Capitalist Demands That Governments Kill Poor People To Discipline Workers

This past February, I gave an overview of how the government uses poverty to kill people, knowing that that’s what they are doing, in order to benefit the capitalist class. Using inflation caused by capitalist greed as an excuse, the government increases interest rates, with the intention of “cooling inflation” by increasing unemployment. That means more people without housing. It means more people rationing medicine, or doing without it altogether. It means lives destroyed, and futures stolen.

And it is just one way in which the government puts its hand on the scale to keep all of us submissive, obedient, and grateful to our superiors. Think I’m exaggerating? Here’s one of those “superiors” – Tim Gurney of “millennials and their avocado toast” fame – just openly making my case for me, about how he thinks the peasants need to be reminded of their place:

“People have decided they really didn’t want to work so much anymore through COVID and that has had a massive issue on productivity,” Gurner, donning slicked back hair and an unbuttoned white shirt, says in the video. “They have been paid a lot to do not too much.”

“We need to see unemployment rise,” Gurner said. “Unemployment needs to jump 40-50 percent in my view. We need to see pain in the economy. We need to remind people that they work for the employer [emphasis mine], not the other way around. There’s been a systematic change where employees feel the employer is extremely lucky to have them, as opposed to the other way around.” He then says that “hurting the economy” is what the whole world is trying to do.

Sam’s comments at the very beginning of that clip touch on the presidency of Salvadore Allende, a Chilean socialist politician who was elected to the presidency in 1970, and overthrown with the help of the United States 50 years and two days ago, on September 11th, 1973. Allende’s overthrow, and the wave of terror and murder that followed, were tragic and criminal for many reasons, but one that I wish more people knew about was Project Cybersyn, so I’m taking a moment to link to that here. Those decades of murder, which in many ways still continue, were very much a matter of reminding people of their place. True democracy, economic and political, could not be tolerated. Who do those workers think they are? The nobles still send in the guards to brutalize rebellious subjects.

This is one of those times in which, once you start to see it everywhere. In the US, the way police are allowed to steal from people based on vibes, the way employers are allowed to get away with just refusing to pay billions in wages every year, the way student debt is explicitly used to funnel poor people into the US war machine – so much of  our society is designed, from the bottom up, to maintain the class divides that advocates of capitalism pretend no longer exist. They like to pretend they’re just like us, right up until the second anyone asks for a raise, or for a safe workplace. The power maintained within the US itself allows for the projection of power around the globe, and the methods of “disciplining” the former colonies that we saw in Chile.

This is why the working class needs to organize, and to stay organized. I think Americans in the 20th century allowed themselves to be persuaded that society had just moved beyond the abuses of the robber barons. Part of that, I think, was that during the Cold War, capitalist countries, and the US in particular, were investing a lot more into the wellbeing of their citizens. This wasn’t some natural function of capitalism, but I think they tried hard to make it look that way, because it was really just another branch of the war against communism. In the midst of a Red Scare, nobody had any problem spending taxpayer money to fight the commies, and that included investing in the happiness of the general public, so they could convince the working class that capitalism was better. My favorite example of this is the town in West Virginia that only got their bridge fixed after they wrote to the USSR asking for aid. There’s no USSR for them to worry about anymore, and while China may take on that role, it’s not doing so currently. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there’s been no alternative, and so there’s less pressure to make the common people happy.

Under feudalism, and under early capitalism, if the under-class got too uppity, the nobles would generally use violence to maintain their authority. In modern liberal democracies, the ruling class is better at hiding its hand, but they haven’t actually changed. The law is mostly designed around the protection and management of property, such that it defaults to the benefit of property owners. The whole system is set up so that you need money to survive, and unless you are a capitalist, your only way to get money is by selling your labor. At the bottom end, the police work to ensure that surviving without money is impossible. The land is all enclosed – either privately owned, or owned and protected by the government, such that nobody can actually just live off it. Being too poor to afford your own home in this system is treated as a criminal act all by itself. Unhoused people are subject to every abuse the police can devise, including having their belongings stolen and destroyed on a regular basis. If you try to protect them from that, you get reactions like multimillionaire “everyman” Joe Rogan being shocked that anyone would even consider letting them own stuff.

The violence used to suppress the under-class is now mostly disguised as policing, but that violence is still there. It’s more individualized, too. Beyond the routine abuse of unhoused people, it takes place when someone’s evicted, or when police target left-wing activists, or when police and private “security” forces attack pipeline protesters. It never went anywhere, it just got disguised, and given a whole bunch of spin to make people accept it, and even cheer it on.

Over the last two centuries, real advances have been made in quality of living, in some parts of the world, but those advances came from working people fighting back against the capitalist rush to oligarchy, and against white supremacy designed to destroy class solidarity. I hope it is clear by now that those advances are also not permanent. If anything, they are an aberration – a statistical outlier against centuries of concentration of power in the hands of a tiny ruling class. That said, I think the advances that have been made demonstrate that we can go further. Many people view the socialist and communist revolutions of the 20th century as total failures, and while I think there are arguments to be had about that, we don’t need to have them here. We know, that in every country in the world, the working class has been able to improve its own situation through collective power, despite violent opposition from the ruling class.

What we need, going forward, is to aim higher than things like a living wage. We need to aim for revolutionary change. While the ruling class will doubtless continue to use violence to maintain their power, “revolution” does not mean war, necessarily. My preferred tactic would be a general strike – collectively bringing a country to a halt, and refusing to continue accepting the system as it is. What classifies change as “revolutionary”, in this context, is that it changes not just who is in power, but how power is distributed in the first place. I think that going from monarchy to capitalist republic was an upgrade, in many ways, but I think we can do better. Things like worker cooperatives, for example, demonstrate that it’s possible to have democratically run corporations, even in a world that is set up in every way to privilege the more traditional, authoritarian model. Reshape the law to actively support such organizations, and I think they’d do quite well, especially if it comes with a deliberate phase-out of capitalist corporations.

Nothing like that will happen easily, and while it might appear quick when it happens, it will be the result of years of hard work, and probably bloodshed on the part of those organizing the political power to make it happen. The upside is that that work is starting, and I think that’s part of why ghouls like Gurner and Larry Summers are so freaked out that they’re openly calling for higher unemployment and everything that comes with it. In many ways, the class war is a real war. It’s a power struggle, and one side is not just accustomed to killing to keep their power, it’s routine for them. It’s nice to see the people at the top getting worried, and I think it’s very helpful of Gurner to just come out and say how they see the world. Hopefully it will help more people realize that this is why life is so hard, when we have so much abundance.


  1. says

    Okay, I guess that’d be where he gets his disdain for the 99%. I mean, where do those shmucks get off, demanding housing that’s AFFORDABLE?! How’s an “entrepreneur” gonna make a killing selling stuff at prices the lower classes can afford?

  2. sonofrojblake says

    How’s an “entrepreneur” gonna make a killing selling stuff at prices the lower classes can afford?

    That’s the thing that infuriates me about that kind of capitalist. Whatever else you say about him, Henry Ford had the right idea when he aimed to produce a car one of the guys on his production line could afford to buy. Rationally, a rich capitalist should want the “poor” people to only be poor relative to the rich people. They shouldn’t want them to be objectively poor, unable to afford the products that capitalism produces… because then who will buy them? And if they’re properly rational, they should want the gap to not be ludicrous, because if it’s not, then
    – people won’t actively hate the rich, partly because
    – any working class schmuck can have a not-completely-stupid dream of actually getting rich and partly because
    – working class schmucks can have a pretty good life compared to their parents

    Guys like this arsehole are making the rich actively hateable, are so rich their level of wealth is obviously out of reach, and their actions are causing the life of the average schmuck to be WORSE than their parents’.

  3. says

    The thing is – based on policies and politics, I think it’s reasonable to believe that pretty much everyone who’s *that* rich has about the same view of the rest of us. I think it was the Harry Potter Eugenics Couple that said they viewed those without money and a high IQ are all “vending machine people” – you can get things you want from them, but you can’t actually relate to them, or see them as human.

  4. wzrd1 says

    It’s already been done. Literally, with what’s now the National Guard machine gunning babies to break a coal miner’s strike.

    With Pinkerton men gunning down striker sympathetic mayor on courthouse steps as well in West Virginia, in broad daylight.

    I’d happily introduce Mr Gurney to a time honored military tradition, the butt stroke.
    Just to remind him, We The People can and will fight back and when that happens, it gets spectacularly unpleasant.

  5. Nathaniel Hellerstein says

    Consider what I call the Marxian Paradox, which goes as follows:

    When the owning class takes seriously Marx’s predictions of mass immiseration and political upheaval, then they enact semi-socialist reforms to buy off the masses, as prophylaxis and insurance. Those reforms work, and Marx’s predictions are refuted. But then the owning classes stop taking Marx’s predictions seriously, so they defund and undermine those prophylactic reforms, and Marx’s predictions tend to become true.

    So from the point of view of the owning class, Marx is as true a prophet as he is false.

    This is a paradox worthy of frying the circuits of any robot and/or ideologue.

  6. wzrd1 says

    Nathaniel Hellerstein, so it basically comes down to ancient Rome.
    Bread and circuses.

  7. says

    In theory, at least, we have the ability to learn from the past, even if we didn’t live it ourselves. Feudalism, as Le Guin said, was unbeaten and unbeatable, until it wasn’t.

    Beyond that, the reason I’ve fixed so much on this approach to change, is that even if it doesn’t get us the full “revolution” we want, it can get us material improvements.

    Perhaps the biggest danger I see on the “left” right now, is the belief in Marxist revolution as prophecy. A lot of people seem to believe that as soon as things get bad enough, revolution will happen. It’s another version of the whole “moral arc of the universe” or “Jesus is coming back” thing, and it seems to discourage people from actually working for change.

  8. wzrd1 says

    Abe, having personally dealt with pretty much the entire continuum of idiocy of extremism, the danger of Marxism is beyond minimal.
    The real danger is far right extremism pushing extreme capitalism into feudalism.

    Previously, we had far right types that championed violence quelled by a suggestion, occasionally by myself of out of scale violence, silencing them.
    Some may suspect that’s an error, but no, it only enhances them to not counter threats with counters.

    Today, we’re not left with Marxism vs Capitalism, it’s basically monarchies vying against one another.
    There is no socialism, communism or capitalism based society in any exclusive version that exists.
    The US has national parks, social security pensions and public roads, All socialist entities.
    Cuba traded the US a cure for small cell lung cancer, a literal vaccine.
    China, well, that’s a case study in mixing systems, repeatedly, due to their failures.
    The US is now starting one of its failures.
    The only real question is, once a failure turns into recovery, how long it takes.

  9. says

    First off, yesterday’s post feels relevant 😛

    I’m not particularly interested in recreating *any* system that has existed thus far, though I think some were obviously better than others. I agree that we’re rapidly moving towards something resembling feudalism, but I wouldn’t say that’s “not capitalism”.

    Likewise, the “socialist entities” within the US are the kind of thing that have always been a part of capitalism – it has always involved government investment. I think one question to ask is – how does power relate to those things? They’re social goods, but they’re less property of the people, than concessions by the powerful. Is it socialist if a monarch throws a festival and gives money or food to the peasantry?

    But I agree – no exclusive system exists, and no exclusive system has ever, or could ever exist. When I talk about capitalism, I’m talking about the globally dominant philosophy of virtually unlimited “private property” rights, which allows the ownership and gatekeeping of public necessities that often exist because of collective investment and labor, as a way to further increase their ability to own more such things.

  10. says

    I think I would say that I see communism/anarchism as a goal to work towards. That doesn’t mean incrementalism, just to be clear, but it also doesn’t mean taking over a country, and imposing a new order from the top down.

  11. wzrd1 says

    I firmly believe that the best way one can take over one’s country is from the bottom up and designing the entire system carefully as possible in advance.
    Which our system is designed to do via democratic processes – assuming they’re not corrupted too deeply. So, we really do need campaign finance reform, as $7.1 billion was spent on the last election nationally. I’m pretty sure Joe the Plumber didn’t donate that (Joe the Plumber being a creation by a national campaign back in the ’80’s).
    Alas, that requires the populace to actually demand and reject two parties that have been acting outside of the public interests and currently, the populace isn’t angry enough with those parties to force them to cease operations and create new parties to replace them. Yet.
    It’s happened repeatedly in the past, it’ll happen again, but to clean slate things, we do need to force campaign contribution reforms through. Force, not in military kind, but politically, as in those who don’t wholeheartedly support reforms get voted out and never win another election again.
    Which also worked in the past.
    A prime example is when the Republican party was formed originally, largely out of disgust with obstructionism and off the wall antics in the “Know Nothing” Nativist movement. Abraham Lincoln being a member of that brand new party. Hopefully, this time, without religious warfare in city streets…

    Or we could employ violins. A few seconds of what I can do with that instrument and the listener will happily hand me an artillery piece, just for hearing conservation reasons. 😉
    Yeah, I’m utter rubbish with stringed instruments, I’m a keyboard player.

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