Property is Theft!

Dr Groove (
Thu, 12 Dec 1996 15:43:05 +0000

Private Property

"Abolish private property" has been a slogan used by
anarchists since the dawn of the industrial age. It's a pity
they couldn't have found a better way of wording it.
Anarchist views have become so misrepresented by
defenders of the existing order that some people think it
means that we would take away their house, their car, or
even their TV.

It's nothing like that. It has nothing to do with the personal
possessions that we all should be able to have. When that
slogan was first used 'private property' referred only to
private ownership of productive property.

It was - and still is - about denying anyone a 'right' to own
factories, big farms and the means of distributing products,
such as railways, airlines and road haulage fleets.

Anarchists are opposed to such private ownership because
we are opposed to exploiting people. There are those,
usually of the ruling class, who will deny that there is
exploitation in the Ireland of the 1990s. All that stuff belongs
to the bad old days ...or does it?

In the distant past things were a lot more obvious. A peasant
had to work two or three days a week on the landlord's estate
but got no payment for it. It was as clear as day that part of
the fruit of that peasant's labour had been stolen by the lord.

Now workers are paid for all the hours they put in. Some
may be underpaid by current standards, but they don't have
to give their boss a set number of hours without pay. So
how can anyone claim they are being exploited in the sense
of having to work for nothing so that some parasite can

Under the present economic system - capitalism - goods are
produced in order to be sold. Most of us do not have
products to sell. We do, however, have something else to

We have our ability to work, our labour power. Wages are
the price we get for our labour power. Without labour
power nothing can be produced. Even an apple on a tree has
no value until it is picked, it is the labour used to pick it that
gives it value. Otherwise it could not be eaten, it would just
rot on the branch and be of no use to anyone.

It all seems simple and straight- forward. We work (if we are
lucky enough to have a job), our work creates value,and we
get paid for it. So what's the problem? It is that our wages
never add up to the full value of our work.

The difference between what we get in wages and what the
product or service is sold for (after allowing for expenses) is
what bosses call profit. This is their source of income. This
is the basis of capitalism, a small minority living off the
unpaid wages of the majority.

Anarchists are working for a future where the ownership of
industry will be taken away from the bosses and instead will
become the property of society as a whole. Its control and
management would be vested in bodies democratically
elected by the workers themselves.

The world of work would not be geared to generating profits
for a class of rich idlers like Tony O'Reilly, Margaret
Heffernan or Michael Smurfit. Instead decisions about what
to produce, and what to invest in improvements and new
processes, would be taken on the basis of what is socially
useful. Production would be geared to meet people's needs
rather than to satisfy the greed of a tiny minority. That
would be the end of 'private property'.

Alan MacSimoin

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