The 20th century saw the failure of command communism. The 21st century has become the failure of global capitalism.
The fatal flaw of capitalism everywhere is its unending greed and waste, it’s strategic policies that foster the privilege of the super-rich and enforce the inequities that plague our world.
Still led by the United States, which has largely abandoned one of its more profound tenets — the need for checks and balances to reign in excesses — capitalism today
has become a train wreck. Corporate capitalism, driven by greed, viewed the rising Chinese oligarchy as a convenient partner for the super-exploitation of millions of cheap labor Chinese workers. Likewise pirate capitalism in Russia was a great place for greedy entrepreneurs to expand their investments.
Meanwhile, in the west, millions of manufacturing workers lost their jobs and the west hobbled along with a service economy despite the IT bubble. The quality of products is less and less important and the survival of companies became less important than selling debts, taking CEO bailouts and running away.
The insanity of shipping the bulk of the worlds production of goods from China finally became painfully clear with the help of a world pandemic.
Today a handful of capitalists control the lion’s share of the world’s wealth while containers sit clogged off the shores everywhere. Just think, capitalists used to sneer at communists who were unable to provide consumer goods to their people in Russia and elsewhere.
Perhaps most drastic of all, short-term fossil fuel profit remains more important than the survival of humanity as corporations use every stall tactic possible to slow the use of renewable energy.
Capitalism continues to produce endless junk, burning through the world’s resources.
An absurd example is Kazakhstan where crypto currency investment is so great it is seriously endangering the countries electric grid system as recently reported by the BBC.
Right wing extremism and anti-science ignorance are fueling nationalist movements while denying climate change. Fearing the loss of “white” privilege in an ever more diverse and egalitarian world, with economies in turmoil, and extreme weather events pounding our world and compounding a serious extinction event, people are afraid for their future.
Of course, the easy answer is to blame immigrants and poor and foreigners.
How ironic that the corporate world whines about a lack of workers while thousands of Haitian and Central Americans clamor at our borders for a better life, and thousands of African, Middle East and Ukrainian victims of wars fueled by the wealthy countries seek refuge in Europe.
Every form of government and ideology are only as good as the people who create and run them. Throughout history it has often been the baggage that each generation carries that has undermined the social revolutions that struggled for change.
The dreams of serfs and free workers in the new world created their own mythology of
American exceptionalism and democracy but were marred by the slaughter of the original nations of the Americas and the foundation of the United States was heavily weighted on the wealth of slavery.
The rise of capitalism in the 19th century brought incredible changes for humanity, but it also came at an extremely high cost for the world’s people. Climbing on the back of world colonial empires and particularly slavery, the rising empires of the 20th century accumulated tremendous wealth and conquered numerous countries while polluting and burning up the resources of the earth at a staggering rate.
Simultaneously with capitalism’s rise, in the latter half of the 19th century, the dreams of many poor became embodied in the ideals of socialism and the beginnings of new egalitarianism which took many years to begin including women, Black people as well as other oppressed groups.
In the early 20th century, multiple revolutions attempted to free workers and farmers from the horrors of robber barons, colonial oppression and inter capitalist wars like WWI that cost millions of lives.
The most successful of these was the Russian revolution which created a worker-led state. It quickly became a bureaucratic war communism that relied on an oligarchy
of technocrats, eventually collapsing from its own internal corruption. Since its inception the Soviet Union was also endlessly dogged by the capitalist world in its efforts to sabotage the first worker state.
In 1936 the western capitalist countries practiced appeasement and cynically allowed fascism to destroy the Spanish republic, paving the way for the horrors of WWII. The greed of German capitalism turned on the west and east to feed its hunger for world domination, occupying several nations. Europe and especially to their credit the Russian people took on the greatest burden of that war aided by partisans all over and eventually the United States near the end of 1942 though the U.S. was already fighting a year earlier against Japan.
Despite their weaknesses, Russia and later China became world economic and military powers in the 2nd half of the 20th century after the defeat of fascist capitalism. Today both countries have become corrupt capitalist oligarchies themselves, wrapped in pseudo-socialist rhetoric promoting a new form of nationalism.
The stresses of climate change, a world pandemic and shrinking resources threaten to drive the powerful empires of the world into ever more conflict. Today we are watching this unfold in Putin’s Russian dreams of a new empire underscored by its war against Ukraine.
Russia must remove its troops from all of Ukraine. We must resist the tide of extreme nationalism everywhere, including within our own country.
If humanity is to survive all this, we must stop this war. We must learn the humility to recognizethe flaws in our systems, our inflated egos, stop white-washing our past historical travesties, and stop the incredible waste of natural and human resources.
We must put the health and love for our planet first, and return to the centrality of checks and balances in all forms of government.
Frank Panzarella is a community activist in New Haven.