What is Violence?

We like to paint our society as being opposed to violence, to be supportive of peace. Yet, so often we seem to contradict that sentiment by supporting what seems to be violence. I think this largely has something to do with us never really defining, what violence is.

The lazy and liberal thing to do is to turn to the Dictionary for its definition (which is most fallacious because: which dictionary is right?). In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, violence is defined as “the use of physical force so as to injure, abuse, damage, or destroy,” and also “intense, turbulent, or furious and often destructive action or force.” These kind of definitions are intentionally vague, because they are an attempt to “cover all the bases.” They are trying to form a definition that applies to any use of the word. But they ignore the fact that there is a clear difference between the use of “violence” when referring to the behavior of a storm and the behavior of a person. No one finds a “violent” storm to be morally repugnant. So, I think we could agree that the term “violence” when used to refer to the actions of a person, refers to “actions by a group or individual which bring malicious harm to another group or individual.” And it’s that operative word “malicious” that is most significant.

When people decry “violence” they seldom are referring to things like self-defense, or punishment for severe crimes. We count certain harmful acts to be justified, and thus not really “violent.” These justified acts are responses to a violent act, and would not exist if the instigator had not been violent first. If one person is attacked by another, and the victim defends themself with harmful force, would you call that victim violent? I doubt it. They are behaving defensively, not violently. It was the attacker that was violent.

The purpose of this is to point out that just because force might be used against a person or group, doesn’t mean that force is violent, it doesn’t mean those people are violent. Last year Trump insisted that there was “violence on both sides” in Charlottesville. But one of those sides, the Anti Fascists, were only responding to the violence of the Fascists, they were only defending themselves and the community against the provocation of the Fascists, and one of them gave their life to do so: Heather Heyer. No Fascists were killed, or even severely harmed, on that day.

This applies on a larger scale as well. When an oppressed people use force against their oppressors, they are not being violent, they are responding to violence being brought against them. If the Rohingya use force to resist their genocide, are they being violent? Are they “as bad” as the Myanmar Military? Of course not, they are being defensive, not violent.

But it goes beyond this. As we’ve established: violence is an act that brings malicious harm to another person. Such an act may not be force. It could be blocking access to lifesaving needs. If someone dying of thirst came to your door and begged for water from your tap, and you refused, resulting in the dehydrated person’s death, is that not an act of violence on your part? And if you lock someone out of your home in the winter, causing them to lose limbs to frostbite, is that not also violence? If you agree, then you must see my point: poverty is violence.

When owners deny housing to the poor, that is violence. When they deny food to the starving, that is violence. When a bank forecloses on a poor family and evicts them out onto the street, that is violence. When a company buys a people’s water supply, and then charges them to to access it again, locking the poor out from access to a basic human need, that is violence. When a city embezzles money that is meant to maintain its water system, and then refuses to repair it when the water becomes contaminated with lead, that is violence. When indigenous people are forced off their land because it was bought by logging companies, or a company is going to build a dam on it, that is violence. When the anyone is denied healthcare to save their lives just because they cannot afford it, that is violence. And when workers are paid starvation wages for their work that makes an owner rich, that is violence.

When the poor use force to fight against their poverty, they are not being violent, it is the owners, the bourgeoisie, that were violent towards them by making them poor. Instead, those poor people are fighting back against the violence being brought against them. The poor are being defensive, not violent. If you find the forceful actions of the oppressed to be abhorrent, if you don’t want them to behave so desperately, then oppose the actions of those who make them desperate.

National-Liberationism

It has become very common recently for many leftists to denounce many liberatory movements as “nationalist,” particularly among the Left-Communist and Anarchist camps. They do this because the culture that binds these liberatory movements is often called “nationalism of the oppressed.” These leftists fail to analyze the nature of this “nationalism,” and thus lump it in with the same nationalisme which actually conducts oppression. I want to try and explain the flaw in that thinking, and encourage the use of a more accurate term for these liberatory movements: National-Liberationism.

First we have to look at what this so called “nationalism” is and what differentiates it from actual nationalism. The word “nationalism” is accurately applied to ideologies and movements like that of the Nazis, the KKK, Imperial Japan and it’s bushido code, and most recently with the Trumpism of the United States (as well as traditional American Culture). These movements and their nationalism are ones of domination; that is, they seek to impose the will of one nation upon others to exploit them. They are inherently xenophobic, rejecting diversity and embracing violently enforced political borders. This ideology has the effect of harm, slavery, exploitation, and most importantly: this ideology forces artificial national identity upon subjugated people.

Look at the national identity of Black Americans, or the Seminole people, even the Palestinians. These nations only exist because that national identity was forced upon them, they are nations that did not exist before the oppression that created them. As a result, their entire character is the polar opposite of nationalism, it is a Liberatory-Nationalism. Because it exists purely as a means of survival, and to maintain resistance to the nationalism that oppresses them. When an oppressed nation raises a national banner it does so not as a symbol for dominating others, but to throw off it’s own oppression. It does not seek to raise borders, but to eliminate the borders that have been forced upon it. This is characterized by these National-Liberation movements often welcoming foreign individuals, and groups that are not from the groups oppressing them. Such as the Kurds and Catalans welcoming foreign fighters, or the Native Americans welcoming “illegal aliens.”

Of course it is possible for a National-Liberation movement to corrupt itself into a nationalist movement, we need look no further than the Zionist movement for this to be seen. But it is not inevitable. Dismissing National-Liberation movements altogether as “nationalism” because of this possibility is as wrong as dismissing democracy and communist movements because they could become corrupted into despotic systems. Oppose a movement for embodying the things you stand against, not because it might become something that it isn’t right now. Opposing National-Liberationism only helps the oppressors.

Free Speech

“Free Speech” is the mantra of today. Cried by both liberals and conservatives alike. It’s so important to our society that it was the very first right guaranteed in the U.S. constitution. And rightfully so, because the freedom to speak your mind is the cornerstone of civilization, of innovation itself. We cannot hope to ever make advancements in our society if we cannot speak freely. Hell, it’s how Communism itself was developed.

However, we also recognize the need for limits to speech. As the common phrase goes: you cannot yell “fire” in a crowded theater. We recognize this because it causes undue harm, it actually erodes the foundation of society. If we recognize the need for restrictions of speech in one area, then we must at least recognize the possibility to limit speech in other areas.

The very purpose of hate speech is to bring harm against it’s target. It is used to create antagonisms against a group of people and organize actions to hurt them and restrict their freedom. Hate-Speech is anti-freedom. If we want to maintain a free society, then we must not tolerate hate-speech.

However, the “slippery-slope” arguments against prohibiting hate-speech does make a good point. If we simply outlaw the vague concept of “hate-speech,” then that could be turned towards any language that the government doesn’t like, such as mere criticism of it. But that is why you don’t make such laws so vague. We have to be specific about what speech we outlaw, such as Germany’s law against denying the holocaust. We can outlaw speech that promotes white supremacy, genocide, or the inferiority of different ethnicities.

I know that many people would argue that such laws could still be abused by the government, that it could twist such laws to restrict dissent. But that is an argument that can be levied against any and every law. And besides, we already limit speech in this exact manner. It is already illegal to verbally threaten someone’s life. That very law could be abused. They could arrest anyone that makes offhand comments like “I wish they would die,” or “I’m gonna kill someone,” which is a common expression to indicate that a person is angry. But the government doesn’t, because discretion is used, as it must be used in the enforcement of all laws.

Society must be as flexible in the enforcement of anti-hate-speech laws as it is in the enforcement of all laws. It must be flexible, it must have administrators that know when and where to hold people to the strict “letter of the law” and where to let it slide. And if those administrators abuse the law, like they can with any law, society must have systems in place to remove them from office.

In order for a tolerant society to exist, it must be intolerant of intolerance. Otherwise intolerance will gain power and end the tolerant society.

Decentralization

Decentralization is recognized as an important measure in computer systems in order to ensure their security. It’s lauded as bitcoin’s most important feature. Because we recognize that when a computer system or almost any system is decentralized, it’s much harder for malicious actors to gain control over it. They might be able to steal bitcoins from one person, or hack one website, or even take over the power-grid to one region. But they can’t take over the entire bitcoin system, or the whole internet, or the entire U.S. power-grid. Because the decentralized nature of these systems means that those malicious actors would have to repeat the method that they used to take over one part of the system and do it over and over again in its entirety with every part of these systems if they want to take over the entire system. And that is nearly impossible with decentralized systems. This is in contrast to a highly centralized system, where the malicious actor only has to take control of the core organizing or distributing center and they have control of the entire system. If the internet was a centralized system, where the whole thing was controlled from one processing center, one website or controlling computer, then a single hacker could take control of the whole thing simply by hacking that one computer.

So why do we continue to insist that so many other organizational systems be so highly centralized, like our Governments? We claim it’s to fight against corruption and reaction, but we can see in Computer systems how centralization actually more easily facilitates corruption. In a decentralized system, a malicious actor has to take over ever part individually. But in a centralized system, they only need to take over one part. In a decentralized Government, reactionary forces have to take over the entire government, wholly. But in a centralized government they only need to take over one or two offices.

And it’s not like we don’t have examples of organizations working in this decentralized manner to protect against this very reactionary corruption, even Marxist-Leninist organizations. The partisans that operated all over Europe during World-War-Two, even the Marxist-Leninist partisans, operated using a highly decentralized organization. No cell even knew the identities of individuals in other cells. They shared information and supplies through dead-drops and by using aliases. All this was to foil any attempts by the Nazis to infiltrate and disrupt the entire movement. Because even if the Nazis could capture or infiltrate one cell, they couldn’t use it to gain information on other cells. If partisans were eąptured, they couldn’t give up the identities of anyone outside their cell even if they wanted to. In a decentralized organization when one section is corrupted or destroyed, the other sections can adjust accordingly to stop the damage from spreading. Maintaining the organization as a whole.

Of course it goes without saying that a Government cannot operate with the secrecy of the partisans, every member of the Government must know the identities of every other member and work directly with them. But the principles of decentralization remain the same. If no single part of the Government has overreaching power or influence over the other parts, then that actually fights against the forces of reaction in a more effective manner than a centralized system ever could. Because the reactionaries have to take over every part of Government individually, instead of a single office.

It’s also important to remember that decentralization does not mean separation. Just like the internet, which is recognized as the epitome of connection, and not despite of its decentralization, but because of it. A decentralized organization allows people to operate and engage with the organization in accordance with their local material conditions. This encourages participation in the organization because it does not alienate anyone from the organization. And that builds an environment of camaraderie and loyalty to it, and that makes people want to participate because they directly see the benefits that the organization provides to them , and no downsides. The organization is only a boon to their lives, and does not become a burden. This is the very environment necessary to exist in order to facilitates the principles of mutual-aid. It builds natural networks of interdependence, building bridges between people and communities that cannot be destroyed by the forces of reaction. Because love motivates people in a way that fear never can. Fear can motivate a person to do what you want for a short time, but only so long as they don’t see a way to fight back, and never to the best of their ability. A fearful person naturally seeks a way to attack the source of their fear. But if a person is motivated by love, they will work with a fervor unknown to the fearful person, and will gladly throw themselves on the very gates of hell to protect what they love.

Neoliberalism and Fascism

In my essay “What is Fascism,” I described what Fascism is and what it’s goals are, and I’ve touched on Neoliberalism’s similarities with fascism in a few other essays. But now I want to go deeper on that last point, as well as describe the differences between Fascism and Neoliberalism.

The first great difference is the age of both ideologies. Fascism is now over 100 years old. Having emerged after World War One, and eventually becoming a dominant ideology throughout Europe and North America. It continued to be the official political system for several nations even after the fall of Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, such as Spain, Argentina, and Chile after the U.S. backed Coup d’etat that put Pinochet in power. Whereas Neoliberalism is half that age, not coalescing as an ideology until after the second World War. But here is their first similarity as well. Both Ideologies developed in the wake of a global war as a response to drastically changing economic global conditions, and Capitalist crises. Both ideologies are favored by major Capitalists and used by them to protect their power.

Neoliberalism can be traced back to the book “The Good Society” by Walter Lippmann, and American Journalist. In this book he rejects Socialism, Fascism, and laissez-faire Capitalism, while also rejecting the “New Deal” liberalism of his day, which he criticized as being what he believed to be an unstable mix of Socialism and Fascism, rather than a properly new socio-economic system. Lippman saw the flaws of Capitalism, like the Fascists and Socialists did, but unlike the Socialists he wanted to preserve Capitalism rather than abolish it, and unlike the Fascists he rejected Jingoistic Nationalism. He also wanted to counter the rise of conservatism that was growing in Europe and N. America, which pushed a sort of agrarian society that harkened back to the “good ‘ol days,” a system that is wholly incompatible with modern society.

The result of this is what his colleagues would call Neoliberalism. Something new, that counters the contradictions of Capitalism in much the same way that Social-Democracy does: through state regulation and direct-control of some industries, while also providing for needs through strong welfare programs, but does not abolish private ownership of the means of production. On the surface Neoliberalism looks indistinguishable from Social-Democracy, but going deeper you begin to see it’s similarities with fascism.

Social-Democracy still promotes democratic ideals, wishing to expand the power of the populace as a whole and focuses more on increasing the general welfare of the population rather than protecting economic interests. Whereas Neoliberalism, despite its grąnd language appealing to the expansion of personal freedom, is very much the opposite. Neoliberalism’s primary purpose is to stabilize Capitalism, and does so in the same way that Fascism does: by expanding the political control of the most powerful Capitalists. This is how the economy is managed under neoliberalism, by ensuring that those in power are the people that Neoliberals believe to be “the most capable to govern:” Capitalists, the Bourgeoisie. While Social-Democracy is a pure expression of Republican ideals, Neoliberalism is purely oligarchical. After all, so the Neoliberal would argue, how can you entrust the management of the Capitalist economy to a group of people who aren’t Capitalists?

If you’ve read my previous essay about Fascism, then you can see how this is the same economic system advocated by Fascists. It simply rejects the Jingoistic Nationalism of Fascism. But it  is due to this economic system that Neoliberalism has morphed into something that Lippman opposed, in much the same way that Capitalism has morphed into something that Adam Smith certainly would have opposed. Because the oligarchical nature of Neoliberalism makes it inherently opportunistic. And opportunists are indifferent to nationalism, using it or opposing it, depending on how they believe it can benefit them. This is why Neoliberalism in the U.S. takes on a form that is even more similar to Fascism, promoting American Nationalism and imperialism as readily as the Conservatives. Whereas in other countries Neoliberalism takes on a decidedly more anti-nationalistic character, such as what is seen in Canada, Germany, or Japan.

That is ultimately the only serious difference between Fascism and Neoliberalism. Jingoistic Nationalism and xenophobia are inherent parts of Fascism. They are used as tools by the Bourgeoisie to draw in the masses and control them. Whereas Nationalism and xenophobia can be taken or left by the Neoliberal, all that matters to them is maintaining the status quo of the Capitalist oligarchy and protecting the economic system. If they can do that by opposing nationalism and xenophobia, then all the better. But if they have to promote those concepts instead, that works for them too.

Anarchism and Community Policing

Anarchism is not Chaos, nor is it a naive belief that a community will just “be cool.”  Anarchists seek to abolish policing as we understand it now, because these systems and methods of policing were designed to enforce and protect class divides, and to hold up the government above the populace as a State.

It is important to point out that there is not a universal system of community policing that will fit every community.  Rather, like all other governmental systems, it must be shaped by local material and cultural conditions.  That said, we can draw an outline of what an Anarchist policing system would look like

First and foremost it would not be held above the populace.  It would consist of members of the community who also perform other roles more commonly. Someone who has been appointed as a member of a community police group would do so as a task secondary to their primary work.  They would of course still receive specialized training, that is a given.  But We must abolish policing as a profession in-and-of itself.  Then police members won’t think of themselves as police first, and by such create an “us versus them” mentality in the community between the police and the rest of the populace.

The next critical difference between traditional police forces and Anarchist community policing, is that anyone who wishes to perform the role of a police person must be answerable to the community as a whole.  They cannot simply be hired by an unelected person, as most are now.  Instead they would be approved by the community as a whole in whatever governmental body exists in the community (Communalist Assembly, Syndicalist Council, etc.)  And these police would be recallable by that same governmental body at any time for any reason.  Police serve the community in an Anarchist Society, not the other way around as it is in traditional police systems, no matter what they claim to the contrary.

This all would exist alongside a system of justice.  A person inherently has a right to defend themselves and prove their innocence.  Once again: Anarchism is not chaos, it is Order Without Rulers.

Beginning of a series

The following posts are all the essays which comprise my book “The Reclamation of Communism.”  I have posted them in reverse order so that they will read, in descending order, from the first essay to the last, as they appear in the book.  Of course they can all be understood as standalone essays, but for the best context begin reading with the essay below titled “The Reclamation of Communism,” and keep reading as they descend from there.

The Reclamation of Communism

“The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the overthrow of all existing social conditions.  Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution.  The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains.  They have a world to win.

Workers of the world, Unite!

These fiery words concluded the “Manifesto of the Communist Party” by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.  They were a declaration and a rallying cry, boldly announcing to the world that Communists would not retreat, they would not hide their intentions because they did not need to.  The cause of the Communists was noble, just, and necessary.  For the Communists strived toward the total liberation of all people, the end of exploitation, and a classless society where everyone truly is equal.  Communists all over the world strived to overthrow monarchies and oligarchic republics, establish democracies, often for first time, and to improve the standard of living for all people.  Such a cause requires no deceit, no trickery to bring the masses to your cause.  Because the masses are the cause.  Their liberation, and your own, is the very thing which a Communist fights for.

For over 100 years Communists boldly proclaimed themselves in this way, never attempting to hide their intent and proudly calling themselves Communists.  But then came the cold war, McCarthyist fear and silencing of dissent, and the rise of the “new left.”

With the confrontation between the U.S. empire and the USSR, came heavy stigmatization of Communism.  The term came to become synonymous, in the public eye, with totalitarian dictatorship (much because of U.S. propaganda efforts to do just that) and even opposition to Democracy.  Because of this the “new left” sought to distance itself from the term “Communism,” and the ideals it represented.  They no longer sought to transform society into a classless one.  Now “leftists” looked to Social-Democratic ideals as the “true” embodiment of Socialism.  They denuded the left of it’s anti-Capitalist goals, now seeking to instead make Capitalism more ethical (something, Communists have always regarded as neither possible nor desirable.)  Even leftists that still sought to end Capitalism, such as Anarchists, tried to distance themselves from Communism and Marxism, denying the crucial role those ideals played in the formation of Kropotkin’s ideology.  Even Anarchists that acknowledged this, and sought to reinvigorate the Communist ideals of Anarchism, like Murray Bookchin, still avoided the term “Communism.” Because if they dared use it, they would be labeled a treasonous sympathizer to the Soviet Union, and perhaps even face arrest.  They ignored that all-important tenant founded in those final lines of the Manifesto; Communists do not hide our goals or abandon our ideals.  Communists proudly and boldly announce our ideology, we do not allow Capitalists to redefine our terms.

It is long past due that Communists reclaim our name, that we once again make our intentions known to the world, and proudly bear the title of Communists.  We will always be demonized by the Ruling Class, the owners, and always have been.  We shouldn’t care what they say and what they think of us, because they are our enemies; we aren’t appealing to the Ruling Classes.  It is the Working Class, the “Proletariat,” the renters, the laborers, the homeless and jobless, all those who cannot live off the work of others, it is they that we preach to.  We make it known to them that we seek to allow them to liberate themselves, because no one can do it for them, and we are them.  We tell our fellow workers what we are, and what Communism is.

It is to you that I now speak. To you , the wage-worker , the renter, to all those who do not own the factory or the department store, to all those who must sell their labor just so they can keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs.  I’m here to tell you that we Communists are not the wealthy owners trying to maintain their power, as the fascists are.  We are from among you, we are workers . As I write this I work two jobs to keep from becoming homeless.  So, when we tell you what we are seeking to accomplish, we are not making promises of things which we want to give you, as the politician does.  We are asking you to help yourself, to take our hands as equals to liberate us all.

What do we, the Communists, seek to liberate us all from?  We all know what the Capitalists have taught us that communism is, what they claim about our talk of liberation.  The Capitalists tell you we want dictatorship, that we oppose Democracy.  They point to the Soviet Union as if it were the primary example of Communism, and as if Communists want to duplicate it exactly.  The Soviet Union is an important country to study and learn from because it was the first great experiment with Communism.  But it is no more the perfect example of Communism than the first efforts at building Democracy out of Feudal-Europe were perfect examples of Democracy.  If we wholly reject the Soviet union as a learning tool because it was too oligarchical, why then do we hold up the establishment of Parliament in England with the Magna Carta as a triumph of Democracy?  That “Democracy” was anything but, as only the nobles could vote or hold office.  Even when America’s Republic was first established, only male landowners could vote or hold office.  But these are still important, still victories of Democracy that put us one step further down the road to a better world.  The Soviet Union is no different.  It was imperfect, but it made great strides in our march towards complete freedom and Democracy, and proved many of the core concepts of Communism as correct and possible.

Since I have pointed out that Communists oppose oligarchy and dictatorship, you might be asking what we want.  What do Communists Stand for, why do we believe a revolution is necessary, and how do we want to change society and Government?

Communism is the pursuit of the ideals that inspired the American Revolution, and that the U.S. Government has always paid lip service to.  Communism is the abolition of class society and all forms of exploitation, it is the end of the subjugation of the many by the few.  Communism is true Democracy where all people are a part of Government, not subjected to it. This is what we advocate when we call ourselves Communists; Communists demand Democracy in all systems that affect everyone and everyone needs to survive and live comfortably.  Instead of a sham Democratic Government controlled by wealthy Oligarchs, and workplaces ruled by small Tyrants.

Communists see the old echos of Feudal and Religious Society that continue to dominate our lives, and we know they must be abolished.  Where before we had the King, the Lord, and the Priest, we now have the Owner, the CEO, and the Economist.  Where before we were serfs subjected to Church law and the command of the Noble, we now are Wage-Workers subjected to the Puritan Work Ethic and the dictates of the Capitalists who own all things that we rely on to survive.  Where before the System was guarded by Knights devoted to the code of Chivalry, now Capitalist Society is enforced by Police that are blindly devoted to whatever the Capitalist Oligarchs declare is the law.

Communists, above everything else, oppose exploitation.  We want you, the worker, to benefit entirely from your work.  Not work to support the laziness of owners and be rewarded for your backbreaking labors with a miniscule portion of the wealth you create.  But we also know that we are not islands unto ourselves.  We all need and benefit from the society we live in, and thus it is in our interests to ensure that everyone is healthy, comfortable, and always has access to all they need to survive.  This is why Communists regard healthcare, shelter, food, water, and access to work, all as human rights.  And so seek to build systems that allow all access to these needs, instead of leaving most lacking these simply because they don’t generate profit for an owner, as Capitalism does.

However, unlike the Social-Democrats who think all of these can be provided without changing anything by implementing welfare systems, Communists know that the system must be drastically altered to ensure all of these things for everyone. Thus Communists advocate changing both the Government and the economy into a single Democratic System.  Under such a system, tax-funded welfare programs would not exist at all, because everyone’s needs would be provided for inherently by the socio-economic system.

I know that right now everything you’ve been taught in School or by your friends and family is screaming at you: “This is utopian, impossible!  This is tyrannical! It only works on paper, not in real life!  It always devolves into a Dictatorship!. etc. etc.”  All these points I will address in the coming pages.  I ask you to please remember that these points about Communism were taught to you by Capitalists.  If you wanted to learn how a car works, would you consult an Amish person?  If you want to know what Communism is, do not seek out its most ardent opponents.  Instead, listen to Communists.

To my Communist Comrades I say stand up and boldly proclaim our name!  End this cowardly concealment of our title, do not let the Capitalists take it from us.  Those who fight to end tyranny and exploitation never have anything to be ashamed of, but rather it is their opponents that should be ashamed.

Of course, Communism is a solution to a problem.  We cannot ever convince you to advocate for a solution if you do not believe there is a problem.  Obviously, we all want a classless society, or at least the vast majority of people, especially those who believe in Democracy.  Communists point to Capitalism as a system that must be eliminated first if we are to achieve that classless society.  But why?  Why can’t we achieve classlessness without abolishing Capitalism?  That, is not a short answer, Karl Marx wrote for years on the subject, and created the most comprehensive analysis of Capitalism to-date, called “Das Kapital,” and it is three immense volumes long!  Nonetheless, I will attempt to answer this question as concisely as possible.

What is Capitalism?

Before we talk about the problems of Capitalism, we have to first define Capitalism itself.  I’ve found this misunderstanding of what we are referring to when we say “Capitalism” to be the biggest hurdle when speaking to people about why we must abolish it.  Often people think we are advocating against “the free exchange of goods and services,” or even advocating against you owning any property at all.  Anger at anyone advocating for a system that abolishes those things is perfectly understandable, and we do not want to abolish them.  In fact , we want to expand them both because Capitalism is neither of those things, and actually hinders them both

The primary component of Capitalism, its major defining aspect, is the private ownership of what’s called the “means-of-production.”  The means-of-production is the tools, workplaces, and resources, used to make the things we all rely on for survival and a modern comfortable life.  Like a car factory, or a forest of timber, or the machines used to pave roads, etc.  The means-of-production is not your house, your car, or your other personal possessions.  These things are called “personal property,” and they are yours, no Communist wants to take them away from you, because we want to have our own personal property as well; Communists don’t want their personal property to be owned by the Government either.  Often Communists will refer to the means of production as “private property.”  We use this term because the means of production is privately owned under Capitalism.  We never refer to your personal property as private property, only Capitalists do that.

Under Capitalism , the purpose of the means-of-production is not to supply the population with what it needs, but to be a source of wealth for the private owners.  These private owners employ people that do not own the means-of-production to work it for them.  They pay these workers a “wage” and sell the products that these wage-workers produce for more than what they spent to produce those products (including the cost of the wage.)  This extra income is called “profit,” and it must exceed both the cost of maintaining the means-of-production and the cost of the worker’s wages.  The owners of the means of production, called the Bourgeoisie, live off of these profits.  If they make no profit, then they must close the business, even if the business makes enough to pay for the upkeep of the business and the wages of the workers (called “Breaking even.”)  Because the purpose of Capitalist business is not to provide what the workers need to survive, but to provide an owner with profit.  What I have just described, as you can see for yourself, is a system where one person lives off of the work of others.  Profits are made by the workers, by all rights of reason and ethics, they should go to the workers evenly.  Instead, the profits all go to the owner, the Bourgeoisie.  

Keep in mind, I am speaking of profits, not the cost of maintaining the means-of-production.  It’s important to point this out because I have often heard the argument that “it costs money to maintain a business” as a retort when I argue that profits are unpaid wages of the workers.  Business expenses are not profits.  Profits are what is left after business expenses are paid for.

This is the class division created by Capitalism; Capitalism reduces society into two major groups: The owners of the means of production, the Bourgeoisie, and those who do not own the means of production, the Proletariat.  The Proletariat, having no source of income beyond what they can produce with their own work, are forced to sell their labor to the Bourgeoisie in order to survive.  They are further forced into this situation by other factors, such as the restrictions on purchasing and owning land, the laws against cultivating public land, taxes which must be paid in sanctioned currency, and simply the overpowering influence of the Bourgeoisie who have the most political clout due to their wealth and control over the means-of-production.  All of this creates a system which requires people to have currency.  And if you do not own the means of production, the only way you can get currency is to sell your labor.  And since the majority cannot own the means of production, since we cannot have a society composed of all business owners and no workers, or even a society that is mostly business owners, the majority must sell their labor to survive.

This system is not natural as many would insist.  There was a time when Capitalism did not exist, which was less than 200 years ago.  It’s easy to assume that Capitalism is older than this due to the system which preceded Capitalism: Mercantilism.  Mercantilism was a transitory system from Feudalism, and thus had similar aspects to both Capitalism and Feudalism.  It was an interesting system that certainly warrants a discussion, but for the sake of brevity I will keep the discussion focused on defining Capitalism.  So it is merely worth noting that there were systems before Capitalism, you can even go back to Feudalism if you need to in order to understand this, or to the Slave-based production systems before Feudalism if you still need convinced.  Since Capitalism was preceded by other systems, it is not natural.  That is: it is not an unavoidable state of society that we must be subjected to.  It was created by people, and we can create a different system.

I will revisit that last point later on and discuss several proposed systems for replacing Capitalism.  But first I think Capitalism needs to be fleshed out more, after all, as the old mechanic’s proverb says: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  We wouldn’t even be having this conversation if Capitalism didn’t need to be replaced, but it’s likely that you may need more convincing on that point.  So, let’s begin by discussing the “fuel” of Capitalism: wage-labor, and a subject that we can both agree is bad: slavery.

Wage-Labor and Slavery

What is slavery?  The easy answer is that it’s making one person do something against their will.  But that is not complete, as this would describe every prisoner as well.  Perhaps we could say that it’s the commodification of human beings, the act of regarding people as property.  That is a much more accurate term.  But take the Serfs of feudal Europe for example.  They could not be bought and sold like chattel, and even had certain rights.  Nobles couldn’t simply punish or kill them with impunity.  Yet that practice is universally regarded as a type of slavery.  Perhaps, then, we could agree that slavery is the practice of making a person work for you, and taking all that they produce with that work?  Personally, I think that is much more accurate.  It effectively describes every form of slavery, and also brings me to my point:  wage labor is a form of slavery.

Wage labor is the practice of an owner hiring a worker to work for them, as we have already discussed.  The owner, once again, takes all that the worker produces, and then gives back a small portion of that produce in the form of wages, almost universally in the form of a State-sanctioned currency.  “Ah ha!”  The Capitalist will say. “That shows that it’s not slavery!  A slave receives nothing for their work!”  But don’t they?

Slaves are always given shelter and food. In some cases, like the Janissaries of the Ottoman Empire, they even received pay.  So, if slaves receive a wage, even if that wage is in the form of food and shelter, then the only difference between a wage worker and a slave is that the wage worker usually receives a bit more back than a slave.  But if that’s the only difference, then there is no difference.  There have always been slaves throughout history that were treated better than wage workers, and had access to luxuries that wage workers do not.  Meaning that those slaves were paid more than most wage workers, but they were still slaves.  “Then that’s not the difference!”  A Capitalist might say:  “Slaves cannot go where they want, they can only ever do what they’re told and work for who they’re told.  They have no agency over their lives!”  But, do wage workers have such agency?

They might have some choice in who they work for, but the system is still the same.  They still are subjected to wage work.  If a prisoner is given the opportunity to choose their prison, they’re still a prisoner.  And even then, this choice is usually in-name-only for wage workers.  Because in truth it is not them that chooses where to work, but the owner that chooses what workers to hire.  A wage worker is usually too poor, and must accept the first job they are offered.  Since it is illegal to harvest your own timber to build your own house, and you cannot build such a house on open land, but must purchase it, nor grow your own food on open land and also must purchase either the land or food. No one can choose to simply live by the fruits of their own labor, and must choose to submit themselves to wage work.  The choice between hunger and homelessness, and wage work, is not a choice at all.  Slaves have the same kind of choice: work for their master, or be punished and killed.  “But, wage workers can save their money, or invest it, and eventually become owners!  Then they aren’t wage workers anymore!”  This is the next argument the Capitalist will make.

Not only are most wage workers not able to do those things, as the amount they receive back from the owner is so meager that it’s barely enough to provide for their food and shelter, but also: there were slaves subjected to this very system.  Both “indentured servants” and the Janissaries of the Ottoman Empire were only subjected to slavery for a period of time, after which they were freed.  And there are many cases of slaves in the United States eventually earning enough money to buy themselves and earn their freedom.  Slavery that you legally can work your way out of is still slavery, and for most such slaves they are never able to earn enough to purchase their freedom.

Friedrich Engels also touched on this entire subject in his essay “Principles of Communism,” where he answers the question “how is the proletarian different than a slave” in this way:

“The slave is sold once and for all; the proletarian must sell himself daily and hourly.  The individual slave, property of one master, is assured an existence, however miserable it may be, because of the master’s interest.  The individual proletarian, property as it were of the entire bourgeois class which buys his labor only when someone has need of it, has no secure existence.  This existence is assured only to the class as a whole.  The slave is outside competition; the proletarian is in it and experiences all its vagaries.  The slave counts as a thing, not as a member of society.  Thus, the slave can have a better existence than the proletarian, while the proletarian belongs to a higher stage of social development and, himself, stands on a higher social level than the slave.  The slave frees himself when, of all the relations of private property, he abolishes only the relation of slavery and thereby becomes a proletarian; the proletarian can free himself only by abolishing private property in general.”

Here Engels draws a similar comparison between the slave and the wage-worker.  Both are regarded only as a means to wealth, nothing more.  They have no value outside the value they produce for an owner.  However, he also points out how a slave in many ways can be in better condition than a wage-worker.  If a wage-worker is worse off than a slave, then they are no better off than a slave.  They are a slave.

Yet still there is still another defense of wage labor, but from an unlikely source: the Socialists and even some Communists who wish to preserve wage-labor in the form of “labor notes” or some similar system that pays workers in vouchers they can use to buy things.  These vouchers are not traditional money, as they have no more value, nor even exist, after being spent.  The argument from such Socialists, is that wage-labor without private owners or traditional money is not exploitation, and in that regard they are correct.  Wage-labor in a democratically managed workplace, and even “labor-notes,” is far superior to Capitalist wage-labor.  Yet, there is still no proper material basis to support the arguments these Socialists use to defend the continued existence of wage-labor.  They often use the very same arguments as Capitalists, arguments like: “we must regulate the distribution of goods,”  or “those who work harder should be given a greater reward.”  But there are other ways of regulating the distribution of goods, ways which don’t allow for the development of economic inequality.  And how can we gauge who’s work is more valuable?  We cannot.  I will reference the great writings of Peter Kropotkin in his seminal work “The Conquest of Bread.”  For no one else could put it so succinctly and eloquently:  

“If you enter a coal-mine you will see a man in charge of a huge machine that raises and lowers a cage.  In his hand he holds a lever that stops and reverses the course of the machine; he lowers it and the cage turns back in the twinkling of an eye; he raises it, he lowers it again with a giddy swiftness.  All attention, he follows with his eyes fixed on the wall an indicator that shows him on a small scale, at which point of the shaft the cage is at each second of its progress; as soon as the indicator has reached a certain level he suddenly stops the course of the cage, not a yard higher nor lower than the required spot.  And no sooner have the colliers unloaded their coal-wagons, and pushed empty ones instead, then he reverses the lever and again sends the cage back into space.  During eight or ten consecutive hours he must pay the closest attention.  Should his brain relax for a moment, the cage would inevitably strike against the gear, break its wheels, snap the rope, crush men, and obstruct work in the mine.  Should he waste three seconds at each touch of the lever, in our modern perfected mines, the extraction would be reduced from twenty to fifty tons a day.

Is it he who is of greatest use in the mine?  Or, is it perhaps the boy who signals to him from below to raise the cage?  Is it the miner at the bottom of the shaft, who risks his life every instant, and who will someday be killed by fire-damp?  Or is it the engineer, who would lose the layer of coal, and would cause the miners to dig on rock by a simple mistake in his calculations?  And lastly, is it the mine owner who has put all his capital into the mine, and who has perhaps, contrary to expert advice asserted that excellent coal would be found there?  All the miners engaged in this mine contribute to the extraction of coal in proportion to their strength, their energy, their knowledge, their intelligence, and their skill.  And we may say that all have the right to live, to satisfy their needs, and even their whims, when the necessaries of life have been secured for all.  But how can we appraise their work?  And, moreover, Is the coal they have extracted their work?  Is it not also the work of men who have built the railway leading to the mine and the roads that radiate from all its stations?  Is it not also the work of those that have tilled and sown the fields, extracted iron, cut wood in the forests, built the machines that burn coal, and so on?

No distinction can be drawn between the work of each man.  Measuring the work by its results leads us to absurdity; dividing and measuring them by hours spent on the work also leads us to absurdity.  One thing remains: put the needs above the works, and first of all recognize the right to live, and later on, to the comforts of life, for all those who take their share in production.  But take any other branch of human activity — take the manifestations of life as a whole.  Which one of us can claim the higher remuneration for his work?  Is it the doctor who has found out the illness, or the nurse who has brought about recovery by her hygienic care?  Is it the inventor of the first steam-engine, or the boy, who, one day getting tired of pulling the rope that formerly opened the valve to let steam enter under the piston, tied the rope to the lever of the machine, without suspecting that he had invented the essential mechanical part of all modern machinery —the automatic valve.

Is it the inventor of the locomotive, or the workman of Newcastle, who suggested replacing the stones formerly laid under the rails by wooden sleepers, as the stones, for want of elasticity, caused the trains to derail?  Is it the engineer on the locomotive?  The signalman who can stop trains?  The switchman who transfers a train from one line to another? — To whom do we owe the transatlantic cable?  Is it to the engineer who obstinately affirmed that the cable would transmit messages when learned electricians declared it to be impossible?  Is it to Maury, the scientist, who advised that thick cables should be set aside for others as thin as canes?  Or else to those volunteers, come from nobody knows where, who spent their days and nights on deck minutely examining every yard of the cable, and removed the nails that the stockholders of steamship companies stupidly caused to be driven into the non-conducting wrapper of the cable, so as to make it unserviceable.
And in a wider sphere, the true sphere of life, with its joys, its sufferings, and its accidents, can not each one of us recall some one who has rendered him so great a service that we should be indignant if its equivalent in coin were mentioned?  The service may have been but a word, nothing but a word spoken at the right time, or else it may have been months and years of devotion, and are we going to appraise these ‘incalculable’ services in ‘labour-notes?’

But human society would not exist for more than two consecutive generations if everyone did not give infinitely more than that for which he is paid in coin, in ‘cheques,’ or in civic rewards.  The race would soon become extinct if mothers did not sacrifice their lives to take care of their children, if men did not give all the time, without demanding an equivalent, if men did not give just to those from whom they expect no reward.
If middle-class society is decaying, if we have got into a blind alley from which we cannot emerge without attacking past institutions with torch and hatchet, it is precisely because we have calculated too much.  It is because we have let ourselves be influenced into giving only to receive.  It is because we have aimed at turning society into a commercial company based on debit and credit.”

After all this, the only defenses of wage labor left are ones appealing to culture. “It builds character!” and the like.  These arguments have no material basis, and are nothing more than the same tired defenses of slavery that people have been spouting since time immemorial.  The only true option is an end to wage slavery, of every type.  We must liberate ourselves from the tyranny of the work-clock.  Stop forcing ourselves and our fellow citizens to work for a set period of time just to gain what they need to survive, regardless of whether or not that work actually needs done.  For that, as I will discuss next, is actually a carry-over from Feudal theocratic oppression.  It is called “The Puritan Work Ethic.”