The Evil of Capitalism

As we begin a new year, we reflect upon what happened during the past year. Our thoughts turn to what we would like to do differently in the coming year.

When I step back to look at what needs to be addressed, I always return to Martin Luther King’s three evils of society, racism, excessive materialism and militarism.

This past year was amazing for me. Early in the year I learned of the concept of Mutual Aid. I learned, through experience, this simple idea was radical. The key concept of Mutual Aid is that we are all in these various problems together. Instead of “us” helping “them”, it is we are all in this together, doing what needs to be done together. This almost magically transforms us. Artificial boundaries, such as class, race, identity don’t matter when we are all working together to solve our common problems. Artificial vertical hierarchies like bosses or supervisors or superiors (White supremacy) do not exist when we see each other contributing to the work.

I know that sounds like some sort of ideal, but I know from my own experience that is what actually happens.

From my perspective as a white person, regarding Martin Luther King’s evil of racism, I feel Mutual Aid can lead to breaking down barriers. Of course I can’t speak to how a person of color sees Mutual Aid in this regard. But what I have seen is the support of Des Moines Mutual Aid for Des Moines Black Lives Matter/Liberation. And BLM advocates for Mutual Aid. I have seen people I know who are involved in Des Moines BLM come to our Mutual Aid food giveaway project. And Des Moines Mutual Aid has been very successful with a bail fund, which has provided bail for every activist arrested for agitating for change. Most, if not all of those arrests were from BLM protests. There doesn’t seem to be a boundary between these two groups.

What I do know is Black Lives Matter and Des Moines Mutual Aid see excessive materialism expressed as capitalism, as a fundamental problem.

capitalism has violated the communities of marginalized folks. capitalism is about the value of people, property and the people who own property. those who have wealth and property control the decisions that are made. the government comes second to capitalism when it comes to power. 

in the name of liberation, capitalism must be reversed and dismantled. meaning that capitalistic practices must be reprogrammed with mutual aid practices

Des Moines Black Lives Matter

I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.

So the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”

Ronnie James, Des Moines Mutual Aid

Again we have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that Capitalism grew and prospered out of the protestant ethic of hard word and sacrifice, the fact is that Capitalism was build on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor both black and white, both here and abroad.

The Three Evils of Society – Delivered at the National Conference on New Politics August 31, 1967,  Chicago, Ill

But as I think about the coming year, I know I will face great resistance for advocating for the demise of capitalism. I already have. I’m reminded of forty years of trying to get people to stop having personal automobiles. Obviously that didn’t happen.

Now, whenever I try to talk about the necessity of rejecting capitalism, people don’t seem to even comprehend what that means. Why it must happen. When I asked Ronnie, my Mutual Aid mentor about this, he said he’s been having that experience for the twenty years he’s been an activist. He said that was because people hadn’t experienced the collapse of capitalism in their lives, yet. I believe he’s right.

We are living through the collapse of capitalism now. Then Mutual Aid will be the best choice. The sooner we can get people to change, the better off we’ll all be. Other possibilities are chaos and violence.

So let us stand in this convention knowing that on some positions; cowardice asks the questions, is it safe; expediency asks the question, is it politic; vanity asks the question, is it popular, but conscience asks the question, is it right.

The Three Evils of Society – Delivered at the National Conference on New Politics August 31, 1967,  Chicago, Ill

Early in our lifetimes, industry provided nearly full employment. Nearly every household had someone who was working, and bringing home a paycheck. All commerce was based on capitalism. Money was required for every transaction. Money was the only way to obtain goods and services.

Then with increasing automation, and moving jobs overseas for cheap labor, the unemployment rate began to increase. Soon millions of people no longer had the income needed to pay for goods and services. The numbers of those without jobs has increased dramatically from the economic impact of the COVID pandemic. Those without jobs have to rely on social safety nets, which often means people are living in poverty, at subsistent levels.

As a society we failed to address the loss of wages for millions of people who no longer had money, in a system that required money for everything–food, shelter, healthcare, etc.

It is clear to me that capitalism is an unjust, untenable system, when there is plenty of food in the grocery stores, but men, women and children are going hungry, living on the streets outside the store. There is no justification for this.

My blog post, Conscientiously Object to Capitalism


Following are excerpts from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech The Three Evils of Society delivered at the National Conference on New Politics August 31, 1967,  Chicago, Ill


Again we have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that Capitalism grew and prospered out of the protestant ethic of hard word and sacrifice, the fact is that Capitalism was build on the exploitation and suffering of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor both black and white, both here and abroad. If Negroes and poor whites do not participate in the free flow of wealth within our economy, they will forever be poor, giving their energies, their talents and their limited funds to the consumer market but reaping few benefits and services in return.”

I wish that I could say that this is just a passing phase in the cycles of our nation’s life; certainly times of war, times of reaction throughout the society but I suspect that we are now experiencing the coming to the surface of a triple prong sickness that has been lurking within our body politic from its very beginning. That is the sickness of racism, excessive materialism and militarism

The Three Evils of Society – Delivered at the National Conference on New Politics August 31, 1967,  Chicago, Ill

This entry was posted in Black Lives, decolonize, Des Moines Black Lives Matter, Des Moines Mutual Aid, Mutual Aid, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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