Posted by: J.V. | June 14, 2012

On Anti-Capitalism

In the past few weeks, I’ve read a few people who wrote that, although they see the injustices that are inherent to our capitalist system, they don’t feel they can identify as anti-capitalist. They buy thing and thus participate in the system by supporting various industries. I can understand why people would see self-identification as anti-capitalist and participation in this system as contradictory. However, since we are very much constrained to participate in the system as a matter of survival, except for a few individuals or groups who have the skills to produce their own food and other necessities and manage to live off the grid, I don’t think that this participation entails acceptance and support of the system.

I am an anti-capitalist. Yes, I buy things. I buy food, clothing, concert tickets, books and camping gear and I pay for travel expenses. That is the system that I’m in for the time being and if I don’t want my son to starve and go to school naked, and if I want to enjoy leisure (yes, leisure is a basic human need), I have to shell out and support some industry or another for the most part. That said, I try to minimise the impact. I buy second hand or from small, local or family run businesses when I can, for example. I also try to support companies that have proven to be ethical.

What being an anti-capitalist means to me is that I’m against a system that is inherently exploitative and oppressive. I’m against a system that profits a wealthy few and maintains their economic and political power. I’m against a system that is stacked against specific segments of the population. I’m against a system that thrives on and perpetuates colonialism, sexism, racism, agism, sizeism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and classism.

I’m willing to work for the dismantlement of such a system so that all people have equal access to resources, to physical, mental and emotional well-being, to community and to self-fulfillment and self-expression. During this struggle though, I will have to continue to buy things. I will continue to try to minimise the impact with the choices I make as a consumer though. I’m particularly interested in the growing barter movement…

I was once accused of being discriminatory by identifying as anti-capitalism by someone who self-identified as a capitalist. They identified as such because they loved to shop. When I asked them if they understood what a capitalist system entailed, they could not reply. They had no notion of how capitalism works. On top of that, they were not exactly a wealthy person – certainly not someone who profited from capitalism.

It’s gotten to this. People think that capitalism entails freedom. The freedom to choose between a million and one brands? The freedom to spend their entire paychecks on goods that they don’t really need? Who is really free in a capitalist society? From my viewpoint, the only freedom in a capitalist system is the freedom to exploit others for one’s own gain. When that freedom is under attack, the privileged few get up in arms with claims of entitlement and nonsense about pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps. They conveniently forget, or obscure, how they have benefitted from a system that is stacked in their favour. They obscure how they have pulled themselves up by other people’s bootstraps, such as the bootstraps of the original caretakers of the land and the bootstraps of the people they continue to exploit for gain. Let us take our boots back and use them to collectively boost each other up so that we can all enjoy fresh and nutricious food, fresh air, clean water, health care and quality education,  decent homes, arts and entertainment, sports and games, community and empowerment.


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