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The Professional Revolutionary's Long Winded Guide To Capitalist Propaganda

Most people don't have the time to indulge in revolutionary politics, by which I mean intellectually critiquing the systems of the day. Most don't have the inclination to read pages and pages of theory from the thinkers of yesteryear. Unfortunately for you, that includes me. However I don't have a job and you do (possibly) so for the purpose of this I'm going to pretend to be a professional revolutionary.

I should first point out that the idea of professional revolutionaries is a bad idea. I do not want any revolution fought in my name to be co opted by any kind of vanguard. This was the idea behind Lenin's philosophy and it is arrogant. A truly 'professional' revolutionary should not be a leader, but a positive influence, an encouragement. It is fundamental to the idea of genuine revolution, which I believe we sorely need, that it be a bottom-up grassroots movement; not a top down dictatorship. That method will not produce positive lasting revolutionary change and as such I reject it entirely.

What is a revolution? I hear no one ask.

If, like me, you have lived a life stifled by an economic and social paradigm you will know, feel, in fact, something is drastically wrong in the world. You feel there should be choices and freedoms where none appear. More pertinently, as far as this piece is concerned, you will instinctively flinch when the stock explanations you are given do not match with your sensibilities. For example, we are told the world does not owe us a living, but then we are economically punished for not having a living. People are kept on low incomes so their masters can maximise their profit, but people are held in disdain for turning to the state for support. We are ruled by millionaires and murderers who make war for profit and the media is complicit in persuading us this is a good thing ("Gotcha!" said the Sun when a ship full of human beings was sunk regarding a disputed territory thousands of miles away from our country).

What is capitalist propaganda?

Every day we are subject to the necessary propaganda to convince us that the life we are leading is worthwhile; that it contributes to the betterment of our society. We do not question whether that society is a positive influence to those around it (see "Gotcha!" above). In fact an entire mythology has built up around the notion of wage labour: Monday mornings are treated with a weary respect for example. Radio DJ's exhort us to rise up like clergy of old, wielding saccharine pop music instead of the fear of god. They pretend they are experiencing the same existential numbness in a most patronising way given they obviously enjoy their job and the comfort of the broadcast booth. Not for them the claustrophobic commute and the endless array of supermarket shelves.

By the end of the week we are rewarded with a mere two day respite during which pent up frustration at an unfulfilled life is soaked in excess and abuse. We drink to forget everything except the reality we cannot escape. That same DJ now tells us how great it is that the weekend has come around again, ignoring the ceaseless nihilistic repetition of it all. We celebrate our meaningless lives with commensurately mundane practices, sound tracked by the latest disposable sounds.

Most everybody questions this at some point, but we are never taught why. More tellingly, we are never presented with any kind of argument for the status quo. It is simply assumed; reinforced through cheap urban wisdom such as 'the world doesn't owe you a living'. What does that mean: it seems to suggest people shouldn't and don't help each other. What a lovely notion. Why shouldn't we challenge that?

The reality is that people are complicit in this system because they need an income, and so, by selling their labour, they actively enforce its ideology. Yet what power do people have in that arrangement? Where is the social contract? We are told we live in a free society, but that freedom is relative and, in key areas, lacking. We do not have the power to negotiate a better contract, though we enjoy the freedom to try. A supermarket shelf stacker can certainly appeal for a rise in his meagre income, but won't get it. In fact he's likely to risk being seen as a nuisance - and there's propaganda for that as well. People are told to keep their heads down and just 'get on with it'. Maybe you'll be lucky and get a promotion, but what does that entail? You are attracted to the promise of a (slightly) higher income, but the work gets harder. This equation doesn't prove quite so rewarding as you aren't really any better off and the capitalist, through exhorting you to work harder, derives more profit from you.

Hard work is the watchword of the day. The antithesis of hard work is the lazy scrounger who doesn't deserve his state provided pittance (a sop to maintain the fabric of social order, nothing else), you are better than they because you work - and of course when I say that I mean you work hard. Who doesn't? But the options as you rise up the ladder grow ever smaller. It's a pyramid scheme of course and the top spot, the pinnacle of this vile edifice, is a single position for which you would have to fight with the vast number of other people who all rose from the bottom like you - better work even harder. Just know that as you do work harder, you generate more profit for the masters, you are not rewarded as they are except in the kudos that society dishes out via this propaganda.

Oh and by the way, that top spot? You won't get it; that seat is reserved. If you aren't born to the same class as those that deserve the top seat, it doesn't matter where you started or how hard you work.

Along the way you will be told that your hard work translates into 'earnings'. This is a facile euphemism. What you are given is the wage you signed up for. Remember? The wage that was agreed when you started, right at the bottom, with all the power you had to bring to bear on that agreement. That's wage labour and your means to negotiate a better deal for yourself are unfortunately reduced by the size of the labour market you are forced to compete within. Sure you want that job, sure you might need that job, and sure you might even be good at that job, but so what: the world doesn't owe you a living, remember?

We don't need markets; they dehumanise us and devalue our creative output. If I make one item, it's as worthy as the others I make. In a free society with no bosses and direct ownership of the means of production, those items are mine and the result of my freely given and freely determined work. I do this because I want to and because I like to. Not because I need an income.

So you are taught that your wage represents your hard work: you have earned your pay for today, good citizen. Consequently you are free to do with it as you wish - though that likely translates into purchasing the items you have made, at an inflated rate (because...profit), since you are conditioned to aspire to, or need to, own those things. Is this freedom?

Compare that to the lot of the scrounger who, in spending his money, is subject to all sorts of influences: he shouldn't spend that money on X or Y. We don't give him money to fritter away. If you want the nice things, you should get a job. That doesn't even make sense: surely it is better for benefit money to be spent than not spent. What does it matter how as long as it returns to the economy. If no one brought anything our wonderful system would collapse. Society can generate a profit, but that cannot be used to help others. Where does it go? Well it's needed to grow the economy? What does that mean? Nothing, it's a vicious cycle. But you just better keep earning because that is a good thing, of course. Why would you question that when you've worked hard for it? You've earned it - and the harder you work, the more onerous the effort or intense the labour, the more you've earned it - as if earnings can be measured in degrees of pressure.

They can't obviously, but this notion exists to reinforce a hierarchy. This structure is perfectly represented by the yearly spectacle of capitalist media we call the Apprentice. Here a gaggle of gullible capitalist wannabes demonstrate their talent and reliability by abandoning the businesses they've apparently established to fight each other in an unrealistic colosseum of enterprise in the form of reality TV. The odds of any of them winning outweigh the risk taken in throwing their business down the toilet in order to build another business in partnership with an angry billionaire funded by the poorest in society via the license fee.

...and breathe!

So there you have it: a users guide, or at least, a long winded introduction into the social conditioning employed by capitalism. It occurs to me that, in explaining it thus, I might appear somewhat conspiratorial. That's not entirely true: it isn't really helpful to look at it as if this were the conscious actions of an elite cabal out to manipulate the world beyond. Instead it is merely cultural; these are norms that have become, well, the norm, over the time capitalism has bedded itself into society. Again, it is vital to understand that we are complicit in this system because we have no choice; most cannot live beyond it if only because capitalist education systems don't teach that knowledge and the notion of division of labour doesn't provide the means (how would you farm in a tower block for instance?).

This propaganda exists to maintain a social fabric through endlessly iterating and reinforcing norms and values. The revolutionary's job is to question these norms and values. Most people seem to respond believing capitalism to be a natural thing or that it reflects human nature. The truth is otherwise.

Good day.


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