“to be a revolutionary one should… see the principle problem in capitalism itself” -Slavoj Zizek
There are struggles in which some of the activists who form part of them do not consider they are in a fight against global capital. For example, many activists in environmental struggles, gender awareness advocates, or advocates for direct democracy do not consider that abandoning the capitalist class structure is necessary to achieve their goals. In this last issue of direct democracy I will concentrate to illustrate how the construction of a new class structure, that is not capitalist, must always be included in the political program.
Undoubtedly, direct democracy or grassroots democracy is a radical proposal, which can and should be studied and put in practice. But what happens if we create mechanisms that contribute in creating direct democracy but we do not alter the capitalist class structure? About twenty U.S. states have amended their state constitution to allow grassroots initiatives through the collection of signatures for conducting plebiscites or referendums. With these measures, citizens become active subjects and protagonists in the legislation that governs over them. This has allowed the development of a culture of direct democracy in various parts of the United States.
However, as mentioned above, the capitalist class structure did not change. What were the consequences of this? Well companies like Wal-mart have employed people to collect signatures and have spent millions on propaganda to call referenda and influence the votes of the electors. The goal of the corporation is to go above regulations that protect the community’s environment and economy. Target, Home Depot and also pharmaceutical corporations have taken advantage of citizen initiatives and public referenda for the same purpose.
Through mechanisms of direct democracy, corporations have managed to go over Land Use regulation in order to build more branches or building them larger than what was previously allowed. Through this initiative that intended to empower citizens, corporations have had a new mechanism to impose their will and profit motives over the interests of the community; always preying on the unemployed and investing millions in disinformation. How many benefits can direct democracy bring if capital is playing a terrorizing role manipulating people’s determinations? Corporations have the ability to make people, in a participative and democratic manner, determine they should allow capital to continue polluting the environment, exploiting local and international workers, and promoting values that perpetuate a society lacking in solidarity.
The capitalist class structure gives corporations the overwhelming privilege of being the administrators of the wealth society generates. Corporations will continue using, as they have always used, the riches that this privilege grants them to through the state and the media convince the rest of the population that they should keep this privilege. I am not advocating for any kind of totalitarian democratic centralism. This is merely a reminder. The capitalist class structure influences basically all the processes that concern us as a society; from the degradation of our environment, discrimination based on race or sexuality, to oppressive power relations as imperialism and colonialism. Trying to solve these problems in an isolated manner, without combating the capitalist class structure, will lead to a futile effort.
How else can you explain how international attempts to create a “humane” capitalism through regulation and government intervention continually fail and neoliberal capitalism returns? The logic is not complex. If you are able to retrieve what a criminal has stolen from you, but you do not take away his firearm, he will probably rob you again. As the Marxist philosopher and social critic Slavoj Zizek explains, in this situation it is utopian to believe that problems can be solved one by one, little by little. The capitalist class structure creates a number of social forces that push us, guide, manipulate, while humanity naively believes it acts in freedom. If we do not break this chain of illusion, as the Marxist psychoanalyst Erich Fromm argues, we will never achieve genuine emancipation, individually or collectively.