Sunday, 27 October 2013

Capitalism depends upon coercion and violence

The media commonly portrays the 'enemies' of capitalism as violent and destructive. This applies to those who protest, even non-violently against the excesses and destructive nature of capitalism. One recent example is the Occupy movement in the USA. Although there were some clashes between protesters and the police, the violence was very much driven by the aggression and brutality of the police, and its clear that there was a concerted effort to shut down the Occupy movement nationally in the USA. And there lies the problem. Capitalists, and the tame politicians who support them, enact laws which restrict peaceful protest and labour unions, and use the police as proxies to push through measures which benefit them at the expense of the communities which they are exploiting. This is a very convenient arrangement which allows the capitalists and corporations themselves to remain aloof and 'above the fray', hiding behind the law.

One of the more recent examples of this has been the criminalisation of environmental protesters. Not only have the protesters been attacked and threatened with imprisonment but they have also been targeted by the security services, spied upon, and treated like terrorists. So why are these protestors being targeted? It is because they threaten business interests, and that tells you something very interesting about the police and security services - they are here to defend the property and profits of capitalism - not the people, who they are supposed to be protecting.

The front line in the battle for the environment is now taking place over fracking in the USA, UK and in Canada. In New Brunswick the Mi'kmaq people are trying to defend the rights to their land from companies who want to exploit extreme energy. But it's the reaction of the authorities which has been extreme. When business interests were threatened the government reacted with a display of force including riot police, dogs and armed snipers in camouflage gear. Tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets were used against the protesters. Its hard to believe that kind of level of coercion can be used against a peacefully protesting community, and its not surprising that it provoked real anger amongst those affected, which resulted in six police cars being burned. These events are similar to those that have been taking place in Balcombe in the UK where excessive force, though not tear gas and rubber bullets, has been used against locals and supporters protesting against fracking.
RCMP use pepper spray on protestors in New Brunswick

Of course there's nothing new about this kind of violence being used against those who threaten the interests of business. In the USA business have long hired strikebreakers and thugs to force their will on workers and communities. One of the most dramatic examples of this occurred in the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921 when 10,000 coal miners fought for 5 days with lawmen and 'agents' hired by the bosses. here is a quote from the Wikipedia page:

"The Battle of Blair Mountain was the result of economic exploitation of workers during a period of social transformation in the southern West Virginia coalfields.Beginning in 1870–1880, coal operators had established the company town system.Coal operators paid private detectives as well as public law enforcement agents to ensure that union organizers were kept out of the region. In order to accomplish this objective, agents of the coal operators used intimidation, harassment, espionage and even murder."
In the UK, strikebreakers were used in the 'Tonypandy Riots' in Wales in 1911 and troops shot dead striking miners. 

Capitalism is once again in crisis, and if you think the bad days of Blair Mountain are over think again. Those kind of clashes are still happening, and did recently in South Africa when the police shot dead 34 striking miners in the Marikana dispute. The reality is that the primary function of the police in capitalist economies is to defend the interests of business against the people they are exploiting, and the role of the media is to defend the police when they do it to the extent that this coercion has become 'normalised' and is accepted by most people. 

Capitalism has always depended up coercion and the threat of harm to people and communities which don't comply with the wishes of the capitalist class. Even if that coercion is just the threat to destroy jobs and livelihoods - as happened in Grangemouth in the UK recently. We need to expose this violence for what it is - class violence in the service of property and profits riding roughshod over what communities and people want. We need to fight back by campaigning and building up resistance to these atrocities and make them what they really are - totally unacceptable. 

Update 2017: the recent events at the Standing Rock camps where water protectors are protesting about the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is just the latest example of excessive force and brutality against peaceful people defending their environment and land against harmful and unwanted exploitation.

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