John Gulick wrote:
> If the ruling class and its attaches in the capitalist world subjectively
> anticipate or objectively experience brakes on accumulation, won't they do
> one of the following two things, or both ? 1) Suck ever more surplus value
> from the working class and rip off ever more of nature's free gifts. Like
> you said, the ensuing social and ecological deterioration of the
> world might make the alternative economy seem all the more groovy, but I
> don't think the ruling class will allow human and territorial secessions
> without a fight.
>2) Imperialist attack, as it were, on the alternative economy.
> Uneven exchange. Sanctions. Espionage, subterfuge, and proxy wars. Even
> invasion. See: U.S. imperialist attack on the better, though flawed,
> state socialist experiments in the Western Hemisphere -- Nicaragua, Cuba.
This is where the economic approach (combined with progressive politics), has a huge advantage over the strictly political revolutionary approach. As long as the enemy was Communism, the Cold Warriors could always claim that they were defending us all against totalitarianists who would seize power over the state. But what if the enemy is free enterprise? How can they justify an attack against an organization that makes useful products and sells them on the market? It's the perfect shield against direct assault. Any attack would have to be covert. The capitalist powers could never count on public support and would always risk backlash if their devious efforts at sabotage became public knowledge. It's the kind of protection Ghandhi sought with his emphasis on satyagraha.
> You really should read Gare if you get the
> chance -- the most recent edition of _Capitalism, Nature, Socialism_ has a
> by him. You two are like echoes ringing in my ear.
Thanks for the tip. I used to pick up CNS at a magazine store, and it was always great.
>>Overall, a system that promotes
> >useful, skilled work is more efficient than a system that automates (in
> >order to de-skill and subjugate labor) and then produces loads of useless
> >work on top of that. Such a system could out-compete the corporations
> >grow under its own power.
> "Efficient" by red-green criteria, maybe, translating into participatory
> (although not always pleasant !!!) work, more time for social and private
> leisure, less resource depletion/pollution, a more convivial existence
> generally. _NOT_ more "efficient" by the standards of capitalist
> even if capitalist firms were forced to absorb the social costs of
> externalities through devices like emissions taxes. No way. Why ? Because
> would be no built-in incentives to revolutionize willy-nilly the
> forces in the alternative econonmy. Because (hopefully) labor could not be
> flexibly hired and laid off, deskilled and reskilled, in the alternative
> economy. No way you'll beat the capitalists playing the game of
> with their rigged criteria.
As we all know, the key to profitability is the cost of labor. This is why a network of producer co-ops, despite gains in efficiency, can never outcompete exploitative, capitalist outfits. The only way to reduce labor costs outside of exploitation is to combine efficient production with intentional living/consuming. To be a member of an economic commons (a term I got from Jim O'Connor) you would have to not only help produce goods but also participate in group housing and group-based purchasing of goods that aren't produced by the commons itself. That way, your cost of living will decrease, allowing a corresponding reduction in pay. I think the potential here is fantastic. What if you didn't have to rent your own place or own your own car or eat out half the time or buy for yourself individually all the items you rely on in your home? A good diet is particularly important, because it can save enormously on medical costs, and if we had our own health insurance and relied primarily on preventative medicine, we would save big-time. I would be very surprised if we couldn't cut our cost of living per member by 70 or 80%. Our savings would essentially be a measure of the stupidity of consumer culture.
If an economic commons could cut labor costs while at the same improving the quality of products, then it could compete on the market, not just for upscale consumers but for the Wal-Mart set.