A few days ago I had the privilege of stumbling across a book in an online library. It was called Capitalism: A Structural Genocide, by Garry Leech.1 It had a foreboding cover that may even make some chuckle; a skull and cross bones on an all black background with the title written in red and white. I clicked and began reading; ‘Might as well see what this guy’s got to say’, I thought. After a very short period of time, I must admit I was hooked. He was referencing some of my favourite writers and philosophers, he’d travelled, worked and lived in the Majority World, or the Global South as he calls it the book, and had come to much the same realisation I had in my work, travel and study; It’s the elites of our western countries [USA, UK, France, Russia; the Global North] who dominate the elites of their countries [Bolivia, Libya, Cambodia, Mongolia; the Global South].3 Once I had understood this comprehensively, I wondered long and hard how it was that this was the case. How are more than ten million women and children dying every year from preventable disease?4 And why is there such large economic disparity between nations?5
If you didn’t know already, there is a link between these two questions. An overwhelmingly convincing one which, I feel, we as the general human populace need to better understand if we are to put a stop to this racket. The overwhelming majority of us are pray to this beast. It is not one evil all powerful man, or a singular characters idea, it’s not one army, or any guerrilla group. The greatest threat to not only the human race but to our entire ecosystem is the same force that propels us and compels us to perpetuate endless expansion; to foster the means to give millions a harsh brutal and gasping death every year. It disables and retards billions of souls serendipitous potential and ability, forcing them into an elaborate slavery. It helps concoct the means for us to be fooled through elaborate media parades which is but one foul play of this tyrant. This entity pays no heed to lines on a map. It eats forests whole, turns rivers black, and breeds injustice and inequality for the majority. It’s been encroaching on us for half a millennia. It’s oft likely starting point is with the acquisition of our property, then our food and water and finally our intellectual property and our minds.1
This ogre is Capital. This structure targets the poor, destroys our shared ecosystem in the name of profit. It benefits a few and subjugates the great many of us to poverty. The drive for capitalism to maximise profits leads it to see natural resources, ones much needed for all of our livelihoods, as something to be exploited in a grossly unsustainable manner. On these grounds alone it cannot and should not be viewed by any of us as a legitimate way to organise a society. Canadian activist Ian Angus goes so far as to state that;
No society that permits that to happen can be called civilized. No social order that causes it to happen deserves to survive.6
As Leech addresses in his book, the way capitalism is headed is into a very dismal future indeed. There are of course people working to find solutions, but unfortunately many of them are within the system. These potential solutions are often a fantastically creative means of sustaining a relatively small community, yet essentially they’re really just fighting fire with fire, especially when the economy is concerned.
In Catalonia, Catalans are beginning to create an alternative social system that is rethinking not only production and consumption, but the economy, housing, and education. Some of their ideas are, I feel, moving towards a utopian society, one where people share, and actually obtain what they deserve through honest means and I look forward to seeing how their ideas develop. Yet as I said earlier, and as the director of one of the ethical banks, Fiare states, ‘…the project has to be profitable or it won’t grow.’7 This is a real shame as I think they’re not looking beyond a monetary system for the answer. And there is a great need to. As reform made within the system that favours basic human needs but diminishes profit, is always going to be at odds with the internal logic of capitalism (and we know what happens to those that are at odds with the internal logic). Something Leech states very clearly;
…given that the capitalist system constitutes structural genocide, how can mere reforms applied to the genocidal system bring about an end to structural genocide? The answer is, of course, they cannot.2
Now Leech goes on to suggest a revolution, quoting the likes of Karl Marx and Che Guavera. I don’t necessarily disagree with him, but I’ll skip all that here and now and try to focus on what can be done without resorting to a pesky word that has been engineered to bring about uncomfortable feelings. Now a lot of what I’ve written about above you may not necessarily agree with, but the facts are hard to deny, if you have a better understanding and wish to set me on the straight (cough) and narrow (very narrow) capital path then I’m all ears. Though the general understanding I’ve come to accept is that one of the best chances we have is for us all to begin attempting to comprehend this dire need for a new beginning. To start searching for an alternative. They are out there, some may be old ideas that need rehashing, some so new that they may initially alarm and confuse, but importantly we will need to look beyond the lies and myths circulated by our current dominant ideology. Otherwise I fear the path we’re on does not involve a happy ending.
I’ve included a reference list and some suggested further reading for anyone interested:
1 Leech, G., 2012, Capitalism: A Structural Genocide, Zed Books, London & New York.
2 Ibid, p. 111.
3 Danaher, K., 2004, 10 Reasons to Abolish the IMF and World Bank, Seven Stories Press, New York.
4 Black, R.E., Morris, S.S., Bryce, J., 2003, ‘Where and why are there ten million children dying every year?’, The Lancet, Vol 361, June 28, 2003, [online] <http://www.who.int/maternal_child_adolescent/documents/pdfs/lancet_child_survival_10mill_dying.pdf>
5 Pasquali, V., 2012, Wealth Distribution and Income Inequality by Country, Global Finance, <http://www.gfmag.com/tools/global-database/economic-data/11944-wealth-distribution-income-inequality.html#axzz2g0XMg681>
6 Ian Angus, 2008, ‘If Socialism Fails: The Spectre of 21st Century Barbarism’,Socialist Voice, 27 July 2008.
7 Conill, J., Castells, M., Cardenas, A., Sevron, L., 2012, ‘Beyond the Crisis: The Emergence of Alternative Economic Practices’, in Castells, M., Caraҫa, J., Cardoso, G., Aftermath: Cultures of the Economic Crisis, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 210-248.
Potential Further Reading (in no particular order):
- Collier, P., 2008, The Bottom Billion: Why The Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can BeDone About It, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Zizek, S., 2009, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, Verso, London.
- Illich, I., 1971, Deschooling Society, Marion Boyars, London & New York.
- Sir Thomas More, 1507, Utopia, Dover Publications, New York.
- Ferguson, N., 2012, The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die, Penguin Group, New York.
- Stuckler, D., Basu, S., 2013, The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills, Penguin Group, New York
- Chomsky, N., 1991, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies, House of Anansi, Toronto.
- Freire, P., 1970, Pedagogy of The Oppressed, Penguin Books, New York.
- Schumacher, E.F., 1973, Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered, Vintage/Random House, London.
- Mann, G., 2013, Disassembly Required: A Field Guide to Actually Existing Capitalism, AK Press, Edinburgh.
- Sharzer, G., 2012, No Local: Why Small-Scale Alternatives Won’t Change the World, Zero Books, Winchester.