- descriptif :
- Symbole(s) utilisé(s) : pyramide sociale /B_tout>
[ texte (recto /verso : au recto en forme de pyramide) ; dessin (pyramide sociale couronnée par le « $ »)]
- texte :
Capitalism is a pyramid scheme
The labor of those lower on the pyramid enriches the ones towards the top. To stay stable, the economy has to draw in more and more resources—colonizing new continents, workforces, and aspects of daily life. The resulting inequalities can only be maintained by ever-escalating force.
We’re encouraged to compete against each other to improve our positions on an individual basis. But there’s not enough space at the top for all of us, no matter how hard we work—and no pyramid scheme can go on expanding forever. Sooner or later it’s bound to crash : global warming and recession are just the first warning signs. Instead of going down with the Pharaohs, let’s join forces to establish another way of life.
[logo "hand"] crimethinc.com
Further copies of this poster are available in packs of 25 for $4 via crimethinc.com ; you can obtain a larger version for $8. It’s designed to accompany Work, a 376-page decoder ring for this poster and the capitalist economy itself.
CrimethInc. ex-Workers’ Collective
PO Box 13998 [“cloud with rain”] Salem, OR 97309
Capitalism Is a Pyramid Scheme
The labor of those lower on the pyramid enriches the ones towards the top. To stay stable, the economy has to draw in more and more resources—colonizing new continents, workforces, and aspects of our lives. The resulting inequalities can only be maintained by ever-escalating force : armies occupy countries, police patrol neighborhoods, security cameras point at every cash register.
Capitalists make money not only on what they do, but also from what they own. It takes money to make money, as they say. Business owners, landlords, and large shareholders are capitalists ; so are executives who receive salaries padded with money produced by other people’s efforts.
Capitalists cash in on the activity of the exploited. The exploited can only make money from their own labor, so it’s easy for employers to pay them less than the value they produce. When banks and credit card companies make money off debtors, they’re exploiting them, the same as a corporation that pays an employee a dollar to make a $200 pair of shoes.
Others are at the mercy of the economy but excluded from participating in it. The unemployed and the homeless are excluded, along with most of the occupants of shantytowns around the world. Prisoners are often both excluded and exploited, being forced to work at a pittance that amounts to slave labor. Being excluded is not the same as being outside the market—the dispossessed are poor precisely because they are inside capitalism.
The economy reshapes the physical and social terrain in its own image : silicon valleys, motor cities, banana republics. It erases the distinction between natural and synthetic : a cornfield in Iowa is no more natural than the concrete wasteland of Newark, New Jersey. It transforms hurrah beings into workers, the same way it reduces forests to toilet paper and pigs to pork chops.
Capitalism unifies the world into a single metropolis. Roses ticked on plantations in rural Ecuador are sold to Manhattan businessmen the same day ; a set by a DJ at a Barcelona nightclub is broadcast simultaneously in Johannesburg. News, fashions, and ideas are transmitted instantaneously around the globe ; every city is populated by tourists and refugees from every other city. People spend more time communicating across hundreds of miles than they do talking to their neighbors. Physical distance between people in different cities is giving way to social distance between people in the same city.
National boundaries are increasingly obsolete as a framework for understanding economics. One can no longer distinguish the domestic economy from the global economy, if such a thing was ever possible. The majority of the wealth of many US corporations is comprised of their holdings overseas ; a single task may be outsourced from New York City to Mumbai ; an idea from Argentina generates profits in Finland. The world isn’t made up of distinct physical territories or political bodies ; it is a sea of interlocking relations that, like wind, water, and thermal currents, do not conform to imaginary boundaries.
Today the borders that matter are not the horizontal ones between regions but the vertical ones dividing social strata, which are enforced everywhere at once rather than only at individual checkpoints. These divide the metropolis into different zones of privilege, determining access to resources and power. Such zones may meet anywhere—an undocumented immigrant cleans a congressman’s house for illegally low wages, guards brandish guns at the gate of an expensive hotel housing European businessmen right next to a shantytown in New Delhi.
Who holds the ultimate power in this system ?
Is it heads of state ? They seem to answer directly to the wealthy, protecting their interests at any expense. Is it the wealthiest ones, the magnates who own corporations and profit on countless shrewd investments ? They still have to scramble to maintain their positions as a thousand contenders struggle to replace them. How about the Federal Reserve, the bankers, the ones who administrate the system ? When something goes awry, they seem as powerless and distraught as everyone else. Is it a secret conspiracy of tycoons or Freemasons ? That sounds like lingering anti-Semitic rhetoric, implying that the problem is the power of a specific group rather than the dynamics of the system itself.
Or is no one in control ? People speak about the economy the way they speak about God or Nature, even though it’s comprised of their own activities and the activities of people like them. It is a sort of Ouija board on which the self-interested actions of competing individuals add up to collective disempowerment. Has there ever been a dictator as tyrannical and destructive as the market ?
Capital seems to be autonomous. It flows one way, then another, it concentrates itself in one nation, then disappears capriciously overseas. From an economist’s perspective, it is the subject of history, acting on us. Its movements seem unstoppable, inevitable. And yet capital as we know it is simply a collective hallucination imposed on the world ; ownership is only "real" because we make it so.
The market rewards skill, brilliance, and daring—but only to the extent that they produce profit. The essential quality naturally selected for those at the top of the pyramid is that their make decisions on the basis of what concentrates the most power in their hands. They pass down all the costs of this accumulation of power that they can—not only to workers and consumers and victims of pollution, but also to their spouses and secretaries and housemaids—but they can’t avoid the fact that they have to make decisions based on economic constraints or else lose their positions.
You could say capitalism puts power in the worst hands, but that misses the point. It’s not that the ones rewarded by the economy tend to be the worst people, but that—however selfish or generous they are—their positions are contingent on certain kinds of behavior. The moment an executive deprioritizes profit-making, he or his company is instantly replaced with a more ruthless contender. For example, in a world in which corporate decisions are governed by the necessity of producing good quarterly reports, CEOs are simply powerless to make decisions that place ecology over profit. They might promote ecological products or sustainable energy, but only as a marketing campaign or PR move. Genuinely ecocentric decision-making can only occur outside the market.
So you don’t have to believe all executives are bad people to conclude that capitalism itself is a problem. On the contrary, it’s the defenders of the free market who have to make arguments based on human nature. To excuse the destructiveness of the economy, they have to argue that no other social system can motivate human beings and provide for their needs. Anthropologists already know that this is not true.
Two centuries ago the vast majority of people were employed extracting resources directly from the earth : farming, fishing, and mining. The industrial revolution pushed much of this workforce into manufacturing. Today, more money is being made in manufacturing than ever, but thanks to technological progress it takes fewer and fewer employees to accomplish the same amount of production.
In a sensible system, this would mean more leisure for all of us, but in capitalism it just saves employers money and makes it harder for the rest of us to get a job. In poorer areas, slums and shantytowns serve as holding pools for the unemployed, keeping them close enough to sweatshops to drive down wages. In wealthier zones, all this cheap labor ends up in the service industry, helping capitalists promote their products. Customer service is becoming more central to the economy than merchandise ; corporations don’t just sell things, but also attention, hospitality, empathy, assistance, interaction—everything that used to be a free part of social life. The service industry is the thin layer of living flesh stretched over the iron machinery of the economy, stoking the engines of desire that drive it.
Meanwhile, in a "globalized" economy, capitalists can move jobs around the planet at will, sidestepping unionized or rebellious workforces and exploiting whoever is most desperate. All this combines to create a situation in which employment is increasingly temporary and precarious. Building up a good résumé becomes as important as saving money ; even baristas and dishwashers come to see themselves as entrepreneurs selling not only their labor but also themselves. Paradoxically, even as survival gets more difficult, more people come to identify with their roles within capitalism.
Yet despite this, capitalism is entering a new era of crisis and uncertainty. Until a few decades ago, the labor movement at least forced capitalists to pay workers enough to buy the products of their labor. Now the old labor movement has been outflanked and all the peace treaties in the class war have expired ; this has enabled a handful of magnates to amass the greatest fortunes in history, but it is eroding the consumer base that supports the entire operation in the first place. It also gives the rest of us less and less reason to play along. We can expect a new wave of conflicts in which the future of capitalism itself will come back into question.
We’re encouraged to compete against each other to improve our positions on an individual basis. But there’s not enough space at the top of the pyramid for all of us, no matter how hard we work—and no pyramid scheme can go on expanding forever. Sooner or later it’s bound to crash : recession and global warming are just the first warning signs. Instead of going down with the Pharaohs, let’s join forces to establish another way of life.
[logo "balle/cartouche de fusil"] CrimethInc.
- descriptif :
- Symbole(s) utilisé(s) : étoile (noire …) ★ /B_tout>
[ texte recto / verso) ; photo (rang de policiers anti-émeute) ]
- texte :
The ones who beat Rodney King, who gunned down Sean Bell and Amadou Diallo and Oscar Grant, who murdered Fred Hampton in his bed. The ones who enforced Apartheid in South Africa and segregation in the United States. The ones who broke Victor Jara’s hands and Steve Biko’s skull, who disappeared dissidents from Argentina to Zaire, who served Josef Stalin. The ones who interrogated Black Panthers and Catholic Workers, who maintained records on 16 million people in East Germany, who track us through surveillance cameras and phone taps. The ones firing tear gas and rubber bullets whenever a demonstration gets out of hand, who back the bosses in every strike. The ones who stand between every hungry person and the grocery shelves stocked with food, between every homeless person and the buildings standing empty, between every immigrant and her family.
In every nation, in every age, you tell us you’re indispensable, that without you we’d all be killing each other.
But we know well enough who the killers are.
You won’t fuck with us much longer.
Police everywhere, justice nowhere — [logo (cartouche d’arme à feu) :] Crimethinc. — www.crimethinc.org/police
Seven Myths about the Police
The police exercise legitimate authority. The average police officer is not a legal expert ; he probably knows his department protocol, but very little about the actual laws. This means his enforcement involves a great deal of bluffing, improvisation, and dishonesty. Police lie on a regular basis : "I just got a report of someone of your description committing a crime around here. Want to show me some ID ?"
This is not to say we should unthinkingly accept laws as legitimate, either. The entire judicial system protects the privileges of the wealthy and powerful Obeying laws is not necessarily morally right—it may even be immoraL Slavery was legal, aiding escaped slaves illegal. The Nazis came to power in Germany via democratic elections and passed laws through the prescribed channels. We should aspire to the strength of conscience to do what we know is best, regardless of laws and police intimidation.
[draw] “protecting and serving the fuck out of you”
The police are ordinary workers just like us ; they should be our allies. Unfortunately, there’s a big gap between "should be" and "are." The role of the police is to serve the interests of the ruling class ; anyone who has not had a bad experience with them is likely privileged, submissive, or both. Today’s police officers know exactly what they’re getting into when they join the force—people in uniform don’t just get cats out of trees. Yes, most take the job because of economic pressure, but needing a paycheck is no excuse for evicting families, harassing young people of color, or pepper-spraying demonstrators. Those whose consciences can be bought are everyone’s potential enemies, not allies.
This fairy tale is more persuasive when it is couched in strategic terms : for example, "Every revolution succeeds at the moment the armed forces refuse to make war on their fellows ; therefore we should focus on seducing the police to our side." But the police are not just any workers ; they’re the ones who chose to base their livelihoods upon defending the prevailing order, thus the least likely to be sympathetic to those who wish to change it. In this context, it makes more sense to oppose the police as such than to seek solidarity with them. As long as they serve their masters, they cannot be our allies ; by denouncing the institution of police and demoralizing individual officers, we encourage them to seek other livelihoods so we can one day find common cause with them.
Maybe there are some bad apples, but some police officers are good people. Perhaps some police officers have good intentions, but once again, insofar as they obey orders rather than their consciences, they cannot be trusted.
There’s something to be said for understanding the systematic nature of institutions, rather than attributing every injustice to the shortcomings of individuals. Remember the story of the man who, tormented by fleas, managed to catch one between his fingers ? He scrutinized it for a long time before placing it back at the spot on his neck where had he caught it. His friends, confounded, inquired why on earth he would do such a thing. That wasn’t the one that was biting me," he explained.
[draw] “puppets of the ruling class”
Police can win any confrontation, so we shouldn’t antagonize them. With all their weapons, equipment, and surveillance, the police can seem invincible, but this is an illusion. They are limited by all sorts of invisible constraints—bureaucracy, public opinion, communication breakdowns, an overloaded judicial system. If they don’t have vehicles or facilities available to transport and process a great number of arrestees, for example, they can’t make mass arrests.
This is why a motley crowd armed only with the tear gas canisters shot at them can hold off a larger, more organized, better-equipped police force ; contests between social unrest and military might don’t play out according to the rules of military engagement. Those who have studied police, who can predict what they are prepared for and what they can and cannot do, can often outsmart and outmaneuver them.
Such small victories are especially inspiring for those who chafe under the heel of police violence on a daily basis. In the collective unconscious of our society, the police are the ultimate bastion of reality, the force that ensures that things stay the way they are ; taking them on and winning, however temporarily, shows that reality is negotiable.
[draw] “together we are stronger than them”
Police are a mere distraction from the real enemy, not worth our wrath or attention. Alas, tyranny is not just a matter of politicians or executives ; they would be powerless without those who do their bidding. When we contest their rule, we’re also contesting the submission that keeps them in power, and sooner or later we’re sure to come up against some of those who submit.
That being said, it’s true that the police are no more integral to hierarchy than the oppressive dynamics in our own communities ; they are simply the external manifestation, on a larger scale, of the same phenomena. If we are to contest domination everywhere, rather than specializing in combating certain forms of it while leaving others unchallenged, we have to be prepared to confront it both in the streets and in our own bedrooms ; we can’t expect to win on one front without fighting on the other. We shouldn’t fetishize confrontations with uniformed foes, we shouldn’t forget the power imbalances in our own ranks—but neither should we be content merely to manage the details of our own oppression in a non-hierarchical manner.
We need police to protect us. According to this line of thinking, even if we might aspire to live in a society without police in the distant future, we need them today, for people are not ready to live together peacefully without armed enforcers. As if the social imbalances and fear maintained by police violence are peace ! Those who argue that the police sometimes do good things bear the burden of proving that those same good things could not be accomplished at least as well by other means.
In any case, it’s not as if a police-free society is suddenly going to appear overnight just because someone spray-paints "Fuck the Police" on a wall. The protracted struggle it will take to free our communities from police repression will probably go on as long as it takes us to learn to coexist peacefully ; a community that can’t sort out its own conflicts can’t expect to triumph against a more powerful occupying force. In the meantime, opposition to police should be seen as a rejection of one of the most egregious sources of oppressive violence, not an assertion that without police there would be none. But if we can ever defeat and disband the police, we will surely be able to defend ourselves against less organized threats.
[draw (Daniel Cohn-Bendit & French policeman)] “Take some responsibility for yourself you fucking coward !”
Resisting the police is violent—it makes you no better than them. According to this line of thinking, violence is inherently a form of domination, and thus inconsistent with opposing domination. Those who engage in violence play the same game as their oppressors, thereby losing from the outset.
This is dangerously simplistic. Is a woman who defends herself against a rapist no better than a rapist ? Were slaves who revolted no better than slave-holders ? There is such a thing as self-defense. In some cases, violence enforces power imbalances ; in other cases, it challenges them. For people who still have faith in an authoritarian system or God, following the rules—whether legal or moral—is the top priority, at whatever cost : they believe they will be rewarded for doing so, regardless of what happens to others as a result. Whether such people call themselves conservatives or pacifists makes little difference in the end. On the other hand, for those of us who take responsibility for ourselves, the most important question is what will serve to make the world a better place. Sometimes this may include violence.
Police are people too, and deserve the same respect due all living things. The point is not that they deserve to suffer or that we should bring them to justice. The point is that, in purely pragmatic terms, they must not be allowed to brutalize people or impose an unjust social order. Though it can be empowering for those who have spent their lives under the heel of oppression to contemplate finally settling the score with their oppressors, liberation is not a matter of exacting revenge but of rendering it unnecessary. Therefore, while it may sometimes even be necessary to set police on fire, this should not be done out of a spirit of vengeful self-righteousness, but from a place of care and compassion—if not for the police themselves, at least for all who would otherwise suffer at their hands.
Delegitimizing the police is not only beneficial for those they target, but also for police officers’ families and police officers themselves. Not only do police officers have disproportionately high rates of domestic violence and child abuse, they’re also more likely to get killed, commit suicide, and struggle with addiction than most sectors of society. Anything that encourages police officers to quit their jobs is in their best interest, as well as the interest of their loved ones and society at large. Let’s create a world in which no one oppresses or is oppressed, in which no one has to live in fear.
[logo "adjustable wrench" Crimethinc.] Produced and dispersed by the Crimethinc. Ex-Worker’s Collective, an unlikely collection of misfits held together by an insatiable desire for freedom and the means to achieve it.
Crimethinc. Community Services
PO Box 13998
Salem Oregon 97309
Download a PDF of this poster and many others at crimethinc.com [QR-Code]
"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both."
— Frederick Douglass