[Marxism] How Capitalism Destroys the Young

Jurriaan Bendien andromeda246 at hetnet.nl
Thu Dec 9 14:40:37 MST 2004


I'm sure we all share your concerns, but isn't it a bit facile to blame it 
all on capitalism? For instance, if you look at the incidence of infantile 
HIV infection in UNICEF data, the bulk of it occurs in Africa, but most of 
the countries involved don't really have much capitalism (i.e. an 
agricultural labour force of 80% or so), and insofar as they do have it 
(e.g. South Africa), it's not clear to me that capitalist market economy as 
such is the direct or main cause. So at most you could say that it's a 
preventable disease that is within the technical capacity of the developed 
countries to help these people solve, but that insufficient priority is 
attached to health programs, or that patents get in the way of distributing 
medicines etc. Suppose that you are correct though and that capitalism 
really is the problem here (insofar as it had eroded traditional social 
structures etc., neo-colonial exploitation) then how would we do things 
differently so that a better result was obtained?

This thought kinda links to the Petras article cited by Calvin, where Petras 
demarcates ideologically in a rather simplistic, schematic and sweeping way 
between Marxist and post-Marxist, so that by implication you are either 
Marxist or, if post-Marxist, anti-Marxist and anti-socialist - everything 
short of revolution aids oppression and exploitation. Seems to me this 
ultra-left stance is a little unfair to many post-Marxists, who might share 
with Marxists the same ideals, but actually attempt to do something 
constructive in the here and now, within or outside NGOs.

There's no doubt of course that "doing something constructive" usually 
requires funding, and this sense post-Marxists would be limited by the 
political concerns of the funders (with the concomitant "you don't bite the 
hand that feeds" dynamic). Even so, I would think that many of these people 
are very valuable, insofar as they're thinking practically about how you 
would actually do things differently, beyond abstractly blaming capitalism. 
I think that's important, insofar as I think most people aren't politically 
persuaded by anti-capitalist rhetoric, but rather by credible positive 
alternatives (Petras mentions only municipal socialism in Porto Alegré).

Quite possibly many post-Marxists are driven to their position by the 
absence of positive alternatives offered by Marxists. From Petras's article 
though you can only really conclude that "post-Marxists ought to be 
Marxists", but this strikes me as a little idealist, because it doesn't 
explain satisfactorily why post-Marxists have dropped Marxism. You need to 
consider not just changes in political beliefs here, but also the social 
realities which give rise to the beliefs. Presumably the political reason 
for talking about the "problem of post-Marxists" is either to brand them 
"enemies of the people" or else to find ways of bringing them back into the 
Marxist fold, but Petras really does neither. He might be 100% politically 
correct, but the question is whether he gets people on board with what he 
says.

Jurriaan 





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