Socialism or kinder capitalism?

At the end of 2008, when the global economy was on the brink of collapse, many respected commentators called it for what it was -- a crisis caused by capitalism.

The world began to look for the basic cause of the crisis and a new society where human beings, and not profits, are central.

On the eve of the G20 summit in London a few weeks ago, slogans like “Capitalism does not work” or “Towards a society for people, not profit” were seen everywhere. They heralded the hot issue of the 21 century -- the need for a new, humane system to replace capitalism.

Every country is finding its own path to setting up a new society

The unemployed queue up for buses to a job fair in New York, on April 9, 2009. (AFP Photo)

Philosophers suggest two alternative forms of society: more compassionate capitalism and socialism.

Compassionate capitalism in the point of view of Bill Gates, the former president and founder of Microsoft, is a creative capitalism that uses market forces to address poor-country needs that he feels are being ignored.

"We have to find a way to make the aspects of capitalism that serve wealthier people serve poorer people as well," Mr. Gates said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

However, the working class in both developed and developing countries, who have been pushed out on the streets do not think there is a kinder form of capitalism, just because capitalism has never been kind.

Capitalist countries are thought to be benevolent due to the aid and ODA loans they provide poor countries, but most poor countries know that lenders always get back huge benefits in the form of projects for their own companies. Many rich countries, in fact, insist that projects they finance must be given only to their own contractors.

At conferences to discuss free trade, rich capitalist countries fight tooth and nail for their own, narrow interests. The collapse of the Doha round of WTO talks on free trade last July provided clear evidence of how western countries like the US, Japan, and EU members protect their interests.

The working class is raising the question: Should we accept capitalism after it own (??) put a thousand-ton burden on our shoulders?

Socialism comes back in Europe

In Eastern European countries, Governments have implied (what does it mean and what tense?) strong interference into economies, which is denied with capitalism. In several countries, communist and socialist parties have been returned to power through polls.

An article on the New Statesman, a leading political periodical in Britain, said: “At the beginning of the century, the chances of socialism making a return looked close to zero. Yet now, all around Europe, the red flag is flying again.”

In Moldova’s general election in April, the Communist Party received 49.48 percent of the votes, winning 60 out of 101 seats in parliament. In Iceland’s June general elections, a coalition of left parties won for the first time in the country’s history. Analysts said people voted for them because they trust the parties to fight for the people. 

An opinion poll last year showed that 45 per cent of West Germans and 57 per cent of East Germans consider socialism "a good idea," the New Statesman story said further.

It is a similar story of left-wing revival in neighboring Holland. There the Socialist Party of the Netherlands (SP), which almost trebled its parliamentary representation in the most recent general election (2006), and which made huge gains in last year's provincial elections, continues to make headway, the article said.

The party calls for a society where the values of "human dignity, equality and solidarity" are most prominent, and has been scathing in its attacks on what it describes as "the culture of greed," brought about by "a capitalism based on inflated bonuses and easy money."

In Greece, the party on the up is the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), the surprise package in last year's general election. As public opposition to the neoliberal economic policies of the ruling New Democracy government builds, SYRIZA's opinion-poll ratings have risen to almost 20 per cent, putting it within touching distance of PASOK, the traditional left-of-centre opposition, which has lurched sharply to the right in recent years.

SYRIZA is particularly popular with young voters: its support among those aged 35 and under stands at roughly 30 per cent in the polls, ahead of PASOK.

In Norway, socialists are already in power; the ruling "red-green" coalition consists of the Socialist Left Party, the Labor Party and the Centre Party. Since coming to power three years ago, the coalition, which has been labeled the most left-wing government in Europe, has halted the privatization of state-owned companies and made further development of the welfare state, public health care, and improving care for the elderly its priorities.

Europe seemed to turn right in the EC election in June when even some extreme right parties won seats. However, New Statesman said that since the start of the financial crisis, parties of the right have moved left – appropriating historically centre-left policies, such as the need for higher public spending and greater regulation.

Latin America turns red

Jobseekers ask for information in a job center in Tokyo, April 2009. (AFP Photo)

In Latin America, left parties have been winning general elections for many years now.

The public took note of Hugo Chavez 10 years ago when he won the presidential election for the first time and was determined to make Venezuela socialistic under his 21st century socialism model. After him there was Lula Da Vilsa (name right?) of Brazil, Kirchner (full name) of Argentina, tabare (full name) of Uruguay, and Evo Morales of Bolivia.

There are 13 left wing governments in Latin America which have nationalized industries exploiting natural resources. Millions of people have benefited from social welfare, buying food at cheap prices, getting loans for production and trading, getting land for farming, free health care and education, low infant mortality, and longer life spans.

The result of a survey carried out by Rasmussen in April shocked the US and the media said: “Only 53 percent of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism and 20 percent say socialism is better.”

Looking at the poll, it might appear to be a victory for capitalism but remember the survey was done in a country with a long tradition of anti-socialism and witch hunts. In the US today left movements have played important roles in the fight for peace, ant-war, withdrawing troops from Iraq, good health care, social welfare, and other issues.

Marxists and socialists are confident that the world economy will be restructured with the participation of workers, consumers, and politicians but with greater public ownership. 

Related Articles:

Victims of financial crisis or capitalism?

By Viet Trung

Other news