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“Anti-Capitalism: A Marxist Introduction”: Alfredo Saad-Filho


The need of a constantly expanding market … chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe … All old-established national industries … are dislodged by new industries … that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the productions of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes … The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all … nations into civilisation … It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image” (The Communist Manifesto)


The Communist Manifesto rings even truer today than it did in 1848. Key features of nineteenth-century capitalism are clearly recognisable, and even more strongly developed, in the early twenty-first century. They include the internationalisation of trade, production and finance, the growth of transnational corporations (TNCs), the communications revolution, the diffusion of Western culture and consumption patterns across the world, and so on.

Other traits of our age can also be found in the Manifesto. In the early twenty-first century, powerful nations still rule the world by political, economic and military means, and their gospel is zealously preached by today’s missionaries of neoliberalism. They follow in the footsteps of their ancestors, who drew strength from the holy trinity of Victorian imperialism: God, British capital and the Royal Navy. Today’s evangelists pay lip-service to human rights and the elimination of poverty, but their faith lies elsewhere, in the sacred tablets of copyright law and in the charter of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They travel to all corners of the globe and, in spite of untold hardship in anonymous five-star hotels, tirelessly preach submission to Wall Street and the US government. They will never take no for an answer. Native obduracy is initially explained away as ignorance or corruption, and then ridiculed.

However, even saintly patience has its limits. Eventually, economic, diplomatic and other forms of pressure may become necessary. In extreme circumstances, the White House may be forced to bomb the enemy into submission, thus rendering another country safe for McDonald’s. It seems that, in spite of our fast cars, mobile phones and the internet, the world has not, after all, changed beyond recognition over the past 150 years. However, even if Marx can offer important insights for understanding modern capitalism, what about his claim that communism is the future of humanity? Surely the collapse of the Soviet bloc, China’s economic reforms, and the implosion of left organisations across the world prove that Marx was wrong? Contributors to this book beg to differ. Anti-Capitalism: A Marxist Introduction explains the structural features and the main shortcomings of modern capitalism, in order to substantiate our case against capitalism as a system. Chapters 1, 2 and 3 show that Marx’s value theory provides important insights for understanding the modern world, including the exploitation of the workers, the sources of corporate power and the sickening extremes of overconsumption and widespread poverty. Chapters 5, 10 and 17 claim that classes exist, and that class struggle is, literally, alive and kicking around us.
Chapters 4 and 6 show that technical change is not primarily driven by the urge to produce cheaper, better or more useful goods, but by the imperatives of profit-making and social control. Chapter 8 reviews the driving forces of capitalism across history, and Chapter 7 shows that capitalism is inimical to the Earth’s ecological balance. Whereas environmental sustainability demands a very long-term calculation of costs and benefits, capitalism is based on short-term rationality and profit maximisation. This social system must be confronted, in order to preserve the possibility of human life on this planet.

Chapters 9 to 16 challenge other idols of contemporary thought, including the claims that capitalism promotes democracy, world peace and equality within and between nations, that every debt must be paid, that globalisation is unavoidable and unambiguously good, that national states are powerless, and that economic crises can be eliminated. Finally, Chapters 18 and 19 argue that capitalism is both unsustainable and undesirable. In our view, communism is
justified not only on material but, especially, on human grounds.

Much of what we argue is obvious. Yet often the obvious must be Anti-Capitalism demonstrated over and over again, until it becomes self-evident to the majority. This book also challenges the knee-jerk reaction against critiques of contemporary capitalism, the trite motto that ‘there is no alternative’ (TINA). Leading proponents of TINA include rapacious free-marketeers, prematurely aged philosophers of the ‘Third Way’, delusional economists, opportunistic politicians, corrupt bureaucrats, bankrupt journalists and other desperados. They claim that human beings are genetically programmed to be greedy, that capitalism is the law of nature, that transnational capital is usually right, and that non-intrusive regulation is possible when it goes wrong. They argue that capitalist societies, even though historically recent, will last forever, and that the triumph of the market should be embraced because it is both unavoidable and advantageous to all. They reassure us that massive improvements in living standards are just around the corner, and that only a little bit more belt-tightening will suffice.


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