Friday, April 1, 2011
IT HAS TO GET WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER
We are a very long way from the ebullient youthful confidence of the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO. A large part of the irresistible attraction of Marx's anatomy of capitalism was his claim that the "laws of motion" of capitalist economy would lead inexorably -- and very soon -- to a socialist revolution. As the decades passed without the promised revolution, true believers took to interpreting each bubble or crash as a sign that the end of capitalism was nigh. Like the early Christians who began by believing that Jesus would come again in their own lifetimes, early Marxists fully expected that they themselves would see the Great Crash out of whose ashes a socialist world would rise. Eventually, socialist theorists took to referring optimistically to the development of international corporate capitalism as "late capitalism," in much the way that Evangelicals refer to our present condition as the "End Times." As each promise has gone unfulfilled, it has become harder and harder to keep the faith. We are allotted only a brief portion of time on this earth, and it takes more courage and faith than most of us can manage to sustain a belief in a better future as the months turn into years, the years into decades, and youth becomes old age. The hope for a socialist America that lives only in my fantasies sustained my grandfather a century ago. Must I bequeath that hope, as a relic from the past, to my grandson who is now only five? Desperation tries to breathe a glow into the dying embers of hope with the pathetic thought that perhaps things must get much worse before they can get any better. But this is cold comfort for atheists like me who have not the consolation of another life. These dark thoughts are inspired by the news that in the great state of Maine, a Republican Governor and legislature are proposing to roll back the child labor laws, which for more than one hundred and sixty years have stood as monument to the very earliest victories of American progressive politics. There is, it seems, no depth of iniquity to which Republicans will not sink, no assault on working men and women that shame will not stay their hand from attempting to carry out. Some of you, in your comments on a previous post, have assured me that the American people are far more progressive than their Representatives, who are bought and paid for by the monied interests. How bad does it have to get before the people rise up? We shall see.