Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sloppy Thinking Day

Max Webertron has just informed me that Saturday November 29th is "Buy Nothing Day"

"Saturday November 29h 2008 is Buy Nothing Day, It's a day where you challenge yourself to switch off from shopping and tune into life. The rules are simple, for 24 hours you will detox from consumerism and live without shopping. Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending! Buy Nothing Day is the biggest 24-hour moratorium against consumerism. People around the world will make a pact to take a break from shopping as a personal experiment or public statement and the best thing is - IT'S FREE!!!"

Right on! Punish an already wheelchair-bound economy and put more people out of work! Great job! This is the smug face of the ideologically decadent, economically and historically ignorant gentrification of the Left. They should try selling this shit to the coal miners in the 70's who couldn't afford to buy their kids a half-decent Christmas present.

We can quite comfortably leave buying nothing to the billions of people suffering in abject poverty the world over, thanks.

Anyone with some spare cash should spend it to help poor working families keep their jobs. This, 'Buy Nothing Day" people, is real 21st Century Socialism in action. Every Middle Class Lefty should put their money where their mouth is.

I personally know a few families who would benefit greatly from other people splashing out, not on them, but on themselves. If you are not too badly off, spend a bit at Christmas, help the retailers stay afloat and help people keep their jobs. There has never been an easier and more personally rewarding way to help the poor! All you have to do is buy yourselves stuff.

I am quite serious. These kind of simplistic 'Anti-Capitalist' ideas come from people who have never considered the other side of the argument because they don't know what that argument is. They don't know what Capitalism is. You could never accuse Marx of not knowing his enemy. Capitalists learned plenty from his acute analysis.

The best thing these 'anti-capitalists' can do is go back to the classroom, read Marx, read Weber's 'Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism', familiarise themselves with the basic tenets of Keynesian and Monetarist theory, read up on the history of the labour movement, which in the UK was born not of Communist theory but of the workforce of the industrial revolution taking it upon themselves, through solidarity, strong leadership (sorry Anarchists) and force of numbers, to get a better deal. Anti-capitalists need to understand the history of peasant's revolts, the Diggers, worker's co-operatives, trade unionism and the importance of visionary philanthropists and Christian groups such as the Fabian Society in sermonising the moral necessity of of non-revolutionary, non-violent social reform.

Then, when they've all done their homework to a reasonable standard they can re-think their facile stance and see me after class.


Wes, editor of Attack!!! magazine pointed "I usually buy nothing several days of the week." Same here. Didn't even think of that. Do these Anti-Capitalists harbour guilty secrets? Spiralling credit card debts and cupboards full of designer shoes they never wear? Doth the lady protest too much?


Dieselboy said...

Hey! Love your music! Love the blog.

I don't personally go out of my way to avoid spending money on "Buy Nothing Day", but I did notice in your argument a few flaws, if you don't mind me saying so.

Through the collective struggle of the working class against the capitalists since the early 19th century, more money has been put into the hands of the working class.

With extra money in the worker's pockets, earned through ANTI-CAPITALIST ACTION, the capitalists did what any self respecting capitalist would do: they sought to take that money from the workers, AGAIN.

OH, and by the way, part - if not the biggest part - of the problem with the whole capitalist machine is that it amounts to exploitation of labor. The capitalists own the means of production and distribution, "legally", and thus force - either through threat of poverty or through threat of violence (in order to prevent theft - that's what the police are for!) - the non-owners to "sell their labor". Under more equitable circumstances there would be no grossly wealthy landowners "allowing" the pathetic masses to compete for the chance to kiss their asses, and make a profit while doing it.

Anyway, so now the capitalists have to pay the darned workers more money or they'll stop working (a problem that in the old days - say, the early 20th century - hiring a handful of armed strikebreakers would have fixed!). So, other workers, tired of the stick now see a carrot in front of their faces: the chance to take money from their fellow workers!

They become entrepreneurs and, through creative and well-planned marketing strategies (such as associating a red and yellow super-fun clown with eating unhealthy but yummy hamburgers in the minds of children) take that hard earned extra money that the strikers worked hard to put in the pockets of their fellow workers.

In the old days, before the successes of the unions and the labor movement, people worked for their fat-cat bosses in order to stay (barely) alive. Every penny they "earned" was put towards keeping their bodies capable of working (for their bosses). After the successes, they at first earned enough to get nicer clothing, then better places to live, and eventually - GASP! - have extra cash!

What that cash should have gone for, which you fail to understand but that the brainchildren of the "Buy Nothing Day" campaign wholly did, at least at first, was towards CHANGING the system, not feeding it.

Those laborers that DIED for our minimum wage laws, our 8 hour days, etc., never intended us to say, "gee, thanks for the extra cash!" and hand it right back to the very people they DESPISED (the bosses and the government which protected their bosses).

No, no, no. They intended us to take that money and start putting it towards agitating, educating, and eventually - REVOLUTION.

But through clever marketing, that was all forgotten and what we all ended up doing was, literally, throwing our hard earned extra cash away - back down the gullet of the machine. On what? Crap. Trinkets, bigger houses, bigger cars, brand name gear, etc.

But that keeps the economy going - for the better - right?

Hmmm.... Yeah, for the economy. Not for us. That's the whole point of the buy nothing day strategy. If we all went frugal for a year, the "economy" would collapse. Sure enough. And there would be chaos, sure enough, for a little while. But we would find a way. Chaos isn't something to be feared, after all. Revolution is always chaotic. Why is it we are so afraid of bloodshed and mass struggle, but we're darned willing to spend that extra money people shed their blood for and struggled, en masse, against their bosses to put in our pockets?

Anyway, I kind of rattled on there, somewhat aimlessly. Sorry!

- Phil

Nick Talbot said...

Hi Dieselboy

I didn't quite understand what you meant here: "With extra money in the worker's pockets, earned through ANTI-CAPITALIST ACTION, the capitalists did what any self respecting capitalist would do: they sought to take that money from the workers, AGAIN."

Your overall analysis of the situation is straightforwardly Marxist. Owners of the means of production exploiting the workers etc. You also seem to be a revolutionary. I'm not sure we have share any common ground that will allow meaningful discourse. I believe that Capitalism combined with sensible taxation and redistribution of wealth is the least bad of all the various bad ways of managing the economy and society. I'm a liberal, not a socialist, so talk of revolution leaves me cold, and sometimes, scared. Sorry mate! No offence intended.

Nick Talbot said...

Oh, and when I say I'm not a socialist, I should I'm certainly not a Communist. All attempts at Communism have consistently failed and been responsible for murdering millions and millions of people. My girlfriend is from the former Eastern Bloc. Try talking to her about Communism. She had to live under that evil system.

Dieselboy said...


No offense taken! And you're right, my analysis is straightforwardly Marxist, as I am a Marxist.

It's true that we would probably share very little in common, and there is nothing wrong with this. Discussion shouldn't necessarily be about finding a common ground. Challenging another's outlook on a situation is necessary for intellectual stimulation and growth!

I would like to inform you that what most people think is communism is actually state capitalism, where the state/bureaucracy is the "capitalist", and the workers and everything tool they use is the "means of production/distribution" that the capitalist (the state) owns.

Communism, no matter what form it comes under, has only ONE qualifying feature: that the working class owns the means of production and distribution collectively.

So to argue that communism has been responsible for the murder of millions is absolutely incorrect, and an irresponsible rumor to spread (it amounts to propaganda).

Communism is a proletarian democracy, not a totalitarian system, or a "bourgeois democracy" (like that found in America, where the owning class and the richest people are most capable of disseminating information, making a true democracy impossible.)

In a proletarian democracy, power comes from the bottom up, is decentralized, and available to everyone that works (and not simply sits back and rakes in the profits). A small example would be a factory that had been taken over by the workers - which, by the way, happens more often than liberals and right wingers would like to believe. In such a place, there are no bosses, there are workers councils.

It doesn't take much research to find out that a business does not need to have a leader/boss to work well, and neither does a nation - which under communism as Marx and his contemporaries saw it, and many libertarian-communists and anarchists see it, amounts to a confederation of worker-run communities.

Additionally, one would be a fool not to recognize how many millions and millions of people have been murdered fighting communism and spreading capitalism. History speaks for itself. Even in America, it wasn't too long ago that it was completely acceptable for capitalists to hire thugs to intimidate and kill strikers. And even now, Capitalists constantly seek free or cheap labor, with little consideration for human rights.

What do you know about the diamond industry?

- P

Nick Talbot said...

I didn't argue that communism has been responsible for the murder of millions. I argued that attempts at communism has been responsible for the murder of millions of people. Important distinction. I know what communism is and it hasn't ever happened, and I don't believe it will ever happen successfully, because human beings just aren't up to the job. We don't seem to be capable of caring about that many other people; we care more about the people close to us. Dominant personalities lead to the formation of natural hierarchies, the history of human civilisation shows a tendency towards cruelty and conquest, and the job of organising a truly communist system from the bottom up, without any leadership, is so mind-boggling and complex it is impossible to see how it can be achieved, and I've never met a Marxist who could explain how it could be done. All attempts at communism have resulted in the formation of hierarchies and massive economic inefficency. Marxists take shelter in the fact that real communism has yet to happen anywhere- true. But the fact that all attempts at it have failed, and the fact that no-one has yet been able to offer a detailed 'road-map' for the 'bottom-up', non-hierarchical organisation of society should count strongly against the viability of communism as a reasonable thing to wish for.

What's that about diamonds? :-)