A couple of weeks ago the front page of London Student carried a quote from a SOAS student, Clare Solomon, saying “We’re going to be having a fancy-dress, all night ‘Dance on the grave of Capitalism’ protest outside Lehman Brothers on October 31st”.
Sadly the party spirit demonstrated by Ms Solomon and her comrades in the Socialist Worker Student Society is unlikely to be shared by the 164,000 people who lost their jobs in the three months to October. I was made redundant in August as a result of the credit crunch so I hope Ms Solomon will forgive me for missing the party.
The sound of champagne corks popping on the political left as people lose their jobs and homes should come as no surprise. We are, after all, finally in the midst of the ‘final crisis of capitalism’ which Marxists the world over have been waiting for since 1848.
In that time Capitalism has had plenty of final crises and survived them all. The depression of the 1870’s was followed by the Great Depression of the 1930’s and the economic turmoil of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
Communism, on the other hand, when faced with its crisis, utterly collapsed in the late 1980s. The USSR and its empire evaporated. The Chinese, who once sacrificed more than 30 million on the altar of communism, ditched it as an economic system and their economy has boomed. Outside of SOAS it is now taken seriously only in Cuba and North Korea, respectively a police state and the world’s largest concentration camp. It is communism, not capitalism, that rests with Tsarist Russia in Trotsky’s famous dustbin.
The ‘Workers Paradises’ so bloodily created by the likes of Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Guevara, Pol Pot and Mengistu, oppressed and murdered millions. In Berlin a wall had to be built around the Workers Paradise to keep them from scarpering en masse to the capitalist west.
Quaint views like Ms Solomon’s are getting a more mainstream airing in these chaotic times. On Radio Four’s Today Program on October 20th, Professor Eric Hobsbawm, historian, Marxist and President of Birkbeck College, expressed his “schadenfreude” at having his Cassandra like warnings about the evils of capitalism proved right after all these years.
But should we take it seriously? Its worth bearing in mind that Professor Hobsbawm spent most of his adult life as a leading apologist for communism, an ideology which left millions dead from Cambodia to the Czech Republic in the course of its decades long, failed experiment.
The Marxists who are currently crowing about capitalisms woes can be forgiven. Like a cult of UFO enthusiasts, this has been a long time coming for them and to quote ‘Withnail & I’, “a stopped clock is right twice a day”. But given its history of resilience and reinvention compared to socialisms miserable failure, capitalism could respond as Mark Twain did; “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”
(Printed in London Student, vol 29 issue 5 , 17/11/08)