Capitalism is far closer to socialism than either the dictionary or popular thought would lead most people to believe. Webster’s Dictionary (2003) declares that capitalism is “an economic system in which the means of production and distribution are for the most part privately owned and operated for private profit.” (p. 198). The second definition states “the possession and concentration of private capital and its resulting power and influence.” The concentration of wealth in the USA is in the hands of the infamous one percent. The accumulation of wealth in the Soviet Union was held and controlled by the small numbers who were most politically connected. The result is the same even if the two C’s are supposedly different isms.
According to Bennett (2012), worker productivity grew more than three times the rate of wage increases for the average worker. This was in the period between 1989 and 2010. At the same time, CEO earnings grew from small multiples of the average worker’s wage to hundreds of times that level. This is the face of capitalism. Janus could be used to describe the face of socialism in the Soviet Union. There are two faces each looking in opposite directions. One looks East while the other looks West. However, they are still part of the same body. The well-connected in the Soviet Union had access to privileges which were unheard of and unobtainable for the average comrade.
This truth was put on display before my eyes when I lived in Lithuania in 1996-1997. For a few months I shared a flat with a mother and her two children. The father had lived for years in Lithuania in a position of rare advantage. He fled back to Mother Russia when the Soviet Union collapsed. He was a colonel in the KGB. He had good reason to flee as he was a hated man. The citizens despised his cruelty and were envious of his wealth. He and his family lived in a huge flat right in the heart of the city. They were a short walk from Parliament, the National Library, and all the best shops. Of course, they never needed to walk or take public transportation since they owned a new GAZ-24 Volga. Position means privilege in the USA just as it did in the USSR.
The Donald (2011) has stated “Part of the beauty of me is that I am very rich.” Trump made his riches in a nation which celebrates and honors the wealthy no matter how they gathered the “filthy” lucre. Many a KGB colonel was showered financially for torturing and murdering those who were not so highly placed. Money makes all things beautiful while poverty can only make life very dark indeed. Francis Archer in the play The Beaux' Stratagem (2007) states “Don't mistake me, Aimwell, for 'tis still my maxim, that there is no scandal like rags, nor any crime so shameful as poverty.”
Money makes politics and the world go round. William M. “Boss” Tweed ran a highly efficient and highly corrupt political machine in New York City in the mid to late 1800s. Even convictions for corruption could not keep him down. Very little has changed since that time. The United States Supreme Court in 2010 basically ruled that corporations are people. The “people” cannot have their free speech rights limited. “They” must be allowed to throw around as much money as they like to influence the outcome of political elections. For the first time in history bricks, mortar, flowcharts, bottom lines, and black ink now makes up a living, breathing human being. The one percent in combination with corpulent corporations can now spend the kind of money that the lower 99 percent can never hope to match.
People were told who to vote for in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The workers knew who to vote for if they wanted to keep their jobs and keep out of a gulag. The situation is not so extreme in the United States. Nobody will be hauled off to Leavenworth or Folsom if he or she votes for the “wrong” party or politician. However, the media documented several cases where CEOs did threaten to fire employees if Obama was elected. The very real consequences of buying elections is an issue which impacts every American. Citizens state overwhelmingly that they want clean air, unpolluted land, alternative energy, and good schools for their children. The ultra-rich and corporations see little necessity to make things better for those below.
Leaving the vast majority to wallow in the mire does nothing to ultimately advance the United States of America politically or financially. That might seem like an odd statement since the nation is still the richest on earth. What must be kept in mind is that the best workforce is not one which has to constantly worry how to pay the bills. The rich and the corporations in capitalist America are not so far different from the environment created by the Soviet Union. The USA could go the way of the USSR if the levels of public dissatisfaction continue to increase. The left and the right are not so far apart as they would like to think.
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