Capitalism’s Winter of Despair and the Summer of Solidarity
Christmas no longer holds as much magic as the myths of Santa Claus and Jesus fade and you pass into adulthood.
Luckily, for those of us who need something to believe in and a holiday in which we can hope and dream for a better world, there is May Day. Not to be confused with the Irish holiday of Beltane, welcoming the beginning of summer, though we can draw parallels between the waning of winter and of capitalism. May Day is International Workers Day, representing the rising and the solidarity of the people, and our unity against an oppressive and destructive system, and for a just and sustainable one that we know can exist.
The history of May Day
On May 1, 1886, 300,000 workers across the US rallied to demand an 8-hour-day. On May 4th, someone threw a bomb at police at a rally in Chicago’s Haymarket Square. Anarchists were blamed, and eight convicted of conspiracy, including leaders of the labor movement. Four were hanged. So on this day we commemorate their struggle, the historical struggles of all workers, and the ongoing struggles we face against the policies of neoliberalism, the endless harms caused by late capitalism, and its closely connected military imperialism and environmental destruction, which in due time will likely kill us or our grandchildren, robbing us of our collective future.
“Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads,” wrote Rosa Luxembourg — “either transition to Socialism or regression into Barbarism”. Clearly, we have regressed into barbarism. This has become more clear as Donald Trump, a real estate mogul and a paragon of capitalism, has become president of the planet’s most powerful nation. He threatens total deregulation, obliteration of the remnants of the welfare state, racist domestic policies, and more war. The most pernicious policies imaginable are being pursued against a backdrop of global environmental emergency caused by the overproduction of capitalism, dependent on fossil fuels. Our leisure, our consumption, enjoyed over the course of the past century, will be our end. Nature finds a balance, and overconsumption will eventually be replaced by scarcity.
In this sense, the capitalists are indeed the terrorists. Climate change is causing droughts that are leading to wars and mass migrations. Whole populations are becoming refugees, vast lands left desertified or carpet bombed.
Syria was plagued by drought before and during its war, forcing migrants into cities, which, along with an influx of Iraq war refugees, caused mass unemployment and fueled civil unrest. Instead of seeking to ameliorate international crises, capitalism exploits them to sell weapons and capture the oil and mineral resources underneath Iraqi and Afghani terrains.
Meeting capitalism’s end
Imperialism is at its zenith, as is capitalism; but capitalism’s sun is setting, it’s on the decline. Eventually, capitalism will collapse, whether by its own internal contradictions or environmental plight. A lack of structure— or socialism — will leave society fragile at best.
Perhaps we will meet capitalism’s sunset and rejoice in a summer of solidarity, creating a new world as it dies and fades into the night. Will we be prepared with blankets and candlelight, anticipating the glow of sunrise, ready to start anew tomorrow?
Or will we tremble and despair while the Dark Ages and fascism descend? Cold and alone, without refuge or protection, to fight off the monsters in the night?
Which would you choose? The Spring of Solidarity or the Dark Ages?
We aren’t, completely, in control of our destinies here; nor are we ever. We can’t control how far the climate has gone nor predict how the Earth will respond, nor the challenges we may face in the future.
We can only have hope and struggle for something better. We’re waiting. We want to be ready for the cold of the night, as humans have always had to prepare for the winter, with fire and magic. Perhaps if we cannot change the situation ourselves, we should not despair but prepare. The defeat or replacement of capitalism will call for wizardry; we can’t expect it to just fall in our hands. (Or perhaps that’s exactly what we need to do — wait and pray.) Opportunities will arise, they are constantly arising, rising and falling.
All of us, all the world, fears fascism. We fear surveillance and famine, we fear homelessness and war. But we fear them together.
If we all fear fascism, we can decide collectively to avoid fascism.
Why doesn’t the ruling class stop killing the planet?
I suppose the problem is there are those who fear not only fascism, but something more effete; the loss of wealth and power. There are those who currently benefit from capitalism and hold to it though aware of its destruction. How long will even they benefit (do they not ask themselves at night?), if they leave the landscape scorched, or leave the majority of humanity to scavenge like rats for their existence, while they control global resources? Do they fear this scenario as well? Or is this their malicious plan?Or simply the future they’re resigned to? Or do they too feel meek against a faceless self-propelling system? Do they really think their descendants can entirely escape the global consequences of climate change, unscathed?
Who are these captains of industry, these mega-rich, who keep the wheels of the economy turning, keep the CO2 churning?
Perhaps they have more concern for their offspring than for the species as a whole, and perhaps, on a biological note, they think that if the species collapses, their DNA, their code, their footprint, will be replicated.
Perhaps they think themselves kings and queens, above the rest — if you were a millionaire, would you not imagine, rationalize, that you deserved it? You might not, or you may well.
Perhaps what cuts more deeply is not only a loss of wealth and material security but a loss of status, which one would imagine could lead to an existential crisis. If they’re not rich, then who are they?
Perhaps they fear the loss of their importance. But they are already losing in this regard, they are coming to be reviled instead of worshipped. The more we continue to devalue them and their wealth, the less power they will have. We don’t like them, and ultimately they don’t like themselves.
Perhaps they fear renouncing their wealth would make them more vulnerable to the fears of the masses: fascism itself.
They have more to lose. We’re already lost.
Can rational ridicule in the face of global environmental catastrophe convince capitalists to stand down?
Marx says they won’t stand down, and he’s usually right. We have seen time and time again those with power and wealth refusing to part from it. Rather, they find can find ridiculous ways to justify themselves, to make themselves right and us wrong. For instance by funding climate change denial.
Why should they give up their status if they can just invent their own alternative realities and alternative plans? Maybe we could all move to Mars.
What, exactly, is it that we’re asking them to part with? Primarily, their power over the future. Future profits, and current wealth. Money from fossil fuels. Money extracted from polluting, environmental degradation, from capitalist profiteering in general. If capitalism doesn’t stop, humanity will. In fact, we can’t trust capitalists to at all manage important aspects of the economy sustainably or fairly — including housing, energy, or transportation, so we need to take them out of their hands and socialize them
Barbarism is here — but unless we want to brave the new Dark Ages and see how bad it can get, we must prepare, for the Solidarity Summer.