Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Communism, Billy Jack, and OWS

I came accross this heavily discounted paperback about 20 years ago in a bookstore clearance bin. I was at the time a Philosophy student with a particular libertarian bent. The Berlin Wall had just been eroded by decades of Cold War, and Glasnost had melted away the USSR. It was clear to everyone in those days that Communism was dead for good, so buying The Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels for $1.99 that day was perhaps a purchase made with an ironic flair and a nod to the quixotic.

I don't remember if I had actually read it previously to my recent perusal. With the fresh perspective of two decades of hindsight I went through it and was surprised at how relevant it still is and also how bold and fearless it was.

It was published in 1848 during an era of revolutions in Europe but it has much to say about our current year of revolutions within the Arab world and the Occupy Wall Street Movement. The Communist Manifesto is an unapologetic twisting of a knife into the ruling classes of the world. It is written with the confidence of someone who feels the force and motion of History behind him.

Growing up in the 70's and 80's I must have watched the film Billy Jack a dozen times. It's the story of peaceful namesake who is confronted with so much injustice and oppression that he takes matters into his own hands and beats the daylights out of the racist oppressive ruling class of a southern US county. One of the coolest scenes ever for an adolescent boy such as myself was the one in which Billy is squared off against the main bad guy in a face-to-face encounter. I was reminded of this scene while reading The Communist Manifesto. Billy and Marx both telegraph exactly what they're going to do, outline it precisely to the representative of their respective ruling class and go ahead and do it.

Postwar America fell heavily under the influence of an out-of-control and paranoid military-industrial-complex. The middle-class kids growing up in 60's rebelled and a revolutionary spirit took hold amongst them. Marx was for many a guiding inspiration for revolution. Their indignation was fanned by the oppression of minority races at home and the killing of foreigners half a world away at the hands of an imperialistic American military.

Today's OWS movement is similarly spurred, moved and represented largely by middle-class educated youth. They are reacting to a set of injustices that have resulted from the progression of a Capitalistic system that seems to have worked its way towards its own demise. Capitalism has had a long and successful run, creating vast wealth and prosperity for the world. But this wealth has become more and more concentrated in the hands of a few that now directly or indirectly control not only the money but the government that sets the regulations for the flow of that money and the media that tells everyone that this is the best that we could hope for.

I don't believe Capitalism is dead or needs to die. Free movements of money and goods seems clearly to be the most efficient way to create wealth and prosperity, but that doesn't mean that a completely unfettered system would therefore be even better. Everyone seemed to realize and recognize this not too long ago. Free enterprise was allowed, vast wealth was created and it was taxed at a substantial rate to create a more humane and tolerable common realm. The founding fathers who wrote the American constitution recognized that a concentration of power is not healthy for a society and wrote the rules to discourage it in the political realm. That concentration of power is equally degenerative in the realms of money and media. The concentration of money has been able to buy media power and ultimately political power by helping to design a political system that runs on the fuel of money that they provide to help elect leaders and write the legislation that perpetuates and grows the system in a manner that benefits the moneyed above all.

At a certain point this unchecked growth can eventually lead to a diagnoses of a cancer. Marx advocated that we kill the body and build a new one. I think we are definitely sick but let`s not lose our heads. OWS should be supported because it is probably the only way to circumvent the existing power of money, media and politics to get us talking about necessary change. Those who oppose such democratic discussion are not doing the body any good. It makes no sense to continue stacking the rules in favour of ever concentrated wealth when any smart billionaire will tell you that there`s no use running a business if your customers have no money or time to buy your goods.

This should of course only be the beginning of a discussion that will go on to ask tough questions about growth in general and what it means to be happy and prosperous now that we`ve discovered that these should not only be measured by money.


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Dena McKeel said...

You've got it ALL wrong! LET PEOPLE BE FREE!! The 'ELITES, which includes our government making our laws that CONTROL US, ARE still going to be RICH and powerful under your 'communist' utopia, YET ALL of us now have NO chance at a future! (Currently, we do! A waitress CAN become a millionaire!) We will be FORCED to STAY lowly!! FREEDOM comes with free market, and OUR GRTEAT CONSTITUTION! Communism is the OPPOSITE of our constitution, therefore can not exist in America, UNLESS WE ARE OVERTHROWN BY TRAITOR, RADICALS, who should be in JAIL! The history of communism speaks for itself! Look to Germany, Russia where they murdered and let millions starve, on PURPOSE! Look to Jim Jones of Jonestown...all communism! IF you despise 'monopolies' then you should despise the thought of the ULTIMATE monopoly taking over...the government! A corrupt one, at that! WHY DO YOU FIGHT TO NOT BE FREE?!!

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Anonymous said...

Insightful words man. Only thing is that in the scene Billy says hes gonna kick him in the left and ends up kicking him in the right. Wonder what Marx would say about that lol

Jake Jakob Koseleci said...

@anonymous He points to his right cheek and says "I'm gonna whop you on that side of your face" and then does so.