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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Debt of Self-Made Men.

An American Mythology.

It was an interesting sight earlier this year to see Newt Gingrich rail against the "vulture capitalism" of Mitt Romney. The insinuation is that the Massachusetts moderate was in on gobbling up the profits gained out of laying-off thousands of American workers in the 1980s. It was a welcome criticism frankly. But it was also bizarre to hear this coming from a prominent conservative Republican. A Democrat could not take such a stance on a Republican opponent and be left standing without being dubbed a 'socialist'. Certainly the Republicans do not oppose such rapacious market forces that allowed Romney to enrich himself. Not just because the notion of a free-market is what flows through the veins of American conservatism. But it has to be stressed that each of the candidates for the nomination are essentially parasites. And this is actually representative of the primary constituents of the Republican Party - specifically, the filthy rich.

You have to remember that the United States of America would not exist if it weren't for a process of genocide, slavery and war which laid the groundwork for capitalism. The apologists of the free-market paint a picture of a society of self-owning individuals who earn in proportion to their own merits. So the capitalists are the people who have risen to the top of the system through their own efforts. This is a picture which conveniently excludes a lot of history. The system of private property was established through theft and violence. This is what the supposed market society of meritorious men is built upon. The legitimate right to property is predicated on an illegitimate and immoral act. No account of the exchange and accumulation of private property can justify the transformation of what was unowned into what can be owned. If the system was established through theft, rape and murder how can decent conduct justify that system later on?

The expropriation of the commons laid the ground for the accumulation of wealth. The workers are the creators of wealth which is then expropriated through the capitalist system, accumulated in far fewer hands and concentrated in property. This is the process which enriched Mitt Romney and has been defended by every Republican and Democratic administration. The average worker is effectively rinsed dry by these people over the course of a life time spent slaving away at work. It is in the workplace where they slave away to amass the revenue which will eventually compose the profits for the boss and the wages of the workers. This is exploitation at the fundamental level, the workers toil so that the bosses don't have to. You'll find this demystifies the notion of 'job creation' that politicians often talk about, really the word they're looking for is 'profits'. The worker will be lucky to hold onto something worth saving as they are rinsed further through passive consumerism.

You will know the justifications for all of this off by heart. You might tell yourself that this is just the way the world works, it's human nature. Supposedly, after thousands of years we discover our nature is best expressed in a system we've only just discovered in the last 200 years. You will tell yourself that if the poor didn't have to work then they wouldn't. If this were true, as Karl Marx would remind us, "bourgeois society ought long ago to have gone to the dogs through sheer idleness; for those of its members who work, acquire nothing, and those who acquire anything do not work." The workers must work for a wage, so that the rich don't have to. Capitalism requires poverty then, not to make sure people work hard but to keep one class working for the gain of another class. The system is indebted to feudalism and slavery, which provided the material conditions for its prosperity. Even if the capitalists are 'self-made' the end of capitalism and class are still justified.


Chris said...

Excellent analysis

JT White said...

Cheers. Good to see you can finally get past whatever was preventing you from commenting.