Arms down, comrades

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

The problem with communism is that everyone wants to storm the Winter Palace, but nobody wants to work for thirty years in a rivet factory.

I’ve always known the socialism was doomed. Doomed by us. Doomed by our nature. When I speak to someone who’s bored at work, I know that true revolution is impossible.

An angry receptionist slammed the phone on me yesterday. I was right and she was wrong but she was also tired and pissed off, and sick of being a receptionist. I felt empathy for her. How does she want to spend her Friday night? At home, with a glass of wine? In a nice pool, or getting a massage? Maybe getting laid or just getting some sleep.

But not talking to me. That’s not her idea of fun. It’s just her job, something she’s paid to do, something she finds slightly demeaning.

This is the unspoken truth of both capitalism and socialism. Without the profit incentive, we wouldn’t answer phones or clean offices or carry trash cans. We wouldn’t get out of bed when we were sleepy.

Society needs people to do shitty jobs. And they will only do those jobs if they are forced to do them.

Communist societies forced people by punishing them if they refused to work. Assign them to increasingly worse jobs, and eventually send them to the gulag. Most Soviet citizens dealt with this by getting as drunk as possible all the time. In Soviet factories, some employees only did one thing: they watched out for colleagues who were too drunk to work, and they sent them home before they caused any damage to the machinery.

Capitalism offers a different deal. Don’t work, don’t eat. Of course there is social welfare, but that is puntitive and Victorian in most places. Capitalists are careful to ensure that life on welfare is always substantially worse than the shittiest jobs.

Meanwhile, capitalism makes us dream big dreams. Sitting in the first class section of a jet, sippping champagne as you fly to Bali, throwing your steak back in the hostess’s face because you wanted it medium rare.

Capitalism fetishes the pyramid. Imagine yourself at the top, whispers the money.

This is perhaps the greatest difference between socialism and capitalism. Both try to motivate by appealing to something deep inside you. Socialism asks you to work for the state and the good of your fellow man.

Capitalism asks you to work for yourself, to think of how happy you’ll be if you hustle hard enough and become one of life’s winners.

This is why capitalism will always win and communism will always fail. Not because it’s better — it’s obviously not.

Simply because we’re not good enough. We’re too petty, too venal. All we can do is keep the species alive for a few more hundred years and hope our descendants figure it out.

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