Sunday, April 12, 2009

Socialism has failed. Now capitalism is bankrupt. So what comes next?


Notice, I will no longer be refering to you as "comrades;" I don't like the Marxist-Leninstish ring that word has to it.

Now is the time to reject fully all 20th Century socialism.

We have three issues on the agenda.

1. How to use this excellent article by Eric Hobsbawm to make our final break from Marxism.

2. A banishment in Minnesota. We have decided the way to go in solving our Minnesota Problem is through banishments. Droppings and purges no longer seem to work in the 21st Century.

3. The banning of pages 541 to 543 in William Z. Foster's book, "Outline Political History of the Americas."

I have asked our liason with the Committees of Correspondence, Danny Rubin, to prepare a series of study guides using Eric Hobsbawm's brilliant piece to be inserted in all my pamphlets to be used as study guides in all Club meetings.

Yes, Jarvis, what is it?

Sammy, we don't have any Clubs left except the ones springing up like dandelions across the Great Lakes region and you ordered a ban on all communication with those Clubs as part of your drive to banish the Minnesota Problem.

Jarvis, please don't refer to me as "Sammy."

I have noted your comments about the Clubs.

Jarvis, please listen when I speak. I did not say anything about us having Clubs. Listen carefully, I only said Danny would be preparing these educationals for Clubs.

You didn't give me an opportunity to continue; had you not been so rude and interupted me, I was about to say we are preparing these educationals for Team Obama to distribute to Democratic Party Clubs.

What now, Joelle?

Mr. Chairman the Democratic Party is only in business at election time. Only Democratic Party hacks work between elections.

Ms. Fishman; please, please. I just asked Jarvis not to interupt me.

Please don't use that term "hack." These "hacks" are our people. We couldn't afford them as staff so our coalition partners provided them with jobs.

Now, where was I?

Yes, Scott. What is it?

Friend, there is no need to be so rude to the other friends here.

Thank you, Scott. But, in the future mind your own business.

Look here my friends. Can we just get through this National Board meeting so we can go home and eat the candy the Easter Bunnies left us?

Yes, Elena; now what?

Dear, there is only one Easter Bunny.

I have just about had it. There is no way one Easter Bunny can carry so much candy all alone.

Anyways, we need to hurry up and make sure we circulate Eric Hobsbawm's very important essay here before everyone finds about about Amartya Sen who I think will replace Karl Marx when it comes to economics.

What is it Mr. Case?

Sam, my friend; what do we say about Peter Bauer?

Mr. Case, are you suggesting that Amartya Sen has some of the same baggage as John Maynard Keynes?

Oh, no, no. Nothing like that. But he does has Emma.

Yes, thank you Mr. Case. Yes, Emma. Keep in mind we still have several more floors needing remodeling. It won't hurt for us to have friends like Sen's wife Emma. We could use a few more benefactors like Emma. I can understand where Eric Hobsbawm figures Sen has good economic sense because he chose Emma for his third wife so he doesn't have to worry about poverty.

Yes, Mr. de le Piana. What is it?

Comrade. I mean friend. Do you know if Emma has a single sister?

No, Mr. de le Piana I do not know if Emma has a single sister. If she does, do you think I would be standing here talking to you?

Please, please. Everyone. Can we just get through this so we can get to our candy.

Yes, Sue. What do you want?

Hun, do you know if Emma has a single brother?

No, Sue, I don't know. Besides, if she does I doubt he would be looking for a cougar. And please don't continue calling me "hun."

Finally. Thank you Judy for the motion to distribute this fine piece of revisionism by Eric Hobsbawm.

Do I hear a second?

We have a second.

All in favor signify by saying, "Yea." Ok, the yea's have it.

Now. Agenda item two. Banishing that fricken Stalinist in Minnesota. I am so fricken sick and tired of hearing about "people's bailout," "people's front," "people's lobby." Pretty soon we will probably be hearing about some kind of fricken "people's party."

Thank you for the motion Judy.

All in favor of banishing that Stalinist ultra-leftist Browderite S.O.B. in Minnesota signify by saying, "Yea."

Motion to banish carries.

Yes Mother Teresa, what's on your mind?

Friend Chairman, you forgot to ask for "no" votes.

Mother Teresa. Had I wanted "no" votes I would have called for "no" votes and not requested "yea" votes; dah.

Who knows how to carry out a banishment? No one?

Jarvis, can you call Frank Fertitta to see how we go about doing this? Check with Brownstein/Hyatt/Farber/Schreck to make sure its all done legal like.

I don't think we need a motion on the third agenda item.

We took a lot of heat for liquidating the books by Gus Hall. I'm not going through that again.

I am just going to use my position as the revisionist Chair of this dwindling Party to order all copies of William Z. Foster's book, "Outline Political History of the Americas" to have pages 541 to 543 about working class political independence ripped out of them. I'll send a memo over to Tamiment Libray and I'll e-mail all librairies to remove these pages. This is a lot easier than going through the rigger mo roll of banning the entire book.

Happy Easter everyone.

God bless you.

God bless America.

Sam W.
Chair, CPUSA

Socialism has failed. Now capitalism is bankrupt. So
what comes next?

Whatever ideological logo we adopt, the shift from free market to public action needs to be bigger than politicians grasp

By Eric Hobsbawm
The Guardian (UK)
April 10 2009

The 20th century is well behind us, but we have not yet
learned to live in the 21st, or at least to think in a
way that fits it. That should not be as difficult as it
seems, because the basic idea that dominated economics
and politics in the last century has patently
disappeared down the plughole of history. This was the
way of thinking about modern industrial economies, or
for that matter any economies, in terms of two mutually
exclusive opposites: capitalism or socialism.

We have lived through two practical attempts to realise
these in their pure form: the centrally state-planned
economies of the Soviet type and the totally
unrestricted and uncontrolled free-market capitalist
. The first broke down in the 1980s, and the
European communist political systems with it. The
second is breaking down before our eyes in the greatest
crisis of global capitalism since the 1930s. In some
ways it is a greater crisis than in the 1930s, because
the globalisation of the economy was not then as far
advanced as it is today, and the crisis did not affect
the planned economy of the Soviet Union. We don't yet
know how grave and lasting the consequences of the
present world crisis will be, but they certainly mark
the end of the sort of free-market capitalism that
captured the world and its governments in the years
since Margaret Thatcher and President Reagan.

Impotence therefore faces both those who believe in
what amounts to a pure, stateless, market capitalism, a
sort of international bourgeois anarchism, and those
who believe in a planned socialism uncontaminated by
private profit-seeking. Both are bankrupt. The future,
like the present and the past, belongs to mixed
economies in which public and private are braided
together in one way or another. But how? That is the
problem for everybody today, but especially for people
on the left.

Nobody seriously thinks of returning to the socialist
systems of the Soviet type - not only because of their
political faults, but also because of the increasing
sluggishness and inefficiency of their economies -
though this should not lead us to underestimate their
impressive social and educational achievements. On the
other hand, until the global free market imploded last
year, even the social-democratic or other moderate left
parties in the rich countries of northern capitalism
and Australasia had committed themselves more and more
to the success of free-market capitalism. Indeed,
between the fall of the USSR and now I can think of no
such party or leader denouncing capitalism as
unacceptable. None were more committed to it than New
. In their economic policies both Tony Blair and
(until October 2008) Gordon Brown could be described
without real exaggeration as Thatcher in trousers. The
same is true of the Democratic party in the US.

The basic Labour idea since the 1950s was that
socialism was unnecessary, because a capitalist system
could be relied on to flourish and to generate more
wealth than any other. All socialists had to do was to
ensure its equitable distribution. But since the 1970s
the accelerating surge of globalisation made it more
and more difficult and fatally undermined the
traditional basis of the Labour party's, and indeed any
social-democratic party's, support and policies. Many
in the 1980s agreed that if the ship of Labour was not
to founder, which was a real possibility at the time,
it would have to be refitted.

But it was not refitted. Under the impact of what it
saw as the Thatcherite economic revival, New Labour
since 1997 swallowed the ideology, or rather the
theology, of global free-market fundamentalism whole.
Britain deregulated its markets, sold its industries to
the highest bidder, stopped making things to export
(unlike Germany, France and Switzerland) and put its
money on becoming the global centre of financial
services and therefore a paradise for zillionaire
money-launderers. That is why the impact of the world
crisis on the pound and the British economy today is
likely to be more catastrophic than on any other major
western economy - and full recovery may well be harder.

You may say that's all over now. We're free to return
to the mixed economy. The old toolbox of Labour is
available again - everything up to nationalisation - so
let's just go and use the tools once again, which
Labour should never have put away. But that suggests we
know what to do with them. We don't. For one thing, we
don't know how to overcome the present crisis. None of
the world's governments, central banks or international
financial institutions
know: they are all like a blind
man trying to get out of a maze by tapping the walls
with different kinds of sticks in the hope of finding
the way out. For another, we underestimate how addicted
governments and decision-makers still are to the free-
market snorts that have made them feel so good for
decades. Have we really got away from the assumption
that private profit-making enterprise is always a
better, because more efficient, way of doing things?
That business organisation and accountancy should be
the model even for public service, education and
research? That the growing chasm between the super-rich
and the rest doesn't matter that much, so long as
everybody else (except the minority of the poor) is
getting a bit better off? That what a country needs is
under all circumstances maximum economic growth and
commercial competitiveness? I don't think so.

But a progressive policy needs more than just a bigger
break with the economic and moral assumptions of the
past 30 years. It needs a return to the conviction that
economic growth and the affluence it brings is a means
and not an end. The end is what it does to the lives,
life-chances and hopes of people. Look at London. Of
course it matters to all of us that London's economy
flourishes. But the test of the enormous wealth
generated in patches of the capital is not that it
contributed 20%-30% to Britain's GDP but how it affects
the lives of the millions who live and work there. What
kind of lives are available to them? Can they afford to
live there? If they can't, it is not compensation that
London is also a paradise for the ultra-rich. Can they
get decently paid jobs or jobs at all? If they can't,
don't brag about all those Michelin-starred restaurants
and their self-dramatising chefs. Or schooling for
children? Inadequate schools are not offset by the fact
that London universities could field a football team of
Nobel prize winners.

The test of a progressive policy is not private but
public, not just rising income and consumption for
individuals, but widening the opportunities and what
Amartya Sen calls the "capabilities" of all through
collective action. But that means, it must mean, public
non-profit initiative, even if only in redistributing
private accumulation. Public decisions aimed at
collective social improvement from which all human
lives should gain. That is the basis of progressive
policy - not maximising economic growth and personal
. Nowhere will this be more important than in
tackling the greatest problem facing us this century,
the environmental crisis. Whatever ideological logo we
choose for it, it will mean a major shift away from the
free market and towards public action, a bigger shift
than the British government has yet envisaged. And,
given the acuteness of the economic crisis, probably a
fairly rapid shift. Time is not on our side. _____

Eric Hobsbawm's most recent publication is On Empire:
America, War, and Global Supremacy

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited 2009


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