Take their toys away

Take their toys away
Image by brgfx on Freepik

I got into an interesting discussion about capitalism on Mastodon where I ended saying:

Things are in a constant state of change, and the only way to fix it permanently is to take the capitalists’ toys away.

I was challenged on this, and how we would take their toys away without regulation of some kind. I didn't realise it, but what I was challenging was the subtext that we can reform what we have to achieve this without actually saying so.

I may have misunderstood, but I think it's worth unpicking this a bit.

People see the productive power humans now possess, the scientific knowledge, the billions of us that live on Earth now and think that's capitalism. It isn't. It's human ingenuity and centuries of hard work that's got us where we are. This cornucopia belongs to all of us. It's our birthright as human beings.

Capitalism, on the other hand, is about ownership, the profit goes to the owner and the rest of us have to make do with the little that's left. The feudal kings and queens, or at least their spiritual descendants, still effectively own the rest of us, and control the cornucopia. Telling us there isn't enough. Ownership means, in the end, privilege. I live in Britain, and good chunks of the place are still owned and controlled by the royal family and a host of other inbred idiots that we're supposed to hold in some kind of esteem because they have magic blood, rather than sharper swords, or simply more luck, than our own ancestors did. Historically they merged with the capitalist class, and that feudal view, where privilege is assumed and automatic and the rest of us should be grateful peasants is deep in the psyche here. In the USA things were different initially, but there is now a massively privileged class in charge who also preach the same worldview.

In both cases, and indeed everywhere in the global north, a very small number of privileged people, who mostly inherited what they have, own and control society and the systems that make it up. They designed how politics works, they control what laws are passed, they see that the enforcement of those laws don't inconvenience the privileged or their money making. Remember laws are more than just writing on paper, they also need the physical might to enforce them. For example, when Trump was in power in the USA he ignored a lot of laws and nothing happened. In Britain our government makes sure that agencies tasked with things like environmental protection don't have the resources to do their job. Trump did the same with the EPA. Then they also just lie about things.

Think of a spoiled toddler, who has no idea how other people live, who has never been told they can't have certain things. Now imagine that toddler has a police force, an army, nuclear weapons, and a judiciary at their command. This is what we're up against. The society we're forced to live in has the demands of a privileged few and their need for profit override the needs of the majority, and it was designed that way. Don't get downhearted though. Those police, army etc. are nobodies like the rest of us, and we can talk to them.

What happens when we try and take the toddler's toys away? We will have a real fight on our hands, and it may well be bloody.

This is why we can't just legislate without the power to make it mean something. We have to build large social movements that the toddler will think twice about tangling with. We have to build alternate mechanisms for governing and managing vital resources that shut the toddler out. We have to dismantle the systems that were built to keep the privilege gravy train running forever. This is a much harder thing to do, but it can be done. We can't get this by voting and legislating within the existing system, it was set up from the beginning to stop us doing that.

Look at the political class's reaction to the protests about the Palestinian genocide we've seen all over the world. The extreme violence, the mass arrests. They are afraid of us when we work together to hold them to account. We need to organise, and we need to have a very clear view of what we're up against. We also need to watch out for the movement being recuperated, as I discussed here. Without a clear understanding, program, and vision it's easy to get bought off or just lost. Look at what happened to Sanders, Occupy and the Arab Spring, or even the Corbyn years in Britain.

It's perfectly possible to change things. Post-war they were afraid of us and we had the New Deal and its equivalents all over the global north. We can do that again and win things back. But to stop those gains being destroyed again we need to take over the whole thing so it can't be undone. This is also the only way we're going to survive the coming ecocide.