Alternatives to capitalism - viable and unviable
anticapitalist2 at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Jun 21 22:32:08 BST 2002
Unless anti-capitalist protesters take the time to study what exactly
capitalism is and how it operates they risk not advocating a viable
(We are assuming of course that they want to be pro-something and not
merely anti-capitalist, not merely a feeble counterweight within
capitalism to the excesses of certain international capitalist
organisations and corporations.)
One danger is that the anti-capitalists will be diverted into
campaigning to try to put the clock back by returning to the simple
market economy that may have existed in early colonial North America.
This is an important strand in Green and anarchist thinking as
exemplified by the slogan "small is beautiful". We are offered the
idyllic picture of an economy of self-employed smallscale producers
producing for a local market or of an economy composed entirely of LETS
This wouldn't be capitalism but it wouldn't be possible either, if only
because enough to feed, clothe and house the world's present population
would not be able to be produced on this basis.
More sophisticated Green thinkers, sensibly, don't want to go that far.
What they advocate is a steady-state market economy, a variant of
Marx's "simple reproduction". The idea is that the surplus would be
used not to reinvest in expanding production, nor in maintaining a
privileged class in luxury but in improving public services while
maintaining a sustainable balance with the natural environment.
It's the old reformist dream of a tamed capitalism, minus the
controlled expansion of the means of production an earlier generation
of reformists used to envisage.
But it is still a dream because it assumes that a profit-motivated
market economy can be tamed, and made to serve human and/or
environmental needs. History has proved that it can't be; capitalism
has shown itself to be an uncontrollable economic mechanism which
operates to force economic actors to make profits and accumulate them
as more and more capital irrespective of the consequences.
This mechanism first came into operation in the 16th century and since
then has spread to dominate the whole world in the form of the world
market. Capitalism today could in fact be described as the
profit-motivated, capital-accumulating world market economy.
Other anti-capitalist protesters see this fact that capitalism is a
world system as being the problem and the solution as being to break it
up into separate capitalisms operating within national frontiers behind
protective tariffs walls.
This hardly justifies the description "anti-capitalist" of course, and
parallels a nasty strand of nationalist thinking which has always
associated capitalism with a sinister "cosmopolitan" conspiracy.
Indeed, the danger is that, in the absence of being presented with a
credible alternative, it is here that the "anti-capitalist" protests
will find the loudest popular echo.
The US labor unions took a nationalist line in Seattle and in Britain
the Green Party has already endorsed the reactionary "Save the Pound"
So, given that nything that rejects technology and the existence of one
world is a non-starter, what is the credible, viable alternative to
capitalism as a world system of production for profit and uncontrolled
and uncontrollable capital accumulation?
It's where all the productive resources of the Earth have become the
common heritage of the people of the world "make the Earth a common
treasury for all", as Gerrard Winstanley put it right at the beginning
of capitalismso that they can be used, not to produce for sale on a
market, not to make a profit, but purely and simply to satisfy human
wants and needs in accordance with the principle of, to adapt a phrase,
"from each region on the basis of its resources, to each region on the
basis of its needs".
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