6. A Laminated Blueprint on How to End Capitalism

Rundown

You asked for it, and we delivered! A laminated blueprint on exactly how to end capitalism, and what to build in its place!

Joking aside, in this episode we explain capitalism, socialism, communism, and anarchism as distinct modes of production. We tackle some of the common arguments for capitalism and against alternatives such as communism. We also explain the pernicious politics of ‘aid’ and exploitation in Global North-South relations, underscoring that this needs to be a global project. We finish with some theoretical and practical ideas for building a post-capitalist future, emphasizing the importance of both embracing uncertainty and of understanding that we ourselves are its authors and creators.

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Transcript

TimecodeSpeakerDialogue
00:00:00:00
BEGIN FILE


[THEME MUSIC]

MEXIEWelcome to the Vegan Vanguard.

MARINEA show about all things from the perspective of two revolutionary vegan women.

MEXIEI’m Mexie.

MARINEAnd I’m Marine. And in today’s show, we’ll be bringing you a laminated blueprint for how to end capitalism, and what to build in its place. [LAUGHTER] 

MEXIEYeah. And it’ll be laminated, because this is the only way that it can possibly [be done].

MARINEThe ultimate.

MEXIEThis is the only solution, and of course, we have discovered it, and we’re just going to pass it out, like a pamphlet. [LAUGHTER] And everyone can just–
00:00:55:00MARINE–believe we haven’t thought about this before.

MEXIEYeah, well, we got so many questions asking us, what’s the alternative, guys? Tell me now, what’s the alternative? And we thought, well, okay, we better come up with [LAUGHS] a foolproof, really well-thought-out alternative, and that’s that, so.

MARINEWell otherwise, we’re really not allowed to speak about the prodigy that is, that is capitalism.

MEXIERight, yeah. Otherwise, we’re just super naïve and uh, yeah, need to just be quiet. So, so we solved that.

MARINEGood, great, I’m so happy to get this out of the way.

MEXIE[LAUGHS] 

MARINENo, but the reason we’re being quite sassy about this, is because we get, well, I feel like there’s a half of the comments, or more than half of the comments that are not asking in a well-intentioned way, right. That just sort of want to silence us. So that’s why they’re being like, well, you can’t criticize capitalism as long as you come up with an alternative. But then I do think that some of the comments are more well-intentioned, that’s…
00:02:00:00MARINEThat are just saying like, you know, what’s the alternative? Like I do think that we need to talk about alternatives, and it is important, and it is like really, it is hard.

MEXIEI mean, there’s even a ton of leftists who are like fully on the anti-capitalist train being like, okay, but how do we organize this, how do we do that, you know? So, these are conversations we should be having. But like A, yeah, we should be having them in good faith, and B, we should be thinking of them as collaborative conversations that we need to be having, to build out some of these ideas in the present day.  It shouldn’t just be like, okay, well, here’s this solution—this one person thought of it. So anyway, we’re going to get into all that today. [LAUGHS]

MARINEYeah, I think we’re, I think a lot of people are looking for models to follow, instead of trying to create something in capitalism’s place.

MEXIEYeah, that’s such a good point. Yeah, we…
00:02:55:00MEXIEDefinitely, we can’t just be looking for this one magical thing that we can follow. We have to actually understand that we ourselves are the creators of this. So we need to start imagining, we need to start building, we need to start talking and working together. I think that’s such a great way to put it.

MARINEYeah, I think it also comes from this myth that capitalism is just like this one thing, and it’s responsible for everything we’ve got up until this point. So [LAUGHTER] how are we just going to sub it with something else? It comes from, I think, a deep misunderstanding of what capitalism is.

MEXIEYeah, that’s a very good segue, perhaps, into the definition. [LAUGHS]

MARINEOh, yes. So, Mexie, I was wondering, what is capitalism, exactly?

MEXIEWell, I’m glad you asked, Marine. Because [LAUGHS] unlike what some people may think, that capitalism is this…voluntary interaction between two willing parties that exchange services, and both mutually benefit from the exchange of those services. [LAUGHS]
00:04:01:00MEXIECapitalism is actually a mode of production. Capitalism, socialism, anarchism, all of these isms are all different modes of production. So, they’re based around things like property rights, and means of production, and the way that profits are generated, and surplus is distributed. So, each one of them can take many different forms. Like capitalism is often associated with liberal democracies.  However, there have been, and continue to be, many capitalist dictatorships. There’s no form that any of these things necessarily have to take. So, capitalism is a mode of production based around the private ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods and services. This grew out of feudalism in England, through a series of private land-enclosures, where land was enclosed, and the peasants that were working that land were forced to leave.
00:04:58:00MEXIEThey were evicted. And so, since they no longer had access to that land, or means of producing for themselves, they were then forced to sell their labor for a wage. So, this is what we call primitive accumulation. This is the process through which people are turned into the laboring class, because they have no access to the means of producing anything for themselves.  They can’t support themselves other than through selling their labor for a wage, and then buying things that they used to be able to produce for themselves. [LAUGHS] So capitalism therefore functions as a system where there’s a capitalist class, or the owners of capital and the means of production, such as property, equipment, etc.  And they spend that capital and money, and hire laborers to produce commodities that will be sold for a higher amount than the money that was initially invested. And so, this additional value is produced by the workers, who are the ones who actually combine the raw materials into commodities, and produce this higher value.
00:06:02:00MEXIEBut workers are not paid that full value of all the time they put in for the social labor. And this is how profits are made. And of course, the profits are taken by the capitalists. So capitalism does not function without this class hierarchy and exploitation of labor. And in order to compete with other capitalists, each firm must also strive to increase efficiency and profit-generation, in order to reinvest in increased production and efficiency. Because capital is really just capital-in-motion. It’s only capital if you’re going to reinvest it to produce more capital. Otherwise, it’s just money and wealth, right. But when the markets are saturated, the main way to increase profits is to lower the cost of production, which means putting a downward pressure on labor and wages, and cutting corners environmentally. Or in other words, the social and environmental costs of capitalist accumulation or competition are externalized. 
00:06:57:00MEXIEAnd this is why we see increasing inequality and environmental degradation as inherent parts of capitalist accumulation. So these are not accidents—these are things that happen based on the inner mechanisms of capitalism as a mode of production itself. And as I said, capitalism can take many different forms. It can be a dictatorship, a quote-unquote liberal democracy.

MARINE[TALKS OVER] is not synonymous with democracy, unlike so many people think.

MEXIE[LAUGHS] Yeah, absolutely not, it is not. That is a very good point that needs to be underscored, that yeah, it can be anything. We could do a whole other podcast about the quote-unquote democracy that we enjoy in liberal capitalist democracies, but that’s a different [story]. [LAUGHTER]

MARINEYes, thank you for that explanation. It was very insightful and super-concise. [LAUGHTER] I feel like our listeners are going to have to go back and play it, and listen to it and be like, oh yes. That’s what I do with a lot of podcasts.
00:07:56:00MARINEI’m just like, hmm, wait, this was really good information. But I think we also need to understand that the economy, or capitalism, is not just an objective science of just like, well, certain people pursue profits, and then exploitation is inherent to it. I think that’s definitely a part of it, but I think that what people also fail to see is that the World Trade Organization, and the structures, the institutions that structure the flow of resources, actually have a huge impact on how that flow operates. So, it’s really…it’s an economic model, and it’s also a model for maintaining inequality between different countries, and regulating the flow of production. 

MEXIEYeah, for sure, because if you just look at what I just said about the inherent mechanisms of capitalism, profits are produced through inequality. 
00:08:58:00MEXIEProfits do not get produced without [LAUGHS] inequality, so a lot of these things that are here now in late-stage capitalism are these political mechanisms for increasing that, and maintaining that upward flow of money, from the bottom to the top.

MARINESo next, I want to dispel the myth, once and for all, that capitalism is working, and is reducing inequality. Because the World Bank, and just a lot of [LAUGHS] important people, have been peddling this myth that inequality, on a global scale, is getting better with capitalism. And it’s not. And I looked into this a little bit more, and that myth is actually based on extremely misleading stats. And they’re misleading for two main reasons. The first is that, the stats are calculated as if everybody in the world is part of one big country.
00:10:00:00MARINEAnd even then, it’s only—so if you consider that everyone is part of one big country, it is true. But that’s only if you include China and East Asia in the mix. And interestingly enough, they’re the only parts of the world that have been forcibly globalized by the Washington consensus, established in the 1980s.  So, they were able to transform their economy largely according to their own standards. However, if we look at global inequality between different regions of the world—so, across rich and poor countries, or north and south, what we see is that inequality has gotten much, much worse. And actually, the income gap between the poor and the rich, in the last few decades, has tripled.  So…that’s one reason why it’s incredibly misleading.
00:10:56:00MARINEWe definitely see that wealth is being massively transferred from the south, to the north. And the other factor that makes this stat misleading is, so the UN says there’s about 700 million to 1 billion poor people in the world, and that that number has been decreasing steadily. However, they put the threshold for what qualifies as poverty at $1.25 a day. Which is ridiculous, because no one can actually live on that. It’s estimated by a lot of economists, that the basic level of human subsistence can only be achieved with at least $5 a day.  So, that’s like if you want to be able to drink, and eat, and live past your second birthday. And if you look at that stat of $5 a day, there’s actually 4.3 billion people in the world living in poverty. 
00:11:55:00MARINESo, that’s quite a massive difference. So, the yields of capitalism are very much going to the rich countries. And obviously, the rules of capitalism are regulated in a way that’s beneficial to them. And another interesting stat is that all of the new income generated in the past few decades, out of all that income, only 5% has gone to the poorest 60% of the world. So, trickle-down, my ass, at this rate of trickling down. Economists [LAUGHTER] actually estimate that it would take over 200 years to eradicate poverty. But that’s considering, [doing as if] we wouldn’t blow ourselves up if we kept going this way for 200 years, which we would. So that’s an unrealistic statistic, anyway.

MEXIEYeah, for sure. The World Bank also incredibly doctored their stats on poverty. It makes me so mad when people say that poverty is being reduced.
00:12:58:00MEXIE‘Cause they’re the institution that’s supposed to be eradicating poverty. So, it looked pretty bad for them, where decade, after decade, after decade, poverty was increasing. Even, I just read Joseph Stiglitz, his new book, Globalization and its Discontents. But the original version of that was written prior. I can’t remember exactly when it was written, but he was doing a lot of the research during the ‘90s. And even in that book, he talks about how, despite the rhetoric of the World Bank, he was the former head of the World Bank, chief economist of the World Bank, by the way, so he knows what he’s talking about. He was saying that poverty had actually increased over the ‘90s, a significant amount. And this is the head of the World Bank. And then, suddenly, [LAUGHS] the tables are turned. We’re moving to the 21st century, and suddenly, the world’s getting so much better, despite the Washington consensus policies that destroyed everything.
00:13:59:00MEXIEDespite neoliberalism. Suddenly, it’s getting better. And everyone’s like, oh wow, great, capitalism is finally working. It’s like, really? You think that it all of a sudden just switched from getting so much worse, to being immediately better? I’ll include an article in the show-notes, talking about how they actually changed the goalposts, and how it didn’t align with inflation, and how the stats that they used made it seem as though, overnight, all of a sudden, all those people are no longer in poverty. Whereas really, the problem is just as bad as before, if not way worse. So it really makes me sick when I see people like the Bills Gates Foundation, and just anyone online telling me, everything is getting so much better. It’s like, oh, fuck. 

MARINEYeah, absolutely. I think that one of the most destructive myths that we tell ourselves about capitalism, in the west, is that rich countries are doing incredibly well, because they’re very smart, and because they’re very hard-working.
00:15:07:00MARINEBut we’re the ones who are actually very generous, and who give a lot of aid to the poor countries. This whole myth of international aid. And actually, international aid, if we look at the budget, it’s actually a lot of money. It’s 130 billion per year that goes from north to south. But actually, [LAUGHS] the thing is that there’s way more flowing from south to north. So, it’s really poor countries that are developing rich countries, in a sense. But that’s just thought of as like, well, that’s just really good business, when they’re forced to give us all of our wealth. However, it’s aid when we give them, when money goes from north to south. But I think that’s one of the most pervasive and harmful myths that people need to understand.
00:15:56:00MEXIEYeah, absolutely. I was watching, I don’t know if you know this, but Mad Blender did a debate with the Vegan Cheetah the other day. [LAUGHTER]

MARINEOh my god, poor Mad Blender.

MEXIEI know, so anyway, well, I was watching it live, and I was commenting, whatever. And he was saying all of that stuff that you’re talking about. And he obviously thinks that the real problem is the elite Jews that are running everything.

MARINEOh, god.

MEXIEHe actually commented to me, Mexie, are you denying that the elite Jews are not the ones running the World Bank? And I was just like, oh my god, fuck off.

MARINEPlease refer to, what, our third podcast?

MEXIEPlease refer to any information ever. Just do some reading that’s not Breitbart News or whatever, you know? But yeah, those are the common talking points, especially with this rise of the alt-right is that, well, Western civilizations just work really hard, and we’re just really, really smart, and we just earned all of this, and everyone else is just too backwards to get it together, and that’s why they’re poor.
00:16:58:00MEXIEAnd that’s why we shouldn’t have them [immigrate]. It’s just like, [SCOFFS] man. [LAUGHS]

MARINESo actually, there was a comprehensive study, the most comprehensive study in the world, [LAUGHS] which we can link in the show-notes. That was done in December 2015, by an association called the Global Financial Integrity Association, that partnered with the Norwegian school of economics, to study the financial flows around the world. And they found that, for every $1 of aid that African countries receive, they lose $24 in net outflows.

MEXIEYeah.

MARINEAnd that’s through a bunch of illicit financial flows, where companies are basically just taking money from poor countries, and storing it in tax-havens, or misinvoicing their…
00:17:57:00MARINEProfits.

MEXIEDid you read that article in the Guardian called, aid in reverse? Is that what you were looking at?

MARINENo, actually a lot of these stats, I’m getting from a podcast, the Under the Skin podcast by Russell Brand, ‘cause did you know that I love Russell Brand? [LAUGHTER] Anyway, the podcast is called, inequality is killing us all: are we going to stop it? And it’s with guest Jacon Hickle. It’s amazing. I really love this episode, so we’ll link it in the show-notes. So, you read it somewhere else, too?

MEXIEYeah, I’ll link also the Guardian article. It’s just a very concise, showing how, yeah, we should stop conceptualizing aid as actually doing anything to develop the global south, because it’s really set up for the global south to keep funneling their money and resources, and everything, to the global north. 
00:18:56:00MARINERight. I mean, when we think about it, if we didn’t…regulate the flows of cash around the world, according to some fictitious social construct, like money, why would it make sense that the countries producing all of the material, concrete resources, are the poorest ones? How has our imagination been so brainwashed and colonized, that we actually think that that makes sense?

MEXIEYes, so fucking colonized. [TALKS OVER] It boggles my mind. [LAUGHS]

MARINEYeah, no, it really does. We’ve completely normalized and naturalized the idea that just African countries, and other countries in the global south, are just poor. Even though we know that they’re the ones giving us all of the resources.

MEXIEIt just boggles me because I’m like, I feel like I never believed that. I feel like, even when I was a child, I never believed that.
00:19:56:00MEXIESo I’m just like, I’m looking around and I’m just like, am I…losing it? Am I…

MARINEYou were just a very woke child, [LAUGHS] I feel like. 

MEXIEBut I mean, even today–

MARINENo, you’re right. Literally a two-year-old would understand this.

MEXIERight. Even today, I’m looking around and I’m just like, who are all these normies? [LAUGHS] Or, am I the really weird one, who’s just missing something? But I’m just like, no, I feel like this is very easy to understand. I don’t know.

MARINE[TALKS OVER] Right, but I mean, this message is pushed on us literally 500 times a day, so…

MEXIEI know, but man, still I’m like…just sidebar, we don’t have to include this, but just a funny thing about, I obviously just recently joined OK Cupid, just for the hell of it–

MARINEOh girl, we’re including this. [LAUGHTER]

MEXIESo, just a funny tanget.
00:20:56:00MEXIESo as you know, I’ve just recently joined OK Cupid, just as a funny, to see what it’s about, and see who’s out there. And I made my profile super-polarizing. It was like, I even said at the start, I’m like, I’m going to make this as polarizing as possible, so that only the dopest of the dope message me.  So I’m like, hit me up if you, then I have a bulleted list, and it’s like: are critical of capitalism. Bonus points for Marxist analysis. Are anti-imperialist. Are feminist. I have all this shit, right. 

MARINEI would hit you up, girl.

MEXIEBut yeah, and I kind of figured that I wouldn’t get too many messages.

MARINE–so many people on there are just hungry, and don’t give a fuck.

MEXIEHonestly, I’ve gotten like a billion messages. And a lot of them will kind of be like, oh yes, I’m a Marxist, and I’m a feminist, or whatever. But then you start talking to them and you realize that they don’t really know what they’re talking about.  But an even greater number than that are just sending me these messages that are just so [clued] out, or who are like, ha ha, you’re fucking.
00:21:59:00MEXIEOr like, you are wearing so many things in your picture that are made by capitalism. And I’m just like, who am I surrounded by? I’m just like, would you actually ever say that as a real argument? That just shows that you’ve done no thinking [TALKS OVER] whatsoever about the situation that you’re in, about the systems around you. Even now, when I’m saying you should be critical of capitalism, you’re not even going to take this moment to do any reflection at all. At all. You’re just going to say that? I’m just like, I can’t even respond to that. People are just like, oh, you don’t want your views challenged? But that’s not a challenge. That’s ridiculous. I don’t have time for that. [LAUGHS] And I’m just like, everyone’s mind is so colonized. It really made me actually feel—I’ve only been on there for two days. But actually, just the number of messages that I got that were just so strange like that, I’m just like, wow, it just really made me feel like I am just the odd person out, out of my entire city, [LAUGHS] and possibly my entire country.
00:23:03:00MEXIE‘Cause everyone’s mind is so fucking colonized.

MARINEI know, I mean, we’re laughing about it now, but those are the times when I just get so discouraged, and just upset. But that being said, and we’re going to talk about the solutions later on. But just briefly, I do feel like there’s less and less people who believe in capital— I feel like there’s no one left to defend this stuff. And really, honestly believe that privatization is the way, that indebting other third-world countries is ethical. I do feel like there is a certain crisis arising, where there is just no one left to defend the system anymore, except for these eight rich people, who govern 60% of the wealth, or whatever the fuck that crazy stat is. 
00:23:55:00MARINESo, sometimes I’m optimistic, and sometimes I’m not. 

MEXIEYeah, you’re right. I mean, I am optimistic. I mean, this is the first time in my life that I’m seeing a lot more people actually openly organizing, and openly talking about socialism. So yeah, this is definitely a unique moment. But it’s also just very discouraging. What a great job those eight wealthy people are doing, in building all these right-wing think-tanks, and getting all these neo-nazis on board. [LAUGHS] But anyway.

MARINESo, to come back to my point that capitalism is not some objective science. That the economy is not objective. And I think people really need to understand that. 

MEXIEIt’s a set of social relations.

MARINEAbsolutely. That the flow of capital is regulated largely by the WTO.
00:24:57:00MARINEWhich is such a profoundly anti-democratic body. Not only do rich countries control 50% of the WTO, but the US government has a veto on every single decision that’s made there. So I think that obviously, they’re going to structure the flow of capital in a way that benefits them. And these stats that I was citing earlier, that all of the money from the south is basically being hemorrhaged into the north— This is very much…orchestrated by the WTO, and the rich countries themselves.

MEXIEYeah, the US, and the US, and Japan, [the triad] economies also similarly dominate the World Bank and the IMF. They make the decisions in terms of all of that: lending, Washington consensus policies, etc. So, this is all being structured by an elite few.
00:25:56:00MARINETotally. And it just has had a huge impact [LAUGHS] on our history. So this whole myth of international aid has very much indoctrinated us with the belief that all north countries want to do is help the global south. And it’s just like, [I don’t know], because they’re so incompetent, or because the resources are so scarce. It’s just really hard. [FAUX CRIES] Sorry, I don’t know why I’m getting so sassy and mad. [LAUGHTER] But yeah, the origins of mass poverty, the one that we have around today, really started under colonialism. And actually, after colonialism ended, the rich countries really made sure that all of the poor countries, economically poor countries, would stay indebted to us forever. So, you would think that, in the 1970s, in the two decades after colonialism ended, there was so much resistance in the global south, and they elected a lot of leftist leaders, that they implemented tariff protections, and nationalized their own industries, redistributed land.
00:27:06:00MARINEIt was really kind of a miracle of recovery. You would think that the WTO, that’s apparently tasked with regulating the world economy so that it’s as fair as possible, would be thrilled. However, they were not. [LAUGHS] And they literally, the global north, the G-7 countries literally sat down together and were like, okay, how are we going to stop developmentalism? How are we going to crush this resistance? And what they settled on was that, the rich countries settled agreements with the IMF, that the IMF would pay off, basically bailout African countries, only if they accepted structural adjustment programs that would liberalize their economy and privatize their assets. 
00:27:55:00MARINELower all of their environmental regulations. Basically allow northern countries to recolonize their entire economy. So, that was a way to bail them out, but to keep them so much more indebted in the long-run. And actually, if you look at how much debt they’ve had to pay, they’ve actually paid it off a million times over, already.  But the fact that there’s compounded interest rate, and that it keeps getting more and more difficult to pay back, and that banks have imposed all of these free-trade regulations and austerity measures…keeps them economically enslaved, basically.

MEXIEYeah, and they have to pay, all of their GDP, they have to pay like 40% of that back in debt repayment. So, they don’t have money for healthcare, education, or things that would actually help to develop their citizens or their country, because they’re literally paying half of their money just to these debt repayments.

MARINERight. And getting the other half stolen by corporations [TALKS OVER] setting up tax-havens.
00:28:57:00MEXIEYeah, or just leakage. Just foreign companies there, the majority of profits go to them, and the laborers get piddly shit. 

MARINERight. So that’s an example of how social democracy was actually flourishing, and helping African nations have more independence, and have more wealth, at a shockingly rapid, and almost [LAUGHS] miraculous rate. But it was torn down by neoliberal capitalist assholes. So, you’re also, Mexie, I think going to talk about how we have been sold this revisionist history of communism in Eastern Europe.

MEXIEYeah, and everywhere, in Cuba, etc. So, yeah, some of the arguments that you’ll hear against communism are that so many people died. Everyone was murdered. [LAUGHS] Everyone was dying, you know what I mean? And also that life expectancy and quality-of-life has increased so much under capitalism. Therefore, it’s the only option for us. First of all, I mean, there has been so much said [LAUGHS] about the black book of communism, which has been completely disproven, and yet people just still hark on these numbers. But anyway, if people dying is the benchmark for a shitty system, then I’m sorry– 

MARINE–should be.

MEXIE[LAUGHS] Well then, I’m sorry, why are none of the crimes of capitalism actually attributed to capitalism itself? The war crimes of Bush, and Cheney, and Reagan, and everyone. Famine in Africa, while food is being exported.
00:30:55:00MEXIEBillions going hungry while we overproduce food. I’m sorry, why is that not attributed to capitalism? All of the deaths of left-wing groups everywhere at the hands of the CIA. All of the coups. And then, everyone who died during the aftermath of the structural adjustment programs.  We installed dictatorships across the world