Confessions of a Marxist
Socialist Club founder and Communist Malachi Dray elaborates his views
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(The views expressed below are solely the opinion of Malachi Dray and do not represent the views of the Howler. As a forum for free expression The Howler strives to represent diverse student opinions.)
It is clear to any eye that we live in a broken world, where oppression rejoices and mercy struggles to keep pace. The problems of our planet are so tremendous and so heartbreaking that we choose to either ignore them or to break down in cold cynicism. Some fight the problems that we face, donating their time or money for righteous causes, but every year brings only meager gains and new, daunting problems we fear to even recognize. It is easy, in such a world, to give in and imagine a future of bleak suffering for those who will come after us.
That future is not for us, not for our Earth! That future is the consequence of apathy and fear of change, both of which our species cannot afford to maintain any longer. Instead, a bright new age for humanity may be begun, must be begun, in which we address the roots and the symptoms of the ailments that society suffers. The root today of these ailments, in a word, is capitalism, and the exploitive power structure that it establishes, maintains, and expands. Socialism is the comprehensive medicine for man’s worries, and in Communism a perfect world can be found.
The use of these particular terms is sure to incite distrust and an instinctive fear within many Americans, which was intentionally instilled over decades during the Cold War in an attempt to keep people from questioning the validity of the system they lived in, and to keep them united in hatred against the system which would liberate them from its confines. It is important to note here that Soviet-style communism is not the system which will bring prosperity or freedom to mankind, and the development of Russian communism and the offshoots that came from it was an unfortunate error in history, which does not reflect the authentic socialist model.
While many are distrustful of socialism (often without understanding in the slightest what the word actually means), it is necessary for people to overcome their suspicions and see that socialism is a means for the liberation of all people, and can effectively treat many of the issues of the world today. Socialism is a socio-economic philosophy, based on the collective ownership and democratic management of economic structures. When we think of democracy, we think of the people deciding together how the government will function; socialism is merely the application of democracy into economic matters, with the people choosing how and why goods will be produced and distributed. That means that in a socialist country the working people will profit fairly from their labor, instead of having someone profit off of their labor simply because they were wealthier to begin
First it is important to understand the practical implications of the current system of economic organization, capitalism. As it is, products are made for profit, and so they are unnecessarily expensive. In a fair exchange, a consumer would pay the amount it costs to produce a product, labor included, and then would receive that product in turn. However, under capitalism a consumer is robbed of the margin of profit, and the exchange is uneven. It always favors the wealthy class of producers.
On the weekends we are exploited as consumers, because we lack the resources to produce our own goods, and during the weekday we are exploited as laborers. The only reason businesses hire is because they intend to profit off of their employees’ labor. Employees are more valuable than the wages they receive, and it is our right to claim the fruits of our labor. The surplus that is pocketed from our hours working is used to expand upon the wealth of the upper crust, giving them more power to dominate the rest of society. By working for wages, working people dig themselves deeper into powerlessness, when we are in fact the root of all power.
The issue of production for profit creates a great many additional problems in our world, such as hunger when there are excessive food reserves, sickness when medical supplies are cheap to produce, weariness when labor could be spread out among more workers, conflict when weapons sales make warmongers rich, and slavery when profit has absolute sway over humanity. In all of these cases, the desire of the rich to profit puts the righteous alternative of mutual cooperation out of consideration. One in five children in the U.S. live in food insecure households, but because of capitalism they go unfed while roughly half of food is thrown away. If the profit motive were discarded as the barbaric relic of cruel ages past that it is, hunger would instantly be no more, simple as that.
It is also important to note the destructive and unsustainable impact of capitalism upon the environment. The endless crusade for growth and development means the tapping of new lands for increasingly scarce resources. Oil, shale, and rare earth metals (used in electronics) are finite resources and we live under a system that demands infinite growth over time. It is the simple logical conclusion that capitalism, as a model that depends upon indefinite expansion, cannot coexist with an environment that is limited in its output capacity. Regardless, capitalists continue to praise the vague benevolence of ‘growth’, as if stability were the hallmark of a dying society. Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.
Capitalists will go to great ends to exploit Earth’s resources as long as we permit them too, at unfathomable ecological cost. Our modern economy and our ancient planet both will be devastated by the oil crisis that is impending, while capitalists make off like bandits.
The arts also suffer from the anachronism that is capitalism. At the movies, on the top-hits charts, we are bombarded with culture that is mass produced for profit alone. There is a formulaic model for producers who are profit-driven, and that is that the art that is most profitable is the best art. Any artist or critic will tell you that this is not true. Steven Spielberg, while not a Marxist revolutionary, predicts the implosion of the film industry: as blockbusters are produced in greater amounts and at larger budgets, there will inevitably come a time when supply simply outstrips demand and the industry collapses. George Lucas believes that the cost of going to the movies will skyrocket, even more than it has in the past few decades. “Going to the movies is gonna cost you $50, maybe $100, maybe $150,” he soberingly declares. But the rising prices are not the clearest symptom of the degeneration of culture caused by capitalism. That would be Transformers 3.
If, as under an uncensored socialistic system, art were produced and evaluated by its content alone, then the arts would flourish to a standard unknown today. No longer would producers and marketers determine what art is to be consumed en masse, which they have done so poorly for so long. For the sake of music, film, theater, and all the arts, capitalism must be abolished.
While we live in a democracy, its functionings are hardly democratic because of the influence of private wealth. It is hard to believe that the public is fairly represented in a Congress where over half the members are millionaires when only 1% of Americans fit that description. Political mechanisms are dominated by the vast pools of wealth that can only be mustered by private, capitalistic interests. The Democratic and Republican parties have the resources to run for election because they pass legislation that is favorable to business interests. These industries scratch their representatives’ backs with posh campaign contributions, and the unholy alliance between state and wealth is perpetuated for another election cycle. It is a little-known fact that the Commission on Presidential Debates, which produces the debates we watch on television every four years, is jointly owned by the Democratic and Republican parties. If these two factions are so vehemently opposed to each other, it is a miracle that they can team up on the common ground of excluding alternative perspectives from the national stage. No, it is no miracle. There are no two parties. There is one party: The Business Party.
Wars both then and now can be blamed, to varying extents, on capitalism. After the First World War, the congressional Nye Committee investigated the role of finance and munitions industry agents in drawing the United States into the war. The connections they uncovered between the merchants of death were infuriating to the public, as our boys had died to enrich banker scoundrels who had begged President Woodrow Wilson to enter the war. And it is easy to forget the German boys, the French boys, the Russian boys, the English boys, who all paid the ultimate sacrifice for a system that worships the right of the few to dominate our society, our politics, our economy, our lives. While they were choking on nerve gas, the industrialists who produced it made a pretty penny, and this cannot be forgotten.
Vladimir Lenin, while a ruthless man who failed to understand basic Marxist concepts in his foundation of the Soviet Union, accurately assessed the causes of the First World War in his work Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism. In it he argued that when a national economy has exhausted its ability to grow internally and has achieved production levels that surpass the demands of the citizenry and the nation’s reserves of resources, it must expand, by means of force, into foreign markets. The inevitable consequence of this is strife and bloodshed. The 19th century Opium Wars, fought by European nations for the right to import opium (which they had banned internally) to China, are an excellent example of this. And it is doubtless more controversial to assert that the Iraq War also proves Lenin’s thesis, but is is unreasonable to question a war which was manufactured in part by a man who stood to profit greatly from it? A man who, immediately prior to holding the vice presidency, was CEO of Halliburton, the oilfield services contractor which received billions of dollars in no-bid contracts from the government during the war? That man is Dick Cheney, and that war was a farce. This is no conspiracy; this is the awful end of 4,486 American soldiers and some 100,000 Iraqi civilians. Blood and oil run through Bagdhad, and one of those was spilt for the other.
The intent of this article is not to cynically depict a hopeless world run by an detestable system in which a doomed species suffers and fails. It is meant to propose, just maybe, that there is a better way, a better world, a better age to come. To those who deny that Earth could be salvaged, who believe us to already inhabit the best of all possible worlds, lend a scrap of your heart to hope. It is a simplification to say that socialism will do away with all earthly ills, but it is plain as day that it addresses the overarching cause of the multitude of humanity’s troubles. Socialism aligns with the traditional Christian tendency in America; Acts 4:32-35 depict almost to the letter a communist community amongst the apostles, and Jesus’ Cleansing of the Temple was a striking example of revolutionary activism against the capitalists of His day. The document that gave birth to the nation declared so radically that all men are created equal, and it is our American destiny to see those words brought to life.
There is no uniform theory of how socialism is supposed to come about, and that is entirely acceptable. Karl Marx’s greatest accomplishment was not in depicting a communist world, a subject to which he devoted little time, but rather to critiquing the capitalist world as it exists. However, what he did have to say was inspiring to say the least. “In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all,” he declared alongside Friedrich Engels in 1848. This alone is enough foundation for the creation of a new model for humanity. The abolition of class and private property and its replacement with a world in which humans are evaluated based on their accomplishments, their moral character, their work, is wholly desirable. And that transformation is not so unrealistic. If every socialist made one socialist a year for five years, the people would be unstoppable and Earth would lose forever the systemic curse that is capitalism, with its war profiteering, hoarding, exploiting, dividing, conniving, corrupting, ensnaring, and merciless aspects abolished as well.
There is just one question remaining: do we wish to stay the course we’re on, with its unspeakable injustices and indignations? Or do we wish to resist, to agitate, to discuss, to debate, to explore and theorize, to condemn and create, unite and evolve? That, in the end, must be left to you.