Several Links on Capitalism/Socialism

by Chris Sturr | March 09, 2009

Here are some links that have crossed our virtual desks on the topic(s) (roughly) of capitalism’s implosion, allegations that the bailout constitutes “socialism,” and what the crisis means for the prospects of establishing actual socialism. (These are from a variety of viewpoints.)

  • The Nation is running a series entitled “Reimagining Socialism,” which the editors introduced thus: “Socialism’s all the rage. ‘We Are All Socialists Now,’ Newsweek declares. As the right wing tells it, we’re already living in the U.S.S.A. But what do self-identified socialists (and their progressive friends) have to say about the global economic crisis? We hope that Barbara Ehrenreich and Bill Fletcher Jr.’s ‘Reimagining Socialism: Rising to the Occasion’ will kick off a spirited dialogue.”

    Here’s the link to the introductory piece by Ehrenreich and Fletcher.

    Here’s a tidbit from Immanuel Wallerstein’s piece from that series:

    The immediate short run is what concerns most people who are facing joblessness, seriously lowered income and in many cases homelessness. If left movements have no plan for this short run, they cannot connect in any meaningful way with most people.

    The second occasion is the structural crisis of capitalism as a world system, which is facing, in my opinion, its certain demise in the next twenty to forty years. This is the middle run. And if the left has no plan for this middle run, what replaces capitalism as a world system will be something worse, probably far worse, than the terrible system in which we have been living for the past five centuries.

    The two occasions require different, but combined, tactics.

    Here’s the rest.

    And here are some tidbits from Tariq Ali’s contribution:

    Before addressing the question, a few points of disagreement. Despite mocking those on the left who, in the past, saw every downturn as an opportunity to proclaim that the end of capitalism was nigh, the authors fall into the same trap. This time, we are told, the “patient may not get up from the table.” I don’t agree. Capitalism is always faced with crises, which are part of the deadly logic of an economy based on a state-buttressed market system. It has failed many times before but has recovered, including during periods when it confronted real political challenges. Its ability to adapt and survive should not be underestimated, even though it will do so, as before, at the expense of the majority it exploits.

    Until the emergence of a viable sociopolitical and economic alternative, perceived by a majority as such, there will be no final crisis of capitalism. In order to save themselves, today’s elites will consider approaches to the crisis that preserve the status quo. The choice they are faced with domestically is between establishing a public utility credit and banking operation geared to reviving a productive sector, or shoring up a discredited, deregulated Wall Street/City of London operation based on fictive capital. The bailouts in New York and London are designed to do the latter. Globally, it’s more difficult to accept a loss of Atlanticist control, but if pressure continues to mount, the Far Eastern bloc might suggest a new set of institutions based on multilateral rather than imperial control, leading to dismantling but also renewal.

    Here’s the rest.

  • Moving along, Carl Bloice at BlackCommentator.com has a piece entitled Obama and Rescuing Capitalism:
    Back in December, when it was obvious that the economy was in bad shape and before we knew how precarious it could get, Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International and columnist for Newsweek and the Washington Post, wrote, “For Obama to be remembered as a great president, he has to do nothing less than rescue capitalism.” When I first read those words my first thought was: that’s a lot of weight to put on a brother. I suppose Zakaria has had second thoughts about this as it is becoming increasingly obvious that in either the medium or the long term, it will take a lot more than the President to rescue the system. Set aside for the moment the question of the possibility or even desirability of saving capitalism; right now, most people are entrusting the President to do something about the present catastrophe.

    The fact is, capitalism is bankrupt. It’s run out of capital. “I think we just have to admit we’re broke,” says House Minority Leader John A. Boehner. A system that is supposed to be self-perpetuating—albeit with ups and downs—has come up short. It’s not that the banks are just stubborn about lending out money. It will soon become clear that many of their vaults are stuffed with near worthless paper. And so to keep going, the system must turn to the public. Funds collected through taxation to “protect the general welfare” of the country are being siphoned off into the tanks of banks, financial speculation operations and insurance companies. The government is propping them up by buying up their assets. Regrettably, the Feds are not acquiring much control over how the injected funds are used.

    Read the rest of the article.

  • And this from Martin Wolf chez the Financial Times:
    Another ideological god has failed. The assumptions that ruled policy and politics over three decades suddenly look as outdated as revolutionary socialism.

    “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” Thus quipped Ronald Reagan, hero of US conservatism. The remark seems ancient history now that governments are pouring trillions of dollars, euros and pounds into financial systems.

    “Governments bad; deregulated markets good”: how can this faith escape unscathed after Alan Greenspan, pupil of Ayn Rand and predominant central banker of the era, described himself, in congressional testimony last October, as being “in a state of shocked disbelief” over the failure of the “self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity”?

    Read the rest of the article.

  • Last but not least (and certainly not least left!), Michael Parenti weighs in in this piece from countercurrents.org:
    After the overthrow of communist governments in Eastern Europe, capitalism was paraded as the indomitable system that brings prosperity and democracy, the system that would prevail unto the end of history.

    The present economic crisis, however, has convinced even some prominent free-marketeers that something is gravely amiss. Truth be told, capitalism has yet to come to terms with several historical forces that cause it endless trouble: democracy, prosperity, and capitalism itself, the very entities that capitalist rulers claim to be fostering.

    Read the rest of the article.

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