Tag Archives: Socialism

Socialism: A short primer

By E.J. Dionne, Jr. and William A. Galston – Something new is happening in American politics.

Although most Americans continue to oppose socialism, it has reentered electoral politics and is enjoying an upsurge in public support unseen since the days of Eugene V. Debs.

The three questions we will be focusing on are: Why has this happened? What does today’s “democratic socialism” mean in contrast with past versions? And what are the political implications?

It’s worth recalling how important socialism once was at the ballot box to understand that this tradition has deeper roots in our history than many imagine. In the 1912 presidential election, Debs secured six percent of the popular vote, and Socialists held 1,200 offices in 340 cities, their ranks including 79 mayors.

The crash of 2008, rising inequality, and an intensifying critique of how contemporary capitalism works has brought socialism back into the mainstream—in some ways even more powerfully than in Debs’ time, since those who use the label have become an influential force in the Democratic Party.

Running as a democratic socialist, Sen. Bernie Sanders received 45 percent of the Democratic primary vote in 2016, and in the 2018 mid-term elections, members of Democratic Socialists of America were among the prominent Democratic victors. Their ranks included Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who quickly became one of the country’s best-known politicians.

The economic and financial collapse of 2008-2009 undermined the claim that the economy had entered a new era of stability and moderation. Experts who had preached the virtues of self-regulation were forced to recant. The slow recovery from the Great Recession left many Americans wondering whether they would ever regain the income and wealth they had lost. more>

Is America’s future capitalist or socialist?

By Ezra Klein – In American politics, and particularly in the Democratic Party, the primacy of capitalism is, for the first time in ages, an open question.

Sanders is expected to run again in 2020, and to run with the support of a grassroots movement that thrills to his break with capitalist convention. He’ll face, among others, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who says one key difference between her and Sanders is that she’s “a capitalist to my bones.”

But what are the actual differences between liberal reformers of capitalism, like Warren and Pearlstein, and democratic socialists, like Sanders? I invited Pearlstein to discuss his book, and the broader capitalism vs. socialism divide, with Bhaskar Sunkara, editor of the journal Jacobin, and author of the forthcoming book, The Socialist Manifesto. Their debate follows, lightly edited for style and length.

A CEO like Charles Wilson could say “what was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa,” but he was responding to the same exact market pressures as CEOs today. The only difference is that he was constrained by unions and a liberal political coalition.

Social democracy was always predicated on economic expansion. Expansion gave succor to both the working class and capital. When growth slowed and the demands of workers made deeper inroads into firm profits, business owners rebelled against the class compromise. And they were in the structural position to force their own solutions, even in countries like Sweden where there were experiments with wage-earner funds and other left-solutions to the crisis. more>

The Soviet InterNyet

Soviet scientists tried for decades to network their nation. What stalemated them is now fracturing the global internet

BOOK REVIEW
How Not to Network a Nation: The Uneasy History of the Soviet Internet, Author: Benjamin Peters.

By Benjamin Peters – First proposed in 1962, the All-State Automated System, or OGAS, was intended to become a real-time, remote-access national computer network built on preexisting and new telephony wires. In its most ambitious version, it would span most of the Eurasian continent, mapping itself like a nervous system onto every factory and enterprise in the planned economy.

The forces that brought down OGAS resemble those that eventually undid the Soviet Union: the surprisingly informal forms of institutional misbehavior. Subversive ministers, status quo-inclined bureaucrats, nervous factory managers, confused workers and even other economic reformers opposed the OGAS project because it was in their institutional self-interest to do so. Without state funding and oversight, the national network project for ushering in electronic socialism splintered in the 1970s and ’80s into a patchwork of dozens and then hundreds of isolated, non-interoperable factory local-area control systems.

The Soviet state failed to network their nation not because it was too rigid or top-down in design but because it was too fickle and pernicious in practice.

There is an irony to this. The first global computer networks took root in the US thanks to well-regulated state funding and collaborative research environments, while the contemporary (and notably independent) national network efforts in the USSR floundered due to unregulated competition and institutional infighting among Soviet administrators. The first global computer network emerged thanks to capitalists behaving like cooperative socialists, not socialists behaving like competitive capitalists.

In the fate of the Soviet internet we can glimpse a clear and present warning to the future of the internet. Today the ‘internet’ – understood as a single global network of networks for advancing informational liberty, democracy and commerce – is in serious decline. more> https://goo.gl/Ha9MmF

Are You Ready To Consider That Capitalism Is The Real Problem?

BOOK REVIEW

The Divide: A Brief History of Global Inequality and Its Solutions, Author: Jason Hickel.

By Jason Hickel and Martin Kirk – A full three-quarters of people in major capitalist economies believe that big businesses are basically corrupt.

Why do people feel this way?

It’s because they realize—either consciously or at some gut level—that there’s something fundamentally flawed about a system that has a prime directive to churn nature and humans into capital, and do it more and more each year, regardless of the costs to human well-being and to the environment we depend on.

That’s what capitalism is, at its root.

What might a better world look like? There are a million ideas out there. We can start by changing how we understand and measure progress.

We can change that.

People want health care and education to be social goods, not market commodities, so we can choose to put public goods back in public hands. People want the fruits of production and the yields of our generous planet to benefit everyone, rather than being siphoned up by the super-rich, so we can change tax laws and introduce potentially transformative measures like a universal basic income. more> https://goo.gl/ntiMQr

Socialism should begin with what it is for, not what it is against

BOOK REVIEW

Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, Author: John von Neumann & Oskar Morgenstern.

Hubris: Why Economists Failed to Predict the Crisis and How to Avoid the Next One, Author: Meghnad Desai.

By Alex Gourevitch – Another latent desire might be to think about the development of one’s own capacities independent of their monetary value.

Words like ‘human capital,’ ‘human resources,’ or ‘leveraging abilities,’ are the watchwords of our capitalist society. They speak volumes about how we think about our skills and talents. We are encouraged to see them instrumentally, like we would a stock portfolio, rather than as something connected to our own life projects.

In our society, whether someone is willing to pay for it is the dominant measure, and, so it appears, the more someone pays the more urgent the need that we satisfy. As reasonable as this sounds in any given instance, we know that on the whole, given the extreme inequality in wealth and income and the lack of democratic control over production, we end up serving not the most urgent needs but the needs of the wealthiest.

The development of our abilities is subordinated to the need to make a living, and the jobs that count towards making a living depend disproportionately on the needs of the best off. more> http://tinyurl.com/ov26jyr

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