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What is Capitalism?

Is capitalism typing internet comments without ever releasing the shift key to unlock the power of shouting in the written word? No.

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Is it typing internet comments without ever releasing the shift key to unlock the power of shouting in the written word? No. Is it learning all the capital cities like someone's dad in an ale house quiz? No.

Capitalism is an economic system. It is probably the economic system you live in. I know I do. Like a terrible pancake, capitalism is comprised of three ingredients: private ownership, wage labour and profit.

First into the mixing bowl is PRIVATE OWNERSHIP. Under capitalism, the means of production are owned privately. The 'means of production' - factories, offices, rollercoasters - is the places and stuff you need to produce more stuff. That's one kind of 'capital'. Huh, 'capital' sounds familiar. Maybe that's why it's called...

Private ownership means individuals, or groups of individuals, control the means of production. We, the workers, can only use the means of production if they, the capitalists, let us. And they'll only let us if they get more out of it than us, by making them more money. In exchange, they pay us a wage. Say you get paid £9 an hour. The capitalist only pays you this, and only hires you in the first place if the work you do makes them more than £9 an hour. This is the second ingredient of capitalism: WAGE LABOUR.

Get your whisk, because here comes the third ingredient: PROFIT. The goal of production under capitalism is to make money for those who own the means of production, to generate more capital for the capitalists. Oh, I get it now!

If the capitalist pays you £72 for a day's work, you don't stop work when you've produced that £72. Oh no. You keep on working. Imagine a klaxon the moment you'd done £72 worth of work. Would you carry on? Everything you do after that pays for the company's rent, the machines, your bosses' business car. Everything after that: profit.

The plate upon which we slap this pancake of capitalism is THE STATE. The capitalist monopoly of the means of production is upheld by the state's monopoly of violence. Try and seize control of your workplace and your biggest opponent will be the cops. Spend an eight-hour shift making something and take what you made home, and the cops will come to your house and hit you with sticks till you give it back.

Capitalists love 'rolling back the state', but they mean rolling it out the way of capital, cutting taxes and cutting regulations on business, snatching things like water and trains and council houses from the state into the hands of capitalists. But the state isn't rolled back for workers. The weight of the boot on the neck of the worker gets heavier, union laws are tightened, and privatisation means water bills and train tickets and mortgages now feed the capitalist class.

What is capitalism? It's a system of PRIVATE OWNERSHIP and WAGE LABOUR driven by PROFIT, enforced by the laws and violence of the STATE and - please check there are no Tories nearby when you read this next bit - I think it's bad.

If you'd like to know more about capitalism, you can check out the Big Book o' Capitalism, also known as Capital by Big Daddy K, also known as Special K, also known as Karl Marx, also known as The Big Boy.

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