This is a reply to my cousin in the UK, after they posted some interesting stuff on faceachebook:
Thanks for your views. You say to me ‘I was not really convinced capitalism was all bad though. '
Of course capitalism isn’t ALL bad. That’s for sure. But it’s a bit like saying ‘My abusive husband aint all bad, he only hits me and the kids every 2nd day.’ Does that mean you should stay with him, no matter what? That he doesn’t have to change? The basic view of folk like me who prefer a more co-operative system is that capitalism ain’t good enough. We are capable of coming up with a better system, so why don’t we?
Anyone has to ask themselves, do I think either:
A. capitalism is the best system we can come up with
B. we can do better.
If you or anyone thinks its A, ok, fair enough. You might be right. Then let’s see your reasonable arguments as to why its the best option. And, if you can, please try to reduce all the really terrible consequences of capitalism. like the way its destroying the planet, dragging millions/billions to near slave like working conditions, etc. For me, I think the answer is B - we can do better. We can come up with economic and social system that work better across a whole range of things, from a cleaner planet, to better nursery education, and everything in between. So, let’s get on with it. That’s my basic view.
But, there is a BIG problem before that basic choice: most people don’t know well what capitalism is, or what the alternatives are. So how can we make a good choice? It’s like expecting us to choose the best microwave in the shop when we have almost no idea of how good the various ones there are. And then, to make it even worse, the microwaves makers are deliberately telling us lies about their product and suppressing information that is more accurate, encouraging a lack of knowledge, so that we buy blindly.
Sorry to say it, my lovely cousin, but what you say now about capitalism shows that you have picked up some quite inaccurate points about it. Don’t take that as insult please, its not - 90% of us don’t know this stuff well, it’s normal. It’s not that folk are stupid, i think most folk are very smart. But the actual things they say show clearly that they have some pretty whacky ideas about what capitalism is, or what the alternatives are… so, somewhere along the way, most folk HAVE been misled, lied to, not told the fill truth, not encouraged to think deeply and develop critical thinking skills. It’s not that they can not think for themselves, they can, for sure. It’s that they are not encouraged to think deeply and develop critical thinking skills -I guess that is so that they will continue to buy bad microwaves!
So, for example: you say “state holding all the power” but that is not what socialism or anarchism is about. That is a massive lie, that i would say about 80% of people think. It’s simply not true. Actually the truth is the opposite - socialism and anarchism are aiming to have no state at all. No big brother over us, but instead have people working together as equals, in a voluntary way, to work stuff out for themselves. So, if you thought it was all about “state holding all the power”, then hasn’t someone, somewhere, told you a bit of a fib about what alternatives to capitalism are about?
You also say “isn't the premise of capitalism that anyone is free to improve their situation, change their circumstances. Power in the hands of the people, power to the people.”
- Not really, no. We might say that is kind of an aspect they SAY is the case, but not in practice. In real life there are a whole load of barriers, deliberately reinforced by capitalism, that reduce our ability to be free, that hold us back from trying to change and improve… and that take power OUT of the hands of people.
People are theoretically free to improve themselves in capitalism. But the actual, real life, barriers that capitalism puts in their way means that it’s very hard to do it. And Capitalism makes it MORE difficult to be ‘free’, while pretending it’s all about freedom. That cheating is one of the things that annoys me - i don’t like being lied to, or my lovely cousins being lied to either. It’s an insult to the intelligence of you and me for capitalism to tell us it’s giving us A,B,C nice thing… but in reality do the opposite.
Real example: when i was 23 I wanted to get a loan from a bank to do a postgraduate degree, but the bank turned me down, and would not say why. So, first of all, was i free to improve my situation then? to change my circumstances? Was the power in my hands? No, no, no! So, i had to scrape by through a mixture of doing the postgraduate course part time over 2 years instead one 1, and doing low paid part time jobs while studying. By contrast there was another guy on the course that came from a richer family and got everything paid for him, did the course in 1 year and then went on to do a Phd. What allowed him to be more ‘free’ than i was, to be able to have an easier time of it, focus on his studies more? - Money. So, in capitalism him having more money allowed him to be more free than me. Meaning the freedom of the rich, the ability of the rich to improve themselves and influence power is FAR more than that of people lower down the level in capitalism - in actual real life things.
Now, what POWER did i have in that situation? The bank decided this with very little involvement by me - I was not invited in to the decision making meeting. I was not told why i would not be given the money, and there was no appeal process as far as i could see (maybe there was, but i was not told about it, which is also an example of powerlessness: being kept in the dark about your choices). It looks to me very much like a situation in which I had almost no power at all. The big financial giant has power, it decides, behind closed doors, in an undemocratic way. Because it has the money, it has the rights, it has the power. I get to say nothing - i was powerless. And that is how capitalism works, for millions everyday… power is taken away from us. And I never did do a Phd! Capitalism nicked it from me!
I could say a lot more about this, and cover all the likely criticisms of what i say, but it’s already a long post!
On the other hand, the co-operative system i favour really IS all about this: “free to improve their situation, change their circumstances. Power in the hands of the people, power to the people.”
- Free to improve because money and profit will not be a barrier.
- Free to improve because decisions about education will be based on ability and interest and usefulness, not on how much profit that education can make.
- Free to change their circumstances because people will decide for themselves what kind of life they want, what community, what society.
- Power in the hands of the people, because there will be no financial elite or bosses in government to tell us what to do, or cheat us, or push is in their direction.
So, my lovely cousin - capitalism? No thanks, we can do better. And it's about time we got on with it…