One of Work Way readers is asking: “According to a popular opinion, capitalism always makes the society thrive. Though Buzgalin, an economist, says that only 20% of all capitalist countries live in prosperity, while the rest are miserable”.
Indeed, the bourgeois propaganda is trying to convince the labor, overtly and covertly, that capitalism makes the society thrive. Only the majority of former Soviet republics, even if they ever shared this opinion, having previously believed the bourgeoisie, didn’t do it for long. They shared it right until the point they experienced capitalism firsthand and had the chance to compare the newly arrived bourgeois paradise with the lost socialist past. Among Russian citizens there aren’t a lot of people who think that “capitalism makes the society thrive”. The more time passes, the less people believe in that. It could not be any other way. Direct experience is the best teacher.
We have lost everything that we had in the USSR – the opportunity to work freely for the good of the entire society, the opportunity to be proud to be a laborer, to look with confidence into the future, get free medical help and free education for our kids, to catch up with culture and art. And we have lost the main thing – the opportunity to live in a society, built on the principles of comradeship, solidarity and mutual aid. Instead of that we now have the opportunity to observe the arrogant snouts of oligarchs and their insane ideas, their yachts and palaces, their wild parties, infidelities, divorces, weddings, which the media considers to be a worthy enough subject to inform everyone in the country about. We now have the powerlessness of laborers and the despotism of capitalists, dog eat dog laws, abomination and venality of everything and everyone.
In these conditions, very few people can continue to believe the lies that were banged into our heads during the Perestroika about capitalism making the society thrive – since the reality all around us contradicts this statement. This is why the bourgeois ideologists are looking for new ways to suggest to us that there is nothing better than capitalism. They start pretending to be “objective”. Very hesitantly, they admit that capitalism has problems and socialism had certain achievements (with many reservations), and the conclusion is that, allegedly, capitalism still satisfies the human needs better than socialism.
Take A.V. Buzgalin, for example – he is a Russian scientist, a doctor of economic sciences, a University professor of political economy at the faculty of economics of the MSU (Moscow State University), he speaks from the heights of his scientific knowledge, stating that, apparently, “only 20% of all capitalist countries live in prosperity, while the rest are miserable”. Is he right? Perhaps he can be trusted, since he also positions himself as a supporter of socialism, preaching the ideas of “democratic socialism”?
However, things are more complicated than that. At first glance, it seems Buzgalin is exposing capitalism, speaking in a direct and honest way. Some may get the impression that Buzgalin is a fighter for socialism, that he implies that capitalism is hostile towards the majority of humanity and therefore has to be destroyed. No, nothing of the sort! All this “honesty” and “frankness” is only needed by the bourgeois professor and ideologist, hiding behind socialist clothing, for one purpose – to convince us that he is “objective”. And by doing so, by saying that capitalism, just like socialism, has its pros and cons, by demonstrating his so-called “open-mindedness” – he carefully nudges us towards the conclusion that capitalism is still better. Because 20% of capitalist countries live in prosperity! Meaning we only have to become part of the 20% and not of the 80%. And everything will be well in Russia.
What should be done in order to achieve this? All we hear from other bourgeois activists is that we have to improve Russian capitalism, i.e. to strengthen the role of the state in the economy, to fight corruption, to patronize “honest” capitalists and so on. All this alone will not help abolish the fact that some people are being exploited by others, and thus will not help abolish the poverty and the hardship of millions. Turns out he only needed all his “objectivity” for one purpose: to deceive and impose his bourgeois ideology on us in a more skillfull way, thus securing the domination of the bourgeois class in our society.
What is Buzgalin’s main deception? The main deception is that he speaks abstractly and does not explain to us what it means to live in prosperity and who lives in prosperity under capitalism. Yet, this is the most important thing.
For example, in Russia, about two percent of the population have the opportunity to live in complete prosperity. It’d take some nerve for Prokhorov, Abramovich and their like to complain about their standards of living. So, from the point of view of these gentlemen, everything is going well in Russia, and we live very well.
The same can be said about those capitalist countries that are considered prosperous. A small part of the population lives well in them – those who have appropriated the means of production and thus have the opportunity to live off the labour of others. Their servicemen don’t suffer either – the officials who serve them and support their power, the bourgeois intellectuals who promote bourgeois ideology in society by misleading the working masses, and a very small layer of privileged workers – trade unionists, etc., whom the bourgeoisie buys off to influence the entire working class through them. Everyone else – millions and tens of millions of people in every capitalist country in the world, the overwhelming majority of the population – live in no prosperity, but instead are part of hired capitalist slavery, have wages sufficient enough only to restore their labor force and continue to create added value for the masters, have constant fear of losing their jobs, live in need, powerlessness and humiliation. This is the fate of workers who are poor in all capitalist countries, including those formally considered prosperous.
Let us remember, for example, how in “prosperous” Latvia the Minister of Health suggested that those who do not have the money to be treated should get euthanized, so the bourgeois society can get rid of them. With this she showed two things. First, that in this “prosperous” bourgeois country there are people for whom medical treatment is a luxury. And secondly – that the life of these people for the bourgeois state is no more than the life of animals, whom their owners, if they become for some reason a burden, send to a veterinary clinic and “put to sleep”.
Remember the Red Lantern Quarters in Amsterdam in “prosperous” Netherlands. In these quarters, hundreds of women stand naked or almost naked in store windows, waiting for their customers. They have been entirely turned into a product, entirely deprived of human dignity. They even get a check, like a sausage or fish bought in the store. And it is unlikely that they go to such humiliation out of prosperity. They sell themselves out of despair, out of poverty, out of the fact that in this seemingly very prosperous country, everything is done in order to corrupt women, thus providing goods for brothel keepers and fun for those who really live well.
Whichever “prosperous” country we take, we will find that a tiny minority – the oligarchy and the bourgeoisie – have it really well over there. This can be said about Germany, the United States, and the UK. At the same time, if we take a country that is obviously not prosperous, for example, Ukraine – then against the background of the terrible impoverishment and disasters of the vast majority of Ukrainians, we see people who even at this time – during a civil war – live quite well and have no worries, some of them even having it better than before. “One man falls, another fills his pockets”, as the saying goes. It won’t take long to find particular examples – everybody knows the famous Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoysky, who, thanks to the Maidan coup and the war in Donbass, increased his fortune enormously and acquired new tasty slabs of property, allowing him to exploit thousands of Ukrainian workers.
We may be told that we are turning in the wrong direction, that when they say “the country lives in prosperity”, it means that the average standard of living in this country is higher than in other countries of the world.
Let’s take a look at the “prosperity” under capitalism from this point of view as well.
What is the “average standard of living”? It is an arithmetic average, when all incomes are added together and then divided into the total number of citizens of this country. It’s like “the average body temperature of all hospital patients” – someone has a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius and die, someone cools down in the refrigerator in the morgue, but the average temperature is 36.6 degrees and they are all “absolutely healthy”. Some people eat lobster, leaving the cost of an apartment in tip at lunch, and some do not have a piece of bread to eat. At the same time, the average standard of living will increase, if the former, instead of having lobsters for lunch, have nightingale tongues costing three apartments, while nothing will change for the latter. Is the comparison clear? It is completely true and fully reflects the true state of affairs in a capitalist society, for which the application of this kind of average figures is absolutely unacceptable. We can immediately say that those who operate with them, knowingly want to deceive their readers or listeners.
But this, of course, does not mean that the life of workers in all capitalist countries is absolutely the same. It is the same in general – in the fact that the workers everywhere are oppressed, powerless, dependent on the will and mood of the ruling class – the bourgeoisie, and that materially they always live a lot worse than their employers and the service staff.
But if we look specifically, we will see that there are some countries where the lives of hired workers are somewhat better in material terms than in many other countries – for example, lower unemployment, more social guarantees, some kind of legal protection, etc.
These are, first of all, the countries of the so-called “capitalist center”, which live not so much at the expense of the exploitation of workers of their own country, but at the expense of parasitizing and pillaging peoples of other countries. The bourgeoisie of the capitalist center (imperialist countries) uses the superprofits derived from this robbery to bribe its own working class – to throw a part of their profits to their workers, increasing their wages and making some social benefits available to them. This does not fundamentally change the life of workers, but it is a little easier for them than for workers in dependent countries. This isn’t done by the imperialist bourgeoisie out of kindness – such feelings are alien to them.They just strive to ensure a relatively peaceful existence in their own country, and for this purpose share their profits, thus reducing the heat of class struggle and restraining the growth of a revolutionary movement that threatens their domination.
As we can see, the source of this slightly better material situation for the workers of the capitalist center countries is the same as that of the imperialist bourgeoisie – the robbery of peoples of other countries, appropriation of their national wealth and ruthless exploitation of workers, often accompanied by military aggression, bloodshed, the death of hundreds and thousands of people, the ruthless suppression of liberation movements, national anger and humiliation.
The capitalist center countries include the United States and the old capitalist countries – England, France and Germany. The USA, for example, milks almost the whole world with their dollar printing machine. In addition, they cynically rob countries in the Middle East that they have subjugated with military aggression or bribery of their governments, gaining in return the ability to fully dispose of their precious resources. England, Germany and France have turned the EU into an instrument of financial bondage and robbery of economically less developed countries and their neighbors.
But there are other countries that do not formally belong to the capitalist center countries, but where the notorious “average” standard of living is quite high. These are those countries, which, providing valuable services to the monopolistic capital of imperialist states, participate together with them in the share of superprofits, received by capitalist monopolies from the super-exploitation of workers of dependent and developing countries of the world. These are, for example, Switzerland – one of the world’s financial centers, or offshore zones – Luxembourg, Singapore, etc.
Scandinavian countries are another group of countries, which are often cited as an example of prosperous countries. There, the “average standard of living” is really quite high. How is it achieved?
Turns out, exactly the same way – through robbing the Third World countries. For example, Norway – a country exporting raw materials, the huge income from which coupled with a small population allow local monopolies, without spending much money on labour or being too afraid for the political dominance, provide a fairly decent life for the citizens. But the high prices of oil and gas are not paid by anyone, but by the working class of European and developing countries, whom the capitalists that use the oil and gas for their industries (including its derivatives) extremely overcharge. Or Sweden, the country where many transnational corporations pillaging around the globe (capitalist super-monopolies) are based. With a low population, the profits the state receives from these supermonopolies are sufficient to provide a decent enough living for its workers, who are by no means free from exploitation and unemployment.
What does it all imply? Simply the fact that the real prosperity of the working people, who make up the vast majority of the population of all countries of the capitalist world, is absolutely out of the question! True well-being of the working people, the working class, both in the material sense, and in the moral, spiritual, can only be provided by the socialist society. Only the political power of the working class, only the national ownership of all means of production will give the laborers real well-being and prosperity. And the struggle for this society is the main task of every working person who really strives for prosperity.
Arita Tanayan, Oksana Snegir