I hear this said a lot even among people who describe themselves as liberal and progressive. Even among people who identify as feminists. That capitalism as an economic system may be flawed, but it’s certainly the best system that we have.
The best for whom?
It’s certainly not the best system for the workers at the Phils Jeon Garment factory at the Cavite Export Processing Zone in the Philippines. For demanding living wages,
the women strikers were hog-tied, blindfolded, and loaded into a waiting truck. The men dismantled their makeshift tents and loaded them into the truck along with the strikers’ other belongings. The workers were dropped outside the gate of the Cavite EPZ.
They were arrested because the strike was holding up production, and subcontractors needed to meet pricepoints and delivery deadlines.
The workers arrested because in a globalized capitalist economic system, making pesky demands for safe working conditions and a living wage raised the threat that subcontractors could move on to Vietnam, China, or a host of other countries with export processing zones.
And these workers were actually lucky that the armed strikebreakers stopped at intimidation. Many others were simply disappeared.
The beneficiaries of capitalism certainly do not include millions of indigenous peoples around the world, as collated visually in this map (pdf). Their rights are routinely violated by both large- and small-scale capitalist projects that encroach into their ancestral zones. Some highlights of the report include:
- the Ata-Manobos of the Philippines, who opposed tree plantation projects, have become targets of military attacks.
- the Maisai Mara in Kenya. Most Masai land has been appropriated for national parks (for tourists), ranches, and private farms.
- the Cofan of Ecuador. The Cofan population numbered 15,000 in the 1970s, when oil development was started. The development included the construction of a 315-mile pipeline and introduced settlers. Today, Cofan population is 650
How dare these indigenous populations get in the way of corporations trying to extract minerals or cultivate environmentally destructive tourism in in their ancestral lands?
And are Filipina peasant women (a) benefiting from the conversion of their rural communities to capitalist projects like tourist resorts and the Calabarzon industrial enclave or (b) being displaced from their farms and forced to work irregular jobs with low pay and potentially exploitative conditions? (Hint: it’s b)
If you champion capitalism, then you find the examples given above as acceptable. But you’d do well to look into how peasant women, unionists, indigenous activists are resisting the onslaught. At the very least, try to remember their stories the next time you extol capitalism’s supposed benefits.