Some 7,000 years ago, the idea of private property became institutionalized, facilitated by the appearance of monarchy and a religion of servitude. This culture has come to dominate the world, but recently the masses have become increasingly aware of the flaws in the system and the need for change.
Capitalism, or private property, fails in that it enhances the difference between those who have capital yields and those who have work wages. Although private property is not necessarily evil in itself, already from the start this inequality was maintained by a class system, with the son of god at the top and slaves at the bottom. The first slaves were likely prisoners of war and consequently the initiation of force is fundamental to the class system, although the role of religion might trump it.
Capitalism is the enemy. It is supported by the church, the state, the legal system, the police, militarism, nationalism, racism, sexism, conservatism, reactionaries and any trend that can be snatched up and used to maintain the status quo. Our ally is not just Marxism, allies can take any shape and also veer off in any direction.
We’re in the middle of the war. Communism in the Russian revolution 1917 was the great charge out of the trenches, but the method of using an authoritarian state to facilitate change backfired with the introduction of Stalinism. Social democracy is a truce, a compromise between the struggle for equality and the existing powers. Neoliberalism is the most recent attempt to justify capitalism and also constitutes a compromise. Social democracy and neoliberalism are seen as polar opposites in the political spectrum but they are both just truces and they both serve capitalism by conserving the system rather than revolutionizing it.
I prefer reform to revolution, however, the key is not the method but the knowledge. One of the most basic rules of war is to know your enemy and most people don’t know who the enemy is. We’re all part of the system so it’d be wrong to point at a specific group or person; instead, the enemy consists of doctrines and structures.
Marx named the enemy fascism*, although intending the new reaction to the socialist movement, not the traditional capitalism. Anyone who tries to come up with new justifications for capitalism or who defends its allies or the compromises that slow down progress, essentially supports fascism. Even the well-meaning social democrats and the, sort of, well-meaning neoliberals help maintain capitalism and therefore reinforce the fascism in our world. What would constitute winning the war is not clear. Just like atheism isn’t an ideology, just a rejection of theism, so anti-capitalism isn’t an ideology, just a rejection of capitalism.
Today, January 3rd, 2015, the wealth disparity is greater than it has ever been and continues to increase. There was a period, at least here in Sweden, 50 years ago, when the income gap was decreasing, but that was just a temporary victory in a battle over an insignificant bridge in the middle of a remote swamp. The truth is that fascism is winning the war.
Social democracy offers a slow and steady path towards victory, but the slower it is, the more disgruntled people become. Young people may not be able to identify any progress at all. This feeds the engines of fascism even though the philosophy or ideology doesn’t change. If progress is too slow, the protests will force it to stop. It may take a while for it to get moving again, waiting for the next generation to protest the protester.
Progress it not inevitable and can’t be taken for granted. The longer we allow nuclear weapons, climate change, poverty and starvation to exist, the greater the risk that we will kill ourselves. Time is a factor, the capitalists will drag the war out for as long as possible before they surrender. Even if we through sheer luck evade the current threats, if it takes too long, an asteroid will eventually smash into Earth before we’re ready for it.
Their weapons are fear, apathy, escapism, the illusion of progress, newspeak and other distraction, confusion and delay tactics. Our weapons are education, communication and group action.
Two objections have been levied. Firstly that I implied that social democracy is a viable path to progress. I don’t know, because anything can happen, but mainly I think social democracy is part of fascism and therefore not viable. Any compromise is another fascist delay so when I say social democracy is a compromise, this is in fact not a compliment (even if I view compromise as an ideal under different circumstances).
Secondly, capitalism is fascism. Yeah, well, I agree. I could say that capitalism is essentially private property and fascism is all the other stuff that comes with it, but I don’t think that distinction is fundamental, just of a rhetorical nature.
I also want to add that I don’t think in terms of classes. It is a practical term, but classes and their members are in constant flux.
Lastly, even though I pinpoint the start of this to the appearance of private property, I don’t think capitalism is an isolatable phenomenon. It was intertwined with e.g. the idea of a personal soul. I also don’t think capitalists necessarily rule because there are plenty of other types of powers that mixes with it or opposes it in different situations. Our enemies are not the capitalists, but capitalism as a structure and it only functions as a structure in conjunction with its fascist appendices. The patriarchy is a good analogy. The patriarchy is a structure, it does not mean all men are evil. Some men are actually feminists and in addition some women uphold the structure of patriarchy. So, it’s about fighting the structure and those who uphold it, whether actively or through passivity and not simply about fighting those who benefit from it and not even those who originally built it.
Obviously, this means I don’t think the end of private property necessarily equals victory, but I’ve never claimed that either. Victory is an ideal, an unattainable utopia. The enemy is relatively well-defined, but ultimately it can’t be killed. Some will settle for the state of things as they are, but even though the goal is forever on the horizon, it is clear to me how far we have yet to go before we can even stop for a short rest.
*Note that Marx defines fascism as the most chauvinistic response to communism and I’m unsure if he equates it with capitalism as a dialectical opposite. Italian fascism in the late 19th century developed out of syndicalist groups, only switching out the word class and replacing it with nation in their struggle. In a way, fascism resembles the most original form of hierarchy based on private property because of its emphasis on monarchy, militarism and kin.
Correction: Marx never spoke of fascism (it didn’t exist at the time of his death), I was looking at a quote from a Bulgarian communist and theorist on capitalism. The theory-crafting probably still applies even without either the term fascism or Mussolini’s specific incarnation of what communists, if not Marx, labelled fascism.