newbie on Participatory Economics

Brett Knowlton brettk at
Mon Jul 20 15:46:43 PDT 1998


I agree with your prescriptions. There is definitely no substitute for mass organization and demonstration as a tool for progressive change.

I also agree that most people don't even consider these issues, so that there is a tremendous need to educate the general populace about the problems of the current system and how they are being taken advantage of by the elite few. This has to come before anything else.

But this still leaves something lacking. Say people organize around health care, as you've mentioned, and they succeed in winning universal health care. This would be an improvement, but it would still leave the basic structure of society intact, income and wealth inequalities would still be great, wage slavery would still be rampant, etc. And you run the risk of losing the inertia of the mass movement when you focus on something so narrow and specific. Once the immediate goal is achieved, people might lose their motivation.

So a larger vision might help sustain these kinds of movements when they arise. And then there is still the issue of what happens if capitalism is ever eliminated. I think it would be far easier for people to subvert the movement for their own ends if the movement lacked a coherent vision of its own, as opposed to one which had definite ideas about what to replace capitalism with. And I agree with Gar's point about the fact that many people simply don't think there are any alternatives to capitalism other than a soviet style communist state, such that having another option could be a very important thing.

I am not that infatuated with the details of ParEcon, but I think the exercise of coming up with something that might conceivably replace capitalism, something that is potentially practical and robust, yet equitable, is a very valuable exercise to undertake.

I'm also surprised that many people view it as utopian. On the one hand, people on this list seem to want some kind of (non-market based?) socialist society, so to put the utopian label on ParEcon (and model building in general), which tries to spell out what one might look like, seems like a contradiction. Am I missing something here?

At 03:10 PM 7/20/98 -0400, you wrote:
>Brett Knowlton:
>>I have a couple of questions here - I mainly want some clarification. What
>>is a "compelling class-struggle alternative to the capitalist status quo?"
>>Can you be more specific?
>Okay, let me single out an example of what is needed. The Vietnam antiwar
>movement and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s are models for
>what is needed to day. You need to have mass protests in the streets
>independent of the Democratic and Republican parties to bring about
>meaningful change. For example, health care is an issue that relates to
>just about every sector of the population. If there was a national
>coalition on health care rights, it would bring together AIDS activists,
>senior citizens, working people, black activists, progressive health care
>professionals et al. It would issue a citizens health bill of rights, which
>would be crowned by a free national socialized medicine program. This
>movement would organize militant, but nonviolent demonstrations, on a
>regular basis. It would organize research groups to expose the greed of
>capitalist insurance and drug companies, etc. It would support Labor Party
>or Green Party candidates who supported their program. This is just one
> Also, you scare me a little when you talk about
>>the revolutionary party - what is it exactly, and are you saying it should
>>take over the state, or abolish it, or something else entirely?
>A revolutionary party is not an armed group. The main thing about it that
>is revolutionary is that it openly states the need to abolish capitalism,
>which is also the point of Hahnel-Albert Parecon as well. One of the things
>that most disoriented 60s radicals was the confusion over what it meant to
>be a revolutionary. The Black Panther Party armed itself, a big mistake,
>and was victimized by the state. It is much more revolutionary to make
>hard-hitting speeches the way that Malcolm X did and to run candidates in a
>Black Political Party. At some point in the future when people become
>convinced that capitalism must be abolished, society will polarize around
>the question. Many people in the armed services ranks will back the
>revolution, while the officer corps will oppose it. I would not worry about
>this for the time being. Most people today don't even understand that
>capitalism oppresses them, let alone recognize the need to get rid of it.
>> I'm also
>>confused as to why armed defense of the people's movement will be necessary
>>- the Eastern Bloc countries threw off Soviet influence with very little
>The reason Soviet influence was thrown off with little bloodshed, such as
>in East Germany, was because the ruling circles supported change.
>Gorbachevism was widespread. These ruling circles calculated that the
>elimination of socialized property relations would not necessarily affect
>their privileges, as they found ways to collaborate with Western banks and
>corporations. They were correct.
> Why is violence the only course this can take? Finally,
>>assuming a worker's revolution is successful, what will replace capitalism,
>>and how would the new society take shape?
>Socialism will replace capitalism. How it would take shape can only be
>dictated by objective circumstances, which nobody can predict today.
>Louis Proyect

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