Capitalism: The Systematic Poverty and Exploitation of Human Beings by Finian Cunningham


Image by Mary Crandall via Flickr

by Finian Cunningham
Writer, Dandelion Salad
East Africa
Originally posted April 26, 2014
April 29, 2017

Workers in Western countries are now paid so badly that businesses are reportedly finding it profitable to return from China – having relocated to Asia in the first place to exploit cheap labor there.

It is an astounding indictment of how capitalism has created a global race to the bottom of misery for workers – yet the Western corporate news media actively conceal this abomination.

This week a BBC business report sounded almost celebratory about the fact that Britain, the US and other Western countries were now said to be “cost competitive” with China and Brazil. The upshot is that many businesses and companies are now re-setting up in Western countries because of the “competitive” wages of workers, according to the BBC spin.

The competitiveness, said the BBC, stemmed from workers’ wages in the West being “held steady” and because they have “become more productive”.

This is Orwellian language to obscure the conditions of systematic poverty and exploitation that exist for many workers in Western countries – the scale of which is so appalling that companies are finding Western countries more profitable than other destinations that were formerly thought of as providing cheap labor.

Such companies had previously closed down, or as the Orwellian language called it “downsized”, operations in the US, Britain and other Western countries to boost their profits by taking advantage of low wages in China.

But several years with chronic unemployment driving down pay and government policy facilitating wage cuts, workers in the West have now been turned into a cheap labor army. Western governments are also using taxpayer money to give corporate tax breaks to entice them to return – in order to exploit the ordinary worker ever more intensively.

It is estimated that the value in terms of average wages in the US is less than what it was back in the 1960s – a half century ago. This has led to a huge rise in poverty and polarization of wealth into the hands of the tiny social elite. America’s top 400 rich individuals own more wealth than half the population of some 155 million people. A quarter of all American workers are officially classed as subsisting below the poverty line. The real figure may be as high as 50 percent.

In Britain, for example, the average salary for a company executive is now 120 times that of an average worker, according to the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development. Twenty-five years ago, the difference was 49-fold.

It should be obvious that poverty, social decay and vast inequality are not only systematically linked but that this abominable situation is an indictment of capitalism as a failed economic system.

The astonishing thing is that Western politicians and media live in complete denial of this glaring reality. It is obvious that the capitalism system of private profit for a tiny social minority should be openly condemned and that it is unworkable as a social organizing system, based as it is on massive exploitation of human beings. But when do you ever hear the subject being discussed by public figures in the West? It’s like the proverbial elephant, or perhaps we should say dinosaur, in the room being ignored.

What the Western public needs to do is to force this subject into open conversation. Politicians and corporate media need to be treated with contempt for their denial and misinformation about the most pressing reality of our time – the destruction of societies under capitalism.

Just because the political and media elites do not talk about capitalism does not mean that we should also suppress the issue. Otherwise we are conforming to “group think”.

People should realize that all existing political parties in Western countries – whether Republican or Democrat, Conservative or so-called Labor – are all, like the mainstream media, apologists for capitalism. They benefit from the system and will never acknowledge it, never mind challenge it. The same criticism applies for much of the labor union establishment, whose leadership are also beneficiaries of the system.

The time has come for a genuine socialism in which the economy is organized and planned through public ownership and where production is driven by human needs, not private profit. Historically, capitalism has become redundant as an organizing social system. Not only redundant, capitalism has degenerated into the nemesis of the world, threatening its very survival.

It is destroying human life through relentless exploitation. The system is irrational, iniquitous and unsustainable.

Moreover, the insatiable lust for private profit is also driving geopolitical rivalry that inevitably manifests itself in war. War is not just good for capitalist business; it also distracts the public focus away from the dinosaur in the room.

There seems little doubt that Washington and its Western allies are agitating for war with Russia not out of any legal principle, but simply to avert attention from the class war that is being waged against workers and the majority of people in their own societies.

Despite the effective official censorship on the matter, the Western public needs to start talking en masse about capitalism and its destruction of societies, the natural environment, and international relations to the point where a nuclear war is being recklessly risked.

Alternative media such as Press TV deserve great credit for its freedom of thought by raising this urgently needed public debate on capitalism and the pressing need for its abolishment. It is also partly why the Western public is abandoning their established media in droves and turning on to alternatives like Press TV.

It is absurd, but deeply revealing, how the Western corporate media refuse to hold any views or discussions about capitalism and its abhorrent impact of poverty and warmongering.

As former German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg once said, we face a stark choice between the present barbarism under capitalism or creating a new democratic, viable world under socialism.

A first step would be for the Western public to begin talking and thinking openly about the destructive irrationality of capitalism.

That is what Western politicians and the rich elite, including their media mouthpieces, are most in fear of. They fear that moment when the vast majority of people will start to shout out “the emperor has no clothes!”

Finian Cunningham, is a columnist at the Strategic Culture Foundation and a Writer on Dandelion Salad. He can be reached at

From the archives:

A Basic Income Is Less Than Meets The Eye by Pete Dolack

May Day General Strike by James E. Rabbit III

Richard D. Wolff: What is Capitalism and Socialism? What is Money? What is Debt Jubilee?

If This Is The Last Century Of Capitalism, What Will Replace It? by Pete Dolack

If We Don’t Solve The Problem Of Economic Polarization, We’re Going To Go Into Another Dark Age by Michael Hudson

Socialism: Creating a World to Change Our Lives by Sam Friedman

27 thoughts on “Capitalism: The Systematic Poverty and Exploitation of Human Beings by Finian Cunningham

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  18. Western public ? Most of the Western public are only concerned with paying their death grip ( mortgage ) and who is playing their team in the next round of what ever ball game they care about an getting Jenny to ballet and rescue little Timmy from the well to bother listening to someone telling them the obvious that Capitalism is a failure and we need to do away with it now .

  19. “Great post Lo. We could start the transition by insisting upon a well regulated market economy whereby the carry trade and financial gambling are banned and the basic principle of Modern Monetary Theory are enacted. Glass/Steagall should be reinstated. Trouble is revolutions generally leave the population in turmoil as a new group of political elites take over. Therefore we need to find a way to transition from capitalism using a well regulated market based upon ethical principles by legislating for redistribution of wealth based upon utilitarian principles of fairness, least harm and do unto others. As a long term socialist and science buff I say this with all sincerity we need to transition because disruption leads to a new cohort of power elites who then distort the process to meet their self-interest. Governance is inevitably, and unavoidably complex, and progressives will need transitional processes to avoid anarchy as well as untold violence and suffering. It is, unfortunately, a very fine balancing act. One thing is vital the law is the law and no amount of political persuasion by lobbyists and elites should be able to undermine the basic tenants of justice, equity and reasonable redistribution of wealth. The Supreme Court should also be reigned in under very strict ethical guidelines. What is spent on the military Industrial Complex could literally solve world poverty tomorrow and to a large extent negate terrorism. A big ask I know however violent alternatives, as history has demonstrated, do not end well.”

    • Well stated.

      The rule of law is essential, and laws operate on multiple planes simultaneously.

      Ethical principles must embrace the rights of nature and the metaphysical freedoms that such rights encode if they are to carry moral weight. The challenge is to envisage a type of society that accommodates and protects, based on trust and ecological principles that cannot be debased by political branding, partisan bullying or commercial abuses.

      I strongly recommend this wonderful talk by Robin Kimmerer ~ first principles, eloquently articulated with great integrity.

      • Great comment. Much of this has to do without our out of whack limbic and autonomic nervous system geared to fight and flight. The feed forward pathways from the amygdala to the pre-fontal lobe are dense whereas the feed back pathways are sparse. This is to do with the fact that we lacked tooth and claw so relied upon subconscious autonomic drives. Subsequently we are driven by autonomic fear and have to put effort into controlling our responses cognitively.

        The politicians and their media whores have learnt how to use these fears so that people vote against their best interest. Emotions often pre-empt rational thinking. Control negative emotions and manipulate positive responses and you have the general populace an a string. That is why progressives switch from one mode of action to another in the confused hope that one or the other will work when the core of the dysfunctional cultural paradigm impacts directly upon both. That is why we need to opt for sensible change because violent revolution simply reactivates autonomic fearful drives that completely undermine the goals of justice, equity, fairness and utilitarian distribution.

        I feel a rational biological evolutionary approach to personality development provides a sound architecture for change rather than buying into emotional reactivity. Sure I get angry and despair however I won’t let my negative emotions drive my thought processes. We need to opt for positive change no matter how hard and slow it may be. Cultural evolution, in many respects, is out of our hands and in an evolutionary sense will do what it will. Unfortunately we are the future primitives and often our egos live through a pretence of wisdom when the fact is we are, by and large, not very bright. Of course this does not apply to my good friends who are thinking progressives it represent the average maturity of the masses who are so easily manipulated.

  20. I never know where to begin on this subject, and what to omit. For instance, Cunningham has not mentioned the fact that leading politicians are knowingly starting wars for lies and profit, and thus our “leaders” are liars, thieves, and mass murderers; the fact that we treat them with respect is some sort of society-wide Stockholm Syndrome. Our everyday lives are actually an abattoir. There was a comedy recording in 1974 titled “Everything You Know Is Wrong,” and I think that describes our situation fairly well. In the 1999 film “The Matrix,” most of the world is asleep and plugged into some common dream generated by a computer, and has no idea what the world is really like. Sometimes I think that the best approach is to tell people everything. Other times I think the best approach is to tell people just some of the things that aren’t common knowledge, because telling them everything would be more than they could possibly believe. Neither approach has produced much in the way of visible success. Still I continue, sometimes with one approach, sometimes the other, because I have to believe that maybe I’m making progress on a level that I can’t see. Or I have to continue telling the truth as I see it just because that has been a habit all my life. Maybe I’m telling the truth as I see it, not so much to persuade others, but to keep myself from becoming like the others.

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