Revisiting Capitalism



Capitalism is dead. Period. It can no longer serve humanity without destroying the world. As an economic system it is essentially bankrupt. All the lies and all the shoring up of the lies are not going to make a difference to the truth: pursuit of the path of Capitalism means doom not only for the poor of the world, but for all of us on Planet Earth.

Tragically, South Africa has enthusiastically bought into the Capitalist dream, which is turning into a nightmare. Goaded along by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the gurus of the West, we sold out the revolutionary dreams of economic independence for the mass of South Africans and purchased our place in the train of globalism. We sold out! We had this once-in-a-lifetime-moment to advance the cause of a down trodden people and a continent that has been for centuries dismissed as a “nothing-ness”. Thanks to those who had been seduced by the embrace of the US, the UK and Europe, that we live in a democracy that is being more known for its huge chasms of unbridgeable disparities. Quietly, we excluded the masses of the poor so that at their cost, we could create selected “struggle-istas” who owned not a penny before 1994, into millionaires and billionaires! How has that been possible? I sense a betrayal here. Somebody sold out, so that while we have flag independence, we have no economic independence. A small, Black elite has been accommodated within the essentially White economy, so that while the not insubstantial crumbs were handed out to a few, the majority of South Africa of colour was held at bay. This was “shut up” payment: “Don’t rock the boat, we will bring you on board, so that you too can share the goodies”. And so the new Black elite joined forces with the White elite and sharpened, not the racial composition of our economy, but its class divisions. Colour was to play little role in the new conspiracy of class. The working class and the peasants of the classical divides were the sacrificial lambs.

10 000 protests over the past two years bear testimony to the resilience of our democracy, but more importantly, point in the direction that there is something fundamentally wrong in the beloved country. The people have sensed that the contract between government and the people has been broken and that the interests of the people have been submerged in the service of the few. We ask that the forces that be, to heed our words, so that we will not reap the whirlwind in the very near future. The people are angry and feel betrayed. There is still time to mend the fences and to withdraw from the commitment to a prostitution of the South African revolution.

Let us examine the basis of Capitalism so that we can clearly understand that as an economic system it is doomed to failure. The fundamentals that inform the system are:

~ dependence on ever expanding markets ie. that there will always be new peoples to entice to buy their products and services and to sell replacements to the converted;

~ that there will always be resources on the planet to exploit.

There is a shunning away from the fact that the global market is drastically shrinking and that the exploitable resources of the earth are finite (limited). Soon the oil will be exhausted, as will be the gold and coal and possibly, even water. Hundreds of years of unsustainable harvesting (plunder) of Earth’s resources mean that the resources are depleted, or nearly so.

Even more importantly, Capitalism has not even begun to fathom that the old world order that ushered in its birth has radically changed so that it is unrecognizable today. Here are a few realities that face the planet in the new millennium (there are more):

~ The Earth’s resources have dwindled and many have already been depleted;

~ There are no more “foreign” markets to conquer;

~ That uncaring Capitalist and Communist exploitation has resulted in devastation of large tracts of the Planet, through pollution, sheer greed and stupidity;

~ That the Planet is beginning to respond with ever greater displeasure in the form of tsunamis, hurricanes, massive flooding, earthquakes, landslides and ominously severe weather patterns.

~ That because Capitalism is based on permanent expansion, it is decidedly unsustainable and more correctly, destructive.

In the past few months South Africans have discovered that Capitalism simply gives a damn. Price fixing/ collusions, secret deals and a kind of Mafia-like brotherhood make the corporate sector’s sole interest the improvement of its bottom line. The rest be dammed! Whether people starve as a consequence of their actions is of little concern to this sector. All that matters is profit at all costs.

The current global economic depression and melt down, the worst in world history, is not yet over. The world’s banks have taken all of us for a ride on a roller coaster that is out of control and world governments are actually pumping trillions of dollars into saving the banks who precipitated the crisis in the first place! My little brain tells me that a fraction of that sum should be pumped into a serious examination of economic alternatives to the present “casino economics”. Surely, the reality of what is happening must raise worrisome questions of the sustainability of an economic system that is horribly bankrupt.

So what do we do? If both Capitalism and Communism are similarly uncaring, where do we turn to? If you are looking to me to provide an answer, I have no glib “-ism” that will be a panacea. It will require incisive and original thinking. It must be acknowledged that the world is faced with the combined destructive impact of an impoverished majority struggling to remain alive and an affluent minority consuming resources to excess. This is a recipe for disaster as it will lead to the destruction of the planet. I can attempt to provide the guidelines that such a new system can incorporate and even here there may be shortcomings:

~There is great urgency that all countries reconceptualise their policies and actions with respect to their impact on world ecology and economic development;

~ The new system has to be based on sustainability. We are merely the custodians of the Planet during our lifetime. We hold it in trust for future generations. Over exploitation will mean the depletion of resources for our grandchildren and the unborn generations.

~ A full scale exploitation of renewable and non-polluting sources of energy such as solar, wind, wave, hydro and biogas, geo-thermal heat to replace oil and fossil fuels.

~ Analytical global thinking that forgets the “bottom line”; one that transcends borders and sees the Planet as one ship carrying many diverse passengers.

~ The profit motive has to be addressed within the context of a globalised world, viz. that one part of the world cannot be exploited for the benefit of another,  usually richer part. There will have to be an equitable distribution and sharing of resources.

~ The world will have to learn to live with less and adopt simpler lifestyles.

~ Lifestyles that incorporate mass consumption and the generation of mountains of waste must change to accommodate new realities.

~ Recycling must change from being optional to being compulsory.

~ Our education systems must eradicate “predatory” teaching and programmes and replace these with planet and human friendly systems; those that will emphasize and generate a deep respect for the inter-connectedness of all life.

The thing that alarms me greatly is that we have so little time to begin to change the world. We can begin by making a change right here in South Africa and network with similar groups across the globe. The saying that: “There is always something new that emerges from Africa” is true now than ever before. Let us show the world that a new economic order is not only possible but that it is imperative.

We really have no choice. I am no alarmist. It is change or slowly die! We either see ourselves as part of that great human family with a need to work out strategies for our common survival or we will perish together. Capitalism has misled the world. Its time for it to move over and make place for new and truly globalised thinking, informed by common sense. The writing is not just on the wall. It is up there in bright neon lights.

P R Dullay is a political, social and environmental activist

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