ARTILLERY FOR THE MIND: ON THE “NEW SYSTEM”

PART I – EYES WIDE OPEN

As it happens, as the days go by and life in every sense of the word – organic, political, biological, cultural, economic, etc. – continues to evolve, our eyes are pried opened wider every minute of every day. At some point I was convinced that we actually had to have the will to not see, in order to fail to recognize the ever-changing truth in front of us. But I understand now that it takes more than a will to be blind, to not see; I see now that it also takes cunning conditioning to convince us that there’s no change. But personally, I love to see and to know and to feel the evolution of our existence as much as it is allowed me by nature, and by God! My eyes are wide open!

It has always been a conviction of mine – as this blog clearly documents – that the best hope for humanity to acquire real social justice is through Socialism. And as I’ve trudged ahead, trying daily to ask more and more questions about how it is that this Socialism is to finally arrive or be, and to understand what it means for me to be a socialist, dealing all along with all the obstacles that living in a capitalist country represents for this kind of research, I’ve always tried to find solid answers; to actually find a practical way to implement a theory that purports to bring real Harmony, Solidarity and Progress to all of mankind, or to the entire population of whatever nation ventures to adopt this system…And now I see, with eyes bulging out of my skull from the excitement of that Eureka moment, that I’ve been looking in the wrong direction, or rather, for the wrong signs: When I’ve been looking for places that have adopted Socialism, I should instead have been looking for the places that are creating Socialism.

It was for a damn good reason that Marx and Engels vehemently stressed the need for a scientific theory – and understanding – of the evolutionary process of everything that can be dubbed a “system” in life (organic, biological, political, social, cultural, etc). As such, Communism was born as the inevitable answer to the rise and prosperity of a Capitalism that ultimately will reach the end of its cycle, battered by its own contradictions. But now I am finally beginning to actually understand the step-by-step process that has to happen, as well as the very real notion that the new system of social organization (in it included our political and economic organization) would indeed have to be Created – Moulded out of the ashes of the fallen tower of Capitalism to rise like the Phoenix.

The cyclical problems of Capitalism, encapsulated in world financial crises and recession, unemployment, inflation, and all those other economic calamities that happen inevitably every certain amount of time, were predicted by Marx. Though defenders of the system claim that with different monetary and economic policies we can at the very least predict the time when a crisis will hit and, as such, also soften its blow, the rhetoric seems to be getting lost in thin air.

The masses that are pushed to the margins of poverty have grown exponentially around the world over the last decade, even in the so-called developed world, and despite the brave face politicians put forward for the public, the objective truth that the economic system has simply failed to do its job, that is, to provide the necessities to survive for everyone, is undeniable, and the masses have noticed.

According to Heinz Dieterich, author of Hugo Chavez and 21st Century Socialism[1], “the economic subsystem of a society has finished its cycle of life when it no longer satisfies the basic necessities of the citizens and turns, therefore, dysfunctional for the maintenance of the system in its whole” (45).

Indeed. Around the world, the system is caving in on itself, unable to allow that massive wealth concentrated at the top to “trickle down” to the people. A brief but sober look at the numerous protests, movements, strikes, bankrupt governments and banks around the world, to me, is evidence of that transition period Marx envisioned would happen, and which Revolutionary Guerrilla Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara described in the 1970s “as a result of the explosive transformation of the capitalist system destroyed by its contradictions.”

Well, all of that I knew…I’ve known it for a long time. But, I must admit, until very recently, I did not understand the very essence of what it meant to solve that precipitous problem through socialism. I knew Cuba had kept the ideology alive in Latin America, and that China and Vietnam and part of Korea were also socialist, though my knowledge of those Asian nations was limited to the skewed information received through the normal channels of communication – through what the mainstream media provided for me.

As such, and with a certain amount of admitted ignorance and disinterest on the matter – I simply believed that it was a matter of institutionalizing some laws, making some policies and implementing them, even taking control of the economy by the state so as to have a control of how the wealth is distributed. The economics themselves of how the prices would be established and all that jazz….fugget ’bout it! I had no goddamn clue how that would be. But, again, I figured it was just a matter of some savvy people coming up with “socialist policies,” implementing them whether people liked it or not, and then wait until everything turns around and bam! Equality begins surging and wealth for everyone! Whether it came through revolution or election, I figured as long as “socialist laws” were implemented, life would turn to be of a “socialist” kind.

However, upon hearing of Chavez and his 21st Century Socialism project, my interest was renewed, for again I admit that my interest and even hope had somewhat wavered, being bombarded daily with “truths” about this system that seemed palpably gloomy (the “Human Rights Abuses”, the “Poverty”, the “Loss of Identity”, the “Lack of Democracy”). After traveling to Venezuela to see it for myself, I came back with a renewed spirit and hope founded on what I saw – on fact and the reality of what was happening in that country.

Yet, the question of why people seemed so resistant to something that is obviously helping the large majority of our impoverished Latin American brothers and sisters, kept gnawing at my brain. Not to mention the haziness in regards to how it is the economy, the politics and the society would simply turn from “capitalist” to “socialist” so as to allow that future Harmony and Solidarity Marx talked about to become a reality.

But now that the magnitude of what these Heroic and Brave countries have ventured to do – to create ­- is more evident, the carnal resistance to this change has become more obvious, if not completely clear.

PART II – REPEAT IT AND YOU WILL BELIEVE IT

Through repetition, any lie becomes truth.

We know this; we even watch shows like Seinfeld where we joke about it: “It’s not a lie…if you believe it,” says George Costanza, the King of Deceit. Now, when something is repeated ad nauseam through every conceivable mode of communication for centuries, generations begin growing up not even questioning the lie, for they don’t even know they’re living it.

When Adam Smith first begins writing down his theories of Capitalism in An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, my understanding is that he must’ve taken off from the premise that Human Nature is inherently bad and greedy – self interested – which is why he comes up with a theory that explains that by following our own interests, those of society will also be tended after by that famous “invisible hand.”

I quote from Wikipedia, which itself quotes The Wealth of Nations.

“He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other eases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.”

Compounded with the advent and fervour of the French Revolution and its ideas of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, Smith’s theories are then put to practice, creating the first Capitalist societies – like Socialism will be – out of the ashes of the old feudal order.

I can understand why coming out of the Feudal Economic Order, his analysis told him that we were inherently selfish creatures, and that the best way to organize ourselves in such a way that we no longer are slaves to feudal masters but, rather, autonomous entities that can choose to follow our own destiny and enrich our own lives, was to create an economic system that feeds off of our self-interest and that in turn provides progress for the rest of society. Then, of course, the system begins producing quantities of wealth never even thought of before, which produces an obvious and undeniable change in quality of life for everyone, even those who get a small piece of the pie.

“Next comes hope,” writes Che in Socialism and Man[2], “and in this, [capitalism] differs from the previous caste regimes that gave no possible out.

“[…]The separation of classes is fatal, but the individuals can get out of the one they belong to through work, initiative, etc.” (Pg. 39).

Of course, Che is talking about the Capitalist Education – the ideas that are moulded in us through time, repetition and even brutal force, as it has been done time and time again in countries belonging to the so-called Third World.

PART III: TEACHING THE LIE

“Capitalism employs force, but it also educates the people in the system,” says Che. “The Direct Propaganda is realized by the ones in charge of explaining the inevitability of a class-regime, be it of divine origin or through nature’s imposition as a mechanical entity. This placates the masses, who see themselves oppressed by a malady which is impossible to fight against.” Then, he says, comes that false hope.

“One can only see the amplitude of a horizon that seems infinite. That is how capitalist life presents it, purporting to extract from Rockefeller’s case – real or not – a lesson about the possibilities of success.”

And up to here reaches the capitalist education. Generations after generations – including my own – have continued to grow up under a system (not in), which tells them that unless they look out for themselves, perhaps their immediate family too, since they are kin after all, no one else will.

We therefore go to work and make as much money as we can so that we can pay the bills that we have amassed, which have in turn been accumulated by all the things that we have bought – shelter, education, healthcare and a lieu of other (often unnecessary) products included in there, too. Our parents say to us, with utter sincerity, that they are now breaking their backs in factories, with an extra job (sometimes two), in the grave-yard shift, so that we can have enough money to pay for school and then become a “success” – be economically stable, making decent amounts of money in a job that doesn’t involve cleaning streets or carrying boxes, and – this is extra, though a nice one – hopefully helping the public while we do it. Janitorial work is for suckers and non-educated people; for the “unsuccessful”.

We grow up in a society that teaches that “individualism” means competing against everyone else to reach that elusive yet apparent wealth just at the tip of the horizon; we are in a race against each other, selling our labour as cheap as possible so that we may get the job rather than the other, so that we may survive. We grow up believing that “being the best we can be” means doing whatever I can to become wealthy and, therefore, economically stable (as well as ensuring survival, for without enough money from a job or even two, we are Shit Out of Luck). Indeed, we grow up believing that since everyone else around is following their own interest – as it is taught from grammar school and much more vehemently in high-school, then even in university – we may as well do so, too, lest we perish.

We are taught to be “industrial” and to have an “entrepreneurial spirit”; to be competitive at every level, and when we win, we are taught not to help bring the “losers” up to the same level, but rather to be “gracious winners”.

The apparent ever-pervading power of the Economy – that massive Pie of Wealth that is presented as the potential of what we can get (most easily seen in the industrial world) – now pervades our lives, too. The Economy is now something that we ­– mankind – must tap into; it is an entity outside of ourselves which we apparently bow down to. The Economy – the entity that must not be disturbed or meddled or intervened with by Politics – becomes the main vehicle of “prosperity”, “opportunity” and “success”. Political Science is seen as the course you take in University when you don’t really know what you want to do; it is what you take if you supposedly want to “cruise by”. Economics, International Finances, Business – these are the heavy-hitting majors, the ones that offer the most “opportunity”.

And, again, through centuries of this kind of “education”, mankind actually begins to believe the lie. In fact, we don’t even question it. We simply assume that, indeed, lest someone else gets a piece of the pie first, I better take it. We grow up believing that our neighbours are people to say “Hi” to in the morning and “Hi” to at night, and nothing else. Our real “interactions” become those engulfed in business transactions or as part of our jobs. Only our family – our home – is the place where we can let loose, where we can really “talk,” where we are no longer thinking of ourselves and everyone and everything else as a “commodity” or, at the very least, as someone or something from where we can extract some benefit.

However, “the misery that needs to be accumulated,” says Che, “for such an example to surge [Rockefeller-style “Success”] and the mounting ruin that a wealth of that magnitude entails, do not appear in the picture, and it isn’t always possible for the [people] to understand these concepts” (36).

In capitalist society, where I now live, we come to be complacent in the exploitation that we now know inevitably happens. We lose that sense that tells us that exploiting this or that person is wrong, simply because we don’t see it. We know factories use cheap labour around the world, extracting natural resources from the so-called Third World at “market prices” and selling them finished goods, also at “market prices”. We know it is wrong, we denounce the exploitation, but we simply believe that there is nothing we can do; that this is life; that it is normal. We donate to charity, to cancer-research, to walk-a-thons, in an effort to placate what I believe is some uneasiness in the back of our mind – something telling us we are part of the fucking problem.

“In any case,” Che continues, “the path painted is one with pitfalls but which, nevertheless, can apparently be superseded by an individual with the necessary qualities to reach the goal. The prize is envisioned in the distance; the path is solitary. Plus, it’s a race of wolves: one can only reach the goal by stepping over the failure of others.”

“This process…must be profoundly hypocritical,” he says. “It is the evidenced interest in making a lie a truth” (39).

PART IV – THE NEW MAN

It is for this reason – due to the fact that our mentality does not, and cannot, allow life to be any other way – that Socialism as the vehicle to take us to Communism must be Created and not Adopted. People are resistant to systemic change; they don’t want to stop doing the things they’ve always done, or acting how they’ve always known is “correct”. Therefore, the first steps – or rather, the ones to be taken concomitantly with the Political-Judicial reforms necessary – involve the creation of a new type of Man…or rather, of a new type of Mentality for Man.

“To construct communism,” says Che, “one must create the new man simultaneously with the material base” (38).

It is taking off from this premise that has garnered criticism from those who dub the idea of creating a new man – a selfless, peaceful, laborious and heroic Man – as utopian and unrealistic, at best, and as brain-washing and loss of identity at its worst. But these criticisms, it is easy to realize, come from the very mouths of those created under the dominant capitalist system; from those who are now convinced that we are indeed selfish, and that any attempt to straighten this skewed behaviour is futile, indeed, unnatural and dogmatic.

But it mustn’t be.

The type of Man and Woman that is to be created in (not under) a socialist system is one that possesses the qualities of a person that feels at every level – spiritually, physically and mentally – as part of a larger unit. And why should that be impossible? We see that spirit all the time, even in capitalist society.

“In Capitalism, it is possible to observe some phenomena of this type when there appear politicians capable of mobilizing the masses,” says Che. “But if it isn’t about an authentic social movement…the movement will live only as long as he who pushes it, or until the end of the people’s illusions, imposed by the rigor of the capitalist society” (36).

We see it when a political leader campaigns through the nation in the running-up to an election, getting people excited with their rhetoric and promises, which culminates in cheers, applauding, even chanting (“U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”); we see it when industry leaders with their own cause rally up people, such as the Komen Foundation and their annual walk-a-thons for cancer research (which in itself is a joke  – a cancer of capitalism, but for another discussion). Evidently the spirit of unison and hope is there to be ‘exploited’. The problem is that, under a capitalist society, it is only summoned at special times – such as during election time, or on scheduled walk-a-thons – and then the spirit itself vanishes as people return to their homes and carry on their daily lives, leaving that impactful feeling of unity with people – nay, with a Cause – relegated to some happy though forgotten corner of their minds.

In the United States, Barack Obama became the symbol for “change” and “progress”, being the first black man to ever be elected president, not to mention the very progressive promises he made (though very seldom kept), such as closing the Guantanamo Prison. The people rallied around him, the world-over also cheered and made noise; Americans were ecstatic about a new direction in the country. But, as we all know, it did not take long for that fervour to evaporate, and in the last elections, he merely squeaked by (with something like 6% difference). What is more, the talk among the population of “change” in the country, of “progress”, of “new hope”, has died, if not receded. Now people don’t talk of change; they now simply hope things don’t get worse.

However, in the creation of the new Man that will, once he is fully self-aware and educated, be the Communist Man, it is precisely this kind of heroic, participatory and fraternal spirit that is to be not only summoned at special and difficult occasions, when it is mostly needed; but rather a pervading quality of man that is to be expressed by his actions, his words, his behaviour and his personal and social priorities, every single day of his life.

Che mentions the beginning stages of the Cuban Revolution, when the masses – the people – were still asleep and had to be mobilized by the Revolutionary Vanguard that were the Guerrilla fighters – “engine of the movement, generator of revolutionary conscience and of combative enthusiasm.”

“Under the frame of the proletarization of our thinking, of the revolution that was operating in our habits, in our minds, the individual was always fundamental”, he says (34). In other words, the beginning processes of the revolution involved infusing the common people with the same type of revolutionary, patriotic and heroic fervour the guerrilla fighters exemplified both during the actual guerrilla-war in the Sierra Maestra and after victory, in their daily lives.

Their first test came during  the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, and the second one in October of 1963, during the Flora Cyclone, which hit the northern part of the island. During these two events, the people – not only the military – proved their heroism, patriotism and, most importantly, their unity when they joined with the armed forces to both keep the American-led invasion out of its doors, and to diminish the impact of the natural disaster on its citizens.

“We saw exceptional acts of valour and sacrifice realized by an entire people,” Che says.

But in the great Socialist Project, as I said, the idea is to harness this kind of overwhelming feeling – that kind of momentum that feels like electricity building up your spine – on a daily basis. To be like that every day, not only during special occasions.

“To find the formula to perpetuate in every-day-life that heroic attitude, is one of our fundamental tasks from the ideological point of view,” says Che (34).

For this new man, life sheds its solitary nature and it no longer seems like a cut-throat competition. Man is part of a society that does not exist to exploit him, but rather to support him and be supported by him. Work ceases to be a burden that we do for survival, and instead it becomes a social duty, performed for no other reason than to see its fruits go back to our society. Shelter, food, education, health – the necessities of life – are provided by the State, which indeed takes its power from the people[3] – and work is therefore not a means to survival, but, as I’ve already said, a social duty.

In this way, the lawyer, the journalist, the constructor, the driver, the house-keeper, the taxi driver, the street cleaner – they are all important parts of a society that not only consumes their labour but appreciates it. Pay doesn’t have to be equal, for the priorities of the new Man do not involve accumulating unnecessary luxury (like two cars for one person, houses bigger than a family needs, summer houses for vacations, shoes that are bought simply because they are on sale, etc., etc.), and the pay/salary workers receive certainly does not dictate their standard of living. The society becomes a breathing organism that is fed by the work of every single person. And Man is therefore not only free to enjoy his labour, but proud to perform it, as he feels himself an important and vital part of society.

And all of that is not impossible. It is just a matter of education. Socialist Education…


[1] The book I have is translated to Spanish, I think from its original German, as the writer sounds German, though I’m just speculating. Thus, the translation from Spanish to English is entirely my own.

[2] Part of the short Anthology: Global Justice: Liberation and Justice

[3] See the other blog I wrote, where I talk a little more about the Participatory Democracy, exemplified through the National Assembly and the Committees of Defence of the Revolution in Insights of an Aspiring Revolutionary: On the “Vanguard”

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