Monday, March 28, 2011

Quote of the Day

. . . In our own time, as Marx predicted, inequalities of wealth have dramatically deepened. The income of a single Mexican billionaire today is equivalent to the earnings of the poorest 17 million of his compatriots. Capitalism has created more prosperity than history has ever witnessed, but the cost — not least in the near destitution of billions — has been astronomical. According to the World Bank, 2.74 billion people in 2001 lived on less than two dollars a day. We face a probable future of nuclear-armed states warring over a scarcity of resources; and that scarcity is largely the consequence of capitalism itself. Capitalism will behave anti-socially if it is profitable for it to do so, and that can now mean human devastation on an unimaginable scale. What used to be apocalyptic fantasy is today no more than sober realism. The traditional leftist slogan ‘‘Socialism or barbarism’’ was never more grimly apposite, never less of a mere rhetorical flourish.

. . . . It is not that the building of socialism cannot be begun in deprived conditions. It is rather that without material resources it will tend to twist into the monstrous caricature of socialism known as Stalinism. The Bolshevik revolution soon found itself besieged by imperial Western armies, as well as threatened by counterrevolution, urban famine, and a bloody civil war. With a narrow capitalist base, disastrously low levels of material production, scant traces of civil institutions, a decimated, exhausted working class, peasant revolts, and a swollen bureaucracy to rival the tsar’s, the revolution was in deep trouble almost from the outset. In the end, the Bolsheviks were to march their starving, despondent, war-weary people into modernity at the point of a gun.

Marx himself was a critic of rigid dogma, military terror, political suppression, and arbitrary state power. He believed that political representatives should be accountable to their electors, and castigated the German Social Democrats of his day for their statist politics. He insisted on free speech and civil liberties, was horrified by the forced creation of an urban proletariat (in his case in England rather than Russia), and held that common ownership in the countryside should be a voluntary rather than coercive process. Yet as one who recognized that socialism cannot thrive in poverty-stricken conditions, he would have understood perfectly how the Russian revolution came to be lost. . . .

– Terry Eagleton
"Was Marx Right? It's Not Too Late to Ask"
April 8, 2011

Recommended Off-site Link:
Capitalism's Dismal Future – Paul Mattick (The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 13, 2011).
The Left Needs More Socialism – Ronald Aronson (The Nation, April 1, 2006).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Capitalism on Trial
R.I.P. Neoclassical Economics
In a Blow to Democracy, U.S. Supreme Court Affirms Corporate Personhood
Obama a Socialist? Hardly
Playwright Tony Kushner on Being a Socialist
A Socialist Response to the Financial Crisis

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