- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Radical Democracy

Posted by: bill on November 08, 1999 at 09:28:37:

In Reply to: Nikhil's 'Partial' Socialism, and why it wouldn't work posted by Barry Stoller on November 07, 1999 at 22:31:09:

:The issue is private ownership of the means of production.

:Socialism---let us NOT forget---presupposes a planned economy. Putting 10% - 20% of the means of production into private hands puts that much of the social product outside social planning. An important part of the economy would be permitted to withhold itself from social needs---unless and until its demands were met. This, of course, is monopoly---private monopoly, itself an indication that capitalism continues to flourish (and with it, hierarchy, exemptions, and abuse of

:In summation, I trust it is now obvious that the idea of a 'partial' socialism---a 'partial capitalism' is another way of putting it---is NOT socialism


Still, this strikes me as a bit mechanical in its purism.

The question, as you have posed in this post is how to get from here to there. I would suggest that efforts made in the name of process - specifically Radical or Direct Democracy - will be more fruitful than an immediate call for socialism.

Democracy and capitalism have very different beliefs about the proper distribution of power. One believes in a completely equal distribution of political power, 'one man, one vote,' while the other believes that it is the duty of the economically fit to drive the unfit out of business and into economic extinction. 'Survival of the fittest' and inequalities in purchasing power are what capitalistic efficiency is all about. Individuals and firms become efficient to be rich. To put it in its starkest form, capitalism is perfectly compatible with slavery. The American South had such a system for more than two centuries. Democracy is not compatible with slavery." (Lester C. Thurow, professor of economics at MIT, from his 1996 book The Future of Capitalism.)

In fact, radical democracy is more radical than the conventional forms of socialism as it has been portrayed. Part of the problem arises because it seems as though the only way to stop the corporate global juggernaut is via a strong central State. And the problem there is that without a Strong democratic foundation, the State will simply replicate hierarchical forms, which are primarily concerned with self-maintenance of power relationships. Thus the primary task is to design a democracy that makes it virtually impossible for power to coalesce (such as direst vote, easy recall, proportional representation, etc.)

The burgeoning of vast numbers of NGO's, grass roots movements, community organizations, environmental groups, and the beginning of democratization of the union movement are small breeding grounds for democratic experimentation. With globalization, there's the necessity that unions follow the environmental movement into the international arena, with international conferences.

In other words, as stated on this site:

Democracy is also the only way out of the long term multidimensional crisis which was initiated by the establishment of the SYSTEM of the market economy and the consequent growth economy, two centuries ago.This is so, because it is hiorarchical structures and the concentration of power in the hands of various elites that marks the foundation of every aspect of the crisis. Thus, it is the concentration of economic power, as a result of commodity relations and the grow-or-die dynamic of the market economy , which has led to the present economic crisis.

"…to understand the ecological crisis we should refer not simply to the prevailing system of values and the resulting technologies (as the environmentalists and the deep ecologists suggest) nor exclusively to the capitalist production relations (as eco-marxists propose) but to the relations of domination that characterise a hierarchical society based on the system of market economy and the implied idea of dominating the natural world.

And that is why a large part of the attack on the WTO which will be meeting at the end of the month in Seattle, will be based on process - accountability, participation, and local empowerment.

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