[Marxism] How Capitalism Destroys the Young

M. Junaid Alam mjunaidalam at msalam.net
Thu Dec 9 15:04:43 MST 2004


I'm sure we all share your concerns, but isn't it a bit facile to blame it 
all on capitalism? For instance, if you look at the incidence of infantile 
HIV infection in UNICEF data, the bulk of it occurs in Africa, but most of 
the countries involved don't really have much capitalism (i.e. an 
agricultural labour force of 80% or so), and insofar as they do have it 
(e.g. South Africa), it's not clear to me that capitalist market economy as 
such is the direct or main cause."

I would have to say your methodological approach to the question is facile. 

Capitalism is a global system with uneven development; you don't go hunting into 
each and every village in Africa to see if you can discover capitalism. Capitalism - in
its manifestation of European imperialism, underdeveloped Africa since at least 
the partition of 1884. The structural problems out of which many of Africa's problems
currently flow are the result of capitalist superexploitation of the region - 
the search for profits.

Even within your methodology there are obvious flaws. That capitalism has the "technical
capacity" to solve the problems that it is *not solving* doesn't mean that the problem
isn't capitalism. Implicit in this assumption is the idea that the technical, or 
theoretical potential of capitalism to solve the world's current problems can or will
actually be carried out under capitalist auspices. The whole Marxist frameworks rests
on the notion that capitalism creates the productive potential but not the social
arrangements necessary to provide for all. At any rate, *capitalism as it is* has
decidedly refused to solve the poverty problem, so speculation about what capitalism
in general may or may not do is beside the point. 

It is certainly valid to ask, "what would a socialist do?" But regardless of what 
the socialist does or does not do, even if he decides to hop on an airplane and go
to the Bahamas, the fundamental fact remains that we live in a world governed by
capitalist relations, and these relations are responsible for the conditions they
engender. It has become fashionable to invoke as an excuse or a decoy these days 
to capitalist crimes the question, "well, what would YOU do?", as if this makes the crimes
disappear. While this kind of pose appears to ask the socialist to put forth an alternative,
it is in fact a manifestation of TINA itself - the "question" is really a statement to
the effect that nothing is better. 

There is nothing "abstract" about the problem and there is nothing wrong with blaming
the culprit - the statistics for hunger and poverty and preventable disease and where
governments are spending their money is all there for you to see. If we looked at the approach 
of Chavez or Fidel to their populations' medical and educational situations, then that could be 
seen as a kind of guide for alleviating the situation of the poor kids and infants pointed to in 
the article.  

Meanwhile, I am not so sure how advisable it is to sit around and draw 
up specific blueprints from here in America about what a socialist solution in Africa, or
what kind of purpose that is supposed to serve. So that we can look at a few people and say
"oh look, we drew up a concise plan for eliminating poverty in Africa!"? Hundreds of NGOs
have probably already suggested tons of reasonable measures along those lines.

It is not clear what any of this has to do with post-Marxism or neo-Marxism, so I will
not even attempt to bring that into the discussion.

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