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Richard Wolff: A transition beyond capitalism requires political power

Richard Wolff: A transition beyond capitalism requires political power

Just as capitalists were developing
employer-employee relationships in feudalism, so it has been now (for quite a
while) that worker co-ops are emerging in capitalism. Here in the United States
it’s remarkable: hundreds of them have been formed and
developed in recent years. And the answer is very similar to what happened in
feudalism with the early capitalists. People are discovering that they are
unwilling, and unable, to continue as employees in capitalist enterprises. The
pay they get, the conditions they work under, are simply unattractive, unbearable,
as the economy goes through its crashes (such as the one in 2008), as we suffer
levels of inequality we haven’t seen for a hundred years in this country. People
are sick, and tired, and fed up. And the signs of that are everywhere. And one of
the new interesting ways of acting on that, has been for people to form worker
co-ops: alternative ways of living, and working in this society. It’s still a
capitalist society but within it are the seeds, the seed institutions, that are
moving beyond it, just as the urban capitalists moved beyond the feudalism
which gave them their strengths. I also think we’re getting to the point where
there are enough cooperative activities (not just worker co-ops, which is what we
stress, but other kinds of co-ops : consumer co-ops, sales co-ops…), ways in which people
are learning that the competitive capitalist profit-driven system is not
only not the only way to organize an economy, it’s not the one we want. I think
we’re ready then to take the step that we can learn from the capitalists as
they came out of feudalism. It’s time for us to organize the co-ops. We’ll bring
them together in a political project. What does that mean? It means grouping
together the actual co-ops that are developing, together with all the
people who support and welcome the development of co-ops, together with the
labor movement (the unions) so that they can see the co-ops as a force in society
to strengthen them in their struggles with capitalists to get better wages and
working conditions for workers. So, co-ops, plus the people who support the co-op
movement, plus the labor movement. That is the basis to form a new political
organization, just as the emerging capitalists did. And in the same way, we
can recognize that the co-ops are already paying taxes to a government. The new
co-ops developing or paying taxes to a government. The trade unions are paying
taxes, in their direct and indirect ways. The people who support the co-op movement
are paying taxes. But here is the issue and the rub, as we learn from the
transition from feudalism to capitalism: we’re all paying taxes to a government
that is in fact helping capitalists not worker co-ops. There are hundreds of laws
and regulations that make it difficult to form a co-op, that make it difficult
to raise money for a co-op, that inhibit the co-op. At the same time, the government
we’re paying taxes to, is providing subsidy upon subsidy to private
capitalist corporations (that year-and-a-half ago gave
the capitalist corporations the biggest tax cut they’ve ever seen, which is a
support for them etc. etc.). It’s long overdue that the government we’re
already paying taxes to do something it should have done a long time ago; namely,
give the kinds of support to the development of worker co-ops that they
have always given to the development of capitalist enterprises. But that’s not
gonna happen because it’s fair, and reasonable, and just, any more than the
capitalists within feudalism got a fair, reasonable, or just deal from the Kings
they had to deal with. You have to have the
political strength to make the state you’re already funding help you.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. My electric company is a co-op. They want to provide cheap, reliable Internet to their customers. Unfortunately there are laws on the books preventing this. The laws state they must provide the same speeds to all customers or no Internet to any customers. Funny, these laws don't apply to the local monopoly AT&Tyranny.

  2. Playing the BOOMAN of capitalism. COOPS AS THE ALTERNATIVE FOR CAPITALISM?? How can you come up with this outdated total nonsense????? Employers are like dictators???? What a bullshit.

  3. We have a candidate that will support us in these new ideas for equality. My dear Tulsi in whom I just love love love she speaks to the depths within my soul. This is a open letter for all humanity. Revelation Happens on the Way to the Sabbath. 6 days we work and the 7th we rest in retrospect just spending time with the creator our heavenly father in gratitude. The natural physical laws created by the universe cannot be changed no matter how hard men try. The whole universe travels around a center. In the milky way the Earth our global sphere spaceship humans call home revolves around the Sun that big nuclear reactor in the sky that we could get most of our clean energy from every 364.somthing days. Our moon revolves around our Earth every 30 days and the earth rotates every 24 hours giving us day and night. But who established the 7 day week? Yes I know this was a general statement but my life is governed by sunrise to sunrise and from one new moon to another in the season's the cycle continues. The spinning wheel spins again and again. I said all of that to say this; all of history and the furture is predestined to arrive at a certain point in the grand scheme of things. Our present consciousness is just a drop in the sea of time. Can we pass the test for all eternity? A simple look back in history and we will find men's stewardship of this planet has been a miserable failure succumbing to immorality, hate, constant greed, corruption and war. It is time for a bold new world/national vision of compassionate FEMININE Leadership for our Mother Earth ship? Now to the impending task before all of us as a global community. There are simple answers to the world's most perilous problems. There is not a lack of natural resources or human ingenuity there is only a lack of collective will to carry it through. Will we stay bitterly divided or become United as one? We do not desire to take away from those that have we just would like to provide for those that have not with opportunity, freedom, liberty and Justice for ALL. Love can only be real when it is freely given. Great servant Leadership seeks to empower and inspire others to become more than we could ever think possible never to rule over. Yes we have social security, public roads, schools, recreational areas and many other compassionate public programs. We are on the proper path of Democracy and it all needs to be strengthened not changed to socialism.

    When we as just plain 0 Americans striving together towards a common cause as one, we can change the world and become that shining example not by force. How will the world know if no one explains and they have never heard? Is there any candidate that can say, I'm not in this race for financial gains if elected while in office I would donate my salary to a worthy cause. I'm running to be President to benefit all humanity and do what is just and true.

    Just think having several earth shaking free music concerts for Peace, Love, Hope and Change our "Earth in Crisis" how unifying that would be. People coming together with a common sense cohesive message that would bring about world wide cooperation in cultural understanding and together as a global community take action with massive                economic development and equality, personal  responsibility WELLBEING single payer health care for ALL and diligently as quickly as humanly possible combating climate changes our "Earth is in Crisis." The wealthy of this world are eager and willing to give back to a extraordinary movement that we all can embrace and believe in, they are only waiting to be asked. Please sisters and brothers support our best hope for the furture this mighty Aloha spirit of love and respect Tulsi 2020. All of us on this "Earth in Crisis" can co-create for a better world together. In this field of dreams, just build it and it will happen. No one can change the struggle for Justice by violence or murder or defeat evil ideology by their leaders we must change our hearts. Communicate, educate and inspire our fellow citizens who are idly uninvolved to stand up and be counted. Vote Tulsi 2020 Let Freedom Ring. I can imagine JUSTICE, Tulsi at her inaugural address saying we the people who do you want to sit in our cabinet that will have complete transparency and accountability to bring about the policies, change we the people want to see?? Peace and blessings to us all.

  4. Co-ops lack ambition. The only reason for having a co-op is to benefit the members. Running a business like Congress is very inefficient. The managers have to be politicians instead of innovative.

  5. Communism and socialism is just the stage where the fascist strongman is stealing the wealth of the country. You’re confusing a very short chapter with a utopia. Communism and socialism always lead to fascism- you can’t find a communist model that didn’t have a fascist running it.

  6. Richard, how do you feel about cryptocurrencies & their possible relationship in the transition from naked capitalism?

  7. Universal basic income. Basic income is the first step to ending capitalism. As more and more labour is automated, the higher the ‘basic’ income will need to rise. Because of this, money will become redundant and we will have transitioned out of the capitalist era

  8. I agree that we need to move beyond capitalism. Sign me up. I just have one huge concern about the speed with which this can happen. As Prof Wolff has said elsewhere, it took capitalism many, many years to become dominant over feudalism. My concern has to do with capitalism's need for economic growth and the simultaneous need for urgent action on climate change. (After much research, I've come to believe that the results of peer-reviewed climate science are clearly indicating that we now face an urgent climate emergency.)

    I have read several sources indicating that capitalism requires economic growth in order to remain healthy. I further understand this to be true for all of the various forms that capitalism can take (neoliberalism, etc.). So what we get with capitalism over time is continuing economic growth, which implies a continuously growing extraction of natural resources, all taking place on a finite planet. Some have calculated that the world's current level of economic activity would require 1.7 earths in order to remain sustainable over the long term.

    In particular, unchecked economic growth implies the increased extraction and burning of fossil fuels, with increasing amounts of CO2 being released into the atmosphere, followed by additional heating of the earth, more and more destructive weather events ultimately leading to widespread starvation, mass migration, regional conflicts over scarce resources, and possible societal collapse. Weather patterns are already noticeably more destructive at just 1 degree Centigrade of warming. 2 degrees of warming is already "baked" into the system (there's a time lag between CO2 emissions and temperature rise).

    So here is my question. Is it true that capitalism always requires economic growth to remain healthy and if so, how do we even stand a chance of actually REDUCING greenhouse gas emissions over the next 5-15 years as required by various national and international reports on climate change in order to avoid complete catastrophe?

  9. I watched your debate with Gene Epstein and having been a very socialist-minded person for years, I was surprised to admit to myself that Epstein made some very good points. One of the difficulties in democracy, as well, as things like labor unions, are the difficulties in getting people to participate. I've worked in union shops for a number of years (of varying degrees of quality), and even in the best of them, the union leaders are always closer in view to management than to the worker.
    The trouble with capitalism is the SAME as the trouble with any other systems – Hierarchy. Ideologies are far less important than status markers. What we really need to do is make career leadership as difficult to achieve in public institutions as humanly possible. Ideally, we should do away with all forms of seniority in elected/public offices in favor of a jury-duty "Take Your Turn" approach to government leadership, law enforcement, military service and the like, without any possibility of career (you do your year or two and you're done).
    Also, we have to admit to ourselves that some people like having a boss, and being in a power-pyramid system. In those cases, private companies can actually be great places to work (from my personal experience), but ONLY if there is competitive alternatives, for workers to go to if the boss becomes too much of an asshole! So we basically need to have both massive, non-profit, ambitionless entities, and private corporations, that get broken-up, mechanically (without exception) if they get to big – and start to pose a threat to common well-being.
    The "Deep State" entity is no different than the systemic threat posed by private equity/banking elites – ELITISM.
    Power is the problem.

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