A Dog-Eat-Dog System

There are winners and losers, an old, bearded, 19th Century economist told us once. That’s the way the system works.

Capitalists have been chewing each other up since the Industrial Revolution, said Karl Marx, world famous analyst of “the system”, and the battle of mergers and acquisitions still goes on. Dog eat dog. There are always a few good men left at the table; but winners grow increasingly fewer and richer. There are now 946 billionaires in the world, according to Forbes, and 371 of them are in the United States with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett topping the list with $56 billion and $52 billion respectively. So, we wind up with a few winners, a lot of losers, and a plethora of monopolies and oligopolies.

You can see it everywhere in our economy, today. In the main stream media, five or six oligopolies control just about everything we read, see, hear and think. Multi-national corporations own most of the means of production, distribution and retail trade. The concentration of capital displaced the handworker and the crafts-worker. Hitching the computer to the assembly line, called cybernation, has further exploded production. Independent producers have been eliminated by cybernetic competition. Mom and Pop operations have gotten lost in the shuffle.

Capitalism reverses the law of gravity, with money flowing up instead of down. As the rich become richer, the poor have children. With the explosion in technology, productivity of labor is going through the roof. But the purchasing power of the laborer is falling through the floor. We can’t keep that up for long. When workers can’t afford to buy the things they make and their jobs are siphoned out of the country “with a giant sucking sound” as one former sage put it, the economy goes flatter than a bad soufflé. The last time it happened we had a sudden deflation and a persistent depression we could barely crawl out of even with the stimulus of World War II.

Our economic system is under stress, again. We can’t seem to keep it afloat without massive production of military hardware. That could be one reason George Bush tries to keep us in a state of perpetual war. Our military budget has reached $532 billion for 2007; with another half trillion for the cost of the Afghanistan and Iraq War. (Not to mention the human costs.) Why? It isn’t producing better schools or improving infrastructure or providing social services for the people who need it in this country. The Bush Administration claims to be exporting democracy while killing it here.

The Rovian brainchild, the “war on terror”, was devised to keep us shadow-boxing with fear. Even though that concept is finally running out of steam, there is no “loyal opposition” in this country to drive a stake through its heart. (Where is a vampiric Democratic Party, now that we really need one?)

Let’s get back to basics. Why is Marxist economics never, or almost never, mentioned or discussed in the mainstream media? Absolut Verboten! You won’t be brainwashed into becoming an ideologue if you examine it, but you might get an idea or two that makes sense to you.

One of the reasons for our backwardness may be explained by the failure of our labor movement (when we had one) to become politicized. The closest we came was the emergence of John L. Lewis and the organization of the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) and the sit-down strikes of 1936 and 1937. Still, the orientation of the labor movement was stuck in economic issues, (hours, wages, benefits) and they left the politics to the Democratic Party where they thought they had a front row seat under the big tent. Too bad. Seats are easy to lose, as the workers of America found out.

We never had a real political Labor Party in this country, fighting for the rights of labor, minorities and the common people, as there are in many of the other industrialized democracies in the world. Several attempts were made in earlier days; the Farmer Labor Party and the Progressive Party in the time of Robert La Follette and Gene Debs. But they never got off the ground. The country was too new. It was too full of rugged individualists and a few robber barons.

Still, Capitalism had its day. It promoted the greatest economic development in human history; the upper, middle and skilled working class enjoyed most of its benefits, still a minority of the population. It left masses of people out in the cold.

So where is the class struggle? Don’t look, it’s there. We’re not talking about social classes now. Just for the hell of it, let’s call them the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Oh, so you don’t think they exist? Well, now …

Are you a member of the proletariat and earn your livelihood by selling your labor power and being paid a wage or salary for your labor time? Or are you a member of the bourgeoisie and get your income, not from your labor, but from the labor appropriated from the workers who created the wealth in the form of surplus value? The income of capitalists, in the form of profits, is based on their exploitation of the workers. And that’s a fact.

Not all class struggle is violent or necessarily radical. The strike is the classic form of class struggle by workers in a union. It may also be expressed on a larger scale by support of political causes and the fight for a Labor Party. Some form of Socialist government may be its ultimate goal.

On the employers’ side, union-busting and lobbying for anti-union laws are their main forms of carrying on the class struggle. Not all class struggle is a threat to capitalism or even to the authority of an individual capitalist.

You want a revolution? Well, you’re going to have to first let Capitalism dig its own grave. A little understood thesis of Marx is that Socialist revolution doesn’t come from the outside. It only happens when the system in power can no longer fulfill the needs of the masses. It’s in the process of digging the hole now.

We may not have too long to wait.

STEPHEN FLEISCHMAN, television writer-director-producer, spent thirty years in Network News at CBS and ABC, starting in 1953. In 1959, he participated in the formation of the renowned Murrow-Friendly “CBS Reports” series. In 1983, Fleischman won the prestigious Columbia University-DuPont Television Journalism Award. In 2004, he wrote his memoir. See: http://www.ARedintheHouse.com/, E-mail: stevefl@ca.rr.com


STEPHEN FLEISCHMAN, writer-producer-director of documentaries, spent thirty years in Network News at CBS and ABC. His memoir is now in print. See www.amahchewahwah.com, e-mail stevefl@ca.rr.com