Capitalism - the real enemy
What exactly is capitalism ?
is an economic system, whereby items are mass produced for sale. The
companies which produce the items are in competition with one another,
and must constantly invest in new machines and other factors of
production ("Capital"). To invest in the new capital, the companies
must make profits - which can only come by paying their workers less
than the value of work ("added value") which their workers exert.
Capitalism is now a world-wide system. The tendency of capitalism to squeeze out smaller producers has meant that the vast bulk of the factors of production (that's the machines and factories used to make goods which we use) are now owned by a tiny minority of people, who have enormous wealth. The rest of us must work for this tiny minority of capitalists, who make their obscene wealth by exploiting our labour power.
Does this cause problems ?
These capitalists are in constant competition with each other, and must constantly increase their profits to survive. Profits can only be increased by increasing the exploitation of those who work for the capitalists, ie the working class.
The exploitation can be increased by reducing wages, increasing working hours, or sacking some workers while making the remaining workers work much harder.
Why are disabled workers often treated
The tendency of capitalism is to exploit and oppress all workers. This tendency increases in times of economic crisis. But to do so would cause a massive backlash by the working class, which the capitalists are scared of.
So they create a "divide and rule" system of oppression, in which workers are encouraged to view a minority of workers - such as black people, immigrants, gay people and, last but not least, people with disabilities - as the cause of their problems.
Are people with disabilities responsible
for the current economic decline?
NO! Neither are black people, immigrants, gay people, Martians, or whoever!
It is in the cyclical nature of capitalism to go into booms and slumps. This is partly because a number of competing companies all attempt to supply the demand for profits, leading to a crisis of overproduction and a slump in the profits of the competing firms as they are left with unsold goods.
It is also in the long-term nature of capitalism for the crises to become more frequent and more severe, as Marx described as "the falling rate of profit".
Are job losses, and discrimination in
employment, the only ways in which people with disabilities are
oppressed by Capitalism?
No. It has already been described how the Capitalist Establishment uses "divide and rule" to distract attention away from the faults in its own system. This leads to many working class people buying the myth that disabled people are "taking their jobs" or are "a drain on the welfare state". Hardly surprising, then, that harrassment of and even physical attacks on disabled people tend to increase drastically in times of economic crisis.
Also, in times of crisis, capitalist states are encouraged to cut back on welfare spending. This leads to cut-backs in healthcare, and in disability benefits - causing a "double whammy" to people with disabilities who are, at the same time, more likely to lose their jobs.
Capitalism is so terrible, why do so many workers support it? And why
do they buy the myth that minority groups are the cause of their
Part of the cause is mass brainwashing by the Capitalist establishment. As Marx said, "the ideas of the ruling class are the dominant ideas in society". The Capitalist establishment has a strangle-hold on the media, the education system, etc. And the fact that so many members of the Establishment have such rotten, backward ideas as disabled-ism and racism, lends a false credence to such poisonous bulls**t. This, however, is only part of the story. We live in an artificial world, in which people - whether as individuals or as groups - are forced to compete for artificially "scarce" resources such as jobs and housing. This contrasts with humanity's co-operative nature, and our life in an un-natural state makes us think and act in un-natural ways - what Marx called Alienation. This alienation is makes us more susceptible to establishment brainwashing, and at the same time causes such perverted ideas as disablism to be spread throughout the working class.
Can we do anything to change this?
As I say, it is in the nature of Capitalism to go into crisis, and then to scapegoat minority groups for the havoc which it has wreaked on millions of people's lives. Thankfully, such ideas break down whenever workers struggle against the system, notably during strikes. The only way to permanently end the scapegoating and the economic havoc, however, is if we destroy capitalism.
That's a big task ... Where do we start ?
The power is within us, the working class, to destroy the system which is exploiting and oppressing us.
But we cannot do it as individuals. We must act collectively. So a start is to join the Socialist Workers Party.
We must also get involved in every strike, every struggle against capitalist businesses, and make links with every fight against racism, homophobia, and every other form of discrimination.
Black and white, gay and straight, male and female, young and old, disabled and able bodied - Unite and Fight !
What constitutes "Capital" ?
Capital is the machines, land, monetary reserves, and other non-labour items used by capitalists to produce goods and services to sell for profit. It is wrong to argue that all machines used to make work easier, or indeed possible, are "capital". A hammer and screwdriver used for DIY do not count as "capital" because, although it is used as a tool to enhance the effects of one's labour, the end product is for personal use and is not sold, for profit or otherwise. If all tools are capital, you may as well describe a washing machine, vacuum cleaner or bottle of washing-up liquid as "capital"!
Is the use of Capital inherently wrong ?
It's not the use of labour-enhancing tools that is wrong, it is how their use is implemented under Capitalism. Machines could easily be used to give us all an improved standard of living, by producing more goods in less time, and giving us all more economic goods and more free time. Under capitalism, however, the competition between companies forces each to keep investing in new capital, paid for by increasing the rate of exploitation of the workforce. The workforce can be exploited more by making us work harder, reducing the number of workers (so the rest have to work harder for the same money), reducing real wages, or all of the above. That is wrong !
Are we against technological progress ?No! We welcome new technological developments which make our life easier, and improve our choice of entertainment and leisure. We certainly welcome new developments such as electric wheelchairs, loop systems and text readers for blind people, blood glucose monitoring systems, video sub titles, etc. But we believe that technological innovation should be driven by the needs of working class people, not the greed of the capitalist ruling class.
Who are the rich ?
To be truly "rich", a person needs to have so much money that they do not need to work to obtain a decent standard of living, they can afford to live on the money they have saved. Generally speaking, the rich also use their money to give them power - overtly through political donations, less overtly through exerting control over those who work for them. Just because your work mate has a posh car or house, or has a new DVD recorder, does not mean we would consider them "rich".
Command economies also exploit their workers, despite having state monopolies. Why?
Command economies such as the former USSR (often mistakenly described as "socialist") do have monopoly industries inside their own borders. But they also need to compete with the rest of the world. To gain much needed foreign capital, products made by state monopolies in state capitalist countries, were competing on the world market with those made by private capitalist multinational companies. To compete effectively, these state capitalist inductries were as reliant on exploiting their workforce as the private capitalists were. This situation was aggravated by the arms race, meaning the former USSR and its allies needed foreign capital for military development.
Please note: This is our view of capitalism, take it or leave it. Granted, it is not an in-depth analysis of how capitalism has developed over the last 2 centuries, and does not go heavily into economic theory. But, at the end of the day, this is a disability rights website, not an Economics lesson! If you want a more in-depth analysis of capitalism, try the following links:
Back to Red Disability political articles