The Myth of the “Free Market”

It is an often repeated assertion among many that the fundamental problem within American capitalism is the regulation placed on private enterprise by the government. The claim is that corruption and poverty are the result of regulators making business more difficult for entrepreneurs. The theory states that a pure Free Market, void of government intervention, will result in prosperity for everyone.

This theory is flawed from the outset because it ignores the historical interactions between big business and the government. For many years, business interests have manipulated elected officials through bribes and financial leverage. Every politician, regardless of their initial intention, is forced into a system where they cannot be elected without corporate campaign contributors who demand free-run of states, counties, and cities. Politicians are forced into making their community more appealing to the large business interests that offer jobs to the politicians’ constituency. Business owners hold the livelihoods of people hostage to get what they want from our elected representatives.

When you consider the billions of dollars spent every election year (projected at nearly $10,000,000,000 for 2012) by the wealthy to influence elections, one must ask “What are they getting for their money and how will it affect the working class?” A typical list of expectations lobbyists have of their political puppets goes like this:

$ Elimination of environmental protections to allow for the use of cheap unhealthy industrial technologies.

$ “Right to Work” laws which make the formation of unions impossible in order to destroy collective bargaining rights.

$ Erosion of safety regulations which put workers in danger for company profit while eliminating liability.

$ Loosened regulations on financial practices which allow for the unfair manipulation of the economy by banks.

$ Bailouts using tax-payer money to reward irresponsibility by privatizing profit and socializing cost.

$ Grants and low-interest government loans to expand a business’s facilities at the expense of tax-payers.

$ Tax loopholes which make it possible for the wealthiest corporations in the world to avoid paying any taxes at all.

The Snowball Effect

When a rich man is actively trying to increase his fortune, the sky is the limit. This is an economic privilege that most people never get to see. When his income is sufficient to pay for all of his needs and he finds himself having the luxury to throw money into profit-making ventures, he no longer has to labor to earn more; his money is working for him. He doesn’t contribute anything productive except for money which itself is a complete fabrication based purely on the burden of debt.

Everyone knows that it takes money to make money. Once a fortune reaches a critical mass, it becomes difficult for it not to grow. A fortune that is broadly invested in reliable stocks will balloon at a steady pace for as long as the investor desires. There is no threat of poverty for the rich. They have options and are never required to sell their lives to survive.

Insulated within this shielded bubble of economic privilege, the wealthy can horde property at an exponential rate. The rest of the pie shrinks but must still be divided up among the poor majority. The accumulation of wealth itself must create poverty. This is why greed is harmful to the people. It is not practicing personal liberty in a vacuum. It is a zero-sum game that is costing millions of people their lives.

The New Gilded Age

A free-market system like the one that Libertarians, the TEA Party, and other conservatives promote existed at one time in American history. It was in the late 1800’s in an era historians refer to as The Gilded Age. Robber Barons built financial empires from banking, lumber, coal, steel, and railroads on the backs of poor people who had no alternative. We are still living with the ripple effects of that system today. The result has been a century of generational poverty. The rich act as parasites living off of the productive labor of the poor workers, giving their employees only enough to survive to continue working while keeping the bulk of the profits for themselves.

The distribution of wealth is already incredibly unfair. A handful of people control the majority of wealth while the rest of us are left to squabble over the scraps. In the US, the richest 20% control 85% of the wealth, meaning 80% control only 15% of the wealth. The 400 richest Americans control more wealth than the 150,000,000 poorest Americans combined.

Regulations on business are a response to unrest in the working class. In the early 20th century, there was a growing American Socialist movement. Liberals passed laws regulating business as a counter-revolutionary measure under the guise of concern for the poor to soften the cruelty of capitalism which is an inevitable result of its greedy nature.

The Libertarian Elite

The free-market ideology is, in all actuality, simply a myth perpetuated by the wealthy for the purposes of getting poor people (who are often keenly aware of government intrusion into their lives, but less aware of the subtle indirect intrusions by corporations) to support policies which will maximize the profits of the wealthy at the expense of the people. From the perspective of the rich entrepreneur, the government has the potential to be a hurdle or a resource. Billions of dollars are taken from tax-payers every year and used by politicians beholden to the rich as corporate welfare to prop up businesses that would fail in a laissez-faire economic system. Campaign contributions are an investment that not only increases profits but, in many cases, ensures the very existence of the enterprise for years to come.

When the primary driving goal is the accumulation of wealth, any abstract philosophical positions concerning the proper role of government are only useful to the rich when they are used to sway poor people under false pretenses and promote division among the people. The narrative is presented as being one of the people wanting to be free to do as they please versus the government wanting to control people’s lives. This is a smoke-screen intended to hide the true conflict, class war.

Class War

Right-wing politicians and conservative personalities on Fox News and the like are quick to make accusations of promoting “class war” whenever economic inequality is being pointed out. They say that those on the Left are stirring jealous sentiment and attempting to divide society. The truth of the matter is that money is power in this system and only those who have the power are capable of waging a class war.

It is not the investment banker, the multi-billionaire, or the corporate CEO that becomes a casualty of the class war. The wealthy class takes no losses in this conflict. The casualties are the working poor who toil their lives away for minimum wage; the families who lose their homes to predatory bankers; the indigenous people who’s ancestral homes are decimated by unaccountable neo-colonial industry; the kids who can’t afford a good education and end up incarcerated as modern slaves in the privatized prison-industrial complex; the hungry masses who starve because stock market speculators and artificial scarcity inflated the price of food; the sick people who die needlessly from preventable illness because they did not have the money for good healthcare. Class war is as old as civilization and the aggressor has always been the ruling elite. Socialism is not a class war, but a war on the class system.

Anti-Imperialism and the International Class Struggle

“We are countries whose economies have been distorted by imperialism, which has abnormally developed those branches of industry or agriculture needed to complement its complex economy. ‘Underdevelopment,’ or distorted development, brings a dangerous specialization in raw materials, inherent in which is the threat of hunger for all our peoples. We, the ‘underdeveloped,’ are also those with the single crop, the single product, the single market. A single product whose uncertain sale depends on a single market imposing and fixing conditions. That is the great formula for imperialist economic domination.” – Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara

To sustain itself, capitalism must indefinitely expand. This means the financial conquering of markets throughout the globe. In reality, this theory means the manipulation of economies with bullets.

To achieve maximum control, the developed capitalist countries have either initiated Empire building (like the United States) or have clung to the Empires of yesteryear (like Great Britain, France, Belgium, etc.). During the late 19th century and early 20th century, the great industrialized powers of the globe scrambled for territory and resources. The expansion of borders was seen as the best way to promote the interest of capital for the banks in the home country. This led to bloodbath after bloodbath. The bourgeoisie threw multiple consecutive generations of working class people onto far off battlefields under the guise of ‘God and Country’ while the real motivation was ‘Expansion and Profit.’

After the World Wars, the stronger capitalist nations decided to stop competing with one another and concentrate on controlling the territories and economies of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. To the chagrin of the bourgeoisie, the colonized people of the world have always fought back. Indigenous resistance to imperialism has boiled over into various struggles and victories in the past 100 years. From the very beginning of this anti-colonial resistance, oppressed peoples were aware that it wasn’t enough just to rid themselves of foreign occupiers, but they also had to abolish capitalism in order to be absolutely free from imperialism. James Connolly, a leading Irish Marxist executed by the English after the Easter Rising of 1916, said: “If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organization of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.” In spite of the powers that be, many colonized people have liberated themselves. The Cubans defeated the US-puppet dictator, Batista, and repelled a CIA backed invasion after their victory. The people of Vietnam waged a prolonged struggle, first against France and then the US, and won their independence against both powers. The Nicaraguans defeated the US-backed Contras (fascists). The Zapatistas of Chiapas, Mexico have held territory in the mostly indigenous populated region for almost two decades. For all the victories against imperialism, there have been defeats: in Chile, the democratically elected socialist Salvador Allende was assassinated during a coup d’etat funded by the US. Hundreds of elected officials, union leaders, leftists, and other anti-imperialists have been exterminated for the capitalist goal of expansion.

It has become the duty of the revolutionary left to stand against imperialism and capitalism as a united front. The workers of the world must look beyond the interests of the financiers and generals that hold citizenship in their homeland. A steel-worker in Pennsylvania has more in common with a factory worker in Brazil than he does with the owner of the plant where he works. A victory for the working class in Palestine is a victory for the working class in Japan. The enemy is the same for all oppressed peoples. The workers of the countries that engage in Empire building have a duty to their comrades in occupied nations to fight the war machine at home in any way possible.

Appalachia is very much similar to all other colonized territories. We are exploited exclusively for our raw materials. The profit generated by our industries are kept in banks and markets in far off places. Corporations buy out and prop up all of our elected officials. Thus the international struggle against imperialism is the struggle for a free and democratic Appalachia. Working folks of all countries, unite!

Where We Stand

What we have known most of our lives has been perpetual war, genocide, starvation, environmental degradation, the oppression of women and the LGBT community, and the continuation of racism. We have also known the greatest technological leaps in human history, yet refuse to cure cancer or HIV/AIDS. In no other epoch has there been such an overproduction of food while millions of people go hungry. We now have the power to wield free and environmentally friendly renewable energy, but we continue to blow mountains up for coal and poison the people of our planet with toxic emissions. We participate in this absurdity because it is profitable. Profitable for the few, and not the many. The system that promotes profit above human need is capitalism. Students for Appalachian Socialism believes that the only way to bring about true change is through the ultimate destruction of capitalism and the emergence of a total democracy ran for and by the whole working class. We stand behind the following principles:

-We believe that capitalism is the central problem that connects all the injustices and exploitation in our world. We define capitalism as an economic system comprised of two major classes: the ruling class (the bourgeoisie) and the working class ( the proletariat). The bourgeoisie simply owns property – the means of production (the factory, the machinery, land, buildings, etc.) – and lives off of it without really working, but just renting to or employing people to produce wealth for them. The working class , the class without property, is forced to sell their labor to those who own the means of production. The working class produces all the wealth in the world and yet receives and owns less than 15% of it. The real free loaders in our world are the bourgeoisie. Capitalism cannot be reformed or voted away, revolution is the only solution. The bourgeoisie will not benevolently return all that we have created and that they have stolen. We must take it back. The capitalist system will only give us meager reform when the bourgeoisie feels that its power is threatened. We strive for a society beyond capitalism – a society without petty divisions – a socialist society. Our vision of socialism is a society ruled from the bottom up, a society that’s single moral is ‘people before profit.’ With this virtue, we are not ashamed to admit our goals and aims for a just and egalitarian world. Che Guevara once said that “The life of a single human being is worth a million times more than all the property of the richest man on earth.” That being noted, we will dare to struggle for socialism.

-Racism is promoted not only by a social system of white privilege, but it is also promoted by capitalism and the state. Countless times, company’s fighting to suppress unionism in their workforce have used racism as a tool to destroy solidarity amongst the workers. Capitalism has also disproportionately laid the weight of poverty and punishment on people of color from its beginnings. To maintain a system that divides people along racial lines, racism must be codified and upheld by an all-too willing state. We believe that racism and any racist pigs should be fought and defeated by any means necessary. If a community of color is violated by the pigs or any other racist thug, we support any form of justice determined by said community. It is paramount for communities of color to revamp their efforts to safeguard themselves from racism and outside ownership and coercion. Contrary to popular belief (in the white community), racism has not ended. People of color still receive less pay for equal work, harsher prison sentences, more police (pig) brutality, and a social stigma on their very existence. We refuse to accept or tolerate any amount of racism anywhere, and will fight alongside all sisters and brothers for the dream of equality.

-We take the extreme view, apparently, that women are people and thus deserve equality with their male counterparts. We celebrate the victories of women and we fight for the future of womens’ liberation. We stand against every attack on womens’ reproductive rights. We stand by our female comrades in the struggle to win equal pay for equal work. We adamantly oppose patriarchal oppression and the commodification of women’s bodies. Women are not forms to be used for advertisements or property to be bought and sold. We oppose all manifestations of rape culture and staunchly support the human right of freedom of consent.

-We believe that the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community deserves civil rights. We stand behind all efforts for social and sexual liberation. We believe that the current movement being manifested by liberal organizations (like the Human Rights Campaign and the Democratic Party) is petty and offensive. Was it the LGBT community that made marriage a serious political issue? Or was it a stratagem organized by politicians and the wealthy gay and lesbian community abstracted from the material reality of their working class LGBT counterparts? We believe that LGBT issues go far beyond marriage equality, which we do support, but we also dream and struggle for a world where sexuality is accepted and protected by everyone. We want equal housing and job rights for the LGBT community. We want LGBT history to be taught in schools. We want self-determination and not forced bourgeois assimilation for the LGBT community. We want LGBT sex education provided for all youths. We want Queer to stay, and we want everyone to get used to it.

-In these early years of the 21st Century, Imperialism is still being used by capitalism as a way to expand its markets and oppress people. We denounce all wars of imperialist aggression, including the ongoing battles and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. We also support international struggles for independence and liberation. We stand in solidarity with the peoples of Palestine, Quebec, Ireland, Puerto Rico, Kashmir, Kurdistan, and all other oppressed and occupied nations. As Appalachians, we understand the colonized mindset. We are the third world inside of the first world. We understand what it is to be manipulated and exploited from outside powers. We believe our struggle is the same as all colonized peoples: the struggle for liberation.

-We stand behind the principle of self-defense. All oppressed group must trust and rely upon themselves for their immediate security. Members of the media and spokespersons of the State will defame this stance as ‘violent.’ We laugh at their poor attempt at puppetry. People of color cannot rely on an avowedly racist Fraternal Order of Police. Women cannot report sexual assault and be taken seriously by people who assume they deserve what they got because they are ‘too slutty.’ The working class cannot call in the National Guard to protect itself from being shot at and beaten by the National Guard. The only option for exploited and oppressed groups is to rival the political and physical power that is being used against us.
All groups deserve the right to determine what are appropriate levels of self-defense according to their needs and material conditions. In the most extreme and warranted cases, like that of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, it is necessary to arm yourself in order to prevent your enemy from exterminating you. When self-defense is embraced, it looks like a warning sign in your front yard that reads “Try to lock us in concentration camps, try to chain us in the fields, try to murder us while we sleep, try to drag us to the firing squad and we will rise up and meet your force with our own.”
If this sounds violent, we ask you to think of the wars heads-of-state and CEO’s wage for profit. We ask you to think about lynchings committed against people of color and the LGBT community. We ask you to think about Police (pig) brutality and then inquire about the need for self-defense in the various groups of the working class.