Press**Watch: Capitalism vs. Anarchy
Press**Watch for July 15, 2010
Once again it's time to clarify what the word Capitalism means and what it does not mean. Capitalism is a system of oppression. When I say that, I am simply using words accurately; without oppression there is no profit, so anyone wishing to accumulate money under the system of Capitalism has to understand that point. But I will explain.
Suppose Al, Betty, Gam and Delta want to go into business together building bicycles. Al and Betty have some operating cash to start with, whereas Gam and Delta just have some years of experience in design and sales. They agree to rent a space and get to work making and marketing bicycles. The agreement is that net profit will be split according to a system of forty shares, with a proviso that repays Al and Betty on a transparent basis for their loan.
However, and the end of the year, Gam complains that she has worked far longer than the others in assembling and selling the bikes, so everyone agrees to alter the division of profit to 43 shares, with Gam getting 13 and everyone else getting ten. They make fifty thousand each after taxes on a good year, with Gam getting more, and they begin to market more aggressively to compete for more business next year.
None of that is capitalism. What Al Betty, Gam and Delta have done is to create an anarchist production collective. They are not engaged in capitalism but rather mere economic activity. To turn this scene into a capitalist one, we have to take away transparency, agency, and rights from most of the group.
So let's do that, and see what happens.
Al decides that he isn't getting enough respect for the fact that he and Betty put up the money, even though he's been paid back with interest after a few years. “We had that money because God had favored us through the inheritance that my Dad left us,” Al proclaims. So he tells the others that he now owns the business, which will be called Al's Bikes, and that Betty, Gam and Delta are now employees. Instead of keeping business details open to the group, Al says he will handle it due to his superior accounting skills.
Gam and Delta leave in disgust and are replaced by new employees who are brought in with the promise of a steady but low wage. At the end of the year, the income and expenses work out about the same, except that the net profit is distributed by Al, who decides that he is worth one hundred thousand as CEO, and Gam as a manager gets fifty thousand, and the new workers get twenty-five thousand each, as hourly wages.
That's capitalism. Now push into the future with this model; Al's Bikes goes national, there are hundreds of employees, each grateful to have work in a recession, each needing food stamps to get through the month, while Al becomes a millionaire and buys a new Ferrari to congratulate himself on his genius. What's wrong with this picture?
Suppose our story had gone another way. At the point that Al decided to claim capitalist privileges, Gam and Delta got in his face and said, hold on just a minute there buddy, we have an agreement. Everyone stays equal in economic and social rights here. We can all make more money with a more efficient manuacturing process, improved and innovative design, and clever marketing, and if it results in too much work, we'll bring in others on the share-distribution system, and we'll all have a higher incentive to do the best job, because we'll all be in the journey together.
Al complains that he feels like a loser under that system, so Betty, Gam and Delta help him find a counselor to get over his inferiority problem. After a few years the collectives begin to expand, since everyone wants a low-cost bike with superior design and warranty, so in order to maintain transparency, new collectives are formed across the nation, each economically independent and all cooperating to share efficient manufacturing and supply methods. Members become lifers as the workplace transforms into a social hub, with childcare and recreation facilities incorporated in the workplace.
Al, Betty, Gam and Delta do not become ultra-rich, but they are well off and appreciated by thousands as the founders of a good thing and a way of life. That is, until Al gets busted on a scheme to import genetically altered ferrets.
So the point here is, Capitalism is a system of stealing agency, dignity, health and money from a group of workers. It's a neo-fuedal system of arbitrary hierarchy; rather than the king or Duke stealing the peasant's labor, crops and goods, on the basis that God appointed them as superiors, the Capitalist steals all that and more simply on the basis that he had money up front. Just as in feudalism, this economic and social distortion leads to deformed and retarded social relations, insane and warlike policies, and sick, depressed and impoverished populations. It leads to BP.
Anarchist cooperation, with its transparency, little-d democracy, and respect for the individual and the group, is a much healthier mode of organization for businesses and societies. It's human nature to take joy in individual and group progress, and to participate in making condition better. The capitalists point to greed, which is a negative abreaction in human nature, and say that we should build a society based on that.
That's a silly idea; human nature is broadly complex, but a healthy society builds on the best and most natural of human characteristics, not on the worst behavior.