Just like communism, capitalism must be supplanted

11 November 2009

Just like communism, capitalism must be supplanted

Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of East European communism, neoliberal capitalism also seems to have lost its power of attraction. According to an opinion poll conducted by the BBC in twenty-seven countries across the world, only 11% of those interviewed retain any faith in actually existing capitalism. The rest believe that through-going reforms are needed, while a quarter hold that capitalism in its present form is irreparably defective, and want to see a new socio-economic system. “High time that politicians really began to listen to the people," says SP Senator Tiny Kox.

Tiny KoxToday many places came to a halt in memory of the opening of the Berlin Wall on 9th November 1989. After this event, the whole of East European communism collapsed like a house of cards. By means of peaceful protest, the long-oppressed peoples of the region forced the authoritarian regimes of central and eastern Europe to stand down. “A monumental occurrence," in the eyes of Senator Kox, who personally participated in the peaceful protest demonstrations in the GDR (East Germany) and observed the process of change with wonder and enthusiasm. "History was written there," he recalls, "by ordinary people who said to the authorities 'Basta! We've had enough, and now we're going to do things differently here'."

The fall of the Wall brought an end to the division of Germany and to the Cold War, which the world had lived through since the end of World War Two. “You can confidently call it a revolution, I feel," says Kox. "After forty years of division East and West Europe came together again at last. All of these countries have since joined the Council of Europe and ratified the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Only the European Union remains to sign it, but I hope that when the Treaty of Lisbon comes into force the ECHR will take priority, so that everyone in Europe will enjoy the same rights. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has, partly on my initiative, expressed its views quite emphatically in favour of this."

The fall of communism opened the door to capitalism throughout the region. Twenty years later, few long for a return to the world as it was before 1989. But the magic of modern capitalism appears to be a spent force, according to a survey conducted by the BBC. “In twenty-six of the twenty-seven countries included in the survey," says Kox, "a two-thirds majority of those interviewed said that governments must do more to bring about a better distribution of prosperity in their country and half expressed the opinion that the state should have take more control over important economic sectors and that business should be subject to tighter regulation. Remarkable figures, which show that we are truly looking for something new. In the Netherlands and in the rest of the world.”

The SP Senator believes that political decision-makers would be wise to study these findings and base their actions on the attitudes which they reflect. “For example, by changing the European Union from a promoter of free and unbridled capitalism to a promoter of European cooperation in the area of human rights, democracy and better social relations. This could be achieved by no longer placing the free market and the interests of capital in a central position in the EU, but instead the rights of the people of the member states, their opportunities. We must do away with the disastrous European pressure to sell off public services and privatise state-owned enterprises. We must think again about which activities can be left to the market but also about which can't, for example education, health care, personal security. And we must look for ways to democratise the economy, such as by taking power away from share-holders and sharing it amongst workers. Cutting shareholders and the capitalism of bankers loose from the anchor of regulation is morally and economically bankrupt. And this is something which ever more people are beginning to understand. Although the Netherlands was not included in the BBC survey, research from, for example, the Office for Social and Cultural Planning points in the same direction: more social solidarity, less neoliberalism, a society on a human scale and an economy over which democracy has the last word.”

The BBC survey was conducted in twenty-seven countries including the United States, Russia, France, Germany, Turkey and India.

The results of the BBC survey

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