Further greetings to those diehard followers of the blog, once more from inside 'the Bunker' in NYC, this time due to some literal teething problems that have exposed me to the much maligned US healthcare system - which as I expected, was excellent, if a little pricey. Anyhow, it will not have escaped people's notice that arguably the greatest symbol of Capitalism, New York's Wall Street has currently been 'occupied' by protesters for about 3 weeks. This has excited significant media attention across the world. Some ill advised forays against the NYPD, whose admitted partial over-reaction has instead of dousing the fire, roused it, has intensified the spotlight. With the protest showing no sign of being over, despite the Police actions, perhaps it's best to look at the protestors somewhat myriad demands in a little more detail. Helpfully, veteran Leftist Richard D Wolff, a supporter of similar popular protest movements in countries such as Cuba ( at least until 1959) and Vietnam (at least until 1975) has outlined what he hopes will be the end result in today's Guardian
'Let me urge the occupiers to ignore the usual carping that besets powerful social movements in their earliest phases. Yes, you could be better organised, your demands more focused, your priorities clearer. All true, but in this moment, mostly irrelevant. Here is the key: if we want a mass and deep-rooted social movement of the left to re-emerge and transform the United States, we must welcome the many different streams, needs, desires, goals, energies and enthusiasms that inspire and sustain social movements. Now is the time to invite, welcome and gather them, in all their profusion and confusion.'
Leave aside the fact that approximately 5000 protestors is dwarfed by the population of one Manhattan street, but the message is not that objectionable. However much I disagree with denizens of the Hard Left in any form, they are free to express their opinion (although like some other right wingers I notice this tolerance does not extend from some on the left to anyone deemed 'right wing' especially in regards to race) - Thus we see, thus far a gathering of a whole raft of single issue pressure groups and Left wing activists, which is all well and good.
However, with the ensuing paragraphs, the true agenda becomes clear:
'So permit me, in the spirit of honoring and contributing something to this historic movement, to propose yet another dimension, another item to add to your agenda for social change. To achieve the goals of this renewed movement, we must finally change the organisation of production that sustains and reproduces inequality and injustice. We need to replace the failed structure of our corporate enterprises that now deliver profits to so few, pollute the environment we all depend on, and corrupt our political system'
So the red fist within the Green glove becomes clear - we are to replace the existing 'economic system' and replace it with what precisely, Richard?
'We need to end stock markets and boards of directors. The capacity to produce the goods and services we need should belong to everyone – just like the air, water, healthcare, education and security on which we likewise depend. We need to bring democracy to our enterprises. The workers within and the communities around enterprises can and should collectively shape how work is organised, what gets produced, and how we make use of the fruits of our collective efforts'
A classic paragraph - and seemingly ignorant of the history of the past century. Richard, Newsflash for you, my old son - There was a country that did exactly what you suggested. Perhaps you've heard of it - comprising much of the landmass of Europe and Asia, and stretching across 11 time zones, it lasted from bloody beginnings in 1917 for 74 years and was so vast, even it's dismemberment into 15 separate 'official' states left it's largest statelet as the world's biggest country - it was called the USSR. As I say, I'm assuming with your academic background, you've encountered it? Ah, but anticipating that objection, what's this we see?
'We all know that moving in this direction will elicit the screams of "socialism" from the usual predictable corners. The tired rhetoric lives on long after the cold war that orchestrated it fades out of memory. The audience for that rhetoric is fast fading, too. It is long overdue in the US for us to have a genuine conversation and struggle over our current economic system. Capitalism has gotten a free pass for far too long.'
So the rhetoric is 'tired and faded' is it Richard? I'd suggest you visit Russia, or more enlighteningly for you, The former COMECON states of Eastern Europe to see just what their memories (and I agree they are fading all too quickly) of genuine socialism are - I'm not sure you offering to recreate it will win you many friends in Vilnius, Tallinn, Riga or indeed even Tirana or Skopje.
However, let us assume, for a moment, that like some political alchemist, you can manufacture a system that doesn't go down the lines of every other collectivist regime I've ever seen, and grant that what happened in Eastern Europe was a long and disastrous anomaly, - what then?
'Humanity learned to do without kings and emperors and slave masters. We found our way to a democratic alternative, however partial and unfinished the democratic project remains. We can now take the next step to realise that democratic project. We can bring democracy to our enterprises – by transforming them into cooperatives owned, operated and governed by democratic assemblies composed of all who work in them and all the residents of the communities who are interdependent with them.'
I'd argue this paragraph betrays such a misunderstanding of human nature, it's hard to know where to begin. Ask the people of another socialist icon (although unlike Cuba and Vietnam this seems to be 'persona non grata' for the Left over here and in the UK - perhaps it's too close to genuine socialism for comfort - the truth can be very painful), the Korea DPR, whether humanity 'has learned to do without Kings and Slave masters', as a third generation of hereditary tyrant is groomed for power, with a network of gulags at his disposal. Indeed, in fairness, you could look to autocratic regimes across Central Asia of an ultr-nationalist bent in Uzbekistan, Tajikstan and Turkmenistan and see much the same. As for your demand that the economy be transformed into 'cooperatives owned, operated and governed by democratic assemblies composed of all who work in them' it's been tried before, and the results weren't pretty.
However, despite it's blatant flaws, I'm grateful to this article for revealing who the intellectual influences behind the 'Occupy wall Street' protesters really are - vicious, retread socialists who were thwarted in their desire for Global Socialism two decades ago, but have seized on the admittedly dire economic situation, and taken advantage of many Americans profound ignorance of the world outside the USA, to reiterate the old rhetoric 'of democracy and economic freedom' , knowing what the actual reality was and, in places like Cuba and North Korea, still is. One of my favourite works of 'alternate history' is the Philip K. Dick novel, The Man in the High Castle, a dystopian novel posited in the alternate future wherein the Axis WON World War Two and a new 'Cold War' had developed between Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. If we follow Wolff's prescriptions, I think some future writer might posit a future whereby the USSR Won the Cold War and the World lived under primarily Communist rule. My greatest fear is that the naive 'Occupy Wall Street' protesters are doing their utmost to make that less of a dream, more a reality......