of capital in commodities rather than in land as had been the case if feudal times, began during the flowering of Medieval society but it didn’t become the predominant mode of production until political and economic forces combined to unleash fettered commodity production and exchange in the law courts, parliaments and government bureaucracies all over Europe.  The move of capitalist exploitation into North America and elsewhere through colonialism accelerated the process.  My point here is that ‘revolutions’ take time.  They are not events, although they often engender massive violent events and social upheavals much as volcanoes do.  The ‘French Revolution’ was less a revolution than an episode in a process of the creation of the French ‘nation’ as a vehicle for capitalist expansion into manufacturing and finance.  We all are born, grow into adulthood, decay and die.  This isn’t rocket science, but we live as though it weren’t true and much of what we call science in the social sciences is based on the denial of this fact.  The capitalist class at the moment can be smug in its virtual total control of all national governments, even that of China.  But it’s time will come.  When it puts us all out of work, it will have no way of creating surplus value and profit.  It will be unable to sustain itself and grow.  However, the legacy of technique and technology, that ‘labour-saving technology’ we were all ga-ga over a few years ago is what will provide the basis for a future communistic mode of production, one that will not lead to the concentration of capital in individual hands, but, instead will remain in the public trust.  We will be truly ‘public’ then, but don’t hold your breath, we have some time to go before the end of capitalist concentration of wealth.  A ‘communistic’ mode of production cannot dominate the world’s productive forces until all the forces of capitalist production are exhausted.  And exhausted they will become.  Again, more on that later although I can say that my next post will be about communism and lies, lies on every which side.   Communism has never existed on this planet except as an ideological rallying point.  Never as a real productive, predominant force.

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