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The Collapse of Communism and Capitalism

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

The Collapse of Communism and Capitalism

It’s worth reflecting, now that all the hollow reminiscing and disgusting triumphalism is over, on the collapse of communism 20 years ago. America is finally waking up to the fact that we have collapsed as well.

The last chance for 20th century America to change course was 1990, when communism crumpled. We needed the Russians for spiritual reasons (an irony of communism) as much as they needed us for material one’s. Rather than humbly seize the opportunity however, we took a triumphalist attitude under Bush Senior and Bill Clinton, which paved the way for George Bush Junior.

The idea that Bush Junior was an anomaly is an illusion that’s dying a hard death. Of course, much more than the accepted worldview about George W. Bush is at issue. Indeed, it isn’t really about W at all, who is about as relevant as yesterday morning’s New York Times.

No, the real reason progressives cling to the falsehood that Bush was the problem is because they don’t want to face the fact that Obama isn’t the solution.

On the Charlie Rose Show recently, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, in his usual half-an-insight-wrapped-in-a-falsehood way, intoned as much. You know that when the “War of Choice” in Iraq man pontificates that the problem isn’t American leadership but American citizenry, denial is running out of running room.

Friedman said, “Maybe, as good as Obama is, he can’t trump the system.” Waking up is hard to do. Given that Rose and Friedman are the system, there’s plenty of irony to go around.

I grew up during the heyday of the car culture of Michigan at the high point of the auto industry, the US labor movement, and America’s industrial might. Detroit was still the industrial and labor capital of the world. Parts of it were a scary place to white suburbia, but that didn’t become overtly so until after the ’67 riots.

Henry Ford invented mass production in Detroit with the Model T, and half the Lower Peninsula of Michigan quickly grew into subsidiaries of the Big Three—GM, Ford, and Chrysler. When you see fellow Michigander Michael Moore’s docu-political-entertainment movies, you are seeing the death throes of the industrial heartland of America, extended over the entire country.

Growing up when manufacturing still mattered, I understood that without a foot solidly in it, America would not remain viable, much less nominally great. Living in Silicon Valley in 1988 and witnessing the seismic shifts in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany, I saw what was coming and seized the opportunity to try to help the Russian people rebuild their country as we had promised to do when they threw off the chains of communism.

Our premise was that both the USSR and the US were collapsing at the same time, just in different ways. So I found the best business counterpart in Russia that I could, at a quaint-sounding gala in San Francisco called “Soviets, Meet Middle America,” and then started meeting with CEO’s and VP’s of big American companies.

I still feel that the hinge of history could have squeaked a different way, but both Russians and Americans fell short. As we all know, American capitalism proclaimed a glorious victory over godless communism. Problem was, we had become the godless ones, in a true sense, and so it was a quick and globalizing downhill slide under Bill and Hillary to George and Laura.

The question now is: What is Obama? Sad to say, he’s an empty promise, a hyped hope. The proud proclaimer of “I got game” has become the graying thin man of ‘it’s still the same.’

History has moved beyond America, but most people, here and abroad, haven’t caught onto that fact. That spells opportunity for those who have.

Not that China will replace us. The system of State control in China that morphed out of communism is a lot more tenuous than they, or we, care to think. Why else does the rump communist government in Beijing become apoplectic whenever Tibet or Taiwan even comes up? It reflects China’s deep insecurity, and the underlying instability of their hybrid communist-capitalistic model.

The new reality, which nationalists like Tom Friedman and Charlie Rose will never get, is that it isn’t just that this Empire’s days are over, or even that all empires days are over, but that the nation-state’s days are numbered.

The imminent collapse we’re facing now is of the entire international system. Though the minions of misanthropy are fond of saying that half of humanity will need to be wiped out before we can change course (or if they’re really smitten with self-hatred, that they hope to live to see the entire species extinguished), there’s another possibility.

An alternative exists at all levels--spiritual, philosophical, social, and political. But though it cannot be spelled out, it has to be in place when the old order crumbles for something new to emerge.

Otherwise, like the US and USSR after the Cold War, it will be a world of rubble and trouble for as far as one can see.


- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: The author welcomes comments.

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