Capitalism Kills: Why, for the Right, the Left is always wrong

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THE IDEA that the Left can do nothing right is central to the Right’s world view. In terms of both competency and morality, leftists are held to be irremediably deficient. All evidence contradicting this proposition is either ignored or denied. But any claim, no matter how absurd, which confirms the Right’s view of the Left’s deficiencies, immediately becomes holy writ. It’s as if even the slightest suggestion that the Right might be wrong has the power, once accepted, to unravel our entire understanding of the world.

This hyper-sensitivity to left-wing judgement is entirely understandable. What differentiates the Left from the Right is the former’s fundamental rejection of the strongest human-beings’ ability to dominate, coerce and exploit the weakest. But, without this ability, none of the economic and social systems elaborated by armed minorities throughout history could have endured. Not the empires of the ancient world; not the feudal structures of the middle ages; and certainly not the capitalist system of the modern era. All of these civilisations were built on the ruthless exploitation of the weak by the strong – exploitation enforced by extreme and unreproved violence.

As it was, so it is still. Strip away all the piety, mythology and outright lies about our present, capitalist, civilisation and you will find, at its core, the domination, coercion and exploitation that its political guardians, the Right, recognise as its true essence, and will defend – to the death.

One of the Right’s most important misunderstandings of the Left is that it can, somehow, embrace domination, coercion and exploitation – and remain the Left. Notwithstanding its logical absurdity, it is the condemnation one hears most often from the Right: that the Left, in the shape of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, or the Communist Party of China, is responsible for upwards of 100 million deaths.

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They forget, of course, that the vast majority of those killed were individuals who refused to accept the right of either of these parties to impose their will on the people in whose name they had accomplished the overthrow of the old oppressors. Whether it be the rebellious Russian sailors at Kronstadt in 1921, or workers and peasants across the whole of China from 1949 to the present day, whoever, in the name of justice and equity, takes a stand against an oppressive system of domination, coercion and exploitation is, by definition, a leftist.

Though the Right’s inability to properly understand this simple truth is astonishing, it is hardly surprising. If they were not able to convince themselves that the Left is an irredeemably evil political phenomenon, driven by greed and envy to confiscate the hard-earned wealth of all who are superior to their neighbours in intelligence, enterprise and skill, then the Right would have to face the true character of the system it has created, operates and defends.

That would mean casting its eyes back over history and calculating the human and environmental damage it has done. Even if this exercise is limited to the capitalist era, the results are damning. The slave trade that built the fortunes of so many of Britain’s leading capitalist families. The depredations of the East India Company, whose rapacious pursuit of profit ravaged the entire Indian sub-continent. The opium trade to China, which, under the protection of the British navy, addicted millions. The list could be extended indefinitely for each of the great capitalist powers, and the death toll laboriously calculated, but it would still be short. Because it would not include the untold millions of lives blighted and shortened by years of economic exploitation and neglect. Capitalism kills. It has done so from its earliest beginnings, and it does so still. The only distinction between the history of capitalism and the history of the Mexican drug cartels, is that the cartels have never pretended to be advancing the progress of humankind.

Oh, how the Right will bridle at that last sentence! How loudly they’ll protest that capitalism has lifted millions – no, billions! – out of poverty. That it was capitalism which boosted incomes, upgraded housing, delivered improved health and education, and generally uplifted and prolonged the lives of the masses.

Poor creatures. They have to believe this. Because not to believe it: not to be absolutely certain that it was the system that sent gun-thugs to break-up strikes; adulterated food; presided over slums; polluted whole regions; and sent entire nations off to war; was (and is) the sole source of all that is wholesome and good in the world, raises the awful possibility that something, or someone, else is responsible for making life under capitalism just that little bit happier and more fulfilling for humankind.

And who could that possibly be? Surely not the trade unionists, who forced up workers’ wages? Or the social reformers, scientists and doctors, who discovered how to ward off illness and disease? Or the progressive architects and city planners, who designed cheap and sturdy housing for the poor? Or the progressive, social-democratic and labour parties, who gathered together all the agents of economic and social progress, won state power, and fastened a strong regulatory collar around the capitalist beast?

Surely, it wasn’t – no, no, it couldn’t possibly have been – the Left?

46 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent post Chris.
    I would also add the undying belief in the Gospel according to Adam (Smith) and the revelation of the fourth manifestation of God in the “hidden hand” – to which all Westerners now bend their knee. The magnificent marble temples across all nations are now open for worship 24/7. Leave your offerings of silver and gold in the automated checkouts…

  2. With a lack of history …economic and military … any contemporary generation has no real basis with which to compare current conditions. It is this that creates this constant back and forwards motion of relearning the painful lessons of the past.

    People fail to see the relevance of history …and yet it is in history we learn …in fact it is a yardstick we can use to measure where we are at the present time.

    So many wish to feel secure in their national leadership and not have to bother with wading through historic examples… it doesn’t make for dinnertime conversation save for those who are naturally inclined towards such matters.

    And so, because of this , those manipulators of either the extreme right or left are enabled . Simply because of the willful ignorance of the people who they see as ripe for the plunder.

    And to a point they are correct. But simply preying upon a populations inherent laziness to know their own past does not excuse these manipulators… in fact it condemns them . It condemns them as the opportunistic societal predators that they really are.

    We see this now with the last 31 years of neo liberalism in this country.

    And still many among the populace refuse to see the incredible dis-empowerment and impoverishment happening right before their very own eyes. They are content as long as no effort is needed to be expended in truly learning even recent history.

    Couple that with an ideology that wishes to rewrite history to conceal its own half truths and uses the bludgeon of cutting funds to educational institutes in order to make those institutes comply and we have a situation that is not much different from the Red Guard of China in the 1960’s… or the Hitler youth burning books.

    The essence is still the same… to obliterate the lessons of history to enable the current ideology to sustain itself.

    This is successful for only a while…the good thing is… HISTORY teaches us that odious regimes and ideology’s only have a certain shelf life…

    The problem is in the transformation from one negative ideology to another more society – friendly one. The methods used to enact that change … can and have been …ruthless , bloody and merciless to those guilty of the former .

    These are the lessons from history.

    Societies change, the past and history cannot.

    And it is from history and history only that we can learn from.

    We would do well to take an interest and learn from history.

    • HISTORY teaches us that odious regimes and ideology’s only have a certain shelf life…

      And that that shelf-life is actually getting shorter.

      Roman Empire: 1000 years or so
      British Empire: 500 years or so
      US Empire: Maybe 100

  3. But we don’t seem to learn look at what Iceland has done, having fixed things up they have now re-elected the hand that bit them badly.

  4. Indeed, Chris. It’s been my experience that no matter how much evidence, facts, and stats are presented to the Defenders of the Right, they will find ways to deflect; dismiss; and deride information presented to them.

    Like the Catholic Church of old that dismissed new evidence that Earth was not the center of creation or fundamentalist christians that dismiss evolutionary process; right-wingers simply don’t want to know.

    Because to contemplate, even for a moment, that their ideology and world-view is deeply flawed, means having a belief-system that they closely identify with, being shown to be built on sand.

    Or in the case of one person, asking inane questions that have no point except to set up a position of quasi-intellectualism.

    We’ve read the comments of Right Wingers here on TDB arguing points that either contradict evidence, or attempt to skirt the point by deflecting to “evidence” or minutiae that is more comforting to them. Some will even cling to parroted cliches or distortions because they have nothing else to argue with.

    In the final analysis, it is no coincidence that religion and the Right seem so relentless in dismissing evidential-based critiques of their beliefs. Both rely on faith.

    And as we’ve seen, faith-based beliefs are not rational by definition.

    • frank said..

      ‘It’s been my experience that no matter how much evidence, facts, and stats are presented to the Defenders of the Right, they will find ways to deflect; dismiss; and deride information presented to them..’

      ..frank..this occurs in both your comment and in trotters’ piece..

      ..if you substitute ‘animal-eaters’ for the words ‘defenders of the right’..?

      ..d’ya get my drift..?

  5. I find it rather rich for the Left to accuse the ‘Right’ of coercion when the last century is littered with prime examples of socialist coercion. Our current society is described by the left as “Neo-liberal” and the very essence of liberalism is individual freedom.

    The core philosophical weakness of socialists is that when confronted by the inequality and the unfairness of outcomes in a liberal, capitalist society they seek to tear down the system and replace it with ‘something else’.

    The problem is that they haven’t really thought too hard about what that ‘something else’ is and exactly how it will work in practice. So I encourage you to focus your efforts on how your model society will function rather than just banging on about the imperfections in the current arrangement. Trust me – we’re aware of them already. It’s not news.

    Off the well-meaning socialists go, destroying nations with the aim of building bright new versions for us all, only to find that people are only human and don’t behave exactly how they dreamed. So new laws have to be imposed to make people fit into this idealistic mold, yet still people don’t ‘behave’. Then we need forced collectivization and the NKVD to make it happen just as it should (all in the common good of course)….

    Capitalism may be imperfect but it’s a whole lot better than anything YOU can think of!

    • When people say capitalism has failed or capitalism has succeeded, we have to ask; what type of capitalism do you mean? Authentic capitalism, in which capital is placed at risk to earn a return in a competitive, transparent marketplace, or do you mean cartel-state capitalism, or crony-capitalism, or duopoly capitalism or finance capitalism, i.e. the types that dominate the economy?

      As long as most startups crash and burn, and anyone with a few bucks and plenty of inner drive can start an enterprise, authentic capitalism still lives. But let’s face it, authentic capitalism occupies a diminishing corner of New Zealand’s economy.

      The political and financial influence of small business and the self-employed barely registers on struggle street, on main street and in Wellington Politicos praise small business in the same way they speak of small family farms as the backbone of New Zealands agriculture–as a form of pandering for PR purposes while they pocket the big campaign contributions from Monsanto and Big Ag. Meanwhile, in the real world, small business is in decline while corporate money floods the financial sector and Wellington.

      Read Kelsey’s book – Fire Economy and you might learn something useful. The real action in modern-day capitalism is finance capital, that’s where the really big money is made. Our biggest companies are investing in their own shares, there’s no place left to invest for growth. They are cannibalizing the entire financial system, buying regulatory and tax favors from thoroughly corrupt political systems to secure their profits, which are then used to remove shares from the market, boosting the price earnings ratio and the share price.

      Yes, authentic capitalism still exists, but it’s been relegated to the sideshow. The Big Tent with the Big Bucks is all finance/cartel/state/crony capitalism, and financialization is devouring all the other players.

      Corruption isn’t just bribes and influence peddling endemic to National, it’s protecting the privileges of the few at the expense of the many. Rampant pollution is corruption writ large, the profits of the polluters are being protected at the expense of the millions being poisoned.

      This is why capital and talent are fleeing. Because systemic corruption has poisoned the nation and raised the cost of doing business. External costs like environmental damage must be paid eventually, one way or the other.

      Either the cost is paid in rising chronic illnesses, shorter lifespans and declining productivity, or profits and tax revenues must be siphoned off to clean up the damage and the sources of environmental degradation.

      Pollution and environmental damage is driving away human capital, i.e. talent.This loss of talent is difficult to quantify, but it’s not just New Zealanders who have worked for years who are pulling up stakes to escape pollution and repression, talented young people are finding jobs elsewhere for the same reasons.

      The game changer is automation, i.e. robots and software eating the world. To understand the impact on New Zealand, start with unit labor costs, i.e. the cost of labor needed to produce each unit of output.

      If it takes one worker an hour to assemble 10 blocks of cheese, the unit labor cost of each fixture is 1/10th of an hour’s total compensation costs, i.e. wages and overhead. (Total compensation costs include all overhead such as vacation, healthcare, kiwi saver, taxes on labor paid by the employer, etc.)

      If an automated machine can produce 1,000 of the same units in an hour, and the only labor is the machine’s one operator, the the unit labor cost of each fixture is 1/1,000th of an hour’s total compensation costs.

      The National parties contribution to production costs means there’s no labor arbitrage left to make New Zealand a low cost producer.

      Systemic Right wing repression is the direct consequence and cost of corruption. So by all means, poison the nation and its non-privileged citizens to benefit the few at the top of the heap, and arrest, beat up or silence critics and dissenters.

      What New Zealand will be left with a poisoned land stripped of talent and capital. That’s the ultimate cost of systemic right wing corruption.

      Doits

      • SAM, like I said, it’s an imperfect system but it’s the only one we have found that really works.

        A couple responses to some of your specific points:

        Worldwide, global trade and capitalism have lifted billions out of poverty. Globally we have more food per capita than at any time in history and compared to just 20 or 30 years ago the prevalence of mass starvation in places like India, Africa, China and SE Asia is far less common today. (And if there is a food shortage in a specific country you can bet that it will be a isolationist, non-democratic one)

        Be careful of those rose tinted glasses! Prior to Rogernomics taking hold, NZ was no paradise. In fact it was a corrupt little island where contacts in government provided ‘import permits’ whereby the ‘favoured few’ became sole suppliers of basic items including everything from cars to toilet rolls. Whilst there was near 100% employment off the back of a sheep, there was an undercurrent of dealing-doing and favouritism that is far worse than it is today.

        I’m pleased to say capitalism and free enterprise are alive and well in NZ today! So much so that it is a major cause for the demise of the union movement. The average NZ company employs only 6 people so if you ignore the top few employers (Say Government, Spark, Fonterra, NZ Steel, the aluminium smelter and the power companies) the remainder would be down to maybe 3 employees per company. The bottom line is that many Kiwis are working for themselves! They are directors in their own companies! Working, innovating and investing in themselves. No wonder that they don’t need a union, eh?

        • You said: “SAM, like I said, it’s an imperfect system but it’s the only one we have found that really works.”

          Your a moron……. of course when you have no imagination you get stuck on defence mode defending until your out of ideas and out of ammo. That’s called cowardice

          You said: “A couple responses to some of your specific points:”

          -No one asked for a gutless response. Be specific and jump off the harbour bridge

          What you say? “Worldwide, global trade and capitalism have lifted billions out of poverty. Globally we have more food per capita than at any time in history and compared to just 20 or 30 years ago the prevalence of mass starvation in places like India, Africa, China and SE Asia is far less common today. (And if there is a food shortage in a specific country you can bet that it will be a isolationist, non-democratic one)”

          -What a piss weak response. You sound like a little bitch complaining of the big and bad non democratic elected dictator of a third word nation, sent here to destroy you perfect little arrangement.

          Wipe your mouth, your dribbling: “Be careful of those rose tinted glasses! Prior to Rogernomics taking hold, NZ was no paradise. In fact it was a corrupt little island where contacts in government provided ‘import permits’ whereby the ‘favoured few’ became sole suppliers of basic items including everything from cars to toilet rolls. Whilst there was near 100% employment off the back of a sheep, there was an undercurrent of dealing-doing and favouritism that is far worse than it is today.”

          -I read Richard Preddles book, reckons if he did it all over again he wouldn’t have sold NZ rail. That’s not to say the system wasn’t hugely inefficient but the solution in paying a billion dollars where dumb ideas.

          You said : “I’m pleased to say capitalism and free enterprise are alive and well in NZ today! So much so that it is a major cause for the demise of the union movement. The average NZ company employs only 6 people so if you ignore the top few employers (Say Government, Spark, Fonterra, NZ Steel, the aluminium smelter and the power companies) the remainder would be down to maybe 3 employees per company. The bottom line is that many Kiwis are working for themselves! They are directors in their own companies!”

          -The Baltic dry index is at its lowest point ever, because we are counting stuff as the leave factories, and totally ignoring if any one buys factory goods, in New Zealand we have parking lots full of cars, and a population with not enough income to buy them.

          More dribble: “Working, innovating and investing in themselves. No wonder that they don’t need a union, eh?”

          -Far cup keint .

          As I said before, we have falling participation in the economy and unions because of right wing corruption scheming of the top of the economy.

        • like I said, it’s an imperfect system but it’s the only one we have found that really works.

          It doesn’t work at all. The only thing that saves capitalism is the socialism at its core. When you replace that socialism with full on capitalism the whole lot falls down.

          Now, if we got rid of capitalism altogether we’d all be much better off.

    • Capitalism may be imperfect but it’s a whole lot better than anything YOU can think of!

      Only because you’re on the benefitting end of that system, Andrew. If you were in a sweatshop in Pakistan or China, you might noty be so enthusiastic.

      Neither would you be so enamoured with capitalism if multinational corporations and foreign governments overthrew your government; supported a military dictatorship seizing power; and made your life hell afterwards.

      The reason Sam calls you a “moron” is because you parrot cliches. You’ve done no in depth reading of the history of nations and where the West has interfered with bloody coups d’état – usually to support political and economic control over that nation’s resources.

      Basing your views on what you see in the 6PM News is not the best way to learn what’s going on around you.

  6. It’s important to hold the right’s myths to account, but where do we as leftists stand in regard to “domination, coercion and exploitation”.

    (So called) Leftwing parties in post-industrial societies such as ours need to reflect on whether domination, coercion and exploitation is being repelled or reinforced.

    Where do we draw the line in the left-right divide? Surely this line is fluid and dependent on our own subjective experiences, but is our current Labour Party ‘left’? Was Tony Blair ‘left’? Was Helen Clark ‘left’? Is Winston Peters ‘left’?

    Is it fair to argue that Labour’s environmental and foreign policies perpetuate exploitation? Is it fair to argue that Labour’s welfare policies are coercive? Is it fair to argue that Labour’s economic policies tolerate domination from the capitalist class?

    Sadly, my answer to these questions is yes. As we move towards the 2017 election we need to ask if we actually have a leftwing opposition. I’m not convinced that we do. Attempts to recreate our post-war social democracy are problematic for many reasons – one being that we seem to turn a blind eye to the problems within that system (we ignore the sexist, nationalistic, pre-globalisied and racist nature that made our old social democracy function). Furthermore, the path that we must take to return to this old system is vague at best, or ignored; why are we trying to strengthen the welfare state when we need to reimagine it?

    I think rather than peeling back neoliberalism, instead, we must aim to move beyond it and make it history. In many ways this means reinstalling social democratic values, but not social democracy itself.

    We need to start thinking along the lines of Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek who look forward to a post-capitalist society, rather than back to the system that protected capitalism from realising its own destruction.

    https://deterritorialinvestigations.wordpress.com/2015/11/16/technology-and-capitalist-path-dependency/

  7. Interesting – so it’s ok to kill 100 million people if they disagree with the current ruling party?

    So John Key is well within rights to send you to the salt mines – after all – he has won 3 elections.

  8. My main concern is the lack of objective political reporting that is done these days, we are bombarded with the All Blacks just about 24/7 daily with very little real news.

    John Key still keeps harping on about how bad Labour are even though they have not been in power for 7 years, I don’t know when it is all going to end.

    Sick to death of the rubbish and propaganda spouted by the MSM and the likes of Mike Hoskins these days.

  9. The fair ” Left” show remarkable history. Michael Savage inherited WW2, and it was a fair Labour Government under Peter Fraser which ensured an absolute loyalty to the Winston Churchill’s unified wartime “coalition”. It was
    a Democrat, Franklin D.Roosevelt who lead the USA through to April 1945.
    Stalin was a tyrant,and to suggest he was on the left bears serious debate.
    Whilst Churchill was of the Conservative Party, he might be considered left in our present Western World.
    The “fair left can be proud of it’s history.

  10. “whoever, in the name of justice and equity, takes a stand against an oppressive system of domination, coercion and exploitation is, by definition, a leftist.”

    So all those people Stalin sent to the gulag were leftists? Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot et al were good at oppression, domination, etc.

    This is one of the lamest articles I have come across in a long time.

    • So, they adopted Neofeudalism . WTF do you expect?

      National proves that capitalism neither needs, protects nor guarantees “democracy.”

    • “whoever, in the name of justice and equity, takes a stand against an oppressive system of domination, coercion and exploitation is, by definition, a leftist.”

      So all those people Stalin sent to the gulag were leftists?

      non sequitur

  11. I get it, capitalism and neoliberalism is *bad. But I want to understand what is the proposed replacement? No one on the left seems to have an answer for what’s next after we destroy neoliberal capitalism.

    It needs to be laid out there for people to vote it in but at the moment there is nothing….

    • aWanderer –

      But I want to understand what is the proposed replacement?

      A mixed economy will do for starters, Wanderer. In this instance, neo-libs should keep their filthy, stinking paws (oops, wrong movie) of our state assets.

      If you neo-libs want a powerco or telco – fine. Set up your own. But privatising state assets which are snapped up by the top 10%; investment fund managers; etc, is one of the reasons your ideology stinks of thieving.

      That’s one.

  12. The majority of deaths caused by the Communists were not because people opposed them. They were the result of famine caused by wrong headed policies.

    • If you want to turn this into a pissing contest go read some Chomsky to figure out how many die in the global south to sustain our capitalism.
      Go read some of Susan George’s work.

      We need blood, and a lot of it, to sustain our beloved capitalism.

        • That is not the point Chris was discussing.

          You ideologues get so touchy when people point out how brutal capitalism is. You people always try to turn the conversation to Stalin.
          Capitalist zombie…still believing what you learned in year 10 social studies. No questions asked, just repeating the same old rubbish

          • Little gosman obviously has not heard of/deliberately chooses to ignore 19th century exploitation and such immoral capitalist company’s such as the East India Company.

            And in league with these types – also conveniently chooses to ignore the growing similarity’s that are happening now with neo liberalism and 19th century conditions.

            Always convenient to be selective, isnt it…

        • Gosman, is there a “Godwin” for every time you mention Stalin?

          Then again, I could refer to your Libertarian paradise – Somalia – which has almost no government or taxation to speak of. Not much anything else, either.

  13. God Chris! I really wish you would stop stirring up the mad dog rightist that float around this blog like avenging virii.

    I enjoy reading your thoughts and observations chum, but the comments are getting less and less worth the effort of perusing…

  14. Every alternative thought or policy these days seems to be written off by the Tories these days by the current terminology of “the looney left”, we are all slowly being brainwashed by MSM that right is good and left is bad.

    When you keep hearing this on a daily basis you actually start believing what you are hearing.

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