Value, Labor, and Capital
The problem of capitalist society is the problem of alienation. It is the process of social collapse and the cause of increased turmoil, a thing most professional academics do not study, and certainly don’t bring to others. Alienation derives from the term Entfremdung in Marx, which means literally “the making foreign of.” It is literally a division between things that should not be divided. In the case of Marx, the primary form of alienation was the separation of the worker from the products of their labor. This was only one form of separation, though. Capitalist development has made the nature of work on products so fragmentary that this form of alienation is now total.
Instead of working on parts of a car in the same factory in which the cars were made, for instance, when automotive manufacturers made their own engines, then the laborer could still claim to have been a part of the whole process of production. Now this is no longer the case. Parts and cars are now produced less and less in colonialist nations and more in the imperialized. The mundane suffering brought about by the production line has been exported to the countries suffering under colonial oppression. Labor fragmentation leads to social fragmentation. Separations between people in different aspects of production become separations of people in different aspects of social practice outside of production. It is in this way that the primarily petty bourgeois white settlers have successfully isolated themselves from the suffering of the (lumpen)proletarian colonized people.
To destroy this system of isolation and separation requires an action beyond reform; the segmentation of the labor process is endemic to any form of capitalism, regardless of how “woke” or “egalitarian” it is. Because workers on the labor market have only one thing to sell (their labor), they have become isolated into individual commodity-forms. In other words, they are no longer a class, but a collection of raw materials, in Marx’s parlance. They are products of labor used in order to produce something, which itself might be used to produce something or to ensure the process of exchange flows efficiently. They are no longer human beings, and as Marx noted in “Wages of Labor,” they are governed by the same laws of supply and demand that seem to govern all other commodities. It would be very convenient if we could merely dismiss this as a delusion, as an oversimplification. We would also be denying the whole logic of capitalism.
When we look at the development of social institutions, there are a variety of different ways to examine their disintegration. For instance, record low church membership and attendance, collapsing union membership, decreases in sexual activity, increased rates of ADHD and ADD, increased prevalence of mental illnesses such as Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder, and high rates of divorce, illegitimacy, etc. I don’t judge people, obviously. However, these are all aspects of support systems that are not being replaced. When liberals wonder why there are so many mass shootings, murders, assaults, etc. their first response is always to treat the symptom, not the cause. There is one way to reverse social collapse: a radical restructuring of the society as it stands presently.
It is for this reason that communists should work to establish networks of support for people suffering from abuse, homelessness, poverty, mental illness, chronic health issues, and other serious conditions. These people are vulnerable, and capitalism preys upon the vulnerable. It is at the same time a struggle for humanity as well as for survival. With the failure of the support structures prominent under previous capitalist relations, new support structures must be formed. The primary question is not whether this will happen, but who will engage in it and how it will be done. Capitalists and liberals will play into the same tired old tropes of individualism and responsibility, all the while oblivious to their prior failures. Willingly or unwillingly, they will reproduce the very necessary conditions for exploitation that have caused the social collapse. The opposition to this is the formation of a counter-hegemony. That is, the creation of structures of solidarity external to capitalist economic relations, or rather, in direct opposition to them.
These are mostly just observations. I will admit that my practices have rarely reflected the radicalism I truly wish to put in practice. I make no apologies, for actions are far more important than words. The difficulty of my economic situation at the moment is part of the reason for this. Another reason is that I myself have become alienated — I have succumbed to the very sensations I have attempted to describe here. It is my opinion that alienation under capitalism is the root cause of the recent social disturbances and the hints toward complete collapse. If not reversed, society approaches a crisis like that which faced the world in the 1920’s and 30’s: the rise of fascism and imperialism to even greater heights.