Last night, I saw #RIPCapitalism trending on Twitter. Mind you, most of the top Tweets are conservatives making fun of anyone who Tweets it for using an IPhone (which, side note, even as a libertarian I find to be a shitty argument). Another huge chunk of Tweets were libertarians saying the United States is not capitalism and hasn’t been for quite some time. Only a small number of Tweets, I’d say no more than 20%, were actually socialists going after capitalism.
“The end of capitalism,” has been a prediction for quite some time in socialist circles. In 2013, radio host and Social Democrat Thom Hartmann (who helped get Bernie Sanders on the map) released a book called The Crash Of 2016: The Plot To Destroy America — And What We Can Do To Stop It. Of course, there was no crash in 2016, nor was there one in 2017,2018, or 2019. While 2020 is just getting started, it seems like the only “crash” that has happened is a once a generation (if not once a century) virus that nobody could have avoided.
This idea dates back to Karl Marx, who believed that communism is the end point of history. In The Communist Manifesto, Marx wrote:
The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.
Half a century later, Leon Trotsky, a Russian communist and good friend of Lenin, talked about “perpetual revolution.” This does not mean, as most think, some kind of internationalist communist revolution where the Soviets fund coups against capitalism. Instead, it means that once a revolution starts, it is not going to stop until the entire world is communist.
This is most popular in the form of “late stage capitalism,” an idea proposed by socialists that things will get so bad that the people will rise up and create a communist revolution.
As The Atlantic wrote on May Day 2017:
A job advertisement celebrating sleep deprivation? That’s late capitalism. Free-wheeling Coachella outfits that somehow all look the same and cost thousands of dollars? Also late capitalism. Same goes for this wifi-connected $400 juicer that does no better than human hands, Pepsi’s advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner, United Airlines’ forcible removal of a seated passenger who just wanted to go home, and the glorious debacle that was the Fyre Festival. The phrase — ominous, academic, despairing, sarcastic — has suddenly started showing up everywhere.
This is a clear example of moving the goalpost. When Marx wrote that socialism is inevitable due to working conditions, he was clearly talking about the conditions of the Industrial Revolution — which he lived during. What happened? The majority of the socialist governments formed during that time have since fallen, the countries who rejected socialism became more prosperous, and capitalism is more popular today than ever before.
If this idea that 2020 or 2016 or whenever will be the year of Capitalism’s downfall sounds familiar, that’s because it is. In 2008, after the Stock Market crash and the Great Recession, socialists were making the same predictions. In his 2009 film Capitalism: A Love Story, left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore praises Barack Obama as an example of socialism. At the end of his newer movie Fahrenheit 11/9, Moore does the same thing with left-wing candidates like Alexandra Ocasio Cortez.
After the Stock Market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, socialists were doing the same thing.
Ironically, this has happened once in American history, but with capitalism and not socialism. Left-wing commentator William Kleinknecht documented in the opening chapters of his book The Man Who Sold The World: Ronald Reagan And The Betrayal Of Mainstream America that after the energy crisis and stagflation under Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter, the Keynesian economic values of the past half century were thrown out when President Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 in favor of capitalism.
Isn’t that ironic? The revolution did happen, it just so happened the revolution was for the other side.
Even more ironically, the only other school of thought that holds this view for non-religious reason is the enemy of Marxists, neo-liberalism. In 1992, Francis Fukuyama wrote in his book The End Of History And The Last Man that western liberal democracy is “the end point of mans ideological evolution” as seen by the then-recent fall of the Soviet Union.
However, all these ideas have the same mistake. In truth, history will not end until time itself does. Maybe your ideology, one of hundreds, if not thousands, will be the one universal ideology by that point. However, somehow I doubt it.
Consider that the invention of feudalism was once considered “the end of history,” now, feudalism is looked down upon as an ideology. In truth, the future is a blank piece of paper and what we paint is to us now. Nothing in inevitable in history, things either simply happen or they don’t.