Timeline/Stages for Collapse of our Way of Life

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  • Fri, May 11, 2012 - 03:01am

    #1732

    darbikrash

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    goes211 wrote:Once again

goes211 wrote:

Once again you are trying to frame what is allowable in this discussion.

I don’t really see how this is framing “all that is allowable in the discussion”. I am making a point, which is to present the concept that entities that were heretofore considered inseparable, such as totalitarianism and centrally planned economies to give another example, are really discrete elements that can be easily mixed and matched. For example, you can have totalitarianism without a centrally planned economy, as well as many other non intuitive combinations pulled from the previous list.

This reality breaks down preconceived notions that “inescapably” link authoritarian rule with Socialism (and yet we can observe a link in Capitalism to authoritarian rule), a point I plan to expand on in the “Crony Capitalist” thread.

If ALL capitalism must lead to our current corrupt crony capitalistic system is it not also possible that ALL socialism/communism eventually leads to purges/death/war that we have seen from the past centurys attempts at those systems?

Would a more appropriate framework say that all dictatorships lead to purges/death/war? Because it seems like the common thread in the previous assignments of blame are more relevant to misuse of power, not the type of political economy

As for Marxism and exploitation, who gets to decide what is exploitation?  As Jim said in your other thread, he does not feel like he is being exploited.  So are some intellectuals, such as yourself, going to be put in charge of deciding what is exploitation?  It is not hard to imagine how that is going to turn out.

Who decided that slavery, another system of exploitation, was not acceptable for the slaves? Some intellectuals? No matter how you slice it, like it or not, society has some moral obligations, and anarchy does not mix well with these realities.

It seems that class awareness, or cognizance of what a given system is actually doing to you, is the key. But this comment leaves out another central component, which is that this system forces us to sell our labor power to survive, there is no option here. And with that now said, we have to sell into a system that requires exploitation to function. 

 

  • Fri, May 11, 2012 - 03:15am

    #1733
    xraymike79

    xraymike79

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    The Koch/Stalin connection: Where their wealth started….

Interesting story behind how the Koch Brothers accumulated their wealth. It was from the helping hand of Josef Stalin.

Dance with the Devil

The good news in 1929 for young MIT chemical engineer Fred Koch was that he had successfully developed a superior oil refinement process with a business partner.  The bad news is that he had a bitter lesson to learn about his laissez-faire competitors when virtually every major US oil company gobsmacked him with 15 year’s worth of patent infringement lawsuits.  The net effect was that one cease-and-desist order after another was issued from the judge’s bench, and until the legal process could sort itself out, Fred Koch was – for all practical purposes – aced out of the US oil market.  And the bills still needed to be paid.

So what to do?  Fortunately, the Unseen Hand pointed the way to Soviet Moscow, where totalitarian dictator Josef Stalin was rolling out his first Five Year Plan for sweeping industrialization.  And he was especially interested in oil engineers.

“We are the world’s greatest market, and we are prepared to order a large amount of goods and pay for them,”   – Josef Stalin, 1932

Fred Koch answered the call, and signed a $5 million deal in 1929 to build 15 refineries in the Soviet Socialistic Republic, thus providing a substantial wet kiss to the cause of worldwide socialism everywhere.  Koch and his partner provided equipment and oversaw construction and installation, and quickly became Comrade Stalin’s number one go-to refinery contractor.

Flouride in the Water

Koch Daddy Fred returned to Wichita, KS in 1933 having made $500,000 in profits through his business dealings with Josef Stalin.  One might think that he would be graciously inclined towards the Soviet system, given that socialism treated him much better than his own litigious, monopolistic and cudgel-wielding US oil fraternity, but that was not the case.  He hated the Soviets.

Not based much on logic or reason, mind you, but he hated them anyway.  In 1961, Fred Koch’s pamphlet, “A Businessman Looks at Communism“, lends invaluable insight into Koch’s thinking process on this.  Long on alarmist rhetoric, broad, rambling generalizations, and less-than-logical conclusions, this work is unsettlingly reminiscent of Glenn Beck in many ways.

Koch’s focus seems to be centered around one singular, eccentric individual and unlikely travelling companion – a Russian ex-pat Communist by the name of Jerome Livshitz.  Livshitz took part in the 1905 revolution, and spent some time as a revolutionary in the US – mostly in jail.  Although unconfirmed, the descriptions ‘alcholic’ and ‘paranoid/schitzophrenic’ have been attributed to Livshitz.  Fred Koch apparently formulated his thought process about the clear and present danger of the Communist threat from listening to Livshitz, who would tell Koch how the Commies were going to infiltrate the US in schools, universities, armed forces, and “make you rotten to the core.”

Whatever negative predispositions to Communism Koch may have had, he kept them to himself until 1956 – a period of time which nearly coincides perfectly with the timeframe during which he was still doing business with godless Stalin.  After a business trip to Soviet Russia, Fred funded a John Birch Society chapter in Wichita and opened a Bircher bookstore, which ultimately closed.

“Maybe you don’t want to be controversial by getting mixed up in this anti-communist battle,” Koch said in a speech to a Women’s Republican Club in 1961. “But you won’t be very controversial lying in a ditch with a bullet in your brain.”

While the once-influential John Birch Society eventually dwindled into conspiracy theories about flouride in the water – and sported bumper stickers like “Cut the Red China Connection”, which persuaded their own fellow capitalists to hide them under the bed – the lessons of the generation were dutifully passed along to Fred Koch’s sons.

Koch’s Josef Stalin connection was the deal that got the Koch family fortune rolling downhill fast.  Seemingly, Fred Koch came to the conclusion that ethics were optional when it came to the chase for the almighty ruble dollar, and a few short years later, the Bush family apparently made a similar calculation when they signed a business compact with Adolph Hitler.]

 …

Daily Kos: Meet the Kochers

 

  • Fri, May 11, 2012 - 02:24pm

    #1734

    tom.

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    A Star is Born

From a twelve year old:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bx5Sc3vWefE&feature=player_embedded

  • Fri, May 11, 2012 - 05:17pm

    #1735
    xraymike79

    xraymike79

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    Political Circus Update: No change to our Open-Air Prison

 ‘Choices’ for the plebs are:

A.) Romney, an ex Wall Street financier who ran the private-equity firm, Bain Capital, which broke up companies and laid off American workers. His wealth comes from “leveraged buyouts, seeking taxpayer subsidies, flipping companies quickly for large profits, and making money for investors, even when the employees of those companies were deemed collateral damage.”

In the 1994 campaign, this mattered. Many of Romney’s victims drove to Massachusetts to protest the Republican’s campaign, and Democrats put together a half-dozen ads featuring laid-off workers who said they suffered while Romney lined his pockets at their expense.

For its part, the Romney campaign recently began arguing that critics of Bain Capital’s layoffs are borderline communists, trying to “put free enterprise on trial.”

 

 

The National Memo » Romney’s Magical Capitalism

 

It turns out that there is at least one question on which Mitt Romney is not a flip-flopper: He has a utopian view of what an unfettered, lightly taxed market economy can achieve.

He would never put it this way, of course, but his approach looks forward by looking backward to the late 19th century, when government let market forces rip and a conservative Supreme Court swept aside as unconstitutional almost every effort to write rules for the economic game. This magical capitalism is the centerpiece of Romney’s campaign, and it may prove to be his undoing.

Here’s Romney’s problem. His best strategy is to cast President Obama as a failure because the economy has not come all the way back from the implosion of 2008. The most effective passages in his well-reviewed speech after his Tuesday primary victories were about the shortcomings of the status quo.

“Is it easier to make ends meet?” Romney asked. “Is it easier to sell your home or buy a new one? Have you saved what you needed for retirement? Are you making more at your job? Do you have a better chance to get a better job? Are you paying less at the pump?”

And there was the line pundits were bound to love that played off James Carville’s memorable utterance from Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign. “It’s still about the economy,” Romney said, clearly relishing the moment, “and we’re not stupid.”

But Romney, unlike Clinton, is not offering a program through which government would take specific steps to solve the problems he catalogs. Instead, he is calling on voters to share his faith that our difficulties would go away if the state simply got out of the way, allowed the market do its thing, and counted on the success of the successful to lift up everyone else.

Romney is right in saying he has “a very different vision” from Obama’s, and this is where the magic comes in. He envisions “an America driven by freedom, where free people, pursuing happiness in their own unique ways, create free enterprises that employ more and more Americans. And because there are so many enterprises that are succeeding, the competition for hardworking, educated, skilled employees is intense, so wages and salaries rise.”

Just like that, all would be well — as if we never needed the trust-busting of the Progressive Era, the social legislation of the New Deal, the health programs of the Great Society, and the coordinated action of the world’s governments in 2008 and 2009 to keep the Great Recession from becoming something far worse.

And

B.) Obama, who ran his first campaign on “Hope and Change”, mesmerizing the unwashed masses with what would be deemed the best branding and advertising campaign in election history. Any delusions that Obama turned out to be something other than a third Bush term have been thoroughly crushed. As explained in the following essay, Obama is completely under the thumb of our military-media-finance complex, and to think that any other person who fills the Presidential figurehead position will not fall into line with the status quo of our ruling elite is simply more delusional thinking.

My prediction is very simple: Obama will win because the masses will fear the other option more. Since both POTUS candidates are captive animals of end-stage capitalism, this political circus theater will be, more than ever, about manipulating ‘voter’ fears and prejudices. The quixotic ‘War of Terror’ will continue, with Obama “eager to drag the body of Bin Laden behind the presidential limo to every possible campaign stop.”

 

 

Wall Street’s immunity

 

Of all the ignominious actions of the Obama administration, the steadfast, systematic shielding of Wall Street from criminal liability is probably the most corrupt in the traditional sense of that word. In Newsweek this week, Peter Boyer and Peter Schweizer have an excellent examination of what happened and why, tying together crucial threads. First they lay out the basic facts, including the core deceit of the President’s campaigning for re-election like he’s some sort of populist crusader:

With the Occupy protesters resuming battle stations, and Mitt Romney in place as the presumptive Republican nominee, President Obama has begun to fashion his campaign as a crusade for the 99 percent–a fight against, as one Obama ad puts it, “a guy who had a Swiss bank account.” Casting Romney as a plutocrat will be easy enough. But the president’s claim as avenging populist may prove trickier, given his owndeeply complicated, even conflicted, relationship with Big Finance.

Obama came into office vowing to end business as usual, and, in the gray post-crash dawn of 2009, nowhere did a reckoning with justice seem more due than in the financial sector. . . .  Two months into his presidency, Obama summoned the titans of finance to the White House, where he told them, “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” . . .

Candidate Obama had been their guy, accepting vast amounts of Wall Street campaign money for his victories over Hillary Clinton and John McCain (Goldman Sachs executives ponied up $1 million, more than any other private source of funding in 2008). Obama far outraised his Republican rival, John McCain, on Wall Street–around $16 million to $9 million. As it turned out, Obama apparently actually meant what he said at that White House meeting–his administration effectively would stand between Big Finance and anything like a severe accounting. To the dismay of many of Obama’s supporters, nearly four years after the disaster, there has not been a single criminal charge filed by the federal government against any top executive of the elite financial institutions.

“It’s perplexing at best,” says Phil Angelides, the Democratic former California treasurer who chaired the bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. “It’s deeply troubling at worst.”

The Newsweek reporters note that “financial-fraud prosecutions by the Department of Justice are at 20-year lows”; in fact, such prosecutions under Obama “are just one third of what they were during the Clinton administration” — even though the 2008 financial crisis was drowning in financial fraud. Contrast that with the reaction of George H.W. Bush to the much less severe Savings & Loan crisis of the 1980s:

The Newsweek article offers two well-grounded theories for why Wall Street has been so aggressively protected by the DOJ. The first is that Obama filled his highest level Cabinet positions with Wall Street-subservient officials, beginning with Attorney General Eric Holder, who had been working as a highly-paid corporate lawyer for the law firm Covington & Burling, which represents “Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Deutsche Bank.” The other top-tier DOJ positions were similarly filled with corporate lawyers from large law firms closely tied to and depended upon the financial industry. The problem is obvious:

… 

Then there’s the reliance on Wall Street money for President Obama’s re-election effort. Newsweek notes the multiple investigations that documented numerous criminal acts leading to the financial crisis, including some explicitly incriminating top Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs. Anticipating possible indictments, “Goldman executives, including the firm’s chief executive officer, Lloyd Blankfein, started hiring defense lawyers.” Moreover, Black “says the conduct could well have violated federal fraud statutes–’securities fraud for false disclosures, wire and mail fraud for making false representations about the quality of the loans and derivatives they were selling, bank fraud for false representations to the regulators.’” Beyond the Wall-Street-subservient officials, why have those led to no prosecutions?

Meanwhile, Obama’s political operation continued to ask Wall Street for campaign money. A curious pattern developed. A Newsweek examination of campaign finance records shows that, in the weeks before and after last year’s scathing Senate report, several Goldman executives and their families made large donations to Obama’s Victory Fund and related entities, some of them maxing out at the highest individual donation allowed, $35,800, even though 2011 was an electoral off-year. Some of these executives were giving to Obama for the first time.

Justice insists that political operations such as fundraising are kept strictly distanced from the department, in order to avoid even the appearance of political influence. But the attorney general and his team are not unfamiliar with the process; Holder was himself an Obama bundler–a fundraiser who collected large sums from various donors–in 2008, as were several other lawyers who joined him at Justice.

It would be a leap to infer these Goldman contributions were made–or received–as quid pro quo for dropping a criminal investigation. Still, the situation constitutes what one Justice veteran acknowledged is a “bad set of facts.”

The article goes on to detail the pressure that was continuously placed by the Obama administration on state attorneys general to agree to a lax settlement with banks regarding foreclosure fraud, and how they ultimately co-opted the holdouts to agree to the deal. It notes that while Obama, through last fall, “had collected more donations from Wall Street than any of the Republican candidates” (even “employees of Bain Capital donated more than twice as much to Obama as they did to Romney, who founded the firm”), Wall Street money is now beginning to flock to Romney. That’s almost certainly because Wall Street dislikes some of Obama’s populist rhetoric (financial industry executives are very sensitive and coddled and dislike any hint of criticism, no matter how symbolic and insincere) and because Romney is one of them (they certainly can’t go wrong with Romney either). But it also is clear that they are attempting to leverage Obama’s need for their support into even further concessions: ones that, if the past is any indication, will be eagerly forthcoming.

This is a vital part of the Obama legacy. The prior decade witnessed the most egregious crimes imaginable by the nation’s most powerful actors: torture and warrantless eavesdropping from political officials (with the aid of corporate giants), and massive fraud from financial elites. None has been held accountable; the opposite is true: the Obama administration has steadfastly protected all of them. Echoing the prime theme of my last book — that America’s elites are virtually immune from the rule of law — the Newsweek article notes:

Maintaining public faith in the justice system is one of the reasons why people such as Angelides continue to call for a rigorous criminal investigation into Wall Street. “I think it’s fundamental that people in this country need to feel that the justice system is for everyone–that there’s not one system for those people of enormous wealth and power, and one for everyone else,” he says.

But that’s exactly the principle that has undergone such a relentless assault under this administration. That general development is odious in its own right. That the specific shielding of Wall Street is driven by such corrupt ends makes it even worse. But the worst part of it all is that Obama is going to spend the next six months deceitfully parading around as some sort of populist hero standing up for ordinary Americans and the safety net against big business, and hordes of people who know how false that iswill echo it as loudly and repeatedly as they can, tricking many people who don’t know better into believing it.

UPDATE: In comments, Montecarlo recalls this amazing New York Times article from March, which I wrote about at the time, lamenting the extreme levels of corruption in Afghanistan’s ruling class (“a narrow business and political elite defined by its corruption”), made all the worse by this: “Despite years of urging and oversight by American advisers, Mr. Karzai’s government has yet to prosecute a high-level corruption case.” It was that phrase “despite years of urging and oversight by American advisers” — as though the U.S. is a beacon of accountability for ruling class corruption — that was really quite remarkable.

 

  • Fri, May 11, 2012 - 06:18pm

    #1736

    tom.

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    No words …

can do these justice … incredible, especially Mr 1% – awesome job

 

  • Fri, May 11, 2012 - 08:08pm

    #1737

    darbikrash

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    Quote of the decade

xraymike79 wrote:

Isn’t it ironic that what we are getting is what most should fear, a totalitarian government, not from some socialist revolution as feared by the far right, but from Neoliberal Capitalism, the very system that Fox news and the mainstream media trumpet.

 

  • Fri, May 11, 2012 - 11:39pm

    #1738

    Jim H

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    again with the exploitation…

From Wikipedia;

In Marxian economics, exploitation refers to the subjection of producers (the proletariat) to work for passive owners (bourgeoisie) for less compensation than is equivalent to the actual amount of work done. The proletarian is forced to sell his or her labour power, rather than a set quantity of labour, in order to receive a wage in order to survive, while the capitalist exploits the work performed by the proletarian by accumulating the surplus value of their labour. Therefore, the capitalist makes his/her living by passively owning the means of production and generating a profit, which is really the product of the labor which is entitled to all it produces.

Link:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploitation

I just don’t get it.  Why should I be entitled to all the fruits of my labor if I can’t first afford the means to produce?  Why is this self-evident?  And why is (conceptually at least) free market capitalism so bad if I have certain Gov’t sponsored checks and balances in place, like minimum wage laws?  And why don’t I almost always have a choice to NOT be exploited.. if I so desire, by painting houses, starting a powerwashing business, mowing lawns, or any of the myriad small service oriented businesses one could start with hardly any money… thus becoming master of one’s own labor fruits? 

  • Sat, May 12, 2012 - 04:11am

    #1739

    darbikrash

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    Jim H wrote: From

Jim H wrote:

From Wikipedia;

In Marxian economics, exploitation refers to the subjection of producers (the proletariat) to work for passive owners (bourgeoisie) for less compensation than is equivalent to the actual amount of work done. The proletarian is forced to sell his or her labour power, rather than a set quantity of labour, in order to receive a wage in order to survive, while the capitalist exploits the work performed by the proletarian by accumulating the surplus value of their labour. Therefore, the capitalist makes his/her living by passively owning the means of production and generating a profit, which is really the product of the labor which is entitled to all it produces.

 

I just don’t get it.  Why should I be entitled to all the fruits of my labor if I can’t first afford the means to produce?  Why is this self-evident? 

The problem with responding to these posts is that by inference one becomes an apologist for the topic- in this case Marxism. But you raised some valid and legitimate points, and they deserve an answer.

I’m not a Marxist or by any means an expert, I figure after reading several thousand pages over dozens of books I’d rate my understanding of the subject at less than 5%. I do find it to be an extremely powerful lens from which to view the world, and although it has many problems and shortcomings, in moderation, it can serve to inform us of many interesting ideas- and contradictions.

I think most of the objection Marxists might have with your Wiki quote is that the exploitation you describe occurs in perpetuity, meaning that a worker can put in 30 years on the job, in effect handing over his entire working lifespan to a single capitalist, and receive nothing but substinence wages in return. And he is in fact forced to do this – at some wage level- to survive.

A more equitable, or alternate structure of what is quoted might be that the Capitalist puts up the money for the means of production, and then extracts surplus value from the proletarian until he receives all his money back, plus a fair return for interest and his risk. Then he shares equitably the remaining surplus value back to the workers. But that is not how it works.

The current system as you describe is contradictory when compared with commonly held belief, for example in property rights. The very foundation of American property rights is based on Lockean theory, which says many things, but covers subjects such as “natural law” and the relationship and transference of things such as land to private ownership. It is this particular case which irks many Marxists, as it says that you can own a previously unclaimed piece of land if you apply labor to it, in other words you apply labor to “work” the land to transform it to a productive piece of property. The extension of this is the so called “Workmanship Ideal” again Lockean, which states that:

 

John Locke wrote:

Throughout the Earth,  and all inferior creatures be common to all Men, and yet every Man has a Property in his own person. This no Body has any Right to but himself. The Labour of his Body, and the Work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever when he removes out of the State that Nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his Labour with, and joyned it to something that is his own, and thereby makes it his Property. It being removed from the common state Nature placed it in, hath by his labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other Men. For this Labour being the unquestionable Property of the Labourer, no Man can have a right to what is once joyned to, and least when there is enough, and as good left for common for others.

Second Treatise of Government, 1689

So… considering this book was a significant influence on the American Revolution, and at the very least, its definition of property rights serve as the very cornerstone of American distributive justice, you might see how this can be considered at odds with the notion of exploitation as revealed in the Capitalist system- where the fruits of your labor are not yours at all, but someone elses.

Jim H wrote:

And why is (conceptually at least) free market capitalism so bad if I have certain Gov’t sponsored checks and balances in place, like minimum wage laws? 

These concessions are put in place for the very reasons you describe, however, lets be forthright here, they are in a constant state of jeopardy by forces that want to abolish these activities, once and for all. If many had their way, these would be reduced or completely eliminated.

Jim H wrote:

And why don’t I almost always have a choice to NOT be exploited.. if I so desire, by painting houses, starting a powerwashing business, mowing lawns, or any of the myriad small service oriented businesses one could start with hardly any money… thus becoming master of one’s own labor fruits? 

You made this point previously, and such measures would stop the exploitation of those who choose self employment, but as mentioned the last time you brought this up, these measures are most certainly not part of the Capitalist class structure. So if your argument is that you can escape personal exploitation by departing the Capitalist system, then yes, we agree.

 

 

  • Sat, May 12, 2012 - 04:32pm

    #1740
    xraymike79

    xraymike79

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    Beyond Our Current System

 

It’s very disruptive and destabilizing to communities when a large corporation can simply uproot and offshore its production to China, Mexico, or anywhere else on the globe. The tax base gets destroyed and it leads to a “dismantling of the ladders of upward mobility that made the US an “opportunity society,” an extraordinary worsening of the income distribution, and large trade and federal budget deficits that cannot be closed by normal means. These deficits now threaten the US dollar’s role as world reserve currency.”…it is strictly impossible for an economy to be moved offshore and for the country with the offshored economy to remain prosperous.”

As a response to the above problems, there has been some reaction, unreported in the MSM, by local U.S. communities/economies:

Alperovitz: Well, let me just set the stage of that. I’m a historian and a political-economist, and I think about it in historical terms. The book is called America Beyond Capitalism which means, what is the next stage? And I think there’s a stage beyond the current stage, a much more interesting stage. What I see happening just under the horizon is that all of the traditional solutions–at the local level, the state level, the national level–simply don’t work. And the pain level is driving people to begin to build on things that they’ve done in the past. So for instance, most people don’t realize it: there are 130 million people involved in co-ops and credit unions in the United States, democratizing the ownership of those institutions. That’s at least 40% of the society.

There are something like 13 million Americans in one or another form of worker ownership. Some good, some bad, some that could be organized much better if organizers began taking them on. There are 4,000 or 5,000 neighborhood corporations. Again, changing and democratizing instead of privatizing the ownership of capital, a central principle that’s got to build and develop. America Beyond Capitalism is filled with these practical things that Howie Zinn was commenting on. But I’ll give you one more: 25% of American electricity today is produced by socialist institutions. Co-ops and municipal enterprises–25%. A quarter. Most people aren’t aware of the actual very American, very decentralized, very ordinary ways of changing the ownership of capital in a society in which 1% owns half the investment capital just about. Let me say that again, the top 1% owns just about, a little bit under, half of the investment capital. That’s a medieval number, and I don’t mean that rhetorically.

Wolff: No, the inequality is stunning.

Alperovitz: And particularly in capital ownership, the structure of the ownership. So these institutions willy-nilly are beginning to change the ownership of capital in a way that people understand in very practical terms…They’re “talking prose” and don’t know that there’s something very important happening there. So partly, we have to make manifest, make available to people what they already are beginning to do. And there’s a building up, people are learning from this. The most interesting development is something that’s going on in Cleveland, where there’s a complex, in part based on the Mondragon experience in the Basque country of Spain, a big, very successful cooperative effort–100,000 people, roughly. But in Cleveland, there are 3, 4, 5 linked worker co-ops; they’re building a whole complex of worker-owned companies, and these are not little co-ops. For instance, there is a large-scale industrial laundry, there is a hydroponic greenhouse, capable of producing something of the order of 3 million heads of lettuce a year. There’s a solar installation company. And they’re building a complex which is linked together throughout the community through a non-profit corporation.

So it’s not just worker-ownership, it’s community building and includes a revolving fund to help build more of these entities. Well, that structure in turn is building on things people have learned over the last 30 years particularly in Ohio, beginning with the decay of the steel mills in that state. It’s also using the purchasing power of public and quasi public institutions like hospitals and universities that are buying from the co-ops in ways that also help to stabilize the market. And that’s a really important principle—in part stabilizing (but not subsidizing) the “market” through public or quasi public purchases.

The important point is that there are many, many things that are developing that the press simply doesn’t cover. I wrote America Beyond Capitalism partly to give focus to the idea of what can be done in this phase of development–and hopefully building beyond that to much more interesting things once we learn more about how to do real things on the ground.

Wolff: Yes, I can add a little example of my own about the importance of books like yours and programs like this and other efforts to get the word out. Before we even sketch alternatives that are better, to even make the American people aware of what they themselves have accomplished in this area. I taught for many years at the University of Massachusetts. Just a few miles up the road from the small city of Holyoke, MA.

Holyoke has a public power company, and the public power company services the people of Holyoke. And it provides them with two benefits: lower rates for electricity than are paid by the surrounding communities that don’t have public power, a power operated by the community. And not only does it give them electricity for lower rates, but even at the lower rates, it makes a profit which it contributes to the city’s treasury, thereby lowering the taxes these people have to pay. A double benefit of public over private power, that they would save on electric rates and lower their taxes compared to what their neighbors a few miles down the road have to do with the big utility company.

And yet, when I had students from Holyoke, they were the ones whose eyes opened the widest when the learned of this, because they had grown up for 20 years in a community that never had explained to them in any school room or any kind of public way what they had and how it differed from the normal businesses in the United States.

Alperovitz: That’s a perfect example, and again, that’s why I wrote America Beyond Capitalism. Because throughout the country, and it’s one of our tasks–people who write and talk and lecture–to begin to show people what they already know how to do and are doing in many parts of the country. It’s based on the principle of changing the ownership and then capturing the resources for public use. And building up the understanding in theory, as well, so we can go to larger institutions as we develop the theory.

Wolff: And one of the really virtues of your book, America Beyond Capitalism, is it contains huge numbers of examples and lots of footnotes. So if you’re interested in pursuing some of these, you can find out ways of doing it.

 And I can see from discussions on this site that an eternal problem has been our preconceived notions of what certain terms mean and this leads to a very polarized conversation/debate which never goes anywhere. The following passage elucidates what I’m talking about:

Alperovitz: Well, the central question in all of these, and which I certainly share, is who gets to own the capital? Because it’s not only an economic question, it determines the politics in large part. The corporate capitalist system lodges such power in the corporations, so the central argument here is that that many of these must be made public, and so in that sense, the argument absolutely shares this principle with traditional socialism.

The problem that I’m searching for words for is partly that socialism to most Americans in a country that has very little socialist background means Stalinism and it means centralized state planning. And the truth is the centralized planning in the traditional socialist model is subject to serious criticism from the left, as well as the right—at least in the form it has taken in “actually existing socialism.” There was also a theoretical problem–which is that to invest a state organ with all the power– which is what most people understand socialism to mean—given all the economic power, it means that in all likelihood a good deal of political power stays there, too. So, we do need to find new language to describe how to do what needs to be done, but we’ve also got to get to the principles and deal honestly with the question of centralized power in traditional models.

The argument of America Beyond Capital in this regard is that there are many different forms of democratized ownership, not simply central ownership of large industries (which is certainly appropriate in a number of areas). I agree with that and banking as well; there’s also no doubt that central planning in many areas must be done or you can’t manage a large-scale advanced and post-industrial system. The question is can we decentralize the ownership also at the community and regional level, so that we build both a different power base, so the state doesn’t control everything, and a different cultural base, so that the cultural ideas lead to democratic action from the bottom up?

And the heart of that is what I tried to get at–and I termed it a “Pluralist Commonwealth.” 

 Wolff: This is very important, so let me underscore, because your modesty will probably hold you back in this area. Let me underscore something for all of our listeners. First, you mention that there were critics of centralized planning and Stalinism and so forth. That’s a very important point. To remember that socialism, just like capitalism, feudalism, slavery, is a system that’s been around now for a while, that’s been the subject of enormous disputes and debates. That there are many varieties of socialism, just as there have been varieties of capitalism, and that alternative models exists. So that when someone says “I don’t like socialism” and then describes a particular system, most of the time, particularly in the United States, what that person doesn’t seem to grasp is that what he or she has described is at best one of a variety of contesting interpretations and embodiments and concrete versions of this idea of socialism, but it is by no means the only one, and it becomes a dialogue to the death if you can’t have a conversation about the alternatives. And in a sense, you’re championing one of those alternative interpretations and criticizing others, and indeed that has always been the case.

part of the reason the American people tend too often to associate the term ‘socialism’ with one particular awfully described version of it is it’s a scare tactic. It’s a way to avoid conversations about the different kinds of socialism by imagining it has to always be one kind and that one kind is then painted in the worst conceivable colors. That’s a standard ploy of propaganda and should be recognized for what it is….

 

  • Sat, May 12, 2012 - 07:49pm

    #1741

    Jim H

    Status Bronze Member (Offline)

    Joined: Jun 08 2009

    Posts: 1190

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    Good post X-ray

Interesting exposition on the idea of cooperatives…  I think you and Darbi may get me wrong sometimes in my defense of capitalism…  I am a happy credit union member (non-profit bank).. have been for 28 years.  I just got back from a season-opening potluck lunch put on by the two women that run a micro-CSA near my house that I take a share in.  And to think… all of this happening right here in the crony capitalist USofA!.  My point is that I want freedom to choose.. if I want to work and save and start my own business and hire people (exploit them in your terms).. I want the freedom to do that.  If I want to work for a big corporation, I want the freedom to do so.  If I want to take my savings, buy some farmland, and start my own CSA.. I want the freedom to do that too.  

There is no black and white… pure socialism or pure capitalism…. that is pretty clear.  Because I understand so well the unsustainability of our current system, I for one would be happy to pay more taxes in order to sustain the social safety net as it exists today, and avert catastrophe… but only in the context of many reforms which will never be proffered by the pigmen at the top.  The corrosive agent in the system has nothing to do with where we lie on this continuum…  it is the nature of our money, and who owns the rights to it’s production.     

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVJaQ7NWpdU&feature=player_embedded            

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