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The System’s Falling Apart: Were the Dogmatic Marxists Right After All?


#1

The System’s Falling Apart: Were the Dogmatic Marxists Right After All?

Jeff Cohen

As a young activist in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, I heard plenty of Marxist dogma from left-wing sects that proselytized in major colleges and cities about how “monopoly capitalism is entering its final crisis.” The warnings of apocalyptic collapse were constant. They sounded absurd, more so as years passed with nothing close to a final crackup – no more convincing to me than the Jehovah’s Witnesses at my door with their articles of faith.


#2

Deregulated capitalism always eats itself, and a system dependent on infinite growth in a finite world is destined to collapse. Throw in climate catastrophe and you’ve got the perfect storm.

Try to go a week without buying some plastic. Good ass luck.


#3

Cohen sez:
“Neoliberalism…went into high gear 40 years ago. It was called ‘Thatcherism’ in the UK and ‘Reaganomics’ in the US.”

And, 50 years earlier, it was called ‘fascism’ in Italy.


#4

Neoliberalism is nothing more than rule by the finance sector. We need to reclaim the State and use fiscal policy to invest in public purpose again (MMT).

Private bankers shouldn’t be governing a nation. They had 40 years to prove they were “far advanced than the nation-state” and instead, society fell apart.

End the credit card addiction of the past 40 years that was just done to make private banks profit. The finance/private sector proved to be 100x worse at governing, running healthcare, education, even the airline service and safety has deteriorated. Just about everything gov’t did much better before this coup happened:

“The “nation-state” as a fundamental unit of man’s organized life has ceased to be the principal creative force: International banks and multinational corporations are acting and planning in terms that are far in advance of the political concepts of the nation-state.”
~ Zbigniew Brzezinski, Between Two Ages, 1970

“The Trilateralist Commission is international…(and)…is intended to be the vehicle for multinational consolidation of the commercial and banking interests BY SEIZING CONTROL OF THE POLITICAL GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES. The Trilateralist Commission represents a skillful, coordinated effort to seize control and consolidate the four centers of power - political, monetary, intellectual, and ecclesiastical.”
~ Barry Goldwater, With No Apologies, 1979

Excellent monologue by Bill Maher on the 40-yr. incremental middle class squeeze here.

Americans, especially the right, need to ask ourselves, which is worse, picking up where the Roosevelt Republic left off, when the US enjoyed the most prosperous decades in history and highest standard of living the world had ever seen,
or…

going along on this neoliberal (libertarian) trajectory, where everything is privatized and government is dismantled to the point of becoming non-existent, except of course for the MIC?

Getting rid of gov’t means no more human rights, no safety regulations, or environmental protections. That’s why they’ve taken Civics out of the educational curriculum. Why should people learn about rights in a future world of no citizenship?

And forget about freedom to roam. There would be restricted zones, less car ownership, more mass transit, less private property ownership. Why do you think housing prices are so out of reach?

AOC = communism?? No. THIS is communism, or as they like to call it, communitarianism (communism/libertarianism):

"In a libertarian society, there is no commons or public space. There are property lines, not borders. When it comes to real property and physical movement across such real property, there are owners, guests, licensees, business invitees and trespassers - not legal and illegal immigrants.” ~ Jeff Deist, president of the Mises Institute

They’ve already tried their experiment of replacing nations with privately owned “charter cities” in Honduras, but it didn’t work, unsurprisingly.

This Wall St/Koch donor network-fueled libertarian/neoliberal nightmare needs to end. It won’t until we wake up and stop it.


#5

Bernie began it. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is extending it.

Our new rookie class in Congress seem supportive of it --but that “it” must become better articulated.
Yes, of course, the MSM, even MSNBC avoids broadcasting it, but a healthy alternative to this anti-democratic, nasty, mean, cruel capitalism must become the conversation of the 99%.

Ironically, the best presentation of “it” I’ve seen is when Shawn Hannity thought he was demonizing AOC,
her “far-left radical agenda for America.”


#6

Cohen is observant. I have wondered for a few years at what point this would become part of public discourse.

There were always some among the communists who were monastic in character, more than a bit divorced from their surroundings, and easy to ridicule. But if one goes back to Marx himself and attends the texts, such fun is not so easily had.

Marx’s argument with people like Proudhon and Kropotkin was not that violence or even “dictatorship of the proletariat” were necessarily desirable, but that they were inevitable consequences of capitalism–and that they therefore should be adopted and embraced for their inevitability.

He described the fundamentals a bit like so:

  • Capital draws capital, so it accumulates
  • As a group, capitalists abuse any value except profit
  • Capital outstrips the nation-state in power
  • Capital would eventually take everything from the proletariat
  • Capitalists would refuse to release power

Welcome to 2019. The process is not finished, but the outlines of events have come to take on a character that they did not have when Cohen was listening to communists in Detroit or Santa Monica.

  • Capital accumulated well enough then, but the process has advanced and sped.
  • The capitalists refused to release power, but they have managed to centralize it considerably, at least within the United States. The American Century is flagging, but it may be the Capitalist rather than the Chinese century that replaces it–or the Capitalist Decade, perhaps
  • Capitalist irresponsibility has so destroyed the commons as to bring us into at least the early stages of extinction by destruction of habitat; this comes largely by the ability of business to manipulate relatively flat-footed governments
  • A handful of heavily cross-invested business interests have mostly usurped the nation-state so that nations have become mostly the tools of business and governmental regulation of such businesses by self-advertised more or less democratic or not absolutely plutarchic societies is mostly circumvented or ignored.

Cohen’s dogmatic Marxists imagined that they could very thoroughly predict the future by a few principles of dialectical materialism, but a lot of 19th and early 20th century thought was similarly positivistic. We need not altogether throw these principles out to incorporate perspectivism and complexity in our considerations. As with so many things, we can predict something of the nature of what will happen, apparently, even when we cannot state the time or the exact ways that events might unfold.

Currently, then, we do have a crisis by which centralized capital has largely displaced nearly all non-aligned institutions and values. Capital is thereby quickly ruining the support for life as it works to eliminate roll back the advances of Locke and Mill and Jefferson as well as Franklin Roosevelt–the alterations that ameliorated the control by presumed ownership that constituted feudal aristocracy.

Our current conditions will not last long.


#9

No, it was obvious in the 60s and 70s that the Marxists were essentially right.


#10

The world has largely grown both aware and exhausted of the exploitation by the western capitalists. As a consequence the western capitalists have found it easier to just cannibalize the west itself. There is no end game that ends well under this development, with the exception of revolution, hopefully by peaceful means. Otherwise “eat the rich” shall be the battle cry.


#11

I knew if I watched this clip it wouldn’d go well. I have such a strong distaste for Hannity, George W, Trump, and recently Ray-gun as well that I get nauseous.
I’ll never understand why people will put up with these hypocrites and truth butchers.

And we wonder why our less intelligent Americans float to the right.


#12

Sorry, but comparing Jehova Witnesses (pure dogma) with the philosophical theories of Historical and Dialectical Materialism of Marx and Engels???

What a watered down premise for this article.


#13

That the system Capitalism would far apart was not known only to the Marxists. The Capitalists knew this as well which is why they worked on Legislation BEFORE any of this became obvious so as to protect themselves when those times came.

An example of what I mean.

In 2001 the Democrats and Republicans in the USA voted on Bankruptcy reform. Hilary Clinton was one of the Democrats fully behind this. There was no real crisis at the time and no real need to get this legislation passed . Credit Card companies were still racking up huge profits. The “pressing need” to reform was IMHO in anticipation of an impending Consumer Debt crisis given the fact that the working class wages were being eroded even as the rich were growing richer. In my opinion it became very clear to those bankers that the worker would have to rely more and more on debt and borrowing and they wanted to make sure they could continue to squeeze blood from a stone.


#14

Jeff, this is a terrific piece1 The Marxists indeed had it right all along, just not the timing.

That said as a Marxist myself since I was 19 (I guess back then during the Vietnam War period I was at least intellectually a Trot, though never part of an organized Trotskyist group or sect), I have to broaden your analysis beyond the “dogmatic sects” you mention to include most Marxists, the majority of whom in my experience are not “dogmatic” but do subscribe to a dialectic process of analysis and to the notion that class relations and economic forces are they primary dynamic drivers of history.

I always have felt that capitalism was basically an unsustainable ponzy scheme. That is, just as ponzy schemes fail because there are only a limited number of suckers to keep the scheme afloat, in the case of capitalism, the earth is a finite place with a finite capacity for growth, while capitalism, or certainly corporate capitalism, exists only to grow. (A family owned company can continue indefinitely remaining the same size, providing a steady income to workers and owners, but a shareholder owned firm has as its product the rising value of its shares, and so must keep growing at absurd rates like 15% a year.) And that impossible situation is what we call a contradiction that contains within it the seeds of its own destruction.

Unfortunately the destruction that is confronting global capitalism may come in a form that will destroy us all: civilization, quite possibly humanity, and perhaps, if we keep on at the rate we’re going, most life on this once beautiful planet.

Hopefully this time, we Marxists will get the timing wrong in the other direction, and to our astonishment, people will rise up in a movement for self-preservation and throw out capitalism and its greedy proponents in favor of a socialist common cause of sustained, ecologically supportable co-existence with our fellow human beings and with Mother Earth.

Dave Lindorff
founding editor of ThisCantBeHappening.net


#15

What Marx didn’t take into account, because it wasn’t around in his day, was the invention of the credit card and the credit based economy, the invention and development of which, has enabled capitalism with all it’s inherent flaws aroud supply and demand which Marx pointed out, to survive on a kind of consumer enabling life support, a credit bubble, that has sustained it for 50 years beyond it’s original sell-by date and probably for a lot longer as ever more ingenious mechanisms in the credit economy are invented.


#16

Was Karl Marx right all along, interesting BBC doc on the basics in relation to modern economic crisis:


#17

The Left cried for cheap food to feed the poor masses. The cheapest way to do so was through empty calories and manufacturing processes.
The support of cheap food policies has led to cheap people who have no attachment to the natural resources they consume except through several stages of monetary enslavement, each of which is a profit segment of the banking industry.
Capitalism eats people because people buy the stuff that capitalism makes cheap, including themselves. The opposite of capitalism isn’t socialism: it’s sales tax. People need to know exactly what the costs are before they can make an intelligent choice whether to buy something or make it with their own hands. Without the resources to do so, they are enslaved to capitalists. Without knowledge they are enslaved (no feedback mechanism at the decision point/checkout), the poor buy themselves poorer and the rich laugh about it.
We don’t need to tax the rich to reverse the flow of money. They aren’t the source of it.
Sales taxes are a lot less regressive than a dead planet.
See FairTax.org and negotiate the rate and the prebate upward until everyone has the opportunity to control their own labors/money before the banks handle it.


#20

No, Marxism and corporatism are variants of the same toxic world view - both view production as the purpose of our existence and both will ultimately destroy the planet.