The Post-Postmodernism Issue

Socialism Versus Capitalism

Capitalism is very good at creating a void in people's psyches.
Mao Spank
Image by John Ritter - ritterillustration.net

Bai Di grew up in socialist China (before capitalism was brought back after Mao’s death in 1976) and participated in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). She is a coeditor of the book Some of Us: Chinese Women Growing Up in the Mao Era and is the director of Chinese and Asian Studies at Drew University. Revolution correspondent Li Onesto interviewed Bai Di in February of 2009.

Li Onesto: What did the Cultural Revolution accomplish and what did it mean to grow up in a socialist society?

Bai Di: I always had a purpose. That was what education was about. And we didn’t have to worry about the financial crises that capitalism will always have periodically. We never had that much – two sets of clothes – but we never felt we should have more. You don’t have that kind of crazy desire for everything, like the need to go shopping all the time. I feel that capitalism is very good at creating a void in people’s psyches. It will teach you that the only way to feel okay is to want more. It is so consuming. When I grew up, I did not put much time at all in material stuff. So we had energy to do other things for the greater good. We studied all kinds of subjects, and we thought our presence was very much a part of the future. Yes, we were very future oriented and our focus was also wider than only China. It was about the whole of humankind. It is what inspired us. That’s what I feel education has to be about.

Some people believe in individualism. But if you think that you are the most important, then that really is a boring life because your existence is irrelevant to others; that is how I feel. You can’t survive that long. You have to put yourself into human history. Then your life, your existence, will carry some meaning. That is what Chairman Mao said. In his memorial to Doctor Norman Bethune he said everyone has to die. But the meaning of death is different. Somebody dies a worthy death so that death is as weighty as Mount Tai. Some other’s death is as light as a feather. And because Bethune put his life into this communist cause, we all remember him – his death was weighty. We were all trained this way. You feel that you become part of something. And this makes your life and death more meaningful. Now to think about it, we were pretty profound as teenagers. We were already coping with the existential questions for all humankind: life and death.

I had never lived in a capitalist society then so I didn’t know how to compare it to socialism. But looking at things now both in China and the US, I feel that back then there was an optimism always in the air. We were always optimistic. People didn’t complain. Right now everyone is complaining even though they already have so much. Under capitalism there is desire for all kinds of things. Right now when I go back to China everyone is complaining and it’s just money, money, money. But back under socialism, the purpose in life was not money. As Lei Feng said succinctly: “We cannot live without food, but our lives are not for food. It is for making a better society.” That pretty much sums up the spirit. Lei Feng was an ordinary soldier in the People’s Liberation Army and died manning his post. He spent his short 22 years of life helping other people. And Chairman Mao called on the whole nation to “Learn from Comrade Lei Feng” in 1964.

The whole interview is available at revcom.us. For more information about the Cultural Revolution in China, go to Revolution newspaper at revcom.us and Set the Record Straight Project at thisiscommunism.org.

66 comments on the article “Socialism Versus Capitalism”

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Giovanni

Selfishness, greed and deceit exist and occur in the minds of people no matter what economic system is in place. To argue that the government should control and regulate the economy is an ignorant debate of those very real occurrences.

Real freedom and liberty is when everyone is free to help anyone they wish to help and free to fail if they fail.

When we have crashes in a supposed Capitalist system, the educated eye sees that it is not Capitalism or a free market that causes the crash, but greed sanctioned by 'too big to fail' corporations sanctioned by governments (Government intervention). If the market in the U.S. was truly free, the government wouldn't rob American taxpayers and give it to rich CEO's to continue their failed business. That is theft. The Government is only supposed to protect your life, liberty and property. By taking your money and giving it to Captains of failed industry, the Government has deviated from a free market.

When corporations are in bed with government, that there, is greed. That there, isn't capitalism. To think that an economic system controlled by the government will reduce or eliminate greed or 'the pressure to acquire material wealth' is the road to salvation from the world's ills is not reasonable thinking. To force people to be good is a misguided approach to bringing peace to the world. People need to learn to do it on their own. Such conditions exist more so in a free market, where the little guy has a fair chance against the big guy. When the big guy gets handouts from the government, that isn't a free market, that isn't Capitalism, it's greed as well.

I said, greed exists in the psyche of people, implementing Socialism or Communism doesn't take it away.

Furthermore, Anarchy can never exist because man is a rationalizing animal. Laws begin when two human beings interact. It is unavoidable. If anyone on Adbusters is to wish to create meaningful change, it is to promote a truly, real free market, and not pretend that in Anarchy, or Socialism, or Corporatism, or welfare of any kind (corporate or individually) is going to change anything.

Giovanni

Selfishness, greed and deceit exist and occur in the minds of people no matter what economic system is in place. To argue that the government should control and regulate the economy is an ignorant debate of those very real occurrences.

Real freedom and liberty is when everyone is free to help anyone they wish to help and free to fail if they fail.

When we have crashes in a supposed Capitalist system, the educated eye sees that it is not Capitalism or a free market that causes the crash, but greed sanctioned by 'too big to fail' corporations sanctioned by governments (Government intervention). If the market in the U.S. was truly free, the government wouldn't rob American taxpayers and give it to rich CEO's to continue their failed business. That is theft. The Government is only supposed to protect your life, liberty and property. By taking your money and giving it to Captains of failed industry, the Government has deviated from a free market.

When corporations are in bed with government, that there, is greed. That there, isn't capitalism. To think that an economic system controlled by the government will reduce or eliminate greed or 'the pressure to acquire material wealth' is the road to salvation from the world's ills is not reasonable thinking. To force people to be good is a misguided approach to bringing peace to the world. People need to learn to do it on their own. Such conditions exist more so in a free market, where the little guy has a fair chance against the big guy. When the big guy gets handouts from the government, that isn't a free market, that isn't Capitalism, it's greed as well.

I said, greed exists in the psyche of people, implementing Socialism or Communism doesn't take it away.

Furthermore, Anarchy can never exist because man is a rationalizing animal. Laws begin when two human beings interact. It is unavoidable. If anyone on Adbusters is to wish to create meaningful change, it is to promote a truly, real free market, and not pretend that in Anarchy, or Socialism, or Corporatism, or welfare of any kind (corporate or individually) is going to change anything.

BlurringtheLine

I agree with some of your points, but the actions of government in response to the GFC was irresponsible from both a left and right wing perspective. It was simply bad governance.

You should also note that without government there can be no so called free market or even corporations for that matter. The ability to trade and form corporations is only possible because of the laws and legislation enacted by governments.

Think about how well the 'free market' would operate in a nation devoid of government (Somalia springs to mind).

BlurringtheLine

I agree with some of your points, but the actions of government in response to the GFC was irresponsible from both a left and right wing perspective. It was simply bad governance.

You should also note that without government there can be no so called free market or even corporations for that matter. The ability to trade and form corporations is only possible because of the laws and legislation enacted by governments.

Think about how well the 'free market' would operate in a nation devoid of government (Somalia springs to mind).

Anonymous

spoken like a true economist......Greed is a part of conditioning of a Capitalist Society and so Fairness could be part of the conditioning in a Socialist Society, just because it hasn't had time to prove itself because of Capitalist 'GREED' won't let go of the bone doesn't mean in a true socialist society it could not be possible and in fact work better.

Anonymous

spoken like a true economist......Greed is a part of conditioning of a Capitalist Society and so Fairness could be part of the conditioning in a Socialist Society, just because it hasn't had time to prove itself because of Capitalist 'GREED' won't let go of the bone doesn't mean in a true socialist society it could not be possible and in fact work better.

Anonymous

Socialism and capitalism are an example of the binary thinking highlighted in that recent AB article.

This should not be so as very few countries use a pure socialist or capitalist system. The overwhelming majority infact use a combination of both. Public healthcare and education in so called capitalist states for example. When nation states attempt to adopt a 'pure' system, as did the US and the USSR, problems arise.

The balance between left and right has moved well to the right in the last 40 years but the latest economic turmoil and the all round sick state of humanity may help reverse this trend.

Polarizing the debate is irresponsible. Both systems have their strong points and we need to make use of them as tools for the betterment of humanity. We need the innovation and efficiency of capitalism with the just distribution of resources and welfare offered by socialism.

Anonymous

Socialism and capitalism are an example of the binary thinking highlighted in that recent AB article.

This should not be so as very few countries use a pure socialist or capitalist system. The overwhelming majority infact use a combination of both. Public healthcare and education in so called capitalist states for example. When nation states attempt to adopt a 'pure' system, as did the US and the USSR, problems arise.

The balance between left and right has moved well to the right in the last 40 years but the latest economic turmoil and the all round sick state of humanity may help reverse this trend.

Polarizing the debate is irresponsible. Both systems have their strong points and we need to make use of them as tools for the betterment of humanity. We need the innovation and efficiency of capitalism with the just distribution of resources and welfare offered by socialism.

The voice of reason

I approve this message!

Looking for an actual solution to the actual problem.

Which is "how to best run a country", NOT "is capitalism or socialism better".

The voice of reason

I approve this message!

Looking for an actual solution to the actual problem.

Which is "how to best run a country", NOT "is capitalism or socialism better".

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