A Critique of Capitalism in the 21st Century Post-Industrial United States
F. Anton Drozdov
Marx once emphasized the need to not simply analyze the world, but to change it. Thus, the endless pursuit of knowledge is a fruitless endeavor if we are but to read, and never to apply. How does one take the knowledge acquired from endless study of the texts written, and put it into meaningful action? That is, how does one go about engaging in praxis, a perhaps grossly gate-kept term that quite simply means to do, rather than simply to study (that is, to study theory).
The shortcomings of capitalism are not an inherently unfamiliar idea, given the way the mode of production operates. The fight against the system is not purely systematic, but rather individual as well. Whether or not it is perceived as such, the daily material desperation and survival of the working class under capitalism is a violent response to the system acting as it might. The cogs of the machine must continue to move, and any pause of the laborers will result in them being crushed beneath the wheels. However, the notion that we must solely fight individually will risk the shattering of a potential, essential movement that has the ability to threaten the capital interests of the ruling class. As such, the unity of the working class must not only describe itself in a militaristic sense, but a daily, direct sense as well. The traditional conception of revolution must be removed from our subconscious, replaced by a meaningful, daily active effort to mobilize those who are perhaps unable to realize their exploitation.
Capitalism breeds a variety of subclasses, simply by its nature, which may later be considered two major classes, proletariat and bourgeoisie. As such it becomes the unspoken responsibility of individuals of higher proletarian “class” to take their inevitable surpluses of time, and utilize them to properly study the anti-capitalist theory that is available. This breeds a set of individuals who are knowledgeable on the indispensable information contained in the works of Marx, Engels, and countless other anti-capitalists. At this point, the task becomes communication. That is, communication between the upper and lower proletariat, in which the information learned is then spoken into action. It is impossible to properly overthrow the capitalist state with the absence of a unified working class. The tool of surplus time must be exploited, before time is wasted for the working men of the world.
The Concepts of Surplus Time and Individualism in All But Thought
As the term might suggest, surplus time simply refers to the disposable time available to certain members of proletariat, who are privy to the idea of self-indulgence. The current capitalist climate has created an environment of individualism in all but thought. The individual isolates themselves, pits themselves in vicious competition against their neighbor as a means to rise to the top in a bloodthirsty system. The result is the unfortunate irony of individualism in all but thought, a position in which the proletarian is able to focus solely on their individual physical pursuits, but seldom to never their mental ones.
It is essential that surplus time be seen from a lens of privilege. The understanding that a portion of the working class possesses a surplus of disposable time implies the necessary use of such time to take the responsibility of educating oneself to enact change through mutual aid networks, through simple communication to those who possess no such surplus time. To ask the proletarian to educate himself is something of an insult, and is an ineffective tool of force. We may read all we desire, but this will not bring about serious forces of change lest we take our understanding and apply it in an effective manner.
Individualism in the capitalist structure of society refers only to the idea that we fear our fellow proletarian, for they may crush us to rise in the ranks of the class hierarchy of capitalism. Apart from the unfortunate reality that the capitalist class relies on inheritance as a means of holding material wealth, this also breeds an environment in which no proletarian is able to think for themselves. They become unable to sit and ponder, to properly manifest an imagination. One of the most essential facets of the human mind is its necessity to remain creative to stimulate its activity. Capitalism does not concern itself with such creativity, but rather only with the labor power a proletarian can provide. As such, the working class faces an epidemic of the absence of free thought and time. The responsibility of creating a dream to be achieved falls on the shoulders of the upper proletarian, who must weaponize his surplus time to uplift his fellow proletarians, to allow them to create their desired alternatives to the capitalist system.
The Current Predicament of the Working Class
Though the criticism of capitalism is approached from a rightful angle of labor exploitation, it becomes imperative that modern critique perhaps observe the system for what it is: an effective cudgel that aims to crush proper revolutionary sentiment through the use of material desperation. It is not “broken”, but rather a well-oiled machine that intends to create the environment it has. It has always been this way, and now more than ever the sentiments of anger due to the state’s subservience to capitalist interests must be weaponized in a manner that is inclusive of the collective working class, rather than reserved for the mindless, endless observation of those in the culture of academia.
Capitalism effectively creates a system in which the working class is unable to, even for a moment, realize its position of financial servitude due to its position of artificial material desperation. One of capitalism’s contradictions is its survival on destruction and dysfunction. This includes the necessity for a proletariat that is in constant state of financial desperation, in order for them to continuously pursue the capitalist’s work. A byproduct of such an environment is the inability, as a result of lack of time, to set aside time to evaluate one’s personal position. It becomes impossible to pity for one’s exploited state.
However, to say that this as a blanket statement is a dangerous act, and quickly leads one to the conclusion that all hope is lost. Here once again comes the necessary application of the words of Marx into practice. The phrase “you have nothing to lose but your chains” must be held steadfast, and never abandoned. Rather than treat this as a comforting epithet, it must be understood that the application of such concepts into reality is superior to simply printing the words on a t-shirt, and selling merchandise that is “revolutionary”. A revolution bred out of an unclothed proletariat must be preferable to the notion of a material revolution.
The Use of Counterhegemony to Alter the Narrative
Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci famously proposed the notion of cultural hegemony, the idea that the capitalist class maintains its ultimate rule over the working class through the utilization of cultural institutions to adjust the narrative to favor the capitalist system, ultimately normalizing what can only be described as the crumbling, dying stages of an empire. The power of the promotion of such vernacular leads to subconscious acceptance by the masses, the granting of consent to exploitation, ultimately culminating in a lack of action despite the necessity for it.
In today’s capitalist application, the proletariat is heavily intoxicated by material wealth, convinced that the availability of material possessions implies the availability of individual freedom. The meaning of freedom has been distorted, perverted to serve the capitalist narrative. Rather than defining liberty as the notion that an individual may choose to abstain from participation in the capitalist infrastructure, it has now been rewritten, and instead describes a drugged state of fascination with meaningless gadgets, material goods sold to the working class as a means to distract the masses from their exploitation by the capitalist.
The upper proletarian must utilize its knowledge and available time to engage in counter hegemony, in order to challenge the narrative of the status quo. It becomes essential to engage in ideological warfare, to viciously attack the narrative that could be described as what is. It is impossible to manifest an alternative to capitalism’s reality without first imagining it. Since the capitalist system has taken away not only the general act of play, but even the disposable time of individuals’ abilities to do so, one of the greatest predicaments of the modern proletarian is their inability to begin to imagine a reality to challenge the one that exists.
Thus, the collectivization of the proletariat becomes paramount. Those with surplus time must weaponize it, as a means to imagine what could be rather than what is, in order to challenge the common, accepted notion of capitalism being “the superior organization of labor”. A collectivized working class is unified not only physically, but mentally as well. Rather than perceive unity as a military of physical force, we must understand the potential of physical and ideological warfare. The greatest mistake is to imagine the revolution simply as a mechanism of blood, rather than a grudging battle of prowess of both physical and mental strength. The greatest victory of the capitalist is the despair of the working class, for in the despair comes the lack of action, the absence of any realization of the true foe of the masses.
Vladimir Lenin argued in favor of a select portion of the working class that was deemed more class conscious, the “vanguard”, utilizing their profound theoretical knowledge to lead an insurgency through their own radicalization of the working people who were less class conscious. It must then be understood that part of the responsibility of the vanguard is to utilize its class consciousness as a means to verbalize the necessary foes of the proletariat to the proletarian himself. The weaponization of surplus time then becomes paramount.
Though the specific role of the vanguard post-revolution may continuously be debated until the end of time, what the it may do in the momentous years leading up to revolution should not be of great mystery. The use of surplus time is essential to the proper organization of a labor movement powerful enough to bring the everyday operation of capitalism to a shrieking halt. There is a great feeling of revolution within the heart of the proletariat, however the feeling of revolution and the action of organizing the revolution itself are two vastly different things. It then begs the question, what is the purpose of a more class-conscious portion of the proletariat if not to organize determined anti-capitalist organizations by which the remaining workers may be drawn to the stir of strike and revolution. This is the essential purpose of the vanguard. Without necessary organization from the further radicalized workers, there will never be a true revolution to bring capitalism to its knees.
Methods of Organization
Organization of the working class to revolution is not a simple process. To say that there lies one method of stirring the masses into necessary organizations of labor would be false, and heavily misleading. The very existence as a wage slave beneath the capitalist infrastructure is an essential step to radicalization. However, through the immense efforts of cultural institutions, the state effectively garners consent from the working class, by soothing the masses into subservience through the prolonged de-radicalization by means of misinformation and advertisement. This in itself poses a great threat, and stands as a great interference between the proletariat and revolution. Thus, the organization of labor must first begin with the emphasis on a divestment from mainstream media, which serves as the loudspeaker of the state, enforcing dysfunction, drawn as a “lesser evil”.
As helpless as the average read anti-capitalist may perceive themselves, there comes a point in which the simple act of conversation is itself an act of praxis. However, revolutionary catalysts must not be reserved to conversation as the sole means of radicalization. Nonetheless, there are essential methods of speech that will undeniably aid in the weaponization of anti-capitalist speech. The capitalists have employed the use of jargon and verbose propaganda for decades to further solidify the intended positive narrative of the capitalist system. As such, employing a similar technique of counter propaganda will become necessary, and as such the following techniques are to be utilized:
Personal Experience: In the context of debate or conversation, personal experience is a linguistic tool that is effective in swaying the discussion in your favor. In the early stages of discussion it may seem difficult to truly rouse emotions through personal experience, especially if you have no true personal experiences of your own, or of those you may know, that you may be able to cite. As such, the use of personal experience becomes more effective in the later stages of persuasion or teaching. Regardless, the personal experiences under capitalism are ones of horror: the two most common personal experiences may fall under either the category of financial desperation or imperialism, perhaps both.
Discussion-based organization is most effective if employed by individuals most comfortable with speech. As such, any individual not so at ease with the notion of conversation with strangers must then become more reserved to other roles of organization, through the weaponization of alternative skillsets.
While it may seem that publication of specific organization is counter-productive, it is necessary that anti-capitalist narratives remain modern and with the times. It comes as no surprise that many individuals within the proletariat are unable to fathom internalizing the works of Marx or Engels, individuals who have been deceased for over a century. The modernization of anti-capitalist narratives allows for them to become more appealing to the working class, who currently stands alienated by the culture of academia.
Perhaps one of the most colossal of pitfalls is to assume that there is an affinity to the study of texts to better understand anti-capitalist sentiment. In the capitalist system, the arts and culture become irrelevant, as they are seen simply as “fruitless hobbies”, ones that are not exploitable, and must be reserved for leisure. This notion stems from the desire, the lust of endless profit. Where there is minimal art, even there lies the perversion of expression through commodification. As such, engaging in modern publication or radicalization through the arts is in itself a counter-hegemonic strategy, and thus praxis.
Active Field Organization
The most dangerous of organization techniques comes a literal, physical application of theory. Rather than simply verbalizing the anger and sentiments of hatred to the working class, this technique concerns itself with the formation of organizations to attract the working class, to rally them to the cries of revolution through labor power; thus is the vision of Vanguardism through class warfare achieved.
The dangers with such a method are tied into the fact that the capitalist will not so easily allow such opposition to gain power. However, ideology is the most powerful tool, and as such the ruling class can only fend off such advances for so long, before it becomes impossible to challenge them. As proposed by Gramsci, the ideological warfare waged is perhaps the most powerful variant of the class warfare. The capitalists may kill the worker, but they may never kill the idea, the beliefs.
Molding Potential Vanguardism to the Modern Age
At the core of anti-capitalist thought, there must be the understanding that the racial issues currently plaguing the furthest capitalist states are existent due to their embeddedness into the core of capitalism itself. As such, the application of vanguardism, regardless of whether or not it is looked upon positively or negatively, must be molded to properly take this into account, elevating people of color to positions of organizational power within the vanguard. Failing to do so risks the permanent existence of subconscious superiority within any system that follows a capitalist collapse, or at least the risk of failing to address remaining race antagonisms weaponized and exasperated under the capitalist mode of production.
Within the anti-capitalist community there lies the individual who dreams of revolution, but solely in the fashion of media presentation. Thus, their world view on the revolution is based on the subtle intoxication by pop culture, which consistently portrays the revolutionary spirit as being led by the white man, lest it be labeled as “a savage uprising”. He who dreams of leading the revolution is not your comrade, but a warning, a potential rot to account for.
The leader does not create the revolution, rather the revolution creates the leader. However, limiting such leaders to a single race shall inevitably establish a dangerous precedent of superiority. The theory of vanguardism should allow revolutions to, rather than creating leaders as individuals, create leaders as organizations, and through them the individuals. Thus comes the necessity of representation within the vanguard, particularly in the context of racially diverse capitalist states, which rely on the creation of disunity within the proletariat through racial stereotyping and prejudice.
It is therefore essential that the notion of malleability of ideology be enforced in the new push for vanguardism. To suggest that a Marxist in the 21st century shall apply Marx’s literature exactly as Lenin might have is a common, and farcically untrue statement that must be viscously denounced by the vanguard in the modern day. As capitalism itself stands now, automation has become an everyday luxury, or rather a potential luxury. The application of Marx’s statement from each according to their ability, to each according to their need must consider the new age in which the working class may become privy to the luxuries of less work in a post-scarcity age, free of the capitalist chokehold. Though, in this similar method we must also acknowledge the disturbing resemblance between the 21st century post industrial United States and pre industrial Tsarist Russia in 1917, and as such we may look to Lenin’s revolutionary theory as a powerful guide to organize.
Combatting the Privatization and Patenting of Knowledge and Information
Within the anti-capitalist movement there must be a push for the publicization of all academia, particularly Marxist and anti-capitalist theory. Yes, the argument detailed earlier in favor of rejecting a reliance on theory for the entirety of the proletariat may be maintained, however the vanguard itself must find itself in a position to obtain and distribute the available knowledge if necessary, both pre and post revolution. The notion that knowledge pertaining to anti-capitalist thought is unique to an individual is nothing short of ignorant. We do not stand on a particular highground to others, but rather we document our disturbing observations of the Capitalist global economy.
Capitalism has enforced the idea that all humans are entirely unique in thought. This is both true and false. Yes, human creativity is itself unique, as no two individuals shall manifest the identical artistic creations. The false implication is that all humans have unique thoughts about the human condition and how to address it to improve it. This cannot be a realistic vision. Humanity suffers the same fate of existence, and as such the thoughts regarding the human condition and existence shall be greatly similar between two separate individuals. Once again the documentation of methodology lends itself as a source of an individual documenting their observation, and proposing their solution to the ailments.
With such a concept in mind, it must then be understood that the privatization of academia under the capitalist structure enforces the notion that human suffering is unique, subconsciously cementing the construct of individualism. Here once again the capitalist class aims to divide the proletariat, causing disunity byway of division of thought, by pushing meritocracy and individuality amongst the laborers. Thus, the vanguard must, in its path of radicalization of the working class and harbinging of revolution, aim to demolish all private establishments whose sole aims are to keep necessary knowledge locked behind the gilded gates of academic institutions.
Putting the Necessity of Authority in the Context of 21st Century
A great grievance within the anti-communist narrative is the concept of “authoritarianism”. In tandem with the methods of organization mentioned previously, verbal organization must include the establishment of the current predicament, in which the authority of capitalism blackmails the working class, enforcing the necessity to “work or die”, byway of systematic structure, rather than by the gun. However, such violence of the system is no different than the violence of the firing squad.
In the context of the 21st century, it is essential to understand that authoritarian anti-capitalism is necessary for survival in a capitalist world economy. Western anti-capitalists are themselves subconscious victims to such narratives, in which they leap to the indictment of all socialist states, using the justification of “authoritarian rule”. The denouncement of authoritarian anti-capitalism outside of the United States by the American leftists is nothing short of ignorant to the realities of living in a world where a capitalist nation like the United States exists as a threat to all socialist projects.
The push for anti-authoritarian ideologies over authoritarian ones is in itself an anti-dialectical, and thus anti-Marxist position, as it rejects the necessity for a dictatorship of the proletariat, whose aim shall be to facilitate the abolition of the contradictions of capitalism through a tyranny of the majority, the proletariat, over the minority, the bourgeoisie. Only after the class hierarchy and antagonisms of capitalism have been abolished can the state begin to wither away, free of the threat of counter revolution. Such a threat is viciously and obviously apparent in the 21st United States, owing to the years of conditioning by the bourgeois media conglomerates, which have tirelessly pushed to build a hegemonic fabric of capitalist status quo, in which the workers fall in love with the system that exploits them; this shall result in the inevitable intolerance to communist revolution and organization, and thus any worker rebellion shall be met with opposition, counter revolution, not solely from the bourgeoisie but from the reactionaries and class traitors as well, hence the necessity for a powerful worker state apparatus to oppose such threats.
We must observe recent history to develop an understanding of the necessity of authority in the face of capitalist hegemony. In the pursuit of radicalization, it becomes essential to reference such events of the failings of anti-authoritarian anti-capitalist states. Whether it is the observation of the sabotage of the USSR by nationalists like Nikita Khrushchev, or of violent imperialist intervention to overthrow socialist leaderships, detailing the timelines that led to the dissolve of socialist states in the past is necessary to identify the mistakes, and to observe methods of improvement future socialist projects. The ability to detail such potentials for growth shall only aid the argument in the process of radicalization of the proletariat, as a means to ground the argument in a human instinct of improvement.
The Humanization of Anti-Capitalism
Per the policies of the Red Scare, McCarthyite era, communism and communists have become points of fearmongering, in which all communists are painted as violent sociopaths who desire nothing but the destruction of “free society”. In alignment with McCarthyism, the cultural institutions have established this narrative into the hegemonic vernacular that is blindly accepted by the masses in countries like the United States.
Part of the task to radicalize must be the establishment of the humanity engrained in the desire to liberate the working class from under the boot of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. As the work of the state has been to feed propaganda to the masses, the class conscious proletarian must operate in a similar, counteractive measure of appeal to humanity, incidentally a necessary facet of the anti-capitalist ideology. However, the injection of emotion and request for empathetic understanding is perhaps necessary, as a means to solicit a proper response from the worker, who has likely not yet manifested his exploited position of servitude within the class hierarchy. That is to say, he has not become class conscious.
To simply unleash a slur of anti-capitalist thought onto the proletarian is to alienate them, to cast them into a shadow of doubt regarding their knowledge and understanding of their predicament, or perhaps to incite a cognitively dissonant response as a result of their world view being challenged. Rather than employing the anti-capitalist knowledge one has amassed through the reading of the literature, a class conscious individual must instead speak with the proletarian as one might any other individual. The worker is a human, victim to the same fate of the other workers in the capitalist state, to varying degrees. As such, speaking to them in a manner that aims to engage is perhaps one of the most powerful linguistic tools the revolutionary proletarian has. A great pitfall of the anti-capitalist is his desire to speak at, rather than to teach, his peers. A vital step in establishing a human side to the anti-capitalist argument is by first altering the mindset of conversation, shifting it towards understanding and empathy.
The notion that all those who are not in favor of alternatives to the capitalist system are selfish is simply untrue, to an extent. Many working people are simply unaware, victim to violently effective propaganda campaigns like those of the Red Scare. Thus, entering a conversation with such a thought in mind will only aid in the ability to verbalize concerns regarding the capitalist state, and help to avoid jumping to pointed attacks against the individual.
However, this shall specifically be applied to the individual who has a clear concern for worker rights, but is unable to manifest their hatred towards capitalism, which hinders progress. It shall not be applied to those who attempt to justify their bigotry towards racial, ethnic, religious or sexual groups. There has come with capitalism the narratives of divide, in which the white worker is unable to fathom the idea that they have more in common with the black worker than the white capitalist. While there must be an area for improvement, a space for the revolution to attempt to allow the hateful individual to grow, it must also be understood that wasting the energy of radicalization on such workers beyond a certain length of time is simply not a fruitful endeavor.
Finally, in appealing to the humanity of the proletariat, there must be an effort to normalize the individual as anti-capitalist. There has been established the belief that communists are inherently serious individuals. Those who have found their calling the fight against capitalism know this to be false, and must use their newfound knowledge to counter such narratives. There lies a communist in your community. They could be at your local café; they could work at the university down the road; they could be closest friend. The narrative of the seriousness of anti-capitalists on a daily basis is one that has fueled the lack of appeal in such ideologies. Breaking such barriers down is an essential step in the radicalization of one’s peers.
The fight to dismantle the capitalist structure is truly a seemingly daunting task, rightfully so. The capitalist class has fine tuned its ability to sedate the masses, through the control of narrative to establish a sense of “normalcy”. Thus is the survival of capitalism through a hegemonic lens. It has become the duty of those deemed more class conscious among the proletariat to then fight tooth and nail to fight the narrative.
Engaging in counterhegemony is no simple task; it requires an understanding of history, allowing for one to reference specific historical events to explain and/or justify positions, and thus fighting revisionism is necessary. In this regard it becomes important to support the development of the vanguard, allowing the proletarians of higher class consciousness to rise within the ranks of established organizations, or to establish their own organizations, as a means to foster a growing revolutionary movement. There will inevitably be a portion of the proletariat that is more class conscious, who must employ such class consciousness to subsequently radicalize the remaining proletariat through this established vanguard, leading the workers to revolution.
Time is one of the most valuable resources available, and not all individuals in the proletariat are privy to such a privilege. As such, those with surplus time must weaponize it, take advantage of it to verse themselves on the theory of anti-capitalist thought and radicalize those without such surplus time. Only then can a portion of the working class be required to develop an initial understanding of alternatives to the capitalist system.
The greatest error the class-conscious proletarians can make is to assume radicalization is a grueling process. The evolution is similar to a dam; one must destroy the dam, upon which the water of realization shall flood out. There is seldom the occasion in which a radicalized individual returns to their sense of comfort and trust in the capitalism. Understanding this is necessary to the process of radicalization. We must therefore never strive for anything less than complete honesty. The 20th century was a prolonged period of destruction in the trust of an anti-capitalist system. The task now is to re-establish this trust, and doing so is no different than engaging in any other persuasive discussion.
If one is not to persuade through verbal means, there still lies the vital place of published persuasion; articles, independent media, film, all of which are effective mediums through which one might engage in the persuasion of the building of trust in the anti-capitalist position.
While it may seem that such change is out of our individual control, the opposite is true. Each proletarian has a level of control within their grasp that is waiting to be utilized. Every proletarian has the potential to build an anti-capitalist sentiment around them. Every proletarian has the power to incite serious change. They must be willing to never allow the hopelessness of capitalism weigh on their shoulders. It is the responsibility of every abled and learned worker to seize the opportunity of the encouragement of growth on their fellow comrades.
We have a world to win, there is no turning back. There is no place for hopelessness, only the hope and incentive that is necessary for change. The incentive is there, it is our task to build the hope, for without it there is no reason to push, only to despair. The capitalist’s true enemy is a worker driven by hope for change, that supports their neighbor, that aims to build trust amongst themselves and the other workers.
Foster the vision of revolution, and work to achieve it. Only then shall the workers of the world finally liberate themselves from the iron boot of the capitalist.