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Taxing the Rich isn’t enough: Working towards an anti-Capitalist strategy to reduce human and ecological harm

January 24, 2022

Yesterday, we posted an article about the death of Lena Meijer and how the response to her death continues to demonstrate that the news media will not challenge or question the wealthiest families in West Michigan.

Today, we want to continue looking at members of the Capitalist Class, but on a much larger scale. 

About a week ago, the international group OXFAM, published a report entitled, Inequality Kills. In the summary of the report it states,

A new billionaire has been created every 26 hours since the pandemic began.6 The world’s 10 richest men have doubled their fortunes, while over 160 million people are projected to have been pushed into poverty.7 Meanwhile, an estimated 17 million people have died from COVID-19—a scale of loss not seen since the Second World War.

The OXFAM report is filled with details, data and analysis on how the wealthiest people on the planet are causing irreparable harm, both to human life and to the natural world. The report makes it very clear that inequality does indeed kill:

We estimate that inequality is now contributing to the deaths of at least 21,300 people each day—or one person every four seconds.This is a highly conservative estimate for deaths resulting from hunger in a world of plenty, the denial of access to quality healthcare in poor countries, and gender-based violence faced by women and rooted in patriarchy. We also provide estimates for the deaths resulting from climate breakdown in poor countries. 

The graphic here in the right, reflects the Grand Canyon-like chasm that exists between between the world’s wealthiest people and the rest of us, interns of who is responsible for producing more carbon.

This new report from OXFAM provides us with the latest data and analysis on how devastating inequality is. However, the overall analysis of inequality, the wealth gap or more accurately, the economic system of Capitalism is not new. We have known this for the better part of two centuries, that Capitalism causes inequality, thus Capitalism kills. 

The more important concern for all of us is, what do we do about it? Last week, there was a post on the progressive blog, Common Dreams, entitled, 100+ Ultra-Rich People Warn Fellow Elites: ‘It’s Taxes or Pitchforks’. The article begins by stating: 

A group of more than 100 millionaires and billionaires on Wednesday presented fellow members of the global economic elite with a stark choice: “It’s taxes or pitchforks.”

In an open letter published amid the corporate-dominated virtual Davos summit, 102 rich individuals—including such prominent figures as Disney heiress Abigail Disney and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer—warned that “history paints a pretty bleak picture of what the endgame of extremely unequal societies looks like.”

In a moment of honesty, some members of the Capitalist Class acknowledge that if they don’t allow their wealth to be taxed, the public might come for all of our wealth. Now, taxing the wealthy is a useful tactic, but it will do very little to actually close the wealth gap. More importantly, the mantra of “Tax the Rich” distracts us from and ignores the more fundamental problem of the economic system of Capitalism.

Again, I support taxing the rich, but that is just one tactic to be used in a much larger strategy to dismantle Capitalism. Plus taxing the rich means that the government still gets to decide what to do with that money, which often means that it will go to support other projects that the Capitalist Class endorses and often benefits from. 

So, moving beyond the tactic of taxing the rich, what would a more robust strategy to dismantle capitalism look like:

Undoing the harm of the Capitalist Class would first require that they be held accountable for the harm they have caused, both legally and economically. People are members of the Capitalist Class always exploit the real wealth creators – workers, plus they exploit the use of natural resources, while at the same time producing massive amounts of toxins, pollution, carbon and other ecological catastrophes. 

Acknowledging this harm cannot just be a moral stance, but have real legal and economic consequences. Workers should be paid massive back wages, which were taken from them by members of the Capitalist Class. In addition, the richest people on the planet should pay massive fines for the ecological harm done to all of us. 

Secondly, members of the Capitalist Class should be required to pay massive reparations to Black, Indigenous and other Communities of Color for discrimination, exploitation and other forms of structural racism they have perpetrated for centuries. These reparations could take the form of giving land back, monetary reparations and giving over other assets to those they have caused harm to for centuries.

Now, the existing forms of representative democracy that we have in the US, at the federal, state and local level, will never embrace such a strategy, no matter who is elected. What we need to make the dismantling of Capitalism a reality will not be easy, but then again revolutionary work never is.

On organizational approach I would suggest, is what environmental strategist Stephen D’Arcy lays out for us in his essay, Environmentalism as if Winning Mattered: A Self-Organization Strategy.

D’Arcy suggests a two-pronged strategic approach, the Resistance Phase and a Transition Phase. Keep in mind that D’Arcy is focusing on environmental outcomes, but he also makes clear that his approach is fundamentally an anti-capitalist strategy.

The Resistance Phase would include some of the following strategic objectives:

  1. To construct an anti-corporate alliance of Indigenous communities, workers’ organizations, and environmental protest groups, based on a serious, sustained commitment to practical solidarity at the grassroots level.
  2. To build cost-raising protest movements, directed against all forms of environmental destruction, framing these struggles whenever possible as struggles for environmental justice, including Indigenous self-determination, economic justice and public welfare.
  3. To promote prefigurative community-based alternatives to capitalist production that model sustainability, solidarity, popular autonomy, and environmental justice.
  4. To re-establish vital currents of ecologically oriented anti-capitalist radicalism, for instance, eco-socialism, anarcho-Indigenism; social ecology; left eco-feminism; and so on.

The Transition phase would also have four strategic objectives:

  1. To organize anti-capitalist environmentalists into a common front of radical community organizations (SMOs, CCOs, PAOs), capable of tactical concentration for united action;
  2. To establish the hegemony of the anti-capitalist common front within the mass environmental movement, so that it exercises a consensual, acknowledged leadership role in pointing the way forward for large sections of the broader movement;
  3. To gain for the common front and its allies a degree of community-based “social” power, resting on the capacity to deploy general strikes, mass protest, and mass civil disobedience campaigns, on such a scale that the community-based opposition constitutes a community-based counter-power that can effectively challenge the economic power of corporations and the coercive power of the state;
  4. To secure the transfer of ever more extensive governance functions to community-based self-organization (SMOs, CCOs, PAOs), so that “social” sector institutions ultimately displace — rapidly whenever possible, gradually whenever necessary — both “private” and “state” sector institutions from their role in running the economy, the healthcare and education systems, providing social services, etc.

D’Arcy lays out a more detailed explanation of what this two-pronged strategy will look like. Of course, this is just one approach to dismantling capitalism and we should be looking at many, many more. However, the point is, that as long as the Capitalist Class exists, simply taxing the rich will not do much to address the multi-level global scale crises we currently face. 

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