1-The ruling class has spent so much effort towards demonizing socialism and communism for a reason: an uprising against capitalism is not a paranoid vision from Fox News pundits, but a realistic scenario that’s happened in many past capitalist societies. The Russian revolution of 1917 gave the capitalist class good reason to instigate the Red Scare, and the next defeats of capitalism in Cuba, North Vietnam, and other countries have since continued to legitimize the elites’ fears of such an overthrow happening in America. Despite the right’s absurd efforts to characterize the Democratic Party as socialist, capitalists and their propagandists attack socialism so much because they have reason to fear a socialist revolution. An end to capitalism is what scares the ruling class the most.
2-The prospect of the end of capitalism scares the rich so much because this is the only scenario where they won’t be able to foreseeably recover their dominance over society. When inequality has been lessened by reforms to capitalism-like during the American New Deal, or during the creation of the capitalist Scandanavian welfare states-the rich have been able to remain the dominating class, and then eventually undo the reforms that were made. The New Deal was the most ambitious attempt to “fix” capitalism in history. But by the late 1970’s, the propagators of neoliberalism began to reverse these policies, creating our current situation of extreme economic inequality and corporate oligarchy.
The same has been the case for the Scandinavian countries, wherein the welfare state has been rolled back, neoliberalism has taken hold, and inequality has risen in recent decades. Capitalism always gives the rich the ability to undo pro-worker reforms. If capitalism were taken out of the equation, this fall into plutocracy wouldn’t happen.
3-Capitalism lets the rich have this despotic control because capitalism is built on inequality. Letting the means of production be owned by a small group of business elites inevitably makes those elites become paid vastly disproportionately to the labor that they actually do. Nobody accumulates a billion or a million dollars through their own work alone. The existence of an upper class is the result of mass theft against the lower classes, who produce the vast majority of society’s wealth. And because capitalism creates this disproportionately powerful class, capitalism always leads to the rich expanding their power.
4-Because of this fundamental illegitimacy of the capitalist class’ wealth, they use all possible rationalizations to justify how society is set up. At the core of the pro-capitalist argument is the claim that some amount of inequality is necessary, since we supposedly need wealthy people to create jobs and economic growth. But do we really need the rich in order to have a robust economy and workforce? And do we need “economic growth” as capitalism defines it? The truth is that a stable, prosperous society is entirely possible under socialism-in fact, it’s much more possible under socialism than it is under capitalism.
East Germany’s socialist economy was able to virtually eliminate poverty and maintain a strong workforce. Cuba has been socialist for more than half a century, and it’s an exceptionally sustainable state; it still shows no signs of heading for collapse, for the reason stated by the website Vassar Sustainability: “the country covers their present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” And the Soviet Union further proved how effective a socialist economy is. As Gloria La Riva of the Party for Socialism and Liberation points out in her defense of the Soviet economic model:
From being the least developed of the big European countries at the time of the revolution, 40 years later the Soviet Union was the second largest economy in the world, trailing only the U.S. It was the most rapid economic development ever, by any country. This despite the fact that after barely a decade of initial rapid development in the 1930s, two-thirds of the industry and much of the agriculture was destroyed by the Nazi invasion beginning in 1941. And contrary to what we see on the History Channel, it was the Soviet Union that bore the brunt of the Nazi war machine and destroyed it — but at a cost of 27 million killed. The U.S. death toll in WW II was about 400,000 — a huge toll itself but about 1.5 percent of the Soviet death toll.
Before the revolution, much of the population went through life without ever seeing a doctor. In 1966, a leading U.S. medical journal wrote that “life expectancy doubling in the last 50 years. …At present time, the Soviet Union graduates annually about as many physicians as there were in whole Russian Empire before the First World War. Of all the physicians in the world today, more than one in five is Soviet … while only 1 person in 14 in the world today is a Soviet citizen.” (Mark G. Fields, American Journal of Public Health, November 1966)
Cuba alone disproves the claim that socialism always fails. A look at the CIA coups and outside economic sabotage that’s characterized the fall of other socialist states shows that socialism doesn’t fail from its own merit. And our current world situation proves that capitalism, not socialism, is the system that’s threatening to end civilization as we know it.
5-“Growth” as capitalism defines it is a recipe for collapse. Capitalism is inherently unsustainable, because it demands endless expansion. Marx foresaw that “its own colossal productivity would bring capitalism to its knees, by making socialism followed by communism both materially possible and logically necessary.”
This claim about capitalism being fundamentally sustainable has been vindicated time and time again by world events, like the seven-year cycle of recessions that’s been going on in the United States since World War II. Even in relatively stable times, capitalism is engaged in a process of boom and bust, where many people routinely see their livelihoods uprooted for the benefit of the ruling elites. And when capitalism is especially unfettered, like it was before the Great Depression, it implodes on a global scale.
Right now, capitalism is experiencing a crisis that dwarfs all of its past ones. This crisis consists not just of the prospect of a coming new Great Depression that neoliberalism has created, but also of the ecological collapse that’s drastically reshaping our planet. The destabilization of the climate, the mass die-off of the insect population, and pollution crises like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the Flint water contamination are all consequences of capitalism. And until capitalism is replaced, humans will continue to destroy the planet that lets them live.
6-Capitalism reinforces the selfish and cruel mindsets that are tearing our world apart. Capitalism, especially in its modern neoliberal version, promotes a worldview of greed and ruthlessness. The poor are blamed for their poverty, the rich are seen as deserving of all of their wealth, and empathy and generosity are viewed as weaknesses. This lack of empathy infects both the rich and many of those in the lower classes; in many of the countries where neoliberalism has been imposed, people have lost their sense of solidarity with the poor or (more frequently) become hateful towards Muslims and immigrants.
This worldview is the only thing that can make capitalism feel morally justified. It gives the emperor clothes by making it seem like the oligarchs earned their wealth all on their own, and it justifies the daily cruelties against the people who’ve lost in the game of capitalism. When society is dominated by a philosophy that holds love and compassion in contempt, it becomes rotten; war and militarism are glorified, bigotry and hate are exacerbated, and the environment is seen as a commodity that’s separate from humans. The capitalist mindset is an anti-human mindset, and fascism is this mindset’s logical conclusion.
Both materially and spiritually, capitalism is a wound on humanity, pulling us into the apocalypse while clouding our collective judgment. In the 21st century, the fight against capitalism isn’t just a struggle between the workers and the rich. It’s a struggle between the selfish human impulses that threaten to make us self-destruct, and the hope that we’ll evolve into a species that can sustain itself.