The Guardian July 10, 2002

The way out of capitalist lying, cheating and stealing

by Herb Kaye

The roll call of corporate fraud  from Enron to Tyco; from Adelphia to 
Dynegy  keeps lengthening, with the addition of WorldCom, accused of 
listing US$3.9 billion as "investment" rather than as expenses for 
maintenance and repair, thus reporting high profits rather than substantial 

This has caused many progressive forces to probe the causes of this 
widespread spate of "cooking the books", putting out deliberate lies and 
false claims which have caused heavy losses to workers' jobs and their 
401(k) [retirement] plans, as well as to pension funds and other 

A recent article by Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, 
writing in that organization's official magazine, Sierra, argued that the 
scandals reflected the fact that "democratic capitalism has institutional 
flaws but only personal memories."

He argues that those who didn't live through the Great Depression have no 
memory of the reforms put in place to curb corporate greed in that period 
and don't know how those reforms helped curb the worst abuses of the 

"Personal memories of the California energy crisis, Enron, and the EPA 
should be more than enough to spur a new generation of essential regulatory 
safeguards", says Pope.

That the crisis of capitalism is more basic than a "memory" problem is 
indicated when Pope goes on to quote William Greider's article from the 
Nation: "The rot in America's financial system is structural and systemic. 
It consists of lying, cheating and stealing on a grand scale."

This "lying, cheating and stealing on a grand scale", is not a recent 
phenomenon. It goes back to the very origins of this nation, which based a 
large part of its economy on slavery and the slave trade, continued with 
the forcing of the Native American people off their land, and saw the 
building of great fortunes and political power on the backs of the American 
working class and vast numbers of immigrant workers.

"Capitalism", as Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto, 
"comes into the world dripping with blood", and that is certainly true of 
the American brand of capitalism, which has carried out bloody suppression 
of workers' struggles for their rights, such as the Ludlow Massacre in 
Colorado, Haymarket and the Republic Steel Massacre in Chicago, and the 
murders of West Coast longshore workers on Bloody Thursday in 1934.

At the same time, US capitalism carried out wars of domination and control 
of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico and other nations.

As two-time Congressional Medal of Honor winner Marine Major-General 
Smedley Butler said in 1935, "I spent 33 years and four months in military 
service ... I served in all commissioned ranks from a second lieutenant to 

"And during that period I spent most of my time being a high-class muscle 
man ... for Wall St and for the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a 
gangster for capitalism."

This aggression and ruthless attacks on weaker and vulnerable peoples are 
an intrinsic part of the functioning of the capitalist system as it 
operates throughout the world, and no amount of reform or "personal memory" 
is going to change that basic nature of the system.

That doesn't mean that reforms to curb or restrain the capitalist vultures, 
who know no limits to their greed and avarice, should not be pursued and 
fought for.

Far from it, as underscored by history: the working class and peoples' 
struggles for the eight-hour day, unemployment insurance, social security, 
the right to vote and to public education attest to the value and 
importance of such struggles.

But no amount of reforms can take the place of a new social/economic system 
in which the people who create the wealth of the nation the workers, 
farmers, professionals, small business people, artists and others  will 
democratically decide the distribution of the wealth of the nation.

That system is called socialism, and despite setbacks and obstacles that 
stand in the way, the American people, in their wisdom, will, in time, come 
to see and understand the superiority of such a system to the one we 
presently live under.

* * *
People's Weekly World paper of Communist Party USA

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