Memes aside, what would Elon Musk’s business and world look like if he really were a socialist and not just a Twitter troll billionaire? Foremost, he wouldn’t be the CEO – CEOs don’t exist in a socialist model of business. Instead, Musk’s companies like SpaceX would be run as a co-op with employees of the company having equal stake and equal say in how SpaceX does business, what its goals and objectives are, what the work environment is, and, most important in a capitalist system (that we still live under unfortunately), what happens with the company’s profits. We can look to publishers like Haymarket Books and AK Press, large chain stores like WinCo, and food manufacturers like Bob’s Red Mill for models of successful co-ops in a capitalist system.
There’s a reason these co-ops focus on education, literature, and food: it’s what people on this planet need. Expensive electric cars – that, while driven pollute slightly less than non-electric cars, don’t really do much for the environment overall – and space exploration don’t help people living in squalor, in crisis, nor in starvation on a dying planet. Nor does the ideology behind moving to a new planet or exploiting a new planet for profit shift the ideology here that’s causing the problems people living on this planet are facing. Musk can tweet about kids all he wants, but the simple fact is that he’s doing nothing to ensure a better tomorrow for any of them, be them white affluent capitalists like himself or immigrant children currently being held in detention centers.
If Elon Musk were a socialist, Tesla wouldn’t be laying off over 500 people from their California headquarters nor thousands companywide because he would be about his workers, not his profits. Musk is worth 21.7 billion dollars in 2018 – if he dropped his net worth down to 21 billion, he could easily employ those 500 people and raise their salaries to one million four hundred thousand dollars a year. Further, despite his girlfriend Grimes’s claims to the contrary and a now-deleted May 20th tweet from Musk himself claiming Tesla employees could unionize at any time, Musk has spent years preventing unionization of Tesla workers and forcing harsh working conditions in Tesla factories.
To be a socialist is to be pro-union and pro-worker – two things Musk has adamantly shown through his actions and stated on his Twitter feed that he is not:
The Observer earlier this year highlighted multiple sources showing just how anti-union and anti-worker Musk is:
As The Daily Beast first reported, Tesla workers have been publicly rallying to unionize for over a year, citing injuries and burnout from assembling vehicles.
Some employees have developed carpal tunnel and other debilitating conditions. In one instance, a worker collapsed on the factory floor and his colleagues were told to work around the body.
Workers also often experience fainting spells, dizziness, seizures and chest pains, according to a Guardian investigation.
But that’s not the worst of it. Tesla employee Jose Moran wrote in a Medium post that he and his coworkers were subjected to “excessive mandatory overtime,” “work-related injuries” and low pay.
Because of these incidents, Tesla has been accused of under-reporting injuries and fostering an unsafe work environment.
In spite of this, pro-union Tesla employees are often reprimanded by security or human resources when they try to hand out flyers.
Workers filed a complaint against Tesla with the National Labor Relations Board about this last year. They claimed they were reprimanded for passing out copies of Moran’s letter—management decreed that all literature handed out to employees must be pre-approved.
Put simply, without memes, without me tweeting at him at 3 a.m. to shut the fuck up already, Musk is a capitalist. He is part of the capitalist class and puts profits ahead of people. Twitter can’t change a man’s nature or a man’s actions, no matter how he wants to brand himself.
Amanda Riggle graduated with her BA in English Education, is finishing her MA in English Literature, and is entering into an English PhD program fall 2018. She studies Early Modern English Drama, Marxism, and Feminism. She is an editorial board member of The Socialist, one of the co-founders of the Inland Empire chapter of the Socialist Party USA, co-chair of the Socialist Party of California, and a member of the Socialist Party USA’s National Committee.