Early in my conversion to Marxist ideology, I would have “but what about…” discussions with the professor who guided me there. There was this one conversation we had where he had mentioned something about how the rich were always part of the problem, the capitalists. And I asked, well, what about rich philanthropists like Bill Gates and Richard Branson, who give millions to various charities and funds?
And Dr. Burling started to tell me about how that’s part of the problem as well, that that simply contributes to the wealth inequality and perpetuates the status quo . . . and wasn’t able to really explain before we got interrupted. We never did get back to that specific topic before he died, and while I could extrapolate an explanation from everything else I’ve learned from Marxist criticism, I’ve not seen much direct discussion on the exact issue.
Then, the other day, I read a passage in the new Cory Doctorow book, Walkaway. (See my last post, on seeing him talk recently) :
“What about being being richer than Scrooge McDuck and staging a Communist party?”
“Why shouldn’t I?”
“It’s not like you need to–”
“But I can. Remember, it’s not just ‘to each according to her need,’ it’s ‘from each according to her ability.’ I know how to find factories that are perfect for direct action. I know how to get into them. I know how to pwnify their machines. I know how to throw a hell of a party. I have all this unearned, undeserved privilege. Apart from killing myself as an enemy of the human species, can you think of anything better for me to do with it?”
“You could give money to–”
She froze him with a look. “Haven’t you figured it out? Giving money away doesn’t solve anything. Asking the zottarich to redeem themselves by giving money away acknowledges that they deserve it all, should be in charge of deciding where it goes. It’s pretending that you can get rich without being a bandit. Letting them decide what gets funded declares that the planet to be a giant corporation that the major shareholders get to direct. It says that government is just middle-management, hired or fired on the whim of the directors.”
I’m barely started in on the novel, but I know that much of the novel revolves around using the wealth of resources, knowledge, infrastructure, technology to step out of the current system: the wealth and money, the institutions and processes that justify the wealth inequality and exploitation, and creating a “utopian” society that isn’t perfect, but is just prepared for anything that can come, and can provide needs and wants better without wealth and scarcity markets.
So far, this novel feels a lot like the best of William Gibson during his post-cyberpunk stage of cultural criticism in his “Bridge trilogy,” except, with characters a little bit more relatable.
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