Thursday, November 27, 2008

Socialism, Straight from the Horses Mouth

Folks should read this piece on the economic crisis from the International Socialist Review, "Capitalism’s Worst Crisis Since the 1930s." Here's a note from the conclusion:

The disaster of the free market makes it easier for us to argue about the failure of capitalism and the need for an alternative based on human needs. The free market, which supposedly triumphed in 1989 and brought us the “end of history,” has led to nothing but misery and the ruin of millions of people, who are mired in poverty, hunger, unemployment, and ill health, but thanks to the free-market mania of the past decades, face a shredded safety net that doesn’t begin to address these problems.

People will also be forced to ask: what does government intervention mean when this is a government not of the workers, not of the masses of people, but a government that represents the interests of the owners, the bankers, and the industrialists? The state is being used for state capitalist purposes, in order to reorganize capital, even to curb some of its excesses. But its aim is to keep capitalism and its social relations going—relations in which labor is dominated and exploited for the profits of a few. Part of the restructuring will involve, as we’ve said, an even harsher attack on working-class living standards. At the same time, nationalization opens up space for us to argue against wholesale privatization, for the defense of public schools against privatization, and even to argue for nationalized health care. But we have to be clear that state capitalist nationalization—that is, the intervention of the state in order to prop up the bankers and the industrialists at our expense and without any democratic control over the process—is no great improvement over what went before. Liberals will accept that kind of state intervention. We must demand the kind of state intervention that will come only with mass pressure and control from below—intervention to improve health care, education, unemployment benefits, to prevent foreclosures, and so on.

The Left has to operate on two levels. First, a Left has to be built, or rather rebuilt, in this country that is prepared to fight on every front in defense of working-class interests, whether it is against layoffs, against foreclosures, or against cuts in health care and social services. Second, the Left must be prepared to take part in any struggles to defend the interests of the working class, as well as creating a political and ideological alternative to the free market and its defenders, conservative or liberal. The Left must utilize the crisis to conduct an ideological offensive against capitalism and to argue for a socialist alternative.
People who keep arguing that Barack Obama is "socialist" should read the full essay carefully (the authors reject the notion that the Wall Street bailout is "socialism," since the massive infusion of capital to banking and insurance giants is designed to delay the capitalist crisis and preserve American imperial hegemony - Hank Paulson, for instance, is a banker and former executive at Goldman Sachs, a member of the financial vanguard).

But let me add two points: (1) Obama is trained in radical ecomomics and postmodern ideologies, but he's now poised to govern incrementally from the center-left. While we will see some movement toward essentially European-style social-democratic policies, Obama nevertheless remains a "running dog" of the "capitalist ruling class" as far as the folks at ISR are concerned. Yet, (2) the policy regime presented above is virtually identical to those advocated by today's progressive netroots blogs (see
here, here, and here, for the tip of the iceberg).

So, interestingly, once in office, the degree of repudiation of the radical netroots will be a key indicator of how far an Obama administration is willing to openly advocate an objectively socialist (i.e., anti-capitalist) policy program.


Grace Explosion said...
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