Property is Theft - how capitalism exploits workers


Everybody knows what property is, property is something that we own, but why is this such a major issue for anarchists and the left as a whole? You see when most people think about property it’s not such a big deal because what most people don’t realise is that there are two kinds of property, there is personal property and private property.

So then what is the difference then between personal property and private property?

To put it simply on one hand you have your personal property, something that you own as a person something that you use in your day-to-day life, for example your house your CD collection and your car would all be considered to be part of your personal property, and I think we can all agree that there isn’t anything wrong with having a home of your own to live in, or a collection of CD’s that you like to listen to, or a car to take you from A to B when ever you so choose to go.

Now on the other hand you have what we call private property, which is entirely different from personal property, because from this kind of property an individual or a group of people can obtain profit. Basically private property is the factories, offices, warehouses and any other number of places a person can work, the tools that they use from the computer in the office to the machinery on the factory floor. All of the things that the majority of us (the workers) use to produce everything we have today.

You may be wondering why all of the things I’ve mentioned are considered “private” property; the means of producing wealth are considered private property because they are owned and controlled by a very small number of people, known as capitalists.

Now you may be saying ‘So what if they own everything, they pay us for the work that we do, everybody is happy’. Well what if I was to tell you that while you where out swapping your days work for a wage you where really being conned and robbed by your boss. How do you get the short end of the stick?

For arguments sake lets just say you work in a toy factory assembling toys. The boss buys in the toy parts; lets just say the total cost for one toy is €1 and you can assemble ten toys in an hour, and for this you get paid €10 an hour. The boss then takes the finished toys and sells them for say €50 each. So now the boss has just sold all the toys you made in that hour for €500, now the boss has to pay for the materials and your wages, so when you take them away he is left with a profit of €480 an hour.

But hang on a second you did all the work, why does he get €480 an hour while you only get €10. Well because in capitalism the small minority who have control of all the private property can do this everyday, they are robbing all of us each and everyday. So every time you hear about some company’s profits going up remember the just robbed them from you. Hence the famous anarchist slogan “Property is theft”.

I should probably just mention one more thing on private property, and I suppose this relates particularly to social services like transport & health, the media and even to our basic needs as humans such as water, food, and shelter. When one person or a small number of people have control over these, they’re not only ensuring they’re own access to these things but they’re also - and most importantly - denying access to others. We can see this everywhere, just look at the hospitals, if you don’t have enough money you wont be treated in the Blackrock clinic, even if all the beds where empty you’re not getting in.

I don’t know about you but I’m tired of being robbed of what I’ve worked so hard to create, and I don’t want to be left for dead because I’ve been robbed of so much money that I cant afford a hospital bed. So I’ll leave you with that thought, and maybe someday we’ll stand up and change it together.

This article is from Workers Solidarity 98, July/August 2007

PDF file of Workers Solidarity 98