What is Capitalism Hiding?
By Bertell Ollman
What exactly is it about capitalism that our rulers are trying to hide? The short list would have to include: (1) that the most apt label for our society-because it brings into focus how our society works (particularly in production, an area of life that most of the other labels ignore or obscure), for whom it works better, for whom it works worse, and its potential for change—is “capitalism”; (2) that the real rulers of this society are those who own the means of production, distribution and exchange, and reap the bulk of the surplus; (3) that the Government, whatever democratic foreplay goes on, serves their interests, hence is their Government and not ours; (4) that we, the rest of us who don’t live on profit, rent or interest, are workers (whether we are willing to admit it or not), because we are forced to seek work in order to live; (5) that the conditions of life and work for us workers are bad and likely to get much worse-while the wealth of the capitalists keeps growing; (6) that a qualitatively better life, a more humane, just, free, democratic, egalitarian and ecologically rational way of organizing society can be developed; (7) that those who benefit from the present order of society have consistently lied to us about all of the above; and (8) that once workers—in the broad sense of the term—break through these lies and half-truths, they/we can win.
Now the best way for the capitalists to hide all of these facts is to hide the first one, that our’s is a capitalist society, because once people learn this all of the facts that follow become easier to see and to grasp. In his book, In Praise of Folly, Erasmus tells the story of a man watching a play who all at once jumps onto the stage and tears the masks off of the actors to reveal who they really are. If you think of Marx as this man and the capitalists as the actors, you can begin to understand both what Marx does and why the capitalists are not too pleased with him for doing it.