Socialists and the credit crunch. Far left policies are... what?

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Jacob Richter
Socialists and the credit crunch. Far left policies are... what?

[url]http://www.politics.ie/current-affairs/37428-socialists-credit-crunch-fa...

 

Since the admins of the board above have yet to approve my registration, I decide to give some thought to the material in that thread.  A lot of the misperceptions of the far left are, unfortunately, due to the programmatic posturing (or rather lack thereof) by the far-left groups being observed by the "average Joe":

Quote:
What immediate-term policies, if any, are the various Trotskyite and Communist parties offering as practical proposals to handle the aftermath of this problem?

I´m not talking about any notions they may have of total revolutionary change, abolishing private property blah blah blah.

Basically, I´m asking this: has any left-wing party anywhere in Europe (such as Joe Higgins´ type) offered any kind of short-term practical responses to the economic difficulties?

Lenin was prepared to implement partially-capitalist programmes in Russia upon taking power, acknowledging Marx´s position that many aspects of capitalism are good. So it would be silly to pretend that no true Socialist would ever propose to operate capitalism.

I´ve been looking, and apart from vague, stupidly non-specific ideas like "abolish the profit system" I see nothing suggesting what socialists would actually do if they got into power.

Can anyone point me to a far-left movement´s website which gives specific policy proposals which are achievable and do not involve massive constitutuional change.

I mean Socialist proposals limited to taxation and subsidy, etc, not sweeping eliminations of the status quo without any proven-workable plan to replace them.

 

Of course, the poster's last comments demonstrated a false dichotomy between "taxation and subsidies" on the one hand and "abolish private property, revolution, etc." on the other.  And since the poster exhibits an economistic tendency, I'll only discuss economic demands or the economic aspects of more comprehensive demands.

I'll repost what I'll say below on that board, but I'm hoping for some discussion here, too.

1) Shorten the work week to 32 hours or less without loss of pay or benefits.

Quote:
The main demand there is the shorter workweek. The non-loss of pay and benefits is a side demand. If "capitalism is soooo swell," why the hell are workers working longer hours? The 32-hour workweek should've been reached in the 60s!

2) Direct proposals and rejections (a la referenda), at the national level, regarding all tax rates on all types of income (including capital gains and dividends).

Quote:
Actually, this direct democracy in income taxation also means giving "the people" the ability to establish new tax brackets. This means empowering "the people" to impose higher taxes on "the elite."

3) Abolish all indirect taxation (sales taxes, for example).

4) "Sliding scale of wages" and "living wage": First, lots of companies offer cost-of-living adjustments to their employees, so why can't this be universalized for all employment compensation and benefits?  Second, minimum wages (like those for Wal-Mart and McDonald's workers) should be bumped up to "living wage" levels.  Third, unemployment benefits should be at "living wage" levels, too.

Quote:
I've read minimum programs of various communist organizations, and I must apologize for not mentioning the offshoring stuff. However, the offshoring reeks of protectionism, and goes against my *personal* belief in subsidized trade favouring the developing world. If labour protectionism is to be enacted (as opposed to First World farm subsidies crippling Third World farmers :rolleyes: ), then the governments of the developed world will have to *invest* in equalizing the playing field (i.e., no "free market" clauses for international government banking loans a la the World Bank and IMF).

5) Bailout $$$ should be directed towards the formation of worker cooperatives, and more corporate and upper-class "taxpayer" money should head in this direction in the face of workplace closures, mass sackings, and mass layoffs.

[If workers for some reason or another do want to be "laid off," however, the bailout $$$ should be directed towards securing their pension plans.  I believe the economist Stiglitz suggested this recently.]

6) Really nationalize the banks and ban all derivatives trading (done during the Great Depression, I believe), instead of this de facto lending without oversight (much less more democratic control):

[url]http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081203.wcopanitch04...

[The funny thing is that all the "European socialists" back during the post-WWII "consensus" NEVER treaded upon nationalizing financial services wholesale under one state-owned financial institution.]

7) Establish a fully nationalized "public works" program (although in reality "public works" should be expanded to broken neighbourhoods, alternative energy facilities construction, urban farming, etc.), instead of mere contracting out to the money-grubbing private sector.

Quote:
Obama is relying on a horribly inefficient and insufficiently comprehensive "public works" scheme.  As I said earlier, he's relying on the private sector.

Quote:
Also, what do you mean by "urban farming?"

[url]

">http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/06/08/news/CB-FEA-GEN-Cuba-Farming-H...

genstrike

Jacob Richter wrote:

6) Really nationalize the banks and ban all derivatives trading (done during the Great Depression, I believe), instead of this de facto lending without oversight (much less more democratic control):

This is what ticks me off about some of the commentary.  People say that we're nationalizing the banks and that it is socialism.  No, it isn't.  It's throwing money at capitalists.

Fidel

They need to scrap capitalism once and for all. Just put the whole clap trap through bankruptcy and be done with it. Wipe the slate clean, as the very rightwing Naomi Klein and her Chicago skool of economic philosophizers suggest should be done.  

genstrike

Is Klein actually anti-capitalist?  Admittedly, I haven't read a lot of her work, but she strikes me as more anti-neoliberal and anti-globalization than anti-capitalist, wanting to go back to a kindler, gentler capitalism that existed before the age of neoliberalism.  And I have heard this sort of criticism from other sources as well.

PS: when is Gary Doer going to scrap capitalism?  I'm waiting Tongue out

Fidel

Neoliberalism and capitalism are synonymous. They don't have a backup plan.

And Gary Doer should be thrown out of club nouveau liberal for maintaining publicly owned hydro , public car insurance, and the most generous tax rebates in Canada on PSE tuition fees. And running a string of balanced budgets isn't doing a lot of good with undermining public confidence in government as per the neoliberal formula for paving the way to privatization and 3PPP's.

genstrike, who is Stephen Harper? Who was Paulie Pockets Martin? And what do they have to do with anything in Canada? Tongue out

siamdave

I too wonder about Ms Klein's comments here - the NDP would seem to be in a powerful situation and in a place to make some demands of the Libs to support the coalition, but apparently Jack is doing diddly squat - it should be non-negotiable that PR gets put to the top of the list for the remainder of the life of this parliament, at the very least getting it put on the next election ballot as an option, after which the education could begin. Economically, something else Ms Klein does not even mention, but the NDP at least knows about as they have mentioned it a couple of times, is monetary reform - this does not mean 'nationalizing' or 'socializing' any banks, it means getting control of the Canadian money supply, which is currently created almost entirely by private banks, who expect interest on our money supply each and every year, which has led to ALL of our current financial problems, and these problems will continue as long as we leave the money creation power in private hands. Yet not a freaking WORD about this from any 'progressive' organisations. Which makes me, for one, wonder who is really pulling their strings. And if noone is pulling their strings, but they remain ignorant of this situation, then they have no business calling themselves 'progressive leaders', as this money situation is the basis of power of the capitalists, and the fundamental cause of every other problem we are facing in modern society, and NOTHING is going to get fixed until the money supply is under truly democratic control. More explanation of the money thing at Banketeering  http://www.rudemacedon.ca/banketeering.html 

genstrike

Fidel wrote:
Neoliberalism and capitalism are synonymous.

Wow.  That's just wrong.

Capitalism is a system of private ownership of the means of production, exploitation of surplus value, market system based on ability to pay, etc.

Neoliberalism is simply capital's latest offensive, which really got going in the late 70s in order to intensify the exploitation of labour.  Neoliberalism is a form of capitalism, but it isn't synonymous with capitalism.  You can have other forms of capitalism, such as the postwar consensus capitalism, fascism or classical liberalism.

 

See, this is what I don't get about you.  You have a screenname that is Fidel and you say things like "they need to scrap capitalism once and for all".  Yet, when I, as an anti-capitalist criticize a party that hasn't had any anti-capitalist principles at least since they threw out the Regina Manifesto, you rush in to defend it, which is often done by either attacking me or trying to change the subject with some barely coherent non-sequitur.

I just don't get it.  Please explain to me how you can so slavishly support the NDP and attack any anti-capitalist criticism or criticism from the left, yet claim to be an anti-capitalist yourself and name youself after a guy who led a revolution against capitalism

Fidel

genstrike wrote:
  You can have other forms of capitalism, such as the postwar consensus capitalism, fascism or classical liberalism

Except that most self-respecting capitalists insist on minimal profit margins. They made wonderful profits post-WWII and didn't mind so much sharing the profits with workers, and especially so with Soviet economies growing at a fair clip since the late 1920's and representing an alternative to capitalism. With some pressure from the CCF and a failed economy across Canada in the 1930's, a new Liberal government nationalised the Bank of Canada. The feds were creating a quarter of money supply at near zero cost to them and the taxpayers. It wasn't GOSBank, but Ottawa was able to pay of the war debt and use the money to pay for important infrastructure and new social programs between 1938 and 1974.

But that all changed in the 1970's with the energy crises. Some capitalists decided that profiteering from war is just too lucrative compared with everyday industrial capitalism. By the late 1980's, neoliberal dogma from a shadowy club of central bankers in Switzerland said that western governments were obligated to bail out their increasingly deregulated private banks by allowing them to create close to all of the money supply as interest owing debt. As you can imagine, things have gone downhill ever since with the relatively new debt-driven capitalism. Our economies just can't keep up with the bank rates, and so just about everyone and their dogs have been enslaved by a global banking cabal. We can't afford to pay for new infrastructure whether its green or rusty, and the old stuff is beginning to crumble after decades of neglect. This is supposed to undermine everyone's faith in democratically elected governments to get the job done that they used to be able to do at one time but cannot anymore due to the new self-imposed impotence in the handful few English-speaking capitalist countries. P3's and AFP's are trotted in the backdoor, and rejected for the most part by municipal plebscites around the world and wherever the new deregulated capitalism is failing in various economic sectors where tried, from electrical power generation and distribution to markets in water and sewage to the old financial capitalism made new again.

Kapitalists decided that should abandon postwar industrial capitalism over 30 years ago because profit margins were falling to 12% and further.  12% is a magic number for kapitalists, and they soon decided on neoliberal financial kapitalism and "putting money to work" for them. Few real kapitalists are caught dead pouring footings for new factories nowadays. Real kapitalists live off compound interest and speculating on everything from currency to near money derivatives in the global casino economy since 1987 or so. This is what los Chicago boys tried to establish in Chile, an economy based on "financial services", investment banking, and positive inflows of kapital from around the world. Chile was the genesis fable for neoliberal kapitalism. The new laissez-faire kapitalism didn't work any better for General Pinochet and his economic hitmen after sixteen years than it did in North America after 30 years by 1929. And it's doing the crazy swan dive today as we babble.

The writing was on the wall for commodities based capitalism quite a few years ago, and now kapitalists want cutting in for a share of global services in public education, healthcare, and child care. These three services are worth over $6 trillion dollars in public spending every year. And our stoogeocrats at federal levels have been working diligently to slash tax revenues and gut transfer payments in undermining these vitally important public services, and even shit-canning them before they are even realized, in order to pave the way for Pee3's and AFPee's. Big box capitalists in the U.S. and other salivating jackals are waiting in the wings for our weak and ineffective politicos to hack off pieces of the common good and toss it to them like so much hamburger. You can read your Marx and Lenin today, and that's fine. But the capitalism that those important socialists knew so well is no more since the 1930's. And the capitalist attempts to return to laissez-faire capitalist economies is at the root cause of what's gone awry today.

 

Merowe

you are particularly lucid today, sir

RosaL

Jacob Richter wrote:

[url]http://www.politics.ie/current-affairs/37428-socialists-credit-crunch-fa...

 

Since the admins of the board above have yet to approve my registration, I decide to give some thought to the material in that thread.  A lot of the misperceptions of the far left are, unfortunately, due to the programmatic posturing (or rather lack thereof) by the far-left groups being observed by the "average Joe":

Quote:
What immediate-term policies, if any, are the various Trotskyite and Communist parties offering as practical proposals to handle the aftermath of this problem?

I´m not talking about any notions they may have of total revolutionary change, abolishing private property blah blah blah.

Basically, I´m asking this: has any left-wing party anywhere in Europe (such as Joe Higgins´ type) offered any kind of short-term practical responses to the economic difficulties?

 

  

 

I'm not saying there's nothing to criticize on "the far left" (there certainly is!) but so often the criticisms seem so uninformed. The premise here (that far left groups are not proposing "intermediate term policies") simply is not true, as anyone would know if they actually read the press or websites of some of the groups named. 

<how do I make a link?>

Jacob Richter

There's an HTML button at the bottom of the text box when you write your posts. :)

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

Quote:
The premise here (that far left groups are not proposing "intermediate term policies") simply is not true


The other premises are that there is defined "far left" and that everyone to the right of that far left are offering tangible policies. I say that is false. Only the neo-liberal right offers any real policy platform and it is the very same policies that precipitated the current crises and the crisis of 1929-1939 to which it is most often compared. Essentially, the policy of the right, to use a metaphor, is to bail more water into the sinking boat.

Beyond, there is no real coherent economic policies being put forward anywhere elese along the spectrum because, for the most part, all economic perspectives are from or in counter to the prevailing model.  Consider even the first post puts forward a number of ideas all dependent on the continuation and success (in the face of failure) of the current model.

Policywonk

Where does localization fit? Perhaps the question of what to do is being looked at from the wrong perspective.

Frustrated Mess Frustrated Mess's picture

I agree. The question is always asked from the perspective of the maintaining and perpetuating the existing economic order no matter its structural failings and the fact that it must eventually collapse totally.

If we look at it from the perspective of the needs of people, as opposed to the needs of corporate and institutional investors, the answers may be very, very different.

Policywonk

And sustainability.

Jacob Richter

^^^ Your point being?

 

My point was that policies can't be articulated for a worker audience without a political party.  The emergence of Solidaire is a signal for the rest of the Canadian left (even those in the midst of the rural idiocy that is redneck Alberta).

Fidel

What the lead poster in that blog doesnt realize is, this current capitalist system is already strewn with socialist ideas. Socialist policies are the glue holding everything together. And as neoliberal ideologues have realized that the writing is on the wall for old world commodities based capitalism, they began to abandon industrial capitalism for financial capitalism since the 1980's. That was when the crises began, and even before that when private banks were authorized to invest in government backed mortgages(1960's in Canada). Little else was happening with financial capitalism until workers were viewed increasingly as consumers and mortgage payers. Neoliberal financial capitalism failed during trial runs in Chile after 16 years. Deregulated finance and banking failed in 1929-32 in the U.S. Socialists have pointed out the failures of capitalism for a long time and suggested democratic alternatives every step we've taken toward the currently onrushing collapse of the latest version of leave it to the market capitalism.

As the ideologues move away from mixed market economies, and as the non-market subsystems are cannibalized by capitalists with the help of their hirelings in government, what worked in Canada and U.S. post-laissez-faire capitalism from the late 1930's to mid 1970's begins to bear fruit. And the fruit of unregulated capitalism is always proven to be rotten.

Yes, socialists have consistently offered alternatives to the latest hare-brained capitalist schemes for robbing workers blind and poisoning the environment. And as they introduce 1920's-style unregulated capitalism, they do so by decree and by decisions made behind closed doors. Canadians reject private health care but have little idea that this is what they vote for when electing Conservatives and Liberals to government in Ottawa. Few Canadians realize that their favourite political parties have signed GATS and little notion that they allow their big ears to be bent by right-wing think tanks that used to be considered fringe special interest groups a 25 and 30 years ago. What they do they have done outside of democratic consensus, and it's beginning to hurt the big business and banking parties backed by Bay Street and international capital. We have two tin pots in Ottawa and Toronto with just 22 percent of registered voter support per each of them after some of the lowest voter turnouts in several decades.

Capitalism and the political right go hand in hand. And democracy has always been the right's most hated institution. Laissez-faire capitalism was rejected by Americans and Canadians in the 1930's by democratic choice. The right knew all along that reintroducing laissez-faire in one fell swoop would be rejected wholesale for the second time in the same countries in the same century. But here we are in 2008, and what deregulated nonsense they were able to sneak past voters either failed already(electrical power and rail service in U.K., Canada and U.S.) or is failing now wrt financial capitalism. 30 years is about the time limit on leave it to the market capitalism. Soviet communism lasted 70 years. It was a much simpler and more robust economic system and collapsed by 1989 after a trillion dollar cold war was waged against about a third of the world. We are to believe Soviet communism collapsed all on its own, but historical record says otherwise. Laissez-faire capitalism collapsed all on its own and under near laboratory conditions in 1920's North America and again in 1985 Chile.

Socialists everywhere are telling them who cling to power in Ottawa and those new to power in Washington what they must do now to save their own system. Will they listen this time?  Winston Churchill said once that governments tend to do all the wrong things first before making good choices. The problem is not that socialists do not offer alternatives - they have. The problem is with our democratic deficit which became a noticable gap about two and half decades ago and is now a chasm.

George Victor

The problem is  how to bring up to operational democratic speed,  people who can reject the obvious solution of a coalition, with all the right, Keynesian buttons being pushed, in favour of Steve and Jim.

Even getting the learned left-leaning  to accept the coalition!!!Wink

The rest is a cinch!

SwimmingLee

genstrike wrote:
This is what ticks me off about some of the commentary. People say that we're nationalizing the banks and that it is socialism. No, it isn't. It's throwing money at capitalists.

Yep.  100's of $billions - maybe trillions - to preserve bonuses for a few thousand bankers.  but the US Congress & Senate hem & haw before they will authorize $15 to $20 billion to assist the auto companies, and the related hundreds of thousands (millions, if you consider suppliers & the effects of Big 3 bankruptcy) of jobs.

A good socialist/common-sense answer - follow the money.  The top 30-earning hedge fund managers in 2007 averaged $500 million a year - confiscate those earnings, except for some residual amount, unless there is fraud - then confiscate all of it.

 Bail-outs for wealthy people - if they invest in a hedge fund using leverage, and lose everything - tough.  Their hair gets gray faster - just like the general public.

 The "socialism for the rich"/ looting/ piracy that we're witnessing is one of the sickest things i've ever seen.

 Part of the situation is, the investment bankers & hedge fund operators have worked themselves into a situation where, it's like a big tic sucking on the aorta of a healthy patients - and you can't remove the tic/parasite without killing the patient.

 Or so they would have us believe.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

http://LASIK-FLap.com ~ Website Created by Injured LASIK Patients

D V

"Soviet communism lasted 70 years. It was a much simpler and more robust economic system and collapsed by 1989 after a trillion dollar cold war was waged against about a third of the world"

Does Fidel then give (unduly full) credit to Brzezinski & co. (notice who's behind the new president again)?  Saral Sarkar (ex-pat Bengali, German Green, in 1999 in Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism?: A Critical Analysis of Humanity's Fundamental Choices) contended cogently about collapse for other reasons, and there was the lead-up deliberately depressed price of oil, then as now depended on by them, damaging foreign access. Which leads to generalizing about the things socialists tend to omit or give too low rank to, like reasonable limitation on the reach of livelihood as well as deep consideration of the appropriateness of means, vs things like localization and petroleum replacement.  The fault in too many Green quarters these days is to discount what Fidel is being articulate about or alluding to here, unseen financial manipulation & mistreatment of fellows.  But for the finance to negatively flourish so there must be degradation of the local & more human scale, requiring exploitable means of exchange for access at a distance, with all risk involved; and the mistreatment is in part also a function of oversizing, where harmers are distanced enough to be somewhat hidden from the harmed.  So very "green" questions of scale enter at all points. There was some flourishing of local currencies in the 30s in the US that was suppressed in New Dealism.

Brian White

genstrike wrote:

Fidel wrote:
Neoliberalism and capitalism are synonymous.

"Wow. That's just wrong".

I think capatilism is almost in tune with how th world works. With strong government controls to prevent the rich from becoming super rich, perhaps it can work?

Neo capatilism is capatilism with the rules and the loopholes made by and for the super rich. Government Economic advisors are appointed from this group in canada so that makes us a neocapatilist country.

In a capatilist country on the other hand, apointees would represent all he different classes and economic groups in Canada in proportion to their numbers. (meaning no billionaires on the council). 

This is the only possible way to make capatilism sustainable.  We have to provide a real world anology to compare to trickle down economics to esplain the idea. Here is one. In neocapatilism, wealth of the few individuals is allowed to grow until  they become the economic equivalent of black holes. They suck all the goodness from the economy and ultimately destroy it.

In the sustainable version, taxes and dutys build as people get uberich so there is an optimum level of riches that does not get breached.

Jimmy Pee has 4.93 billions of dollars in wealth. There are only 4 million people in  BC.  If his wealth was nationalized and divided equally, every man woman and child would be almost 5 thousand dollars richer!

Or Jimmy could just hand it over as a gift back to bc.

5 thousand per person in BC would help us get through the downturn, Hell, there would be no downturn!  And that is just the ill gotten gains of one guy!

In ontario, instead of rescueing the auto industry, they could nationalise a couple of ultra rich bastards and they could get through it too.

Coming from europe, i knew years ago there was never any economic point in filling the roads with gas guzeling monsters. Let the auto industry die and start making cumfy busses and cumfy trains. 

.

Fidel

genstrike says there are several different forms of capitalism sitting on the shelf ready to be thrown into action at a moment's notice. If that were true, then there would be no need for this massive socialism to prop up capitalism and superrich people today. In fact, there is no backup plan.

Crises and chaos followed by more war is the kapitalist plan as usual. Steve Harper's plan is U.S.-style spending on military buildup, and to pull an R.B. Bennett on the economy. Or at least, that was his plan until the Harpers refused to show up for work recently. Shutting down parliament is not a plan though.

genstrike

Fidel wrote:

genstrike says there are several different forms of capitalism sitting on the shelf ready to be thrown into action at a moment's notice.

That isn't quite what I'm saying.  You said capitalism and neoliberalism are synonymous. That is simply not true.  Neoliberalism is a term for right-wing intensification of capitalist oppression since around the late 70s.  Neoliberalism is simply an intensification of these capitalist relations, which have existed for a long time before the term neoliberalism was even coined.

Some aspects and details of capitalism change and evolve over time and we do have different terms for different eras (such as postwar consensus, neoliberalism, etc), but (barring something like a revolution) the basics of capitalism remain constant and early theorists like Marx are just as important today.  You seem to think that just because some of the details have changed we should write off people like Marx, even though they are as relevant as ever today.

Fidel

genstrike wrote:
Some aspects and details of capitalism change and evolve over time and we do have different terms for different eras (such as postwar consensus, neoliberalism, etc), but (barring something like a revolution) the basics of capitalism remain constant and early theorists like Marx are just as important today.

The writing was on the wall for commodities based industrial capitalism way back in the 1970's during the first energy crises. As I was saying before, capitalists' profit margins began falling, and they looked to other ways of reproducing post-war era gains. The seeds of neoliberal ideology were born with von Hayek and Mont Pelerin society after the war and planted in fertile conservative minds in the west, like Milton Friedman's, Maggie Thatcher's, Ronald Reagan, Brian Mulroney, and prominent Liberals. 

 

Quote:
you seem to think that just because some of the details have changed we should write off people like Marx, even though they are as relevant as ever today.

The "details" were changed drastically since the 1980's. Financial capitalism is no small detail and at the root cause of the crisis of our mixed market economies today.  Neither Marx nor Lenin would have recognized capitalism in the western world after 1929-32 with the vast increases in public sector economy. They would look at the Nordic countries today and say, "Holy frijole!" The "new" Liberal capitalism has  sought to cannibalize  non-market subsystems as a result of the new debt-driven monetarist capitalism since the 1980's. Canada has more private sector financing of health care and other basic services, and more foreign ownership and control by multinational corporations than most so-called capitalist countries today. Canada's vast natural resource and energy base is a prime target for failing and failed capitalist ideology because we have so much natural wealth as to make any ideology nearly impossible to fail over the short term. Various Canadian governments have been signing away our sovereign rights to energy and natural resources and labour and environmental rights like few other major G20 capitalist countries since CUSFTA and NAFTA flip-flops. In other threads, you've blamed Gary Doer's NDP for the failures of neoliberal policies emanating from Ottawa like spokes of a broken wagon wheel. And you've misled no one but yourself.

 

Fidel

D V wrote:
The fault in too many Green quarters these days is to discount what Fidel is being articulate about or alluding to here, unseen financial manipulation & mistreatment of fellows.  But for the finance to negatively flourish so there must be degradation of the local & more human scale, requiring exploitable means of exchange for access at a distance, with all risk involved; and the mistreatment is in part also a function of oversizing, where harmers are distanced enough to be somewhat hidden from the harmed.  So very "green" questions of scale enter at all points. There was some flourishing of local currencies in the 30s in the US that was suppressed in New Dealism.

Yes, and what I am saying is that the world was so impressed with the new capitalism to deliver the goods by way of "free markets", they soon forgot about "dull and grey Soviet communism." Americans and Canadians soon forgot that laissez-faire capitalism of the 1920's and 30's was once considered even duller and greyer than Soviet communism. We've since been propagandized with sparkle and glitz. Some on the left  themselves admitted in the 1980s and 90's that markets are the most efficient means of production and distribution, and that markets create enormous wealth. Soviet economies were driven by constraints of supplies of raw materials and man power, whereas western economies are driven by supply and demand, and now debt-driven monetarism since neoliberal capitalism of the 1980's and 90's.

The new liberal capitalism seemed to work in a perfect world with endless consumption,  and continuing without consideration for the harm done to the environment and for social costs, but was introduced more gradually in the U.S. and Canada compared with economic shock experiments conducted around the rest of the world. 

Socialists since Marx and Schumpeter and Polanyi have said that for any economic model to ignore the accounting of social and environmental costs is bad economics. The Soviets did not account for environmental costs, but their's was an economy in transition. They were overwhelmed by Harvard and European capitalist economists in the 1980's telling them to integrate Soviet economies with the west, and to revitalize the stagnant socialist economies dependent on trade with about a third of the COMECON world at the time. There were oodles of propaganda pumped into those countries during the cold war era. Many of them believed all westerners lived in mansions and lived like millionaires. And it was part of the larger lie of the promise of middle class capitalism based on consumption. Boris Yeltsin and Gorbachev chose poorly. Our own leaders in Canada have chosen badly since the 1980s but not dismantling public sector economy and social supports as was done in 1990's catastroika Russia and satellite countries. Perestroika was a lesson in Marxian primitive wealth accumulation on a level with enclosure era England. Neoliberal policies have failed and led to social unrest and primitive wealth accumulation around the world where tried. And it was done without true democratic consensus for the most part.

genstrike

Fidel wrote:

The "details" were changed drastically since the 1980's. Financial capitalism is no small detail and at the root cause of the crisis of our mixed market economies today.  Neither Marx nor Lenin would have recognized capitalism in the western world after 1929-32 with the vast increases in public sector economy.

The fundamentals of capitalism in 2008 are essentially the same as they were in 1958, 1908, and 1858.  Social relations to production are the same, accumulation is the same, class relations are the same, etc.  The means of production are still owned by the few, and the rest of us still do all the work.  Yes, there has been a massive increase in financialization and speculation and yes, these trends have contributed massively to the current crisis, but these new sectors still follow the same old rules of capitalism.

Also, I find it ironic that a guy who names himself after a declared Marxist-Leninist (unless it is a different Fidel) is telling us to throw Marx and Lenin out the window.  One of my pet peeves is people who pretend to be radicals just because they like the imagery and romanticism of class struggle and the revolutionary left, but are really just social democrats and rather centrist ones at that.  Don't name youself after a revolutionary hero if you don't believe in revolution.  It's the same as those fucks who wear Che Guevara T-shirts when they have no idea what he stood for.  If you believe everything the NDP says and don't oppose capitalism, call yourself Tommy or Ed or Gary, not Fidel or Che or Hugo.

Fidel wrote:
In other threads, you've blamed Gary Doer's NDP for the failures of neoliberal policies emanating from Ottawa like spokes of a broken wagon wheel. And you've misled no one but yourself.

I have only been blaming Gary Doer's NDP for things that are provincial responsibilities, and I have not been misleading or attempting to mislead everyone.  You simply can not comprehend the NDP not being perfect due to your blind loyalty to The Party, so you constantly make excuses for their failures.  And it's not just me as a lone crank, there are a lot of people who are loyal members of the NDP who agree with me.  Heck, I know for a fact there are people in caucus (some of whom have been MLAs for decades) who agree with me, but can't really say anything due to "caucus solidarity".  The youth wing and a campus club have publicly criticized Doer's policies.  I've even seen a guy who founded an NDP campus club in Ontario heckle a Manitoba cabinet minister at a rally.  If these loyal NDPers (and non-NDP leftists) are able to criticize The Party when they fuck up, why is it that you seem to be unable to agree with even one criticism of the NDP or its policies, even when their policies are the same as that of the Conservatives (such as Doer's position on card-check certification for unions being the same as Filmon's), when their policies change between elections and implementation (such as Doer's tuition policy) or inconsistent and contradictory (Layton promising to increase corporate taxes while Doer cuts them).

For example, do you support Doer's tuition policy during the 2007 election, or Doer's current tuition policy?  Do you support increasing corporate taxes Layton style, or lowering them Doer style?  Do you support Filmon and Doer's card-check policies, or oppose them?

I think the big difference here is that I judge politicians by what they do.  You judge them by what colour tie they wear, and thus you are the one who is constantly misleading yourself, trying to justify fanatical support for the NDP.  I think deep down you know that the NDP isn't perfect and disagree with some of their policies, but sadly you feel that you can't show it and need to fanatically support the NDP and tear down anyone who criticizes the NDP, even if you agree with those criticisms.

Fidel

genstrike wrote:
Fidel wrote:

The "details" were changed drastically since the 1980's. Financial capitalism is no small detail and at the root cause of the crisis of our mixed market economies today. Neither Marx nor Lenin would have recognized capitalism in the western world after 1929-32 with the vast increases in public sector economy.

The fundamentals of capitalism in 2008 are essentially the same as they were in 1958, 1908, and 1858. Social relations to production are the same, accumulation is the same, class relations are the same, etc.

This is patently false for a number of reasons. The relationships between workers and capitalists have changed dramatically since the communist manifesto was written. Yes we still have capitalists and means of production are still owned by capitalists. What is different since the collapse of laissez-faire capitalism in 1930's western world is the proliferation of visible hand interventionist policies by governments. There have been significant changes to western economies since Keynes, and since the addition public sector economy since Marx and Lenin lived. We've grown up in a time after the creation of public pensions, unemployment insurance, a broad range of social welfare programs public health care and trade unionism. These are things that my father and his brothers never knew growing up in pre-WWII depression era Canada.

Economist James Galbraith talks about liberal use of the soft budget constraint in post-WW II America in The Real American Model, which was also a feature of Central and Eastern European economies in the later years of communist rule. We have significant public sector economies which have very little to do with free market capitalism today. We'ev been led to believe that some aspects of this part of our economies are inefficient and should be run according to a business model. But these are vital parts of our economy which work to offset a series of failures on the capitalist market side of things since the 1930's. 

There was no welfare or "EI" in those days of capitalism only. There was no social security or Canada Pension and certainly no medicare. A dollar a day was the average wage, and farmers couldnt afford to upgrade farm equipment.  One American who lived it said that laissez-faire capitalism was duller and greyer than Soviet communism.  I'm pretty sure you have no idea what the bad old days of straight up capitalism were really like, genstrike.

Quote:
Don't name youself after a revolutionary hero if you don't believe in revolution. It's the same as those fucks who wear Che Guevara T-shirts when they have no idea what he stood for. If you believe everything the NDP says and don't oppose capitalism, call yourself Tommy or Ed or Gary, not Fidel or Che or Hugo

And I think you're a confused young man who needs time to figure out where your own political allegiance lies. But right now you're confused.  As far as I can tell, you have a feeble understanding of Canadian politics and economy. If I were you, I would try to understand our own history in Canada, and then try a fit and contrast with the rest of the world and current political events. That might be a better approach for you. I'll give you an "E" for effort though, genstrike.

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v697/rabblerabble/1r9lpy.gif[/IMG]

genstrike

Fidel wrote:
This is patently false for a number of reasons. The relationships between workers and capitalists have changed dramatically since the communist manifesto was written. Yes we still have capitalists and means of production are still owned by capitalists. What is different since the collapse of laissez-faire capitalism in 1930's western world is the proliferation of visible hand interventionist policies by governments. There have been significant changes to western economies since Keynes, and since the addition public sector economy since Marx and Lenin lived. We've grown up in a time after the creation of public pensions, unemployment insurance, a broad range of social welfare programs public health care and trade unionism. These are things that my father and his brothers never knew growing up in pre-WWII depression era Canada.

The fundamental relationship between workers and capitalists has not changed since the Communist Manifesto or Das Kap was written.  You even admit that the means of production are still owned by capitalists.  A lot of the things you mention are essentially bits of socialist window dressing to keep capitalism somewhat bearable so the workers don't revolt, or state intervention simply to preserve the capitalist system.

 

Fidel wrote:
And I think you're a confused young man who needs time to figure out where your own political allegiance lies. But right now you're confused.  As far as I can tell, you have a feeble understanding of Canadian politics and economy. If I were you, I would try to understand our own history in Canada, and then try a fit and contrast with the rest of the world and current political events. That might be a better approach for you. I'll give you an "E" for effort though, genstrike.

And I give you an "A" for ageism.  You think you can just call me stupid and dismiss anything I say because of my age and that makes any of my arguments disappear.

Furthermore, Niki Ashton is only a few years older than me, would you go tell her that she is a confused little girl who needs to figure out where her own political allegiance lies?  My NDP candidate in the last federal election was the same age as me, would you go tell him that he is a confused young man?  I'm older than a lot of young NDPers and people in NDP campus clubs, would you go tell them that they are just confused young men?

I know where my political allegiance lies, and it is not with the NDP.

And this isn't the first time you've made ageist comments towards me on this forum.  Seriously, why is Fidel's ageist crap tolerated on babble?

If attitudes like Fidel's are prevalent within the NDP, it is no wonder the Manitoba NDP is out of touch with youth issues.

skarredmunkey

Can I jump in here... I've been reading but not participating so far. Fidel, I have to agree with genstrike here. Not only are your comments ageist, but completely hypocritical. While I disagree with genstrike's specific version/vision of socialism, his comments have only ever been of the highest caliber, and I'm sure many of us on babble share his general critiques of the NDP, and his notion that Marx was and is still relevant during the Keynesian and post-Keynesian eras. You on the other hand have recently suggested - presumably with a straight face - that if Quebec seceded it would end up poor and run by biker gangs! With comments like that, shouldn't one refrain from condescendingly dismissing others with comparably more sensible things to say as "young and confused"?? I - like genstrike - wonder how close this comes to warranting moderator attention...

Fidel

genstrike wrote:

Fidel wrote:
This is patently false for a number of reasons. The relationships between workers and capitalists have changed dramatically since the communist manifesto was written. Yes we still have capitalists and means of production are still owned by capitalists. What is different since the collapse of laissez-faire capitalism in 1930's western world is the proliferation of visible hand interventionist policies by governments. There have been significant changes to western economies since Keynes, and since the addition public sector economy since Marx and Lenin lived. We've grown up in a time after the creation of public pensions, unemployment insurance, a broad range of social welfare programs public health care and trade unionism. These are things that my father and his brothers never knew growing up in pre-WWII depression era Canada.

The fundamental relationship between workers and capitalists has not changed since the Communist Manifesto or Das Kap was written.  You even admit that the means of production are still owned by capitalists.  A lot of the things you mention are essentially bits of socialist window dressing to keep capitalism somewhat bearable so the workers don't revolt, or state intervention simply to preserve the capitalist system.

That window dressing, as you refer so loosely to it, changed the relationships between workers and capitalism to a great extent. Workers are not nearly as reliant on selling their labour for their well being as they once were. People began living longer and quality of lives improved immensely since 1849. And capitalism bears little resemblance to dollar a day laissez-faire of even the 1930's. You couldnt be more wrong, and it's a sign of maturity to admit that you're wrong. 

And you talk about revolution like it's so easy a decision. Canadians are not at the point that Cuban campesinos were in the 1950's, believe me. If you really believe in bloody revolution, then there are a number of Central American countries that are pregnant with revolution for some time now. But you should know that those countries just a few day's drive from George Bush's Texas are also very dangerous places to even be helping the desperately poor much less talking tough about revolution. The poor and politically repressed in those countries can not afford big talk like yours without anything to back it up. Here we at least have the NDP. In Central America and Haiti, etc, politicos and union leaders who speak along the line of an NDP political point of view are often disappeared and even murdered for daring to challenge the status quo.

genstrike

Fidel wrote:

That window dressing, as you refer so loosely to it, changed the relationships between workers and capitalism to a great extent. Workers are not nearly as reliant on selling their labour for their well being as they once were.

How so?  The relationship between capitalist and worker is still the same as before.  The worker is still reliant on selling his or her labour.

Fidel wrote:
You couldnt be more wrong, and it's a sign of maturity to admit that you're wrong.

More ageism?  Why do I need to "show maturity"?  Why don't you or the OP or any other babbler need to "show maturity"?

Also, why do I need to "show maturity" by admiting that I am wrong when I am not, when I have never seen you admit that you are wrong on this forum.  Heck, I've seen you try to alter the definition of words to avoid admitting you are wrong.

Maybe people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.  Unless, of course, that was just another ageist shot at me, which it clearly was.

Fidel wrote:
And you talk about revolution like it's so easy a decision. Canadians are not at the point that Cuban campesinos were in the 1950's, believe me.

First, I don't want a bloody revolution.  No one wants any unnecessary violence.  But getting rid of this economic system should be the #1 priority for everyone who is oppressed by it, ie: everyone except the capitalists.  And I don't think we will ever get rid of this economic system based on parliamentary action alone.  The capitalists might give us some more crumbs when we take action and try to take them away when we let our guard down, but they will never willingly give up the whole pie no matter how much we try to twist their arm or elect people who promise a few more crumbs.  So, what does that leave?  A major break with the past, a new society out of the ashes of the old, and if you wish to call it that, a revolution, although not necessarily a bloody one along the lines of 1917.  This "revolution" can take many forms including nonviolent forms such as noncompliance with the capitalist state and the building of alternative dual power networks, but unfortunately, any revolution against capitalism is going to wind up being as bloody as the capitalists make it.

These little bits of socialism are there to appease workers who rose up and opposed capitalism.  Our entire 1940s era labour relations system and the legal protections it entails are the result of militant actions by the working class, and the response of the capitalist state which has been to give up some legal protections to workers in exchange for "labour peace".  But I guess I'm too young to know anything about that, even though I took a whole class on it and wrote a fucking paper on it, and I only got an A+ on that paper.  Clearly, that shows that I don't know what I'm talking about because I'm young and stupid, right Fidel?

Fidel wrote:
If you really believe in bloody revolution, then there are a number of
Central American countries that are pregnant with revolution for some
time now.

So it's Canada, love it or leave it now?  Anyone who opposes capitalism should be sent to Chiapas?

Fidel

genstrike wrote:

Fidel wrote:

That window dressing, as you refer so loosely to it, changed the relationships between workers and capitalism to a great extent. Workers are not nearly as reliant on selling their labour for their well being as they once were.

How so?  The relationship between capitalist and worker is still the same as before.  The worker is still reliant on selling his or her labour.

If you'll notice, not all Canadians sell their labour to capitalists today. Ontario, for example, has produced more public sector jobs than private for the last few years running. Imagine a time when there were very few public sector jobs, and people really were reliant on industrialists to earn a living, or were entirely reliant on scratching a living from the earth without any subsidies from the government. Imagine having no Canada Pension Plan at 65(Canada) or 60(U.K.) Social Security is the most successful socialist program in U.S. history and keeping tens of millions of retired Americans from absolute poverty. You should read James Galbraith's piece on The Real American model. It should open your eyes to the glaring differences between the way it is today and capitalist economies of yesteryear. 

Fidel wrote:
You couldnt be more wrong, and it's a sign of maturity to admit that you're wrong.

genstrike wrote:
More ageism?  Why do I need to "show maturity"?  Why don't you or the OP or any other babbler need to "show maturity"?

Also, why do I need to "show maturity" by admiting that I am wrong when I am not, when I have never seen you admit that you are wrong on this forum.  Heck, I've seen you try to alter the definition of words to avoid admitting you are wrong.

Maybe people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.  Unless, of course, that was just another ageist shot at me, which it clearly was.

If I thought you knew what you are talking about, I would acknowledge it. You seem to think Gary Doer is a Canadian equivalent of Fulgencio Batista and standing in the way of an outbreak of socialism in Canada. And this is what I find so humourous about your revolutionary notes posted to babblers. If I was looking for 80 people to help me overthrow a truly oppressive U.S.-backed mafia regime somewhere in the Carribe, I'd prolly consider leaving you behind at the marina.

genstrike wrote:
]First, I don't want a bloody revolution.  No one wants any unnecessary violence.  . .  but unfortunately, any revolution against capitalism is going to wind up being as bloody as the capitalists make it.

You havent been pushed to the point of bloody revolt, believe me. Yes, I will agree that things have become more repressive in Canada since the beginning of neoliberalism of the 1980's, but not all Canadians are at the point where most Cubans were by the late 1950's. If you want to see people who are beaten by an oppressive all-capitalist system, go visit Mexico, Honduras, Belize and Guatemala. You will travel backwards in time and see people without hope. Even nearer, visit any of the U.S. right to work states where workers live in one industry towns and are afraid to be sick or injured on the job. And even then, those U.S. states are quite a lot more livable and worker friendly that they were in the 1920's and 30's. You need to develop a feel for what it's like living in an all capitalist setup. Many Americans think Canada is a bastion of socialism compared to where they work and live. And I can certainly understand where my fellow workers in the U.S. are coming from when they've said such things to me.

Quote:
These little bits of socialism are there to appease workers who rose up and opposed capitalism.  Our entire 1940s era labour relations system and the legal protections it entails are the result of militant actions by the working class, and the response of the capitalist state which has been to give up some legal protections to workers in exchange for "labour peace".  But I guess I'm too young to know anything about that, even though I took a whole class on it and wrote a fucking paper on it, and I only got an A+ on that paper.  Clearly, that shows that I don't know what I'm talking about because I'm young and stupid, right Fidel?

Well now you're contradicting what you said earlier about relationships between workers and the capitalism system being the same today as they were in the 1850's. But don't suggest to me again that trade unionists, civil society groups, and the CCF-NDP have achieved nothing by the long good fight since turn of the last century or that nothing has changed since 1849.

genstrike wrote:
Fidel wrote:
If you really believe in bloody revolution, then there are a number of Central American countries that are pregnant with revolution for some time now.

So it's Canada, love it or leave it now?  Anyone who opposes capitalism should be sent to Chiapas?

Yes, you're living in Canada where right-wing death squads and secret police are not running roughshod over the peasantry and making leftists disappear according to an army hit list. You're ahead of the game already. You should count your lucky stars.

ecopinko

Fidel wrote:

If you'll notice, not all Canadians sell their labour to capitalists today. Ontario, for example, has produced more public sector jobs than private for the last few years running. Imagine a time when there were very few public sector jobs, and people really were reliant on industrialists to earn a living, or were entirely reliant on scratching a living from the earth without any subsidies from the government.

Yes, I would guess that there are far more public sector workers now than in Marx's time (although I would gather that the military and non-profit employers like the church during the 1800s made up a significant percentage of the wage-labour workforce). 

That being said, I don't think there is a fundamental difference for the worker between being employed by the private-sector versus being employed by the state (or, for that matter, non-profit employers). And I say this having worked for a large, unionized private sector employer, a large, nonunionized private sector employer, a large unionized public sector employer, and a small nonuniozed nonprofit employer.

There are some differences, of course, between the two types of employers. However, while the private-sector employer is by definition a capitalist, and the public-sector employer is a single large employer who is supposed to not be profit-focused, they both operate in a capitalist environment. 

Whether the means of production are owned by the state or by capitalists obviously makes a difference but I hardly think having a economy of 30% public sector employment makes us non-capitalist. 

It's the same reason worker coops have such a hard time in capitalism: they are still operating within a capitalist system, even if their means o' production are genuinely owned collectively.

Fidel wrote:
If I was looking for 80 people to help me overthrow a truly oppressive U.S.-backed mafia regime somewhere in the Carribe, I'd prolly consider leaving you behind at the marina.

Wouldn't that mean you would have to want something more than a tame wishy-washy social democrat government like the MB NDP?

Although I don't know if you would need 80 people to help you. I'm sure you could so do by being argumentative and sectarian on the Internet alone. 

Fidel wrote:

Well now you're contradicting what you said earlier about relationships between workers and the capitalism system being the same today as they were in the 1850's. But don't suggest to me again that trade unionists, civil society groups, and the CCF-NDP have achieved nothing by the long good fight since turn of the last century or that nothing has changed since 1849.

I think if anyone on the left geuinely though no popular organizing since the 1850s had done anything that the left would be even more demoralized and pathetic than it is today. Although I would dispute very strongly that those gains were made because of the CCF/NDP alone.

Fidel wrote:

Yes, you're living in Canada where right-wing death squads and secret police are not running roughshod over the peasantry and making leftists disappear according to an army hit list. You're ahead of the game already. You should count your lucky stars.

So let me get this straight: unless there are paramilitary death squads shooting leftists in the streets, we have nothing to complain about? Are you sure you aren't secretly trolling for the 'stoogeocrats' in Ottawa?

Okay, back to the OP (sort of): for those who think Old Man Marx had nothing to say on the modern economy.

[quote=Karl Marx, Capital,
Volume 3, Chapter 30, "Money-Capital and Real Capital]

In a system...where the entire continuity of the...process rests upon credit, a crisis must obviously occur -- a tremendous rush for means of payment -- when credit suddenly ceases and only cash payments have validity. At first glance, therefore, the whole crisis seems to be merely a credit and money crisis. And in fact it is only a question of the convertibility of bills of exchange into money. But the majority of these bills represent actual sales and purchases, whose extension far beyond the needs of society is, after all, the basis of the whole crisis. At the same time, an enormous quantity of these bills of exchange represents plain swindle, which now reaches the light of day and collapses; furthermore, unsuccessful speculation with the capital of other people; finally, commodity-capital which has depreciated or is completely unsaleable, or returns that can never more be realized as gain. The entire artificial system of forced expansion of the [ecomony] cannot, of course, be remedied by having some bank, like the Bank of England (or Federal Reserve), give
to all the swindlers the deficient capital by means of its paper and having it buy up all the depreciated commodities at their old nominal values. Incidentally, everything here appears distorted, since in this paper world, the real price and its real basis appear nowhere, but only bullion, metal coin, notes, bills of exchange, securities. Particularly in centers where the entire money business of the country is concentrated, like London [or New York]...the entire process becomes incomprehensible.

genstrike

Well, it seems as though ecopinko addressed everything else, but:

Fidel wrote:

Well now you're contradicting what you said earlier about relationships between workers and the capitalism system being the same today as they were in the 1850's. But don't suggest to me again that trade unionists, civil society groups, and the CCF-NDP have achieved nothing by the long good fight since turn of the last century or that nothing has changed since 1849.

No, I am not contradicting myself or suggesting that nothing has been accomplished.  Some of the details of these relationships have changed, but the fundamentals of the relationships have stayed the same, particularly so for the vast multitudes of non-unionized workers.

To use an analogy, cars have changed a lot since the Model T.  They've gotten a lot more features.  They got a lot more chrome in the 1950s and lost a lot of chrome in the 1970s.  And maybe more people take the bus these days, but that is still essentially a type of car, just a big public one.  But cars are still fundamentally the same now as they were in 1908.  A gas engine, four wheels and a steering wheel.  And if you get a time machine and bring Henry Ford forward in time to 2008, he's still be able to recognize a new car rolling of the assembly line as a car and he'll still be able to point out four wheels, a gas engine and a steering wheel.  Similarly, you bring Marx forward in time to 2008 and he'll still be able to point out surplus value, capitalist ownership of the means of production and capitalist accumulation.

I'm not suggesting that these groups have accomplished nothing, but I'm also not suggesting that they've accomplished eliminating capitalism and creating a new system not based on exploitation of labour.

Fidel

Well now you've nearly given up as much ground as Napoleon did at Waterloo wrt public versus private sector employment in Canada.  So, you're saying that capitalists do not employ all Canadians, and that worker desperation in Canada is not what it was at turn of the last century.

And you're still not sure whether we need a bloody revolution in Canada or to fight with the NDP instead of against them. Because according to you, Gary Doer's Manitoba is one hellhole of a place to be with the lowest cost of living in Canada and 60% rebates on tuition fees and tax credits for those tuition rebates re-usable for up to 20 years. Sounds fairly repressive to me.

All kidding aside, what role do you believe our federal government in Ottawa could play in reducing poverty across Canada and making post-secondary more affordable for Canadian students? Or is Gary Doer to Canadians as Gordon Brown is to Britons and Hugo Chavez is to Venezuelans as the Castros are to Cubans? So when do we plan to storm the legislature in Manitoba and make things right for Canadians?

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

The case for a socialist alternative

Todd Chretien wrote:
The current economic crisis has debunked the fiction that there is some sort of iron wall between politics and economics.

For decades, the partisans of the free market fought to liberate their system from the "meddling" of governments and bureaucrats. But when the blue chips were down, Wall Street and its friends in Washington dropped their anti-government ideal like a hot potato. Treasury Secretary and ex-Goldman Sachs CEO Henry Paulson led the charge by demanding the power to disburse $700 billion in taxpayers' money to try to manage the disaster.

This about-face destroyed the last vestiges of the consensus in favor of an unfettered free market among large sections of the business and political elite. No less than ex-Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan--once called "the maestro" by his adoring fans for his supposed genius in orchestrating the economy--admitted in October that he had found a "flaw" in his ultra-libertarian, free-market faith that had led to the housing bubble and subsequent crash.

To top it all off, the Big Three American auto companies are now in a downward spiral, and are warning that they may have to file bankruptcy if the government doesn't bail them out, like it did the banks.

Barack Obama is, according to the New York Times, "looking to the New Deal" for inspiration to guide his plan to stimulate the economy and create 2.5 million jobs during his first term.

This has led to the recognition that the "economy" is just as "political" as gay marriage. That is, there is no "invisible hand" that manages the economy, while voters and politicians decide "social issues" like abortion, environmental protection, health care and education.

Nor is there any sort of abstract "national interest" that governs American military interventions in isolation from domestic politics. All of it is political, and it is all related.

Fortunately, Obama's election represents a renewed interest in politics at an important time. The question is: What political ideas and strategies are available, and which ones should you adopt?

I think there are four basic varieties to choose from: 1) The Right; 2) Liberalism from Above; 3) Liberalism from Below; and 4) Revolutionary Change and Socialism. Of course, this is a simplified description, but the point is to insist on the need to think through the ideas that guide your political actions….

Chretien then goes on to discuss each of the four varieties in turn, culminating in:

Quote:
Revolutionary Change and Socialism

Alongside Liberalism from Below, a more radical vision for society has struggled for influence throughout U.S. history.

From the Revolutionary War and the fight for independence, to the Civil War and the struggle to abolish slavery, there were revolutionaries like Thomas Paine and Sojourner Truth who understood that Liberalism from Above would only begrudgingly pursue reform.

From the beginning of the 20th century, that revolutionary tradition has been embodied in the socialist movement, which included the IWW, the Socialist Party, the Communist Party, the Black Panther Party and other socialist groups in the 1960s.

Why socialism? Two reasons.

The United Nations estimates that more than 2 billion people around the world live on less than $2 a day, while 6 million children starve to death or die from easily preventable diseases each year. That's another Holocaust, each and every year.

We have the absurd situation of lacking funds to develop sustainable energy technology, while the U.S. spends more than $100 billion a year to kill Iraqis for oil. We have the most advanced medical technology in the world, but 45 million people go without health care insurance.

Those absurdities--in short, the contradiction between the capacity to create and capitalism's inability to distribute to everyone--helped create the movement for socialism, with the aim of taking the power out of the hands of the private mega-rich who use their wealth for personal gain and putting it into the hands of the people who actually do the work.

Socialists believe that, not only do workers have the right to take over the economy and run it democratically, but that if they do not, the capitalists will continue down the path of war and ruin until they destroy the planet.

The other source of the socialist movement came from the experience of the limitations of Liberalism from Below and the question that has emerged time and again: Do you accept the limits imposed on the struggle, or do you go beyond them and question the whole system?

For instance, it was in the struggle to force FDR to keep to his promises that unionists finally decided they needed to organize a series of citywide general strikes in 1934 that set the stage for the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations union federation in 1935 and the mass sit-down strikes that followed.

The liberal union leaderships were afraid to launch these strikes because it would mean confronting the police and embarrassing FDR. It took socialists and communists to say, "If the choice is between FDR's friendship and winning a strike, we say strike."

Martin Luther King Jr. followed a similar path. He helped win the end of legalized Jim Crow, but he recognized that poverty and institutionalized discrimination remained, which led him to say, "You have to ask how people can go thirsty in a world that is two-thirds covered with water."

When you ask that question, it leads you in the direction of the socialist critique of capitalism.

And King had a decision to make about Vietnam. Liberalism from Above insisted that the cause of civil rights would be damaged by taking an antiwar position. In essence, LBJ offered civil rights in exchange for King's support for killing Vietnamese people. King could either accept that offer or move beyond it--which he courageously did in 1967 when he declared that "my government is the primary purveyor of violence" in the world.

What Kind of Organization?

Socialists believe the first step is to gather together the people who share their point of view in a political organization or party. But because the capitalists control the media, and because workers are taught to submit to the boss and "those who know better," at most times, socialist ideas remain on the margins of society. So to be a socialist, you have to be prepared to be in a minority.

In and of itself, that shouldn't scare any serious person looking to change the world. Every powerful movement that ever changed anything began as a minority opinion.

However, there is the danger that the minority can become contented to "know better"--and just be happy to be "right." This is a recipe for arrogance and sectarianism. Like Marx said, "The philosophers have interpreted the world; the point, however, is to change it."

This means that once you've decided you agree with socialist ideas, you have to do something about it. No matter how small, socialist organizations must always seek to put their ideas into practice in whatever real movements are fighting back against the system, be they large or small.

And because Liberalism from Above helps to legitimate Liberalism from Below, that means participating in movements and organizations that are not socialist in outlook. Instead, they seek to win reforms within the system, like stronger unions, abortion rights, an end to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, immigrant rights, gay marriage and so on.

We do this for two reasons. First, getting rid of capitalism will be a long, tough fight, and the only people with enough power to do it are the huge majority of the working class. And the only way they'll learn to take on the whole system is by starting out taking on some more limited aspect of it.

In other words, you can't learn to swim by reading a book. You learn to swim by going in the water--although it's best if you start off in the shallow end.

Second, once people are in motion, they become more receptive to new ideas and strategies. In the Civil War, white Northern soldiers went to war to preserve the Union, but a number ended up fighting for the rights of slaves.

Eugene V. Debs got into politics as a Democrat and ended up running for president as a socialist while in prison for opposing the First World War, on orders of a Democratic administration. Malcolm X started out as an apolitical, small-time criminal; he emerged as one of the world's foremost revolutionaries. Real political action changes people.

Socialists don't stand aside from that struggle, but seek to participate alongside people who hold different ideas.

In that common struggle, there is a battle for ideas. Liberalism from Above constantly seeks to put limits and conditions on the fight. Movement leaders who represent Liberalism from Below argue for their point of view. Often, that point of view is so pervasive that it is seen as "common sense," but it is, in fact, a highly developed ideology. Socialists try to pull in the other direction, towards mass participation, more radical reforms and questioning the whole system.

The coming political period will be very exciting, but also complex. Barack Obama will sometimes push in the right direction, but he has also made it obvious that he intends to defend the pillars of American capitalism and imperialism.

Socialists will join every fight we can to push things in favor of the working class, for gay marriage, abortion rights, legalization for immigrants and an end to the wars. However, we will also argue against accepting the limits placed on the struggle, or rotten political compromises that would, for example, pit African Americans against gays and lesbians, native born against immigrant workers, unemployed against union members. And in the process, we will try to recruit more and more people to a socialist point of view.

You aren't obliged to agree with the socialists. But you do have the responsibility to participate in the effort to change the world, and to study history and politics in order to clarify what you believe to be the best way forward.

If you have faith in Liberalism from Above, then study so that you can explain your ideas and try to win more people over to them. This leads logically to trying to reform or strengthen the Democratic Party as your main task.

If you believe that Liberalism from Below is a more realistic strategy for change, then you'd better learn what really happened in the 1930s, and during civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, in order to avoid a repetition of McCarthyism and Reaganism.

If you're interested in the socialist, revolutionary point of view, then find a way to meet up and discuss ideas with the socialists in person or online, and join alongside us while we organize around the many pressing issues of the day.

Politics is not a spectator sport. Get in the game.

[url=Socialist">http://socialistworker.org/2008/12/19/the-case-for-socialism][u]Socialist Worker[/url]

 

 

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