Liberalism: The Ideology of Capitalism
“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force”…… “For each new class which puts itself in the place of one ruling before it, is compelled, merely in order to carry through its aim, to represent its interest as the common interest of all the members of society, that is, expressed in ideal form: it has to give its ideas the form of universality, and represent them as the only rational, universally valid ones.” — Karl Marx, “The German Ideology” (1845)
Credit: Brother Apostate, RTC Contributor
In popular modern US usage, the terms liberal and liberalism are used to refer to anyone of a progressive political nature in contrast to a perceived conservatism, this article discusses liberalism as used in philosophy and sociology, which is a broad category. In truth, both the American style of liberalism and “democratic socialism” and the American style of conservativism, in addition to, libertarian tendencies, are all derivative forms of liberalism in the classical scholarly definition. Essentially, the concept of liberalism is precisely what Marx described it as, and it has been grossly misconstrued by modern society.
Liberalism, in the classical sense, is the dominant ideology of the modern world. In order to discuss liberalism as an ideological trend, in order to discuss and critique its role in the modern world, we must be able to define it. Marx demonstrated that the ruling ideas of a civilization are those of its ruling class’ thus, it can be said that liberalism is the mental expression of global capitalism, the rationalization and justification for the domination of profit. In her book, entitled, Freedom from Want: American Liberalism and the Idea of the Consumer, Kathleen G. Donohue states that liberals
“espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles of liberty and equality, but generally, they support ideas and programs such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, democratic societies, secular governments, and international cooperation.”
This is fairly accurate. Liberalism does rationalize itself on principles of liberty and equality, but liberty and equality for whom? The answer to this questions is the bourgeois individual. Liberalism is simply commodified, bourgeois individualism. The quintessential liberal philosopher, John Locke, declared in a very revealing quote,
“Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has a right to, but himself.”
This sounds fairly harmless to most people. However, Locke’s treatment of the individual is described as existing with other individuals in a natural state of freedom, with each self created and without obligation to the others. Essentially, each man his own private property; thus, each man is seen as a sort of little business with his body and time as his salable product. The most fundamental commodity of all. Yes, to this greatest of liberal thinkers, arguably the most influential philosopher of the Enlightenment era, who inspired the Founding Fathers of the world’s greatest capitalist empire, all men are really just small independent businesses!
Armed with this basic concept of commodified individualism, society is easily seen as a series of competing businesses. Locke correspondingly defined government as a kind of freely chosen contract between these otherwise competing individual businesses for their mutual benefit. This not unlike how industries form associations for enforcing product quality standards. Avoiding a discussion, for now, of the fact that humans do not naturally exist as small businesses, there is a major distinction between personal and private property that seems to be lost on Locke. The fact that this freely chosen contract is something that does not correspond to any actually existing societal structures does not seem to click with this great philosopher. Rather, his philosophy corresponds to the rapidly rising dominant mode of production of his time and serves to justify the interests of the rising capitalist class in its revolutionary role against the previous dominant class of feudal lords; but again, this does not seem remotely apparent to him.
This social contract fits well with the capitalist idea of the “free market,” which is also not something that actually exists. For these free markets, as well as, these freely chosen social contracts to actually exist, for them to be truly free, would require a lack of coercion and a level and equal playing field upon which fair competition between individuals could occur. However, the real world is not a level playing field, properties vary in size and quality, people vary in capabilities and access to resources, and once competition ensues, coercion becomes the primary mode of operation as winners act to consolidate their gains and expand their holdings. This process can interact with philosophy of classical liberalism in two ways.
1. It can take the conservative liberal route that individuals, since they are all free businesses in a free and equal market, essentially choose or deserve to lose. This becomes both a form of victim blaming and a means of justifying inequality, usually, while paradoxically maintaining that equality still exists in some form.
2. It can also take the progressive liberal route, which argues that the state must intervene with a variety of social programs and safety nets to correct perceived problems with the system. These are, again, blamed on individual failings while maintaining the basic structure of a society that they know is imperfect, if not entirely incorrect.
In both of these cases, the management of society is encompassed in the same worldview. This is the worldview of the capitalist ruling class. It is the classical liberal worldview out of which the modern forms of liberalism were born, and in which, they take, more often than not, combative opposing sides. Liberal democrats and democratic socialists line up on the progressive side of the battlefield, while conservative republicans and libertarians line up on the conservative side of the battlefield. While these two factions may seem diametrically opposed to one another in the mind of the average worker, to those individuals who are politically active, and not entirely disenchanted, they should appear to strangely twin like. This is so because on most issues that benefit the capitalist ruling class, these forms of liberalism are in step with each other. They may argue their way there from different directions, but the point still remains, they are not actually opposing each other; in fact, quite the opposite. Rest assured that while most workers cannot and will not see this, Congressional leaders, and the businessmen that bankroll their campaigns, are well aware of their class interests and are very much in tune with this form of class based thinking.
“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” — Warren Buffet (2006)
These bourgeois politicians with their rigged democracy, which in a competitive market will always favor the already dominant class, spew their liberal lies about equality to fool the people and to maintain power over them. At the same time, they hold themselves up as examples of successful individualist extraordinaires, with the hope that the subjugated classes will better line master’s pockets with more profit.
“Bourgeois democracy is democracy of pompous phrases, solemn words, exuberant promises and the high-sounding slogans of freedom and equality. But, in fact, it screens the non-freedom and inferiority of women, the non-freedom and inferiority of the toilers and exploited.” — Lenin,Soviet Power and the Status of Women (1919)
“Down with this contemptible fraud! There cannot be, nor is there nor will there ever be “equality” between the oppressed and the oppressors, between the exploited and the exploiters. There cannot be, nor is there nor will there ever be real “freedom” as long as there is no freedom for women from the privileges which the law grants to men, as long as there is no freedom for the workers from the yoke of capital, and no freedom for the toiling peasants from the yoke of the capitalists, landlords and merchants.” — Lenin, Soviet Power and the Status of Women (1919)
To save secure humanity’s future, we, the working class, must begin to resist this classical liberal understanding of the world. If we do not, we run the risk of allowing humanity to destroy itself. More immediately, however, we run the risk of subjecting ourselves to tyranny. The working class must begin to develop a coherent awareness of its own class interests and identity. We must oppose liberalism at every point, whether conservative or progressive. This must begin with a better understanding of the historical significance of our position. Armed with such an understanding, when the liberal powers that be attempt to swindle us, we will reply,
“The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in men’s better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange.” — Engels, Socialism: Utopian & Scientific (1880)
Further, when the liberal bourgeoisie attempts to distract the working class with propped up heroes, we will reply,
“The people, and the people alone, are the motive force in the making of world history. “ — Mao Tse-Tung
When the liberal bourgeoisie attempts to glorify the actions of the individual and discount the actions of the community, the working class will say,
“Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand.” -Marx, The Grundrisse (1857)
When they try claim that the state is a product of some sort of freely associated social contract, will reply,
“ The state is a product and a manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms. The state arises where, when and insofar as class antagonism objectively cannot be reconciled. And, conversely, the existence of the state proves that the class antagonisms are irreconcilable. “ — Lenin, State and Revolution (1917)
Additionally, when these privileged individuals, with their declarations of the freedom of individuals, try to disguise the suffering of the working class, we will reply,
“It is difficult for me to imagine what “personal liberty” is enjoyed by an unemployed hungry person. True freedom can only be where there is no exploitation and oppression of one person by another; where there is not unemployment, and where a person is not living in fear of losing his job, his home and his bread. Only in such a society personal and any other freedom can exist for real and not on paper.” — Stalin
And when the most progressive liberals speak of their progressiveness, of their progress on issues of civil rights, social justice, critical safety nets for the poor, we shall applaud them for their progress among individuals and yet point out how their emphasis on individualism prevents them from actually solving the collective and structural problems of society that they have made so much progress on at the level of the individual, that they have merely treated symptoms when we wish to cure the disease.
Finally, in their most decadent postmodern phase where even individual beliefs of every type are seen as existing in the mythical land of free markets where all are equally treated as valid, we will call out the postmodern liberal’s total inability to achieve any kind of unity of mind upon which collective organization could be based.
We answer their individualism with collectivism, we answer their competition with solidarity, we answer their idealism with materialism, their free speech for all with free speech for the oppressed. We utterly condemn them, as they condemned those that came before them, to the dustbin of history.