Serf Farming

In another example of the retail giant’s eagerness to profit from government, Walmart has teamed up with schools in Michigan to train inner-city youths to work at suburban Walmart stores.

Detroit Free Press states that “Students will get 11 weeks of job-readiness training during the school day and 10 high school credits for the class and work experience.” Presumably they would get paid for eleven weeks of retail “training,” but that isn’t mentioned in the news reports.

Walmart, wielding tremendous economic power, is an integral part of the state-capitalist system which exists to control people and the resources they produce. When leaders talk of “stability” they do not mean that everyone will have a stable basis to pursue their dreams with as little disruption as possible. Their idea of stability is when power structures are firmly rooted and hard to topple.  The divide between public and private power is often blurry where it exists at all.

The school system is well-suited to produce serfs for capitalists – particularly in places where local economic conditions stifle outside opportunities. Students are forced into a classroom separated from the rest of the world where they will be taught to satisfy the demands of authority and see the world through the lenses that authority provides.

The state is a primary enabler of Walmart’s predatory activity. The state destroys neighborhoods in the name of redevelopment, wages war on them in the name of drug prohibition, cripples businesses in the name of safety, and meddles in all areas of life in the name of paternalism. Because that’s the rules. The state attacks people who try to live autonomously and trains them from a young age to follow the rules and defer to their betters.

The state is the bandit who steals a peasant’s food, and Walmart is the other gangster who shows up to offer the peasant supplies for a hefty sum, but never intends to help end the cycle of robbery and exploitation. Some agencies block opportunities for the non-connected, which forms opportunities for those entrenched in power to act as benefactor.

So what should be taught instead of servitude? The independence of finding one’s own way in life and the entrepreneurial skills to make it work. This would include finding ways around the obstacles that government puts in the way. Building solidarity with others seeking an end to domination, and creating mutual aid networks can benefit the individuals involved.  A serious undertaking would be creating alternatives to institutionalized schooling, as discussed in the Alliance of the Libertarian Left pamphlet Liberating Learning.*

A Walmart lesson can teach students what is expected of them and what it means to put time and effort into an organization that doesn’t care about you as an individual (a poor choice to make if there are other options).

Entrepreneurial Walmart students might learn about individual reclamation. When a person takes resources that have been monopolized by the collusion of social, economic, and political power, he is benefitting at the expense of those who would not hesitate a second to steal from those without power.

But there are safer and less controversial things that could be done – and they will ultimately prove more effective at breaking monopoly. Worker solidarity ought to be spread inside and outside of the workplace. The pamphlet How to Fire Your Boss* would probably be useful. Or prospective serfs could learn things to use against Walmart – from whistle-blowing dirt to product knowledge that would help them compete against Walmart with a non-authoritarian business. Maximizing profits isn’t just for bosses.

Many people distrust corporate or political power, but look past how they interact with each other. The efforts of authoritarians to monopolize the future will not be solved by different monopolies or different authorities.  A free world can be made by disassembling monopoly and ending authority.

*Pamphlets mentioned in this article can be downloaded from

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory