Capitalism = Communism ?

The following is an article send to me by its author, who I knew through the Internet. Permission was granted to publish this article. The reply is given below.

It deals more or less with the similarities between modern Capitalist society and (historical) Communism. The conclusion by the quoted article is that there exist broad similarities in how dictatorial both systems are. The conclusion of the reply is that for the time being Communism was more dictatorial, but we are moving slowly but surely to the same situation.

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26 Jan 2021

Hi Jos,

(…)

Here’s an extract of something I wrote a few years back:

The dominant political system upheld, in name at least, in most of the world, is a form of democracy. The population indicates through elections, often an extremely theatrical procedure, who they want to occupy the positions of the ruling class, taking care of the complexities of running the country in the name of, and in theory, in the best interests of the voters.

The dominant economic model used in the world today is capitalism. Although often presented in extremely complicated language, doing business to make a profit is the essence of capitalism.

In general, residents of a democratic nation working in a capitalist society enjoy a reasonable degree of welfare and comfort, although society is always arranged to guarantee the ruling elite and the leaders of industry a far more comfortable life than the majority of the citizens, again not completely unlike the privileged royal families and their courts.

The working class majority is a valuable labour force, yet while they are said to be the decision-making electorate, the true degree of liberty in their lives is carefully controlled and determined by their superiors. Assiduously constructed restrictions are imposed to ensure that they do not normally ever have access to any real political or economic power.

True authority within the capitalist system is engineered to work from the top down, resulting in a privileged minority at the top enjoying most of the benefits while determining what the masses do to produce the gains. At best the workers at the bottom get by with paying their bills each month supporting, by comparison, a very frugal lifestyle having not a great deal more than enough to eat and enough to pay for their funeral at the end. The craftily constructed consumer lifestyle involving a comparatively insignificant amount of purchasing power and annual holidays works well as a placebo, an effective wool over the eyes of most voters in the wealthier countries, keeping them in their places, and subdued.

Richard Wolff, a renowned American economist, believes that if we continue, flogging capitalism’s dead horse without changing things, we will unavoidably repeat the kind of economic crash that we already caused in 2008. He points out that the systems we were using to cause one of the worst crises ever are all still being used, practically unchanged. If he is right, then it is simply a matter of time until we plunge ourselves into the next economic disaster. The only people who emerge from such a scenario without losing anything are the wealthy minority at the top. The poor people at the bottom, the ones whose votes determine how things are done, are always the ones we turn to with the bill.

In theory, the democratic system sounds fair and reasonable, though any convincing evidence that the system truly works as promised, is hard to find.

The idea of electing preferred representatives to govern on our behalf sounds benign and certainly seems preferable to a totalitarian system dominating all aspects of our lives unquestioned. It is, however, dependent on a high degree of competence, sincerity and honesty in the chosen delegates to have any hope of achieving its goals. Without this selfless dedication to the well-being of the voters, the validity of the entire democratic concept comes undone and falls flat on its face.

In truth, there is little real difference between democratic capitalism and communist socialism, in the sense that both work by using the toil of the masses to fund an exclusive lifestyle for the elite.

In a democracy, the masses are led to believe that they make the decisions through their votes.

In communism, the masses are led to believe that the party makes the right decisions on their behalf. In both systems, the elite prevents power or wealth from ever accidentally finding its way into the hands of the masses.

(…)

Ciao. Mick

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9 Feb 2021

Hi Mike,

Hope you are doing well. (…)

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While I agree with your statement that both democracy and capitalism are — at least in name and pretence — widespread around the world, the definition of “capitalism” which I personally prefer goes back to the root of the word: Capital. Capital-ism than means: the rule of those who possess “The Capital”, which is the greater ownership share, or the “means of production”, the lion share of the money, or indeed the Capital city. This is however besides the point you are making, which is that this system of business dealing referred to as “capitalism” is broadly the same in the world, to which I agree.

In my view, Communism (Leninist-Marxist) is also a form of Capitalism, since the “means of production” (factories, land, money) are all owned by a small clique of men (The Party). The market form of capitalism (capital owned by market entities), and its brother system which we could call political Capitalism (capital owned by political entities), are in practice close to each other, and flow over into each other. Market capitalism causes the centralization of wealth, due to its inherent mistakes (hopefully sufficiently addressed in my book). When the rich become owners of the State and use the State to assemble even more power, market capitalism blends into political capitalism (communism). The irony of the situation is that the masses are told how they may choose between two ideologies: market capitalism or political communism, which both fuel the power of the Plutocracy, although in different ways.

Sorry for being such an insufferable chatterbox, lol. I shall refocus on your piece !

In general, residents of a democratic nation working in a capitalist society enjoy a reasonable degree of welfare and comfort,

To be honest, I’m not so sure this is the case, unless you are referring quite tightly to the situation in the western world in the last quarter of the 20th century. Capitalist society has been a horror for many people, particularly in the second half of the 19th century, and up to the first half of the 20th, with its world wars. The plantations, the abusive factories, the wars for Empire, slavery, deprivations and starvation wages, if any work was there at all. The horror of capitalist economics has given rise in the second half of the 19th century to the broader labor movement, and many a Revolution.

I’m not sure why the western world is so comfortable on so many levels since the last quarter of the 20th century. The Communists have speculated that this was due to the threat of Communist Revolution and the existence of the eastern block. There may be some truth in this. Another reason could be the rapidly developing mass production techniques, which make things so much cheaper that even the rapacious lusts or our ruling classes could not keep up with stealing all that away from the common people (yet). What I think is the most important reason however, is the persistent work of the labor unions and such organizations, to wrest away a level of wealth from the ruling class, under threat and practice of direct action in its many forms. The credit for this wealth than does not go to the capitalist system, but rather to those who fought against that system.

Assiduously constructed restrictions are imposed to ensure that they do not normally ever have access to any real political or economic power.

It could be interesting if you could precisely list those restrictions, so that we could see what we could do to overturn them. My personal take on this situation, is that we live in a certain equilibrium of forces. The ruling class, in my view, only has a limited amount of power. Most power of the ruling class lies in the weaknesses of the working class itself: organizational, intellectual, ideological, social, in the past financial but this is no longer the case. “We let them rule, because we are a mess.”

True authority within the capitalist system is engineered to work from the top down, resulting in a privileged minority at the top enjoying most of the benefits while determining what the masses do to produce the gains.

I believe that this is the result of the slow creep of power centralization, which starts with the ability to buy and own soil passively, in any quantity. After this comes the power to own a business of any size, buy up other businesses at will, and assembly any amount of money. The result is a dictatorial orde, again because the working class has too many weaknesses: they do not organize themselves democratically. The ill behavior of the labor masses, causes them to be ruled by small dictators, who then become large dictators, and eventually tyrants. At that point the labor class is over-abused for it does have a level of morality and skill, which it uses in Revolution to reset the system. They however never truly resolve these issues (my book does try to resolve them, but that’s a theory and not a reality; the difficulty in having something so fairly simple understood, shows to me how weak the labor class is, to be honest).

The craftily constructed consumer lifestyle …

I do think this is caused by people’s their own choices. They don’t have to support big, poisonous and abusive businesses. On my minimum income, I can still go to the most expensive fair trade and ecological groceries and other shops. People with vastly more money than me, just don’t, pretending they cannot afford to do so ! Choices choices … is what I think. That being said, it is absolutely true that the big poisonous businesses stimulate this “consumerism” to no end, as in it lies an increase of their market share, and in the distractions it gives lies an increase in their political influence by way of absence of the people.

In summary, it seems I’m a little more blaming both sides, than what you have written. I don’t think the ruling class has as much power as some think it has. I think the ruling class is quite fragile. It looks so strong, because there are millions upon millions of ordinary persons, whose behavior is such that it gives power to our ruling class.

It is certainly the truth that this economy will crash. That was a given since 2008, or even before if one examined the National Debt pyramid game our Governments where playing. The ordinary people will foot the bill, as you write, while the plutocrats will greatly increase their wealth and political influence, as they are doing quite craftily right now !

In theory, the democratic system sounds fair and reasonable, though any convincing evidence that the system truly works as promised, is hard to find.

I don’t agree with this on principle, but I do see practical reasons why it has been a disappointment compared to what it could have been, and still should become. Whever we enact more democracy than before, conditions for the people seem to improve. When we loose democratic elements in our society: corruption increases, poverty and extreme wealth increase, etc.

Examples include the Iconoclasm and its Revolutions against feudalism in 1566, which for example resulted in much better care for the poor and the sick. The tyrannical and corrupt catholic church had just been destroyed in our lands (Hallelujah!), and the scourge of the monastaries had been overthrown and chased to the south (Hallelujah!). Their theft of charitable money was suddenly not there anymore. At this time, the Netherlands became the first Republic, without a feudal head of State, at least for a while. Power descended from the warrior cast (so-called nobility), to the traders who sat in council together. It was hardly ideal, but it was an improvement. Conditions for the common people increased, greatly. To such an extend in fact, that the Netherlands became a world Empire, only later to be eclipsed by the English, who adopted a few of these methods and made them their own (without which, we in the Netherlands would likely have been doomed).

Another example is the general vote in 1917-1919, which caused social housing policies to be enacted. In this brief period of Dutch democracy, which has not come back since, this major achievement has been established. Before that time, poor people could be living under a simple sheet, even in the center of the city, and not by unusual exception !

The vote, most definitely, has an impact. The more democracy, the better. Do we have enough though: hardly. Is the vote reliably used for the greater good: sadly it is not so. There is much to be accomplished, both in terms of what system we are precisely adopting, and how it is used by people.

It is, however, dependent on a high degree of competence, sincerity and honesty in the chosen delegates to have any hope of achieving its goals.

For this reason the idea of the Council Government exists and has been practiced. The failure of parliament to reliably follow the needs, if not the will, of the common people, has been known for a long time. The Revolutions in Germany and Russia in 1917 attempted to set up such a system, in which Delegates could be immediately replaced, when they started lying and stealing. This effort sadly failed, in my view because of a lack of good planning, a lack of intellectual structure. My book “Distribute Power” attempts to resolve this deficit, so that we might — however slowly — work toward an ever more perfect democracy.

In truth, there is little real difference between democratic capitalism and communist socialism, in the sense that both work by using the toil of the masses to fund an exclusive lifestyle for the elite.

While this is true on principle, it seems to me that there are two great factors which diminish or worsen how much the poor and the rich have drifted apart. Those factors are — as mentioned — ① how democratic the political system is (Communism in Russia was not democratic anymore at all, after Lenin had had his way with the first democratic Revolution in Russia in 1917), and ② how spread out the economic power is at that time. In a system of economics where land has just been given to all or many, where most businesses are small (family businesses, lone men selling their trade, small farms and workshops), the power of the rich is much reduced compared to what such a market capitalist system can later become due to the unstoppable centralization of ownership, typically over the course of a few centuries.

It is precisely these two factors, which I hope to address with my proposal: ad. ① A new polity, as mentioned. ad. ② Economic power will remain spread out forever due to an equal value share of land for all, direct laws against too large and dictatorial businesses, laws against the exploitive means of the financiers.

My personal estimate about your final statement — which says that democratic (market) capitalism (or say: the western world as it is now), and Leninist-Marxist Communism (the USSR, Communist Russia, as it was then), are remarkably similar in that the super rich and powerful actually manage to prevent the masses from gaining influence — is that this is becoming ever more true, the more the market capitalist system in the west keeps centralizing its wealth in the hands of the few. Their goal is, in the words of G.Bush sr.: “to centralize power into righter, tighter and higher hands”. In (market) capitalism with a democratic state, the forces of the plutocracy will have to wage a Revolution of their own, against this state democracy.

Once the super rich have overthrown the democratic elements that we do have, which Leninist-Marxist Communism has overthrown right at the beginning in Oktober 1917 in Russia, be it through slowly whittling away at our rights or by a sudden move through hysteria, we would be in the same situation as under a (debased, if you will) Leninist-Marxist Communist dictatorship. It is a process. We have been in this process for a long time. At the present day, it seems the fall into a dictatorship is greatly accelerated.

We are seeing an unprecedented decline in the two above mentioned pillars of well being for the people: ① A democratic State, or as much of it as we can possibly sustain. ② Power being spread out between all people. The ruling class today is overturning both elements, at an astonishing pace. It can be called a Revolution, a Revolution by the plutocracy.

Our democratic rights are ever deeper undermined in the Netherlands, and so in other countries. We have lost the right to freely assemble (!), we have lost the right to go out in the evening, nobody knows for how much longer they will extend these baseless dictatorial measures. They are campaigning to vote by mail, which means we could have a unreliable election result. They keep trying to undermine our voting rights, even though we in the Netherlands fortunately have defeated the threat of electronic voting machines (which would have meant the end of commonly verifiable results).

Fresh money printing by the central banks, buying up everything they seem to fancy for their own cliques, while common businesses are forced to close for a mere hysteria of a pandemic, causes unprecedented centralization of economic power. Both legs upon which the welfare of the people rest, are being cut down with Revolutionary speed.

best regards,
Jos Boersema

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Writer of the original article, named here as “Mick from Arnhem”, the author of the pamphlet linked to here (link), kindly replied with the following:

20 Feb 2021

(…)

I certainly enjoyed your reaction to my last scribblings. That all came from a book I was writing around 2016. Politics was just a tiny part of my considerations, the book (titled: Cigarettes, Churches, and Make-up) was more concerned with the (ill-)health of people… particularly their mental health. I can’t escape from a strong impression that insanity is one of the main characteristics of our species, and that we display our madness endlessly in the things we try to find important.

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