Sunday, June 4, 2017

Do we have to overthrow capitalism to really save the planet?

Why do so many of the smartest people I know identify themselves as socialist/Marxists? And sprinkle their conversations with comments blaming capitalism for all the ills of society?

I tend to place the blame on the species homo sapiens, ultimately the greatest destructive force in natural history, which one day will leave devastation behind that no form of government can save us from. It's human nature, which many Marxists seem the disparage -- man can be shaped, etc. How has that worked out in the so-called socialist/communist countries over the past century?

So I put forth this rambling rant on the weekend of the Left Forum, which so many of my MORE friends have been attending - (I am not) - there is a MORE session on Save the Union today.

I saw the title quote in a post by someone I have a lot of respect for -- and it triggered my usual thoughts when I see comments linked to the idea that only ending capitalism will save humanity. Various versions of socialism have not done all that well either.

At another time I will ruminate on how the ideas of many socialists as applied to a small caucus in the UFT at times leaves me mildly amused.

Many socialist parties/orgs - and Unity Caucus - operate under the idea of democratic centralism -- the group decides, supposedly democratically, and then everyone must go along even if they disagree --- but we often find there's a hell of a lot more centralism than democracy.

Mike Schirtzer recently commented: Democratic centralism and social justice unionism- a losing formula -- why? Because SJ unionism is supposed to be highly democratic - and often isn't due to the central committee mentality of some.

Most of my political comrades in the UFT over the years would identify themselves as socialists --- I refine the term to mean the anti-capitalist version of socialist --- Marxists and in some cases Lenonists (the idea of the communist party being the major instrument of control) --  as opposed to the Bernie Sanders social democratic version - that capitalism can be reformed and managed--- like Scandinavia or the FDR New Deal, which so fueled American prosperity - until neo-liberalism began to chip away in the late 70s and escalated with Reagan, Bush 1 and 2, Clinton, and Obama.

I believe that reform horse has left the barn in this country, only holding out hope that the bigger the Trump catastrophe, the more likely we can see a counter movement ---- yet as long as the Dems are in the control of the centrists there is not much hope on that end. Government has been bought lock stock and barrel.

In Russia, these were the Menshevik factions that advocated a democratic approach to socialism - Kerensky, was a leader of the provisional government after the overthrow of the Czar before being overthrown by the Bolsheviks led by Lenin.

I identify myself with the SD wing, which right now is the left of the Democratic Party. And by the way, social democrats are often mocked as mere "reformers" and "band-aide stickers".

But let me focus on my Marxist friends. Not having read very much of Marx or studied the theories, which to many people make certain things look inevitable -- like the collapse of capitalism and the rise of a socialist society -- I know I am missing a lot of the logic and analysis that goes into their position on capitalism.

My Marxist friends start at that point. Their ultimate long-term answer to every major issue is "when capitalism is overthrown" -- which is sort of like Jews who say "next year in Jerusalem" which we are supposed to say at the end of the sedar - but in my house we say "let's eat" instead.

But what of what comes to replace capitalism? They act like there are no models for when capitalism falls  - and when you bring up those models - Soviet Union, China, Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea, Yugoslavia, the entire block of eastern Europe -- they all have theories to explain the failures, along the lines of "Ha, that really wasn't socialism."

The Trotskyists (do they close their meetings with "next year in Mexico City", where Trotsky was assassinated by an agent sent by Stalin?) argue that his theories would have led to different societies - and maybe if he had won the internal battle with Stalin that might have been so. At this point there has never been a socialist nation ruled by the ideas of Trotsky - so it is all about theory.

There aren't a lot of Stalinists around who defend the Soviet Union and its spawn, but there are some.

And how about that China socialism?

Now I would argue that these nations were in catastrophic mode before the communists took over and without their type of system, they would still be undemocratic banana-like republics.

Take Cuba --- and compare it to the rest of comparable small, poverty stricken nations in Central America and the islands -- Haiti, etc. I would argue that compared to most of them, at least Cuba has a decent medical and education system -- and yes there is no democracy with the party in control -- but there is no real democracy in the other nations. (How funny that Trump brings up human rights in Cuba after having just praised Saudi Arabia - the hypocrisy of most American politicians - not only Trump -- is to focus more on human rights issues in communist countries than in right wing dictatorships). Could Cuba or any of the communist nations, evolved though social democracy? I think not.

The problem with Cuba and communism in general is the top-down nature of the control - the very inability of people to have a say, often because in every one of these nations there is a strongman with the ultimate say.

I wonder sometimes what my friends are thinking, especially those who lament the future for their children. Do they think of what an overthrow of capitalism would entail - no one gives up power without a struggle and the battle in this country would be a royal one.

But why worry? Are there enough leftists who want to overthrow capitalism to fill the ranks? I can see the expectations that the Trump catastrophe will drive people left enough to demand radical change.

My expectations are for Armageddon.

1 comment:

  1. Though no country has ever been based on Trotskyist ideas, my personal experience with Trotskyists suggests that's all for the best.

    The sailors at Kronstadt - one time heroes of the October Revolution who were wiped out when they challenged Bolshevik authoritarianism - might also agree.


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