In an 1852 essay in Die Revolution magazine, the thirty-four year old Karl Marx made a seminal observation on the nature of human experience. “History repeats itself,” he said, “first as tragedy second as farce.” He had not yet begun work on Kapital; neither had he used for the first time the pejorative “bourgeois” to describe the upper-class and depraved elite of Europe.
Resisting capitalism in the early days
This term, bordering on polite abuse, would extend in later decades to include a social class we have come to call without hesitancy “capitalists”. In the broad ambit of this name, anyone with superfluous incomes or wealth or assets, and anyone possessing private property that is not strictly essential for survival, is included without discrimination. Marx’s, and his colleague Engels’s hope was to build communes as large as nation-states, with means of production and services would be owned by governing bodies rather than by individuals, to promote a culture of equality and universal egalitarianism.
In less than the two centuries since Marx’s death, communist governments and smaller living habitats have been conceived of, set up, and failed on grand enough scales that capitalist ways of living and administrating people have tacitly and explicitly triumphed in clean sweeps. The businesses that make the most revenue are privately owned; class hierarchies continue to exists and dominate social landscapes all over the world; there is a difference in wages men and women are paid for performing the same labour.
History does tend to repeat itself. In the aftermath of the cataclysmic World Wars and racial and gender injustice that constitute the narrative of much of the twentieth century, we are poised on the brink of an unfolding age of positivity, which need not necessarily pan out as farce, but lead to happier outcomes for the citizens of the modern, globalized world. For one, the recent internet revolution and leaps in technical innovation have bridged temporal and physical distances between people, creating some semblance of a global community of connected humans.
This breakthrough in the ways we can communicate (which must have been unforeseen by Marx) has changed also the character of many economic practices in general and has allowed certain kinds of businesses to be conceived of at all, and developed into flourishing spaces of fiscal and social exchange. Numberless NGOs and NPOs, foundations, trusts, and social enterprises have come into existence worldwide in this period of history where individuals are coming together in ideologically opaque zones and closer than ever before.
One of these precincts is the fundraising sector, which has witnessed a doubling in size between 2011 and this year. Many fundraising organizations, as well as crowdfunding platforms (crowdfunding is collecting usually small donations from a large number of people, via the internet, to meet a target) are enabling the common man to donate to causes of their choice in an inclusive and democratic fashion, where every donation (and each donor) has inherent value, no matter what it can translate to in material terms.
Why crowdfunding works as resistance to capitalism
Crowdfunding is unique in contemporary economy in the the sense that it is both a product (the platform) and a service (the fundraising process). Some are owned by individuals and are in business for profit (in the traditional capitalist model); others operate as nonprofit entities. Yet the very existence of crowdfunding and its public nature makes a statement against orthodox belief systems that disseminate classist and elitist values. With the rising popularity of crowdfunding, the proletariat has proved over again the power of people, and debunked an important myth: anyone can give, and when there is need for the impoverished and suffering to be looked after, someone rises to the occasion and does this. History is repeating itself as a dense story of hope and strength in the face of oppression.