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.

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.

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.”

How?

That’s possibly what you’re asking. How could any of these Changes actually stop the problems of Capitalism that we’ve talked about?

For starters they end the contradiction between profit and wages by ending that entire system.  No longer is the system built on the necessity of profit.  Instead of the need to first make money for a private owner, the needs of the Community are put first.  Shelter, food, water, heat in colder environments, and transport. These are all ensured for everyone without the need for anyone to pay for them, and are regarded as human rights.  No one is left without simply for not having adequate money.  Without profits and wages governing the economy, it no longer lurches from one economic catastrophe to the next, and no one is left wanting.

The details of how this is accomplished vary between the different proposed ideologies, but all of them directly eliminate profit and Capitalist wage systems.  Some of them do so through the use of “labor-notes,” which I have criticised before.  But even though these systems are problematic from a moral and systemic point of view, they are still superior to Capitalist wage-systems.  As “labor-notes” are not given based on a private owner’s profits, but instead based on the availability of goods and needs.  And a “labor-notes” system of wages does not deny anyone what they need to survive, it’s really simply a ration method to ensure that goods and needs are distributed fairly, so nothing is hoarded by some and denied to others.  Even advocates of it rarely see it as anything more than a temporary measure until the revolution is over and scarcity is fully eliminated.  This system was used by the Soviet Union, which certainly stands as a testament to the flaws of such a system, but also it’s positive sides.  After all: the Great Depression did not have an effect on Russia, which experienced a period of prosperity and expansion of industry during that time.

Others advocate a system where goods and needs are simply distributed to all based on availability and need by a Democratic system, all without the issuance or exchange of any type of currency, even labor notes. This group often points to the region of Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War, where this very system was used to great effect. There was no one lacking any need or good until supply lines were cut off by the Government’s forces.  War always creates severe scarcity of everything. Were it not for the war, it is difficult to see how anyone would have been without whatever they needed or wanted, despite no money being used.

By eliminating private ownership over the means of production, and profit we liberate everyone from the tyranny of “The Puritan Work Ethic,” from tedious and unnecessary work, as well as overproduction. With wage-labor motivated by the need for profit, people have to work a certain amount of hours just to gain enough money to survive, whether or not that work even needs done that much.  This creates a system which over-produces everything and reduces all workers to a life of drudgery.  But without profit there is no need to over-produce anything. Products can be made in only as much as is needed or wanted, and distributed for the same reasons.  Meaning that no one has to work a set amount of hours beyond the bare minimum to produce what is needed.  Leaving everyone With far more free time to pursue their passions, which enriches all of society.

The end of profit also means that the value of someone’s work is no longer determined by how wealthy it can make a business owner.  Meaning that work which was cast aside by society as “hobbies,” or worse, would be able to flourish under Communism.  Art would be in great abundance under Communism, as it would be no longer be restricted by the need for profit or the poverty of the artist.  But “hobbies” are not simply artistic pursuits, many such interests are in math, science, medicine, and a myriad of other subjects which greatly benefit all of society, but get tossed aside under Capitalism simply because the individual doesn’t have the knowledge or interest in marketing their research to Capitalist investors.  Or simply such investors lack interest in investing in pursuits which they cannot turn a profit on, even if it will benefit society.  Because Capitalism only gives value to things which can turn a profit for someone.  Ending this tyranny of profit would free academia to expand in every direction, and also free its availability up to the entire population.

The elimination of profit and Capitalist wage-labor has another effect which contributes to the end of class divisions: ending the division of labor.  As Karl Marx describes it in “The German Ideology:”

“For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape.  He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in Communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.  This fixation of social activity, this consolidation of what we ourselves produce into an objective power above us, growing out of our control, thwarting our expectations, bringing to naught our calculations, is one of the chief factors in historical development up till now.”

This not only increases everyone’s happiness, but their productivity as well.  Because people work more efficiently when they’re happy, and labor power is no longer being wasted by making anyone work more than is necessary, nor making them work jobs they hate or aren’t even the best at.  Everyone’s talents and interests can be allowed to be applied to their greatest effect.  And the general education and capabilities of the population as a whole will be greatly increased.  Because under Communism everyone has the opportunity to learn a myriad of different skills and knowledge, but they also have the opportunity to focus on any subject or skill they please in order to become an expert in that field.  This is all accomplished by the elimination of profit, Capitalist Wages, and the need for every individual to work a specific number of hours so they personally can acquire enough currency to survive.  When these are gone it no longer matters who performs a job or when, because the product of that job benefits all anyway.  So who performs that job can be different at different times.  All that matters is that the job gets done, not who does it or how long it takes.

This also tackles homelessness and joblessness, allowing everyone access to their rights to shelter and work.  Because when profit and private ownership of business no longer exists there is no longer a need to prohibit any one from doing a job.  Once again: all that matters is that a job is done, it doesn’t matter how many people perform it.  There’s always work that needs done, and everyone will benefit from the produce of that work, So everyone would be encouraged to perform as many jobs as they want instead of being forced to do a single job for their entire lives, and an employer only hiring as few people as possible in order to increase profits as things are now.  As for homelessness: already right now in the U.S. there are more empty homes than homeless people. The problem is not lack of homes or a lack of resources to build homes.  The problem is the need for profit and currency.  People’s needs under Capitalism are not placed first, profit is.  And so, those who need a home are denied one simply for lacking currency to purchase one.  We have the resources at this very moment to end homelessness in the blink of an eye, all that stands in the way is profit and the Capitalist system which necessitates profit.

The elimination of the necessity for profit also goes very far towards ending the degradation of the environment.  As global warming, and other damage to the environment, is almost entirely created through overproduction and the pursuit of profit before everything else.  A socio-economic system that is not built on profit would have no reason to keep using practices or making products that damage the environment, because abandoning such practices or products wouldn’t have any negative impact on profits since there would be no profits to begin with.  Under Capitalism, such destructive behaviors are not only performed in spite of knowledge to their destructive nature, they are continually expanded.  Because Capitalism necessitates that a business continually expands to continually generate profit.  As Edward Abbey wrote in “The Second Rape of the West:”

“Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

And as Murray Bookchin put it in his book “Remaking Society:”

“To speak of ‘limits to growth’ under a capitalistic market economy is as meaningless as to speak of limits of warfare under a warrior society.  The moral pieties, that are voiced today by many well-meaning environmentalists, are as naive as the moral pieties of multinationals are manipulative.  Capitalism can no more be ‘persuaded’ to limit growth than a human being can be ‘persuaded’ to stop breathing.  Attempts to ‘green’ capitalism, to make it ‘ecological’, are doomed by the very nature of the system as a system of endless growth.”

Ending the pursuit of profit, ending Capitalism, allows us to have a system that is sustainable.  Because when profit no longer governs our lives or our socio-economic system, any and all practices or products that damage our environment can be abandoned without economic repercussions, and they can be replaced by sustainable ones.  Because ending profit and the division of labor also means that no potential “green” technology would lack funding or people to undertake it, nor would it ever be deemed “too expensive” to pursue, as that very concept wouldn’t exist anymore as a fact of society.

Then there is the issue of Democracy.  As I’ve already pointed out: Democracy cannot exist under a Capitalist system.  The only thing it can ever be is a Plutocratic-Oligarchy.  When the ownership and control over the means of production is removed from private hands and placed into the hands of the people through a  Democratic system that is composed of the people rather than held above them as a State, then and only then can Democracy exist.  With the end of this ends the accumulation of gross personal wealth and political power, ending the influence of such things over the Governmental process.   Power resides with the means of production, it always has, and always will.  It is, after all, the single greatest influence on our lives, because it is the things which we all need and rely on for a modern life.  And so, once again:  whoever controls the means of production controls society and the organization of society; whoever controls the means of production controls the Government.  So, in order to have a Democratic Government, a Government “Of the people, by the people, and for the people,” the means of production must be Democratically controlled by the people, not private owners, nor controlled by an alienating State-type-Government.  This is what Communism accomplishes.

Of course, as I’ve said before: this is not a guarantee simply because private ownership over the means of production has been eliminated, eliminating the constitution of Government as a State is just as integral.  Because the best any State-type-Government can ever be is an Oligarchy.  But the institution of Socialism is integral to that process, because as long as private ownership over the means of production is continued, then Government will continue to be dominated by those private owners.

I am by no means making the assumption that an actual perfect system can be achieved by implementing these changes.  A perfect society is impossible But we can and should always strive for a better society than what we have, especially when the current society is so oppressive and exploitative, as it is now.  If no one ever attempted to correct the flaws of society simply because perfection was unobtainable we would certainly be living in a much worse world than even now, and we absolutely wouldn’t have even a semblance of Democracy.  Neither are any of these changes a guarantee that things could never become worse, more tyrannical.  No system can serve such a guarantee.  Just look how many Capitalist Republics have fallen to totalitarian regimes every bit as horrendous as what everyone imagines the totalitarian systems of past Communist regimes to have been.  Still, even a skeptic can see how a Governmental and economic system which prohibits any single person or group from having control over it would be much more difficult to turn towards totalitarianism and oppression.  The most vulnerable that such a society can be is when it is first being built, and it is during that time when our society must be more vigilant than ever at resisting those elements which will seek to end Democracy.  That is really what it comes down to, and always has: the vigilance of the people to build and protect their Democracy.  Even the United States while it was in its infancy nearly fell to a Dictatorship.  The leadership of the military, a mere weeks after defeating the British forces, approached George Washington with a plan to seize power and establish an American Monarchy.  The only thing which stopped the plan was the fact that Washington had no desire for it.  The battle for Democracy never ends, but it always begins with our desire to realize it.

The only way to realize Democracy, the only way to end the greatest problems of our society: poverty, homelessness, slave-like wage-labor, over-production, environmental degradation, and undemocratic Government, is to place ownership and control over the means of production into the hands of the people as a whole through a truly Democratic system, and the only way to have a truly Democratic system is to end all class systems.  Otherwise Government will simply be an Oligarchy of whatever ruling class exists.  The only way to do that is to structure Government so that it is not elevated above the people, so that it is instead composed of the people themselves, so that it is a proper Communist Government.  Communism is the cure to the maladies of Capitalism, and the maladies that continue to plague us from past systems, it is the only cure to them, and the only system to finally realize a truly Democratic society.

The First and last class

It’s not enough to merely end the alienation of the worker from the product of their labor. We must also seek to end the alienation of the masses from the systems that organize society, what is commonly called: “government.”

Because, as you all should know by now: capitalist class distinctions are not the first class system, not even the second, or the third. But so many miss the fact that the capitalist class system is also not the only class system we are subjected to today. We are all still separated by the first and oldest class system conceived by human society: the system of the governor and the governed.

This system was created the moment the state was, the moment the first headman set himself up above the rest of his clan, the moment the first king was crowned. In that moment, the moment “the state” was created, vast majority of humankind was alienated from government, where previously the community as a whole was engaged in the organization of society. Even Lenin wrote of this when he pointed to the fact that the state is not a part of society, but held above it.

So long as government is a state, so long as the masses are subjected to it instead of being engaged as a part of it. So long as such a system exists, we have not freed ourselves from the cancer of class.

This is what we seek to accomplish through the formation of municipal assemblies, where the people of that municipality create the policies, and choose the councilors to carry administer that policy, through face-to-face direct democracy and consensus. This makes every member of society an active participant in government. As Murray Bookchin described it: It makes them true citizens in the proper meaning of that word. Because it makes them the government instead of being subjected to the government which is held above them.

Obviously this is not something which can simply happen overnight. No governmental system has ever been toppled while at the hight of it’s power. Once again, Bookchin said it best in his essay “Libertarian Municipalism: The New Municipal Agenda,” where he said:

“If the great revolutions of the past provide us with examples of how so major a shift is possible, it would be well to remember that seemingly all-powerful monarchies that the republics replaced two centuries ago were so denuded of power that they crumbled rather than ‘fell,’ much as a mummified corpse turns to dust after it has been suddenly exposed to air.”

Yes, the U.S. has begun to decline, but only just. It is at the peak, and has only begun to move towards the downward slope. If we wish to speed that process along, and also avoid disasters like civil war, famine, and general disorder, then we must build a confederated network of interdependent municipal assemblies. These assemblies can shift power from the hands of the state-government, because they shift the community’s obedience to state power away from those systems, and instead empowers the assemblies in it’s place. This will hasten the diminishing of the state’s power while growing a system to immediately take it’s place. All the while providing the people with their needs and wants in a way that the state never could.

It’s easy to confuse this decentralization of power with the promotion of “independence” of communities and a general parochialism. But it is not this at all. As I said earlier: we must garner a true interdependance between all municipalities through a confederated system. Again I turn to Murray Bookchin in his essay “The Meaning of Confederalism:”

“If many pragmatic people are blind to the importance of decentralism, many in the ecology movement tend to ignore very real problems with “localism” – problems that are no less troubling than the problems raised by a globalism that fosters a total interlocking of economic and political life on a worldwide basis. Without such wholistic cultural and political changes as I have advocated, notions of decentralism that emphasize localist isolation and a degree of self- sufficiency may lead to cultural parochialism and chauvinism. Parochialism can lead to problems that are as serious as a “global” mentality that overlooks the uniqueness of cultures, the peculiarities of ecosystems and ecoregions, and the need for a humanly scaled community life that makes a participatory democracy possible. This is no minor issue today, in an ecology movement that tends to swing toward very well-meaning but rather naive extremes. I cannot repeat too emphatically that we must find a way of sharing the world with other humans and with nonhuman forms of life, a view that is often difficult to attain in overly “self-sufficient” communities. Much as I respect the intentions of those who advocate local self-reliance and self-sustainabilty, these concepts can be highly misleading. I can certainly agree with David Morris of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, for example, that if a community can produce the things it needs, it should probably do so. But self-sustaining communities cannot produce all the things they need – unless it involves a return to a back-breaking way of village life that historically often prematurely aged its men and women with hard work and allowed them very little time for political life beyond the immediate confines of the community itself.”

Individual people are not islands unto themselves. We all need the support of a community to survive and especially to enjoy a modern comfortable and safe life. Communities are no different; in order for us all to enjoy the full benefits of modern civilization, and to truly work to create a sustainable socio-economic system, we must recognize that no community can operate as a fully independent entity. We must become a community of communities, a living organic system composed of true citizens engaging in their own organization and fully embodying the old socialist adage: “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.”