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Capital Blight - What is it?

By x344543 - November 19, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

I suppose I should explain why I chose the name "Capital Blight" for my column-blog-thingy.

To begin with it's a play on words, a sort of send up if the term "capital flight" which is the process by which capitalists withdraw their capital (equipment, physical plants, investments, etc.) in a particular community or region. Their reasons for doing so include the quest for cheaper labor, lower taxes and tariffs, and more lax regulations. Sometimes capital flight occurs after the extraction of locally available resources peak or become depleted. Other times advances in technology make hitherto impractical relocations in production more feasible.

Regardless of the cause, the results of capital flight tend to negatively impact the communities which have been abandoned by the capitalists, particularly in the loss of jobs (both direct and residual) and tax revenue. It also shakes up political and social relations in such places, as much of these are influenced by the suddenly missing elephant in the room.

The less diverse and resilient the economy of said community, the more devastating the short term damage can be. While capital flight can literally spell doom for small rural hamlets, even big cities can be broken by it. This partially explains the desperation experienced throughout what is known as America's "rust belt ".

Because of this, the mere threat of capital flight is an effective political tool used by the capitalist class to bludgeon these communities into subservience, whether it be in matters of tax policy, environmental regulations, or even enforcement of existing laws. Likewise, capital blight is often used to undermine labor unions or even thwart union organizing drives--and though the latter is technically illegal under US labor law, such law is generally regarded as being a "paper tiger".

This threat, sometimes called "job blackmail" is also used by capitalists to drive political wedges between potential allies, such as workers employed by the corporations, and environmentalists. As such, capital flight is one of the many ways in which capitalism is an abusive, repressive system which keeps the many subservient to an elite few. The critics of the capitalists are often pressured into silence or ostracized from these communities in fear that their dissident efforts will result in economic Armageddon for the rest of the community (and the capitalists--knowing this--stole those fears even more).

Those critics--radical environmentalists, class struggle unionists, socialists, and anarchists--face a lonely path in many cases. People pay a high price in declaring that the emperor has no clothes. What they're often trying to convey to their fellow subjects is that, far from being a benevolent or beneficial force, corporations are actually a drain on the local community.

Multi- and trans-national corporations generally bleed these communities and their local environments of the lion's share of their resources, paying mere pittances in return. And since capitalism is based on the private accumulation of profits and the externalization of social costs, the damage these corporations do is paid for by the non-shareholding public.

The cost of the crimes caused by poverty and inequalities in wealth, substance abuse, and domestic abuse is borne by the public. It is they who must pay dearly--in the form of money, exposure to toxic chemicals, and radioactive waste left by the corporations. It is quite fair and accurate to describe that as a form of blight, in this case capital blight.

Deforestation, loss of habitat, polluted watercourses, depletion of fish stocks, oil spills, toxic superfund sites, destroyed mountainsides, black lung disease, destruction of biodiversity, mass unemployment, famine, nuclear meltdowns, abandoned neighborhoods, resource depletion, ocean acidification, and global warming are all forms of capital blight.

But capital blight goes deeper than this. Sexism, racism, homophobia, domestic violence, substance abuse, despair and desperation, self destructiveness, authoritarianism, the loss of liberty, ageism, ableism, religious and cultural intolerance, and war, while not unique to capitalism, are also (nevertheless) symptoms of capital blight.

Worst of all, capital blight is a blight on our very minds themselves. From the instant we can talk, we are taught the concepts of capitalism and that economic system's values of hyper individualism (instead of a healthy individuality in the context of community), blind conformity (in spite of the first value), hierarchical pecking orders, how to lie, how to shift blame to others, kill-or-be-killed dog-eat-dog survivalism, distrust of those who are different from us, and that it's everybody for themselves.

Solidarity, empathy, oneness with nature, love of community, and healthy individuality are burned out of most of us and those (like me) that stubbornly refuse to surrender those values are isolated, marginalized, beaten down, and ostracized.

Even in those movements that resist capital blight, the effects of it still pervade them and undermine them. The baggage of sexism, racism, homophobia, egoism, self destructiveness, opportunism, cult-of-personality, cliquishness, violence, and intolerance hamstring almost all attempts to build meaningful resistance to the capitalist system and block real, meaningful transformation of this dysfunctional scourge into a healthy, vibrant civilization that lives in harmony and balance with nature.

Class struggle environmentalism is an effective antidote to capital blight. It recognizes that an injury to one is an injury to all (species as well as humans); that labor (and the universe) produce all wealth; and that there are no jobs (or profits) to be had on a dead planet. Since capitalism is the source of the blight, it is that economic system (and any like it, including state "communism") that must be rooted out if we are to survive and heal the blight that plagues us all.

The Fine Print I:

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