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Capitalism and Occupy Wall Street - Not Pamphlet

Capitalism and Occupy Wall Street - Not Pamphlet

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Published by Stephen Ocupado CM
A look at the Occupy movement in the context of global capitalism.
A look at the Occupy movement in the context of global capitalism.

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Published by: Stephen Ocupado CM on Oct 25, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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11/24/2012

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CORPORATE GREED OR CORPORATE GREED OR CORPORATE GREED OR CORPORATE GREED OR JUST PLAIN OLDJUST PLAIN OLDJUST PLAIN OLDJUST PLAIN OLD CAPITALISMCAPITALISMCAPITALISMCAPITALISM????
globaloccupation.wordpress.comglobaloccupation.wordpress.comglobaloccupation.wordpress.comglobaloccupation.wordpress.com
The “99% Movement”The “99% Movement”The “99% Movement”The “99% Movement” has adopted the term “occupyoccupyoccupyoccupy”from the antiantiantianti----capitalistcapitalistcapitalistcapitalist tradition, in which peoplehave occupied workplaces, neighborhoods, schoolbuildings, etc., as moves toward
taking control over the "means of production" in order to make things and share them, “from each according to ability, to each according to need,” without the mediation of money 
. However, starting with the original Adbusterscall, an influential current within the movement hassuppressed this history, treating “occupation” as
temporary and symbolic means of petitioning the government to crack down on “corporate greed” and “corruption 
.” As anti-capitalists, we oppose suchreformism not because we're attached to some“radical” identity, and certainly not out of nostalgiafor the old “socialist” movements (whether of Stalinistor social democratic varieties – both ended upproducing only different forms of capitalism). It issimply that the reformist agenda has failedrepeatedly. (Anti-capitalist movements, on the otherhand, from the Paris Commune of 1871 to thepresent, have only been
defeated 
, or undermined byconfusion; prior to defeat, they have shown somepromising beginnings.)Reformism has failed because
any meaningful pro- worker 
regulations eventually become fetters toregulations eventually become fetters toregulations eventually become fetters toregulations eventually become fetters tocapital’s health, so it becomes necessary to dismantlecapital’s health, so it becomes necessary to dismantlecapital’s health, so it becomes necessary to dismantlecapital’s health, so it becomes necessary to dismantlethemthemthemthem - to “save the economy” (i.e. capitalism). That’s what we’re experiencing now, and a return to moreregulation, more taxing of the rich to fund socialservices, etc., is something capital cannot afford without first restoring the rate of profit, which (ifpossible) would require more of the same: rising
 
 2
unemployment, falling wages, cuts to public goodsand services, and the acceleration of energy warsand environmental devastation, bringing us evercloser to catastrophe. So reformism is “utopian”; thereformism is “utopian”; thereformism is “utopian”; thereformism is “utopian”; theonly “realistic” way out of this mess is the path weonly “realistic” way out of this mess is the path weonly “realistic” way out of this mess is the path weonly “realistic” way out of this mess is the path wehave yet to forgehave yet to forgehave yet to forgehave yet to forge. What do we mean by the term “capitalism” asopposed to “corporate greed”? Capitalism is asystem of production whose roots could be found incommercial activities throughout the ancient andmedieval world, but which came into its own in earlymodern Western Europe, hand in hand with thetransformation of medieval kingdoms and empiresinto the modern system nation-states (16th to 19thcenturies), which has always been inseparable fromcapitalism. (As Marx put it, the modern state isthe modern state isthe modern state isthe modern state is“essentially a committee for managing the common“essentially a committee for managing the common“essentially a committee for managing the common“essentially a committee for managing the commonaffairs ofaffairs ofaffairs ofaffairs of the bourgeoisie as a whole.”the bourgeoisie as a whole.”the bourgeoisie as a whole.”the bourgeoisie as a whole.”) These statesestablished the preconditions for capitalistdevelopment by plundering the Americas, Africa and Asia, and setting up colonial regimes there, which were eventually taken over by local elites and used toadminister their own capitalist development (oftenunder the banner of “socialism”). By the mid-19thcentury, capitalism had become the dominant forceglobally, compelling “all nations, on pain ofextinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode ofproduction; ... to introduce what it calls 'civilization'into their midst...” This “civilization” could beanalyzed into the following intertwined aspects:(1) Two basic social classes: proletariatproletariatproletariatproletariat andbourgeoisiebourgeoisiebourgeoisiebourgeoisiea. We prolesprolesprolesproles (mainly dispossessed peasants andtheir descendants) have no (legal) way to surviveexcept by renting ourselves out as workers workers workers workersb. The bourgeoisbourgeoisbourgeoisbourgeois have no aristocratic position that would entitle them to tribute, etc.; all they have ismoneymoneymoneymoney, and the magic to make it grow - byexploiting us proles(2) A system of commodity*commodity*commodity*commodity* exchange invading allspheres of life, with moneymoneymoneymoney as the universalcommodity (everything has a price, so you can getanything with enough money, and nothing withoutit)*Commodity:Commodity:Commodity:Commodity:
something produced for exchange rather than for direct use, tribute or gift-giving 
 (3) The immediate process of capitalist productionimmediate process of capitalist productionimmediate process of capitalist productionimmediate process of capitalist productiona. Industrial capitalistsIndustrial capitalistsIndustrial capitalistsIndustrial capitalists (from the bourgeoisie) investinvestinvestinvestmoney (known as capital*capital*capital*capital*) to rent land andbuildings, buy machinery and raw materials, andhire proles to produce CCCCommodities for sale – notbecause capitalists want MMMMoney to buy otherCCCCommodities (the traditional logic of commodityexchange, CCCC----MMMM----CCCC), but in order to make a profitprofitprofitprofit, thatis, more money than was originally invested (MMMM----CCCC----M’M’M’M’).*Capital:*Capital:*Capital:*Capital:
money invested in order to get more money; “dead labor dead labor dead labor dead labor, that vampire vampire vampire vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor living labor living labor living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks” 
(Marx,
Capital 
, vol. 1, chapter 10)b. This trick is possible because the capitalist pays usthe capitalist pays usthe capitalist pays usthe capitalist pays usfor only part of the value we prfor only part of the value we prfor only part of the value we prfor only part of the value we produceoduceoduceoduce. For example,a prole named Lori works 8 hours for $10/hour,assembling hamburgers at McDonald's. The 400hamburgers she makes during those 8 hours sell for$2000. The beef, buns and other materials cost$1000, and the utilities, wear and tear onequipment, and other expenses cost another $900,totaling $1900. So Lori’s labor added $100 worth of value to those materials, but she was paid only $80,so Mr. McDonald made $20 net profit from theunpaid portion of Lori's labor that day. If there are10 employees per shift working at the same averagerate of exploitation, and two shifts per day, then Mr.McDonald nets $400 each day from that store,$12,000 per month.c. So right at the point of production, there is anirreconcilable contradiction between cairreconcilable contradiction between cairreconcilable contradiction between cairreconcilable contradiction between capital and thepital and thepital and thepital and thelabor necessary for capital’s growth.labor necessary for capital’s growth.labor necessary for capital’s growth.labor necessary for capital’s growth. Our interestsare fundamentally opposed: the longer and harder we work, the more profit the boss makes, and vice
 
 3
 versa: if we try to lighten our work load, whether intime or intensity, or if we demand higher wages orsafer conditions, we cut into the boss's profit. Thiscontradiction cannot be resolved throughcompromise, since capital will die if it doesn't grow capital will die if it doesn't grow capital will die if it doesn't grow capital will die if it doesn't grow,and capital can grow only by “sucking” more “livinglabor” from workers. This is the basic logic ofcapitalist investment, M-C-M': capitalists don't investin order to exchange their assets for something they want to use, but in order for their money to give birthto more money, and if it doesn't do that, they may as well sell their assets and buy a tropical island. At thesame time, competition with other companies forcesthem to constantly increase the rate of exploitationconstantly increase the rate of exploitationconstantly increase the rate of exploitationconstantly increase the rate of exploitation –either by making us work harder or longer, or byswitching to new equipment that can produce moreproducts per labor-hour, or that can be operated bycheaper workers. Every now and then the workersthe workersthe workersthe workersmanage to push down the rate of exploitationmanage to push down the rate of exploitationmanage to push down the rate of exploitationmanage to push down the rate of exploitation, but when that is limited to one firm, it threatens the firm with bankruptcy (since other firms in the sameindustry are continuing to operate at a higher rate); when workers push down the rate of exploitation fora whole industry, capital floods out of that industry insearch of more profitable opportunities, leading tomass layoffs (as we've seen with the auto industry); when it affects the system as a whole, we have acrisiscrisiscrisiscrisis, which is
capital's way of trying to restore the rate of profit rate of profit rate of profit rate of profit 
.(4) Dog-eat-dog competition among capitalistscompetition among capitalistscompetition among capitalistscompetition among capitalists on a(free or regulated) market.This is why subjective attitudes like greedgreedgreedgreed areirrelevant: even if an entrepreneur happens to beMother Teresa, and her whole reason for going intobusiness is to create humane jobs, do “green”production, and give to charity, either her productsare limited to a tiny niche market for rich peopletrying to assuage their guilty consciences (like the“fair trade” market), or more likely, her products areundersold by other companies that pay their workersslightly less, or pollute a little more. She is forced tofollow their example or go bankrupt. No amount ofNo amount ofNo amount ofNo amount ofgovernment reggovernment reggovernment reggovernment regulation can fundamentally changeulation can fundamentally changeulation can fundamentally changeulation can fundamentally changethisthisthisthis: such regulation cuts directly into profit, so thereis always a tug of war between capitalists andanyone who tries to regulate the market by raisingthe minimum wage, improving environmentalprotection standards, etc. This tug of war is really
displacement of the class war between capital and class war between capital and class war between capital and class war between capital and labor labor labor labor 
: the state and most official “labor”organizations are just responding to, or trying topreempt, widespread proletarian resistance, and asmentioned above, this war cannot end in a truce:capital must keep pushing back to restore the rate ofprofit, which means undoing previously maderegulations.(5) Endlessly expanding reproduction & crisisEndlessly expanding reproduction & crisisEndlessly expanding reproduction & crisisEndlessly expanding reproduction & crisisNot only is capital like a vampire; it’s also like acancercancercancercancer, since it must constantly expand and multiply.Once a capitalist makes profit, he's got to makeanother investment – either in expanding the samefirm, or starting a new one. Even if he just puts hisprofit into the bankbankbankbank, the bank's got to lend it toanother capitalist, or the bank would go out ofbusiness. This is why we can't blame the crisis onbanks, or Wall Street Wall Street Wall Street Wall Street for that matter:
without banks or the stock exchange, industrial capitalists wouldn't be able to come up with enough money to buy the expensive facilities necessary to survive in competition with other firms 
. At the same time,financial institutions can't survive without constantlyfinancial institutions can't survive without constantlyfinancial institutions can't survive without constantlyfinancial institutions can't survive without constantlymaking loans and investmentsmaking loans and investmentsmaking loans and investmentsmaking loans and investments, and when there areno profitable opportunities, either there is a crisiscrisiscrisiscrisis, orfinanciers start inventing ways to make profits onpaper (hedge funds, etc.) – until someone figures outthere's not enough production and consumptiongoing on to back it up. And this is obviously NOTbecause everyone has all the products they need or want; a sixth of the world's population is chronicallymalnourished, and yet fields lie fallow, farmequipment stands unused, and ridiculous amounts offood are thrown away every day. The reason is thatpeople don't have enough money to buy theproducts, and this is because companies won't hirethem (or if they do, the wages are too low), and thisin turn because it wouldn't be profitable for thecompanies to expand, since they couldn't sell anymore products at a profitable price...

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