Tag Archive: capitalism

Very recently, the student newspaper at Rutgers New Brunswick, The Daily Targum, published this editorial about the recent tuition freeze that was won by the students, who had the audacity and gall to aim their complaints directly at Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa.


I largely agree with this article and offer my explanation as to why such things do not occur in America as well.

From what I can tell, the problem for student activists here in America is a lack of diverse messaging, as hinted at in the article. We seem to accept activism of only one kind from our prospective recruits: either radical/grassroots, or reformist/legislative, but not both. We can’t seem to strike a balance between these two approaches. State- or nationwide legislation-oriented groups butt heads with campus-specific radical groups, to the ultimate detriment, discrediting, and disintegration of both.

We don’t inform people, as this article does, that those who sign petitions are just as important as those who stop traffic with sit-ins, but we also don’t try to convince them that more is needed than a signature. We take no long-term strategy to unite both privileged students and underprivileged students around the issue of tuition gouging—though they definitely are both needed; we can’t expect people working three jobs in addition to going to school full-time to spend their one hour of free time per day tabling, though of course anyone who wants to should do so, or demand that people with no documents expose themselves to arrest—nor do we tie the immediate self-interests of students to the cause of fighting tuition-gouging.

Instead, we try to tie it to collective interests, to selflessness and “injustice,” but the pseudo-libertarian “personal-responsibility”-mongering trolls speak louder than us with their harsh, racist/sexist/homophobic invective to silence the masses and convince them to remain passively and individualistically selfish, and that protest of any kind is a waste of time, and that they should continue to watch out for themselves, even though fighting to freeze tuition WOULD be watching out for themselves and others.

We make no effort to first form a large-scale cohesive radical/reformist student movement that sustains itself after we graduate, based first on “little victories” like longer library hours and leading up to escalation tactics that could serve to challenge the university power structure itself. We instead (as I hinted at earlier) rely on short-term or medium-term successes that are often purely legislative in nature, that require only a vote or a signature from a student to win (and no other student involvement), and that often don’t win or win completely, and any benefits that are won aren’t seen or recognized for months or years, and the credit for winning them goes to the wonderful Democratic politicians who “fight” for us, when in reality we fight for them to do their job, and these same politicians would scarcely do 1/10 for us what we do for them, or bestow us with 1/10 the faith we place in them, in part because “the students” have proven incapable of remaining coherent, self-sustaining, and organized for longer than one generation of students at a time.

This is a critical explanation of why things like what happened in South Africa don’t happen here. There is not enough unity over who the allies are, who the adversaries are, what is needed to win, and what the true obstacles are. This is just my opinion. I love the student movement and believe in its inherent power, and will continue to fight for it, and fight against neoliberal austerity and privatization, against the social stratification, against war, and against the lies and condescending misinformation of our detractors.

Some rough ideas I’m working on. Thanks to Bob Whitney for “provoking” them.

If labor determines the value of a commodity, it follows that a commodity-based economy necessarily leads to the exploitation of labor for the greatest value possible. If demand determines the value of a commodity, however, it SHOULD follow that the set value (price) of a commodity is decided by the buyer. The contradictory relationship between buyer and seller mirrors that between labor and capital, and undermines any contention that demand creates value; rather, demand for a lower price allows the buyer to SHARE IN the value produced by labor. That is, the buyer shares in the benefits of exploitation of labor with the cheaper price afforded by greater and greater exploitation. It is THIS demand–for a lower price–that has the greatest impact on determining the use-value of variable capital, i.e. to what extent the capitalist is willing to exploit the worker, which in turn affects the price of the commodity.

Secondly, the emphasis on demand as the origin of value in a society, rather than labor, reflects an ideology of WANT, i.e. demand, as the sole good (virtue) in a society, from which the value of that society originates and grows, and de-emphasizes the role or importance of labor in creating both the value and the physical manifestations of society as we know it. “If nobody wanted a school to be built, we wouldn’t build it.” This places the value of labor outside of the purview of the capitalist and within the supposed mandates of “the people.” Therefore, the capitalist does a “public good” by building the school, and the laborers inhibit that good by demanding fair wages and working conditions.

The ideology of demand glorifies wanting and vilifies work, such that one must only want in America in order to be a good person, and one should avoid having to work to fulfill one’s wants. And those who do work clearly just don’t want enough.


It’s impossible that a man with guilt can live up to his full potential. His life consists of so many aches, such persistent doubt, that each glimmer of his true purpose in life is undermined. He identifies himself with his guilt, diminishing the influence of his positive qualities over the direction of his thoughts. Every chance to judge himself as inadequate, untrustworthy, ill-equipped, is another chance for him to prove to himself that he is as bad as he knows he is.
Guilt darkens his decisions with the shadow of doubt; it confines his confidences to a Kantian lockbox, wherein the truth of the matter is sealed and beyond the scope of the knowable. He feels the only thing his concepts penetrate is himself, and that assessment is always the same: I know that I am bad. With that precept firmly implanted, he suspends all others and rejects creative evolution. What is there, he says, to know about me that I don’t know already?
Thus, guilt is a tyranny, crippling his sense of self-worth, of ability, for doing is not simply acting, engaging, or performing. To do is to invite occasions for more guilt, more condemnation and more disappointment from himself and others. And since he knows his kind is what’s wrong with the world, he can’t help but find within himself an ethical impulse to hinder his own movements, his own progress, for the sake of all mankind.
So, what man with guilt could truly fulfill his full potential? Any guilt at all, to any degree, hinders him to that degree. To the degree that he is hindered, society succeeds at advertising its myriad comforts—food, religion, family, alcohol, television, pharmaceuticals—to the same degree, for society knows that man’s own sense of inadequacy and inequity is the reason he needs anything.
Hence, guilt is necessary for society. Guilt—knowledge of failure—creates limits for success. A man is only limited by the degree to which he knows himself a failure, and to which he believes he could have a positive effect on the world. To him, life is a wafer made out of the unknown, whose eating combined with the mechanisms of his unfettered body guarantees the creation of something positive. The truly guiltless man eats hundreds of wafers a day.
Raw guilt is a spiritual famine. A starving spirit never reaches heaven, not even in death, for its tethered body is a weight, trudging on robotic legs through life only to collect dust, seeing its earthly tenure as a freak occurrence in the light of an otherwise perfect and benevolent Nature. His life consists of one prolonged failure and the neverending quest of self-escape.
Everything he does is based on the premise that he can’t succeed at anything because something bad in his past has predetermined his net effect on the world. With such implications come a dedication to the distinct categories of right and wrong, and an assumption of authority on them. On his own authority, he damns himself and condemns himself to a dissonant, detached existence that carries on like a prison sentence about which he can say nothing, and so he carries on in silence.
His dependence on his guilt for any semblance of certainty in his life is manifested most bluntly in the destruction of compassion. He takes to his comforts—food, religion, family, et cetera—and imbues into them all of the love he would have had for himself if he wasn’t completely self-hating, only to then destroy any solidarity between himself and the rest of the starving world. And all because he knows what’s right, and what’s wrong; he can’t let go of that knowledge. Because his life is series of nightmares, he sleeps well only after killing something else.
Meanwhile, the guiltless man sees himself as having been borne of his own will, and every action thusly thereafter.
The truly guiltless man moves across the earth like a bullet; he explodes, launches forward, and continues until he is met with a body whose mass exceeds his own. Nothing else can stop him. He ignores the power of societal strictures, moral and ethical implications; they have no bearing on his concept of success. Others of his kind are his peers but they are also nothing; friendship or enmity with them depend on whether they contribute to his zeal, detract from it, or have no effect.
People who have no effect are meaningless to him; he doesn’t even waste time with contempt. People who contribute to his zeal are potential friends but possible future adversaries, so he chooses wisely if at all. He remains most keenly aware of those people who detract from it, for they are the most important. If they also live without guilt, they live without scruples. The will to fulfill one’s full potential—the ultimate potential—must be unbound by any static moral code. Understanding that “the only constant is change,” is first prerequisite to true life without guilt (since guilt suggests a static moral principle). Hence, those who meet that prerequisite are the most, the only, danger to a guiltless man.
But in general he ignores all of them. His goals are self-defined and self-dependent; they have nothing to do with anyone else. He knows what he needs almost intuitively, or he obtains it through the necessary education. He uses connections, acquaintances, old friends, professors, and without guilt, his exploitation knows no bounds. The divestment of compassion is apparent in his case too, but it is, or it seems to be, borne of a lusty spirit, not an embitterment.
But is this man without guilt? Is he truly guiltless? Perhaps he swallowed the wafer, but only once. For the truly guiltless man ignores societal strictures; profit is not his measure of success, of fulfilled potential. Money is just another comfort, advertised to soothe the pain of guilt. What is the measure? Self-determination. The man himself knows, no one else.
Can a man live without guilt? Would an undisciplined child grow up to do great things? Perhaps, but he or she would possess an adversity, for guilt is also the spine of learning. Momentary, perhaps, but that guilt is not a spark; it is a scratch on the soul of a child. It keeps a boy from injuring another, or a girl from talking behind someone’s back. Guilt, then, is a taught (and taut) awareness of societal values.
Every lesson learned about what not to do is, in fact, a preserved and stored guilt. Like salted meat for the winter, salted guilt feeds one’s life in lieu of the other kind of food. The wafer feeds with purest life, life in the ideal, tasteless and hence encompassing all taste, sizelessly encompassing all appetites, an object of such pure self-awareness that the subject’s existence and essence precede neither one nor the other, but ARE one, for to exist without guilt is to self-define the essence indefinitely, not desultorily.
This presupposes that one desires such a level of self-determination. Fresh life may prove too rich. So the strips of guilt, sliced from the beast of Necessary Evil, salted, and hung to dry in the attic, suffice to feed the hungry soul that opts for directive over decision. One bite, and in any situation…suddenly, what to do becomes clear. What did mama tell you not to do? The opposite of that is the answer, recollected because you recollect the guilt you felt when she yelled at you, “No!”
Were it not for these necessary guilts, containing the gristle of social fiber, the souls who can’t stomach the wafer would starve, neither doing nor reacting, leading nor following. Perhaps it’s necessary, then, that we possess the guilt, for if all men lived up to their fullest potential, aside from an economic capacity—if all men had no fear, no pre-concern for societal norms and dictates—all men would be equal, or at least on equal footing, and in equality, how would we know who the winners are? How would we prevent anarchy and injury to innocent people? What would become of innocence in a world without guilt?
The answer? If we’re equal, you don’t have to worry.