In times that appear indelibly marked by ‘post-truth’ and ‘alternative facts’, it’s hard not to feel some sense of gratitude towards figures in public life who are prepared to speak truthfully.
I’m referring to Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader in the United States House of Representatives. When asked by a participant in a televised ‘town hall’ meeting about the fact that a majority of young voters in the US, according to a Harvard University poll, no longer supported capitalism, she said, of the Democratic Party:
We’re capitalists, and that’s just the way it is.
It’s hard, for me at least, not to appreciate the candour in the statement. It’s definitely much better than having someone equally committed to capitalism as the Democratic Party undoubtedly is, but preferring to mask this commitment by professing to be in favour of ‘freedom’ or ‘pragmatism’ or ‘pro-enterprise policies’, and leaving people with the vague impression that they might have some kind of inclination towards social justice.
What would happen if everyone like Nancy Pelosi, instead of preferring to hide behind euphemisms when not avoiding the matter of capitalism altogether, professed their belief in capitalism at every turn? What if they said, all the time: it is our highest calling to advance the cause of capitalism, and, therefore, we will not be bound by any commitment to anything by way of fundamental rights for human beings, be it in terms of health, education, safety, welfare, or work?
I’d like to think that this would be the beginning of the end for capitalism, since political institutions across the capitalist world would no longer be able to cope with the glaringly obvious gap between the interests of the representatives within and the interests of the class in whose interests they act on the one hand, and the public at large on the other. But that might not happen at all. For all I know, devotion to capitalism on the part of some might just lead to the ruthless and violent repression of all anti-capitalist feeling and action, and instead of capitalism garnished with democratic formalities, we would just have open tyranny instead.
If I weigh things up, an epidemic of such candour seems fairly unlikely. But then again, the head of state in the US at the minute is the archetypal capitalist pig. Whatever the lies that proliferate from his mouth and from his administration in general, there is something indelibly true about Trump, in how he embodies all that is rotten in capitalism: greed, self-obsession, arrogance, aggression, contempt for weakness, racism, patriarchy, ecological destruction, and so on. I should stress, the fact that a bad thing is true does not make that thing in any way good. But it is always better to have an accurate picture of what you are up against.