The Capitalist Manifesto: Concern for workers’ rights? Forget about socialism

Adam Zivo: If you care about workers, the best thing you can do is improve capitalism by reducing its monopoly impulses, which in practice means supporting free enterprise and competition.

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Capitalism has created more prosperity and progress for more people than any other system in human history. On the 30th anniversary of the official end of the Soviet Union, join the National Post and the Financial Post in a series saluting the old-fashioned but awesome power of the free market system.

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One of the great myths of socialism is that it maximizes the prosperity of working people. Yet historically the opposite has been true. Rather than emancipating the working class, socialism crushes it under the yoke of exploitation. Instead of encouraging union activists who demand fairer wages and better working conditions, socialist countries have often punished them with beatings and imprisonment.

To understand why union activism is doing so badly under socialism, it is important to consider the implications of merging industry with government. In capitalist systems, employment is distributed among a large number of firms. By competing with each other, they reduce their collective bargaining power over the workers they employ.

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This creates opportunities for workers to negotiate concessions from their employers, especially if they are unionized. Cooperation breeds power, and while unions have their flaws and can in some cases be counterproductive, they are also a powerful advocacy tool for workers’ rights.

However, when the state assimilates the private sector, it creates a quasi-union of employers united by the power of the government, which amplifies their bargaining power. Socialist employers use this additional bargaining power to exploit their workers more brutally. The ruthless working hours and low wages are presented as the sacrifices necessary for the construction of a new utopia, even though in practice the fruits of the labor of the workers are amassed by the party cadres and the bureaucratic elite at the grassroots. to be able to.

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Any lucid person would call it what it is: the oligarchy. Yet this type of oligarchy sanctifies itself through the rhetoric of revolution and social justice. The working class is thus vampirically sucked into looking at portraits of itself adorned with ribbons – all to the applause of socialists around the world who, out of dogmatism or ignorance, take state propaganda at face value and wonder not why socialist workers seem so exhausted.

These workers lack the capacity to fight abusive employers because the unions that are supposed to represent them are politically powerless. In the Soviet Union, for example, union membership was widespread – a fact that was touted as a victory for workers’ rights – but unions were also prohibited from challenging the state. Rather, they were reduced to resolving trivial management conflicts and organizing social activities.

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It was simply assumed that the Soviet government, being socialist in spirit, would act on behalf of the working class. Since the government employed everyone (directly or indirectly), it assumed, by extension, that employers knew what was best for their workers. If the workers and their union representatives dared to disagree, they were declared counterrevolutionaries and punished accordingly.

In Maoist China, the establishment of socialism led to a deterioration in the working conditions of urban workers, who saw their real wages fall despite rising productivity – the more they worked, the more the government appropriated the benefits of their labor. . As a result, an unprecedented wave of strikes and protests erupted in 1956. It was quickly and violently suppressed.

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Social unrest spread throughout the Maoist era, but was constantly quelled with the help of the secret police and the People’s Liberation Army. While the right to strike was theoretically guaranteed to citizens, because it maintained the vision of a workers’ paradise, there was no expectation that this right would be respected.

As Yiching Wu, a leading scholar on Maoist China and a former professor of mine, noted, in socialist systems there is no real distinction between economic activism and political activism. A strike against an employer is automatically considered a strike against the government – asking for a reprieve from brutal working conditions is to question the very legitimacy of socialism.

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With this in mind, it is not surprising that socialist countries have responded reflexively to trade union activism with repression. Protecting the legitimacy of the regime always trumps workers’ rights.

Socialists often criticize capitalism for its plutocratic tendencies. They are right to do it, because capitalism has flaws. And I say this as a capitalist who hates dogmatism. However, if you believe capitalism is bad because it allows the rich to quietly corrupt the state, then it’s hard to see what socialism is the answer to. The latter only formalizes the alliance between wealth and political power, and hides this unnatural marriage under utopian rhetoric.

Whatever the faults of capitalist states, they do not automatically treat strikes as existential threats. This goes without saying by the number of strikes they authorize, which far exceeds what the socialist countries have historically authorized.

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Ironically, capitalism’s celebration of Darwinian competition keeps employers relatively weak by keeping them divided. Competition is generally considered to be good for business, but the truth is, nothing is more attractive to a business than a government-backed monopoly. While monopolies appear in capitalism at the expense of workers, they can be dealt with by getting rid of government regulations that create barriers to entry into the market or by using antitrust laws to break them down. Monopolies are a fixable bug in capitalism, but an inherent feature of socialism.

If you care about workers, the best thing you can do is improve capitalism by reducing its monopoly impulses, which in practice means supporting free enterprise and competition. Adopting these core capitalist values ​​not only removes the bargaining power of the private sector, but also increases economic efficiency for the benefit of all.

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Worker-friendly capitalism is possible, as illustrated by many European countries, especially those in Scandinavia. On the other hand, no human example of socialism exists, despite many ruinous attempts.

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