I think that if you could find a nonprofit, or a broad coalition of nonprofits, with a large base of support, a boycott could be a really good short term strategy that will be able to force concessions on a few items here and there.
But I think there are a lot of opportunities for a boycott to fail to create the deeper systemic change we are hoping for, and I think that in the future it will be necessary to pursue other strategies that are more involved than changing purchasing habits.
Boycotts can also be difficult for low-income people to participate in, who purchase cheap things from large unethical companies that sway our government in the wrong direction. Boycotts can moralize purchasing habits, which makes poverty an “unethical purchasing choice” and lays blame on poor people making purchasing choices that are against their own interests in the long term, because it is in their interest in the short term. How do you make an action like this a long-term, sustained action that can cause enough financial impact on these donors for them to change course?
What concessions from the ruling class do you think that we can achieve, and what ones do you think this strategy would leave remaining out of reach?
I think a boycott also overlooks a bigger tool we working class people have: the union, and the strike. It’s true that the ruling class gain their wealth (and therefore political power) from our purchases.
But it’s even *more* true that the ruling class gain their wealth (aka power) from the surplus value of our labor. Or the value that our labor creates which doesn’t go to paying our wage or overhead costs. That profit would not happen without our labor. Since the labor of the working class creates all the wealth of the economy, at every step of the way– turning raw materials into finished products, and then packing, shipping, transporting, and retailing these products– we also have the ability to deal a huge blow to the ruling class by organizing the working class to act in unity and all withhold our labor at once. This, I think, coupled with a boycott, would be even more powerful.
Also, I think we have to ask what our goals of these actions are. Is our goal simply to get a kinder more ethical group of CEOs to bribe politicians on our behalf, to usher in some sort of nobelesse oblige?
Is it impossible to do better than the system we presently have? Or do you think that it is possible that we can do better? If so, how would we go about implementing that better system? Is this possible through reforming the existing system? How would we reform the system that we have now so that the ruling class stop being enriched by our labor, and then use that wealth to sway the politicians?
I think that this relationship between the working class and the ruling class is the root problem and it is both economic and political in nature. The existing system, where the wealthy gain their wealth through the labor of the working class, will always distribute more money, and therefore more political speech, into the control of the ruling class, who will then direct that political power towards further entrenching themselves in power.
There may be some notable exceptions to this, but on the whole, there are few in the ruling class who would like to end this political & economic system and replace it with one that is more democratic.
So really, the only ones with the interest to advocate on behalf of the working class, the 99%, is the working class.
If the working class is the only group that has an interest in advocating on their behalf, and the only group with a vested interest in creating a better political and economic system than the one we currently have (which spawned Trump to start with, and relies on systemic oppressions like misogyny, homophobia, and racism to keep us divided and continue to uphold itself), then how does that working class go about self-advocating?
I think there are only two ways that this can happen. The working class needs to start democratically controlling the means of production. This can either be done through democratically run businesses, which are started in the existing system and somehow manage to compete in the free market and grow and link up with other cooperatives, federate into larger and larger cooperative unions, until the entire economy is run as a democracy, and the government withers away as the most important political decisions begin being made in the workplace — or through a social revolution, where workers simply shut down the businesses that they work at, and reopen them under democratic control by the workers.
When the economy is run democratically, everyone will be in the ruling class, together, as society would be run as a democracy, rather than the existing system we have, where the government is run as a democracy (but run by and for the ruling class), while the workplace (where the most important decisions about our lives are made) remains very much the autocratic domain on the ruling class, through their simple ownership of it.
What are your thoughts?