Saving capitalism or getting rid of it?

Published on Socialist, by Robert Reich, April 7, 2016.

What kind of change socialists should be fighting for? Danny Katch, author of Socialism… Seriously: A Brief Guide to Human Liberation, makes some proposals in his review of a book from a different part of the left: Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, by former Labor Secretary and Bernie Sanders supporter Robert Reich … //

… THERE ARE many valuable observations that make Saving Capitalism worth reading. In a passage arguing that low wages are bad for the economy overall, Reich summarizes the massive changes in American life over two generations in one impressive sentence:

–Once the middle class exhausted all its methods for maintaining spending in the face of flat or declining wages–with wives and mothers surging into paid work in the 1970s and 1980s, everyone putting in longer hours in the 1990s, and households falling ever deeper into debt before 2008–the middle class as a whole was unable to spend more … //

… It is people, not the “free market,” who have decided that corporations can use bankruptcy law as a means to cut workers’ pensions, while homeowners can’t use it to reduce their mortgage payments. But not all people–only a select few have a real say over those kind of questions … //

… ANYONE FOLLOWING the negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership economic treaty can witness in real time the process of a new “free market” being created–on terms that are maximally favorable to business–U.S. business in particular. Reich shows that the same is true about capitalism as a whole.

Even a concept as seemingly self-explanatory as private property is actually the result of a series of laws and rules. Ownership, Reich explains, might seem as obvious as “I bought this” or “I created that,” but most societies have decided that you can’t own a nuclear bomb, a human being or a cooking recipe.

We could make a similar decision about life-saving drugs. But instead, the U.S. gives pharmaceutical companies longer patents than any other country, and our “free market” doesn’t allow us to buy cheaper drugs abroad.

Just as Bernie Sanders has inspired millions by railing against inequality and putting forward substantial policy proposals to reduce it, Reich is animated by the optimism that “we need not be victims of impersonal ‘market forces’ over which we have no control.”

The last section of Saving Capitalism is filled with proposals to make capitalism more equal, from raising the minimum wage and making it easier for workers to form unions, to forcing corporations to pay higher taxes if their ratio of CEO-to-worker pay is higher than others.

Reich’s final proposal is something that many people would call socialist: a guaranteed income for all adults. Reich takes on the standard right-wing objection that this would lead to widespread laziness, insisting instead that it would enable people to pursue socially valuable work, and much more besides … //

… Those few decades that are the model for Saving Capitalism are a stark exception to the overall tendency of capitalism–which, as Thomas Piketty showed in his bestselling book Capital in the 21st Century, has in all other times led to wealth becoming more concentrated in fewer hands.

Looking back to a period when the U.S. accounted for an unbelievable 50 percent of world economic output makes no sense in a world where capitalism only continues to be more evenly spread out, with China, Brazil, Turkey and dozens of other countries advancing. That, in turn, is leading to more and more ruthless international competition and global migration of workers.

Socialists don’t draw a line between reform and revolution and stand only on one side of that line. We can embrace social reforms and are part of struggles to achieve them. We can make use of the ideas and analysis put forward by people like Sanders and Reich.

But at the same time, we aim to build a large socialist movement that understands that whatever reforms we win in the here and now, we will have to fight like hell to keep them from being rolled back in the future–and that the best way to make permanent change is not to save capitalism, but to get rid of it once and for all, and establish socialism.

(full text).

Related Links:


Nearly 14% of veterans engage in suicidal thinking – study, on RT, April 7, 2016;

INDIA: Mamata boycotted meetings called to discuss development of states, Modi, on Asian Age, April 7, 2016;

German Satire (engl subtitled): on ISIS and American Interventions in the Middle East, 7.22 min, uploaded by lytron87;

A Key Similarity Between Snowden Leak and Panama Papers: Scandal Is What’s Been Legalized, on The Intercept, by Glenn Greenwald, April 4, 2016;

Korean public funds hesitant to outsource investing to SWF, on Pensions & Investments, by DOUGLAS APPELL, April 4, 2016;

Washington Fails at Everything, on American Thinker, by Bruce Walker, April 4, 2016;

Double pay for ex-govs now senators, ministers,on Daily Trust, by Nuruddeen M. Abdallah, Adelanwa Bamgboye, Ismail Mudashir (Abuja), Nuruddeen Oyewole (Lagos), Abubak, April 4, 2016;

Suisse: Economiesuisse concentrera ses moyens sur quelques campagnes de votation, dans RTSinfo, le 4 avril 2016;

Sovereign wealth funds push for higher hedge fund standards, dans Financial Times FT, par Chris Flood, April 3, 2016;

Suisse: le Parti évangélique dit oui seulement à la réforme de l’asile, dans, le 2 avril, 2016;

Nuit des débats dans le 12e arrondissement, la CFTC débat jusqu’à 1 heure du matin, dans Paris Tribune, le 2 avril 2016;

Pour un nouveau contrat social (3), dans Blog du Dr Görar Maudrux, le 2 avril 2016;

Uploaded by gbs Koblenz;

… and this uploaded by Adrian von Ziegler:

Comments are closed.