The Capital Strike

The attitude towards strikes seems to have become more critical. Perhaps not so much among ordinary people, but the media love to demonise strikes. At the same time, however, we are overlooking another strike, which usually has a much greater impact on society. And this strike is not sustained by the workers. It is, of course, a matter of the capital strike. So what does this mean?

At the outset, it is important to distinguish between two aspects. Things happen in the economy that lead to disinvestment without any political objectives attached to it. This is perfectly normal. Sometimes market conditions are simply not favourable. For example, demand may be so low that you have to take action simply because you have to. However, there is another situation where disinvest occurs. The capital strike happens when capitalists stop investing because they are seeking favourable decisions from the government. Promising, of course, that if the government just does this or that reform, the investments will flow again. Such a strike is therefore not a response to market conditions as such, but a conscious strategy to get something  from the government. (Young et all, 2020, 3.)

This kind of strike is not much talked about in the media or by politicians. There are, of course, very obvious reasons for this. Firstly, it is not so visible. Its origins are deeply rooted in the political world where business and politics meet. And it does not generate the same kind of clear signals as, for example, the sight of picket lines. However, each of us should understand that when corporations control most of the resources that are important to our society (electricity, food, consumer goods…) they also have great power over the rest of society and the state. Just as they have great power over the budgets of states through employment. By promising to employ so and so many new workers, the government usually gets excited because it means tax revenue. On the other hand, if a company announces that it will lay off so and so many workers, governments get scared because of the prospect of less tax money. This is usually where the negotiation starts, trying to find a price for why, for example, a company should invest in a particular area. Or perhaps a price is sought for avoiding all the firings. In this game, the state is less often the master of its own country, which should reveal many essential facts about our democratic system as well.


Young Kevin A., Banerjee Tarun and Schwartz Michael 2020. Levers of Power – How the 1% Rules and What the 99% Can Do about It. Verso. New York/London