163-3 Democratic Socialism

Unions Join Co-ops in Cincinnati

At Grassroots Economic Organizing, Michelle Camou reports:

Unions met with worker cooperatives November 13th and 14th to consider how the two can work together to build an economy balancing profits with wider ownership, higher labor standards, environmental conservation, and community well-being. The Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative (CUCI) organized the symposium connecting varied unions with worker co-ops or planned co-ops across the country.

The vision promoted by symposium organizers is this: worker cooperatives can fuel economic growth for marginalized communities and opportunity for workers across the United States. In such a scenario, worker-owners would hold equity in the companies employing them and exercise voice at work through the principle of “one worker one vote.” Unions would maintain their purpose in such a system, even when workers have authority in the workplace, because interests as owners can come up against interests as workers. The union role would include negotiating collective bargaining agreements, handling grievance proceedings, and addressing other conflicts that might arise, just as they do in standard unionized workplaces.

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At the End of the Tunnel: Daylight or Headlight?

At The Guardian, Paul Mason writes:

The scene is Kentish Town, London, February 1858, sometime around 4am. Marx is a wanted man in Germany and is hard at work scribbling thought-experiments and notes-to-self. When they finally get to see what Marx is writing on this night, the left intellectuals of the 1960s will admit that it “challenges every serious interpretation of Marx yet conceived”. It is called “The Fragment on Machines”.

In the “Fragment” Marx imagines an economy in which the main role of machines is to produce, and the main role of people is to supervise them. He was clear that, in such an economy, the main productive force would be information. The productive power of such machines as the automated cotton-spinning machine, the telegraph and the steam locomotive did not depend on the amount of labour it took to produce them but on the state of social knowledge. Organisation and knowledge, in other words, made a bigger contribution to productive power than the work of making and running the machines.

Given what Marxism was to become — a theory of exploitation based on the theft of labour time — this is a revolutionary statement. It suggests that, once knowledge becomes a productive force in its own right, outweighing the actual labour spent creating a machine, the big question becomes not one of “wages versus profits” but who controls what Marx called the “power of knowledge”.

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Who Needs Anarchists? Or Marxists?

At Los Angeles Review of Books, Malcolm Harris reviews Unruly Equality by Andrew Cornell. Harris begins:

IN AN 1875 letter to German socialist politician August Bebel, Friedrich Engels complained — on behalf of himself and Karl Marx — about being teased by anarchists. Bebel’s Social Democratic Workers’ Party was merging with the General German Workers’ Association, the latter of which advocated a parliamentary road to socialism rather than a revolutionary one.

When the unified party forwarded their draft platform, Engels and Marx were embarrassed. They wanted to be clear about their theoretical position in this especially high-stakes situation. Germany was integral to international communist strategy, and if a unified front got off on the wrong foot it could have had catastrophic consequences for the movement. “Remember that abroad we [he and Marx] are held responsible for any and every statement and action of the German Social-Democratic Workers’ Party,” Engels writes to Bebel. “The people’s state has been flung in our teeth ad nauseam by the anarchists.”

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Zoning

Conservatives and libertarians tend to dismiss anything connected to the State as “socialism”, especially if they don’t approve of whatever is going on. On the left, the relation to the State is more ambivalent, but planning (“democratic”, of course) remains part of the program. So how does zoning, as an example of public planning in the context of a market economy, work in Chicago? Daniel Kay Hertz takes a look HERE.

163-2 Democratic Socialism

Chanukah and Class Struggle
At Religious Socialism, Ilan Fuchs writes:

Chanukah is probably the best-known Jewish festival among non-Jews. In the spirit of a multicultural society it is mentioned along side other holidays celebrated in America. Unfortunately it is mostly presented as a Jewish opportunity for consumerism, one more reason to spend money many people do not have and give presents to people who do not really need or want more things.

It might be a surprise for many readers to learn that the celebration is commemorating a very different sentiment — that of freedom from oppression — both from external enemies but also from internal economic oppression….

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Democratic Socialism

What Is Democratic Socialism?
For several years either side of the turn of the century, Dissent Magazine became… uncomfortable with the label “socialist”. They haven’t quite gotten over it, but well before even the Great Recession, they began once again to give the matter some serious attention. Apropos the Bernie Sanders campaign, the editors have dug into the archives and pulled out an interesting selection of essays spanning the years 1954 through 2010. You can find it HERE.

The folks at Jacobin provided a similar exercise, but directed specifically at Sander’s speech defining his outlook on democratic socialism. You can find it HERE.