Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Parliamentary Radicalism

"But thwap! If you're poo-pooing the massive people's march against climate change yesterday, and calling for (unstated) radical alternatives to marching, why the fuck do you believe in voting and parliamentary politics????"

I know exactly why I'm doing this. I think it's more powerful to pass a law telling capitalists (or any other oppressor) that they have to do something, rather than pleading (or "demanding" as we like to delude ourselves we're doing) that they do something.

After the landslide victory of the British Labour Party in 1945, one of their members Hartley Shawcross (apparently, later "Baron" Shawcross) responded to hooting and hollering from the Tory side of the House about a trade union disputes act, and said that the members opposite can carry on all they wanted to but that "We are the masters at the moment and shall be for some considerable time."

This has been remembered as I remember hearing it: "We are the masters now." The link goes on to say that this seemingly arrogant statement caused his reputation a great deal of damage and was, if anything, uncharacteristic of the man. But I think it would be an excellent thing to say to the brainless shills of the Conservative Party, and the corporate fucks in the Liberal Party, and to any capitalist lackey politician, once a majority of people's representatives were elected behind a genuinely democratic mandate. It would be a great thing for the majority to say to the wealthy minority, once their power was broken.

And their power could be broken through "Workers as Citizens." Because it is the power of money that weakens and undermines the latent power of "one person, one vote." That's why our system of representative democracy is unable to deliver the goods. There was a moment in time, 1945, when the capitalist system was off-balance. Whatever the real causes of the Great Depression, that economic catastrophe discredited the capitalist system. And, what's more, the ability of the capitalist nation-states to find the money to fight World War II and thereby provide full-employment, when they'd spent ten years telling people that they couldn't fight unemployment in the Great Depression, REALLY got people angry. The Fordist system of production made it union organizing relatively easier. The almost simultaneous (for historical purposes) arrival of universal suffrage meant that elites had to square the experiences of the fifteen years before 1945 with the reality of mass elections.

And thus, the welfare state was born. And living standards improved markedly all across the board. And the capitalists and their minions set to work trying to discredit and undermine it from the very beginning. Whatever the merits of their case (and they were few) the economic crisis of the 1970s was their moment to say that the postwar compromise was finished. And 1980 (with Thatcher and Reagan in power, and with the crackpot ideas of Milton Friedman in the ascendant) was when the counter-attack began.

And it was the fact that the postwar compromise had left real power still in the hands of the capitalists that made the job all the easier. The US Federal Reserve answered to the financial sector, not the people. It obeyed the Friedmanite order to raise interest rates and through millions of people out of work, devastating the power of labour. Industrialists could decide to invest or not invest. And, thanks to the beginnings of globalization, they could invest anywhere in the world. They'd invest wherever labour standards were lowest. The workers of the wealthy countries were now put in direct competition with workers in poor countries. Industrialists could move factories to wherever they wanted. They could automate those jobs that they couldn't export.  They could punish governments that didn't entrench their powers into investor rights deals (which they called "free trade" deals), and reward those that toed the line. They were then advised to attack the welfare state, and labour unions, and everything else that gives ordinary people a chance, a pause, a place to stop and gather their breath, an independent source of subsistence and dignity.

And, because standing up to them meant economic crisis, politicians obeyed. And because command economics (as in the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China) and development economics (in the then-named "Third World") had failed, and because "social democratic" policies that refused to deal with the realities of power in a capitalist society had failed, people came to believe that (as Thatcher put it) "There Is No Alternative."

But there IS an alternative. A public sector run by the workers and the people and a democratically elected government! Independent workplaces where the workers have a commanding say in how things are run! A government that can set taxation and social spending and regulations according to the needs and demands of the majority and not a minority!

All of this is possible if we use the democratic system to give workers this power as a legal right.

I mean, for fuck's sake! What are the alternatives that most everybody else is offering?

In the USA the hope of most progressives, the Democratic Party, at one time controlled the presidency and both houses of Congress. What happened? They bailed-out the banksters and continued the bullshit War on Terror.

Does anyone seriously expect either the Liberals or the New Democrats to behave any differently here in Canada(that is, without a radicalized MASS movement FIGHTING for genuine change)? The Democrats are totally corrupt, but the NDP does what it does out of fear. It does what it does out of a misguided attempt to show the business class that it is "responsible."

And why should progressive Liberal Party politicians, or progressive NDP politicians listen to the radicals? What do the radicals have to offer? Insignificant numbers and ZERO analysis.

"Throw a rock through a window."

I mean, seriously, what the fuck?

Other left-wingers come up with excellent critiques of the status-quo and excellent models of how institutions could be run, but without dealing with the root of the problem, the control over the economy (and to a great extent, the culture) of our society, their points are moot.

Read this post and then get back to me on how unrealistic my ideas are. (Read this post too.) And, all the while, reflect on the goddamned reality that nobody else has come up with anything of any practical impact in all the years I've been crying in the wilderness.

I am so fucking sick of this bullshit.

Unlike childish and deluded radicals, I acknowledge the historical reality of the resilience of the Anglo-American political system. I acknowledge the historical reality of the unintended consequences of revolutionary upheaval. (In this, I am on the side of the vast majority of people who reject the radicals' idiotic calls for everyone to smash the system and then take a a leap into the revolutionary dark.)

THAT is why I have so much care for our present quasi-democratic system and all that was achieved over centuries of struggle. I do not pretend to know how the world should be arranged, how it should function day-to-day. I just know that
people should have a say in their conditions of employment, and whether they should even be employed. I don't advocate destroying the political system we have. I advocate using it to its maximum potential, and then, gradually strengthening it once the overwhelming power of capital against the people has been eliminated. I don't advocate destroying the economic system we have. At first, under "Workers as Citizens" there will be supply and demand. There will be wage inequality. There will be the profit motive. But then, using unemployment as a weapon will be gone. Attacking whistle-blowers will be gone. Threatening the people's representatives with retaliation for majoritarian policies will be gone.

"Workers as Citizens" is like that missile fired into that convenient ventilation shaft in the Death Star in "Star Wars." (Except that it doesn't blow everything to Kingdom Come afterwards. I don't know! Pretend that instead, the missile makes flowers bloom everywhere, like the climax of "Yellow Submarine" and the Death Star becomes a floating hospital/cruise ship in space or something.)

The majority of people need to get behind something, and that's only going to happen if we give them something that is familiar to them. Something that doesn't alienate them. Something that speaks in the language they're familiar with.

And we, the supposedly full-time world-changers, have to get it through our thick skulls that wandering around in large groups for an afternoon doesn't fucking change anything. Millions marching against bush II's invasion of Iraq in 2003 didn't stop that invasion and all the horrors that followed. The march against climate change last Sunday, ... how much influence can you see it had on Obama or harper?

Gawd! I am so fucking sick of this bullshit!!!


greg said...

I read the counterpunch story you suggested. IT left me sad obviously. I still think that -- I got no fucking clue.

Trudeau. Jesus. Fully supporting CETA before he's even read the thing. OR maybe he has, but ....

What the hell is he gonna do once he gets in power. HE's got no agenda. The right is going to tear him to shreads for anything at all. And the left is gonna criticize him for doing nothing on the issues.

It's cloudy and cool.

Anonymous said...

i agree. What the fuck is the point anymore?

I say enjoy the company

(love the one you're with)

of whomevever's


you're blessed