MSH: Capitalism not too hot.

New poll: Capitalism not too hot


A recent poll has people talking. The results of the poll are a sharp contrast to the free-market triumphalism of the 1990s. Intellectuals were declaring the victory of capitalism. In the 1989 book, the End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama declared that history was over and that free-market, liberal society was the final form of human society, the end point of civilization. Others got a piece of the action too. Post-modern liberal Richard Rorty liked to say that Western liberalism, with all its flaws, is the best that has been offered up by history: The age of ideology is over, or at least it should be. Globalist capitalism, or its companion “capitalism with a human face,” was the new mantra. That was then.

The recent poll implies that most people correctly know that the system as it currently exists is bad for them. The poll, conducted across 27 countries, reports that only 11 percent of people think that free-market capitalism is working well. Of the 29,000 people polled, only one in five think that capitalism is working well.

Almost a quarter of all those polled, 23 percent, think that capitalism is fatally flawed. The majorities in 22 of the 27 countries support a more egalitarian distribution of wealth. The poll shows that the majority of humanity has some sense of their own oppression even if they do not understand their oppression scientifically.

One poll result has been the focus of much commentary: Double digits in the imperialist countries see capitalism as “fatally flawed.” Over 40 percent in France and 15 percent in the US think that capitalism is fatally flawed. This figure is making its way through the First Worldist “left” that stupidly sees the double digits as confirmation of their worldview. These kinds of polls are not new. For example, Max Elbaum, in Revolution in the Air, peddled the same claim about the 1960s. Elbaum reports that 3 million people in the US thought revolution was necessary at that time. However, seeing capitalism as “fatally flawed” or that “revolution is necessary” is not an endorsement of socialism. In fact, nihilism runs deep in First World. It is a good bet that many see all systems as fatally flawed. Although there may be support for social democracy or social imperialism or fascism in the First World, there is almost no support for actual socialism there.

Actual socialism is perceived as frightening by First World peoples for the same reasons that many express their disappointment with the current capitalist system. Most in the First World believe that they are entitled to more privilege, not less. The current economic crisis has resulted in a drop in the standard of living. No doubt that this is reflected in the numbers. In addition, under actual socialism, First World populations will have even less privilege than they do under the current capitalist system. Actual socialism on a world scale entails something close to an equal distribution of the global social product. Under such a distribution, virtually everyone in the First World will see their incomes cut drastically, their purchasing power reduced, their leisure time shortened, etc. After all, Karl Marx wrote that the ruling classes would tremble in the face of communist revolution. The entire First World, almost without exception, trembles at the prospect of genuine proletarian revolution.

There is almost no social base at all for revolution in the First World. It is a mystery to the First Worldist why the First World workers are not lining up for revolution. The First Worldist, like Goldilocks, looks to find that combination of mass line and party building, spontanaity and commandism, agitation and propaganda, hot and cold, that will be “just right.” What the First Worldist utopians don’t realize is that there is no key that will unlock First Worldist proletarian revolution because there is no significant proletariat in the First World. There are hardly any masses at all in the First World. There are plenty of asses, however. Maoist-Third Worldists, by contrast, recognize that since the vast majority in the First World oppose real socialism, revolutionaries in the First World must design minoritarian strategies. Revolutionaries find themselves behind enemy lines in the First World. Real revolutionaries adopt Jacobin strategies appropriate to their unique conditions in the First World.

The same poll asked people how they perceived the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. Poll results varied greatly across countries. The fall of the Soviet Union is mostly seen as a “good thing” in Europe, and, presumably, most of the First World: 79 percent in Germany, 76 percent in Britain and 74 percent in France feel that the dissolution was a good thing. However, 70 percent of Egyptians think that the fall of the Soviet Union was a “bad thing.” And, in Russia, Ukraine, and Pakistan, sizable majorities report that the fall was mainly a bad thing. In India, Kenya, and Indonesia, opinions are sharply divided.

Even though the Soviet Union in 1989 was not socialist, it is incorrectly perceived as both socialist and anti-imperialist by many. The poll results in many cases are, thus, less about the actual Soviet Union and more about the hostility that many in the Third World feel toward imperialism and capitalism. Such poll results can be more of an expression of pre-scientific, intuitive class hatred directed toward the Western imperialists. Ironically, the revisionist Soviet Union was imperialist also. In the 1950s, the Soviet Union became social imperialist. Even though the revisionists used socialist rhetoric, their actions were still imperialist.

Capitalism-imperialism has failed to guarantee a decent life for the vast majority of the world’s population. Most people in the Third World barely survive while most people in the First World live in relative luxury. Thus it is no surprise that opinions about the current system and about the Soviet Union would vary greatly. Similarly, opinions about revolutionary leaders also vary greatly between Western and non-Western countries. Stalin is seen as no different than Hitler in the West. However, in the ex-Soviet bloc, Stalin often polls as one of the greatest leaders of all time. It is a good sign that so many in the Third World understand that the system has failed them. It is the job of the communist to transform that basic intuition into a scientific understanding and revolution.



2. Max Elbaum. Revolution in the Air, p. 2

[This article was reproduced from Monkey Smashes Heaven, journal of the fourth stage of revolutionary science, Maoism-Third Worldism]

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