Alternatives to Capitalism: an Open Thread
Since the 2008 meltdown and massive bailout of the financial sector, and the ensuing egregious financial thievery that was delivered to homeowners, students, pensioners, workers, small businesses and most of the 99%, many of us have suffered grievously. Given that as after the crash of 1929, it was the perfect time to do a reset and create strict laws that would slow down the nefarious banksters on Wall Street and elsewhere, we’d hoped that old regulatory laws would have been reinstated at the very least. But no; the TBTF banks are more powerful than ever in their consolidated forms, lending less, selling more unregulated derivatives than ever, and the failures to prosecute financial fraud are almost total; ‘pre-emptive prosecutions’ (smallish fines) rule.
As this iteraton of capitalism continues to run even more wild, trammeling the 99% and hijacking the fruits of our labor to ever more execrable degrees, there have been increasing conversations here about alternatives, often just in comment streams not entirely related to diaries. My own increasing interest in alternatives largely were due to the aforementioned failures plus the reading of thrilling declarations I’ve done for many posts on the global Indigenous movements that are coming out of the shadows. My heart and beliefs, I’ve discovered, often lie more completely with them, thus I’ve listened more acutely as they indict capitalism and neoliberalism as the root causes of their poverty, the planets pollution, food and water insecurity. ‘Third-worlders see it first’ (Buffy Sainte Marie), and we the 99% are increasingly becoming third-worlders living in a Banana Republic.
In other words: because capitalism has so outstripped and mooted Democracy now, it means that the economic model effectively IS our government now. Whether you call it fascism, or Inverted Totalitarianism, or anything else. It’s unfair, unsustaianable … and just plain wrong.
Please understand that I’m an utter novice in the alternatives field, so I’ll get things wrong; I’m confident that you will set me straight. I’m hoping that the post will serve as a shell for your contributions, including answering questions others may have. It may seem a bit disorganized, but I want to space the videos out.
Our own PeasantParty, long-time student of Dr. Richard Wolff’s Marxist economics, has agreed to co-host. OmAli will likely bring her understanding into the discussion, and a number of other denizens have expressed interest in contributing their own preferred alternatives.
I’ve bolded different sections in hope that this post might be not just a primer, but a resource with more at the links for further study at a more leisurely pace. It’s long, and feel free to skip to the sections you’re interested in; I’ll give some overviews to make life easier. Given that it’s rarely clear to me which ideologies are economic systems, which are governmental systems, or combinations of both, I’d like to start with some portions of a past comment by WelshTerrier that I’d saved; it’s elegantly simple, imo:
‘I think of myself as a socialist. No one on this thread has captured my twisted little view of what that means. That’s just how it should be if we are to be independent thinkers. In my little world (h/t Bob Ross), socialism must be first and foremost a political, not an economic, system. When we dive headlong into talking about labor and means of production and all the “textbook” stuff, I think we’ve buried the horse under the cart. We’ve probably buried the cart as well.
The basis of socialism, as I define it, has to be “equally shared power” (i.e. political power). Absent that, all the rest is mere theory (meorey?) Socialism, as in social, means “of the people”; Capitalism, as in money, means putting money ahead of people. Make this a battle over the welfare state or over government control and we’ve already lost. [snip]
“When I talk about socialism, I talk about human empowerment. I talk not about economic equality but about political equality. The tiny crack in the dam occurs when capitalists acknowledge that capitalism always has and always will produce a class-driven system not just in the economic sphere but in the political sphere as well. And, once the dam leaks, it’s not long before the whole thing collapses.’
Echoing his thoughts (Arf!) was a piece I’d read at anticapitalists called ‘Flogging a Dead Horse’ by Don Milligan; in which the author considers which concepts the 99% could buy, and which not, especially the idea of dissolving the notion of private property.
Arguably the best-known Marxist economist at the Lake is Dr. Richard Wolff; he’s been on Bill Moyers’ show twice over the past month. This is the most recent; he answers questions posed by viewers. His Feb. 22 appearance can be seen here; here he is on Democracy Now two days ago speaking about the troika plan to steal money from Cypriot citizen savings accounts to ‘bail in’ the banks.
I didn’t find Dr. Wolff’s solution for capitalizing worker cooperatives very workable, so I poked around for other possibilities. Grassroots Economic Organizing speaks to the issue of cooperative credit unions lending to worker cooperatives, but the only organization in the US that I found…sadly disbanded recently. Ellen Brown, of course, is the champion of public and coop banking, both of which could be funding sources, as might be community development through crowd-sourcing.
Before moving to a few basic definitions of ‘isms’, I’d like to bring one bit from the (Trotskyite) Socialist Equality Party (AU) Statement of Principles at the World Socialist Website (wsws.org) indicting capitalism:
‘Capitalism, and the imperialist system that has developed upon its economic foundations, is the fundamental cause of human poverty, exploitation, violence and suffering in the modern world. As a system of socio-economic organisation, it long ago exhausted its historically progressive role. The blood-drenched history of the 20th century—including two world wars, innumerable “local” conflicts, Nazism and other forms of military-police dictatorship, eruptions of genocide and communal pogroms—constitutes an unequivocal indictment of the capitalist system. The victims of capitalist-inspired violence number in the hundreds of millions. Added to these are the peoples of entire continents consigned to unrelenting poverty.’
Some of you here have said that this is how capitalism was designed; I’d love to hear a fuller explanation of that.
Britannica entry on Trotskyism defines some history that separated Trotsky and Stalin. Basically Trotsky advocated a ‘permanent revolution’ that meant most nations’ economies of the world needed to ally in socialism to ensure a working class hegemony over the globe to be efficacious. He opposed Stalin, who believed that national socialism and self-sufficiency was adequate to the task.
From the World Socialist website’s ‘Marxism v Leninism:
‘Marx’s theory of socialist revolution is grounded on the fundamental principle that “the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself”. [snip]
Conscious Self-emancipation: Marx saw that the very social position of the working class within capitalist society as a non-owning, exploited, wealth-producing class forced it to struggle against its capitalist conditions of existence. This “movement” of the working class could be said to be implicitly socialist since the struggle was ultimately over who should control the means of production: the minority capitalist class or the working class (i.e. society as a whole).’
Discussions in which the need for a vanguard of intellectuals…or not, abound.
From the Anticapitalist Initiative’s ‘about’ page:
We want to help develop a revolutionary organisation capable of rising to the challenges of the 21st century, one that can help popularise anticapitalism again after the defeats of the last century. This is all the more important at a time of capitalist crisis, when working class communities are suffering the effects of austerity, but the left wing ideas are still on the fringes. We want to overcome divisions between the socialist left and the new left movements by working together in a spirit of common activity and dialogue.
My. Fdl’s Bill Perdue has a list of socialist labor websites here. In the comment stream he answers a Green Party member:
‘Your party’s views on reforming Congress are still born. Every institution of the old government has to go, replaced by new institutions of a workers state. The old institutions will never be capable of implementing fundamental change. That was the reason Allende failed in Chile and why Chavez will fail in Venezuela.
Economic democracy is missing in your program. Socialists don’t want to reform capitalism, we want to abolish it by expropriating the wealth of the looter class without compensation and creating new enterprises owned and democratically run by workers.’
Regarding labor and socialist labor laws, wayoutwest asked me to brink you a link to the Organic Law of Work and Workers summary that Hugo Chavez made law by Presidential decree in April of 2012. He may want to speak to some of the best points.
A fifty minute video on The Mondragón Cooperative Corporation (MCC), the largest consortium of worker-owned companies in the Basque region of Spain, is here. Most all similar videos are blurry. Yes Magazine has more about how workers made which decisions toward that end; it’s a great piece.
Sacred Economics traces the history of money from ancient gift economies to modern capitalism, revealing how the money system has contributed to alienation, competition, and scarcity, destroyed community, and necessitated endless growth. Today, these trends have reached their extreme – but in the wake of their collapse, we may find great opportunity to transition to a more connected, ecological, and sustainable way of being. Eisenstein’s chapter ‘The Trouble with Property’ is interesting.
Last, but very thrilling to me, is video from the opening march at the World Social Forum in Tunis. …
From the Guardian (this section ironically funded by Bill and Melinda Gates):
Thousands of Tunisian revolutionaries, globalisation activists and civil society groups took to the streets of Tunis on Tuesday for a carnival-like march to open this year’s World Social Forum (WSF).
The three-hour demonstration set off from the historic Place 14 Janvier, named after the day Ben-Ali fled Tunisia, cutting through the city before ending at the Olympic stadium in Tunis’s north end.
The WSF is a bi-annual festival and meeting place that grew out of alter-globalisation protest movements in the late 1990s. It is often pitched as an alternative to the exclusive World Economic Forum meetings of the business and political elite in Davos, Switzerland.
Tens of thousands of activists from 4,500 organisations and more than 120 countries are in Tunis for the event, which is being held in an Arab country for the first time.
Over 50 participants from one of my favorite global activist organizations La Via Campesina (Intl. Peasants Movement) are there. The WSF deserves its own post.
In closing, I’d put my bid into whichever combinations of systems and laws would meet the ‘basic kindness’ test, as do Ian Welsh in ‘Default to Kindness’ and one of my favorite authors and essayists:
The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That’s about it. Right now I’m living in that hope, running down its hallway and touching the walls on both sides.
~ Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams
Please add your thoughts; this is your diary.