As a faithful reader of many so-called 'progressive' magazines and books, my frustration with the Empire into which I was born increases daily. Such much hand-wringing to so little effect! So many voices in the wilder-ness! So many groups devoted to decisive change, each with its own leader and agenda, often acting together but incapable of forming an organized whole. A mortally wounded European welfare state facing real fascists can still call upon the vigor and might of trade unions harking back more than a century. Yet when Volkswagen tries to get trade union elections in its U.S. factories, the bosses can defeat it, caring little that the German car manufacturer could pass on creating more U.S. jobs.
Now Francis Goldin, an intellectual who has not hesitated to join the barricades, has edited a book that in the best revolutionary tradition combines analysis, theory and practice. In her preface Goldin suggests its range when she confesses that it is one of two things she has wanted to do before passing from the scene, the other being to see Mumia Abu-Jamal freed. Typical of a work that combines theory with practice, are two quotes:
The mainstream media and the powers that be have made the word "socialism" frightening, foreign, unpatriotic, and menacing. It threatens their ill-gotten gains, so the idea of workers sharing in the wealth that their sweat and toil has generated has to be labeled "un-American.
Democracy and capitalism have very different beliefs about the proper distribution of power...One [democracy] believes in a completely equal distribution of political power, 'one man, one vote,' while the other [capitalism] believes that it is the duty of the economically fit to drive the unfit out of business and into extinction....Capitalism is perfectly compatible with slavery. Democracy is not.
For someone who spent six years behind the Iron Curtain (voluntarily), the analysis of a crucial element that explains the failure of the Soviet system was particularly enlightening:
Soviet state enterprises largely retained the basic four-part capitalist organizational system. Instead of corporate boards of directors, a council of ministers reserved for itself the same basic decisions. As in a capitalist corporation, the council was a different group of people from those doing the direct work of producing goods and services-- so the relationship between it and those direct workers was also exploitative. Instead of private shareholders choosing a board of directors, the Soviet government and Communist Party selected the members of the council of ministers and influenced its distribution of the surpluses that it appropriated from state enterprises. Finally, the council basically hired the enterprise's workers.
One of the greatest faults of the American left is its failure to acknowledge the overarching importance of the climate crisis. This issue is confronted head-on by Joel Kovel in the second chapter: "The Future Will Be Ecosocialist, Because Without Ecosocialism, There Will Be No Future".
At the other end of the spectrum of political concerns, in "Personal, Emotional, and Sexual Life Without Capita-lism", Harriet Fraad and Tess Fraad-Wolff describe how:
Capitalism's reach stretches into the bedroom . Pornography is a multibillion-dollar industry; pornographic images and videos are widely accessible via the Internet. Millions of men and some women are purchasing solitary experiences even in sex, which is supposed to be about reciprocal connection; they are sitting alone with manufactured images that often contain degrading, racist, sexist, or violent messages about gender relationships and sexual intimacy.
Imagine a sexual life where people prefer the experience of intimate connection with an equal human being over profit-driven, degrading pornographic images. Imagine teaching children that sex is a mutually pleasurable connection . Here we might learn from social-democratic Sweden, which begins sex education in the first grade. It starts by teaching about how the flowers need to be pollinated to grow, continues through learning the intricate workings of the human body, and culminates in high school with talking about respect and caring for each other as well as any future children. Imagine the celebration of all kinds of mutual loving connections: gay, straight, and transgender.
No less an authority than Frances Fox Piven sees "Welfare in a New Society as An End to Intentional Impoverishment and Degradation":
If we want to strive for better policies in a transformed society, at least three principles must be observed. First, we should try to provide at least a subsistence-level income for everyone. Obviously, this would hugely benefit the poor , as many impoverished people are not helped at all by current assistance programs, and the ones who do get aid receive such meager benefits that they remain desperately poor. For example, the maximum benefit for a family of three lucky enough to receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families in New York City is now $ 577 a month, far below the cost of renting even a squalid and tiny apartment, with nothing left over for other expenses. It would not only be the very poor who would benefit from an income guarantee. The old English principle of "less eligibility" was based on the understanding that relief benefits set a kind of floor below which wages could not fall, for the simple reason that many people might then forsake work for relief. The implications of this logic are clear. A guaranteed income not conditioned on work would strengthen the market power of low-wage workers. It would have a liberating effect on many other workers as well.
And a dead serious Michael Moore quotes Marx:
Labor cannot emancipate itself in white skin where it is branded in black skin. The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.
Moore also tells us that:
John Brown expressed socialist sentiments before his raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859. "All captured or confiscated property and all property the product of the labor of those belonging to this organization and of their families, shall be held as the property of the whole, equally, without distinction, and may be used for the common benefit," he wrote. He imagined a United States where all "shall be held as under obligation to labor in some way for the general good.
Other contributors include Ajamu Baraka, Juan Gonzalez, Arun Gupta, William Ayers, Michael Ratner and Paul Le Blanc, who envisions "The Third American Revolution: How Socialism Can Come to the United States."
All those who care about the present and the future should rush to read and implement this book's ideas - instead of continuing to analyze the endless ways in which a situation that dishonors us all persists.