does not spring from the malfunctioning of capitalism, but from what’s going on while and so long as capitalism functions. It’s the necessities of this system that communists want to get rid of, not its “drawbacks” or its “oversights.” To the popular question of how they would solve the notorious “problems” that, strangely enough, always plague the rulers and the ruled alike, they reply, “We wouldn’t.” It is a matter of not creating these “problems” in the first place. Then no one would have to agonize about the tremendous difficulty or even impossibility of “overcoming” them.
Communists therefore also reject that sweet justification of their historical mission which goes like this. So many beautiful things appear in capitalism that don’t work out properly in it and can only be perfected under socialism. We’re talking about such favorite items as freedom and equality, humanism, real free love, emancipation of the workers, of women, of homosexuals, etc. Communists consider such philosophical insights into history to be nothing but a stupid idealistic version of the disarming question, “And how would you solve the problems of the welfare budget, divorce settlements, environmental pollution, the size of the army and economic growth?” Really! As if communism were just the continuation of capitalism by other means!
The necessity of communism has a slightly different origin. It arises from an inspection of those same disagreeable circumstances which everyone else is always lamenting about. However, communists refuse to regard every case of a damaged interest – be it in matters of money, health or peace – as a “problem” to be solved (if it is at all solvable) by precisely those people who are responsible for the “problem” existing in the first place. We are referring to those dear fellow citizens who dispose over money and political power. When the many aggravations, lousy practices and sacrifices of bourgeois life turn out to be necessities of the “system,” then the “system” has to go. In this conclusion lies the whole necessity of communism.
1. The “communism” is dead campaign dominating public opinion everywhere is “only” a matter of national consciousness. But when entire nations unanimously decide that capitalism is fine simply because it works, it’s no joke. If this is what’s supposed to be so great about capitalism, then it is no longer fitting or even permissible to consider how it works, what it accomplishes, what it’s successful at. This crass praise of capitalism is a textbook case of a totalitarian ideology. No true or false arguments are put forward about capitalism, it’s benefits and drawbacks, about interests that it serves and interests that come up short. The finding that “our” system is all right is expressly meant to be accepted as a fact without any mention of its usefulness for anyone. After all, the usefulness of the thing is that it downright exists, so that the fine democratic right of criticism has now gone out of style once and for all. No one bothers to refute it, for criticism simply has no place in a “successful” system.
2. But there is one success of the system that you’re allowed to mention these days: its wealth, that some people identify with the bananas East bloc citizens can now buy. However, there is no good reason to give the system credit for the sheer existence – or even masses – of wealth in it. After all, the assets accumulating on company balance-sheets, in banks and state budgets are not intended to satisfy people’s needs, but to enlist more services from them, services of the kind that brought about the assets in the first place. When capitalist wealth is based on useful poverty, it should not be praised, but combated.
3. This useful poverty exists in the form of wage labor. It is dependent in every way on the needs and cycles of business. The employers are the ones who calculate when and how much people work and whether they work at all, how much they earn and whether they earn anything at all. In exchange, people marvelously free to budget their wages, their leisure time and their health. Consolation can be found in the wealth that other people are accumulating, in the knowledge that that there are others who are even worse off, and in the words of those in charge, that it is a “real necessity” to serve their interests.
4. Capitalism has set up a special “welfare” department to be officially responsible for administering the useful and useless poverty that is evidently recognized to be a permanent feature of the “best system.” The money used for this purpose comes from people’s wages, is collected by compulsion, and handed out sparingly. The wealth that exists in abundance is intended for a different purpose, namely to be increased.
5. When people are forced to sell their labor power to others in order to get hold of money, this does not mean that they can benefit from the wealth they produce. Their share of it is limited to what they need to remain useful for the services demanded of them. Nonetheless, there are other benefits. The kind of success that counts in the only true system requires supervision by the state. With its monopoly on force the state regulates the functioning of the system on a strictly legal basis, so that everyone in his walk of life does what he’s allowed to and refrains from doing what he’s not allowed to. In elections, citizens get to check off the names of the people and political parties who are to enforce the “necessities” of growth and welfare, money and poverty, by passing up-to-date laws. This is a really great benefit – the state’s actions cannot be challenged because they came about in the democratic way. The fact that those in charge were empowered by the people justifies all their “unpopular” decisions. People are free to exchange views on them. Another benefit.
6. The finances and power of the state depend on capital’s success. So do working people. Capital’s success depends on how much it attains by buying and selling and by investing in other countries as well. So every wage worker depends on his nation carrying international weight. He provides money and himself as a soldier to make and keep his nation’s currency and troops powerful. The competition between nations with its ups and downs is therefore his business as well.
7. People are not only allowed, but supposed to form an opinion about all these necessities. Science and religion are cultivated and distributed among the people in the proper doses for both the elite and the masses. A highly respected opinion about the unpleasant side of the functioning of the system is that there are certainly a lot of “problems” but they are in the best hands. The pleasant side is that everything is necessary and has a purpose. People can take to heart capital’s need for growth and the nation’s need for power, including the definition of who’s an enemy. After all, it’s no secret whose success everyone depends upon. “At least our children will have a better life.”
8. This is the prevailing attitude even if a lot of people are currently all excited about the “environmental problems” and are developing an “ecological awareness.” The necessities of capitalistic business have devoured a fair bit of nature, making it less and less suitable as a means of subsistence, so that people start feeling sorry for trees and rare animal species instead of comprehending the fundamental laws of the functioning system.
9. This is the system that is so alive and has outdone dead communism. The good fortune of being allowed to take part in it is a value in itself. It is known as freedom, will tolerate no criticism and demands a great deal of support. The administrators and advocates of the system say that all these disagreeable things are necessities. But communists know they are “only” the necessities of capital and state power. And if working people withhold their services to deprive the whole system of its foundation, that will be the end of it. Then people can start planning and need no longer obey “necessities” that other people set up.
[Excerpt from Karl Held and Audrey Hill, Is Communism Really Dead?, Resultate, Munich: 1991. For copies email email@example.com]