One feature of the extreme Left is that they do seem to have an awful lot of different groups. If it’s not the People’s Front of Judea, it’s the Judea People’s Front. Well enough Python. What they all have in common is that they do seem to love a good march.
There have been numerous ‘anti-capitalist’ demonstrations. These started happening after the end of the Cold War, when capitalism finally triumphed over communism, as if the erection of the Berlin Wall fifty four years ago this month was not enough to demonstrate the clear superiority of the free market over the central plan.
As I have mentioned before, these ‘anti-capitalists’ are just communists who dare not speak their name for fear of the ridicule they would receive. If there is a sadder group in the Western world than a bunch of old self-proclaimed communists reminiscing over the supposed glory days at the barricades, I have yet to discover it.
But the fact remains that these neo-communist – let’s call them what they really are, dear reader – organisations still attract support in small numbers and their marches gain much more publicity than they actually deserve. They are provided with far too much media space to preach their misguided socialist religion. What is always missing is someone to demonstrate how badly wrong they are.
It may be that this is not necessary. These sad cultists expose themselves to ridicule by merely existing and sounding off. The success of capitalism is so resounding that such dissent is tolerable, even a healthy part of the self-correcting mechanism enjoyed by capitalism.
Communists always predict a crisis of capitalism that will vindicate the writings of their greatest prophet, Karl Marx. The collapse of the banking system was seen in this regard as the portent of a second coming of an incarnation of Lenin who would drive the supposedly starving masses to overthrow their rulers and create a new utopia out of the ruins. Unfortunately all we got was Russell Brand in far too tight jeans. Capitalism repaired itself, as it has successfully done several times in the past. Once the wheels came off communism, however, they stayed off. The Trabant had to be towed by the Free-market truck to the scrap-yard and replaced by a Volkswagen Golf.
But there still remains this gap in the edifice of capitalism where it is not celebrated for what it is and is simply blamed for all the woes of the world. But then piling blame on a hated group has been a historic practice for most of human civilisation so socialism is merely the latest incarnation of this cultism. Crop failures were blamed on witches who were hunted down without mercy. Scapegoats were literally goats whose demise could appease malevolent forces. People would be thrown into volcanoes to pacify angry gods. Blaming capitalism is just a modern version of this. Socialism is all about blaming ‘the other’ as an excuse for the failure of their ideology in practice.
Capitalism actually provides the greatest good for the greatest number. There is no better economic system for improving people’s lives. Within a strong framework of laws that protect property and life, that guarantees the validity of contracts freely and openly entered into and prevents the development of cartels, capitalism allows millions of people to cooperate in adding value and creating wealth for the common good.
However, there seems no way of celebrating this. While the arts can be used by the naysayers to portray lives supposedly ruined by heartless plutocrats or faceless corporations, there are few works dedicated to the triumph and success in the free market outside of business literature. Pictures of workers in heroic poses hewing chunks of coal or pouring molten iron from a blast furnace seems a bit communistic. And yet there is a romance to the quiet success of capitalism that transcends any story of passion at the barricades. We see it in our everyday lives, millions of us. But because it is so universal here in the West, we tend to ignore it.
There is a film produced in the early 1980s called Koyyanisqatsi. The word is a Hopi for ‘world out of balance’. It has no dialogue, there are no actors. Instead there is a series of strong images complimented by a powerful soundtrack by the minimalist composer Philip Glass.
( You can skip this bit if you choose. Here, I feel I have to digress to describe minimalism for the uninitiated. It is a modern musical movement favoured by serious composers who are still living. I say this because it does appear that most well-known composers are in the main dead and have been so for at least a century. Minimalism is not minimal music over a given time, with John Cage’s 4’33” being a prime example. Instead it is an intense, but highly harmonic repetitious tapestry of sound where the delight is in following the variations in the music as it progresses allowing the listener to understand the train of thought of the composer. Think of a Bach fugue with the logical progression is highly confined. In the case of Philip Glass, the composer in his early work explored the kind of arpeggios that could be mistakenly dismissed as highly-orchestrated five-finger exercises or the arpegiator function on a synthesiser. The most popular example of his work in the public domain would have to be the soundtrack to ‘The Truman Show’. Minimalism developed and caught the listening public’s imagination partly in reaction to the atonality that early 20th-century composers had started to employ in their works. Serial music was a particularly discordant offender, where the rule was that a note of the same pitch and duration could not be employed until every other note and duration had been played. Think of socialist egalitarianism on musical manuscript. The music of Pierre Boulez and Harrison Birtwistle seems designed to alienate the audience by imposing a music so discordant it could be used as the soundtrack to a horror film. Perhaps this was the intent, that the music should reflect the horrors of the 20th century. People had to be punished in the concert halls for allowing atrocities to happen while they enjoyed themselves in the crush bar. Minimalism is an acquired musical taste, not as accessible as classical music, but in my opinion is worth the effort.)
But back to the film. It is a collage of shots where the creator simply plonked his camera at a suitable vantage point in streets, factories and railway stations across the USA and simply let it run. He then took some of the the footage and speeded it up. The passage of people become blurs, a river of humanity flowing in different directions. He took his camera and put in a car and drive through the neon–lit streets at night. And again speeded it up.
It’s powerful, heady stuff. Look at all the people peacefully going about their lawful business, engaging in consensual economic relationships by the hundred, the thousand, the million, all this activity, all this trade. This megatribe, transcending borders, cultures, languages, and all other possible human differences functioning without the diktat of a party leader or chieftain, with millions of plans, some good, some bad instead of one central plan, working in cooperation with each other with the assured intent of improving the lives of each and every one. The drive the purpose, the energy, the power, all driven by that magnificent invention of money, the abstract, mutually consensual device that stores value and allows exchange, that, in the words of Jeremy Irons in the excellent film ‘Margin Call’ are ‘pieces of paper with pictures on so we don’t have to kill each other just to get something to eat’. The power of capitalism means we instead get to eat foods from around the world, instead of a diet of potatoes, cabbage and mutton on a good day.
There is a panel in the graphic novel ‘Watchmen’ where the superhuman Dr Manhattan is guiding his human former lover across the surface of Mars as they debate the future of mankind. He points to a desolate plain and asks her, ‘Would it be greatly improved with an oil pipeline?’ I have thought of this over the years and have come to the conclusion that the answer has to be ‘emphatically yes’. The pipeline would be carrying fuel to power some installation involved with extracting wealth from the Red Planet. Capitalism is about extracting raw materials and then shaping and forming it into something that meets unmet need and is of benefit. The anti-fracking protesters are just the usual neo-communists under yet another name. Let us extract wealth from the Earth so we may grow and continue to flourish.
Capitalism is the unifying force of mankind, far, far better than Marxism. It is capitalism that gave us the Internet, the communications tool that builds and enhances new commerce, new relationships, a communications technology that means we can work from home on our notebook computer – invented by capitalism – when the socialist trade unions put the railways out of action.
The pharmaceutical industry was created by the humanitarian instincts of capitalism. It has developed treatments for HIV/AIDS and inoculates against diseases and epidemics that in the past cut down millions of all ages. It is telling that while the USSR developed several unpleasant types of chemical warfare agents to kill millions, it did not create a single new medicine. At one stage genetics was seen as heretical and anti-Marxist. Perhaps Dialectic Materialism regarded humans as so equal as to be interchangeable and thus disposable.
Capitalism has walked on the moon in the name of mankind. Capitalism has sent probes to every single planet in the solar system.
It may not seem all that wonderful if you are standing in a crowded train stuck outside Clapham Junction. But it provides you with opportunity and choices of travel, for which there are different costs. You are able to change your economic relationships and get a job that does not require a daily commute on a train service in thrall to a socialist trade union. You do not need the permission of a party official to change job in a capitalist country.
Capitalism promotes peace. It takes a strong will to fight in capitalist countries as war is seen as waste of resources, the easiest way to destroy wealth. It takes a compelling casus belli for capitalist countries to make war.
How to celebrate capitalism? Keep calm and carry on. Work hard. Add value. Create wealth. Have an idea. Raise capital. Expose it to risk. Get a return. Make a profit. Capitalism. Capitalism. Capitalism. Non-stop.