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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Chaz

This is some serious redwashing. In the cultural revolution, they came into your house. They took your books. They took your old family photos. They took your music. The took your family heirlooms, your money, your furniture. They burned a lot of it, but you can still buy family history in many of Beijing's markets. And when They were done taking your things, They took you if they wanted. They could put you in jail for a few hours, a few days, a few months, and they wouldn't tell you why. They didn't have to.

We can just as easily give a golden hue to capitalism's memory if we want. Remember when there was no need for food? Remember when there was no need for anything? Those were beautiful days if you ignore that the cost of our content lives was in the oppression of brown people the world wide.

Capitalism doesn't create a void. The void is there the minute you're born. Capitalism offers a method of filling it that's just as flawed as any other way of running things. It would actually work if it didn't rely on unsustainable growth. Just like Communism would work if the people participating were truly altruistic instead of just human. They both oppress (the difference is internal and external) and they both thrive on apathy and ignorance.

Chaz

This is some serious redwashing. In the cultural revolution, they came into your house. They took your books. They took your old family photos. They took your music. The took your family heirlooms, your money, your furniture. They burned a lot of it, but you can still buy family history in many of Beijing's markets. And when They were done taking your things, They took you if they wanted. They could put you in jail for a few hours, a few days, a few months, and they wouldn't tell you why. They didn't have to.

We can just as easily give a golden hue to capitalism's memory if we want. Remember when there was no need for food? Remember when there was no need for anything? Those were beautiful days if you ignore that the cost of our content lives was in the oppression of brown people the world wide.

Capitalism doesn't create a void. The void is there the minute you're born. Capitalism offers a method of filling it that's just as flawed as any other way of running things. It would actually work if it didn't rely on unsustainable growth. Just like Communism would work if the people participating were truly altruistic instead of just human. They both oppress (the difference is internal and external) and they both thrive on apathy and ignorance.

Catherine30

Socialism bankrupts us and capitalism makes us slaves. California is bankrupt because of the huge social programs. When you give people free money, everyone is going to take it. I see some of the filthy rich conservative talking heads on TV are on Medicare, of course, it's free.

Capitalism is not working either. Look at the stuff the politicans spend our tax money on. Half of it goes to corporations, corporate welfare and half of our tax money goes to huge social programs that bankrupt us. We only wanted roads and schools, you know, government wasn't supposed to be about campaign financing. Look at that new TV show Undercover Boss. A handful of super rich people live in mansions while millions work the night shift at 7-11 and Walmart for nothing, for a minimum wage that is so low when adjusted for inflation, they are eligible for food stamps and Medicaid. The minimum wage would have to be 16 an hour to equal what it was worth in the 1970s. People on welfare make a lot more than many people who work. We are bleeding from both ends, both the social programs and Wall Street and the corporations are taking taxes from poor working people, and we are getting screwed. There has to be an answer some where in the middle. Get rid of the entitlement programs, pay a minimum living wage, make small businesses pay people sane wages and give people benefits, make the corporations take much smaller profits and pay the workers three times what they make now. We need socialism in our capitalism and social programs out of the government. Just my opinion.

Catherine30

Socialism bankrupts us and capitalism makes us slaves. California is bankrupt because of the huge social programs. When you give people free money, everyone is going to take it. I see some of the filthy rich conservative talking heads on TV are on Medicare, of course, it's free.

Capitalism is not working either. Look at the stuff the politicans spend our tax money on. Half of it goes to corporations, corporate welfare and half of our tax money goes to huge social programs that bankrupt us. We only wanted roads and schools, you know, government wasn't supposed to be about campaign financing. Look at that new TV show Undercover Boss. A handful of super rich people live in mansions while millions work the night shift at 7-11 and Walmart for nothing, for a minimum wage that is so low when adjusted for inflation, they are eligible for food stamps and Medicaid. The minimum wage would have to be 16 an hour to equal what it was worth in the 1970s. People on welfare make a lot more than many people who work. We are bleeding from both ends, both the social programs and Wall Street and the corporations are taking taxes from poor working people, and we are getting screwed. There has to be an answer some where in the middle. Get rid of the entitlement programs, pay a minimum living wage, make small businesses pay people sane wages and give people benefits, make the corporations take much smaller profits and pay the workers three times what they make now. We need socialism in our capitalism and social programs out of the government. Just my opinion.

Anonymous

Corporatism by having bail outs and regulations that help big business and hurt small business inst capitalism and neither is corrupted governments.
capitalism is free market and the united states has never been truly Capitalist, but in the early days it was mostly capitalist, and that's why it WAS the best country in the world.

you can get a free audio book about liberty and capitalism here:

http://freekeene.com/free-audiobook/

Anonymous

Corporatism by having bail outs and regulations that help big business and hurt small business inst capitalism and neither is corrupted governments.
capitalism is free market and the united states has never been truly Capitalist, but in the early days it was mostly capitalist, and that's why it WAS the best country in the world.

you can get a free audio book about liberty and capitalism here:

http://freekeene.com/free-audiobook/

Anonymous

Actually, general assistance in California is equivalent to about 300 dollars a month for a single person. Unless you are working ten hours a week or less, people on welfare are not making more than you.

Anonymous

Actually, general assistance in California is equivalent to about 300 dollars a month for a single person. Unless you are working ten hours a week or less, people on welfare are not making more than you.

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