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Empire's Last Gasp: A two-act scenario

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Marx & Lenin
Marx & Lenin
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Marx & Lenin

They're baaack!

Karl Marx and V.I. Lenin, although writing 80 years apart, predicted -- on paper at least -- the final convulsions of global capitalism. The long lines of their analysis are particularly helpful today, as our attention spans contract and we forget recent events that are heavily impacting our lives today. For example...

After 40 years of concentrated assault on our economy and culture by corporate capital and its media machine, we expect our current President to have fixed our problems in four years. Here's a two-act scenario that may serve to re-expose what's underlying all the election hysteria.

In 1848, Marx theorized that capitalism -- in this ultimate imperialist stage -- would drag growing industrial and financial organizations (no word for corporations yet) into a two-act transition from free-market, a nation-state competition to bad economic theater on a global scale.

Act I -- Marx's scenario: Monopolies eliminate competition, then gouge consumers and workers. Next, free-market policies result in overproduction of some goods and services and underproduction of others. These laissez-faire policies, said Marx, will encourage economic crises such as inflation, slumps, and depressions.

For example, since government began deflating the educational system in the 1970s (educated working-class people get too "uppity"), and President Ronald Reagan busted PATCO, the air traffic controllers' union in 1981, middle America has been forced to accept lower wages or become unemployed.

In Marx's terms, workers become "pauperized." When the people working at Wal Mart stop shopping at Wal Mart because they can't afford it, capitalism is, in Marx's terms, "sowing the seeds of its own destruction."

Act II / Scene 1 -- Lenin's scenario: By 1916, Lenin had refined Marx's self-destruct prediction. Lenin theorized that bank capital would merge with industrial capital to create "finance capital."  Like particulate matter in deep space, finance capital coagulates into clusters that reach critical mass in the creation of a financial oligarchy of corporations. (Lenin called them "associations").

Next, Lenin predicted that the export of capital would replace the export of products or commodities, i.e., the things we make. In our lives, the auctioning off of American industry (cars, ships, televisions, washing machines, everything) to Japan, Korea, Europe and Southeast Asia has followed Lenin's recipe of an economy based on selling -- not things that we produce -- but finance.

Act II / scene 2 -- Lenin's Scenario began in 1973, after the United States lost the Vietnam War and Arabs shut off the oil. A service economy slithered in to replace our former industrial, production-based economy.

Waiters sold services to waiters and other servants. The servants took their serving money and became tourists. Busy shipping piers were converted into restaurants where the touring servants were served by other servants who were not on vacation.

The servants-serving-servants caper petered out, only to be replaced by the digital boom, an information economy that sold data but" How much data can you really sell?

When information bubble burst, investors focused on building an economy based on inflated real estate values. Banks and investment firms collapsed. Now we're facing a social media bubble as it turns out the only monetization possible via the Internet is for the purveyors... like Facebook. And look where Facebook is at, with it's stock losing value daily.

Simply put, both Marx and Lenin predicted that capitalism would eat itself. Sure looks like it from here.  So... Where are we now?

We're confronted with class warfare and civil uprisings from North Africa and the Middle East to the United Kingdom.

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Charles Degelman is a writer and editor living in Los Angeles. Published titles include books, periodicals, and Internet resources on U.S. and world history and on contemporary issues including the environment, the war in Iraq, healthcare, the (more...)
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