The number of people in this country who see themselves as being against capitalism goes far beyond the organised left. But someone saying they are anti-capitalist begs the question, What does that mean? In reality it means very little because, although the number of people who see themselves as opposed to capitalism, most of these people support whole chunks of the existing order.
To build an actual anti-capitalist movement, some first principles need stating. It seems odd to be doing this in 2015, almost 170 years after a foundational document like the Communist Manifesto. However, this is because the vast bulk of what identifies as left has retreated a long, long way, even from early twentieth century social democracy let alone any kind of principled anti-capitalism.
So let’s restate some foundational points.
Anti-capitalism means being against the capitalist system, not simply droning on about how awful the National Party is.
Anti-capitalism means being against the capitalist system, not simply droning on about how awful ‘foreign’ capital is.
Anti-capitalism means being against the capitalist system, not simply private capital. It means also being against businesses which are owned by the state and run as capitalist enterprises – they are not “our assets”.
Anti-capitalism means being against all the parties that manage and defend the capitalist system – that includes all the parties currently living it up in the parliament which manages the political affairs of the ruling class.
Anti-capitalism means the main enemy is at home – it’s our ruling class which organises, oversees and is responsible for the exploitation of the working class of this country.
Anti-capitalism means the starting point for analysing the system we live under is the capital/wage-labour relationship. Everything else is negotiable, even eradicable – as Marx and Engels put it, under capitalism “all that is solid melts into air” – but the maintenance of the wage-labour/capital relation.
Anti-capitalism means understanding that the working class is the universal class – ie the class whose interests are the interests of all humanity. The working class cannot emancipate itself without opening the way to the emancipation of all the oppressed and exploited, the liberation of the whole of humanity. This means championing the interests of all the oppressed throughout the struggle for a new society and in the new society itself.
Anti-capitalism means anti-imperialism. The working class cannot free itself without seeing itself as part of a global class and fighting as part of this global class. In the imperialist heartlands, like New Zealand, this means opposing every manifestation of national chauvinism, no matter which ‘foreigners’ it is directed against. It means championing the right of workers to free movement around the world and opposing immigration controls.
Anti-capitalism means fighting all the chains that tie the working class to our exploiters, both at the organisational and ideological level. It means the working class has to be politically independent of the capitalist class whether on foreign policy or domestic policy.
Anti-capitalism means opposition to the capitalist state in all its forms, from the obviously repressive (‘the bodies of armed men’ and, these days, women too; anti-union laws etc) to the deceptively ‘user-friendly’ elements (the ‘soft state’ elements which are, in this country, often more important for mediating and preventing potential conflicts and incorporating into the state sections of the social movements – eg the Treaty industry, race relations and human rights commission/ers, etc).
Anti-capitalism means embracing rationalism and science, which are crucial to the emancipation of humanity.
Anti-capitalism means the starting point is the advancement of the material interests of the working class and oppressed, not subordinating them to any other force – not to any capitalist political party like Labour or anyone else; not to the state; not to any union bureaucracies which hold back struggles. It means standing for a fighting labour movement, one which schools the working class in the politics of class struggle rather than class conciliation and class peace.