Green capitalism still sucks

On May 1, known to most of the world as International Workers’ Day or May Day, the Asheville Grown Business Alliance is putting on a "Big Love Fest" downtown to "promote our vibrant local economy." While local capitalists celebrating themselves is always revolting, the choice to do so on a 120-year-old anti-capitalist holiday is a clear display of the class interests and a blatant antagonism toward local struggles.

The claim that the festival is “a celebration of unchained and independent Asheville” is insulting in light of the escalating process of gentrification and the criminalization of people of color, youth, the poor and homeless that is currently under way. This very process is clearing the path for “local and independent businesses, crafters, artists, restaurants, breweries and nonprofits.” Every time more “green” condos, boutiques and art galleries go up, so does our rent, and it becomes that much harder for the local working class — whose cheap labor makes this economy function — to survive.

They attempt to manufacture a tourist-friendly image of Asheville as a playland for the rich, while concealing the reality of the class violence such an endeavor entails.

The organizers of the Big Love Fest assert that living under a more localized capitalism is equivalent to being “unchained and independent." Such hollow marketing attempts only distort what we all already know: that the self-determination of all people based on human need and not a for-profit economy controlled by a local elite is the only thing that can bring us closer to the freedom their rhetoric hints at.

They propose that ethical consumerism will bring change as they profit from the niche-market they've created. We say abolition of class society (the dictatorship of the rich) is the only road to any change we’re interested in — the change capable of empowering autonomous communities and paving the way for true independence.

— Nathan Strong

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73 thoughts on “Green capitalism still sucks

  1. bill smith

    @Nathan- It sure is easy to claim we need to deconstruct the entire system and start from scratch. Such absolutes are simple from the sidelines. The trick is how to implement change from within the system we find ourselves, and for many that means an approach that keeps people fed i the meantime.

    In other words, if you (this “We” you refer to) want to see more systemic change, you should begin building the infrastructure to support those you wish to see making said transition. Talk is cheap. Making enemies with people who could be allies is rarely a productive approach.

    How do we implement the changes you want to see? Can you let me know what day we all decide to drop-out so I can have some soup and bedding ready for my neighbor who has kids to feed and rent to pay?

  2. bearsnotyuppies

    @bill smith- I think what nathan was saying is that there are no “sidelines”. We are all effected by the policies enacted by those richer and more powerful then ourselves. That’s the inherent anti-democratic nature of capitalism and that’s the problem that I think the author was getting at.

    I agree with nathans sentiment that we (those of us interested in a more fair and just society) should not be celebrating capitalism, local or global because of this basic social-dynamic.

    The current express article on the Marion, NC Massacre makes clear how the ruling class will use that dynamic when it feels threatened by those it exploits.

    Nobody is saying “drop-out” or “start from scratch”. That’s ridicules and impossible.

    And there are plenty of people already “building the infrastructure to support those you wish to see making said transition”. Just look at any number of local anarchist projects.

  3. travelah

    Capitalist class violence in Asheville … oh the horror of it all.

  4. JWTJr

    The rich and powerful run every type of Government. Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Fascism, Feudalism, ism-ism, ism-ism-ism.

    Its human nature, not the structure of the entity that is the issue here. Always has been and always will be. Ask the people of every other country who runs their lives … its the rich and powerful just with different titles.

    If you want the Government to smash capitalism, you will just have a rich and powerful bureaucrat telling you what to do and when and for how much.

    There is no Utopia where we ‘all just get along’.

  5. Thank you for writing this, Nathan. And thank you, Mountain Xpress for publishing this. I wrote something similar to the ACT, but they never published it. Big surprise. Nathan, if you are interested, some of us are going to be meeting soon to discuss these sorts of issues. You can find me on FB or ask around Firestorm. We should talk. (Or do I already know you by another name?)

  6. Asheville has increasingly become a facade, a Fritz Langian town where workers toil underground, while yuppies live in high-rise condos, and tourists lounge in their panoramic-view hotels.

    Workers have no voice in this town. For every craptacular, low-wage, dead-end job, there are 10 hippie/punk folk waiting for their big break into the exciting world of the service industry. How “unchained and independent” are the countless kids with advanced degrees in this town working as baristas, checkout clerks, and servers?

    Bill Smith asks, “how to implement change from within the system we find ourselves,” and suggested that we take “an approach that keeps people fed in the meantime.” I wholeheartedly agree. If we, the subterranean wage slaves, want change, *we* need to make change. The labor class languishes unless it organizes.

    Do we really want to improve our lives, or are they not so intolerable that we feel the need to do anything about the situation? Will it take a Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy in Asheville before the workers rise up and demand better treatment and a bigger slice of the pie?

    I mean, don’t get me wrong. The long-term goal should be to bake our own pies, to the best of each individual’s abilities, and share the goods amongst ourselves, according to each person’s needs.

    In the meantime, I’d settle for the establishment of a local IWW presence to help all the workers pull together to implement some needed improvements to the local job market. Hmm. What an idea…

  7. bill smith

    [i]Just look at any number of local anarchist projects. [/i]

    Name one that isn’t being funded at least in part by ‘capitalist’ gains.

    Stop creating enemies and find common ground. Also, growing up might help.

  8. Bill, I’m not feeling the love. Bearsnotpuppies…wait…yuppies, bearsnotyuppies didn’t come across to me as making a statement that would create enemies. I felt the comment was quite respectful and to the point. In fact, it seemed much more grown up than some posts on this thread.

  9. It’s a neat trick to criticize something that does not exist. We do not have a free market capitalist economy. We have an interventionist mixed economy.

  10. Betty Cloer Wallace

    We, we, we? They, they, they? Criminalization of people of color, youth, the poor and homeless? Asheville a playland for the rich? Class violence? Abolition of class society? Green capitalism sucks?

    Instead of smashing glass tomorrow (May Day), maybe those local workers and philosophers of anarchist tendency could, instead, put on a vernal equinox lovefest and dance around the two remaining Bradford pears, or perhaps plant some new and better street trees, or engage in other much needed civic projects such as pot-hole repair or building bike lanes and sidewalks or cleaning up the river.

    We are all in this town together, don’tcha know. Most of us work hard and we all pay taxes for the common good; and it is a no-win for everybody when hyperbolic rhetoric is designed to divide us and to antagonize and denigrate capitalists large and small who have revitalized our city and made lovefesting possible.

    We’ve reached the zenith of being #1 on all the good-place-to-visit lists, and now the inevitable downside is coming.

    So what do we want Asheville to be known for next? Perhaps a good place to live and work?

    Developing a reputation as a hotbed for anarchism and pseudo class warfare will be sadly counterproductive both socially and economically, and it is downright silly when a few highly vocal capitalist businesses around town try to misrepresent themselves as anti-capitalist enterprises.

    The majority of people around here just ain’t that gullible, and the Asheville of 2011 is not the Marion of 1929.

  11. weebleswobble

    Most of us work hard and we all pay taxes for the common good; and it is a no-win for everybody when hyperbolic rhetoric is designed to divide us and to antagonize and denigrate capitalists large and small who have revitalized our city and made lovefesting possible.

    Your position belies your bias. If you believe that small scale capitalists have made ‘lovefesting possible,’ then maybe you should get a job washing dishes in the back of one of our local restaurants and see how much people are lovefasting on $7.50/hr with terrible work conditions and ridiculously high rents. So before you declare us a revitalized haven of liberal politics, you should step back and look at Asheville from another view.

    And who’s definition of the ‘common good’ are you referring to? Yours? should I suppose that you support the $700 billion bailout TARP? The Iraq and Afghanistan wars? How about Libia and Guantanamo? Corporate bailouts (like GE paying $0 in taxes and getting a $3.8billion tax credit)? The war on drugs and a totally corrupt penal system? What about the Christian ministers who showed up to voice their opposition to extending benefits to same-sex couples in Asheville or to funding family planning? Is their view of the greater good where taxes are going?

    If potholes and urban beautification are what you mean by the ‘common good,’ then maybe you should look at the national budget again.

  12. ta33

    @JWTJr, your analysis is spot on. It’s easy to blame “the system”, but all systems are run by humans, and human history reveals a repeating pattern of replacing one system with another, with similar results at each turn. Greed is a human problem, not a systemic one.

  13. Ms. Cloer Wallace, I’d like to point out that the miscreants that went on a rampage last May Day (which is in May, BTW; tomorrow is April Fools Day) were out-of-towners with no clue as to what anarchist values are. Those anarchists who live here are a part of this community and are trying to stem the tide of bourgeois banality and the anti-poor doctrine.

    Last year’s May Day melee was the perfect opportunity for the media power elite to further marginalize and demonize the anarchist community locally, and philosophy globally.

    And, I’d like to ask, the city has been revitalized for whom? For the people being forced out of the city because they can no longer afford to live here, or for the moneyed interests who seek to destroy those trees you care so much about?

  14. who

    Oh my, I was just waiting for it to happen and somebody said it: BOOSHWA! I got to get my black beret out of the closet. Down with the capitalist pigs!

  15. bearsnotyuppies

    @Betty- Sure, you can claim that attempting to create a critical dialog is divisive but you know what is more divisive? Class. By definition.

  16. Sequoia

    What I’m wondering about that letter is, when are all the punx who hate the gentrification and local businesses going to move to Canton? Sure, many storefronts are vacant, there’s little to do, and the town stinks of the paper mill, but there’s one thing to make up for all that: no “yuppies!!” No gentrification! Paradise on earth, right?

    In all seriousness, I ask the complainants: What brought you to Asheville*? You may say “not the businesses, the people!” but this is a cop-out; what brought THEM to Asheville? There are TONS of towns that are cheaper, have as many schools, and have far fewer of those detestable businesses downtown. You’d never have to suffer thru another meal at Rosetta’s or a book reading at Malaprop’s or choke down that bitter brew (metaphorically speaking) from Izzy’s. Short Street Cakes – BAH! Don’t get me started!

    OK I got sarcastic again but to summarize: Given that you hate local businesses: What brought you to Asheville? (As a corollary, how much time do you spend in those gentrified hellholes that are downtown and Haywood Road each week? ;)

    *Sympathetic Asheville native, you can stay in the woodwork, most young punx are from out of town.

  17. sequoia

    As a side note, I fully agree that May Day should be recognized as a day of international solidarity celebrating *workers.* I do see it as being a bit aggressive/confrontational/offensive on the part of business owners that it’s being turned into a “celebrate business owners” day.

    Mr. Strong should have just left it there tho. Mixing up two issues (May Day itself and your attitude towards local businesses generally) was a mistake, rhetorically.

  18. Go away

    Oh no, let’s all throw a fit because there are people who support local business by wanting to promote local business with the Big Love Fest. Get over yourself sir, if you can’t afford to live here then MOVE! Go find your little worker’s utopia you dream about where everything is affordable, life is rose colored and you aren’t oppressed. Wake up and you will see that not only the poor are struggling, but all people are! Nothing makes your plight special. I would love to see you try to balance a budget and run this city with everyone’s interests in mind.

  19. While local capitalists celebrating themselves is always revolting

    Fresh out of college in the early 90s I was hired by a place on Music Row in Nashville. While everyone there was nice, my salary was $15000. Boy, they had me… late nights, early mornings, weekends. Music Row sucked and when I found out that my girlfriend was pregnant with our first child, I jumped at the chance to move five hours away to where she was attending graduate school to be with them. Finding a job was hard though, and I eventually took one at a record store chain for $5.75 and hour. It was a struggle, fortunately the town we lived in was cheap, but I took a transfer to run a store for $17,500. The chain and town we moved to were terrible, so we then packed up and moved to Asheville.

    When in town I was laid off of my $8.00 an hour job when my wife was pregnant with our second child. I worked three jobs then (including one delivering the Xpress) to pay the bills with varying pay. Then a management job came around for a large video store chain. They lowballed me, but I needed to feed my family, so I took it. In 2002 I started to see it going down the toilet. I’ve always said if I was ever going to work the hours that they wanted me to work, I was going to work for myself. In 2003 I opened Orbit DVD.

    A couple of friends helped out a little bit, but the store was all me, 12 – 11 on weekdays, 12 – 12 on weekends. After a year my wife couldn’t handle her management job any more, so that safety net was gone. It was a struggle for awhile, a LONG while, but because of the wonderful support of our community, and I can finally sit back for a moment and take pride in what I (we) have built. I still work every day though… I want to.

    It has been quite the 20 years since I left college. Despite all of our trials, we never asked anyone for financial help. We just hunker down, work harder and push through. Those 20 years of terrible pay and even more terrible corporate BS has shaped what I pay and how I treat my employees however. I have given them raises when I did not give myself any for three years. They get paid before I get paid, and it is understood that if it ever hit the fan, they will get checks before my vendors and the government.

    Mr. Strong, I do not know your age or if you have children. However, walk 20 years in my shoes and you will then see what I take great umbrage in being referred to as “revolting.” There is a huge difference between me who has fought, scraped and saved to own something that I believe in and the stockholder-pleasing CEOs that are flushing this country down the toilet. It’s not a black and white world, and hopefully you will realize that some of us have beliefs not too different than yours.

  20. sharpleycladd

    I was going to say something, but orbit said it for me. Thirty years writing my own paycheck, paying my homies every dime I can spare, not rich, love my life, love to work, totally unconcerned with whether a callow, unschooled kid thinks I’m revolting or not, &c.

  21. meowma

    what about the people who are showing at this show? most of them are individuals who work from their homes, either in their spare time or as an alternative to working a ‘regular’ job? don’t they deserve to make a (totally non-corporate)living? if this is one of the few local opportunities for young craftspeople to make a viable living for the work they do with their own hands for their own living, how on earth could you criticize that? isn’t that the definition of people making their own way?

  22. friendsofspring

    Remember when you chanted
    “Big and Small, burn them all!” in ’05? I do.

    I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed that what ever animated you is now dead.

    To the rest, class struggle is not about the conflict between two sociological categories, rich and poor. Class Struggle is the conflict between those who sell their labor, and those who own the means of production. It comes to end only by the class that abolishes all classes using its own labor power to interrupt its self as a producer/producer of this society, and there by puts an end to class society and itself as a class.

    So yeah, hate the banks and rich people, but capitalism is a social relationship in which all who work must be exploited (i.e. payed less than the value they generate with their labor) in order for there to be profit. Fast forward a few hundred years of it, and now there’s no future!

    Its pretty appalling anyone would desecrate 1886, but its despicable that the local business-owner cabal thinks its a good idea. Don’t all you self-made men or whatever see how miserable and in debt you are? Why would you celebrate the ritual that imposes this condition?

  23. who

    I’m for the workers and local businesss (thank you Orbit). I don’t like workers rights being ursurped by radical agendas. It seems the people in the middle and the lower middle are getting flacked by everybody – from the tea baggers on one end and the anarchist on the other. Then there’s the uber rich who are creating jobs in China. Good thing we gave them the tax break. Put everyone in survival/stress mode and then it is just divide and conquer.

  24. invisiblefriend

    I agree with who and orbit. There are plenty of hard working people in all ends of the spectrum. However, at the very tips of each side, there are these groups of people who either just whine and complain, or rape the world with their money.

    Im not speaking directly of the letter writer, because i dont know who they are personally, and ive never walked in their shoes.

    However, when the writer states “local working class — whose cheap labor makes this economy function”. Its kind of discrediting. If there were no business owners, or even coops, or basically organizations that organize labor providing services, than the economy would not function either.

    Im kind of sick of corporations and whiners conforming to nonconformity.

  25. Cosmic Ballroom

    Anyone heard the trial status of the silver spoon anarchists that trashed downtown on May Day 11 months ago?

  26. Alice Zamboni

    You’re right, of course, but for the wrong reasons. No one is denying the hegemony of capital; we are subject to it, and not the other way around. So of course, we move here because it has accumulated the right kind of cool in the form of capital, and of course sometimes we eat at rosettas, because what the hell else is there to do? But for an anarchist, that is all beside the point. We don’t do these things because we believe in them, but because it is the context under which we live. As I’m sure you know, there is no “outside” of capitalism.
    The historical task of the proletariat is to abolish existing conditions, not to figure out some morally consistent way of living within the capitalist mode of production. And unfortunately in asheville “existing conditions” take the form of small capitalist enterprises. And here is where it gets really messy. We all came up with the dream of ownership – and this is one of the great mystifications of capitalism – to claw your way out of working for someone else, and own your own modest piece of the pie. And historically this class, the petite-bourgeois, has served as a buffer between those who own nothing but their living labor, and those who really own the means of production. The working class sees itself in the petite-bourgeois, we see our own aspirations. In asheville, some small business owners used to be anarchists, or at least radicals. We’re friends, we take care of each others kids and drink beer together, but the contradiction is still there, because their class interest (probably, but not always) lies in protecting capital.
    In asheville, where a deeply precarious working class is the invisible motor of development, and most enterprise is small and at least outwardly progressive, it is very difficult to expose the conflict that lies below the surface. But we try.
    Hope you’re well sequoia, come visit soon.

  27. bill smith

    For all the anarchists who are tired of gentrified Asheville, I would like to offer up downtown Spartanburg (in addition to Sequoia’s wonderful suggestion of Canton) for their enjoyment.

    Housing is far cheaper, many empty buildings are ready to be squatted, and very, very few local businesses to offend your anti-capitalist sensibilities (but at least one corporate headquarters for you to hurl epithets, or worse, at).

    Liberate public housing!!!

  28. sharpleycladd

    I would just add that under any social system or lack of same, in whatever classless utopia somehow (nonviolently?) emerges from the sturm and drang of “all power to the people who are like me,” the person who runs the dishwasher is always, invariably, screwed.

  29. bill smith

    [i]Class Struggle is the conflict between those who sell their labor, and those who own the means of production.[/i]

    Doe that mean worker/owners are at war with themselves?

    What century do you live in, any way? I don’t think any of the small local businesses own any salt mines or employ any shoeless 5 year olds.

  30. Betty Cloer Wallace

    I don’t think any of the small local businesses own any salt mines or employ any shoeless 5 year olds.

    Are there even any large local businesses around here that are currently exploiting the masses? If so, please name them so we’ll know exactly who to hate, and know exactly which existing conditions we should try to abolish, and know exactly which workers want to be rescued from intolerable jobs.

    Does that mean worker/owners are at war with themselves?

    Consider Bob Ingle, a local owner/worker/producer/capitalist who started from scratch, worked to the day he died, and provided a means of livelihood for thousands of families? Do local anarchists consider him “revolting”? Should we hate on him for contributing to a revitalized local economy?

    Everything is relative. Ingles is considered large from some perspectives, but small potatoes from others, as are many other local businesses. So, it helps to be able to provide specific examples to support one’s philosophical arguments.

    How about Biltmore Estate? Should we hate on William Cecil and his children for choosing to live here, working hard themselves, contributing to the local economy, providing jobs for hundreds of people, and providing a measure of heightened elegance as a counterpoint to our keep Asheville weird reputation?

    Orbit, thank you for your overview of your own inspiring and praiseworthy business history. You have contributed mightily to local revitalization and deserve gratitude–not scorn–on many levels and for many reasons.

    I get the distinct feeling there are a small but highly vocal number of Don Quixotes around here tilting at windmills, fabricating imaginary enemies for various and sundry reasons, and their bitter philosophical anti-capitalist anarchist rhetoric just does not fit the local reality. But if I’m wrong, please provide specific examples of those exploitive people and businesses you consider enemies and want to abolish, and why, and how exactly we can abolish them.

    Aside from murky and questionable class warfare, actual or imagined, whatever has happened to living within one’s harvest? There are many places I would like to live but can’t afford to, but I do not feel so entitled as to think people in those places owe me a living, or owe me housing and food and transportation, or that they should not take umbrage if I tell them how revolting they are.

    There are upsides and downsides to every job, and even if you think you are being exploited in sweatshop conditions from which there appears to be no escape, it helps to plan ahead and to try incrementally (moving, more education, more risk, etc.) to make things better for yourself and your family, while living within your harvest at each step of the way.

    And it helps to avoid excessive whining and flailing at windmills.

  31. bill smith

    Did “Alice” just really refer to herself as the ‘proletariat’?

    It’s like someone fell asleep watching “The Trosky”.

  32. Betty Cloer Wallace

    “Do you know what Ireland is? asked Stephen with cold violence. Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow.”

    Stephen Dedalus, in James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, is speaking of his nation, culture, and religion as if they were his enemies, because he thinks they hold him back from his rightful freedom to develop.

    Conversely, in Asheville, the piglets are eating the city that feeds them.

  33. Alice Zamboni

    Ms. Wallace and Mr. Smith,
    Salt mines and shoeless 5 year olds indeed. Honestly, do you really think that Asheville’s local economy operates in a vacuum? Where do you think that Mr. Ingle(may he rest in peace)got those canned beans from? What about the power for those electric lights, or for that matter the florescent lights themselves? You don’t have to move very far down the supply chain to find your Dickinsonion working conditions, if thats your concern. But to be perfectly honest, that isn’t my concern. My concern is more fundamental than that. My concern is the system of exploitation that guarantees those sorts of conditions for most of the population of the world, and the class relation that upholds it. That system is called capitalism.
    Ms. Wallace, since you’re asking, I’ll try to clarify, but we’re going to have to take a conceptual step backward. It’s not the specificity of local businesses we find revolting. From our perspective they’re largely interchangeable, which is one of the reasons we’re having this discussion in the first place; progressives would like us to distinguish between the good and evil types of business. But from the perspective of the exploited it doesn’t particularly matter who is exploiting you – it’s a matter of shades of grey, or degrees of misery. So for anyone whose intent is to create a world free of exploitation and coersion, all exploitation is unacceptable.
    So to answer your question, all. If you look outside the bubble of asheville and its progressive demeanor, or even look more deeply at the precarious underclass upon whose back ashevilles economy is built, the horrors of capitalism are easy to distinguish. Do I have to spell it out? You’re familiar with wars for oil i’m sure. Sweatshops, child labor, climate chaos, mountain top removal mining, las vegas, gossip girl. Unfortunately turning a blind eye doesn’t exempt us from the horrors, and make no mistake: our economy is deeply interconnected with these things. To add one more literary reference to the discussion, “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.” Windmills indeed.
    p.s. Mr. Smith, I know it sounds antiquated, but it’s still a useful term. In the most vulgar sense, the proletariat is simply the class that owns nothing to sell but its own living labor, so it applies to many people.

  34. weebleswobble

    Did “Alice” just really refer to herself as the ‘proletariat’?

    The historical task of the proletariat is to abolish existing conditions, not to figure out some morally consistent way of living within the capitalist mode of production

    can you find for me where she used a first person pronoun? It sounds to me like someone isn’t debating the merits of what she said and instead is relying on misdirection and attacking aesthetic rather than content.

  35. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Even though anarchists divide people under the labels of “oppressive producer” and “exploited worker,” more realistic and less loaded generic descriptions might be “producer (creator)” and “consumer (user).”

    Here’s a fun exercise. Draw a line down the center of a paper and label one column “Producer” and one “Consumer.”

    Think of people you know or know something about, and list them in the appropriate column in regard to how you primarily think of them–as being more of a producer of products and services or a consumer of products and services.

    Of course, all of us are some of both producer and consumer, but if you force yourself to come down on one side or the other, you’ll be surprised at how you think of people, including yourself, as living life primarily as one or the other.

    Again, I still get the distinct feeling there is a small but highly vocal number of Don Quixotes around here tilting at windmills, fabricating imaginary enemies for various and sundry reasons, and their bitter philosophical anti-capitalist anarchist rhetoric just does not fit the local reality.

    But again, if I’m wrong, please provide specific examples of those exploitative and oppressive people and businesses you consider enemies and want to abolish, and why, and how exactly we can abolish them.

    Otherwise, it’s all windmills.

  36. Ms. Cloer Wallace, how about abolishing the ludicrous notion of “living-wage certified” employment, also known as the local wage-washing scheme? The notion that working minimum wage, or even just above, and counting free product samples and pre-dumpstered meals as earnings is misleading, to say the least.

    But the tourists and many local “progressives” sure eat it up. The idea that one is somehow engaging in activism through consumerism (to paraphrase a woman named Lorca in the latest issue of Verve [I believe that’s where I read it]) is just silly.

    Having said that, I’m sure that when (if ever) the masses rise up against the GEs and Governor Walkers of the world, Asheville anarchists and indie business owners will unite against what is truly a common enemy.

    What I most take away from this article and discussion is that owners of capital who must, by the tenets of capitalism, exploit the workforce, celebrating the very system that oppresses all of us on a day long celebrated as a testament to those brave workers who, literally, put their lives on the line (and the many who lost theirs) is a tacky insult to that legacy.

  37. And, BTW, when I want to rent a movie or choose to dine out, businesses like Orbit and Rosetta’s are where I go. I don’t demonize them. I honor them for doing the best they can under the economic system that oppresses them nearly as much as it does their workers.

  38. Betty Cloer Wallace

    So exactly who, cellorelio, is exploiting you?

    Who, exactly, and what business, exactly, is exploiting you and Orbit and Rosetta?

    Please tell us, so we can organize and abolish them.

  39. bill smith

    Okay, cello, now we are getting somewhere. Apparently it’s okay to eat corporate canned beans when they come from Rosettas, and enjoy corporate-funded entertainment from Orbitz. Great. But where is this line drawn, then? It’s an honest question. All I am seeing are vague references to how ‘capitalism’ is bad, and we shouldn’t ‘celebrate’ it. And yet we all apparently participate in it in our own way. So who gets to deem who ‘pure’?

    Is the letter writer as concerned with this ‘capitalist love fest’ on May Day as he was with the mindless property destruction committed on the last May Day?

    To be honest, all I’m seeing is some intellectual purists proselytizing instead of making common ground. It’s understandable. Many of used to feel similarly when we were in our early twenties, privileged and un-encumbered. And it’s admirable to have absolutes. But when those absolutes lead you to draw lines around with is ‘evil’ and who is ‘pure’ in this economy we were all born in to, it strikes me as naive and hypocritical, as well as inherently flawed as all absolutes are.

    Is the point to highlight that ‘local’ or ‘green’ ‘capitalism’ (all vague terminology) are still entwined within systems of oppression and exploitation around the globe? Well, then point out the solutions, the examples from your own life that show a long-term, sustainable alternative for others to be enspired by.

    But all this holier-than-though finger pointing really accomplishes nothign except polarization.

    If your intention is to truly educate and inspire, then lead by example. What are YOU doing that is so much more special than the rest of us?

    You might learn that several of us who are critical of this particular approach are not the landed gentry and the monied factory owners. We are farmers, parents, small business owners, employees, rabble-rouses and all sorts of things that might surprise you.

    So this coming May Day, I challenge you to engage with these members of the local ‘capitalist’ economy who you think are on the wrong path, and provide them with tangible alternatives for getting the rent paid, food in the kids’ bellies, the garden tilled, while creating a better tomorrow. Who knows, maybe some common ground can be created instead of all vague assertions of ‘terrible capitalists’…

    (also, if you need a place to help seed the revolution, click on my profile and send me a PM. We have all sorts of greenhouse work at my partner’s farm[alas, the food will be harvested to be sold for money])

  40. bill smith

    [i]Ms. Cloer Wallace, how about abolishing the ludicrous notion of “living-wage certified” employment, also known as the local wage-washing scheme? [/i]

    Are you under the impression Ms Wallace is in support of the ‘living wage’ wage-washing scheme? Based on what? Talk about ‘relying on misdirection and attacking aesthetic rather than content’.

  41. boatrocker

    I could take this thread seriously until I realized that anyone can post here. Mr. Smith, (formerly Piffy until you were banned) it’s pronunced Trotsky, not Trosky, dilletente.

    Reading (and basic research skills) still matter.

  42. sharpleycladd

    It may seem apropos of nothing, but receiving a Groupon from Firestorm Cafe is an interesting way to start the day.

  43. Alice Zamboni: I remember a letter you wrote to the editor that I greatly admired. You should definitely meet up with some of us soon. We are going to be discussing these sorts of issues. Please look for me on FB as “Thaddæus” and/or ask around for me at Firestorm.

  44. And by the way, I kind of like Canton. It stinks a couple of days a week, but it is a union town.

  45. Betty Cloer Wallace

    This letter and thread are long on theory and short on specifics, so in keeping with that….

    Is Asheville an old sow eating her farrow as this letter and sympathetic posters so indicate, or are the letter writer and sympathetic posters examples of young piglets consuming the old sow?

    In other words, do you consume more goods and services offered by Asheville than you produce for the common good of Asheville?

    If you are more consumer than producer, then perhaps you need to consider moving to a place where you can afford to live within your harvest and where your production and consumption are more equalized.

    It’s called carrying your own weight in this world—aka not feeding at the public trough, not sucking the public teat, not biting the hand that feeds you, and not feeling entitled to consume more than you produce.

    Asheville is not persecuting you, and Asheville does not owe you a living just because you want to live here.

  46. Who, exactly, and what business, exactly, is exploiting you and Orbit and Rosetta?

    My oppressors are either blue or red.

  47. What is the big hangup on on this thread about being pure in one’s ideals and having no conflict??? No one who argues that capitalism sucks claims not to engage in it. How could one? It’s the only system we have.

    Why does everything have to be black and white and tied up in a pretty little bow. Thoughts, feelings, ideas, intents–they’re rarely neat and tidy.

    As for what many of us are doing to build an alternative system, a lot of us rescue perfectly good food from the waste stream, prepare it in a delectable way, and share it with each other. We grow our own food and do the same. We have free boxes at our homes so that anyone who wants to look funky-fashionable may do so without creating a need for more disposable crap. We ride bikes when we can and maintain and repair them ourselves. We can food, we have our own dance parties where no one has to pay to get in…

  48. As for celebrating the very system that is the very antithesis of the history of this day, it’s just obnoxious. How well do you think the KKK celebrating on Martin Luther King’s birthday would go over?

  49. Ms. Cloer Wallace, you’d like to know who, exactly, is exploiting me so that you can help abolish them? I’ve had too many low-paying, dead-end jobs to enumerate. But, if you want to help us abolish the wage slave economy like…well, like most of us in support of the theme of this article have been proposing, I welcome your support.

    Mr. Smith, I never suggested Ms. Cloer Wallace advocated the living wage scam. It was a question directed at her, for everyone to consider, in response to an earlier comment she’d made. But, thank you for giving me credit for being cunning enough to misdirect and attack aesthetic over content. I’ll take a lesson from you and work on implementing that strategy in the future.

  50. > If you are more consumer than producer, then
    > perhaps you need to consider moving to a place
    > where you can afford to live within your harvest
    > and where your production and consumption are
    > more equalized.

    Yes, as soon as I save up several tens of thousands of dollars, I’ll find some land where I can do that. In fact, many of my friends are doing just that. But, again, capitalism is a major obstacle to doing so. And, just try to grow some crops on “public” land. You’ll likely find yourself in jail.

  51. Then again, I believe that song is actually more about serious class issues and not as much about complaining that your small business boss can’t offer you $20 an hour because Wal-Mart siphoned off all his/her business twenty years ago.

    But, hey, let’s just lump it all together in one big class war mass, shall we?

  52. sharpleycladd

    mat, I got your coupon right here . . .

    If I remember my Das Kapital, it’s the elaboration of capitalist models and behavior into every aspect of life, family structures, politics, authority systems, and the way anarchist bookstores market their vegetarian fare that’s one of the big bogeymen in the Bakuninite suburbs of affluentville.

    It might serve to actually read The Wealth of Nations, which – contrary to what Newt Gingrich and Noam Chomsky will tell you – deals extensively with the hazards of concentrated capital, the necessity of the state and public wealth as a counterweight to private money, &c, notwithstanding the great creativity and innovation that private capital offers society at large.

    In fact, reading is, as they say, fundamental.

    I do have to pretty much agree that a shindig to celebrate the petit bourgeoisie on a day inextricably linked with worker solidarity is a bit crass, but the ideology of communism and anarchism is pretty much flawed on its face, if we’re honest: Some People Are Not Nice Enough For That Kind Of World.

  53. bearsnotyuppies

    “Even though anarchists divide people under the labels of ‘oppressive producer’ and ‘exploited worker,’ more realistic and less loaded generic descriptions might be ‘producer (creator)’ and ‘consumer (user).’

    This dichotomy doesn’t make any sense. you can’t just propose a ludicrous analysis, pretend that it’s ours, then demand we defend it.

    Historically, workers ARE the producers, while the capitalists own the means of production. And everyone consumes to survive.

    The divisions you propose anarchists draw, are not the class divisions referred to in the article at all.

    So nice try but no. Your criticism is baseless.

  54. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Really, bearsnotyuppies, there are many other ways of looking at the world besides the reductionist “oppressive owner-exploited worker” dichotomy.

    Most people and businesses just don’t fit into either one of those categories anymore.

    What would be your primary economic descriptor for William Cecil/Biltmore Estate? Dog the Bounty Hunter? Jeff Fobes/Mountain Express? Cecil Bothwell? Progress Energy? State Employees Credit Union? Rosettas? Asheville City Schools City of Asheville? Andie McDowell? True Blue Art Supply? Martha Stewart Omnimedia? Bill Gates? Warren Buffett? Jimmy Buffett? American Airlines? Hickory Nut Gap Farm? Ingles? VA Medical Center? Asheville Airport? Orange Peel? Street buskers? And for yourself?

    Theory without specific examples is all windmills.

  55. And by the way, I kind of like Canton. It stinks a couple of days a week, but it is a union town.

    Have you gone and talked to the workers there? How would you think that they would respond?

  56. friendsofspring

    Betty Cloer Wallace,
    the unifying economic operation of which all of those categories are included is REPRODUCTION.

    Without getting into it too much, reproductive activity takes on primacy in the economy after world war 2, and increasingly intensified in the US in particular since the ’70s. Marx says “the period of real subsumption.” Reproduction is always a factor, but today, through the increase of the service sector, reproductive labor makes up more than 90% of the US GDP (8% is productive labor: factory work) Even productive labor has a reproductive function. What this means concretely is that most work people do is superfluous in regard its craft or skill but absolutely essential in order to maintain the orderly flow of capital–or better yet, in order to rationalize itself (why would anyone keep doing these ridiculous rituals in order to meet their material needs if it didn’t appear to be necessary) Before, forms (i.e. economy, politics, philosophy, etc ) had to be dominated by capital. Presently, content (i.e. practices, behaviors, dispositions) must be dominated. Do I really need to say how office workers, bartenders, sex workers, computer programmers, house-wives, shop-workers, blablabla, all reproduce a certain way of being that has the extraction of value from affect as its object?

    As for your bigger question “who” is exploited us and “how” do we abolish “them”? The question “Who?” of course, is a limited understanding of our present conditions. Perhaps a return to metaphysics (even in order to overcome it) might be of use. Capital is a what not a who. the question of “how?” although is also loaded, but if you were genuinely interested, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be pretending not to know. How did the bourgeoisie society come into being? How did every struggle before us for even the simplest of changes operate? Through fighting.

  57. “How did every struggle before us for even the simplest of changes operate? Through fighting.”

    But only after building a broad consensus among concerned parties that it was the right thing to do to join the fight.

    And when you tolerate brick-throwing anarchists, you are not building consensus to smash the state. You are smashing the very idea of building a viable alternative to the violence you so loudly deride as detrimental to humanity.

    By continuing to marginalize yourselves, you make it impossible for anyone who might share your vision of a better world want to find ways to cooperate with you. And, if cooperation is not a goal then you might as well call yourselves the Tea Party and make a lot of loud noises that have zero information in them.

    If you really had a grasp on anarchist history you would find that every violent and reactive move further pushes you out of the reach of even the simplest of your goals.

    “Systems aren’t just made of bricks, they’re mostly made of people”

  58. Except that, because we’re all lowly service industry wage slaves, we can’t afford to become as powerful as the Tea Party.


  59. Philistwenty

    Betty: “But again, if I’m wrong, please provide specific examples of those exploitative and oppressive people… how exactly we can abolish them.”

    friendofspring: “…fighting.”

    Hahaha, this is your specific example of how to stop oppression? “fighting?” This was the only actual suggestion of action in your screed so it must be. Betty is dead on: all theory, not a single practical solution. Well, besides “fighting.”

  60. Casey

    This is funny…making money and improving our tax base sure sucks!

  61. Sally

    I don’t understand. I just moved here from Florida and it seems like such a harmonious, peaceful, and prosperous place. Where is the “class divisiveness” you speak of? I eat out downtown as much as possible to support local restaurants and because they are easy for me to walk to.

  62. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Gleaned from Ben Davis in Artinfo, 4/19/11, “Was the Hipster Really All That Bad?” a review of “What Was The Hipster? A Sociological Investigation”:

    “Hipsters are defined as consumers, not producers. As far as I can tell, the vitriolic attitude stems from the fact that the “hipster” being discussed here is actually a bogeyman. But if you’re going to actually say something meaningful, sociologically, you have to be talking about something that someone, somewhere can possibly identify with, or at least recognize.”

    “The “hipster” sensibility is defined not just by specific cultural props, but by broad tendencies: hyper-ironic self-presentation; an obsession with cultural trivia and/or blank nostalgia; the romance with neo-bohemia, neo-collectivism, neo-tribalism.”

    “The social basis of hipster culture, (Mark) Greif convincingly argues, is the mass of young people who are “overeducated and with a psychic investment in hipness to compensate for their inferior real capital.”

    “Further, this white faux-hemian subculture is wholly inauthentic, little more than middle-class bad consciousness about gentrification: “every micro-generation will be surprised by the number of its members who have been secretly preparing law-school applications while making fun of rich people who wear suits.”

    “As Paul Craig Roberts put it (somewhat hyperbolically) in 2006, even before the Great Recession, the turn towards the service economy meant that the U.S. was becoming “a nation of waitresses and bartenders,” not some cultural-economy utopia.”

  63. Hugh Akston

    Personally, I find it morally wrong to force re-distribution of wealth. I do not believe that circumstance provides an adequate justification of robbing the rich to feed the poor. This is not my only argument against re-distribution of wealth, but it seems like an important one. I consider forcing someone to give their money the same as stealing their money.

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