Capitalism & Socialism
Speech to the Young Americans for Liberty at the University of South Florida
21 November 2015
With usura hath no man a house of good stone
each block cut smooth and well fitting
that design might cover their face,
hath no man a painted paradise on his church wall
harpes et luz
or where virgin receiveth message
and halo projects from incision,
seeth no man Gonzaga his heirs and his concubines
no picture is made to endure nor to live with
but it is made to sell and sell quickly
with usura, sin against nature,
is thy bread ever more of stale rags
is thy bread dry as paper,
with no mountain wheat, no strong flour
with usura the line grows thick
with usura is no clear demarcation
and no man can find site for his dwelling.
Stonecutter is kept from his stone
weaver is kept from his loom
wool comes not to market
sheep bringeth no gain with usura
Usura is a murrain, usura
blunteth the needle in the maid’s hand
and stoppeth the spinner’s cunning.
came not by usura
Duccio came not by usura
nor Pier della Francesca; Zuan Bellin’ not by usura
nor was “La Calunnia” painted.
Came not by usura Angelico; came not Ambrogio Praedis,
Came no church of cut stone signed: Adamo me fecit.
Not by usura St Trophime
Not by usura Saint Hilaire,
Usura rusteth the chisel
It rusteth the craft and the craftsman
It gnaweth the thread in the loom
None learneth to weave gold in her pattern;
Azure hath a canker by usura; cramoisy is unbroidered
Emerald findeth no Memling
Usura slayeth the child in the womb
It stayeth the young man’s courting
It hath brought palsey to bed, lyeth
between the young bride and her bridegroom
They have brought whores for Eleusis
Corpses are set to banquet
at behest of usura.
This poem was written by Ezra Pound before the Second World War; before he was charged with treason for his wartime, pro-Mussolini radio broadcasts; before the Federal Government of the United States had him placed in a mental institution for twelve years for being a political embarrassment whom no one would buy was an actual war criminal.
I don’t care who you are – capitalist, communist, fascist, or feudalist – Pound was a genius. And part of his genius was in being able to attack international finance, predatory capitalism, usury, and the like in a revolutionary new style of poetry.
As our Vice Chair has told you, my name is Augustus Invictus, and I am a candidate for the United States Senate. I would like to thank the [Young Americans for Liberty] for allowing me to speak here, and I would like to say [that] I am honored to be able to speak at my Alma Mater here for the first time.
Now, you might wonder why a Senatorial candidate would open a speech with a poem; or why a Libertarian would open a speech with a poem by a known Fascist; or why a speech about capitalism and communism would open with a poem by a known Fascist discussing usury, of all things.
Well, first of all, this is going to be more of a talk than a campaign speech; and I never, ever give stump speeches anyway. In any event, I was asked to speak about “capitalism versus socialism.” Now, that is a loaded topic to begin with: (1) because it assumes that capitalism and socialism are existentially at odds with one another, and (2) because it narrows the discussion to two points on the politico-economic spectrum which are really two points among many.
But the topic is relevant for us, and it is timely, because we have a self-avowed socialist running for President in a nominally capitalist country. At least Barack Obama pretended to be a capitalist; but now there is no more need for masks. Or is there?
I think that the discussion of capitalism and socialism is really a discussion of capitalism and communismand that Bernie Sanders’ socialism is merely the transitional phase to communism. And despite my usual penchant for making controversial claims, I don’t think that this is even a controversial point, at least in so far as Bernie Sanders’ supporters are being honest with themselves. For they know, as Sanders knows, that if they were to admit that their end goal was communism, Sanders would never have any shot whatsoever at winning the Presidency. The nationalists in this country would rise up and overthrow the government before they let a known communist become President – or so we would hope.
So I think it would be beneficial to define our terms for the purpose of this discussion, and to this end I will use the definitions of the Oxford English Dictionary:
Capitalism: a system in which private capital or wealth is used in the production or distribution of goods; the dominance of private owners of capital and of production for profit
Socialism: a political and economic theory or policy of social organization which advocates that the community as a whole should own and control the means of production, capital, land, property, etc. Also, spec. in Marxist theory, a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of communism
Communism: a theory advocating a system of society with property vested in the community and each member working for the common benefit according to his or her capacity and receiving according to his or her needs; spec. the movement or political party advocating such a system, esp. as derived from Marxism and seeking the overthrow of capitalism by a proletarian revolution
The main difference, then, between capitalism and socialism or communism is where the ownership of property resides. Should the means of production rest with private owners, or should they rest with the state? Personally, I am in favor of private ownership; but we will speak more on that later.
Before continuing on, it would be useful to define Fascism, and this is the fascinating point here, because the Oxford English Dictionary defines Fascism (1) as a specific historical instance and (2) not as an economic theory:
Fascism: the principles and organization of the Italian Fascists, the Italian Fascist movement; a similar nationalist and authoritarian movement in another country; looselyright-wing authoritarianism
Fascist: A member of a body of Italian nationalists, which was organized in 1919 to oppose Communism in Italy and controlled the country from 1922 to 1943; a member of any similar nationalist and authoritarian organization in another country; loosely any person with right-wing authoritarian political views
The Oxford Dictionary failing us in defining Fascism vis-à-vis capitalism and socialism, we are left to ask ourselves: What is Fascism? And why and how did it stand against capitalism and communism simultaneously?
Fascism was known as the “Third Way.” Fascism opposed Communism in an existential sense. To them, the struggle against Communism was one of life and death. But this did not mean embracing unbridled capitalism, either: the Fascists actually considered themselves socialists, not as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, but in the sense that it was the duty of public servants to serve the public; and it was the duty of the citizen to help his fellows. The Fascists hated Communism as much as we do; but they also opposed international finance, the exploitative practices of powerful companies, and the reduction of the human experience to monetary value.
Neither is Fascism unique in this regard. There are many theories and systems that reject the false dichotomy of capitalism and communism. I did not come here today to lecture on Fascism but to point out that the choice between absolute economic opportunity and absolute economic equality is an illusory one. We Americans seem to think in binary terms, which is rather unfortunate, but which is also the hallmark of a democracy. You are either for something or you are against it; you are either supportive of Alcibiades or you are supportive of his exile; you either support the war or you are not patriotic; you either believe in capitalism as Fox News has defined it or you are un-American, and probably a terrorist; you either believe in communism as your college professors have taught you or you are a callous, barbaric, uneducated subhuman.
I think you will agree that none of this is actually true. But it is, unfortunately, how we behave. Now, considering the fact that anyone who knows me knows how much I hate Marxism with all my heart and soul, I don’t think I will need to spend much time explaining my position there. I would, however, like to share with you my thoughts on capitalism and our unacceptable dogmatism toward it. And I realize – this is an off-the-cuff remark here – that this is probably the most unpopular speech there will be all day. I don’t tend to do the ra-ra-shish-kum-bah speeches anyway, so, if there were ever a time to be critical of capitalism, it would be in a room like this. And that’s kind of my role as I see it in life.
If you will recall, I began this talk by reading a poem of Ezra Pound’s. This poem is an attack on usury, which he defines himself as “A charge for the use of purchasing power, levied without regard to production; often without regard to the possibilities of production.”
The Oxford English Dictionary, to go back to that time, defines usury thusly:
The fact or practice of lending money at interest, esp. at an exorbitant, excessive, or illegal rate; interest on money lent, esp. at such a rate.
Libertarians, Republicans, conservatives, anarchists – name a group that believes in the market more than the government, and you will often find a group advocating for a hands-off approach to business practices. And it is the reality of usury that prevents me from joining in this advocacy.
I find myself constantly rebutting this total faith in the market by reminding my fellows that allowing business owners to do whatever they want is exactly how we ended up with ten-year-olds working in coal mines and bakers working twenty-hour days in deplorable conditions, which practices we saw defended by business owners in Supreme Court cases contesting the legislation of Roosevelt’s New Deal.
The argument of conservatives, business owners, proto-Libertarians or whatever labels you want to use was called “the right of contract.” Bakers and baker owners alike had the right to enter into a contract, and the fact that the owner of the bakery had greater negotiating power than did the baker, well that was just a fact of life. If the baker didn’t like working twenty-hour days, he was more than welcome to contract with a different bakery owner who might be more lenient in his demands.
We see this same argument today [being] used by the apologists of capitalism. If you don’t like your job, just go find a new one. But how realistic is that? I’m not advocating that the government tell business owners what to do. I am a business owner myself, and nothing grinds my gears like speaking with some bureaucrat in Tallahassee who hasn’t had a job in the private sector for thirty years. But I think it’s fair to say that Wal-Mart and my law firm are not exactly on the same level. Neither are Wal-Mart and the bakery, you might fairly retort – but this only demonstrates that this is not a black-and-white issue, and that the choice of absolute economic opportunity and absolute economic equality is actually a false dichotomy.
I would also point out to my fellow Libertarians the conflicting logic in despising the Federal Reserve while acting as evangelists of the free market. The Federal Reserve is a private bank, and moneylenders will always charge interest, government or no government. It is true that the Federal Reserve itself would not exist without the government; it is true that the Federal Reserve was probably established illegally; it is true that the Federal Reserve would not have the power it does without the complicity of our representatives in the Federal Government. I am fully aware of all that. But that does not change the fact that banks like the Federal Reserve would exist with or without government; that usurious practices would continue unless prohibited by law; that the market does not have any check against usury, and neither will it ever.
As long as self-avowed capitalists defend usury; as long as they speak of the debts of individuals, families, and entire countries as part and parcel of capitalism; as long as they continue to pretend that business owners are somehow inherently more noble than public servants; as long as they embrace this false binary of absolute economic opportunity and absolute economic freedom; they will create more and more communists.
To be dogmatic about capitalism makes of capitalism a religion. We see the holy scriptures of Ayn Rand and Adam Smith, the saints Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, the crusaders Donald Trump and Ben Carson – who is present in the back with us – Obama as the Antichrist, the creed of big business, deregulation, and consumerism; we see believers and unbelievers, the faithful and the heretics, and we demonize those who would speak out against usurious practices.
Well I am here to tell you that usury is not a necessary part of capitalism. I am here to tell you that the Federal Reserve is a criminal organization and that its board members should be hanged for treason. I am come to overturn the tables of the moneychangers, the snakes who have defiled America in corrupting its government and its economic system beyond the point of recognition.
And it is my firm belief that once this evil is stricken from our country, once capitalism is no longer associated with the vicious, predatory, antisocial practices of our own banks and corporations, that we will see a lessening of this virulent reaction against capitalism, which is expressed in allegiance to Marxism.
If we are to defend capitalism, we cannot afford to swallow blindly what the media tells us capitalism is. If we are to defend capitalism, then we must make certain that what we are defending is virtuous. As for me, I will not defend any system that allows for usury. I will not stand up for anything or anyone who says, “Well those students got into debt, they should have known better, and they deserve to pay a bank $100,000 for the next twenty-five years for having gone to college.” I will not defend anything or anyone who says, “Well those stupid South American countries got themselves in debt with the IMF and the World Bank, and they should have known better, and they deserve to pay a bank X million amount of dollars for the next three generations of their people.”
That is not capitalism; that is the worship of money. I will have no part in it, and I would encourage all of you present to become more nuanced in your defense of capitalism if we are to stop this movement toward socialism – which is really a movement toward communism – that we see in our country today.