Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The new communism

Since time immemorial a minority has set itself up as a ruling class. Their justification has always been: "Let the naturally superior rule and judge, to the benefit of both the superior and the inferior." Putting aside the question of what constitutes "natural" superiority, we can see with our own eyes that every minority rule, on whatever basis they asserted their own superiority, has in the end driven the ruled into suffering, despair and ruin. This suffering is not the result of the sadism of the ruling class or their hostility to the ruled, but rather because like the battles of the gods in the Hindu Vedas, when the rulers compete against each other, it is the ordinary person who ruined, ruined not just without mercy but without any more consideration than a mouse incinerated by an atom bomb.

Today's suffering and ruin is no exception. We are suffering today from not only the material poverty caused by unemployment, but also by lacking a fundamental human need: the need to be useful and valuable to one another. We are suffering today from the loss of what little material and financial wealth the capitalist ruling class has deigned to allow us to accumulate, for our own security and a buttress against starvation, illness and old age. And we are suffering not because the capitalist ruling class has declared war on the working ruled class, but because of a titanic struggle within the capitalist class, a struggle in which we are at best pawns, and at worst nonentities. The capitalist class is not presently hostile to the working class, they are simply indifferent to our suffering. And this indifference should cause us more rage than active hostility. The capitalist class cares more for animals — they show animals more mercy and pity — than they do for the human beings of the working class.

And why "should" they care? If we in the the working class will not stand up for ourselves, for our own needs, for our own wants, for our own desires, why should anyone in the capitalist class stand up for them? And if we do stand up for ourselves, we will no longer be ruled, justly or unjustly. And that must be our goal, from no higher motive than self-preservation, to rule ourselves as a community of people understanding that working for our mutual benefit makes everyone better off.

But do we not even now rule ourselves? Isn't the United States a democracy? No, we do not rule ourselves, and no, the United States is not a democracy in anything but name. The United States is ruled by the capitalist class; the people have at best a voice in which faction of that class exercises the limited power of official government.

Can anyone become a representative, a senator, a president? Of course not: without the active assistance of the capitalist class to accumulate a fortune for campaigning (itself simply transferred to other capitalists, the owners of the media) an ordinary person cannot be elected to any official position more powerful than garbage commissioner. Even those who claw themselves onto the bottom rungs of state power in a capitalist "democracy" can rise only if they demonstrate their value to the capitalist class.

Do you even personally know who represents you? Do you know your representative or senator in the United States congress? Do you know the state legislator who represents you? At best, a few working people know their representative in the city government, but many do not. More importantly, does your representative know you? Does she care about you? When you personally are suffering, does she suffer too from empathy and fellow feeling? The answer to all these questions is "no". To your representative, you are nothing more than a point on a graph, and the only property she cares about is whether you'll choose her faction over her opponent's. She does not work for your benefit; her only consideration is for causing you slightly less suffering than her opponent will, or appearing to cause less suffering.

We have at least a tiny little bit of "democratic" control over state power. If we do not like one faction of the capitalist class and their representatives, we can, if we work really hard, choose another. If George Bush and the Republican party do not suit us, we can take away their state power and give it to Obama and the Democratic party. But we do not have even this minuscule control over economic power. No matter how much we might disapprove of how Bill Gates spends his economic power, no matter how detrimental to our own interests his use of "his own" money, we cannot even transfer that power to Warren Buffett. Our own interests, our own feelings, our own benefits: none of these are even relevant to the use of economic power.

(Remember that one objection to even the limited democracy we have now was that the king and the nobility owned their official political power, and they were entitled to use that power arbitrarily and without formal consideration for the interests of the ruled.)

This absolute, unconditioned right to exercise economic power is justified by the supposed sanctity of property. But is property really sacred? Of course not. Your property, what you need and use for your very survival, can be taken away at the whim of the capitalist class. Property is what we hold and use for survival and well being, and what the working class holds and uses — our homes, our labor, our jobs — can be arbitrarily taken from us as the whim of the bank, the landlord, or the employer. The "sanctity" of property rights means that who have no property — the working class — therefore have no rights. We own only our own lives, our own labor power, and at the end of the day we are free only to exercise that right by choosing between submission and starvation.

But we are not our property, and we have a third choice: we can choose to rebel against the ruling class, to refuse to submit, and to take by force what is morally ours: not just our lives and our labor power, but our labor itself. And we can work not for our own selfish benefit, our own gain at another's loss, but our mutual benefit, where we all gain together, as befits the deeply social and empathic species that is humanity.

The choice is ours alone. It is not by any means certain that the workers or the masses of ordinary people are suitable for anything but misery, poverty and slavery. If so, we will indeed always be miserable, impoverished slaves. But if not, it is definitely certain that we can escape slavery only through our own efforts: freedom, liberty and the unimaginable wealth and good life we now know how to create will be ours not through the sufferance of any faction of the ruling class, but only by our own determined efforts against the violent opposition of those who would enslave us. We can choose only between taking freedom, or having it forever denied us.

3 comments:

  1. First off, we are animals. Secondly, assuming you meant non-human animals, what are you basing your statement of care, mercy, and pity on? Last I checked, if a person tortures and kills a dog they suffer far less penalty than if they were to kill a human - even a member of the working class.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Moz: Would you be so kind as to pick a slightly smaller nit? I suspect some of my readers are still in danger of catching the main point of the essay.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Bread, circuses and bullshit will prevail as they always have until the Bush family and their successors reassert Divine Right as feudal masters of the last arable land, somewhere in northern BC. Anything in human or chimpanzee history suggest otherwise? Breathe air while you can.

    ReplyDelete

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