Saturday, May 2, 2009

Renewing Socialism? Don't Even Think About It ...

Leo Panitch, a professor of political science at York University, Toronto, is the author of Renewing Socialism, and is the editor of a reader in international political economy, American Empire and the Political Economy of Global Finance.

Professor Panitch obviously takes his Marxism seriously, and he makes the case for the resurgence of Marxist theories as the basis for a new-age political economy of socialism at the new Foreign Policy, "
Thoroughly Modern Marx."

Here's a passage from the essay, where Panitch waxes eloquently on "the way to bring about radical change" amid global economic "crisis":

The irrationality built into the basic logic of capitalist markets—and so deftly analyzed by Marx—is once again evident. Trying just to stay afloat, each factory and firm lays off workers and tries to pay less to those kept on. Undermining job security has the effect of undercutting demand throughout the economy. As Marx knew, microrational behavior has the worst macroeconomic outcomes. We now can see where ignoring Marx while trusting in Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” gets you ....

Although he made the call “Workers of the world, unite!” Marx still insisted that workers in each country “first of all settle things with their own bourgeoisie.” The measures required to transform existing economic, political, and legal institutions would “of course be different in different countries.” But in every case, Marx would insist that the way to bring about radical change is first to get people to think ambitiously again.
This is a man who's apparently made his entire academic career as a Marxist political scientist. He is, in other words, the real thing - an academic scribbler giving theoretical strength to madmen in authority.

I mean, what is this, workers need to "settle things with their own bourgeosie"? Well, of course that's simply a euphemism for the final solution to the capitalist problem. I wonder if this Panitch guy really believes his theories, or, rather, if he understands the implications of them.
Read the whole essay. He genuinely wants to eviscerate markets, the price mechanism, and private property. Although radical leftists will disavow the connections (they're "progressives" nowadays), Marxist economic theory has been tried. With applied socialism we got the Marxist-Leninism of the Russian Bolshevik Revolution, and later the forced collectivization of the rule of Josep Stalin. We could go down the list from Chairman Mao to Comrade Fidel in Havana. The Marxist model is the foundation for all of these regimes, and since when did the "dialectical" get separated from the "socialism" in the theoretical model of dialectical materialism? I think today's economic "crisis" has engendered historical amnesia.

NOTHING'S CHANGED!

Forget all the revisionism. Forget Althusser and Gramsci, or whichever contemporary postmodernist who's detailed some unreadable post-revisionist synthesis of the foundational praxiology of Marxian orginalism - or whatever else you might find
on left-wing syllabi throughout the academy. Marxists hate the individual. They hate the political economy of liberty. You cannot make a functioning society on the basis of increasing immiseration of the entrepreneurial/investing classes. It defies not just logic and imagination, but empirical reality. No economic system in the history of the world, not one, has provided a greater good for a greater number in terms of material well-being and human happiness. When leftists like Panitch excoriate markets as engendering the "worse macroeconomic outcomes," the solution is to eliminate the "microrational behavior" that led to that equilibrium in the first place. Translated: Kill the capitalist producers and consumers who multiplied by the millions make up the microfoundations of the political economy of human freedom.

But we don't have to rehash the classical economic arguments that have been reproduced in traditional economic tracts over the centuries to understand the poverty of socialism. (Pick up any mainstream economics textbook and you'll still see the basic suppy and demand curves of capitalism's unregulated market as the basis for economic growth and societal prosperity.) No, just look at those collectivist societies today that still cling to the burnt totalitarianism of the 20th century. The new Foreign Policy contains compendium of essays outlining and analyzing the current structural foundations for "
the next big idea." It's all about transcendance!

But the most imporant piece in this entire edition is the photo essay by Tomas van Houtryve on Communist North Korea, "
The Land of No Smiles:

Renowned documentary photographer Tomas van Houtryve entered North Korea by posing as a businessman looking to open a chocolate factory. Despite 24-hour surveillance by North Korean minders, he took arresting photographs of Pyongyang and its people—images rarely captured and even more rarely distributed in the West. They show stark glimmers of everyday life in the world’s last gulag.
Be sure to check the entire slideshow, but these two images capture the deathly nightmare of the socialist vistion:

UNEASY STREET: Van Houtryve arrived in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, during a normal work week in February. He found its main thoroughfare entirely empty. “Nobody’s out. No couples with babies, nobody taking a walk,” van Houtryve says. “You could wait 10 minutes before you ever saw a car.” Only a few old Mercedes—the exclusive privilege of top bureaucrats—cruise Pyongyang’s streets. North Korea has just a few hundred thousand cars for more than 20 million people. The country has only 1,000 miles of paved road.

SHOP GIRL: This is shopping in North Korea. The clerk sits in the dark, unheated special store, waiting to turn on the lights for foreigners, the only permitted customers. “She’s wearing a ski jacket or parka; the rest of this time they’re sitting there with the lights off, freezing,” van Houtryve says. The goods—toys, televisions, and the like—are imported from China. The store only accepts euros.

At his essay, Panitch dismisses President Barack Obama's environmental proposal for a cap-and-trade system as tinkering around the edges. Panitch exhorts his followers to think big!, to completely overcome "the logic of capitalist markets."

Yes, and when we do that, we'll too be wearing ski parkas in our state-run apartment buildings (if we were lucky enough to score a lottery ticket putting us at the top of the waiting list), while the streets outside remain totally desolate from society's absolute absence of economic intercourse and human freedom.

11 comments:

smitty1e said...

I'll see your Marx and raise you a Louis XIV (as I've just been reading Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle on my vacation): Socialism is the new Feudalism. That's right. For all the talk of a Dictatorship of the Proletariat, the logical conclusion of the current crap is a single HMFIC.
The only difference between where we're going and where we've been in pre-Revolutionary times is that paying lip service to a Constitution will drive up the costs slightly for the HMFIC.
Talk of Socialism is for the suckers.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Smitty!

The Vegas Art Guy said...

And yet people still can't see this is where Obama is taking this country. When are they going to wake up?

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Vegas Guy!

Dana said...

One of the things that has always baffled me about our friends on the left is their dual attractions to socialism in some form -- most never read Marx, nor understand Marxist theory, but simply see "socialism" as greater equity in sharing the rewards of the economy -- and the widest possible range of individual freedom (except, of course, the freedom to criticize liberal ideas.

But the "sharing" they see as the goal of socialism cannot be accomplished without extremely severe social controls. They want the freedom to smoke pot? Well, pot smoking has depressing effects on productivity, so that couldn't be allowed. They want the freedom to fornicate with anyone they choose? Sorry, but that's irresponsible, and has its own negative economic consequences. You will eat what you're told, you will wear what you're told, and you'll live where you're told, because the decisions required for socialism are decisions which cannot be taken by individuals, because private individuals might take decisions which cost more and produce less.

Democracy, freedom and socialism are simply logically incompatible. To have freedom and democracy means that the people might choose to do, whether collectively by electing the "wrong people" or individually by taking poor actions, things which are harmful to the collective good.

Herr Marx saw power as exercised by the "dictatorship of the proletariat," but to that deluded soul, the proletariat would all agree, all come to the same conclusion.

Herr Marx understanding of economics was questionable; his understanding of people was negligible.

Blazing Cat Fur said...

York University is a cesspool. More commonly referred to as Gaza U.

Philippe Ohlund said...

Excellent post, Donald! :-)

I'm back in Sweden after 9 years and i have some problems to get internet and a mobile phone subscription.

What Dana writes about "extremely severe social controls" is unfortunately very true concerning our system here.

But I love Sweden and I will do what I can to change that.

What baffles me, is that the socialists no longer are in power in Sweden since many years, but that nothing really has changed.

And the biggest problem is not the public sector, but the private sector, which oddly behaves like socialism is the world standard.

shoprat said...

As I see the revival of socialism, and its siblings fascism, Communism, and other forms of (good word) Neo-feudalism, after they appeared to be dead, I remember these words and the beasts deadly wound was healed.

Pat said...

"The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it."

(From Atlas Shrugged)

The one thing that frustrated me so much about the election was that those of us against BHO warned everybody we could that he was for socialism and would attempt to destroy our capitalistic system.

The response I kept getting was "Socialism isn't so bad!" which made me even crazier.

People voted for this guy and the only thing I can hope for now is that we can vote him out before he does too much damage. And I hope that his supporters one day see him for what he is, but I don't think they will.

lowandslow said...

Great read. Nice work.

Dave said...

"The response I kept getting was 'Socialism isn't so bad!' which made me even crazier."

That is pretty much the response I have been getting, even from some in my crowd I thought knew better.

Its maddening.

-Dave