I wrote this draft and a friend posted it online. I’ve gotten a bit of feedback on it, would like it to be better. I should also say, this is written in a personal capacity.

Do you really want to overthrow capitalism?

Someone asked one of us this question recently. The short answer is, yeah, we do. Our union’s constitution says that we want the workers to “take possession of the means of production” and “abolish the wage system.” We think capitalism is morally wrong. In our view, there is no such thing as fair capitalism or morally good capitalism — it’s like child abuse, child abuse is always wrong. Capitalism is always morally wrong.

Here’s what we mean. Did you ever think about why bosses and companies hire workers? The reason is that workers make things and perform services that the company sells. In general, employees make things or do stuff which employers charge other people a fee to purchase. Employers take in money by selling the goods and services that workers make. The money employers take in has to be more than they pay out in wages – otherwise they start to fire people. Why else would companies hire people? What this means is that workers make more money for employers than we get in wages. We think that’s wrong. Capitalist society is built around the idea that some people should profit off of others. We think that this is why there are so many people living in poverty right now at the same time that there are a few people with incredible wealth. In 2009 loads of working people lost their jobs, but the top 15 richest people on earth all got richer.

Part of why capitalism continues to exist is that we can’t get a lot of what we need and want unless we have money. Most of us can’t get money unless we work for someone else. This means our bosses have a lot of control over our lives. If we lose our jobs and can’t find new ones, we risk losing our homes, losing access to health care, let alone being able to spend money on the things we enjoy. Bosses know that if they fire us we won’t have an income anymore. Many bosses use this to push people around on the job. We basically give up our democratic rights on the job. We don’t have a right to free speech at work, for instance. The boss can tell us what to say and what not to say. We think that’s morally wrong too, and many of us find it emotionally intolerable too — we hate how it feels to get bossed around.

For us, all of this is a good reason to get rid of capitalism. Because we want to get rid of capitalism, some people compare us to dictatorships around the world that called themselves Communists. That’s not what we have in mind. We’re against dictatorships, and we want to point out that workers under dictatorships often have it the worst.

We want to replace capitalism with a world that is more democratic. When we organize on the job we are trying to change the balance of power. Usually the boss calls all the shots. We organize to make it so that the workers have a lot more input. Of course, we can only get so far with this because we still live in a capitalist society. In the long term we want to organize every workplace to make them all democratic. In our view, in a good society, all people would have democracy on the job, instead of leaving our rights at the door when we get to work like we do now.

In addition to democracy on the job, we’re for democracy off the job. We think that until all people have democracy at work, we can’t have real democracy in the rest of society. Think about how many hours most people spend at work, commuting to and from work, looking for a job, and thinking about work when off the clock. Work takes up a ton of our lives, and work in a capitalist society is undemocratic. With so much of our lives spent in undemocratic workplaces, how could we have real democracy in the rest of our lives?

We also think that all people should have their basic needs met – people should have enough food, and safe secure homes, access to medical care, some access to entertainment and the arts, and so on. We think it’s terrible that our society wastes so many resources on the lifestyles of a few super rich people while so many poor people go without the bare necessities. We think if we did away with capitalism this wastefulness would go away and there would be plenty for everyone.

*

Notes on goals and some responses —

I definitely intended this as just a start – trying to open some conversation and more writing, not trying to have the last word.

Personally I think this piece could be a bit peppier in the writing. Over all I had a few goals for this piece. One, to be very direct and honest: yes, we want to end capitalism. Two, to sound very reasonable and calm, because I think people our values and vision tend to get depicted otherwise. Three, to make this sound pretty common sense for working class people and people who care about justice – we simply will not have a just capitalist society, because capitalism is unjust. Four, to say this stuff with a minimum of jargon and so on.

I hope I succeeded somewhat at each of these, I think I did, but/and I’m definitely open to feedback on how to do this better (or, better yet, people could write more stuff that tries to meet these goals!). I also think that we should have way more first-person/first-hand experience accounts of various aspects of the problems of working class life under capitalism, accounts that tie in with and underline the fundamental problems. This piece almost totally lacks that personal experience component.

I’d also be interested in hearing what other people thing our goals should be for pieces of writing like this (and some of them might be incompatible – there’s a time and a use for firey-ness, which is different from the time and use of calm-ness, which is why we need multiple pieces like this.)

I also agree with that we could use more detailed ideas. I think that’s a different goal as well for a piece of writing. I think it’d be good if we had some longer document that started with a general statement of vision and values then said “here are a few different detail ideas/models that different people/groups have come up with, each person/group believes their model is compatible with the over all vision and values.”

At least two other things are missing here – one, capitalism encourages and benefits from divisions between workers. Two, why do people attack us for being anti-capitalist. I think this should specifically address union busting, and should extend that point outward to a bigger picture — we want to change the power relations in society. Right now most people suffer like crazy from those power relations, and a few people benefit like crazy. Of course they don’t want to give up the power arrangement that benefits them, so they attack us for calling for change. Something like that.

Advertisements