Unless my ears decieved me… I think I actually heard the word ‘Capitalism’ on BBC’s Newsnight tonight.
Not only that, but I swear I also heard the words ‘Marx’ and ‘Debate’ in the same sentence!
I think I may have even heard the Prime Minister himself use the ‘C’ word…
This is exciting because even when the whole capitalist system came to a blunt collapse in 2008, there was no mention of ‘capitalism’ anywhere; simply referring to the ‘economy’ or ‘finance’ instead of ‘that hegemonic ideological system that overarches are entire lives’.
Indeed, we have until this point taken it for granted that the economy, society, God – even the world – is capitalist.
Its everything and therefore we dont need to consider it. We dont need to talk about it because we take it as a given.
But what has been opened up by the recent anti-capitalism in the West – most prominently in the Occupy Movement – is the ability to actually refer to ‘capitalism’ again and open up a debate on neoliberalism.
Gather round and I’ll tell you a tale…
“Let me tell you a wonderful old joke from communist times. A guy was sent from East Germany to work in Siberia, he knew his mail would be read by censors, so he told his friends: “lets establish a code, if a letter you get from me is written in blue ink, it is true what I say. If it is written in red ink, it is false.” After a month his friends get the first letter…
– Slavoj Zizek speaking at Occupy Wall Street, 2011
Everything is in blue. It says: “Everything is wonderful here. Stores are full of good food. Movie theatres show good films from the west. Apartments are large and luxurious. The only thing you cannot buy is red ink” This is how we live. We have all the freedoms we want. But what we are missing is red ink: the language to articulate our non-freedom.”
Unfortunately, that always impartial BBC did not exactly conduct a balanced debate, simply consisting of Paxman, a right-wing journalist and a CEO laying into a centre-left Labour MP who dithered about the Welfare State. Indeed, why a Marxist wasn’t in the room for a debate on Marxism is very strange.
But at least we have the red ink.
The right wingers recycle the old criticisms of course:
“Oh, well I know capitalism is not perfect… but what’s your alternative!?”
“What you are forgetting is, the tax on profit is benefiting all of society.”
“But capitalism reflects the natural selfishness of human nature”
“If you are not pro-capitalism… then you must be PRO-STALINIST DEATH CAMPS!”
I love the logic behind these arguments.
It seems to suggest that: yes, capitalism is failing, exploitation is rife, profits are unnecessarily sky-high… but we cant talk about changing it… we shouldn’t bother talking about an alternative… because THIS IS AS GOOD AS IT GETS!
The question is, do we need an alternative to want to move beyond capitalism? Are humans naturally selfish or does capitalism encourage them to be selfish? Does the fear of the twisted communism in the 20th Century mean that we couldn’t learn from those mistakes? Remember, Marx was actually pro-capitalist… he just thought we could improve on it.
You need to ask yourself: “Is this the height of human achievement? This hollow, narcissistic, consumption-driven society?”
Because personally, I’m not buying it…