- Capitalism and Alternatives -


Posted by: Piper on February 07, 19100 at 12:02:16:

In Reply to: More than reformism please posted by Samuel Day Fassbinder on February 06, 19100 at 19:43:36:

: : Piper: yes well i certainly don't smell revolution in the air so to speak.

: SDF: You can, of course, re-evaluate after the financial bubble bursts...

Piper: Assuming it bursts big enough...

[skipping deep thought on social sciences which i agree with]

: : Piper: I don't find a lot to disagree with in this post of your SDF.

: : However I don't think there is any other option other than reformism and i don't think we can speculate that one day it will be an option to overthrow the government. We just have to work with what we have and see what happens.

: : Reformism is of course a laborious project necause you have to work through entrenched power groups and established social orders. That takes time and is not necessarily achievable at all. A revolution could i suppose attempt to smash these things.

: SDF: My suggestion I guess is what you would call "Allendeism" -- while organizing a popular uprising, something nonviolent like most of the protests at Seattle (and don't forget DC April 17th!), try to get the government to act against the interests of its corporate overlords as Salvador Allende did in a somewhat clumsy fashion in Chile after he was elected President of Chile, and before he was overthrown by US interests. Only do it in a much more grassroots-organized fashion than in the way Allende did it.

Piper: Yes, i agree, but thta is no guarentee of overthrowing the current order. Mass protest could conceivably result in just moderate reformism or words of condolence but no substance.

: See, I reinterpret the World Scientists' Warning to Humanity thusly: CAPITALISM and the natural world are on a collision course. The "human activities" that are inflicting "harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment" are the activities that treat the natural world as a mere convenience of market production (or for that matter of undemocratic forms of planned economy; oil production for instance typically sacrifices the people living on the oil fields to its rituals of exploitation). The only thing that's really going to stop this is the replacement of capitalism with democratic economics, economics that does not use money and that does not therefore invoke the tendencies of capital accumulation so deftly discussed in CAPITAL.

Piper: I find it hard to believe that multinationals aren't diversifying or taking other action to avoid just this sort of thing. If they're not then their mangers really are overpaid...

: : But even then i am not convinced that social hierarchy would be perpetuated. I mean socialism alone isn't a cure for racism, nor is it a cure for sexism.

: SDF: You may wish, in this regard, to read Dinesh D'Souza's THE END OF RACISM, especially for its defense of "rational discrimination." Discrimination against black people, says D'Souza, is rationally-based, because people who deny black people housing, jobs, respect, the time of day, etc. are merely thinking like good capitalist insurance sales reps, i.e. they are assessing their contacts with black people as entailing a particular risk based on a common fund of "knowledge" about the behavior of black people, i.e. what we (not D'Souza) call racism. If black people want to do something about this, D'Souza argues, they had better improve their image as a group. So, for D'Souza, racial discrimination is equated with the capitalist behavior of insurance sales reps, and is thusly deemed rational and okay in D'Souza's opinion. D'Souza's is the kind of capitalist logic that provides racism with its best rhetorical defense.

Piper: But surely people are prejudiced *just because* other people are different from themselves. Doubtless that is why people became 'prejudiced' against you for wearing a bracelet that you had made at school.

Now D'Souza could have a point, but i doubt it is the whole reason.

: Before dismissing D'Souza as a garden-variety racist, ask yourself this: If your car broke down while you were driving through south central Los Angeles, say for instance at the corner of Florence and Normandie, would you ask the local black people for help?

: Now, on the other hand, if we had a democratic economy, entailing democratic control of the means of production (and here I mean direct democracy, not representative bourgeois democracy), there would be no social basis for discrimination because nobody would be granted the power (backed today by your local police force) to discriminate against anyone else. Black people face discrimination because, like most of the working class, if they are to earn a living they must appeal for money to those who would discriminate, i.e. the owning class.

Piper: It might put an end to discrimination in the economic sense, but the prejudice could still remain ('how dare these blacks live among us as equals they belong in the jungle'). It is surely more complicated than just economic relations.

: Creating a democratic economy would of course require education, anti-racist education but more importantly education as regards the economic structure and of ways of changing it.

Piper: Well, good luck educating the Klu Klux Klan. I think it's very hard (if not impossible) to change the habits of a lifetime (especially when it is irrational). It seems to me that what you are describing would take years to achieve and involve a commensurate amount of civil unrest. (i suppose stoller would say we could just use positive reinforcement!).

: Such education will not come from the revolutionaries you criticize -- it will not happen in response to communiques issued from elitist vanguards but rather requires a process of "conscientization" such as Freire outlined in Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

: (skipping)

: : Revolutionaries always criticise reformists for taking too much time to achieve results, but how long is it they have been advocating revolution? 150 years and what do they have to show for it?

: SDF: Enormous gains in literacy (see once again Freire) and health care, the industrialization of vast peasant nations (Russia, China)... the problem at hand is one of whether revolution can do any more than that, especially as regards the coming ecological comeuppance capitalism will richly deserve for its overexploitation of the global resource bases. And you're right for assuming that, nope, it doesn't look likely right here right now. But I for one refuse to believe that we are reduced to kissing the IMF's butt as the only solution to economic solutions to the global disparity in wealth. More capitalism is not inevitable.

Piper: Given that the revolution was primarily for the economic weal of the proles, it hardly seems apt to say they have had great gains in literacy, etc. (As somebody once said: 'Show me the money!).

Given the mindset of the people i would have to say that revolution is at the moment a dim possibility. (Makes me think what we *need* is a revolution of minds...)

BTW I was under the impression that we were already in a post capitalist era (i.e. corporatism). You know, ownership and use of capital separated, obsession with paper profits, obsession with profit motive, relocating industry to third world for cheap labour. I'm not sure a Marxist revolution in such an environment wouldn't just result in mass poverty (supporting structures have been removed).

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