Exploitation and Oppression

April 18, 2016


The terms exploitation and oppression are often used together. They have distinct social impact and are constructed differently. Most of the time exploitation leads to oppression. In fact, exploitation requires oppression to ensure control.

The difference between the two is an important distinction. We fight against the concentration of wealth because it leads to oppression, making working people’s lives miserable and nasty.

Exploitation is the reason for the concentration of wealth. We are a social society by combining the many and varied skills of all people, the society creates value. We build bridges, cure diseases, create roads, and clean toilets, and pick up waste. All of these activities, including the resolution of disputes, create a civilized society which has wealth. While measured in money, wealth, when confiscated, means power. It is not an accident that inherited wealth in this country represents the most reactionary and vicious forms of political activities. Reference to the book Dark Money by Jane Meyer.

Explaining exploitation on the macro level involving the entire country and globalization is more than difficult. Many workers either reject the concept or refuse to address it. The common shibboleths hide the reality of exploitation: “just want a piece of the pie”; “fair days pay for fair days work”, etc.

On April 3, 2016, an article in New York Times magazine about the Golden State Warriors provided an excellent example of exploitation and can be used to reveal the way the ruling class avoids the issue.

For the uninitiated, the Golden State Warriors are a basketball team that won the pro championship last year and are becoming an extremely popular team throughout the country. I read the New York Times magazine article because I enjoy watching them play.

The article, however, was not about the Golden State Warrior players but about the owner Joe Lacob, a venture capitalist. He purchased the Golden State Warriors team in 2010 for $450 million dollars. It was said to be an excessive purchase. That team is now worth $2 billion dollars. This extraordinary increase in value obviously is related to the tremendous popularity of the leading scorer Stephen Curry. Even his daughter Riley Curry provided popularity with her adorable antics during a press conference. In other words, they are popular and that popularity creates value.

What is significant about the article is the valiant effort by Joe Lacob to take credit for the increase in value – he already has seized the value. Stephen Curry on the other hand is not even the highest paid player on the team, let alone being worth more than $1 billion dollars. Obviously, Stephen Curry did not create this value alone. He is on a team. But every player on that team, the coaches, the managers, all have made a much greater contribution to the increase value than Joe Lacob.

Joe Lacob says this increase in value is not an accident. He is probably correct. Stephen Curry had serious ankle problems. He had surgery, embarked on an arduous task of rehabilitation. In addition, he has spent hours and hours and hours of work perfecting his ball handling and shooting skills.

That is not to say that Joe Lacob has not made some good decisions that assisted the development of the team; for instance, he hired Jerry West to assist in personnel decisions.

But Joe Lacob says most importantly he is running the Golden State Warriors as a Silicon Valley capitalist operation; more open and less controlling than the old style business. It is still a business and business confiscates the value created by the workers. And business (i.e. capitalist) never share the rewards equally with the workers. In fact, they always seize the rewards. The only question is what compensation will be given to keep workers quiet.

The corporate media turns the concept of exploitation upside down. Focusing on the huge salaries of star players, the corporate media frames the issues as to whether the players are exploiting the fans of sports, leaving out the owner’s exploitation of the value created by the players.

Understanding exploitation and oppression is helpful and not only in understanding how the capitalist system functions but also how cultural concepts and perspectives are imposed upon the working class.


Yours in Struggle,



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