Creators become Destroyers
The immensely wealthy few possess all and thrive; the masses own nothing, go down and die. The earth is being destroyed in the meantime. Capitalism used to mean growth but now recession. It is in fact a corpse, only bacteria. Let us bury it quickly.
Creators become big destroyers
Fernando García Izquierdo
The main purpose of this article is to show that the misery and destruction into which our world has been plunged these five or six years has its origin, its main cause, in capitalism, the system that first came into existence approximately two centuries ago.
Recognising, as I do, that the system has brought undeniable progress (in science above all) to our civilization, it must all the same be said that the evil inherent to capitalism (as shown throughout its history and particularly during its upper-phase, imperialism) is such that it now constitutes the greatest danger to the very existence of said civilization, as well as to life in the entire planet, as we understand it.
Let me emphasise, at the outset, that nothing very original will be found in this article. I shall mainly be trying to remember what I learned long ago studying ‘Marxian political thought’ at London University.
When I was a little boy, there was a war in Spain, the country where I was born. The object of that war, the purpose of the warmongers, was to destroy the Spanish democratic republic. Towards the end of said war, the victorious fascists became very busy, they knew victory was assured, but they were also preparing the future enslavement of the people. It happened that the visible head of Spanish fascism, General Franco, became very impatient, and wanted to wind up the fighting as soon as possible. He wrote an ‘orden’ (he always started his orders with this sentence: ‘ordeno y mando’) to one of his officers, Colonel Varela, asking why his regiment advanced less quickly than the others. ‘Su Excelencia,’ the colonel’s missive in reply read, ‘no tiene que preocuparse por la demora, pues si bien es verdad que el avance es lento, al mismo tiempo vamos limpiando pueblos y ciudades del virus marxista’, i.e. The Varela regiment advanced less quickly than expected, ‘but it was because it (the regiment) was taking its time to make sure all marxists were eliminated, ‘cleansing villages and towns from the marxist virus.’
All Marxian thinking had to disappear, be ‘extirpated’, they said. That was the object of the war. That has been the perpetual object of capitalism-imperialism. It is still so today. On a French national radio the other day (it must have been January 15) I heard the very words of Fascist Varela, uttered by a journalist. José Enrique Varela Iglesias (Colonel then, general later on, and then minister of war and for many years chief of the Falange party) did murder thousands of Spaniards, and was rewarded for his crimes.
‘¡Hay que extirpar el virus marxista! That evening of the middle of January 2014, on the French radio, I seriously believed that Colonel Varela had been resurrected, in Paris, in order to give one of his venomous speeches. There was, on the radio-programme, a so-called debate. As almost always, when two wisemen come on the air for a ‘debate’, I received the impression that I was hearing two paid sycophants both merely repeating the conventional capitalist wisdom. Only, this time, there was an added something. One of the ‘debaters’ was really an indecent guy, spitting out every minute that fabricated-sentence of ‘marxism is a virus’, or ‘marxism is corrosive’ or things to the like effect; while the other ‘debater’ (more decent, apparently) contented himself saying ‘that Marx is out of date’.
No! Marx is not out-of-date, but very actual, as I shall try to demonstrate.
After having shown how money is changed into capital, and how capital serves to exploit the masses and produce more capital for the exploiters’ exclusive benefit, that extraordinary thinker who was Karl Marx (1818-1883), asks himself, at the very end of Part One of his monumental work ‘Capital’, the following question:
How did anyone, in any given country or community, come to possess those great amounts of money that were converted in due course into capital? That is to say, how did a small portion of the population come to be rich, while the masses became poorer and dispossessed? why, how and wherefrom did that ‘excess property’ (that would be converted into capital) come to be in the hands of a few, so that eventually it could be directly utilised to exploit the masses?
When Karl Marx began to write ‘Capital’, he had lived in London for quite some time. He worked hard in the British Museum Library, and could study hundreds of reports and other official and unofficial texts, which confirmed in writing the poverty he saw with his own eyes.
There must have existed, he wrote, ‘preceding capitalist accumulation, an accumulation not the result of the capitalist mode of production, but its starting point.’
A historical-biographical note
Marx, who not only devoted a considerable time to studying the condition of the working-class, but took besides active part in the struggle of the working classes for socialism, wrote innumerable books, essays and articles (as well as letters to other fighters, intellectuals and workers alike. Only a small portion of this work could have been published in his lifetime. At his death, Capital I was already published, and distributed in many countries and translated into several languages.
But it was Frederick Engels (1829-1895) who, after his friend’s death, devoted a great part of his life (he became blind towards the end of his life, when no doubt his eyes were exhausted) to deciphering, editing and completing at times, after consulting other sources, hundreds of manuscript pages, including the second and third parts of ‘Capital’, while at the same time (like his friend) taking active part in the workers’ struggle for socialism. It is thanks to this indefatigable man, to his undeniable knowledge and devotion, that many generations of fighters have been able to read the entire work.
Two classes, says Marx, must have existed, ‘two very different kinds of commodity-possessors that must have come face to face and into contact from an early time; on the one hand, the owners of money who, in consequence, possess the means of production and the means of subsistence in a given community, and who are eager to increase the sum of values they possess, by buying other people’s labour- power; on the other hand, free labourers, who possess nothing or almost nothing, and who became the sellers of the only commodity they had: their own labour-power, and therefore the sellers of labour.’
In other words, a form of society had to come into existence, at some early epoch, where 1) a few, the rich, owned and controlled everything or almost everything; they were ‘the Capitalists’, few, but in command, and 2) the ‘free’ workers, the mass of the people, the poor; they were ‘free’ in the double sense ‘that neither they themselves formed part and parcel of the means of production, as in the case of slaves, bondsmen…, nor did the means of production belong to them’. They had nothing or almost nothing, and were obliged to work for others. They were ‘the workers.’
There were, besides, small peasant-proprietors, ‘small’ in the sense that they were poor, but owned a chunk of land to work on, and owned, too, the simple instruments they used for working.
The masses were obliged to sell their own working-power
‘Thus it came to pass,’ Marx writes, ‘that the rich few accumulated wealth, and the masses had at last nothing to sell except their own skins.’
All through history, save perhaps in very ancient times (when so-called primitive communism was the norm), there has been exploitation of the many by the few. In the early stages of humanity, however, when the division of society did not exist, humans moving about in hordes, exploitation was unknown. The communities that were then formed would have been unable to pass from the ‘State of Nature’, described by the philosophers, onto the so-called State of Society unless there was some form of communism. The origin of speech, a primitive form of agriculture, the hunting of wild animals, the constitution of flocks of domestic animals, etc. could not have appeared in a community where antagonism prevailed. The most common exploitation of human by human all through history, the exploitation of women by men, was unknown, as is proved by the status women held in primitive societies. There was the difference in physical strength but the women ruled at home, in a communistic way; agriculture was invented by them, while the men were away hunting; the teaching of the children was partly in charge of the women, and part (hunting, for instance) in charge of the men, and even so, a brother of the mother took charge of the teaching. If at all, the status of women (mothers) was superior to that of men: there were the known mothers of the children (in a community where sexual promiscuity must have been the order of the day), while the ‘father’ must have been generally unknown. Matriarchy was then the norm; when the idea of religion cropped up, the supreme being was a goddess, not a god. (Read Engels’s ‘The origin of the family, private property and the state.’
The dogma of private property
Reverting to our main subject, which is wealth accumulation, we all in the so-called free world have been (are being) told at school and elsewhere, from our most tender age, 1) that the wealth of the few (non-workers) constitutes ‘a sacred right’ which must be respected (all temporal laws and divine encyclicals have constantly propounded this idea); 2) that this private property must constantly be allowed to increase; for it is this (accumulation) that causes economic growth and general wellbeing, and 3) that it is somehow ordained from Above or, what is the same thing, that it is an inescapable fact that the immense majority of humans must live by ‘the sweat of their brows’, and the few who do not work must constantly increase their capital, among other things because the well-being of all depends on the further investment of capital, by which production will augment (growth) and civilisation will attain new heights.
So, the existence of the poor masses, side by side with the rich elite (we are told) is inherent to the Nature of Man and of society, and nothing can be done to alter this sacred rule.
In my mother tongue there is a popular saying. ‘Siempre ha habido ricos y pobres, y siempre los habrá.’ This is both a religious dogma and an incontrovertible fact in our (Spanish and freeworld) society. In other words the rich will always be rich and the poor must always remain poor.
Being free under the law
Under capitalism, the poor are free, we are told. Free workers who come voluntarily to a contract, i.e., enter in contact with the owners of capital. They enter into a ‘contract’ freely, under the Law.
The workers of former times were slaves. Yet, it so happens that in almost all societies of masters and slaves, when slavery was abolished, the condition of the ‘slave’ deteriorated instead of improving. And this was due to capitalism.
In Russia, when serfdom was abolished by law, the freed serfs perished on the roads, because before the law of abolition, the serf was at least fed by his master, who, considering the serf was representing for him a ‘use value’ (a property, like his domestic animals), always saw that said serf did not die of starvation. And we shall see what happened in England when the free workers sometimes found themselves without food.
Property and private wealth
As for the reason given to explain the existence of wealth in society, the irreconcilable antagonism between the wealthy few and the impoverished masses, the answer given is that the best specimens of humanity are ‘our betters’ (for the poor), while the masses are (for the rich) ‘our hands’. And the theological- philosophical explanation of this discrepancy is: because the working-classes constitute… less intelligent, quite unworthy people.
Marx knows better. ‘In actual history,’ he writes, ‘it is notorious that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder - in short, force - plays the greater part.’
As everybody knows, our history is the history of wars and suffering imposed, one way or another, by bandits, robbers, brigands, i.e., the power elite.
The submission of the poor by the rich, who had besides the impudence of forcefully employing a portion of their ‘hands’ as soldiers and sailors to go and subjugate other peoples to make them slaves (colonialism) is capitalism.
Expropriation of the land
In order to understand how, at the start of the industrial revolution and of capitalism, in England, two kinds of human beings came face to face, in the process of ‘production’; that, on the one hand, there was the majority of the people who possessed nothing, and, on the other hand a minority of wealthy individuals who owned everything, one has to go back in history, as Marx did.
The industrial revolution brought advancement and did a lot of good. All the same, what is the reason for it not bringing comfort and well-being also for the masses? Greed. Instead of happiness, the industrial revolution brought misery, caused enormous suffering, as we shall see.
Referring to this misery and sufferance, Marx writes about what happened in England in the middle ages, when the people were attached to the land, that is to say, agriculture was the main source of production.
We learn, reading Marx, how society was being split into two social classes, the rich and the poor; classes which were extant at the inception of capitalism; and yet, now (with capitalism) these classes were somewhat different from what they had been under feudalism and the systems that everywhere preceded modern capitalism.
Karl Marx shows in Capital how in England the industrial revolution, which, as we have said, should have brought so many benefits to humankind, brought on the contrary much horror. The transformation of the form of production from the old to the new system followed the following steps: 1) serfdom had practically disappeared, already, in England; in other words, the passage from feudalism to ‘some other system’ was already taking place; 2) in England, in consequence, the free-peasant proprietors constituted (at that period) an already important portion of the population, and it has to be remembered that agricultural production constituted at that time the most important wealth-creating activity; 3) there were in that country very many small proprietors (even if they were rather poor; 4) the feared bailiff of the time of feudalism (himself, then, a serf) had been replaced by a free farmer, a man still at the service of the rich, and like the others (of the people) a small proprietor now on the way of becoming rich; 5) there were, in turn and as a result of all this, ‘farm-hands’ (impoverished peasants) left on the side of the road to ‘civilization’, who now worked for others at a wage, but were all the same ‘free’ peasants for the time being; 6) these free (but poor) peasants were, on the one hand, labourers for others, and on the other hand (because, somehow, they were allotted some tiny bits of land) their own bosses: they worked for the rich, and they worked with their wives and children as ‘petit’ producers of things they ate, i.e., because with this chunk of land the family could supplement their income, obtaining some food for themselves, and being allowed to keep some domestic animals, some fowl, a goat, etc.; 7) there existed then in almost all of Europe, and certainly in England, the so-called ‘commons’, common-land, which, as can be easily understood, constituted the gross of the country’s territory: all the mountains, the rivers, the forests, and moors; there, the people were allowed to fish, hunt, introduce their cattle and sheep to feed freely and allow them to ramble about; while the people obtained (from these ‘commons’) still more benefits, fuel, etc.; 8) one day these ‘commons’ ceased to exist, because of the greed of the rich: the so-called ‘enclosures’, and the seizure of these enclosures by the rich because they were better able (more competitive) to exploit them: this was done by acts of parliament, by the Law, and it is one of the greatest crimes in English history, 9) and one must not forget this: in the towns which, like in other countries, periodically became ‘the market places’ of the region many men and some women, coming from alien places, strangers, maybe even foreigners, established themselves as merchants, artisans and service-providers in general (among them very useful handicraftsmen), and they began to acquire a special prominence, too, in society; eventually they became the ‘burghers’ (‘bourgeois’), called this way because they first appeared in towns (‘burgs’), and it is well known that, at this time of history already, they contributed to the development of our civilisation, and revolutions.
The people always suffered
The standard of living of the English working-classes went down and down with the advent of capitalism. In the eighteenth century the English were in the main freer and had better living standards than other Europeans. This was not due to any superiority of the English themselves, but, as is always the case, to a combination of circumstances, the geography of the country in the first place: a good climate, rich soil, exploitable subsoil, proximity to a sea-port from any point in the land, an abundance of rivers, if never too big, a relatively flat land, for the easy building of canals, for building roads, and easier husbandry than in mountainous countries. Manufacture and commerce developed most naturally, then. Acces to market-towns was easier and exchange of commodities was common; communication increased; handicraft thus thrived, and the peasants learned to exchange and sell their products. Barter and also the use of money and banking developed quite naturally.
There were many places in Europe where all these things had existed since the middle ages (Venice is a case in point), but nowhere things went so far as in the England that came out of the middle ages. The country was indeed destined to pass on into the industrial revolution. The triumph of modern capitalism, banking, modern law, all took place first in England, towards the end of the eighteenth century.
The riches which capitalism brought, the benefits (the wealth) that accrued to England with capitalism (with no parallel with other countries in Europe), were immense, but 1) said riches went exclusively to a section of the population, and 2) the accumulation of this wealth by a few privileged individuals brought misery to the masses.
We cannot devote more than a few lines to this matter, which in modern journalism is resumed in two sentences: the rich became richer and prospered, and the poor became poorer and died.
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The UK, with capital in the City of London, then became richer, more powerful, the greatest empire which had existed on earth, Britannia ruled the waves. But at the same time, the majority of the population, the masses, became poorer and more miserable than ever before, the most exploited and the most suffering people in western Europe.
I know of course that exploitation had always existed. I realise too that in the last two centuries of our era, the sufferance inflicted by us, Europeans, upon Africans and other colonial people was and still is inimaginable. But it is a fact that with capitalism the British masses became still poorer and more miserable than they had been. And perhaps, unbelievable though this may sound, the most unhealthy, most downtrodden people in Europe.
This is what Charles Dickens wrote in one of his novels: ‘A sunny midsummer day. There was such thing even in Coketown (a fictitious name, perhaps Preston). Seen from a distance in such weather, Coketown lay shrouded in a haze of its own, which appeared impervious to the sun’s rays. You only knew the town was there, because you knew there could have been no such sulky blotch upon the prospect without a town. A blur of soot and smoke, now confusedly tending this way, now that way, now aspiring to the vault of Heaven, now murkily creeping along the earth, as the wind rose and fell, or changed its quarter: a dense formless jumble, with sheets of cross light in it, that showed nothing but masses of darkness:- Coketown in the distance was suggestive of itself, though not a brick of it could be seen.’
This was the world in which the English workers lived, when Imperial UK owned half the world. The reader need only go on reading about capitalist England and how the workers lived in every industrial town: ‘a dense formless jumble’.
Engels, a German who lived and worked in England most of his life, wrote about the condition of the working-class in England. Life was horrible. And all the classical English novels of the nineteenth century, from Charles Dickens to Elizabeth Gaskell, give you the same picture. There are pages in these novels which lead you to tears, a thing that does not happen when you read the English classics of the eighteenth century, like Tobias Smollett or Henry Fielding.
Non-fiction writing of a sublime spirit
Charles Dickens wrote about the horrors of incipient capitalism in his novels, but also as a reporter about real life, the things he saw. He travelled wherever necessary, in order to witness what the conditions of the workers was, to observe the results of capitalism, the state of the nation at the time. I can do no better than quote from his articles.
‘I am always wandering here and there,’ he writes, ‘seeing many little things, and some great things, which, because they interest me, I think may interest others.’
He wanted to know how the working-classes lived, and visited people, entering homes in terrace houses, cottages. A wonderful observer, who gave us those wonderful testimonials of real life. Indeed, a life of misery, privation and fear.
Once he visited the home of a working family, accompanied by a person who was to make the introductions. One of many miserable cottages of a miserable terrace. He arrived just as the housewife was starting to make the family’s dinner. A few chunks of something were being thrown into a caldron of boiling water. The fire (some pieces of wood) was ready.
‘… they had just now been thrust into the otherwise empty grate to make two iron pots boil. There was some fish in one. There were some potatoes in the other. The flare of the burning wood enabled me to see a table, and a broken chair or so, and some old cheap crockery, ornaments about the chimney piece…’ One of the family was ill. ‘… the sick young woman moaning; the speaker bent over her, took a bandage from her head, and threw open a back door to let in the daylight upon it, from the smallest and most miserable back-yard I ever saw…’ And then Dickens reports: ‘… I may state at once that my closest observation could not detect any indication whatever of an expectation that I would give money: they were grateful to be talked to about their miserable affairs, and sympathy was plainly a comfort to them; but they neither asked for money in any case, nor showed the least trace of surprise or disappointment or resentment at my giving none…’ We are dealing in this case with a report about a family where at least one member was in employment: I need not say that in times of crisis, almost all workers became unemployed and with no relief whatever. ‘… there was a very scanty cinderous fire in the grate by which they sat… there being a window at each end of the room, back and front, it might have been ventilated; but it was shut up tight, to keep the cold out, and was very sickening.’ In this house the man was all important. ‘The man (father-of-family) was sitting on a stool, his head on the palm of one hand, the elbow on his knee: he did not open his mouth. … he stretched out the short sleeve of his threadbare canvas jacket… the room was perfectly black. It was difficult to believe, at first, that it was not purposely coloured black, the walls were so begrimed… and there were certain fragments of rusty iron scattered on the floor, which looked like broken tools and a piece of stove-pipe. A child stood looking on. On the box nearest to the fire sat two younger children; one a delicate and pretty creature, whom the others sometimes kissed. The woman, like the last, was woefully shabby, and was degenerating to the Bosjesman complexion. But her figure, and the ghost of a certain vivacity about her, and the spectre of a dimple in her cheek, carried my memory strangely back to the old days… ‘Yes, sir; it’s a hard life. Take care of the stairs, as you go, sir, -They’re broken, -and good day, sir!’
In another article Dickens tells of visits to cottages next to copper and lead factories, in another working-class district. ‘I could enter no other house for that one while,’ he says, after describing the poverty reigning everywhere, ‘for I could not bear the contemplation of the children. Such heart as I had summoned to sustain me against the miseries of the adults failed me when I looked at the children. I saw how young they were, how hungry, how serious and still. I thought of them, sick and dying in those lairs. I think of them dead without anguish; but to think of them so suffering and so dying quite unmanned me.’ Dickens tells about visits to charity hospitals, too. He saw mothers of little creatures in despair, and yet ‘… even in their miserable dresses,’ he says, ‘they always made an effort to keep up some appearance of neatness.’ I am reading of men, women and children living near the factories, all condemmed to a premature death. ‘The very smell when you stood inside the door of the works was enough to knock you down.’ I ask the readers to let me quote, in particular, a scene where the chronicler is in the presence of a woman in employment - yes, though she was very ill, she went to work. ‘Yet,’ says Dickens, ‘she was going back again to ‘get took on’. What could she do? ‘Better be ulcerated and paralysed for eighteen pence a day, while it lasted, than see the children starve.’ And back in a charity hospital, he again comes face to face to children: ‘One baby mite there was as pretty as any of Raphael’s angels. The tiny head was bandaged for water on the brain; and it was suffering with acute bronchitis too, and made from time to time a plaintive, though not impatient or complaining sound. The smooth curve of the cheeks and of the chin was faultless in its condensation of infantine beauty, and the large bright eyes were most lovely. It happened as I stopped at the foot of the bed, that those eyes rested upon mine with that wistful expression of wondering thoughtfulness which we all know sometimes in very little children. They remained fixed on mine, and never turned from me while I stood there. When the utterance of that plaintive sound shook the little form, the gaze still remained unchanged. I felt as though the child implored me to tell the story of the little hospital in which it was sheltered to any gentle heart I could address. Laying my world-worn hand upon the little unmarked, clasped hand at the chin, I gave it a silence promise that I would do so.’
Let me end this part of my article, stating that as Dickens published all these (non-fiction) reports, the rich became very worried. They were not pleased that a celebrated writer should start showing to the world what real life was in industrial Britain. In a word, he was told off by the powers-that-be, and he felt obliged to publish a sort of rectification, recognising that the factory owners (who were also the owners of the cottages, shops, etc.) had always practised charity and built schools and hospitals.
Dickens was not the only one
These are only a few examples of what the author saw and wrote about, but I can assure the readers (those who have not read much of Dickens) that there are hundreds of pages in his work showing the same kind of injustice. The same, sometimes fiction, sometimes non-fiction. Moreover there are dozens of writers who have described similar horrors. While other authors describe how the rich lived in Great Britain at the time.
‘The fifth half-yearly dividend was announced at twelve and a quarter per cent of the paid up capital; the accounts from the copper-mine sent the dividend up to a still greater height, and carried the shares to an extraordinay premium.’
This is how Thackeray narrates the way the rich became dirty rich (the same way as our modern wolves of Wall Street.) He was well acquainted with that world and those ‘wolves’. Moreover Thackeray knew how the rich lived in England and how they lived in India, where he was born. The India that for centuries was a mere British possession, like the island of Tonga and the Australian continent, ‘The sun never set in the Empire.’ But India was the jewel of the Crown. The UK sovereign was emperor (or empress) of India, which, at the time, extended from Mesopotamia to Siam, and from Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean, including Ceylon. The City of London was sucking wealth from all those places. And this is what wealthy British in the City did for entertainment: after spending a season in the casinos of Baden-Baden and other cities in a collection of Germanic states to leave abundant surplus-money, they travelled in luxurious carriages to the Swiss Alps, then Rome, Naples, etc.
‘When we returned from our tour abroad,’ the hero of the novel relates, ‘the Indian Bank shares were so very high, that I did not care to purchase, though I found an affectionate letter from our good Colonel (enjoining me to make my fortune) awaiting me at the agent’s, and my wife received a pair of beautiful Cashmere shawls from the same kind friend.’
The army colonel in India, sending valuable presents (‘petit cadeaux’) to the beautiful wife of a friend (by mail, Britain being so advanced in such things as railways, shipping, communication and postal services): this was common, so much was being robbed from the natives. The friend in London owned shares in a very good capitalist joint (banks were founded with the product of colonial robbery. The London man went with his wife, in the evening, to one of the grandiose parties given by the selected few: bankers, aristocrats, army generals, brigands and merchants of all kinds; one hundred or more guests every night, with a legion of servants in attendance. The powerful banker who is giving a party tonignt will spend many thousands of pounds sterling, on the occasion. Almost every night there were parties. Monday we receive, Tuesday it will be you, et ainsi de suite. Succulent dinners with the most elegant ladies (each one had spent a small fortune in dress and ‘toilette’) and the gentlemen (who, after dinner, will retire to the smoking rooms and gambling tables for a while. But specially the grand ball starting at midnight. All kinds of festivities and celebrations on which huge sums of money are spent.
George Eliot, an artist and a great thinker, in one of her novels, tells us of ‘certain pallid undersized men, who, by the side of the brawny country-folk, looked like the remnants of a disinherited race. The shepherd’s dog barked fiercely when one of these alien-looking men appeared on the upland, dark against the early winter sunset…’ for to the peasants of old times the world outside their own direct experience was a region of vagueness and mystery.’ Was she writing of monsters or ruffians? Not at all. Englishmen, like the peasants, coming from the mines and the factories. It was capitalism which had caused them ‘to be regarded as aliens by their rustic neighbours…’
Marx read about all this, reading official reports, spending many hours in the British Museum library. It is thanks to him and Engels that we now know: 1) how money was transformed into capital; 2) how the few possessors of capital bought the labour-power of the dispossessed masses; 3) how labour and capital, jointly produce commodities for exchange, and 4) how the greed of the capitalists made them richer, and the workers poorer.
At the end of Part One of Capital, he shows how a small section of the population became rich in the first place. It is a story of injustice and robbery.
And of course he rejects the notion, propounded by Churches and Governments alike, that originally two different kinds of people were created: those who were born with very little brain, only worthy for manual work, to be subjected to others, and those, on the contrary, born to command and not work.
This thought, this outright discrimination, is very deeply anchored in the minds of many. The rich and their paid sycophants are always propounding that idea (dogma). But many among the poor, likewise, believed the rich are a superior set of beings. They would do well to read Marx, the writing which the fascists of present and past days call (called) ‘marxian virus.’
When I was at university in Madrid, if you were caught reading Marx you went to jail. Everybody, then, read the books of a confirmed fascist, whom we called a philosopher. This ‘philosopher’, Ortega y Gasset, in his book, ‘La rebelión de las masas’, tried to demonstrate that all the evil that had lately befallen Europe, starting with the recent war in Spain (1936-1939), was due to the fact that the masses, as from the end of the Great War, had become ‘rebellious’, because they had begun claiming their rights. And that ‘the selected few’ did not like. In his own words, the rich had ‘hundido sus talones in la arena’, i.e. had sunk their heels in the sand. And having done so, ‘los escogidos’, the selected few, had resisted the tempest represented by the uncouth masses.
I do not need to add that when fascism wins slavery ensues. In the said first part of ‘Capital’, we read (page 655) that after the triumph of capitalism in England, the standard of living of the people went down. ‘The insufficiency of food among the agricultural labourers, fell, as a rule, chiefly among women and children, for - it was believed- the man must eat to do his work. Still greater penury ravaged the town-workers examined.’ (Marx is referring here to official documents, copies of which existed in the library where he worked, some issued by ‘factory inspectors’ (there were such persons, fortunately, in England.) He went on: ‘They are so ill fed that assuredly among them there must be many cases of severe and injurious privation.’
‘Injurious privation’ of food. ‘Abstinence’, Marx adds, somewhat ironical. For, as is well-known, the Church formally imposes its members (rich and poor) some token abstinence, from time to time. Utter privation for the worker at all times; and, to compensate, the capitalist will have some religious abstinence, just to gain some extra-points in Heaven. In the meantime, Marx tells us, the factory owners (as hypocritical then as they are now) try by all means to abstain, he says, ‘from paying for the means of subsistence absolutely necessary for the mere vegetation of his factory-hands.’
In other words, Karl Marx saw, as Charles Dickens had seen, that the people, the workers and their families, were dying of malnutrition, infections, etc.
And again, Marx shows, page 714, ‘Capital I’, that for the exploitation of the masses, the money and commodities accumulated by the few serve the latter to come face to face with the labourers, under the Law. Two parties to a contract. The one rich (with Capital), the other possessing nothing (save their labour-power. The ‘free’ worker is transformed into ‘appendix of a machine’.
To put it in the author’s own words: ‘But this transformation itself can only take place under certain circumstances that center in this, viz., that two very different kinds of commodity-possessors must come face to face and into contact: on the one hand the owners of money, means of production, means of subsistence, who are eager to increase the sums of values they possess, by buying other peoples’ labour-power; on the other hand, free labourers, the sellers of their own labour-power and therefore the sellers of labour. Free labourers in the double sense that neither they themselves form part and parcel of the means of production, as in the case of slaves, bondsmen, &c., nor do the means of production belong to them, as in the case of peasant-proprietors; they are, therefore, free from, unencumbered by, any means of production of their own. With this polarisation of the market for commodities, the fundamental conditions of capitalist production are given. The capitalist production presuposes the complete separation of the labourers from all property in the means by which they can realise their labour.’
He goes on: capitalism ‘is a process that transforms, on the one hand, the social means of subsistence and of production into capital; on the other, the immediate producers into wage-labourers. The so-called primitive accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production. It appears as primitive, because it forms the prehistoric stage of capital and of the mode of production corresponding with it.’
And what about today?
I know that by quoting Marx, by referring to Marx today, Marxian studies, the paid sycophants who are the opinion-makers today, are going to call me antiquated and off-my-head (‘mon ami, tu dis n’importe quoi!’). History? They only talk of statistics and the figures they or their masters fabricate. They know only what to study that their ‘betters’ give them to read.
But here is precisely the point. We shall be able to do nothing to save our so-called free world from the disaster in which we are immersed, unless we look back at our past. History, yes! We must glance at capitalism’s doings in the past. ‘Disaster,’ I have said. Worse, much worse. I have heard this morning a report about the state of Greece at present. It is unbelievable that things and circumstances should have deteriorated to such an extent in the last five years, so rapidly, with no hope of recovery. And the same in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Ireland, the United Kingdom, etc.
If to the sycophants’ brains it appears that Germany and the United States of America are still progressing under capitalism, they should remember that when the devil begins devouring its victims, the only favour that a devouring devil grants its favourites is to devour them last of all. It shall come to that.
In the meantime we continue to hear in the media every day that Karl Marx propounded revolution, destruction, an assessin with a big knife between his teeth.
Once, not so long ago, I wrote the following: ‘capitalism, like other systems of history, has been both creator and destroyer; the point, the question that now matters, is that at this stage of history, the capitalist system constitutes, in its quality of destroyer, the greatest danger humanity has ever known or envisaged.’
There is in capitalism this contradiction: in the first place it has brought great advances in science and industry (and other things beside); and, on the other hand, it has brought enormous destruction. Most of the contradictions that have besieged capitalism are due to the constant antagonisms created by the system. Not only in capital-labour relations, but in all manifestations of human life. In culture and art, for instance. The system which gave birth to giants like Beethoven and Tolstoy- to cite only two names – has produced ultimately many lies and fraud, all following the line traced by money. Not to mention the crimes of colonisation and wars, the exploitation of plains, mountains and forests, the poisoning of the seas, ultra-exploitation of the subsoil, etc.
Marx did not only accuse capitalism of these crimes, and went so far as to admit that without slavery the famous pyramids of Egypt would not exist.
In this respect, I remember now that, in Valladolid, at the beginning of this century, a famous economics professor, during a speech in an assembly hall, tried to prove that the Marxian theories were retrogade, because Marx (he said) sustained that slavery was necessary. ‘That proves,’ he concluded, ‘that marxism wants to enslave the masses’.
I had to stand up (interrupting his speech) and made him eat his own words.
What Marx does show is that the capitalist system, right from its inception, has caused the division of society into two antagonistic classes. But he does not say that capitalism was the origin of exploitation of man by man.
In order to discover how capitalist accumulation took place, Marx goes back to history, and shows why and how those two irreconciliable classes came to be.
As far as I am concerned, I think it is useful to read marxian literature, rather than following like sheep only the teachings of professors and other opinion-makers, or believing the politicians of different hues who follow one another, all servile attendants of the hidden forces that control society. Their function now is mainly to tell us that what happened in 2008 and thereafter is nothing, only a mistake, some miscalculation or other, made by a man or a group of men, but that the difficulties arising thereby are being overcome. Don’t believe them.
Capitalism is dead, a cadaver! Whatever signs of life this cadaver may emit, from time to time, are just the effluvia of decomposition, typical of all bacteria, into which living beings turn when their special mode of life ceases to exist.
Let us bury this corpse, quickly!, lest it infect and kill us all and, in passing, destroy the earth!