Opinion piece on Capitalism and Communism

Recently in a private discussion forum, there was a topic under consideration which went something like this:

“Capitalism is pregnant with communism. The next country to become a communist state will be the United States.”

I wrote a slightly descriptive answer to this and feel the response might be worth sharing. I am simply copy-pasting my answer from the forum verbatim below.

“Capitalism is pregnant with communism. The next country to become a communist state will be the United States.”
Any thoughts on it?

Sadly, I would have to (mostly) disagree with both of these statements. Especially I believe if any of the nations were to approach a Communist-style of governance, the US will most likely be the last country to adopt it in its entirety. But this thought is based on assuming that the author is talking about a purely Marxist brand of communism.

Would America have state-controlled production? I cannot see that in the near future. On the other hand, if the implication was that there will be influences of certain ideas born and bred in the Communist and Socialist schools, well they are already there in place. For eg, the US has antitrust laws in place which are fundamentally incompatible with a pure laissez-faire capitalist system. An example of it being used in action is the dissolution of the AT&T corporation in 1982[1] owing to it becoming a monopoly in telephone services.

On a much smaller scale, an example of a centralised control regulating a free market is the recent fiasco with the Gamestop stock price skyrocketing and then Robinhood delisting the stocks from being traded. There were lots of complaints and criticism towards Robinhood broadly for:

  1. not allowing the free market to thrive and
  2. decapitating small individual investment parties.

and Robinhood was labelled as a giant capitalist bully. The irony here is that if you read these two points again and carefully, you will realise that most Marxist schools strive exactly for outcome 1 and partially for outcome 2. So it would seem that the lines between the two ideologies are slightly blurred in the more modern contexts.

Marx has criticised the liberty of an individual within a bourgeois society[2] as “the liberty of man viewed as an isolated monad, withdrawn into himself. […] The practical application of the right of liberty is the right of private property”. While phrased very sharply, this could be a slippery slope. In most implementations of Marxist communism, the value of an individual is severely diminished at the cost of the community (or society or state). Now anybody who has remotely been engaged with any form of creative expression (like art, music, poetry, novels, cinema) will recognize the dangers of diminishing the power of an individual.

On the other hand unchecked capitalism, as perhaps we all know, can lead to the commodification of, well, everything! Furthermore, perhaps, the commodification of an individual as well! This is partly the reason that antitrust laws exist in even the most neoliberal countries (like the US and UK). This is why corporations like Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle get repeatedly being hit by lawsuits (especially in the more left-leaning Europe).

While I personally do not understand economics very well and work very little towards bridging that gap (mostly because my topic of PhD is a very different subject :)), I do keep an active interest in education and wonder what the outcomes of Capitalistic and Communist policies are (or would be) on our Universities and academic institutions. The American model of private universities has led to a huge student-loan debt in that country and I can see the flurry of private universities rising in India following that same path. On the other hand, European countries seemed to have done surprisingly well with their state institutions, with free education and unimaginable policies like paying the students instead to attend colleges (Sweden).

I wonder what needs to be done in India to emulate the Europen model. It is a complex question. With such a vast population of youth in our country (isn’t India’s average age close to 25?) we want education to spread fast. If we over-rely on the European model of prestigious state institutions, it gives rise to a select class of elite institutes like the IITs - which are notoriously hard to get into and the entrance exams cause an unprecedented amount of mental turmoil within the youth. If on the other hand, we promote private universities within a free market economy, we inevitably gravitate towards the American model and its outcome of insurmountable student loans.

It seems, under all circumstances, the mass of students suffers. How do we cope with this? What is the ideal solution? I have no answers but only questions.

[1] Breakup of the Bell System
[2] Marx, Karl. Karl Marx: selected writings.

Written on July 19, 2021