Karl Marx and Frederick Engels ushered in a new philosophical view in their various works. Dialectical materialism became the scientific method which made sense of the universe. It has been borne out in quantum physics and other scientific endeavors including the study of history.
Thomas Paine wrote about the Age of Reason in the late 1790s and early 1800s and the Age of Enlightenment was also a movement of the 1700s. What followed this was an Age of Progress which started with Marx and Engels in the mid 1800s.
It is important to try to conceptualize our history since the emergence of viable Communist parties in Russia, Cuba, China, Vietnam, the U.S. and around the world. These egalitarian, democratic efforts have been met with the most vicious response from capitalist reaction, but steady progress has been made around the world in terms of democracy, human rights, worker’s rights and justice.
The assault of capitalism on working people
Capitalism has used all the terroristic tools available to attempt to crush strivings for economic justice. In the forefront of this effort has been the U.S. The Bush administration has clarified the tactics used by capitalism in a way not seen before in history. Indeed, the efforts of the Bush administration might be characterized as “the age of confusion.”
Perhaps it is the contribution of modern media which makes so much information available to people and has put these tactics on center stage. Although the corporate media strives to soft soap the brutal, terroristic side of capitalism, new avenues for acquiring information are now available to working people on the Internet. This has increased confusion among people due to the massive amounts of information easily accessible. However, there appears to be a dawn of progressive thinking not seen before. Progressive thinkers now have a media easily accessible through the Internet which can readily spread people-centered rather than profit-centered thinking throughout the world.
History witnessed a progressive momentum in the 1920s and 1930s which was subjugated to the struggle against fascism in the 1940s. In the 1950s, after the defeat of fascism, a virulent anti-people’s agenda took center stage with the full backing of the corporate elite. Anti-communism, racism, sexism, anti-unionism and a permanent war mentality became dominant. Socialism and Communism became the bad boys and people were propagandized and made to believe that it is “better to be dead than Red.”
J. Edgar Hoover’s book “Masters of Deceit” slandered the Communist and people’s movement in a way that has been hard to overcome. The people, however, are beginning to recognize who really are the “Masters of Deceit.”
In the struggle between the wealthy and the poor which Marx characterized as the “class struggle,” it is clear that the wealthy have used deceit to wage a war to make the world safe for capitalism and ever expanding profits. This has resulted in massive confusion among working people which has served well the interests of reaction.
We have seen the use of unscrupulous propaganda which characterized the Vietnam War as a war for the liberation of the Vietnamese people. The ruthless capitalists waging this war were merely striving for world domination and trying to increase profits in Southeast Asia. This senseless struggle resulted in the slaughter of untold Vietnamese and American working class people. However, many well meaning Americans were confused by the rhetoric and thought that the U.S. working class soldiers brutally slaughtered by capitalism were “serving their country.” In fact, their sacrifices only served to further the interests of their masters, the capitalists.
Martin Luther King was a fighter for justice for working people and was demonized when he opposed the Vietnam War and stood up for worker’s rights. Character assassination was followed by assassination de facto. Nevertheless, the principles he stood for live on and are cherished by working people everywhere.
Many others who carried the banner of the people were assassinated or destroyed by reaction including the Rosenbergs, Robert F. Kennedy, Malcolm X and untold labor and civil rights leaders during the maelstrom which resulted from progressive struggles. Progressives were massacred and martyred in the Haymarket uprising merely for advocating the 40 hour week.
All of these acts of terrorism by the wealthy resulted in increased confusion and fear of progressive movements among the general population.
Endless war, racism, sexism and other negative propaganda
Fast forward to the present and we see an administration which condemns communism and unions while extolling the virtues of torture and endless war. The same forces which told us that communists and socialists were enemies of the people have engaged in an unprecedented fleecing of working people to enrich the major corporations.
These same forces justified the Iraq debacle by claiming that country possessed weapons of mass destruction. These same forces have demonized immigrants in the most vicious, racist attacks seen since the slaughter of Native Americans and African Americans in this country. Immigrants are being placed in detention centers at an unprecedented rate not seen since the detention of Japanese Americans during World War II. Racist attacks on the African American community are well documented and understood. African Americans are prepared for incarceration from the moment they enter the educational system and serve the “prison industrial complex” in untold numbers.
The Bush administration has attempted to privatize our toenails while simultaneously attempting to dismantle education and social security and any other social programs which might benefit working people. Religion has been enlisted in this massive propagandistic extravaganza and right-wing preachers have recently claimed that Adolf Hitler’s actions actually benefited the Jewish people. Such subterfuge and distortion of the facts has resulted in massive confusion.
Bill Moyers has noted the exacerbation of the class struggle beginning with Secretary of the Treasury William Simon under President Richard Nixon. He maintains that Simon declared class war and called for the wealthy to “take back what has been taken from us.” Of course, we see the results of this now with a faltering economy but a greatly enriched bourgeoisie.
What is to be done?
So, where does this leave us in our current state of affairs? In other words, what is to be done? Lenin’s question is of utmost importance in the current political situation.
With the recent upsurge in interest in electoral politics, particularly those forces demanding change, and the assertiveness of organized labor, a new ‘age of progress” should be declared and fought for.
The foundation is already being laid and must be enacted when the new administration takes power. Pressure must be applied to encourage lawmakers to pass the employee free choice act, a national health care plan and to reverse the anti-labor, anti-people legislation passed by the right wing. Social security should be strengthened and expanded so that people getting benefits receive a living wage. Scientific endeavor and research should be removed from private hands and returned to the public domain. All of the setbacks dealt to our precious public education system must be reversed and our education system must be set on a positive course. Foreign policy should hinge on diplomacy, rather than dictatorial despotism and international terrorism. Our future depends on it.
In other words, science and rational thinking should become dominant rather than idealistic, mythological, superstitious justification of reactionary policies leading to self-destruction of our people and the peoples of the world. It is time for the working class to become the ruling class. Only with a united people’s movement can we accomplish these goals.