Class Warfare Blog

April 24, 2020

The Industrial Usurpation

(The title was to be The Industrial Revolution Usurpation, but I can’t seem to format fonts in the damned titles! SR)

Ian welsh had a fascinating take on the roots of capitalism (The Transition to Capitalism) which I recommend to you. I have excerpted much of it below to make my point, starting with …

“One of the most important things to understand about industrial capitalism is that the lower classes didn’t want it.

“Peasants did not leave the land voluntarily. They were forced off, often with violent force, in a series of enclosures, where their millennium old rights to use the land were taken together.”

“With the fields enclosed, the peasantry lost control of capital: land is capital. They couldn’t grow their own food, raise sheep for wool, chop down trees for fuel and so on.

“They were thus forced off the land, into the slums of cities and had to work for industrialists, six and a half days a week, 12 hours a day on average. They died younger, there was far more disease, they were maimed often and they lived worse.

“They knew this. They resisted. They hated.

“Capitalism, among the many things that it is, is the concentration of capital in the hands of a few people. That means access to capital is removed from most people. They must now work for someone else. In some times and places that work is nice, at others it is not, but it is a loss of control and choice.

“Peasants and free farmers in Britain had far more control over what they did and when than factory workers. In fact, they had more control than most modern American workers do today.”

“The choice for most people today is to choose their master, not to choose to have no master.”

“They control the capital. We do what they tell us to, negotiating only who wields the whip.

“That’s capitalism.

“Did it have to be that way?”

In reading this, it seems as if capitalism is the crowning achievement of civilization.

Most people consider “being civilized” as an asset, a complement even, but actually civilization occurred through force, just like the onset of industrial capitalism. Hunter-gathers had it much better than an existence as a farmer provided, but they were given no choice. Actually, they did have one choice left and that was to hightail it out of that “civilization” and apparently more than a few “farmers” did just that. They had the advantage of possessing skills in living off the land which were still quite recent. These “defections” resulted in severe labor shortages which led to large scale slave raids on neighboring populations. And, as I have mentioned before, many of these nascent civilizations didn’t last a century or in some cases even close to that length of time.

So, civilization was brought about by force. The hunter-gatherers transformed into farmers did not want it, but the elites forced the issue. Since confiscating the “surplus food” grown through forced labor supported more soldiers, the idea grew basically as the only way to stem the threat one’s neighbors now posed.

And then from the above we are able to appreciate the coup-de-grâce of industrial capitalism once again forced by elites (elites who were often more wrong than right, but they always seem to decide in their own favor somehow). The key line in the above, for me, is “The choice for most people today is to choose their master, not to choose to have no master.” Basically this says that you are born into a form of serfdom and there are very, very few ways out. This may possibly be the source of our addiction to “self-made man” mythologies, especially the ones in which an “ordinary Joe” becomes a millionaire.

If I may repeat Ian Welsh: “Did it have to be that way?” And, does it have to continue to be this way?

1 Comment »

  1. That spells it out pretty well. I fucking hate it. But play or pay, and even if you do find a way through the cracks the government still want to tax you home at increasing rates.


    Comment by jim- — April 24, 2020 @ 10:16 am | Reply

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