This essay will attempt to show that the system of capitalism does not tolerate or allow alternatives to it and that once an alternative to capitalism gains traction those at the top of the capitalist pyramid will seek out to eradicate it. The usual tool for the eradication is the State. This essay will first propose why the system of capitalism does not tolerate alternatives. From there the essay will showcase several examples in history of when the capitalist system used the State to eradicate an alternative to capitalism. Lastly there will be a conclusion. The conclusion will give a suggestion of what the reader may take away from the essay.
The goal of those who benefit the most from capitalism (the wealthiest of people) is to be able to accumulate the most capital as possible while at the same time spending as little capital as possible in the accumulation of capital. To be able to achieve this goal the wealthy class needs to have thousands if not millions of wage workers working below them accumulating wealth for them. Being at the top of the capitalist pyramid the wealthy class decides how much of the accumulated wealth of all those employed under them will get along with how much they themselves will get. This has led to gross inequalities in the distribution of income. A notable example of this is Walmart where the CEO makes in an hour more than what a standard Walmart employee will make in an entire year (Gomstyn, 2010).
Now with this sort of vast inequality many would presume that an alternative to the system of capitalism would be sought after by vast amounts of wage workers. This is not the case. Many wage workers are unhappy with their situation but do not seek out an alternative. Now to a great extent this is because of conditioning and the capitalist ran media but that is for another essay. There have of course been sought after alternatives by some people. These alternatives though are crushed once they gain any traction by the wealthy class.
Why would the wealthy class attempt to crush alternatives to the system of capitalism? The reason is that if wage workers realize that there is a viable alternative to the system of capitalism many will leave the current system and seek out the alternative system or try to form their own alternative system. The wealthy class then will lose many of the wage workers who work under them and thus lose the ability to make as much profit as they had been because they will have a worker shortage.
This essay will showcase three out of the many of times that capitalists destroyed alternatives to capitalism. The first two of the examples are examples of lifestyle choices made by a mass amount of people that was an alternative to capitalism. The third example will be an example where a state was seeking to be an alternative to capitalism.
The first example is the squatter movement in Copenhagen, Denmark in the 1980s. During the 1970’s in Copenhagen there was a large level of unemployment. Under the guise of wanting to improve housing the mayor of Copenhagen moved many poor people out of their homes, and demolished the buildings (while also leaving many uninhabited and unused buildings that hadn’t been demolished but were not being used for anything). When the poor people wanted to move into the new houses that were constructed it became apparent that the wealthy rent collecting class had made the rent prices on the new buildings far too expensive for the poor people to be able to pay.
Then came the 1980’s where a squatter movement, an alternative to capitalism arose. The squatters were a collection of Left Wing activists, punks, and unemployed homeless teenagers. They occupied the abandoned buildings that had not been demolished in the 1970’s as well as other unused buildings. The squatters were living in these buildings because the wealthy rent owning class had made the prices for rent to high. There they built alternative communities where living in the buildings was rent free and people lived in a collective lifestyle.
The capitalists and the city council of Copenhagen saw the squatting movement as a threat. There was constant eviction by the police under orders from the city council of the squats. The State being used as a tool of capitalism could not tolerate alternatives to its system springing up all over the city and attracting people to join the squats. This reached a head in what is known as the Battle of Ryesgade where squatters battled with the police for nine days in Copenhagen. The squatters had asked multiple times for the city council to recognize the squats as autonomous zones under the squatter’s control but the city council refused multiple times; they were being unwilling to cooperate or compromise with an alternative to the capitalist system. This is the first example that will be used in this essay.
The second example is that of the New Age Travelers in the United Kingdom. The New Age Travelers were a communal group of people who would travel across the countryside in the U.K. from music festival or fair to the next music festival or fair. They had dropped out of the capitalist society in that they did not have a wage job, nor did they live somewhere that could be rented by the wealthy rent owning class or that could be taxed by the State, and that they lived in a communal lifestyle. This communal lifestyle included convoying across the nation with sometimes hundreds of vehicles traveling together.
The movement started in the 1970’s and gradually grew in size into the 1980’s. Then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (who famously claimed that there was no alternative to capitalism) set out to destroy the New Age Traveler movement just as she had set out to destroy the unions before. This was in an attempt to give more power to the wealthy capitalist class. In the 1980’s legislation was passed that outlawed the practice of Traveling and police were often used to stop and arrest Travelers. This reached a head in what is known as the Battle of Beanfield in 1985 where hundreds of Travelers were arrested.
The third and final example that will be used is an example of a state trying to be an alternative to capitalism. This state is Chile. In 1970 Chile was a shining example in Latin America of a stable representative democracy and it had been for some time. Then in 1970 the newly democratically elected president was Salvador Allende. Allende was a socialist and wanted to help Chile’s poor and have Chile be an alternative to capitalism. Even though Allende wanted this he worked within the Chilean governmental system and was a reformer but still tried to appease his opponents and not go too far socialist.
This of course did not matter to the capitalist United States of America. Under orders from President Richard Nixon the CIA along with the U.S. based manufacturing company ITT Corporation (which owned a substantial amount of Chile’s telephone communications) worked to institute a military coup. This occurred immediately following Allende’s assent to office. The capitalists did not even give the alternative to the system of capitalism a chance before they started trying to overthrow it or prevent it from happening.
On September 11, 1973 the military coup took place. The democratically elected government was overthrown. This started the 17 year long military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet who was responsible for the killing of 1,200-3,200 people, the interment of 80,000 people, and 30,000 people including women and children that were tortured. Augusto Pinochet was supported immediately by the United States government because he was a capitalist and had overthrown the democratically elected socialist.
What this essay attempts to show through theory but mainly through historical evidence is that capitalists do not tolerate alternatives to the system of capitalism. What can we take away from this though? One is that capitalists will not just allow people to try and form alternatives to the system of capitalism and that in fact those who try to form alternatives should be prepared for violent attacks against them by capitalists.
Citation page/ If you wish to learn more page
Gomstyn , A. (2010, July 2). Walmart ceo pay: More in an hour than workers get all year?. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Business/walmart-ceo-pay-hour-workers-year/story?id=11067470
Want to learn more
Squatting in 1980’s Copenhagen: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Ryesgade
New Age Travelers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knkH6ePGZCU