Black Friday: A Circus of Scarcity

blackfridayIn the past two centuries, humankind has seen the development of our productive forces to a level previously undreamt of. What was once unimaginable is now commonplace. Never have we been so technologically advanced, never have we had such capability, never has there been such raw potential.

It is therefore a damning indictment of the capitalist order that our society languishes in hopeless disorder, driven to absurd contradictions by blind market forces, with no control over the great forces we have unleashed. Where there should be feasts there are famines. Where splendor is possible misery persists. Barbarism reigns on a mountain of human potential.

Every year, the day after Thanksgiving testifies to this reality. Major retailers announce massive “Black Friday” sales, and customers camp outside stores for hours before the doors open.

When they do, mobs rush in, and the rules of civilization yield to a shopping frenzy. Stabbings, shootings, fistfights, pepper spray attacks, tramplings of other shoppers and employees, brawls between customers over who grabbed a product first, and on and on—these are the typical news stories of the day.

In 2008, a crowd of several thousand gathered in front of a Valley Stream, NY Walmart to count the minutes until the 5 a.m. opening. When the doors were opened, they poured in. Underneath the stampede was a Walmart worker, crushed by the human avalanche. Even when police arrived to rescue him, the crowd continued on, shoving past the cops; he was pronounced dead at 6:03 a.m.

Hundreds of shoppers stepped over that man. But obviously, not one of them arrived that morning with designs of murder. Most were probably there to ensure the Christmas happiness of their children. Yet once assembled, the quantity of the crowd assumed a quality of its own. Loving mothers and fathers were reduced to a level of animal existence, and the law of the jungle prevailed.

How can this be explained without unhelpful references to a mystical and static “human nature”? Only an honest appraisal of our material reality can impart an understanding. Falling wages, living conditions, and employment rates, generalized want for the many and endless opulence for the few, and a scarcity of basic resources for the majority—this combination is the father of barbarism.

All of this is reinforced by the general mood of anxiety, insecurity, and desperation that exposes a dying system.

The ruling class cannot dull the pain of their sick economy’s new normalcy. On the contrary, their very culture exacerbates it, as the capitalists produce commodities not for human need, but for profit.

The credit bubble has burst, and the workers are without the money for shopping sprees after being robbed by the bankers and politicians. However, capitalism’s cult of the commodity still remains. This has created a very explosive mixture of economic desperation and social agitation, and incidents like Black Friday stampedes confirm the prescience of the slogan: “Socialism or barbarism!”

Where is the way out of this nightmare of violence, alienation, and social decay? Only the mass movement of the working class can offer a way forward. Only the workers of the world can rescue our future from the degeneration of the capitalist world by taking control of society away from the bosses and banishing their crises with the power of workers’ democracy.

The movement of Walmart workers is an exciting harbinger of what our class is capable of. All across the country, Walmart workers are standing up and demanding higher wages, the right to unionize, and better conditions. Black Friday, a day when the retail giant expects its workers to miss Thanksgiving with their families to be overworked and placed in danger of customer violence, has become a rallying point for this movement.

The Marxists stand unconditionally in solidarity with the Walmart workers, and wherever a picket line is formed on Black Friday, we are ready to stand in support of our brothers and sisters.

Ultimately, however, a union at Walmart can only be the first step toward workers’ victory. If we are to end the bosses’ attacks once and for all, a new society must be built, in which the workers are in control of the state and the economy—socialism. All of the barbarism of capitalist decay would be left in the dustbin of history.

In a socialist world, consumption would be based on the conscious needs and desires of the masses, not the mania and delirium of 24/7 mass advertising, frantic clearance sales, and planned obsolescence. For the first time in our history, humanity would be in control of its fate and able to pursue our happiness unfettered from the bondage of the animal world and the market. No other cause has ever been as noble.

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