Marx On The Vagaries of Liberal Capitalism


05 Jan 2012

Aminu F. Hamajoda

The stench of global economic crises manifested in failed financial institutions, rising unemployment and the camouflaged class revolts that are labeled, as ‘anti greed protests' in cities all over the industrialized world, is reminiscent of Karl Marx predictions about the wantonness of monopoly capitalism and how workers will react to naked capital accumulation in the 21st Century. While the world currently may not accept his utopian communist solutions, it may well have to accept his foretelling analysis.

Way back in 1848, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote the famous Communist Manifesto, which analyzed the nature and the future of ‘bourgeoisie' control of the riches of the world. Marx said that ‘the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles'. Who can doubt this statement after witnessing the ‘Arab Spring', ‘the ‘Indignatoes of Europe' and the ‘Occupy the Wall Street' in America? To say, as the world bourgeois say, that the revolts lack purpose is like saying the Onitsha Market Women Rebellion of 1929 was purposeless in presaging the end of colonialism in Nigeria or the Sharpeville Riots of 1960 was irrelevant to ending apartheid in South Africa. The truth is that the world is only having a foretaste of the epochal failure of monopoly capitalism.

Back in the 19th century, Karl Marx predicted that capitalism has all the ingredients that will ruin it and the only salvation was supplanting the system instead of regulating it as is feverishly done presently by nations. Marx believes the trouble with capitalism is the unbridled bourgeois drive to profit.  This greed (profit as the main engine) is detriment to societal values, environment, and particularly workers who produce the wealth. When workers or producers get very little from accrued profit, a surplus is always created. This surpluses lead to business expansions (boom), at times to all parts of the globe (globalization). But these business booms are in the long run not sustainable, quite often due to the impoverishment of workers (consumers), resulting into stagnation (depression). The fact that the world (West?) has experienced not less than 17 recessions since 1930 lay credence to this Marxist prediction of a cycle of a boom now and a bust later.

This boom-and-bust cycle has disastrous consequences. One of such consequences is unemployment, a problem that is bedeviling both the industrial and underdeveloped countries on a grand scale. In the month of September alone, 130,000 workers lost their jobs in the USA. In Europe, the situation is direr as it affects between 20 to 25% of youth population. Every year here in Nigeria, unemployment among youth has featured as a major aspect of development policies and plans. World Bank recently published a figure of 40 million (28.57%) of unemployed people in Nigeria. Unemployment in any society breeds dangerous social consequences in restiveness and violence. The roots of both the Niger Delta and the Boko Haram militancy have been linked primarily to youth unemployment. From the Marxist perspective, unemployment is actually a paradox of capitalism, a nefarious structural problem resulting from profit maximization. Marx said, "It is the absolute interest of every capitalist to press a given quantity of labor out of a smaller, rather than a greater number of laborers, if the cost is about the same". Unemployment means unutilized resources. How can an undeveloped society, for example Nigeria, lacking in infrastructure, needing all kinds of social services not require the available human resources?

However, the most obnoxious consequence of capitalism is the symbiotic relation between the bourgeoisie and state power. Marx says, "The executive of the modern State is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie". From Washington to Bujumbura, Nook to Abuja, the ruling class are the bourgeoisie, their surrogates, or their proxies. Whether in despotic governments or in democracies, the whole state apparatus is designed to facilitate the accumulation of wealth for the few bourgeoisie class, quite often unproductive and parasitic as the ones in Africa. Only recently the National Assembly suspect cabals are involved in an import revenue facilitation contract and a fuel subsidy administration that may cost the nation a total of N721 billion.

Even the phoney liberal economic regulations and de-regulations are geared to preserving the rich and their ventures rather than protecting the 99%. President Obama threw 778 billion dollars at the ‘black hole' in 2008 to stimulate growth and employment. The package disappeared like a cube in the ocean. An African adage will call it, "Neither the fish nor the hook". This frightening quagmire in no small measure is the reason why European giants like Germany are afraid of committing their public funds to salvaging the failing banks of Europe. We are surely in interesting times, for what will they think of next, now that communism is dismantled, and the Keynesian economics is not working. Could Marx be right that "What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers."

 

Aminu F. Hamajoda (aminufhamajoda@yahoo.com)

 

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