Capitalism vs. Communism

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This writing attempts to unfold the dynamics in the human-nature relationship over different socio-political stages in order to point out the patterns of the human action and inaction. More specifically, the paper will interrogate the practices of transformation through which nature was configured and reconfigured by capitalism and communism, two historical situations based on conflicting theories but with substantial underlying similarities, as the paper will further argue through careful empirical case studies. Thus, the article aims to understand the historical paradigm of communism contrasting with the historical paradigm of capitalism and to question the relationship between the two ideologies by linking the socio-political practices to the creation of spaces.

The intertwinement between nature and society has been very much contested and the more recent contribution of the human factor in shaping territories under capitalism has been highly criticised. The neoliberal policies of governing nature generated territorial fragmentation and differentiation and caused deep inequalities and relentless poverty. The capitalist mechanism has managed to embed itself in the materiality and consciousness of today’s society and has altered almost every aspect of its existence. Preston argues that our current reality is constructed on an ‘inegalitarian and exploitative social organization of dependent capitalism’ (Preston, 1996) in which processes of accumulation occur. The finality of these processes are reflected in the ‘built environments’, which ‘function as a vast, humanly, created resource system, comprising use values embedded in physical landscape, which can be utilized for production, exchange and consumption’ (Harvey, 2006). As a consequence, the uneven development of territories is the product of the ‘barriers capitalism encounters within its own nature’ which force it to ‘produce new forms of geographical differentiation’ (Harvey, 2006).

The alternatives opposing the capitalistic system proclaimed in the scholarly studies are mainly orientated towards socialism and ‘how to construct paths towards socialism’ (Cardoso and Faletto in Preston, 1996). Deeper reflections in this direction are expressed through Marxist thoughts, through the idea that ‘another communism is possible’ (Harvey, 2010) in order to make up for the immense failure of socialism in the past (see Laclau and Mouffe 1985). But does socialism or any of its extensions really offer valid solutions able to challenge capitalism in the present day and produce major changes for the future? This question still remains largely unexplored and in order to test this presumption, we firstly need to look back at how each ideological structure implemented its ideas into different socio-spatial contexts and determine the particularities, structural elements and patterns of action of these opposing concepts. The paper will therefore, make a comparative incursion into the socialist and capitalist realities and it will show how they have been shaped by these systems.

For instance, in the U.K. there was a violent pass from the feudalist regime to a capitalist one. The transformation of common land into individual property was made through violent means. The consequence of the processes of enclosure was the migration of people towards cities to work in the industrial factories in order to gain their existence. ’The crowding together of labourers in the midst of an accumulation of misery, agony of tail, slavery, brutality, mental degradation, all exacerbated by various secondary forms of exploitation became the hallmark of the capitalist form of industrialism’ (Harvey, 2006). The Cowley Car Plant in Oxford is an illustration of Harvey’s claim. Despite the precarious working conditions in the factory and the repetitive reductions of the work force, people were still fighting for the preservation of their jobs due to the inexistence of a valid alternative for their livelihoods. The determination of the workers to fight for their rights, was based in what Williams called ‘militant particularism’ or ‘ideals forged out of the affirmative experience of solidarities in one place which get generalized and universalized as a working model of a new form of society that will benefit all of humanity’ (Williams in Harvey, 1996). However, the same policy of oppression and violation of human rights materialized in forms of slavery, brutality, mental degradation and exploitation were applied by the communists in the eastern countries. Consequently, the elements of the capitalist regime evident in Harvey’s quote were integrated aspects of the communist regime in Romania. The generous ideology of communism, constructed on Marxist thought, has proved to be catastrophic when put into practice. Idealised welfare and equalitarianism have become a violent form of deprivation of people’s livelihoods and abuse of their rights by the labour class. People were also dispossessed by their properties and were forced to form collective associations of production and use of land. All properties and industrial agencies have been confiscated by the state. People were forced to migrate to cities and work in the industrial sector. The objectives of the communists were achieved at high human and environmental costs and through accumulation means like the capitalist model. The socialist strategies had catastrophic consequences upon the society and environment, with massive industries causing unprecedented pollution and cities left with long-lasting scars. In Britain, the ‘militant particularism’ present at the Cowley plant and attributed to the working class who fought the capitalist oppressors, proved to be in Romania, an intellectual movement fighting against the working class. Therefore, the notion transcended all social classes and fought all forms of administration, adopting ‘a politics of abstraction capable of reaching out across space, across the multiple environmental and social conditions that constitute the geography of difference’ (Harvey, 1996).

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