We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Friday, September 18, 2015

Why the U.S. Press is Afraid of Marx (and Jeremy Corbyn)

Click here to access article by Conor Lynch from CounterPunch.

The best contribution that this article makes to our understanding of our world is its exposé of capitalist media coverage of the rise of Jeremy Corbyn in British politics. I think he also mixes some distortion into history by his review of history which suggests that capitalism went from 1) extreme inequality to 2) some kind of equality and is now returning to extreme inequality. This interpretation, which I find very common among today's liberals and some leftists, is false; and I believe is rooted in a strictly middle class perspective. 
The mixed economy policies of the mid-twentieth century limited the excesses of capitalism that Marx had identified — the economy was more stable, while the middle class grew extensively. Along with the political shift, however, capital has become too strong and mobile, and our global economy has very much returned to capitalism of old — more or less a new global gilded age.

So it seems that the thought of Karl Marx has returned, and “Karl Marx admirers” are entering the mainstream — but is this really such a surprise (or a bad thing)? The problems of capitalism that he wrote so extensively about have returned, and capital is stronger than before.
Although he doesn't make this interpretation explicit, he only looks at the fortunes of the middle class when he describes his historical perspective. (I always feel the need to define "middle class" because like many other political terms such as "liberal", the terms have been obscured and/or modified by the ruling capitalist class. The middle class are those who serve in the capitalist system as its managers, highly skilled technical people, and other highly paid professionals who are employed to make their system work.) 

Thus the middle class was threatened by the collapse of the capitalist economy in the 1930s, but was sustained by the social welfare policies of the F. Roosevelt administration and Keynesian policies in general until WWII. The war which really rescued capitalism by promoting so much economic activity in weapons industries and the subsequent destruction of so much capital in the world, capitalist economies led by the US reaped a bonanza by replacing this lost capital with new capital, and after that by the development of new technologies which created new products for consumption. 

However this bonanza was only secured for the capitalist classes which they shared a little with their indispensable middle classes. The concentration of wealth and the dramatic development of technology (think automation, information technology, etc), especially in the US-led Empire under the neoliberal stage of capitalism, have all led to the decline of middle class occupations. This is also reflected in the accelerating costs of an advanced education which is required to turn out highly skilled people-they don't need nearly as many. Because the middle class are now being threatened by this concentration of wealth and capitalist ownership of these technologies, they are only now recognizing the existence of inequality and writing about it.