The Birth and Development of Capitalism

On Tuesday 14th, many undoubtedly celebrated Bastille Day, paying respect to the rebel movement behind the French Revolution.

Probably the most significant event in eighteenth-century Europe, this revolution reshaped European history, changing the face of France forever. For anyone unaware of what actually occurred during this remarkable few years, violence broke out across the nation after the Bastille was stormed by revolutionary forces. Such violence would later overthrow the monarchy, throw the country into chaos, and trigger a series of conflicts extending as far as the Middle East, securing it in the minds of many generations to come. Even with these drastic outcomes aside, it still deserves a place in world history, for this was the event that brought about an economic system still standing today; this was the event that brought about capitalism.

Bataille de Jemmapes 1792

Bataille de Jemmapes, 1792

The idea of a capitalist revolution may sound foreign to you, which is understandable; in a world where capitalism has long been the system which nations have tried to prevent revolution from overthrowing, the thought that it could exist as a revolutionary theory may sound strange to many, yet just like communism, capitalism had to start somewhere, and 1793 is one of the most profound examples of such an instalment. If the transition it enacted isn’t obvious, we have to remember that feudalism – the system’s predecessor – were the days of landlords, peasants, absolute monarchy, and a heavy religious influence on the populace. All of the above were revoked or transformed after the transfer of power took place, and the main focus of production was no longer the peasants labouring on the aristocrat’s land, but the workforce in the factories of Paris, Lyon or Toulouse.

However, although possibly the most dramatic, the transition in France is obviously not the only example; it is believed by many that capitalism originated many years ago, in the regions of northern Italy, and the ideas of a revolution against feudalism can be seen in the English Civil War, the European Enlightenment, and events reaching as far back as the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages. To give you an idea of how long unrest had been present, Europe – arguably the most advanced continent at that time period – experienced almost half a millennium of tensions and trauma with the rise of the new productive means. As a result, society saw many profound changes up to the late eighteenth century, at which point France had finally reformed its economy.

But we have to remember that at this stage, many nations were still stuck in the dark ages of serfdom, and though they would later progress, they did so in a different manner. In the podcast ‘Is Marxism a Science?’ provided by*, the speaker David Whitehouse looks into this when it refers to the German transition to capitalism, which, whist revolutionary in its own way, was not dramatic or profound like that in France. The states of Germany, as Whitehouse explains, were yet to catch up with more advanced European nations, and thus constructed industrialised economies whilst still under feudal leadership. The same can be said for the third world, which, still not completely capitalistic, relied on this kind of ‘uneven development’ (as he puts it) to allow progression to occur.


Carl Stilling: The Forge – Germany, 1909

We can also see how such development has possibly occurred on a deeper level in countries like Russia or, perhaps more profoundly, China, for these were largely feudal and backward regimes, yet in both, communist revolutions (or, at least, revolutions claiming to be of a communist nature) took place. Here it would appear that not only has development occurred on an uneven level, with both feudal and capitalistic features present, but it has almost completely skipped a stage. Whether or not these revolutions were truly Marxist is a debate for another time, but the preface to the Communist Manifesto’s Russian edition talks of the peasantry possibly building communism in the country, suggesting that such a progression may be possible, and thus and thus that capitalism need not always develop fully.

Even if this isn’t the case, we can see through this pattern of mixed progress – where undeveloped societies were forced to prematurely catch up with developed ones – the extent to which capitalism has transformed the world through its own evolution; western Europe and North America have practically raced ahead, forcing other regions of the world to industrialise quickly, and this is all down to the colossal scale on which capitalist production took place. On this subject, Marx also wrote that the bourgeois class, ‘during its rule of scarcely 100 years has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together’, which allows us to see how the implementation and the spread of capitalism has truly revolutionised society.

*find it here:

On Patriotism

As I write, patriotic thought is on the rise.

From the nationalist, anti-US current developing in Russia to the successes of far-right parties across the UK with the increase in foreign immigration, the country one belongs to surfaces more and more amongst other political issues. The reason behind this is probably due to a variety of factors, perhaps as a reaction against the political and economic unions of today, such as the EU, or in the form of national self-determination, opposing the rule of other nations, such as in Scotland or Kashmir. It would thus seem difficult to make assumptions or generalisations for such a vague and simple manner of political thought, though there is an underlying definition to be understood.

If you simply type in the word ‘patriotism’, here’s what Google will give you:




  1. the quality of being patriotic; vigorous support for one’s country.

“a highly decorated officer of unquestionable integrity and patriotism”

In the entry ‘Nationalism, Imperialism, and Communism’ I made clear my hatred for nationalism. Today, against the backdrop of increasingly-patriotic world, I’ll take that one step further and explain why I believe patriotic thought, even in casual circumstances, is unhealthy, damaging, and also completely irrational.

Take Russia for an example, a country in which ‘vigorous support for one’s country’ is actually able to translate itself into ‘hatred of another’. Is this not proof that patriotism is a corrupting manner of thought; one that is able to completely distort perceptions of the world? It would even be possible for any leader could cultivate such a force, using it to brainwash their population and justify inhumane actions ‘for the glory of the motherland’. Patriotism, capable of arising in any country under any regime, can serve to counteract the process of fair, logical decision-making, when an individual will side with their country no matter what. Even ‘weaker’ patriots, happy to draw limits on their support for the nation, fall into the same trap: if you belong to a country, if you believe in that country, then imagine how readily biased you’d be in the need to choose a side.

This can be clearly seen in the example of the Vietnam War, in which many atrocities, violations of international treaties, and inhumane acts of violence were committed by the United States in the invasion of an innocent country thousands of miles offshore. This war in particular suffered a great deal of internal opposition, yet a proportion of society managed to be persuaded, and that was enough. If these people were born without a nationality, without any reason to side with the U.S. government, I’m certain that fewer would chose to do so. Thus, many that could prevent authorities from committing such atrocities do not, merely because they blindly support the country of their birth, for no real reason whatsoever.

Yet this isn’t even the worst of it; to develop a true understanding of this idea, I believe it’s necessary to consult history, and what does this tell us?

Well, as you might have expected, it’s not good news…

The twentieth century saw the establishment of patriotism in its most extreme format, with the global rise of fascism. A fascist regime is an example of patriotism taken to the furthest extent possible, with nationalistic thought not only embedded in the regime, but existing as the basis upon which the government, the military and the economy all stand. The ideas that motivated Hitler, Mussolini or Franco were not only patriotic in nature, but they placed the idea of national glory where the communists of the day placed the achievement of a classless society. In other words, they valued their nation more than anything.


To reach conclusions, however, we must look at the regimes from which these movements arose, for a trend between fascist nations such as the Third Reich, Mussolini’s Italy or imperial Japan is clearly visable: each one of them quite simply formed out of a miserable society. This could be due to a disaster, such as the horrific earthquake experienced by Japan in the 1920’s, which has been thought to have sparked the rise of Japanese imperialism, or just a general want for change, such as that in post-1918 Germany. Either way (doubtless, there are also many other ways), we can see a trend developing here. Nationalism, like a political tumour, has a tendancy to arise out of chaos. It ties the people of a nation together using an already-existing middle ground, and gives them something to believe in when nothing else will. It isn’t surprising then, that Germany and Italy (two nations where nationalism burned as brightly as ever) were countries in which a revolution was most expected. Instead of staging one, however, the people resorted to an easier form of change, looking to nationalism as a ‘cheap’ alternative.

Whilst these three countries are obviously extreme examples, it says a great deal on patriotism in general. The idea develops as a creed the populace will turn to when they have nothing left to believe in, so they chose to place their faith in the most simple idea available, this being their own country. It has the potential to curb real political change and distracts the population from the truth of the matter, despite how appaling such truth may be. Just look at the military, who often endure horrific conditions whilst living in fear of their lives, and desperately need something to believe in, something to fight for, something which enables them to keep pushing on. It’s thus no surprise that patriotism is not only rife among the fighting forces but is implemented artifically by those in command.

Patriotism_Runs_True_at_380th_Air_Expeditionary_Wing_in_Southwest_Asia_DVIDS287854 (1)

I think I’ve made my point clear as to why such thought is far from healthy and should be considered dangerous, but I’d like to finish by pointing out the true nature of the idea, and why this is relevant in discussing the concept.

What does it mean to be a patriot?

For the simple definition of the term, the one given above is adequate, yet what a ‘vigorous support for one’s country’ actually consists of is an entirely different matter.

I’d consider it vital to understand that ‘one’s country’ consists of no more than several hundred square kilometres inside an artificially-drawn borderline, somewhere in which they live their life. It may sound like a romantic idea, yet the actuality is plainly ridiculous, despite how many continue to cling to it.

On that note, coming back to the UK, several informative leaflets on the United Kingdom’s Independence Party (UKIP) recently came through my door in the run-up to the General Election. Reading through what the party had to say, I noticed that the slogan ‘Believe in Britain’ was used (well, in fact it was proudly displayed in capitals).

‘Why?’ I found myself asking. ‘What is there to believe in about Britain? In itself, the United Kingdom is merely a relatively small nation-state off the North-western coast of Europe. Within this country there are many greats, yet there are also many wrongdoers, and I’m not too sure what makes the general spread of the population so special. Perhaps you should tell me to ‘Believe in UKIP’, but what is there to glorify about one country out of hundreds, which just so happens to be the one in which I live and which you intend to govern?’

It certainly seems odd. Surely we’re too intelligent a being to devote ourselves entirely to an area of land, simply because it was one we grew up on, or live in today.

Sadly though, this just isn’t true.

The image depicting an individual playing a brass instrument was provided by Wikimedia Commons, on which it was uploaded by the German Federal Archives under the following licence: