170-4 Democratic Socialism

No Easy Answers

At Vox, Zack Beauchamp attempts to deal with a question many have asked: “Why did voters who by and large benefit from social democracy turn against the parties that most strongly support it?” MORE.

At The Baffler, Sarah Jaffe’s interview with Cait Vaughan, an organizer with the Healthcare Is a Human Right campaign in Maine, might provide a partial answer HERE.

At the Working-Class Perspectives blog, Allison Hurst provides additional insight:

A friend of mine from college, someone raised on the less wealthy spectrum of the educated middle class, took issue with even the idea of the “working class.” What was this really? He knew a lot of blue-collar workers, plumbers, builders, who made a lot more money than he or his mother ever did.  I gave him the quick sociological explanations — it’s about power, not money, but his question remained with me. Based on power at work, two-thirds of Americans can be classified as “working class” (see Michael Zweig’s excellent The Working-Class Majority). That is a hell of a lot of people. They don’t all think alike. It struck me that sociologists, myself included, have spent untold ink arguing over the distinctions within the middle class (lower-middle, upper-middle, professional-managerial, those with economic capital vs. those with cultural capital, etc.) and where the line is between wherever this middle is and the top, and yet we have spent hardly any time  looking within the largest class of them all.


And then there is “the curious collaboration between the cultural left and the economic right….” Huh? Conrad Sweatman explains how to overcome it HERE.

170-3 Democratic Socialism

Socialism and Apple Pie

At Jacobin, Paul Heideman presents an excellent short history of socialism in early 20th Century America with the mildly revisionist argument that our country never possessed any special immunity against socialist politics. Heideman begins:

In the middle of Bernie Sanders’s unexpected surge in the Democratic presidential primary, Missouri governor Jay Nixon echoed some folksy wisdom against him: “Here in the heartland, we like our politicians in the mainstream, and [Sanders] is not — he’s a socialist.’’

Nixon would no doubt be shocked to learn of his own state’s history with the red menace. In the early twentieth century, the Socialist Party of America boasted 135 locals in Missouri. In St. Louis alone, 24 of the city’s 28 wards had a local.


170-1 Democratic Socialism

Every Part of Us Has Parts

At Working-Class Perspectives, Jack Metzgar writes:

One important insight from this early round of Trump-shock commentary and reporting is that the white working class is a very large, diverse, and complicated group –- one with people whose thinking is much more complicated than we educated folk tend to imagine. Some of them live in bubbles, too, and some of those bubbles are impenetrable. But just as many live a complicated rage that is open to conflicting and contradictory directions. Listening to and understanding that rage and arguing for a cogent progressive direction for it will take work of many different kinds. It will help a lot if we middle-class progressives begin with a heavy dose of humility and reflect on how our class position and experience, indeed our college educations, tend to make us unaware and dismissive of other ways of seeing and being in the world.


War on Workers

At Daily Kos Labor, Laura Clawson points out that union density continues to decline, not only the union membership rate as a percentage of employees but the absolute number of members as well:

union density

Why Are There No Capitalist Holidays?

by Aaron Armitage
In one sense, all our holidays are capitalist, of course. They’re celebrated by people who grew up under capitalism and who, therefore, have capitalist ideas hiding out in our brains even if we don’t want them there. Less psychologically, they’re capitalist in the sense of being marketing opportunities. There are holidays like Sweetest Day that were invented by capitalists just to sell more candy or cards or what have you. There’s even Black Friday, where they’ve managed to make shopping a beloved Thanksgiving tradition. (Hey, maybe you needed a break from your Trump supporting cousin. It’s okay.)

santa capitalistBut there are no Capitalist holidays in the way that there are religious holidays, or national holidays, or for that matter at least one socialist and anarchist holiday, May Day. The propaganda value of a holiday can hardly escape notice; if you can get people celebrating your idea, you’re pretty much there. But I don’t think that’s most of it. People like to party, and they’ll make anything they like an excuse to party. Birthdays for the individual people in your life; anniversaries for romantic partnerships. Most of the reason why there are religious holidays is that people like their religions, and so religiously significant dates naturally suggest themselves as a good excuse to have fun. People like their countries, so we get fireworks and parades and cookouts. Enough people like the idea of socialism that May Day is still a thing.

On a related note, there are a whole lot of red, socialist, and labor songs, even more nationalistic songs, and uncountably vast numbers of religious songs, but I have never heard capitalism celebrated in song. Celebrations of getting rich, yes, but nothing about how great private capital accumulation and market distribution mechanisms are.

Why are there no traditional observances for Adam Smith’s birthday or the anniversary of when the first stock market opened? I’ve never heard of otherwise — strange behavior that suddenly becomes normal one day a year in honor of the free market. The macabre gets a day, but the job creators don’t?

It’s almost enough to make you think that, even after all the years of propaganda, the wars, the false equation of subjugation to the bosses with freedom, nobody actually loves capitalism.

169-3 Democratic Socialism

Coop Trailer Parks

Residents at trailer parks are often at the mercy of the park’s owner. But not always. Sometimes, “trailer trash” rises up. At National Public Radio, Daniel Zwerdling writes:

…this was not an ordinary picnic. Residents were celebrating the fifth anniversary of a major achievement that could inspire similar communities across the country: The day they began to take more control of their lives.

Park Plaza is a mobile home park, or what industry calls a manufactured housing community. Five years ago, the residents banded together, formed a nonprofit co-op and bought their entire neighborhood from the company that owned it. Today, these residents exert democratic control over almost 9 acres of prime suburbs, with 80 manufactured houses sited on them.


169-1 Democratic Socialism

Letter from Mondragon

At Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative, Armin Isasti writes:

Cooperativism needs new forces, new points of view, new imaginations; in other words, it is necessary to rethink cooperativism so that the cooperative movement can reach other parts of the world, and in this way keep the flame of the “Mondragon Cooperative Experience” alive. In this regard, encouraging initiatives like CUCI and 1Worker1Vote have been set in motion in the United States and have a lot of potential.


Live Long and Prosper?

Peter Frase is a writer, editor at Jacobin magazine, a sociology PhD candidate at CUNY, and a University of Chicago YDS ex-pat. Frase passed through Chicago in November to flog his new book, Four Futures: Life After Capitalism. Part of his tour stop was to be interviewed by Chuck Mertz for the “This Is Hell!” radio show. A transcript of the interview is posted at antidote zine. As Verso Books describes Frase’s book:

Peter Frase argues that increasing automation and a growing scarcity of resources, thanks to climate change, will bring it all tumbling down. In Four Futures, Frase imagines how this post-capitalist world might look, deploying the tools of both social science and speculative fiction to explore what communism, rentism, socialism and exterminism might actually entail.

Could the current rise of real-life robocops usher in a world that resembles Ender’s Game? And sure, communism will bring an end to material scarcities and inequalities of wealth — but there’s no guarantee that social hierarchies, governed by an economy of “likes,” wouldn’t rise to take their place. A whirlwind tour through science fiction, social theory and the new technologies already shaping our lives, Four Futures is a balance sheet of the socialisms we may reach if a resurgent Left is successful, and the barbarisms we may be consigned to if those movements fail.

168-3 Democratic Socialism

Michael Harrington on Socialism

This particular speech by Michael Harrington was given in early 1971 at the Reynolds Club at the University of Chicago. The meeting was sponsored by the University of Chicago chapter of the Young Peoples Socialist League. In many ways, the speech is classic Harrington: a mix of the pragmatic and the utopian, with an awareness of the complexities that ideology often obscures. Some parts of the speech are 1960s quaint, but with the consequences of the Sanders movement still unfolding in this second decade of the twenty-first century, there are also aspects of the speech that are very worthwhile keeping in mind if we want the revolution to continue.

Download to listen later [right click]:

MP3 (49.4 MB) or OGG VORBIS (29.6 MB) (51:30)

The Rise of the Third Way

At Dollars & Sense, Alejandro Reuss begins:

The idea of a united Europe was not unique to neoliberal politicians or financial capitalists, even if their vision was the one that ended up winning out. Rather, this idea cut across the entire political spectrum, from forces clearly associated with giant capitalist corporations and high finance to those associated with the working-class movement. Just as there have been “anti-Europe” or “euroskeptic” forces on the political left and right, there were also diverse forces in favor of European unification, each with its own vision of what a united Europe could be.

Going back to the mid-20th century, leaders of the social democratic, reformist left envisioned a future “Social Europe.” The European Social Charter, adopted by the Council of Europe in 1961, promulgated a broad vision of “social and economic rights,” including objectives like full employment, reduction of work hours, protection of workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively, rights to social security and medical assistance, protection of the rights of migrants, and so on.

Figures on the revolutionary left, like the Belgian Marxist economist and Trotskyist leader Ernest Mandel, advocated a “United Socialist States of Europe.” This was an expression not only of revolutionary internationalism, but also of Mandel’s view that the working class could no longer confront increasingly internationalized capital through political action confined to the national level. In other words, the question was not just whether Europe would become united, but (if it did) what form such unification would take.