We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lapp√©, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Saturday, October 24, 2015

F*** a Wage, Take Over the Business: A How-To with Economist Richard Wolff

Click here to access an interview conducted by Andrew Smolski with Richard Wolff posted on CounterPunch

I've never been much of a fan of Wolff, and the views he expresses about Marxism doesn't change my mind very much. They are essentially "Marxism 101", so rudimentary that they gloss over so much of the development of capitalism. It is a primitive populist version designed to appeal to people with little education. Thus, when applied to the real contemporary world, this conceptualization will run into all kinds of problems. 

His views would be much more relevant to capitalism if he were writing in the 1930s. Wolff writes like an historian who loves actors who played major roles on the stage of world history and as he attempts to bask in their glory. Hence he writes frequently about someone (Marx) in the 19th century who first noticed and understood capitalism as it existed in all its stark contradictions at that time. As a student of the development of capitalism, this is a very good place to start to understand it; but it is not adequate to understand capitalism as it functions in today's world. Moreover, he grossly distorts Marxism by arguing that a political system can be separated from an economic system while implying that what we have today is a real democratic political system. Look at these sample paragraph to see what I am referring to:
Because in our system, the majority of the people prevail in the political arena. The majority of votes, roughly speaking, wins! That creates the following terrifying danger for the people at top. Sooner or later people are going to understand in our system that the damage you suffer in the capitalist economy can be offset or reversed if you use your majority in the political system. You can use the fact that the mass of workers, utterly disenfranchised economically, can use politics to undue the effects.
.... We need system change! .... And one way to do that, the way I would prefer, is to overcome the contradiction by finally making the economic system democratic so it isn’t at odds with a political system that is at least trying to be democratic.