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Political Terminology…or words we often hear
“Capitalism”, if you really want to think straight, is not properly opposed to “Communism”. The economic system properly opposed to capitalism, is individual enterprise. The term, “capitalism” obviously derives from the word “capital”, which in this context means some form of wealth, often tools, equipment, or facilities used in production.
If I am a shoemaker, cutting out the leather with a knife and sewing the shoes with an awl and thread, my productivity is determined by my strength and skill, the hours of my day, and to a lesser extent the quality of my tools. My business is an individual enterprise.
If I invent or buy a sewing machine, or a clicker-press and steel-rule dies, those are capital equipment, which now determine my (greatly increased) production rate. Indeed, if I build more of them, or use the profits from my own increased productivity to buy more of them, and then I hire people to operate them, perhaps much less skilled than I, production is now basically determined by my capital, not by anyone’s individual strength and skill. That is “capitalism”. It must be noted here that net production increases radically under this system, which increases global wealth and drives down prices. Also, the machine-operator is so much more productive than the handcraftsman, that he can potentially be paid a higher wage than the handcraftsman earns, with money left over for the capitalist’s “profit”…which he may choose to reinvest in further productivity enhancements.
When “communism” defines itself as control of the means of production by….whomever….it is presupposing that the “means of production” are not just human individuals producing for themselves. Machines are much easier to lock up than people. It presupposes capitalism. So a distinction between communism and capitalism is not rational, since both are forms of capitalism. We should rather distinguish between private, free capitalism; and state-controlled capitalism.
Since I have said, “state-controlled” I must digress here to note that while communists claim that the rulers under their system are “the People”, that is manifestly and inevitably untrue. “The People” cannot ever rule on a large scale, because direct democracy is unwieldy to the point of impossibility. Thousands of people trying to rule collectively will be inevitably paralyzed by a multiplicity of questions, not to mention of answers, or of goals and values. So every effort toward “democracy” on larger than a village scale uses delegates, deputies, or representatives of “the people” for at least the decisive question-framing function, and usually for much more. That immediately and intrinsically creates a functional elite of controllers AKA “the state”, whose self-interest never coincides with that of “the People”.
Since I have used the term, “democracy”, I have to discuss it. The basic meaning is clear and identical to its etymological meaning, “rule of the people” But its crucial and fatal omission is the concept of law, of values and principles that are universally applicable and obligatory. The pure meaning of democracy is indistinguishable from lynch law, or gang rape. The will of “the people” is no more necessarily worthy, moral, wise, or safe, than is the will of any of us fallen individuals. History teaches that masses of people are easily swayed by the worst among them.
Another term in need of clear definition is “fascism” Etymology again guides us. The fascis was a Roman symbol. It is a depiction of sticks bundled around the haft of an axe. Its meaning is, “comply or we beat you with the sticks, and if that is not enough, we cut off your head with the axe.” So I suggest that the simple and sufficient definition of fascism should be, merely, government by force, as opposed to government by some form of consensus or by consistent law (which implies a consensus). In historical fascist states, the political power of the state and the economic power of the corporations are usually found in bed together.
“Left” and “Right” are ubiquitous political terms, represented as being in opposition to each other.
Communism is usually considered as the extremity of leftism, with milder forms being societies with restrictions on individual property ownership and on individual freedoms of speech, of association, and of contract (taxation, hate speech laws, anti-discrimination, and employment laws). Although mild leftism uses a rhetoric of freedom, presenting itself as the opponent of oppression, it must be noted that in order to definitively manage distribution of property and individual contracting and expression, the State must hold and use a monopoly of force, leaving individuals (as opposed to the abstraction “the People”) powerless.
Fifty years ago, “right wing” was considered to apply primarily to governments that ruled by force, valuing superficial peace and order and often professing traditional values including private property, over expression of individual opinion or lifestyle choice. Today is seems more often to refer to groups or individuals that live by, advocate for, or seek to enforce traditional values, but it is used to imply that this is necessarily oppressive.
So while we see moderates of both “left” and “right” seeking freedom to express their own values, or seeking social support for them, the extremities of both “poles” clearly converge on total control and marginalization of the individual by the State.
I submit that the rhetorics of “Left” and “Right” are equally tissues of lies intended to divide us and garner support for, and deflect opposition from, the continuing subversive effort to concentrate all power in the hands of the State, or of an elite hiding behind it.
If this is all too complicated, I offer,
The Farmer’s Guide to Political Systems
Socialism: You have two cows. The government makes you give one to your neighbor, who does not want to care for a cow, so it dies. It’s your fault, and now you have to give him half the milk from your cow.
Communism: You have two cows. The government takes both, but you still have to take care of them, You have a minimum quota of milk you must give the government, but the government sold all the hay to somebody else, so both cows die. The milk rots in a warehouse. The government shoots you for sabotage.
Fascism: You have two cows. The government will shoot you if you do not sell them all the milk, at the price they set.
Anarchism: You have two cows. Shoot your neighbor and take his cows, too, unless he does it to you first..
Capitalism. You have two cows. You save the profit from selling milk to people who want it, and buy a bull. Next year you will have more cows, more milk, and can sell to any who want some.
By John Leyzorek