Why Socialism Lost and Capitalism Will too


It has always been a source of angst to those on the Left that the workers of the world were not so eager to join them in the search for the worker’s paradise.

Some of this has to do with that fact that expecting utopia to work in the real world is something only smart and highly educated people could believe in.

However, I think there is more to it than working class distrust of grand plans from academics.

The problem the Left faces is that it has always (at least in its modern forms) being transnational. Aside from the obvious goal of communism for worldwide revolt, the Left in general has mostly being “internationalist” in outlook.

The Left tended to see nationalism much as they saw commerce: as something grubby and rather distasteful. Unfortunately for them, although perhaps fortunately for the rest of us, the common people retained “tawdry” affections for nationalism. If Hitler, as Peter Brimelow posits, has extracted his revenge on the Right via multiculturalism, he also extracted his revenge on the Left via the fear of National Socialism. Thus their appeals to worker solidarity excluded the oldest and most potent form of solidarity: nationalism.

During the post-war period, up until the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, capitalism implicitly (while not explicitly) represented a form of national identity. For most of the Western countries capitalism represented “our” system compared to “their” system of communism. For most of this period large corporations were seen as representing the nation of their home base (e.g., Boeing or GE in the US, Bosch in Germany, Rolls Royce in the UK). Most in Western nations found some form of national pride in “their” system of capitalism and “their” corporations.

Some of the recent challenges against capitalism represent a collapse of that national identification with large corporations as those corporations became explicitly trans-national. Capitalism no longer represents “our” system and the corporations no longer even make pretence at any form of national identity.

It is now supporters of capitalism that are most transnational in their outlook, with their sanguine attitude to off shoring and favoring of mass immigration. The establishment Right has become the bourgeois version of the thing their grandfathers fought against: seekers of a transnational utopia where national borders are erased and all is provided not by all encompassing government but by all encompassing corporations.

This vision is about as appealing as the old one, and may well end like the old one did: in collapse, or at least bitter disillusion.

Some of the establishment Right (at least in the United States – think American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, or Wall Street Journal) have taken on a horrible mixture of both: global empire, authoritarianism at home, and transnationalism for corporations.

The same feeling of nationalism for “our” system probably helped to hold communism together in the Soviet Union. In the end, feelings of nationalism brought it down (e.g., Poland).


6 Responses to “Why Socialism Lost and Capitalism Will too”

  1. PA Says:

    In the end, feelings of nationalism brought it down (e.g., Poland).

    I was there.
    [DU: One wonders if the USA (the not-so evil empire?) will fall for the same reason.]

  2. Armchair Observer Says:

    We don’t have Capitalism here now, it morphed into Fascism over the past few decades. The merger of Corporation and State.
    [DU: I think some of what we see is an outgrowth of globalization trends: easier and cheaper transnational communications, modularization of production processes allowing easier off-shoring, and the opening of previously closed markets. Some is the natural outgrowth of uneven success meaning that some corporations become vastly larger than average. Of course, some is, as you say, corporatism (the polite form of fascism) where those large corporations can use their wealth to exert undue influence on governmental affairs.

    I do think that the Right often mistakes pro-market with pro-corporate, acquiescing to the demands of multi-nationals because to not do so would be “socialism.”]

  3. David Foster Says:

    Good post. National Socialism was an attempt, and a successful one, to link the appeal of Socialism with the appeal of Nationalism.
    [DU: I realized after posting that I had not added a note to the effect that I was not advocating Nazism but merely positing that the mixture of “fairness” in income and wealth distribution along with appeals to national solidarity would be a potent force. It is not as if internationalist socialism was particularly gentle in its application. I am glad to see you (and I hope others) understood that.]

    Not sure why you’d say there’s more internationalist thinking on the Right today than on the Left. Thought experiment: you are an American manufacturer, and you decide to promote your products heavily with a “Made in the USA” campaign. Who will be more likely to have their buying decisions positively affected by this campaign, the typical liberal/”progressive,” or the typical conservative? I’d say almost certainly the latter. If you want to pull “progressives” to your brand, you need to emphasize either “local” (meaning same city or within 50 miles thereof) or “exotic” (made by tribal people in a remote village in Educador.)
    [DU: I realize I was not very clear, but I was thinking of the establishment Right including the various think tanks and commentators when I made that statement. As you said, most ordinary member of the Right would favor “Made in the USA.”]

  4. David Foster Says:

    The previous comment was me, David Foster. I’m not sure why the comment system decided to identify people using their blog name rather than their personal name…let me see if I can make it do what I want it to do…
    [DU: I have had problems posting on other sites where it forces me to login if I want to use my e-mail (and associated Gravatar). I have edited your name in these replies.]

  5. maurice Says:

    Good post, good insight. Although it can be exaggerated: capitalism has always been somewhat global, based on trade and mobile capital. As Marx himself pointed out. But then again “globalization” has accelerated significantly in recent decades, attenuating companies’ ties to their home countries and markets. The strong anti-corporate, anti-bailout, anti-Wall St feeling in the U.S is probably partly the result of this: decades of outsourcing of U.S. jobs to Mexico and China has left voters feeling little loyalty in return. (By contrast, I don’t recall any such intensity of opposition after, say, the S&L bailouts of the 80s.)

    Interesting question: whether the political left is more “local” in the U.S. than the right these days. Depends on the subject, but neither party is really able to adopt a truly Federal system as envisaged by the Founders.

    Great post!
    [DU: As you said capitalism was always at least somewhat globalist in nature (as much as it could given existing transport and communications). Greater fluidity of capital movements made that far more noticeable.

    While localism (as compared to nationalism) has been more of the Left than the Right, I think some on the Right are moving towards anti-corporate (at least anti large/transnational corporations) feelings and are investigating such ideas. Localism has some of the same appeal of nationalism because both can be seen as supporting “our” people. The appeal to the Left might be opposing norms and tradition (local “craft” versus “boring” national brand), the appeal to the right may be more of the support “our” people and rejection of a global elite.]

  6. photoncourier Says:

    Also, why do you see AEI, Heritage, WSJ, etc as advocates of authoritarianism? I’m not seeing it.
    [DU: Perhaps I was harsh calling it “authoritarianism,” but they all seem quite supportive of the security state at home and endless wars abroad.]

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