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Just What are the Anti-Capitalists Actually Anti?

January 20, 2012

One of the things that continually puzzles and amuses me about the Anti-Capitalist movement is working out exactly what it is they are anti. The movement, best known for its well publicised demonstrations inLondonandNew Yorklast year, is not a new movement and there are several groups associated with the various anti-capitalist events.

Phrases like ‘Capitalism = Greed’ and ‘Capitalism is a sickness’ seem to spring up quite a lot.

The source of my puzzlement and amusement is when it comes to considering the alternatives. If one accepts at face value that capitalism is a sick and broken ideology that is incapable of generating a cohesive society then the only option is to pick an alternative.

What is the alternative?

When I look around the world and consider what else there is I am not exactly filled with confidence.

Would any of the anti-capitalist protesters prefer to live under a communist regime? You don’t need to look at the history of theUSSRto know that the answer would be no. How about a bit of Despotism NorthKoreastyle? Or maybe sir fancies a bit of Dictatorship, of which there are many examples.

Not only would none of the vocal anti-capitalists not want any of the above mentioned alternatives, its also highly unlikely that they would even have had the freedom to make their protests in any country featuring them.

Broken or not, sick or not, I don’t think there really is an alternative to capitalism. The vocal postulating by a largely young and idealistic section of the populace is well meaning but misdirected. Its also extremely unhelpful that whenever these groups get together to try and make their points, they seem to get piggy-backed by a destructive and anarchistic minority. Sadly this hurts significantly any good that the movement could do.

Need to re-think Strategies

I am not anti-capitalist by any stretch or measurement. However, I do agree with the general claims that the movement makes. There is a staggering amount of corporate greed in the world today and the requirement to make as much money as possible being the single most critical factor of any boardroom decision is very real source many of the worlds ills.

In fact I am pretty sure that if you could get one of the lead protesters to put down their megaphone, stop shouting quick quips and punchy rhetoric, have a bath and sit calmly around a table with a bunch of suits for a casual chat about real issues that the working man faces and how big company policy is greedy I’d likely agree with most of what they would say. Its not the foundation of the anti-capitalist message that is wrong, its how its packaged and portrayed; much the same as with capitalism.

The other issue I have with the anti-capitalist movement is that they are big on problems but short on solutions. Yes, it is possible to find considered solutions to the issues raised, but in general the casual member of the general public, like myself, only gets to here noisy complaint delivered in a shouty and unattractive manner with very little opening for considered discourse.

If the issues of the world are so important to them, then they should be standing for election and publishing a manifesto detailing their plan for change.

Capitalism Does Need to Change

Its all well and good making stereotypical jokes about the standard anti-capitalist, but there is a serious point behind it all. That is that greed as been allowed to run through the corporate world and poison big business to the point where many people despise their employer and distrust industry. The banking crisis is the best example of crumbled consumer confidence.

On a more personal level, it galls immensely to see executives who have clearly not done a great job of running their company getting an annual bonus that is more than their already immense annual salary, when most of the employees are told they are getting a pay freeze.

Such brazen disregard for the bread and butter worker of an organisation only serves to demonstrate just how out of touch many company bosses are. Worse than that, it demonstrates how they simply don’t get how motivated a happy and looked after workforce can actually be. It may cost profits to spend money on making a workforce comfortable, but it also costs profits when staff turnover is high.

A motivated and happy workforce does a better job for the company anyway, the greed we see today undermines that terribly and something does need to be done to tackle it.

Complaining about capitalism is not the solution.

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2 Comments
  1. Interesting article and some excellent points. Oh and cheers for the link to my blog! I’ve a few comments though…

    Firstly there very much is an alternative to the current capitalist system. You’ve even described it in your own article. No, I’m not alluding to communisms, dictatorship or any of the other political systems you mention, the alternative is in fact capitalism. But a different kind of capitalism – one where is looks after the needs of the majority rather than the bank balance of the few. Very few protesters are calling for an end to capitalism (this is just a lazy tag the media have given them). Most protesters just want to see the system become fairer and more representative for the majority – the 99% (although this is another ill-considered term).

    The protesters are also certainly not short on solutions as you suggest. They have solutions in abundance. They are short on the power to implement them that’s all and therefore it’s easy for them to be dismissed as ineffectual policy-wise. But there really are some fascinating ideas coming out of the protest and and plentiful supply of solutions to the improve system.

    Finally if “complaining about capitalism isn’t the solution” then I’d like to ask you what you think is the solution? Isn’t this what your article does for the most part? And isn’t this an important thing to do in a democracy – to complain about injustice and try to bring about a fairer society for all? Whether sleeping in a tent or just on blogs like ours, the volume of compliant about the inequality in our system is hard to ignore. If you look at the headlines over the past week, it’s interesting to see that leaders of all political parties are now (finally) talking in language not too dissimilar to the protesters i.e. the need to tackle corporate greed and inequality etc. The Occupy movement is working… subtly… but it is making a difference…

    Oh by the way, you should read my articles about Occupy https://jonmaiden.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/busting-myths-about-the-occupy-movement or http://jonmaiden.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/occupy-sheffield-a-sceptic%E2%80%99s-view. We do share a lot of the same views on these issues…

    • limey permalink

      Hi Jon,

      Thank you for the prompt (and detailed) comment. Yes, we do seem to share some very similar views.

      To answer your question: ” what [do] you think is the solution?” I’m not sure I have a solution. I my point in the sentence you are commenting on is that complaining doesn’t fix the issues, coming up with suggestions and engaging in the discussion. To me, seeing people getting in the way and shouting about how wrong the system is, is massively off putting and gains the cause very little sympathy. That’s one reason why I also disagree with strike action.

      A perfect example of what I mean was on a current affairs programme last night. A young woman who represents one of the protest organisations (I don’t think it was Occupy) was asked for her view on the solution, her reply was basically that its wasn’t her job to come up with the answers, it was just to point out the problems and that the politicians should be coming up with the solutions. Its exactly that attitude that galls me.

      Another example that I recall (this one is quite a few years ago), is when climate protesters invaded one of the many international forums and did the usual disruption thing. However, rather than be forcefully chucked out, a spokesperson was offered a microphone, which they ranted down. The protesters were then invited to take part in the discussion, which they did not do. Talk about a wasted golden opportunity. As I said, that was years ago, but I don’t see any change between then and now.

      I see lots of attention grabbing stunts and news-reel rhetoric but I don’t see engaging with politics. Progress will continue to be slow if nothing changes in the protest movements.

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