AN ANARCHIST CRITIQUE OF THE GLOBAL ECONOMYPart 4: Solutions
There are some people who think that the problems we are faced with can be slowly solved as we invent new kinds of technology that allow us to do things in more efficient ways. For example, the agony of forced work, it is said, could be eliminated by inventions that make less time and effort on the part of the worker necessary. In a society that valued equality, such an invention would be welcomed (assuming that it was not the cause of other problems, such as health-impairing pollution). In such a society, it would mean that people would have to work less. In a capitalist society, it means that workers hours are cut, or their jobs are lost. They are replaced by machines. The only ones who really benefit from this are the capitalists, because they have less wages to pay.
Efficiency in capitalism is about profit--nothing else. The argument for ³free trade² states that countries should specialize in certain products that they are good at producing and buy from other countries what they are not good at producing, so that the economy is more efficient. What kind of efficiency is it, when the pieces of a product are sent half way around the world to be assembled in a country with cheap labour, then shipped back to be sold? It may be profitable, but it is a waste of time and energy as well as resources--not to mention all the damage that is done to the environment by moving products all over the world that could be produced locally. But the logic behind commodity production is to do whatever you can to get people to buy things, whether they actually need them or not. Huge amounts of money are spent on marketing. But what would be the place of advertisements in a free society? Efficiency should mean something like: satisfying the needs of the population with the least amount of work. Advertising is meant to get people to buy things that they don¹t need. Where is the efficiency in that?
Also, the capitalists control the institutions of research and development. The kinds of technologies that we put our efforts into developing are things like the ³terminator seeds²--genetically engineered seeds that produce plants with sterilized seeds, so that farmers cannot save their seeds and have to keep buying them year after year from the big biotech companies. The specialization that is supposedly so wonderfully efficient is another word for oppression. Some people specialize in making decisions and making profits. Other people specialize in doing work or being poor. The problems in society cannot be solved with new technology. They are problems of social organization. The question must be ³how do we reorganize society?²
In the period before the official abolition of slavery in the United States, different critiques of slavery were circulating. Some people were calling for the complete abolition of slavery. These people were labelled ³dreamers² or ³utopians². Others--the ³practical² people--thought that slavery was in need of reforms. True, it was cruel and inhumane, but the way to change that was gradually. They proposed a slow reduction in the size of the whip with which slave-owners were legally allowed to whip their slaves.
Reformists today make similarly shortsighted arguments. They tell us that oppressors and oppressed should work together. They tell us that things happen slowly and that what we have to do now is vote for a better candidate or lobby for a change in some law or get this or that government program running. None of this, however, gets to the roots of the problems. In proposing endless reforms, these people only end up validating the system as a whole. They only end up making minor changes that are won and lost easily. We need radical change. (*2)
By going through official channels--by asking the ruling class to make the changes--reformists are validating the right of the ruling class to rule. Lasting change in oppressive institutions is the result of pressure from organized popular movements. Reformists do not see the need to get rid of the ruling classes altogether. A system of oppression so entrenched as capitalism and held in place with so much force will only give way by force. We need a revolution.
But how will the revolution come about? Some people, most notably Marxist-Leninists, advocate the seizure of state power by a revolutionary elite. The state¹s power, they argue, will be needed to crush the capitalists, and afterwards it will slowly disappear. What actually happens is that their hierarchical and centralized methods of organizing are reflected in their results. The state does not slowly disappear and the old ruling class is replaced by a new ruling class. That is no revolution! In a real revolution people must liberate themselves, and that liberation cannot be directed from above.
Both reformists and vanguardists see the state as a useful tool to fight capitalism. Anarchists do not. If the state exists, that means that there is a class of people making decisions--a ruling class with the right to enforce those decisions on other people. The state is inextricably linked to the police and the military. It is a centralized, hierarchical and top-down way of running things. Even in states that call themselves ³democratic² (which is almost all of them), there is no real democracy. The decisions are made by a class of elected officials, who are selected from the ruling classes. People still have no real control over their lives.
In many ways, the central concern of anarchists is democracy. ³Anarchist², like the word ²democrat², used to be an insult. They were both associated with putting decisions in the hands of common folk, which was assumed would lead to no good. Anarchism, as a political philosophy, is based on the notion that there is no necessary link between organization and hierarchy--that a well functioning society need not be based on relationships of domination and subordination. ³Anarchy² does not mean ³chaos². The word "anarchy" comes from Greek and means "no rulers". "No rulers" only means "chaos" if you believe that the only way to be organized is to have rulers--to have relationships of domination and subordination. For anarchists democracy means that individuals and communities have real control over the running of their affairs. Democracy means that decisions are made directly by the people that are affected by them. This is impossible if you are being ruled by others. It is impossible if decision-making is centralized, whether that centralization is in the form of a representative government, a dictatorship or a corporation. Decision-making structures must be decentralized if people are to make their own decisions.
It is this direct democracy, or self-management, that we want to extend to every area of society, including the economy. We want the abolition of private property, and a democratically controlled economy, geared toward satisfying the needs of the people, without destroying the ecology of the planet. We want an end to the wage system. We want equality. We want to abolish privilege. We want an end to all that allows people to live by exploiting others and keeping them in forced labour.
We want an end to government, and all systems that centralize decisions and power in the hands of the few, who then enforce those decisions on the rest of the population. But the fight against oppression does not end there. Patriarchy--the domination of women by men--is just as ingrained and far older than capitalism. It too must be destroyed. In our organization we must be consciously anti-racist as well. We want war on every form of hierarchy and domination.
We propose to attack oppression everywhere it exists: in international institutions that make people poor and destroy the environment, in social norms that confine and exploit our sexuality, in the very existence of bosses and the police and the military who protect them, in abusive husbands and boyfriends, in the meaningless and oppressive needs that we have been sold by the culture industry, in neocolonial racism and in dogmatic schemes that claim to have all the answers.
Just as different kinds of oppression overlap and reinforce each other, so too can different struggles for freedom. We want the convergence of thousands of revolts against oppression. We want solidarity between everyone struggling to free themselves. We want real communities, developed by free association of individuals. We want to reorganize society from the bottom up. We want anarchy.
Go to the Forum for Political Discussion to discuss what you just read.
An alternative view of capitalism found on this site:
"Chocolate Chip Cookies, My Hippy Cousin, and Capitalism" by Sean Joyce
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