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Open letter to some anti-capitalists

MAKEYOURMARK are part of the Dissent! Network of resistance against the G8.  The group adheres to the Hallmarks of Peoples’ Global Action which call for a rejection of capitalism through civil disobedience and non-violent direct action.

Dear Friends,
I attended your meeting in Carlisle last night.  It was good that so many people had turned out.  I have sympathy with your organisation’s objectives, but a few comments about your strategy.

I thought much of your analysis of capitalism as a system that can only put profit before people was correct, as well as the relation of capitalism to the issues of AIDS, water availability and poverty in Africa and South America.  However, I have problems with the idea of nations as victims of capitalism.  Less developed nations are the losers in competition against large industrialised nations and the majority of people in those countries suffer because of it, but the state in either type of nation represents the dominant economic interests.  Indigenous capitalists in the less developed nations are fighting for themselves, for domination of local resources against multinational corporations – both of which wish to continue the exploitation of people and natural resources.  The corollary is that you are supporting small nations against big nations, small capitalists against big capitalists, Robert Mugabe or King Mswati III against George Bush or Silvio Berlusconi for example – and in that I fail to see a rejection of capitalism. 

You made an excellent point in your presentation about the man-made laws of capitalism being assumed to be natural laws and therefore unchangeable.  I believe that this point also applies to the nation and inseparably the state which are also man-made constructs that have arisen to their present form with the need to manage the conflicting interests within capitalism.  In short, the state is part of capitalism not separate from it.  Which leads to another point in your presentation where you considered that state-owned industries are worth defending.  The experience of state-run industries in this country and elsewhere is no utopia, in fact in some cases it has been a disaster.  State-owned industries mostly don’t have much difference in character to private industries, they consist of capital put forward by the state which wage or salary workers operate and the goods or services they produce are either sold or rationed out by bureaucrats.  Neither for the consumer, as goods or services are still allocated according to ability-to-pay or by handout, or the producer, still embroiled in the labour-capital conflict, is the state ownership of capital a rejection of capitalism.

In one of your slides you asked whether the G8 should be reformed or abolished, I don’t think either will ‘make poverty history’ or allow people to come before profit, nor will ‘dropping the debt’ or rearranging trade rules.  Capitalism existed before the G8 and it would exist without the G8.  You’ve recognised that asking for reforms won’t work, but I don’t really see how making your own reforms through civil disobedience and direct action will change the fundamental social relations of capitalism.  It is capitalism – the system of minority ownership of the means of producing and distributing goods and services and allocation according to ability to pay – that causes poverty and war, breeds racism and alienation, and hampers social organisation.  If you were to abolish the G8 then another organisation could take its place or they could meet in secret – back to square one.  I feel what is important is not challenging aspects of capitalism and trying to change them, but challenging the system as whole.  

One of the slogans you displayed in the meeting room was about a small number of committed people making a difference.  However well intentioned, I don’t believe a minority of society can run society in the interests of the majority.  The goal of those who reject capitalism should be to break the consensus that supports capitalism and organize politically – democratically – to a replace private ownership of the means of producing goods and services with common ownership, production for profit with production for need and ‘can’t pay, can’t have’ with free access - that is to replace capitalism with socialism.   I think that a society run for the majority must be made by the majority and the shortest distance between capitalism and an alternative society is a straight line.  Let’s campaign for the abolition of capitalism and not misdirect our energies in trying to humanise capitalism, which can only – as you recognise – put profit before people.

I’m hoping to get to Edinburgh for the G8 protest but not to beg for, or batter, a nicer kind of capitalism out of the G8 leaders. I’ll be trying to get socialist ideas across to all those there who recognise that the world is in a mess and are willing to do something about it.  I hope I’ll see you there, maybe I’ll give you a leaflet or a copy of the Socialist Standard.

Yours for world socialism
Piers Hobson