Can capitalism save democracy?

 
BY: Scott Hiley| October 28, 2018
QI want to say at once: I was born and live in Russia, so I immediately apologize for possible errors in the text. I am very interested in the political struggle in the USA, because on the Internet I often see young, energetic Americans who take to the streets with posters and slogans in support of communism, socialism or other left-wing, macrsite ideas. It surprises me. I myself am a student, and I myself participate in a political struggle, but already in Russia. And this is what I want to say: young people in Russia act in a completely different way. We take to the streets in support of right-wing ideas, libertarian values, and advocate capitalism free from pressure. We oppose Putin and his regime because he is a former KGB officer who is nostalgic for Soviet times and is trying to crush the market and business with government intervention. The Russians are the only people who have felt the fullness of the ideas of Marx and Lenin. We lived in the times of socialism, our parents sought communism, and what did this lead to? We do not want to go back to the times of Red Russia, because these times are monstrous. And while we rejoice for the Americans who have chosen the real capitalist Trump, the Americans want to overthrow him. It's funny, but only from the side. America is a great country, and it has become so thanks to the principles of capitalism, on the dollar system keeps the entire world economy. In socialism, we see a threat to this system. You are theorists who have never lived in a socialist system. We lived and know what it is. We know what a team, state economy looks like. We know what it is like to go out into the streets in the pouring rain with red posters and march, and say, “Thank you the Party for our happy childhood!” When everyone wants to go home as quickly as possible. We know what it is like when the rate of your currency is shaped not by free competition, but in the offices of officials. We know how to live in a world of universal equality and closed borders. Believe me, I do not wish America such a fate, and therefore I wonder why this is what you want.
AHello, and thank you for writing to us.  I will say the same thing: I apologize if I have misunderstood something about the political situation in Russia.

To us, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin seem very similar. Both are capitalists (in the literal sense: both got their fortune from owning companies).  Both are right-wing nationalists and both use a cult of personality as their main political tool. Both make alliances with reactionary Christian groups. Both use state power to advance the interests of billionaires over those of ordinary citizens.  Neither values democracy or a free press, and neither cares anything about the working class--even though both pretend to be men of the people.

Your overall question, which is about democracy and how we get there, reminds me of something that Lenin said in a speech on the fourth anniversary of the October Revolution: capitalist democracy cannot fulfill its promises. 

Just after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the ruling class of my country fully embraced the economic policy called neoliberalism: deregulation, privatization, lower taxes on the rich, and cuts to social services for the poor.  They promised that the free market would protect democracy and promote economic opportunity.

So where are we now, almost thirty years later?  Forty percent of the children in my country live in families who do not earn enough to pay for the basic necessities of life.  Most people in my generation  live paycheck to paycheck, with no savings and no plan for retirement, because all benefits of economic growth go to shareholders, not workers. The average life expectancy is decreasing because our private, for-profit health care system is extremely inefficient. The cost of university education has more than doubled in the last 30 years, leaving students trapped in debt.  And the Republican Party (the main party of big business) is passing laws that limit the democratic rights of citizens, but expand the rights of corporations.

Capitalism has failed the people of our country. We study and learn from the Soviet example, especially Lenin's works, but we are not trying to rebuild the Soviet Union or create a one-party state under Communist rule. We are trying to help our people take the next step forward in the struggle for democracy.  Our vision of socialism is a multi-party state under the control of the working class majority, who will make collective decisions about the use of publicly owned resources.  You can read about it here.

Anyway, since it sounds like we're both struggling against corrupt, right-wing, nationalist leaders, I wish you the best.  But I agree with Lenin: if you pursue democracy far enough, eventually you will have to go beyond capitalism.

P.S. , but I was punished at school when I refused to salute the American flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance to our country.  Indoctrination and propaganda are just as intense from the capitalist side.
Author
    Scott Hiley has taught French, literature, history, and philosophy at the high school, college, and post-graduate levels.  A member of CPUSA since 2010, he is active in struggles against austerity and for education justice and labor rights. His articles have appeared in the People's World (US), the Morning Star (UK), and l'Humanité (France). He lives in a rural town in upstate NY.

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