Capitalism forces people to work if they want to survive – an arrangement that the global left has always regarded as violent and oppressive. Chomsky, voicing the standard critique
…people driven into the industrial system regarded it as an attack on their personal dignity, on their rights as human beings. They were free human beings who were being forced into what they called wage slavery, which they regarded as not very different from chattel slavery.
I don’t think this perspective is particularly radical or difficult to square with basic ideas most people have about fairness and morality; in fact, it’s probably one of the most basic leftist positions you can take. Labor is important, and a functional society will probably have to find ways to encourage it – forcing people into labor against their will, however, is a form of violence. Similarly, just as forcing people to work is a form of violence, so is forcing people to do particular kinds of work.
Again, this is pretty remedial leftism – which is why I’m surprised that there isn’t much more outrage about this:
Katerji could not be clearer about this: he is engaged in a deliberate, continuing campaign of attacks on #Rania Khalek
‘s economic livelihood in order to force her to abandon a political position. His hope is to leverage capitalism towards inflicting as much violence on her as he possibly can. He wants to threaten her with food insecurity. He wants to threaten her with unsafe living conditions. He wants to threaten her with cut off access to health care. He wants to use all of the things that come with poverty in order to make Khalek say and do what he wants.
There are all kinds of reasons why people of conscience should find this behavior absolutely revolting, but here the point I want to make is simple. If Katerji has the courage of his convictions, and wants to posture as some brave and principled critic, he should come out and admit what he believes: that violence against Rania Khalek is good and justified.
This is an extremely easy challenge, and one that Katerji should be able to meet if he actually means what he says and stands behind his actions.
There are plenty of leftists who disagree with Khalek on Syria, but who have at least been consistent and honest about their position and motives. Katerji, meanwhile, is making threats like
“change your rhetoric or we will continue to campaign against you” – but it seems pretty clear that he is neither honest nor brave enough to spell out what he actually means. Because if he did, he knows that even people who generally agree with him on the issue would find his behavior creepy and abhorrent. Katerji will continue to try to bankrupt Khalek into submission, leveraging violent capitalism against her where his powers of persuasion have failed – and then, if he is called on it, he will retreat into patently right-wing arguments about how no one has a right to income.
If the left stands for anything, it has to stand behind this basic point: capitalism is violence. This was true in McCarthy’s era when blacklists and political firings were the main tools of discipline the right used against American communists. This is true all over the world, where American empire still relies heavily on sanctions, debt-collection, trade leverage, and other instruments of economic coercion to impose its will upon other nations. This has been true during the endless parade of employment threats
that liberals have rolled out against the media left over the past year, most notoriously during their rabid campaign to silence Matt Bruenig. And it’s true here and now, as Khalek suffers continuing, relentless attacks on her basic livelihood. If you’re on the left and you’re okay with this kind of violence, step up and admit it. And if you aren’t okay with it, then it’s time to speak out on Khalek’s behalf.