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Worker Self-Management,
the Logical Alternative
to Capitalism

By Punkerslut

From Peace Libertad Blog
Image: From "No capitalisme" Gallery,
from Peace Libertad Blog

Start Date: February 12, 2010
Finish Date: February 12, 2010

  Looking at the Problem With an Eye for Alternatives

"The old desire to achieve, to improve the world, seizes the ardent youth to-day with a stern command to bring about juster social conditions. Youth's divine impatience with the world's inheritance of wrong and injustice makes him scornful of 'rose water for the plague' prescriptions, and he insists upon something strenuous and vital."
          --Jane Addams, 1909
          "The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets," Chapter 6

     There is rampant criticism of Capitalism, from every corner of the political spectrum. Communists and Socialists want to replace it with a system of where society manages productive wealth. Liberals, Republicans, and Reformers want to regulate, control, and subsidize Capitalism, as a way to reduce its excesses. Even Nationalists are critical of the system. Black Nationalists, like the Black Panthers, described themselves as Marxist. And Nazis and Fascists both despised Marxism -- but they still criticized Capitalism and used the government to shape it as they liked.

     From common, mainstream ideas, like regulatory control of industry, to extreme ideas, like the overthrow of Capitalism; everywhere, there is a criticism of Capitalism. This system is either inefficient, or cruel, or dominating, or exploiting, or without culture. Everyone criticizes it somehow and for some reason. But what is going to be its replacement? What will be in place once this system is gone? This is a question given less thought, though it is the distinguishing mark between these differing factions.

     In looking for a solution, we need to understand the problem. If a gear in a machine is not small enough to fit in, then that is what we need to adjust. Or an irrigation system that delivers too much water to certain fields, or certain factory equipment is considered unsafe and dangerous. In technical situations, it is by investigating the problem, its cause, and its nature, that allows us to find a fix. If we expect to be find a solution that fits our problem of Capitalism, we need to know why this system fails us.

From Peace Libertad Blog
Image: From "No capitalisme" Gallery,
from Peace Libertad Blog

  The Trends and Behaviors of Capitalism that Make it Undesirable

"It is because, having reduced the masses to a point at which they have not the means of subsistence for a month, or even for a week in advance, the few only allow the many to work on condition of themselves receiving the lion's share. It is because these few prevent the remainder of men from producing the things they need, and force them to produce, not the necessaries of life for all, but whatever offers the greatest profits to the monopolists."
          --Peter Kropotkin, 1892
          "The Conquest of Bread," Chapter 1, Part II

     The evils of Capitalism are apparent to its onlookers. Those who labor, the workers, receive just the crumbs from society's productions. And those who do no labor, the investors and capitalists, are allowed exclusive privilege to the banquet. Those who must sweat, bleed, and suffer, to make everything -- we have nothing. And those who do nothing, except possess property -- they have everything. This is the great injustice, which curbs discoveries in medicine and science, which makes geniuses work sweeping the streets and turns children in the homeless and hungry.

     This type of exploitation is only possible because of private ownership of industry. In the Feudal era, the wealthy used force and violence to make people work. But in our Capitalist era, they have found a new means: possess all of the land, and make it impossible for an individual to live without working for you. No longer do they have to threaten you with the sword and the torch; your own stomach will compel you to work for them.

     Fear of being killed by the guards of the wealthy was enough to keep serfs working in Feudalism; fear of death by starvation is enough to keep wage-workers laboring in Capitalism. Both are a type of slavery, because the individual must follow the orders of a superior or face death.

     Anywhere there is a government, it is controlled by the donations of the wealthy, the aristocracy, and the landlords. Its police are not responsible to the defense of the people; they are the private, hired soldiers of a capitalist. Toxic foods have killed thousands, tainted air and water have filled our hospitals with cancer patients, but there is not even an arrest for it. But if you're poor, and you shoplift a loaf of bread, they'll hold you down, handcuff you, and bring you to jail. The rule of law exists for the wealthy; and it is so apparent and obvious, existing everywhere you look at society. To deny it is to deny having a meaningful connection to your experience in society.

     There is enough land and machinery for all to work, and all to be well-provided for. Our productive ability has increased by nearly a thousand fold in just a few centuries; iron-presses, turbines, generators, and assembly lines get things done faster than hammers and saws. But in many cases we work the same amount of time as ancestors, and sometimes far, far more. Our society is still marred by homeless and poverty, by want and crime, perhaps even more so than hundreds of years ago. Pollution, toxins in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat, is reaching the point of catastrophe; whereas before, it was comparably non-existent.

     The evil of Capitalism is not just that it exploits, that it perverts government, that it makes people work out of fear and not self-interest. Its greatest evil is that it keeps the means of production geared towards the interests of the wealthy. Those who have starving children are mining for diamonds, and those who live in poverty work on caviar, fish-farms. There is such a waste of human energy. So much is dedicated to propping up and legitimizing this system, like the media, the banks, the police, the military, interest groups, lobbyists, and political parties.

     If every person was allowed to work the land and the productive machinery of past generations, there would be no poverty. Besides its casual hijacking of government, besides forcing people to work at miserable rates while living in splendor, this is Capitalism's ultimate crime. It locks up the lands, keeps people unemployed, underproduces and undermanufactures, makes want and poverty common throughout society.

     Famines, where there are hungry and willing people on empty lands; droughts, where companies have no profit in carrying water; winters, where coal miners are locked out by greedy capitalists. All artificial, existing only because the Capitalist has a deed to property -- just as the aristocrat and feudal lord of past times had a deed to nobility.

From Peace Libertad Blog
Image: From "Anarchia" Gallery,
from Peace Libertad Blog

  Traditional Proposals to the Discontent Caused by Private Property

"... fortunately there exists in Man another feeling which draws him closer to his neighbour, the feeling of sympathy, tolerance, of love, and, thanks to it, mankind became more civilised, and from it grew our idea which aims at making society a true gathering of brothers and friends all working for the common good."
          --Errico Malatesta
          "Mutual Aid -- An Essay"

     The Capitalist cannot and does advance the interests of the common people. Everywhere, they are united against everything that would improve the condition of the laborers and the workers. But what can be done about it? How should society be modeled?

     The prevailing approach today is the Liberal idea, based on regulation and control. Liberals, Republicans, Nationalists, and even some Socialists believe in this route. Laws, made by popularly elected officials, should be used for limiting and curbing the evils of Capitalism. Minimum wage laws, to reduce exploitation. Environmental protection regulations, to reduce destruction of the planet. Public work projects and social welfare spending, to reduce poverty and hunger. Anti-trust agencies and investigations, to reduce monopoly and cartels.

     Liberalism keeps Capitalism kept in tact at every level, from its exploitation to its domination of government to its artificial famines. Though the laws protect the victims, they don't free them from the victimization. And with the majority of wealth in their hands, the Capitalist class has no difficulty to turning back those laws and controlling the legislators.

     The Worker's Party wants to put in its candidate into government, to make laws and policies that restrict the Capitalist. Or, in some cases, they may have the interest of replacing the Capitalist with themselves. Instead of letting the Capitalist make decisions in the workplace, the political party will make the decisions. Occasionally known as the Socialist Party or the Communist Party, the Worker's Party proposes that it should take the place of the Capitalist -- and this transition, from rule by the Capitalist to rule by the Party, will make solve the social ills of Capitalism.

     Capitalism is kept in tact here, too. The form remains: there is one individual on top, who has the exclusive power to order and command the workers. Those who labor are impelled to work by their hunger. How society is organized, where farms are planned, how agriculture is managed, everything here, too, is in the hands of just a few. The nature of the position, of one person controlling many without their consent, leads to the corruption of that individual. The Liberal solution simply leaves the system, but State Socialists become the new Capitalists, just as self-interested and dominating.

     Nationalist and Fascist forms of economy follow similar guidelines. Corporatism, the economic model of Fascism, uses the system of government councils. Capitalism is allowed to keep its form, except these councils can intervene and directly change how any industry is working. Their purpose, according to the ideology of Nationalism, is to maintain the characteristics of its people; namely, to maintain the "traditional style" of the working class on the bottom, and the wealthy nobility on the top. There is still someone on top, and now they're being forced to do exactly as what the government "considers good for the people."

     All of these forms, from the common Liberal and Reformer solutions, to the abstract theories of Corporatism, to the leftist ideal of Socialist rulers -- all of these forms keep the organization of Capitalism. They keep a system where the many have no control over their daily existence, where just a few possess and manage the wealth of society, where government safeguards the exploitation of the laborer.

     A Statist Revolution, calling itself Liberal or Socialist, Nationalist or Fascist, will always keep the structure of Capitalism in place. Flags change their colors, "capitalist" is renamed to "chairman," and the National Anthem now is about "the people's revolution." But everything is still the same.

From Peace Libertad Blog
Image: From "Anarchia" Gallery,
from Peace Libertad Blog

  The Anarchist Solution to the Capitalism Problem

"Socially speaking, the criterion of civilization and culture is the degree of liberty and economic opportunity which the individual enjoys; of social and international unity and co-operation unrestricted by man-made laws and other artificial obstacles; by the absence of privileged castes and by the reality of liberty and human dignity; in short, by the true emancipation of the individual."
          --Emma Goldman, 1940
          "The Place of the Individual in Society"

     In looking at the social disease caused by Capitalism, we should see their cause. The reason why private management of industries fail is this: because those affected by the decisions are not making the decisions. Those who have to pay for fixed prices or poisoned food, those who have to work long hours in degrading conditions, those who must beg for food on the streets -- we have no choice. It is the decision of the wealthy, those who possess the right to living off of our work. Since Capitalists make decisions, and not the common people, society will become what benefits the Capitalists, and what hurts the rest of us.

     If we change the Capitalist, if we find someone new to fill the role, the form is kept the same. This is why Capitalists from Spain and Mongolia are equally vicious, while employers in Madagascar and Jamaica both exploit their laborers. This is why it has been the same, throughout all past centuries of government and Capitalism, tracing the development of ancient Europe to the Roman Empire.

     Naturally, if we just put someone else in the same role, just because they're a Liberal, a Socialist, or a Nationalist doesn't mean it will solve the problem. They'll fall victim to many of the same prejudices, the same self-destructive effects, as those who previously held the post. This is why Socialist Parties and Nationalist Parties, Fascists and Republicans, have been such an utter disaster in solving Capitalism. They have simply reproduced it into a new form that is just as offensive.

     Society is harmed by private ownership of our factories and farms, because this means it is directed towards the interests of the few. If everyone owned the means of production, though, then they would be directed towards the interests of all. Each individual must be the possessor and the master of their workplace, democratically organized with their co-workers. It is when one person is the possessor of all that everyone suffers. The solution must be that everyone is an equal possessor of society's productive powers -- and when that occurs, nobody can be exploited for having nothing.

     It must be direct, personal ownership. Firms and businesses are owned by those who work them, and everyone has an equal right to be employed wherever they are. When we examine Capitalism, why does exploitation occur? It happens because the Capitalist and the worker both approach the issue of the wage, but on unequal footing. If the worker doesn't like the offer, he can wait, but he'll be starving in only a few days. The Capitalist can wait, but they have all of society's wealth at their disposal. It is exactly this reason, the bargaining position of a Capitalist and a worker, that creates the socially-unjust situation of Capitalism. People take miserable wages, because they would starve if they did not -- because they are dependent upon an economic authority.

     But consider the bargaining position of a worker who owns their machinery, their farm, their office building, or any place of work. Two worker-owned firms would negotiate prices and rates on fair terms. Since they were approaching each other with an equal need, the relationship would be far more mutual and reciprocal. The workers, their own managers, would be the best judges in determining their own wages -- they must personally suffer if they are too low, and they must commercially suffer if they are too high. This kind of society is organized for harmony -- people are naturally in positions where they cannot be exploited or dominated by others. People, who naturally follow their own self-interest, are fully allowed to do this; but only in a setting where one can satisfy themselves by forming mutual, cooperative, and voluntary relationships.

     Worker self-management is the ideal solution Capitalism, and the only real alternative. The other possible solutions only recreate the same social organization, putting the worker under the command of a small class of possessors. By making each business and firm managed by its workers, we are putting everyone on an equal economic footing. We are putting people into a social organization where nobody must beg for work, where everyone determines how and why they work. We are creating a society where people are only bound by nature and the limits of natural laws, and not by artificial constructs set up by a ruling elite.

     It is by removing this economic authority that the individual gains their right to self-management. It is the only way to remove the problems caused by private mastery of the wealth -- to make everyone an equal in the right to the earth.

"What this war has demonstrated is that private capitalism that is, an economic system in which land, factories, mines and transport are owned privately and operated solely for profit does not work. It cannot deliver the goods. This fact had been known to millions of people for years past, but nothing ever came of it, because there was no real urge from below to alter the system, and those at the top had trained themselves to be impenetrably stupid on just this point. Argument and propaganda got one nowhere. The lords of property simply sat on their bottoms and proclaimed that all was for the best."
          --George Orwell, 1941
          "The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius," Part II, Section I


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