Is "democracy" the cure for capitalism? (surely not...)

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Is "democracy" the cure for capitalism? (surely not...)
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Youtube video: "Capitalism in Crisis?"

"Broadcast journalist Charlie Rose engages America's best thinkers, writers, politicians, athletes, entertainers, business leaders" on the Charlie Rose Show.

The link is to a discussion between Charlie Rose, David Harvey, and Richard Wolff. The title of this episode is called "Captialism in Crisis?"

Apparently the guests are also promoting their new books. Wolff's is called "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism" and supposedly gives "a new historical vista is opening before us in this time of change, Wolff writes in this compelling new manifesto for a democratic alternative based on workers directing their own workplaces."

Needless today the discussion had me yelling at my PC screen at multiple points. This kinda stuff, all the Naomi Klein crap... seems to be all the rage amongst leftists these days. Wanted to share this with you all and maybe get a thought or two from you.


- Jamal

Yes Schalken you definitely

Yes Schalken you definitely hit the nail on the head..."reformist par excellence" for sure. Its sad how many workers are drawn to him... just to be left with democratist illusions.

And thats exactly it. If these guys represent the "genuine American marxist response" to this crisis... I'm afraid we're completely fucked!

My only hope is that some people can make sense of this, being that their books are best sellers, they've been on all the major political pundit shows, etc etc.

As I recall, the last time

As I recall, the last time the bourgeoisie took to calling itself Marxist was in the 1970's with the reemergence of class struggle on a noticeable scale internationally. So take it as encouraging that they're doing it again. I love the phrase "genuine American marxist response". An AMERICAN marxist response must clearly be bigger and better in it's marxism than one emanating from some inferior country ie the rest of the world. And as this particular "marxist response" is clearly bourgeois and totally phony I suppose that's why they added "genuine" just to make sure we all get the point and overlook the fact that they're...well, they're overdoing it aren't they, as the bourgeois always does. That the perpetrators of this latest panic and idiocy get invited on TV is not surprising. They're bourgeois, they belong on tv, and on the popular book charts, and you wouldn't expect them to be there at all if they were actual proletarian revolutionaries, as opposed to a bourgeois Marxist response to capitalist collapse.

You know, some people think

You know, some people think the workers' councils are expressions of "democracy." In fact, I think there has even been debate in the ICC about whether or not the concept of "workers' democracy" is useful. The meaning of "democracy" to the revolutionary movement is far from settled.

That said, I think Wolff's perspective is informed by the various "change the world without taking power" theories. He sees social transformation taking place at the shopfloor level, not in some apocalyptic showdown with the state. I think these theories are based on a growing sense that while communism is necessary and possible, a directly revolutionary confrontation with the state is not. In some ways, this visions imagines the communist transformation being undertaken by a proletariat that isn't fully conscious just yet, only driven to seize control of production at the shopfloor level. Wolff's favorite examples are Silicon Valley start-ups that work out of someone's garage. Someone these are prefiguarative of communism.

This is quite "workers' self-management," but it is obviously related. Of course, these questions go back further in the history of the revolutionary movement in the debate about the relative roles of the workers' councils and the factory committees, etc. in the revolutionary process.

Wolff and Harvey may be big academic celebrities right now, but this doesn't relieve us of the task of engaging and confronting their ideas.


Wolff and Harvey may be

Wolff and Harvey may be "decent" guys, and individual members of the ruling class may appear "nice" but they're wolves in sheep's clothing. The bourgeoisie are "nice" as long as they are comfortably unchallenged. They're happy to see parades of passive protesters and workers, led by the unions and controlled by the police, as long as there's no challenge to their rule, and their right to exploit; or to their financial privileges, their luxurious way of life and eternal right to be. But offer a challenge and the nice mask falls off quickly. Confronted by workers the bourgeoisie turns nasty. Look what happened to the oil workers in Kazakhstan: murder on the streets. Look what happens if the challenge is only a small one, as with students or indignants, in Paris, London, or New York. The bourgeoisie is quick to "restore order" - a favorite activity of theirs, where the order restored is of course precisely their own - and they will use any means to get it. All in the name of DEMOCRACY by the way.

The other thing about Wolff et al, is the easy way in which they suddenly don radical clothes and present themselves appealingly as commies. (I though communism finished in 1989, with the end of history etc. But must have got this wrong.) This may seem amusing now, or only a minor threat. But consider the lengths the bourgeoisie - a cunning, conniving, lying and deceitful class, the worst the world has known - will go too when confronted by their class enemy in a revolutionary situation. In Hungary, for example, in 1919, the bourgeoisie, in the guise of the Social Democratic Party, not only set up their own "workers councils" alongside those of the working class, but managed to challenge the veracity of the newly emerging communist party as to it's commitment to the unity of the working class! This quote is from the article about Hungary 1919 on this site. "...historical factors produced a hybrid situation that was cleverly exploited by the SDP and the unions, who on November 2nd formed the Budapest Workers' Council with a strange mixture of union chiefs, SDP leaders and elected delegates from a few large factories. In the following days all sorts of "councils" appeared that were only unions and professional organisations following the new fashion: councils of police (founded on November 2nd under Social Democrat control), councils of civil servants, councils of students. There was even a council of priests formed on November 8th! This proliferation of councils had the
goal of short-circuiting their formation by the workers." A similar state of affairs existed in Germany of course, where the SDP made out that it was the fragmentation of the workers under their incipient communist party that brought about the death of Liebknecht and Luxemburg, which would never have happened if the more realistic unity - solidarity? - of the workers' own SDP had been maintained.

So what is the significance of this? It's a warning! We must never fall into the trap of supposing the nice smiling bourgeoisie means well. They don't. They are our exploiters and it is their intention to maintain this by any means possible, even if it requires them to put on the mask of communism. Compared to the bourgeoisie, the proletariat is innocent. We do not seek power for the purpose of exploitation, but for it's eradication. The bourgeoisie will never be able to understand this, and will use our innocence against us. (I suppose I will get laughed at for using the word "innocence". But innocence is okay, it's honest. Honesty is something the bourgeoisie has never had, and it's they who have corrupted the concept of innocence.)

So, not only is "democracy" no cure for capitalism, but neither is communism. Not, that is, if it is once again the bourgeois variety. Beware!

Are we sure Wolff and Harvey

Are we sure Wolff and Harvey are part of the bourgeoisie? The critique of "democratic" states is useful in pointing out the reactionary nature of the entire bourgeoisie, but this doesn't say much about the issue of "workers' democracy" and the relationship between democratic mechanisms and the functioning of workers' councils, etc.

From what Jamal says above,

From what Jamal says above, Wolff is talking about a "cure" for capitalism, from which I take it Wolff wants to make it better. We, however, want to get rid of it. I suppose that could be regarded as a 'cure' but is that what Wolff has in mind? And workers being responsible for their own exploitation - sorry, I should have said workers directing their own workplaces - sounds like workers' cooperatives again. As to "workers' democracy" democratic mechanisms and the workers' councils etc., it all sounds terrific. But unless the workers - aided here by their Communist International which is essential, otherwise we're all toast - have as their main conscious intention the disposing of capitalism once and for all, then all the talk about democracy in whatever fancy new forms, will be a distraction and a waste of time. The purpose of leftism is to confuse.

Is it the "purpose" of

Is it the "purpose" of leftism to confuse or is confusion a "result" of leftism. Of course, I suppose leftism could also be the result of confusion. Confused yet?

Good post SchalkenDN. You

Good post SchalkenDN. You seem to know a lot about American socialism, a department I am very much lacking in even though I live here myself. It's hard to find objective info these days, especially with all the parties and orgs claiming to be "in the correct tradition", etc.

In regards to Fred and Jk's comments...I believe we have had this discussion before. Whether the intention of leftists in fighting for a international proletarian communist revolution is genuine or not, we see how they've ended up functioning in present day society.

A more intriguging question to me is how do we deal with the leftists? Fred is correctly cautious, but I wouldn't write all of these people off completely, on principle. I've heard too many examples of left communist comrades who have come to real proletarian ideas from these backgrounds (myself being one of them). Personally, I think engaging these organizations (even somewhat "confrontationally") would produce a lot of interested former-leftists looking for answers to their deeper questions about communist revolution.

towards a taxonomy of leftism

What do leftists want and what do leftists think? My definition of a leftist (type 1) is that of a person who thinks that capitalism can be "improved", made fairer, through nationalisations etc In other words State Capitalism. In some cases of leftism (type 1) State Capitalism may well be thought to be Communism. A slightly different definition (type 1a) is that a leftist is someone who is critical of capitalism and has thought about communism, but thinks it to be an alternative, or even a new, as yet undefined, form of capitalism. But in both cases the leftist remains trapped within the capitalist box. Most may be untroubled by this, but some may be disquieted. The latter could be open to salvation.

A more seriously worrying leftist is defined (type 2) as follows. This person has a vested interest, real or imagined, in the defense and maintenance of capitalism. This person knows that there are others in society who wish actively to remove him from a privileged position and replace themselves; or, worse, who so want to change the functioning of society that privilege itself becomes questionable. The extent to which leftism (type 2) actually appreciates what communism is we do not know, but this leftist will do anything necessary to preserve the status quo, even masquerading as a communistic comrade himself if this will work to foil the plans of his class enemy, tbe proletariat. This person, and his ilk, did much to pervert and help destroy the revolutionary waves in Germany and Hungary in 1919. It is doubtful this type of leftist is extinct, so all those concerned with the furtherance of genuine proletarian consciouness and rebellion should remain on guard against this insidious infiltration by bourgeois forces.