‘Finish Capitalism' Movement In The United States
By Badruddin Umar
30 November, 2011
After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the then US President George Bush declared that the era of socialism had ended giving way to a ‘new world order'. Obviously, according to his vision the ‘new world order' was the world imperialist system over which he was presiding at the moment and which would be presided over by the successive US presidents. In fact, there was nothing new in the ‘new world order' of George Bush. It was actually the same old wine in the same old bottle.
While declaring the demise of socialism, George Bush made a mistake by identifying the Soviet Union with socialism. Socialism has no nationality. It is a historically determined social system. Historically determined in the sense that it arrives in history by resolving the basic contradiction of capitalism--the contradiction between social production and private appropriation--which cannot be resolved within the framework of the capitalist system.
Social production and private appropriation is not a specific characteristic of capitalism. It is a feature of all society divided into classes. It existed in the slave and feudal systems before the advent of capitalism. In this respect the difference of capitalism with the previous class societies consists in the fact that capitalism socializes production to its maximum limit and it does it in the most dehumanized manner.
Class struggle is inevitably accompanied by the division of society into classes. In every class society, the owners of the means of production had been locked in battles with the owners of labour-power. The slave system gave way to the feudal system and the feudal system to capitalism. In these transformations the form of property, specific to a system, changed but private property remained. The class struggle which is now raging against capitalism in various countries of the world is not a struggle for changing the existing capitalist form of property; it is a struggle for the total abolition of private property and ownership of the means of production, for an equitable and democratic social distribution of the products of labour.
Capitalism does not only keep the society divided into classes on the basis of private ownership of property, it organizes both the antagonistic classes to an extent unknown in history. These two classes face each other in a final struggle for the abolition of classes, because capital is the highest form of property and it cannot be replaced by any other. The most critical inner contradiction of capitalism--social production and private appropriation--cannot be solved or resolved within the framework of the capitalist system. This contradiction can be resolved only by the abolition of the system itself, by establishing public ownership of property, ownership over the means of production. Historically socialism is a form of society which emerges after the demise of capitalism and creates conditions for the total abolition of private property in general.
This gives class struggle under capitalism a new dimension, a dimension totally different from the previous historical class struggles. The new class struggle is not a struggle for changing the existing form of private property and property relations, but for the total abolition of private property and private appropriation of the produce of social labour. It is therefore, no matter of surprise that class struggle under capitalism, the struggle between capital and wage-labour is the fiercest of all struggles in the history of mankind. In this struggle the property-owning classes put up the strongest resistance to opposing forces and resort to the most violent repression against them. This is what we are witnessing today in various parts of the world, in an uneven degree, from the under-developed countries of Asia , Africa and Latin America to the highly developed countries of Europe and elsewhere and in the United States of America .
Lenin characterized imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism. In the contemporary world, the rule of imperialism, in one form or another, has been established all over the world. A struggle against this rule is a fact of present-day history and in the final analysis this struggle is a struggle against the rule of capital.
This is what we are witnessing now in the ‘ Occupy Wall Street ' movement in the US , a movement which is spreading in Europe and in other parts of the world. With the central slogan ‘Down with capitalism' this movement is historically and unmistakably related to what is now being called the Arab spring. The Arab spring is a movement against national tyrants, fascists who are the clients of US and other imperialists. Imperialists exploit and oppress not only the peoples of other countries but their own people as well. This now finds clear expressions in the slogans of ‘Occupy Wall Street' protestors- ‘We are the 99%' and ‘Finish capitalism.'
President George Bush's declaration of the ‘new world order' was nothing but the declaration of an unrestrained imperialist war against the have-nots of the world, and it included the 99% of the United States itself. It was a declaration of renewed globalization of the rule of capital which began as early as the 19 th century. Cecil Rhodes, a leader of British finance, said in 1895, “The Empire as I have always said is a bread and butter question. If you want to avoid civil war, you have to become imperialists.” On this Lenin wrote in his book on imperialism, “The receipt of high monopoly profits by the capitalists in one of the numerous branches of industry, in one of the numerous countries, etc., makes it economically possible for them to bribe certain sections of the workers, and for a time a fairly considerable minority of them, and win them to the side of the bourgeoisie of a given industry or given nation against all the others. … And so there is created that bond between imperialism and opportunism, which revealed itself first and most clearly in England .” (Lenin, Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism, SW, Vol. I, part 2, p. 565)
This continued for about a hundred years, in all imperialist countries through most the 20 th century, though it began to change during its later period. In this respect the situation in the United States , the greatest and the most powerful of all imperialist countries, changed rapidly. They began to close down factories, forcing workers out of employment and reducing their wages in order to maintain and increase profit. The wages of imperialist countries are still much higher than the wages of the backward and under-developed countries. But now for maintaining their profit the imperialists are physically transferring their factories to under-developed countries where wages are incomparably cheaper, thus forcing their own workers out of employment. This is happening continuously and on an increasingly higher scale. This undoubtedly is the social and material base of the ‘ Occupy Wall Street ' movement and cries of ‘We are the 99%' and ‘Finish capitalism.'
The imperialists had so far avoided civil war, as apprehended by Cecil Rhodes, by surrendering part of their monopoly profit earned abroad in their colonies and neo-colonies. But the conditions for ‘civil war' are now being created by the imperialists themselves in their own countries.
This ‘civil war' is nothing but class struggle in its highest form, it is a war waged by the working people against the rule of capital, for the final overthrow of capitalism. Class struggles have taken place for centuries against ruling classes and the colonial powers and the targets of these class struggles had remained varied. Full scale globalization has now very greatly and even fundamentally, changed the situation. Of all the imperialist powers, the United States of America as emerged as the most powerful and its network is now spread over hundreds of countries covering all the continents. Thus, as an imperialist country, the US has monopolized financial and military powers to a degree hitherto unknown in history. In this process the US has emerged not only as the greatest of imperial powers, but as the principal target of class struggles and national liberation movements of the peoples of the whole world encompassing the six continents.
A great majority of national governments of the world are clients of the United States . These clients have their regional associations and blocks like Arab League, the African Union, the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) etc. ostensibly to develop regional cooperation and promote regional interests. Remaining subservient to US imperialism they practically achieve nothing or little in protecting and promoting the interests of their own peoples. They, on the other hand, work as tools of the US in promoting and protecting their trade and financial interests and act as their undeclared military partners in their respective regions. The most glaring example of this is the Arab League. In recent months the Arab League has acted as an open handmaid of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in destroying the Gaddafi regime in Libya and is presently engaged in destabilizing Syria . In South and South-East Asia the US is trying to organize an anti-Chinese block though conflicting interests and regional rivalries are thwarting such attempts. But whatever is the success or failure of the regional governments and regimes, they uniformly act as the enemies of the working peoples. As such the ruling classes of these countries are the targets of people's struggles. Since all these belong to the network of US imperialism and are propped up by it, any struggle against the ruling classes of these countries is unmistakably a struggle against US imperialism. As such hitting these ruling classes amounts to hitting US imperialism, weakening these ruling classes is weakening US imperialism.
The ruling classes of the most backward and underdeveloped countries of the world cannot sustain themselves as ruling classes without the economic and military assistance and help of the US and their imperialist alliance. If the US fails to come to the aid and help of these countries at the height of class struggle against them, they are bound to collapse and surrender power to the parties and organizations of the working peoples. It means that the weakening and collapse of the United States as the foremost imperial power is a pre-condition of the success of people's movements and revolutions in countries around the world.
In this perspective the ‘ Occupy Wall Street ' movement in the US and its extension to Europe is extremely important and significant. It means that now the principal target of class struggles and revolutions of the peoples of the exploited and oppressed nations of the world is now itself being attacked from within. It is being hit by forces which the most powerful imperialist country in the world has created within its own system. This means that modern day capitalism is no longer able to avoid ‘civil war' through its imperialist policy. On the other hand, their imperialist policy is resulting in the impoverishment of their own peoples. The ‘ Occupy Wall Street ' movement's slogan ‘We are the 99%' does not have any other meaning.
‘Occupy Wall Street' movement at its present stage, is amorphous. It is not led and directed by any political party. As such its spontaneous character is obvious. But without a social base there cannot be any spontaneous movement. The present movement is no exception. Unemployment, retrenchment, wage cut and depreciation of real wages, impoverishment etc. are now unleashing social forces which constitute the base of the ‘Occupy Wall Street' movement. This is a fact, but it cannot remain like this for an indefinite period. Since a social base has been created for this movement and this base is going to be enlarged and strengthened, it is bound to get more organized and be directed by political forces.
The ‘Occupy Wall Street' movement has raised the cry ‘Finish capitalism.' But before them there is no well-defined alternative. But the historical alternative is there. The capitalists, their cohorts and lackeys may try to throw away socialism with a pitchfork, but it will keep coming back. Socialism has no nationality. It is the historical successor of capitalism as a system. So, the ‘Finish capitalism' slogan has only one meaning: victory for socialism. The ‘Occupy Wall Street' movement has now inaugurated an anti-capitalist movement which will inevitably lead to its historical alternative.
Badruddin Umar , Bangladeshi Marxist politician and historian.
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