MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND (WHY YOUR PROTEST WAS INEFFECTIVE)
Liberals love to stand on a corner, hold some hand made sign, have a drum circle and hold a protest about whatever social issue of the day interests them. They’ll probably even have a ‘sign-making party’ the night before while they listen to their large collection of vinyl records of bands no one has ever heard of and talk about how much they hate corporations. And honestly, all of that sounds like a good time, but it’s not going to accomplish anything.
There seems to be a disconnect between middle class liberals from privileged backgrounds and a concrete analysis of why their ‘social issue of the day’ is a social issue in the first place. Liberals tend to look at things very abstractly; it’s a part of their genetic make-up. They like to blame corporation X for this and corporation Y for that without sitting down and really analyzing what are the social forces that compel corporation X and corporation Y to act the way they do. As the saying goes “money makes the world go round.”
Capitalism, an economic system that is based on private ownership and profit, needs to always be in motion. Corporation X needs to invest money into some productive process, create some kind of commodity, put it on the market and sell it for a profit. Corporation X can’t just be reimbursed for the initial investment with no profit and damn sure cannot lose money. It is the foundation of the economic system that it realizes a profit. This is a cycle that must be in continuous motion day in and day out, constantly. If this process stops or even slows down to a certain point, Capitalism will begin to go into crisis mode.
This desire for profit is bigger than Corporation X. If Corporation X does not organize itself so as to realize profit, then Corporation X will die and some other Corporation will take its place. This compulsion is a social force created by the economic system that these Corporations operate under, Capitalism.
This social force is strong and compels organizations like Corporations, and individuals like CEOs, to do all kinds of fucked up shit. This is the social force that compels corporate managers to cut benefits, wages, and move operations to another country where they can pay the workers a fraction of what they pay them here. It’s the social force that compels them to dump toxic waste in our oceans, rivers and lakes and it compels them to hire vigilantes and paramilitary organizations to beat and kill union organizers and environmental activists. This is also the same social force that compels them to spend millions on lobbyists to keep lawmakers from passing laws that will in any way cut into their profits, even if those laws and regulations would be in the best interest of society at large. This is a destructive force that needs to be organized and fought against.
While liberals tend to see and recognize the ill effects of this social force on humanity and the environment and want to do something, they don’t tend to fully understand what that social force is, how it operates, and how to fight it.
Take the current Wall St. protests. I am completely in agreement with the folks who are ‘occupying’ Wall St. and their motives. Wall St. is greedy and they just don’t give a damn about the average working person. Some of these folks who have engaged in these actions even have started to develop a basic, but abstract, critique of the current economic system, Capitalism, and it’s destructive nature on social relationships between people and with the environment. But for the most part it is a very abstract form of protest. How is occupying Wall St. going to change the social forces that compel those on Wall St. to engage in their destructive behaviors? How is this movement going to sustain itself long-term? What is the next step after the attempted occupation of Wall St. fails to produce the results they are looking for?
I heard one of the protestors on YouTube say they were “overeducated and underemployed”. That is quite the class-privileged statement, “I have way too much education to be working in the factories, warehouses, or in the service industry. I’m going to protest in front of Wall St.!” I empathize with this protestor’s sentiment and frustrations. Under Capitalism and the ever-progressing division of labor that takes place under it, our jobs, and hence our lives, become more and more mundane. That is very frustrating when we feel like we have so much to offer the world and want to contribute something beautiful and worthy. Welcome to the life of the working class proletariat! We’ve been struggling with this for generations.
What middle class liberals and others need to begin to develop is a class consciousness and how their particular social issue is tied to the current economic system, Capitalism, and how the social relations between the different classes creates or exacerbates their particular social issue of choice.
For example, when the U.S. invaded Iraq, there were millions of people in this country and tens of millions protesting throughout the world. All of these protests happened on the weekend! These protests, especially given the number of people who participated were significant, but it didn’t accomplish the goal of preventing an invasion of Iraq. Why is that? Well, money makes the world go round. As long as the economic system was still in motion (Corporation A buys capital such as wage labor, machines and materials; Corporation A throws that capital into a productive process and creates a commodity; that commodity is sold on the market and Corporation A is given back the original money it fronted for this process plus a profit) then these protests were mere annoyances and media spectacles to the ruling class. It wasn’t a serious challenge to their rule because the movement wasn’t going to challenge the one thing the ruling class cares about… profit!
But what if those millions of people in the U.S. had all decided that they were going walk off their jobs on a Wednesday at 8:00 and not go back to work until the ruling class capitulated to their demand of not invading Iraq? Better yet, what if the millions in this country organized alongside the millions in Europe and the rest of the world to all walk off the job and refuse to go back until the U.S. and its’ “allies” agreed to call of the invasion? This disruption in the economic process could have been effective enough to make the stock market plunge or possibly even crash. Governments could have possibly been left unoperational if workers in that industry who were against the war participated.
So this leads back to my questions I posed to liberals. How do we change the social forces that compel Corporations and high-level managers to do the fucked up shit they do? How do we organize a long-term challenge to this type of economic system and the forces behind it?
First, liberals need to develop a solid critique of the Capitalist system. For those that are activists struggling for “social justice”, if you are under the assumption that “social justice” can be attained by ‘reforming’ Capitalism then you are grossly naïve. We need to come together and develop a long-term strategy for transforming the current economic system. If that strategy does not include a connection to workplace struggles and workplace organizing, then that strategy is a failure before it even begins. We are the ones that do the work on the machines and materials that create the commodities that are sold on the market that eventually realizes profit for the ruling class. That social force that compels them to construct oil pipelines over aquifers, bail out banks, go to war over resources, keep people of color in abject poverty in order to have a ‘reserve industrial army’ is the problem and needs to be challenged and fought against.
So, why is it that protests don’t seem to get results? I’ll tell you. Because without a protest being tied to workplace organizing, then your protest is doomed to produce nothing practical. The nation wide solidarity protests with the folks occupying Wall St. is going to happen October 15; that’s a Saturday! Why don’t they hold it on a Wednesday at 8:00 in the morning? Because people would have to have an organization set in place to be able to implement hundreds of thousands of people walking off their jobs. That would take workplace organizing, which is hard work and takes a long time. You also can’t put a picture of yourself on facebook drawing a social map and holding a workplace committee meeting with your fellow workers. But this is the kind of long-term, unglorified and frustrating work that needs to happen.
If people start to organize their workplaces now, in the future we just might have that infrastructure in place to be able to actually pull something off as bold as walking off our jobs en masse until the ruling class gives in to our demands. Hell, we might even decide to do something as bold and crazy as organize and operate the tractors, trucks, factories, warehouses, hospitals, and schools for people’s needs and not the 1%’s profits!