Tag Archive: Socialism

Reflection: Different movements, same problem.

United We Stand, Divided We Fall

The Right is unified.  Disparate issues, unified front–there are divisions (libertarians versus social conservatives, for example), but when the day is over, class issues unite them, and gender isn’t far behind.

The Left, however, is fragmented.

You have environmentalists, feminists, queer activists, union folks, civil rights and immigrants rights coalitions, anti-war protesters. . . many groups fighting for many causes, each prioritizing their own (in so many cases) and not drawing the connections between them strong enough to really convince the uncommitted why they should integrate new areas of concern.

This fragmentation has served the traditional Right strategy of ‘divide-and-conquer” well.

Towards a Stronger Left

How do we get beyond this for a strong coalition?  How does one become part of a unified movement?

Sexual practices and orientation, abortion rights, the ability to move safely from one country to another, and struggles for control over one’s workplace certainly don’t look like the same type of issue–but at their core, they are diverse threads of a singular political tapestry.

Each of the arenas of social concern and activism that characterize the New Left involve, in essence, one group with power fighting to control the life and activity of another group, that is, to use them instrumentally towards the acquisition of greater power.

Economic Power

Capitalists fight to gain political and intellectual leverage because they want ever-more-power to regulate the opportunities and possibilities for workers.  Control over workers’ labor, and over their ability to be independent from dependence on wage labor (preventing them from, say, going into business for themselves, surviving off their own plot of land, etc) are the primary ways that capitalists gain increased profits.

Their power, money, prestige, and influence are used to fight for a world in which:

(1) At least someone in your family needs to work for some boss for members of the family to survive (guaranteed through the erosion of welfare rights, Social Security, etc, so survival relies on wage labor), and

(2) That boss has increasing control over how they can progressively maximize your productivity and keep you working harder (eroding labor laws and collective bargaining, etc).  They want control over your activity for their benefit.

Gender and Sexuality

Traditional ‘separate sphere’ beliefs regarding ‘women’s place’ posit women’s ‘roles’ in society as (1) being a wife, and (2) mother of the husband’s children, while (3) taking care of the home, and (4) being perfectly sexually available.

Total deference.

These beliefs (which are enforced directly or indirectly) keep women subservient to men, giving men control over women’s activity.

Heteronormativity and homo/bi/queerphobia further leech into these considerations, inasmuch as free sexuality and reproductive autonomy are really harmful to patriarchal family structures.

Patriarchal family structures, grounded on men having control over women, rest on a monopoly of such control–no sexually free women, certainly no women having sex outside legally binding patriarchal marriages, no reproduction rights, and certainly no women in relationships with other women.


And men with men?  Men are supposed to exhibit and pursue control over women, and to deny all traces of activities or desires associated with women in a hetero-normative patriarchal society–so all non-heterosexual activity is prohibited.

These regulations stem far back, encoded into belief structures when families were the prime locus of production and holders of wealth, and so control over families (and the expansion of families through the prohibition of all sexual activity that didn’t result in babies) was important.

Thus, beliefs formed that chastised men and women for, and outlawed, non-reproductive sexual and relationship freedom, which became the dominant model of the ‘family’ (which, as it just so happens, gives collective power to heterosexual men over women and queer men).   Control over activity, yet again.

Intersectional Complexity

Civil rights issues are clear; racism is admittedly about the dominant racial group trying to control the subordinated racial group.  Anti-immigrant fervor is usually a thinly disguised racism, or a deep-seated fear (about terrorism or something), but either way the design is to control immigrant activity through either keeping them from one place to another or, alternately, to reduce their privileges while here.

Anti-environmental policies and behaviors, too, involve the unconditional domination of human beings (frequently capitalists nowadays) over the environment and all life within it.

In other words, all New Left movements can be unified into a movement of the Now-Left, built around freedom as self-determination, i.e. no group having control over another, but all individuals having control over the conditions of their own existence, living life with an egalitarian autonomy.

Only this is freedom.

Only this is democracy.

And other common factors connect to this notion (well being, sustainability, etc.), but freedom as self-determination could be a unifying guiding light for the movement we need right now, if we are to save what world we have left.

What happened to dreams?

I miss democracy.  Sure, America was never as democratic as our high-school textbooks would have us believe.  We were founded on land secured by genocide, build off the labor of slaves in the South and poor, mistreated white laborers in the North.  “All men were created equal” actually meant men, and property owning white men at that.  But over time the people who had been shoved aside and stepped on picked each other up.  Over time, slavery ended, women fought for the vote, property qualifications on voting were abandoned, workers could form unions, and currently our Queer brothers, sisters, and transters are fighting for equality.  The revolutionary ire of the 60’s became mired in the liberal conception of freedom–doing whatever one wants without thinking too much about what one wants–and despite the beauty of the ideals of peaceful, happy, free societies, rampant drug use immobilized portions of the hippie movement from creating structural changes.  The gains of the 60s were followed with the consolidation of global capitalist power, leaving us a neoliberal train wreck of an economy–one that pits workers against each other, destroys the environment, replaces living wages with debt, and responds to its lack of profitability with layers of financial tricks stacked precariously on the edge of a very large cliff, and we all may be faced with looking into that abyss. . . or we may not.

We could make it–but we need to dream.  Mainstream economists will tell you that prices have to rise if everyone has a job.  Politicians will tell you the government can’t make jobs (let somehow the government gave them a job–I guess they just mean jobs for us).  And both of those statements are false.  If everyone gets a job, no one’s desperate for a job, so they have to be good–and wages rise.  So they raise prices to maintain a profit.  And profits are nothing other than money we earn and they keep.  Profits are bull–the purpose of job availability and pricing should be to meet needs.  And the government can invest to create jobs same as private companies–but doesn’t because it would compete with a company’s ability to make money off our needs and inadequate government.

We can do better.  What is stopping us from creating communities build around our happiness and needs? In tune with the environment and each other?  Why can’t we co-manage our own workplaces?

The Chamber of Commerce wants to wage war against whatever democracy we’ve fought for over time, hoping that corporate financing of our candidates skews our system in their favor, just as such groups hope corporate financing of NGOS skews our attempts to change the world.

If the moneyed interests want so bad to control our society, I suggest a version of what the Paris Commune tried, and so many intentional communities have tried or are trying ever since. . . I suggest we pull out of their labor markets, their consumption patterns, their apartment complexes.  We form our own worker and consumer co-ops and coordinate production and consumption with each other, and outside of the market.  Different models have been suggested, Parecon and the model developed in Towards a New Socialism–and I’m not suggesting I’m committed to either of those visions in total.  But we can take inspiration, and we can create a new world, a Post-Capitalist world from a process of creating Exo-Capitalist modes of production, consumption, LIVING.

The phrase “New World Order” conjures up a host of images–neoliberal globalization, the Illuminati, (I guess it also has some meaning in the professional wrestling world)–so at first, it may seem a strange phrase to invoke on ‘our’ behalf.  It speaks to outsiders, to external string-pullers, master manipulators of human affairs.

What it really means, though, is somewhat different than its connotations.  According to the oracle of democratic knowledge production, Wikipedia, “new world order” means “any period of history evidencing a dramatic change in world political thought and the balance of power.”  It signifies nothing more than a new structure of global power, a new hegemony.  So what is “we need our new world order” really saying?

“We” references something more than Americans, more than Westerners, and something far more substantial than “global citizens.”  The latter term is more than consistent with the massive inequalities of wealth and power between people and nations–a ‘global citizen’ can mean a postnational, globe-trotting investor for a transnational corporation just as much (if not more) than it can mean a hummus-eating, kimono-wearing, African American artist with a love of German beer and Native American dreamcatchers.  No, ‘we’ references that group of people who usually don’t travel much, don’t each food from chefs with three Michelin stars, and don’t get the luxury of choosing not to work because they just want a day off.  The majority of the world is not composed of highly-educated, globe-trotting ubermenschen.  Most of the world is more likely to be like the ones who worked at or built the airport, shipped the food to or waited tables at the restaurant, who either work too much or can’t find enough.  Most of us take orders from people who take orders from people who, at the top of the economic food chain, wear ties to work and drink wine with their pinkies up.  That is to say, most of us are in the working class.  And most of us are suffering.

We’ve been told that contemporary economies are too complex to manage, and so they must be left to the market’s hoard of millions of little profit-hungry busy-bees, whose collective and disjointed acts of greed will somehow bring about a world full of wonders, roses, and sunshine.  But we let the ‘experts’ run the show through successive rounds of financial deregulation, and the result was a crisis that nearly equaled the Great Depression in gravity–letting those ‘experts’ run the show ended up being nothing more than letting the inmates run the asylum.

“We” need our New World Order.  We need to understand that we, the workers, the housewives, the queer folk, the immigrants–the downtrodden–are the ones who have built this world, raised these families, expanded these worldviews and inched the world towards freedom, well being, and justice.  We need to have faith in ourselves to democratically run EVERYTHING. . . from the ground up.  We need to work, play, sing, dance, run, jump, laugh, speak, high-five, fuck, and breathe liberation, and let it run down our fingertips and spark everyone we touch.  We need to work together to figure out a liberated, democratic world–OUR New World Order–and we need to run down the streets of Wall Street, Main Street, Easy Street, and Sesame Street chanting Viva la Revolution!–a revolution not of guns and bullets, not of stomping boots and broken dreams, but of millions and millions of the downtrodden, dusting themselves off, turning to help their neighbors rise, and seeing the sunshine together as if for the very first time.

Capitalism: A Love Story

Michael Moore’s newest documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story, is scheduled for wide release in early October.  From the reviews that I’ve read, it is an excellent movie, and Moore goes straight to the point of our modern social ills: capitalism.  That being said, I urge everyone to see it, and to convince everyone they know to do so as well.  The fact that a good, thoughtful, and sound piece of media is getting such wide release and positive publicity, from someone in the popular consciousness, is something I never expected to see.  That said, after I see it I will have much to say.

To make this short, his conclusion is that we need to replace capitalism with a democratic economic system, and shows examples of worker-owned factories.

In the mean time, for those looking for proposals for what democratic economic system we should have, here’s a short bibliography for you.

Here is a list of some models of decentralized, participatory planned socialisms.

The three biggest models right now are:
(1)   The Parecon model, whose primary theoreticians are Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel (and which is associated with Z Communications, including Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn).  Z Communications has a space on their site specifically for it at http://www.zmag.org/znet/topics/parecon, where different theorists working to develop its implications in economics and in the wider society.  Their whole model is founded upon their argument that resources should be distributed according to effort, tempered by need.
As for books:
Michael Albert has a book called Parecon from 2004 which is a great summary of the position; it’s available at http://www.zcommunications.org/zparecon/pareconlac.htm.
Robin Hahnel has another book from 2005 called Economic Justice and Democracy: From Competition to Cooperation, and I personally like it better than the Albert book. . . it has some really important discussions of egalitarian intentional communities as well as a good presentation of their overall critiques of capitalism.
More of their books are available online here:  http://www.zcommunications.org/zmi/readparecon.htm
(2) The Cottrell/Cockshott model:
The original model is presented in Cottrell and Cockshott’s book Towards a New Socialism, published in 1993, and is fully available at their website: http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/socialism_book/.  In addition, many of their subsequent essays expanding on the book are available there, too.  You might especially enjoy their advocacy of direct democracy, and rejection of representative government as a hidden extension of class rule masquerading as democracy.  They propose how direct democracy can be feasible given our current technology (even as of 16 years ago).

(3) The Adaman/Devine model:
Of the three primary models of participatory planned socialisms, I know least about the proposal of Adaman and Devine.  I only know that it’s grouped with the Parecon and Cottrell/Cockshott models as a fellow model of democratic, participatory planned socialism.  It’s initial book is Pat Devine’s Democracy and Economic Planning: The Political Economy of a Self Governing Society (1988), and expanded in the articles “Socialist Renewal: lessons from the calculation debate” in Studies in Political Economy 43 (spring): 63-77 (1994); “A response to Professor Foss” in Studies in Political Economy 49 (spring) 163-8 (1996); “The economic calculation debate: lessons for socialists” in the Cambridge Journal of Economics 20(5): 523-37 (1996); and “On the economic theory of socialism” in New Left Review 221 (Jan-Feb): 54-80.

Finally, (4) Science and Society Vol. 66:1 has a series of articles by all the major proponents of democratic, participatory planned socialisms, expanding their theories in certain ways and/or addressing critiques.  Additionally, each article is followed by comments from some of the other theorists, and then replies.  Albert, Hahnel, Cottrell, Cockshott, Adaman, and Devine are all here, as well as some other advocates of such an economic system.

This is a lot of reading, but as Moore’s movie was meant to critique the system and propose guidelines for solutions, not the solutions themselves, I wanted to fill that in a little, for all of us.  Again, go see the movie when it’s widely released, and comment on my blog with what you think.

In Solidarity,

The Practical Utopian

On Single-Payer Health Care

The House of Representatives is now going to vote on a single-payer health care proposal, thanks to the advocacy of Anthony Weiner, a Democrat from New York.  Is it going to pass in America?  Let’s focus on saying that it should pass.  Here’s why.

Time Magazine reported in its August 10th special issue on health care that it is projected that health care expenditures will exceed 20% of the GDP of the US by 2018.  Currently we spend about 17% or so of our GDP on Health Care, yet we rank behind 18 other industrialized nations in deaths that could have been medically prevented.  According to the group Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), “Single-payer national health insurance is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health financing, but delivery of care remains largely private.”  The PNHP points out that Americans spend over twice what other industrialized countries spend on health care, yet over 45 million are uninsured and many more are inadequately covered.

The PNHP points out the primary reason why for-profit health insurance systems necessarily cost more than single-payer public options:

Private insurers necessarily waste health dollars on things that have nothing to do with care: overhead, underwriting, billing, sales and marketing departments as well as huge profits and exorbitant executive pay.

This is one of the main reasons why the arguments for the efficiency of capitalism and the “free market” in lowering costs are false in every industry:  as corporations become larger and their industries tend towards monopoly or oligopoly (one or a few dominant firms controlling the majority of a market), they have more power to set prices independent of “supply and demand,” choosing high profit margins over controlling cost for the consumer, and beyond that their costs become inflated with hidden charges for services, increasing levels of unproductive employees (such as advertisers and management), and even costs incurred through their lobbying efforts to thwart the public interest.  Health insurers make higher profits when they charge as much as they can get from desperate consumers, and pay out as little as possible.  Our nation is expected to spend 1/5 of our GDP on inadequate health care because, as a very privatized health care society, we allow these companies free reign, and accept arguments that serve to deflect attention from our real problems and their real solutions.

The PNHP site has a variety of links supporting and explaining single-payer health care, and I would direct anyone wanting a greater understanding of the option to that site.  Single-payer health care is more rational and efficient than our current system and would help our nation in a variety of ways.  It should pass.

The single-payer health care proposal would provide comprehensive health care to all individuals while leaving them choice among doctors, and give the public democratic control over health priorities and policies (subject to the limitations of the American system of government, of course) while leaving the individual seeking health care and their doctor absolute autonomy.  In fact, the PNHP states the following as two further key features of single-payer health care.

  • Ban on For-Profit Health Care Providers
    Profit seeking inevitably distorts care and diverts resources from patients to investors
  • Protection of the rights of health care and insurance workers
    A single-payer national health program would eliminate the jobs of hundreds of thousands of people who currently perform billing, advertising, eligibility determination, and other superfluous tasks. These workers must be guaranteed retraining and placement in meaningful jobs.

The PNHP points out that the profit motive is harmful in health care, and the same logic shows by extension that the profit motive is harmful to any consumer in any area, specifically those that directly affect human welfare.  Single-payer health care is the answer to our health problem in America, and it is our only answer.

As a radical, however, it would be irresponsible for me to stop my analysis or advocacy there.  Single-payer health care, as proposed, is the system of health care that would exist in a socialist society (save for certain steps like democratic worker control), but truly socialized industries cannot peacefully exist with an otherwise callous capitalist society.  Private industry will continue to have political influence, continue monopolization, and thus have ever increasing power over our society.  The whole capitalist class will have an interest in secretly undermining the single-payer health care system because health care is so absolutely profitable.  Years later, in societies like America where the working class sees the ruling class interests as its own, and becomes easily persuaded and easier pacified, aspects of privitization may start to creep in (such as the gradual privitization of the Swedish ‘welfare capitalism’ model, including its single-payer health care).  The move to single-payer health care does not replace the need for socialism; quite the contrary.  We need single-payer health care to pass, and from then on we have a reference point to show the superiority of a socialist-style industry.  This will only work if we remain diligent in refusing to allow any privitization to creep in.  Let us be active in our advocacy of single-payer health care, and loud in our voice, so that the Obama administration and congress cannot help but know the true will of the American people: We Want Single-Payer Health Care.

PNHP: http://www.pnhp.org/facts/single_payer_resources.php

On the bailout . . .

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted.  Sorry for the absence.  I’m sure you’ve all been informed of the debate about a proposed $700 billion dollar bailout, and so I’ll go right into a quick comment.

I am absolutely opposed to this bailout.  The controversy has been expressed as “main street versus wall street,” when in a different country they would be allowed to refer to ‘class struggle’.  Essentially, this is a clear case of class conflict, where immoral actions were taken by capitalists to make money in unsustainable ways, and citizens are called upon to bail them out.  The argument goes that the allowance of these institutions to fail would collapse our economy.  I argue that ‘socialism for the rich’ is wrong, and a ‘socialism for the poor’ is superior.  Here is what I would do:

(1) Recognize that the collapse of these institutions would tend to cause economic damage, and correspondingly create jobs, insurance policies, state subsidized housing, and welfare benefits for individuals through the state, to prevent losses in the private sector from spilling onto innocent people.

(2) Allow these banks and insurance companies to collapse, and purchase them in their entirety, restaffing them and using them as engines of the state to gain democratic control of the economy.

These solutions would prevent us from needing to increase our international debt, and would more importantly protect citizens from being punished for the crimes of the capitalists.  Any comments?

Creative Capitalism and Human Welfare

In the August 11th edition of Time Magazine, Bill Gates wrote an article on the concept of ‘creative capitalism,’ or finding ‘imaginative’ ways to use the capitalist system to ‘do good’.  He argues that “capitalism has improved the lives of billions of people” (40) and that, in terms of meeting human needs, “governments and nonprofit groups have an irreplacable role in helping them [e.g. those whose needs aren’t met by the market], but it will take to long if they try to do it alone.  It is mainly corporations that have the skills to make technological innovations work for the poor” (40).  Essentially, ‘creative capitalism’ involves a corporation finding a profitable way to distribute goods and services according to need, or, in Gates’ words, “the companies make a difference while adding to their bottom line” (42).  How are corporations going to accomplish this within the mandates of the system?  According to Gates:  “it’s not just about doing more corporate philanthropy or asking companies to be more virtuous.  It’s about giving them a real incentive to apply their expertise in new ways, making it possible to earn a return while serving thh people who have been left out.  This can happen in two ways:  companies can find these opportunities on their own, or governments and nonprofits can help create such opportunities where they presently don’t exist” (43).

Gates’ heart is in the right place, I’m sure.  But let us refocus.  The market distributes goods according to “effective demand,” i.e. according to those who can pay.  The ability to pay is obviously contingent upon your income, coming from either property income (interest, etc, which comes from the ownership of capital goods) or labor income (wages, salaries, etc., that come from the selling of labor power).  Some own capital, and others don’t, and are forced to choose between the sale of their labor power, or death by starvation.  This set of conditions is legally solidified through the codification of private property rights (considered here as legal rights, not necessarily moral rights), and the enforcement of said rights through the coercive apparatus of the state.
Consequently, if you are not lucky enough to be a capitalist, you have two choices.  First, you can choose one from among many corporate taskmasters to work for under the condition that you won’t receive all the value you produce, and once in their firm, they have all the power over you and your life activity and the laws of the U.S. Constitution no longer apply. Alternately, you can choose to starve and die.   You have the freedom to choose between wage-slavery and death. That is the precise definition of ‘economic freedom’ for those who aren’t capitalists.  Even ‘creative capitalism’ would run on this formula.  The theory is that either (1) corporations should find ways to profit off ‘socially beneficial’ behavior themselves, or (2) NGO’s and governments should make ‘socially beneficial’ behavior profitable.  It reveals the true natures of the firm and the economic system when you consider that the argument is not that a firm is a social institution that impacts daily the lives of potentially billions of people, and thus should choose to make that impact a positive one on human welfare regardless of profit.  Instead, the argument for which Bill Gates is getting many pats-on-the-back for is that firms should find a way to profit from activity that doesn’t necessarily kill people, destroy the environment, and subvert democracy.  It is still distributing wages and goods based on neither contribution nor need, and is consequently still illegitimate.  I think it is highly more logical to argue that, as corporations are enabled to accumulate capital through social conditions, and they impact human welfare, they ought to ensure a positive impact on their actions and inactions whether or not it is profitable.  It might be replied, then, that a profit-independent ‘firm’ would be pushed out of the market, for that is not a very ‘capitalist’ trait. . . but that only goes to show how conflicted are the values of capitalism with the value of human welfare.  ‘Creative capitalism’ is little more than the advocacy of getting paid to throw scraps from the table at a banquet to the starving masses below.

Historic Trade Bill Introduced

The Democratic Socialists of America sent me an e-News email that I think is important enough to share.  I will quote the first three paragraphs, and then share why I think it is important.

There has been an incredibly important trade bill introduced–

It’s called the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act. Introduced in Congress on June 4,  its prime sponsors are Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine). There are currently 58 co-sponsors of the bill in the House and four in the Senate. The bill’s numbers are HR 6180 and S 3083. Write them down and don’t lose them! Put them up on your refrigerator with a magnet, on your bulletin board, under your coffee cup or in your computer—wherever you put important political information that you will need again. Because this bill is a keeper.

The act would require the government to review its trade agreements, and it provides a process for renegotiating them, too. The bill also outlines principles that should be used in renegotiating those trade agreements–something that  is consistent with the precepts of DSA’s   Renegotiate NAFTA Project and which was described in the most recent issue of Democratic Left.
The bill is vigorously supported by major unions, environmental and other fair trade organizations. Said Bruce Raynor, President of UNITE HERE, “This bill breaks new ground on the enforcement of labor rights, environmental protection, food and product safety, procurement, safeguards against surges of imports, trade remedies against unfair trade practices and the ability for countries to regulate foreign investment.”
This was sent from Frank Llewellyn, National Director of the DSA, and the rest can be found here- http://community.icontact.com/p/democratic_socialists_of_america/newsletters/democratic_socialists_of_america/posts/5213048991778894381.
Why is this important?
In 1974, Richard Nixon introduced the concept of a fast track on trade, a procedure that would require Congress to vote on a trade agreement and all its changes it imposes on U.S. law, no amendments permitted, within 60 to 90 days of the president’s submission of the agreement and its legislation.  Debate on the bill is limited to 24 hours.  Trade bills are hundreds of pages, filled with clauses, subclauses, etc., ad nauseum, full of specialized trade terminology, and in 60 to 90 days it is barely even possible, with a full staff and advisors, to read all of it–even most of it.  Nixon proposed a council of private sector trade advisory groups to facilitate the process–hardly a disinterested group.  How does this affect procedures?  Let’s take the example of the Uruguay Round negotiations of the GATT, which created the WTO.
“During the . . . Uruguay Round negotiations, the advisory committees were composed of over eight hundred business executives and consultants (with limited labor representation), five representatives from the few environmental groups that were supportive or neutral on NAFTA, and no consumer rights or health representatives . . . [and] meetings of the advisory groups are closed to the public, with representatives required to obtain a security clearance from the government after a background check” (Nader, “GATT, NAFTA, and the Subversion of the Democratic Process,” from Mander and Goldsmith’s “The Case Against the Global Economy” p. 101).
Once trade agreements pass, attempts to figure out what, exactly, was passed face at least a few obstacles.  First, when George H.W. Bush promoted the NAFTA bill, he spoke positively, but the text was only made available to the American people in an unofficial version a month after his public appearance.  The 752 page official version was made available at a price of $41, and only after Bush Sr. left office in ’93.  Second, only those with an expansive knowledge of trade terminology can decipher exactly what the implications of the bill will be.  Third, in many countries (who are expected to pass these bills into their own legislation), the GATT text never became available, or became translated months after its passing.
A provision of the WTO rules, passed by the American government, is that WTO rules and restrictions are now fully enforcible, and governments must conform all laws, present and future, to the WTO.  Trade agreements, in other words, subvert even the constitution, and every law we have.  Combined with the fast track, trade rules are something to be debated more rigorously, considered more thoughtfully, and regulated more harshly than any other potential laws.  Beyond this, the fast track needs to be slowed down.
In the mean time, the Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act is monumentally important, and in light of the history of International Capital’s consolidation of power and subversion of democracy, I urge anyone who reads this to talk to their congressmen and congresswomen, and forward the news to support this act to anyone concerned for the future.
In solidarity,
The Practical Utopian

Imagine a world where the means of production are owned by society. Profits are collected and go towards Public benefit, and decisions are made by those who will be affected. Would that world not be superior than our own? The system of private ownership allows individuals to profit off the labor of others, externalize social costs, and manipulate and erode popular control over the political, social, and economic spheres. What does the current system do that it has advocates?

The primary law of the system is profit. Jerry Mander examines 11 laws of corporate behavior, generalizable to individuals in the capitalist system by way of inference, and to the system as a whole by necessity (“The Rules of Corporate Behavior”, The Case Against the Global Economy (1996), edited by Jerry Mander and Edward Goldsmith, pp. 309-22). They are:

(1) “the profit imperative” (315), where individuals and corporations, by the laws of the capitalist system,
must take in more income than they expend. Mander says “the profit imperative and te hgrowth imperative are the most fundamental corporate drives; together they represent the corporation’s instinct to live” (315).

(2) “the growth imperative” (316), where growth of the company, and its profits (and its corollaries among individuals and political bodies) it transformed into an imperative. If profits are a necessary requirement for maintaining class status generally, and profits are consequently valued, then of course the push for ever greater profits increases in importance, at the expense of one’s competitors, competition in the market, and society at large.

(3)”competition and aggression,” where the individual and corporate pushes towards profits and growth lead to a dog-eat-dog, zero sum game. You must secure your position, for no one is looking out for you . . . you are consequently expected to cooperate and seek the benefit of the Team, but are constantly looking for an aggressive edge over your competition in the job market–above other corporations, capitalists, employees, etc.

(4) “amorality,” where “corporations do not have morals or altruistic goals . . . so decisions that may be antithetical to community goals or environmental health are made without misgivings” (317).

(5) “hierarchy,” where “corporate law requires that corporations be structured into classes of superiors and subordinates within a centralized pyramidical structure” (317).

(6) “quantification, linearity, and segmentation,” where “corporations require that subjective information be translated into objective form, that is, into numbers . . .[which] excludes from the decision-making process all values that cannot be quantified in such a way” (318).

(7) “dehumanization,” where “corporations make a conscious effort to depersonalize” (318), creating elaborate structures of rules for behavior on the job, and managerial discipline.

(8) “exploitation,” where “profit equals the difference between th amount paid to an employee and the economic value of the employee’s output . . . [and thus] is based on paying less than actual value for workers and resources” (319).

(9) “ephemerality [the quality of being transitory] and mobility,” where “corporations . . . have no commitment to locality, employees, or neighbors . . . [and so in] having no morality, no commitment to place, and no physical nature . . . a corporation ca nrelocate all of its operations to another place at the first sign of inconvenience” (319).

(10) “opposition to nature” where “corporations themselves and corporate societies are intrinsically committed to intervening in, altering, and transforming the natural world . . . [where] all manufacturing activity depends upon intervention in and reorganization of nature” (320).  This fact, combined with the imperative to grow, results in an ever-increasing consumption of natural resources, many of which either reproduce less quickly than they are extracted, or do not reproduce.  In other words, “the net effect is the corporate ravaging of nature” (320).  This results in a variety of phenomenon, from pollution to corporate contributions to global warming.

Finally, (11) “homogenization,” where “all corporations share an identical economic, cultural, and social vision and seek to acceperate the social and individual acceptance of that vision . . . [and so] life-styles and economic systems that emphasize sharing commodities and labor, that do not encourage commodity accumulation, or that celebrate nonmaterial values, are not good for business” (320-21).

Why is this relevant?  Corporations and corporate interests are the driving forced behind the global economic and political structures today.  They are the distributors of wages and goods, they control the media and the government, and they operate by these laws.  In this first examination of the laws of the corporation, we can already ask–do we want anything that operates by these laws determining the future of our world?

On Burma, aid, and capitalism

There is international outrage over Myanmar’s military junta’s prevention of international aid in the wake of Cyclone Nargis.  The aftermath of this cyclone, provided by the junta’s prevention of foreign aid and not themselves helping, has left 134,000 dead and missing and up to 2.5 million destitute (current Reuters count).  This has resulted as a result of neglect, of the junta’s prevention of aid and the allowance of the death of their people.  Consequently, a wave of international outrage grows.  For example, “the French ambassador, Jean-Maurice Ripert, said that the junta’s intransigence could lead to a “true crime against humanity.” (http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/05/18/asia/myanmar.php“.

So not-helping them and allowing them to starve to death is a crime against humanity?  Well, now, as a socialist I agree.  But what right do capitalists have to make such a claim?  Don’t they support a system whose distribution laws allow thousands to die each year in preventable ways, tens of thousands from starvation alone.  For example: “The number 35,615 is a conservatively low number for the barbarically needless daily deaths the poorest of the poor die. If we were to add the next two leading ways the poorest of the poor die, water borne diseases and AIDS, we would be approaching a daily body count of 50,000 deaths. Yes, upwards of 50,000 people per day are needlessly dying on Earth.”  (http://www.starvation.net/), in a system where the wealth of the rich in coercively protected.  If our corporations and capitalists can let the poor starve with impunity, what right do they have to complain?