IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID!

 

 

Anarchists, base Marxists, other left-revolutionaries and social antagonists don’t seem to have a fucking clue about economics- Now I’d be the first to admit that the subject is deadly dull, lacking the romantic thrill of heroic guerrilla resistance or the adrenaline buzz of a riot, but then, those activities could be considered completely futile without having any idea of how to construct a viable economy in a post-capitalist society. Economics is universally known as the ‘grey science’- and that’s always been handy for the greedy capitalist pig who relies on your disinterest and short attention-span so that he can steal the shirt off your back, the food from your mouth, the time of your life and to sap your spirit. Economics ought to totally underpin the beliefs of all anti-capitalists. Why? Obviously, because if you oppose a social construct like capitalism, you are opposing it as a political economy- a complex system, one that demands to be understood if you are proposing to abolish it, and logically, demands an alternative to put in its place- Sadly, anti-capitalists seem to neglect to even bother seriously considering the question, and consequently look like a fucking joke to a lot of people- the very people who would benefit from the destruction and replacement of the system, and especially to the class enemy, who sneer at the ‘impossible utopians’ and ‘idealists’ of the ‘lunatic fringe’. Some reject having a ‘blueprint’ for a future society, imagining that a new economy would spontaneously and magically appear.  Anarchists especially, seem more concerned about the rights of battery chickens than the overthrow of the market system that creates them in the first place.

 

We all know that direct democracy and worker’s control works, we’ve nailed that fact, but when it comes to other issues like the division of labour (the need for specialisation) and the need to have a unit of exchange (money/currency) the problems arise- and yes, we need some form of mechanism to enable the circulation of goods beyond a simplistic and self-limiting barter system. Commerce only exists due to specialization and division of labour, as historically most people concentrated on a small aspect of production, having to trade for other essential products they lacked. Division of labour happens both on an individual and a mass level. This division can consist of entire cities, or skilled individuals focussing on one form of production or knowledge.

Consider everything you own- all of it, look at it, consider how diverse the range of things are, the complexity of the processes involved in making them, how they have been transported from various places of manufacture to the place you bought them (or nicked them), consider how many people, proletarians like yourself, had a hand in making them or shipping them, consider who planned and designed them. Realise just how intimately inter-connected you as an individual consumer are to all of these people across the entire planet- in a way, those people surround you, through what they have made through their work. In China, Foxconn the manufacturer of the iPhone ramped up production and quality control because the demand for the product was so high, and because western customers complained of scratched phone casings- causing the workers to batter their supervisor. Meanwhile, other cities specialise in making single products; In Xindang they make jeans, in Chunwing, bras…In the UK there are only a few giant bakeries that produce the majority of the bread consumed across the nation, regardless of brand.

 

 

The circulation of all these goods depends on our ability to exchange them as freely as possible- naturally, the profit system and the hierarchy of production processes are not something we want to continue.  The question is how to overcome profit and hierarchy in the economic sphere so that essential and non-essential human needs are met in an equitable fashion. Karl Marx’s analysis and critique of capitalism remains unsurpassed, but he never got as far as providing an alternative, beyond some vague statements, and of-course, his ideas were twisted by ‘Marxist’ Leninists into centralised command economies that not only failed to meet needs, but also produced concentrated forms hierarchy far more authoritarian than the societies they replaced, forming elites that enriched themselves with ‘communist’ money at the expense of the workers (Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia had himself some very fine villas and a yacht).

 

The anarchist William Morris wrote the famous ‘utopian’ novel ‘News from Nowhere’ which contained his vision of a communist society (without doubt influenced by Marx) where society functions without money, cities as centres of industry and commerce have been abolished, where all products are gifts, where there is a shortage of work because everybody is creatively engaged in giving their labour freely and where hierarchy is unknown and frowned upon. Realistically, a system such as this would involve a paradigm shift in social consciousness, where people worked for nothing but wanted for nothing as a result ‘the society of the endless gift’, where those who chose to specialise would do so out of having an aptitude, for the love of it, as a vocation, rather than as a means to material or status enrichment.  In our materialistic world, this can seem nothing more than an idle fantasy when compared to the savage laws of the market, where the proponents of Free Market ideology are literally willing to kill to defend their belief that capitalism is the one and only path to human freedom, (a world where personal worth is judged on personal wealth and high status), notwithstanding the blatant fact that the market singularly fails to meet most people’s needs -as it is theoretically supposed to do- and that its ideologues only tout this lie to maintain their own privilege and to reaffirm their belief in their own utopian project of ‘infinite growth’ on a planet of finite resources.

Money is central to this ideology, and has been at the centre of human production and commerce for centuries, the lifeblood of capitalism and the circulation of commodities; whether as obsidian, flint, beads, cowry shells or gold- Gold, (‘the divine and celestial light of god’), once the mineral that maintained a stable medium of exchange throughout history (supposedly in any era, an ounce should’ve been able to buy a good meal and a full set of clothes).  Revolutionaries have tried to replace gold or gold backed currencies through barter, work-vouchers, labour notes and other substitutes for cash, all of which have ended up as stores of wealth again that can be accumulated as profit and reproduced as hierarchical social power. In the present era of Fiat money (which is not backed by gold as a scarce material with a stable value) where money is created as debt, from debt, which has lead to the current crisis, there is no end to the accumulation of social power through wealth- sucking it out from the majority into the hands of a tiny minority of vane, parasitical, rich shitbags. As the crisis progresses with falling wages, the devaluation of currencies and the inflation of prices, poverty is set to increase in proportion to the growth of elite wealth and will intensify class conflict globally.

Some people are constructing new models of what a currency could be in future- internet currencies such as the digital signature money bitcoin- unregulated by any government or bank, and ideas such as a Labour Theory Value- a currency or money (credit for work done) created and associated with a particular individual (they are non-transferable) and cannot as such be accumulated as profit nor used for usury (profit from interest). LETS and Timebanks are becoming alternative markets for circulating goods and services.  Parecon (Participatory Economics) is another theoretical system being developed, and hopefully, bear some fruit in the future.

 

I often think that language could be a model for a visualising a future non-capitalist currency, in that conversation between people is a vital and necessary form of exchange in society- as we talk, we share facts, opinions, views, knowledge, experience, wisdom, humour, information. Language is the tool by which people communicate with each other, and do so, by and large, with a  high degree of efficiency in everyday life, binding societies together with a shared concept. Although under capitalism, some are paid to talk- teachers, solicitors, entertainers, counsellors, therapists, journalists and copywriters (paid by the word) and the middle and upper classes do monopolise language for their own benefit- but generally, what we share is essentially economically unquantifiable- it is often said that language is a gift, and as a general rule, nobody ever thinks of charging someone for what they say or know- for laughter, irony or for philosophy, though misunderstandings through poor communication can mean there is a ‘price to pay’ as well as a profit to be made when it comes to valuable information. Most of us communicate freely with other people in society, exchanging ideas in both complex and simple ways to everyone’s mutual benefit- in emotional, intellectual or practical ways. When asked an innocent question in your day-to-day life, do you stop to consider what you might lose by answering it? No, generally you simply reply- you give, you share, without a second thought. If material goods were seen in much the same way as language is, as merely an abundant form of social interaction aimed at meeting social needs, the transmission of things could possibly be stripped of the oppressive weight of profit and loss, personal gain, inequity and exploitation…Commodities today are often the material version of verbal lies and dishonesty, and in a system built on deliberate scarcity and the creation of artificial demand, that is hardly surprising.

Without a solution to the problem of money and the division of labour, and therefore wealth and power, a revolutionary alternative to capitalism is as good as dead in the water, leaving capital to re-emerge and continue its insane mission of impoverishment and environmental despoliation. It is not beyond humanity’s ability to construct a global society and economy based on equity and social justice- history points to an inevitable urge to do so, despite the forces of hierarchy, violence and greed ranged against us. As the crisis reaches its climax in the coming months and years, this will be the only question that matters…and the future without an answer is looking very bleak indeed.

 

THE RICH ARE OUR MISFORTUNE.

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4 Comments

Filed under Politics

4 responses to “IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID!

  1. Aidan

    There are innumerable courses in economics offered at various adult education places in the UK – probably not for much longer under the present government. They all cost a few quid though. There is some free stuff online – http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/economics/14-01sc-principles-of-microeconomics-fall-2011/index.htm
    and
    http://davidharvey.org/reading-capital/

  2. It’s interesting that one of the precursors to Parecon, Jaroslav Vanek’s ‘econmics of participation’ (this interview provides a good intro to Vanek’s ideas… http://www.ru.org/51cooper.html), was largely inspired by the worker’s councils created in Tito’s Yugoslavia (a model echoed briefly in Hungary during the 1956 revolution and in Czechoslovakia under Dubček during the Prague Spring). Vanek would probably argue that it is monopoly, rather than money per se, which defines the capitalist economic model… and that monopoly is the main reason capitalism can never hope to offer economic democracy.

    Another of Vanek’s inspirations was the Basque based Mondragon Corporation – a collective of workers cooperatives with a revenue of over €14 million. Mondragon started as a 20 pupil strong school of engineering and the University of Mondragón which grew with the company is still central to its success. As you say in your post a Gift or Participatory economy “would involve a paradigm shift in social consciousness”; Mondragon – for all its faults – proves that education can provide this shift. Indeed it’s probable that the successful anarchist economic experiments in revolutionary Spain would never have come to fruition if it were not for the free schools of the 1890s.

    So perhaps our goals should be…

    * Participatory education
    * Participatory economics
    * Participatory judiciary & legislation
    * Participatory democracy

    In short a participatory society 😉 … http://www.iopsociety.org/

    In the sociophobic U.S. it could even go by the name of TOTAL DEMOCRACY! 😀

  3. The Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) have been doing some thinking on what a post corporate / capitalist economy could look like – it’s a lengthy read but worth it – Economic democracy: the need for a vision (part 2) – http://www.iwca.info/?p=10172

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