Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

"Anti-capitalist" perspective

Reading: Local paper, Morning Star, some pages of Finnegans Wake, some pages of Robert Goddard's "Past Caring", The Democrat, Trade Unions Against The EU Constitution leaflet on Pensions, BBC News, Urban 75 and Guardian websites. Matt S and Derek W's blogs.
Listening: Radio Five, Moby.
Viewing: BBC News, Lost.
Someone on Urban 75 bulletin boards posed the question of "What would the anti-capitalist movement put in place of capitalism?" To which we might answer ecosocialism, but the way in which the question was posed raised other questions, and an amended version of part of an answer is posted below.

It might be argued that most of what is labelled as an "anti-capitalist movement", sometimes self labelled as such, is not in the short term, (nor even in the long term in many cases) aiming for the complete abandonment or supersession of the key features of the capitalist system. To do this you would have to achieve the abolition of the wages system, supersession of the private ownership and control of the means of production, distribution and exchange and probably supersession of the modern nation state in its recognisable form. Most of the "anti-capitalist movement" is not aiming at any of that anytime soon.

If "Another World Is Possible" there are a vast range of views on how and when! Many are justified in feeling that the most important things to consider in the short term are how to resist attacks or defend ourselves from further encroachments of amoral corporations now.

The interesting question is of course the historical perspective. Looking at the current trajectory of capitalism in its most advanced sectors, then barring ecological/natural or financial disaster (which certainly cannot be ruled out - and unfortunately look increasingly likely), the evolution of capital appears to be towards ever larger and more powerful corporations and consolidation of economic blocs on a global scale - i.e. the progressive destruction of economic activity outside the corporate framework (except in a residual or parasitic form) - think supermarkets, catering chains, offshored manufacturing, transnational domination of all sectors of the advanced economy - and corresponding disappearance of small shops, small farms, small manufacturers, "independent" nations or politicians, a vista of endless corporate shopping malls, industrial estates, leisure venues and ring roads. Of course independent small producers and retailers may survive in pockets, but as "niche" marketing, often for the better off or self-consciously "alternative", not as a significant sector in advanced economies. As well as being strangely evocative of old marxist ideas about the evolution of capitalism towards forms that are virtually indistinguishable from state monopolies, the prospect is also of the shoehorning of all instincts - towards independence, creativity, altruism and solidarity - into the corporate monopoly. This equates to the "proletarianisation" of the bulk of the population in terms of their relationship to work, if not necessarily in their living standards - that "proletarian" working condition is ironically reflected in many a self-professed “middle class” urbanite's confession that he/she only works for the dosh!

We are reaching the point where the choice is stark - it now being technically possible for the domination of corporate capital to become complete (virtually all media, legislative processes, community and nation state activities controlled at first or second hand by representatives of corporate capital) or the population decides a different route, a different route that will of necessity be based on different criteria of success and fulfilment to those of corporate capitalism.

For the real horror of the prospective future for most of us - if the trajectory is not checked - read the fatalist brutalism of someone like Ian Angell of the LSE. He argues persuasively that in the final version of the global e-economy the trajectory will be simply "uncheckable" by any of the traditional political methods, even were these not already under corporate domination. The global economy will simply crush any opposition or alternatives, no matter how mild or unthreatening. Angell masochistically celebrates this, assuring himself that he will be on the right side of the fence when the techno-elite separate from the rest of us to become virtually another (presumably genetically engineered) species.

In terms of the original question, the most relevant question for now is perhaps not "what would you replace capitalism with?" but where the technological and social evolution of late capitalism will take us, and at what tipping points, crises or upheavals will alternative routes be possible? The historical location of these forks in the road will of course have a very great effect on what alternative systems are viable. The work of the radical science fiction writer Ken MacLeod is interesting in this respect.
This is all of course (perhaps optimistically) assuming that the current evolution of the system, (even with whatever challenges or changes that can be effected) leaves us with a habitable environment by the time a turning point arrives.
For those with higher aspirations than wage slavery on the promise of hedonist oblivion in a doomed Disneyland the question of “Socialism or Barbarism?” becomes ever more pressing ………..



At 10:30 am, Blogger Matt Sellwood said...

Very interesting post!


At 8:38 pm, Blogger csbartus said...

you must be aware there is another evolution system, beside biological (genes) and cultural (memes) which is the evolution of capital though mones.

and this form of evolution dominates all others.

read more @


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