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Author Topic: Choosing not to vote
Sharon
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 4090

posted 07 July 2004 11:47 AM      Profile for Sharon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
That Paul Martin can still pass himself off as a “progressive” alternative to the Conservatives is laughable. We have a society where inequality is rampant, where the gulf between rich and poor has never been wider. All the mainstream parties are responsible for that; whatever the differences in their rhetoric, they've all pursued neo-liberal policies when in power.

Full story


From: Halifax, Nova Scotia | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
Scott Piatkowski
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1299

posted 07 July 2004 12:11 PM      Profile for Scott Piatkowski   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Anyone else have a sudden craving for donuts?

[ 07 July 2004: Message edited by: Scott Piatkowski ]


From: Kitchener-Waterloo | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
josh
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 2938

posted 07 July 2004 12:22 PM      Profile for josh     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Actually, I lost my appetite.

But speaking of donuts, that might be a great way to increase turnout. Everybody who votes gets a free donut or two at the polls!


From: the twilight zone between the U.S. and Canada | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
guilty-pleasure
Babbler # 3469

posted 07 July 2004 12:41 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
But do we actually want people turning up at the polls? Sounds like Hister — and this is no surprise — wants everyone to stay home and foment the Glorious People's Revolution. Voting only perpetuates the Oppression of the Masses by Electoral Politics, apparently.

I'll grant Hister this much though: by declaring electoral politics to be innately corrupt and therefore beneath him, either as a voter or a candidate, he's free to sit back and complain until the cows come home, without facing the inevitable retort of "run for office if you don't like your choices".


From: ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
thwap
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 5062

posted 07 July 2004 12:49 PM      Profile for thwap        Edit/Delete Post
A lot (too much) truth in the essay.

But a negative essay. I've heard it before. I voted NDP, I helped in the campaign, because I think it is important to preserve the left presence and strenghten it. The mainstream conversation, and politics in general, will be forced to concede something to ordinary people.
For a look at the results of a system without a social-democratic, labourist option, simply view the hideous situation in the USA.
Disaffected leftists might stay home on voting day, but corporate vermin politicians will keep on playing their games regardless. And we will have to live with the very real consequences of a purely right-wing political scene.

What would Mr. Hister offer us as a positive activity?

small-scale "grass-roots" initiatives that plead with established power and/or go nowhere?

voting for a "socialist" party with absolutely no hope of getting 10,000 votes nationally?

organize large "social movements" to have huge rallies so that people can shout 'Hey-hey! Ho-ho! [insert current reptile here] has got to go!" to no effect?
<much like the Days of Action?>

I'm serious.

There are reasons why the NDP, or the Brazillian Workers Party, or the German Greens end up doing what they do.

On top of occasional commentaries on this phenomenon, we must also propose realistic scenarios to avoid such outcomes.

Mr. Hister, I know you frequent babble threads on occasion. What is your prescription for worthwhile activity?

(i'll check in later; im off to work.)


From: Hamilton | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Rod Manchee
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 290

posted 07 July 2004 02:22 PM      Profile for Rod Manchee     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Essentially an extended argument for putting "None of the Above" at the bottom of every ballot.
From: ottawa | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
not a terrorist
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1532

posted 07 July 2004 02:24 PM      Profile for not a terrorist   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Precisely what are the reasons that social-democratic parties act like neo-liberals when in power?

Hister seems to suggest that this is mainly because of the international capitalist system (capital mobility). The bond raters, money market traders, etc. have so much power that governments have become impotent to bring in any kind of change that will make people's lives more livable.

Sure is a convenient excuse to do nothing (for the likes of Hister who would prefer not to vote in a fundamentally corrupt system, for the faint of heart in social democratic parties who take power so they don't have to rock the boat too much, and for parties of the right who can say how unrealistic and backward the left is in the age of globalization).

But how much water does it hold?

Suggested reading: Linda McQuaig, The Cult of Impotence

My suspicion is that countries like Canada have quite a bit more breathing room than the rhetoric of globalization would allow. Countries like Haiti, however, are much more vulnerable.

This doesn't mean the NDP will necessarily fulfill its progressive agenda once in power, but it does mean, to borrow a phrase, another Canada is possible.


From: montreal | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
frandroid_atreides
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 2569

posted 07 July 2004 05:20 PM      Profile for frandroid_atreides   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
This is on the same level as Robert Jensen's critique of F9/11 as not being critical of the Democrats. Most people try to work for the better. Some people, like Hister, will work only for best, and will shun anything that's not quite there.

I'm fucking tired of hearing people say they won't vote for the NDP because it doesn't have a chance to win. That's a soft-liberal way of thinking, not a radical-left idea.


From: Toronto, Arrakis | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
Booker
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 4346

posted 07 July 2004 05:58 PM      Profile for Booker     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The fact is, even when New Democrats buck the neo-liberal consensus they get no help from the self-styled radical left. Glen Clark kept social spending up, tuitions low, and ran huge deficits, but it still wasn't enough and when the neo-liberal machine came gunning for him they, more or less, applauded.

Even Hugo Chavez, the radical democrat and anti-capitalist who drew the support of millions of poor citizens when he was briefly ousted from power is
criticized by ultra-lefties like Naomi Klein for the sin of being in power.

Embracing the armchair and developing a whine as your battlecry does not make you a revolutionary.


From: Stouffville | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged
Scott Piatkowski
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1299

posted 07 July 2004 06:04 PM      Profile for Scott Piatkowski   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by frandroid_atreides:
This is on the same level as Robert Jensen's critique of F9/11 as not being critical of the Democrats.

He must have been dozing off for much of the movie.


From: Kitchener-Waterloo | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Erik Redburn
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 5052

posted 07 July 2004 06:17 PM      Profile for Erik Redburn     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
What I'm wondering is why Mr.Hister didn't vote for the Marxist-Leninist or Communist party, or is he trying to revive the Waffle?
From: Broke but not bent. | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
arborman
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 4372

posted 07 July 2004 06:33 PM      Profile for arborman     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
"The crucial question isn't who do you vote for but what sort of world do you want? Without social justice, democracy is nothing but a hollow shell. Homelessness, child poverty, the chasm between the fabulously wealthy and the working poor — this is the real “democratic deficit.” Until we address that, our democracy doesn't amount to much more than a three-card monte con game. "

Hister's approach is to once again opt out, and feel smug from the sidelines. My response would be to say that without democracy, social justice is impossible.

There will always be people who find fault in everything done by anyone who actually does anything. The point is to try to make the world better, in the context of the world we are in. Not to refuse to participate because the world hasn't been set up according to your exacting parameters.

Rather than working to take incremental steps, where and when possible, to improve the lot of the homeless, child poverty and the rest, Hister and his ilk use these human tragedies to justify their supercilious abstention.


From: I'm a solipsist - isn't everyone? | Registered: Aug 2003  |  IP: Logged
Ivan
recent-rabble-rouser
Babbler # 6340

posted 07 July 2004 10:01 PM      Profile for Ivan        Edit/Delete Post
Capitalism is the problem. The rich are getting get richer, the gap between rich and poor is growing wider, and the poor are getting poorer. Nothing is going to change until we change the system.

Capitalism is production for profit by private ownership. You can't reform capitalism into something that it isn't. It isn't socialism.

Reform/Alliance, Liberal, Green, NDP, etc etc all support the capitalist system.

The NDP has a history of drawing its support from the Left and once elected ruling from the Right. (ie Bob Rae in Ontario) This is because the NDP supports the capitalist system.

There will be no social justice or true democracy until the majority (a very large majority ??90-95%)of the working class decide they will no longer support the capitalist system and change the system either democraticly or by revolution to a socialist system based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruements of producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.


So wy vote????......unless you support the capitalist system.

Seems to me that Mr Hister and 40%+ of the population already have this figured out.


From: gta | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Gir Draxon
leftist-rightie and rightist-leftie
Babbler # 3804

posted 07 July 2004 10:15 PM      Profile for Gir Draxon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Ivan:
Capitalism is the problem. The rich are getting get richer, the gap between rich and poor is growing wider, and the poor are getting poorer. Nothing is going to change until we change the system.

And without voting, what hope is there of "changing the system"??? It is not going to happen overnight. Canadians are not just going to wake up one day and think Gee, I think it is time for a scoialist revolution. If you genuinely beleive that capitalism is inherently a bad thing, voting the NDP into power is the first logical step. If social-democrats can govern effectively, then people might even take a hardline socialist seriously. And failing that, wouldn't the social-democrat NDP be preferable to Conservatives or Liberals?


From: Arkham Asylum | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
spatrioter
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 2299

posted 07 July 2004 10:18 PM      Profile for spatrioter     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Ivan:
So wy vote????......unless you support the capitalist system.

Seems to me that Mr Hister and 40%+ of the population already have this figured out.


Unless 40% of the population are living on communes where they produce all their own food and belongings, they don't have the right to reject elections because they "support the capitalist system".

[ 08 July 2004: Message edited by: spatrioter ]


From: Trinity-Spadina | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Stephen Gordon
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 4600

posted 07 July 2004 10:47 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post
So ... the only legitimate form of government is one that generates policy outcomes that meet the approval of Stan Hister?

I get the impression that he thinks he deserves absolute dictatorial powers, but he can't be bothered to ask for them. I guess we're supposed to beg him to impose his will on us.


From: . | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged
Erik Redburn
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 5052

posted 07 July 2004 10:55 PM      Profile for Erik Redburn     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by spatrioter:

Sorry, unless 40% of the population are living on communes where they produce all their own food and belongings, they don't have the right to reject elections because they "support the capitalist system".


I'm afraid we're all capitalists by that definition. Even communes aren't entirely self-sufficient, often using capitalist dollars, and I'm still waiting for the damn hippies to rise up en mass... I'm self-employed and own my own means of production (hand tools mostly) yet somehow I still make less than many of my friends do. Alas, none of their exploiters are willing to hire me. I do get more free time to waste arguing with virtual strangers though, so it all evens out in the end I guess.

[ 07 July 2004: Message edited by: Erik the Red ]


From: Broke but not bent. | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
BLAKE 3:16
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 2978

posted 07 July 2004 11:22 PM      Profile for BLAKE 3:16     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Oh golly, that Mr. Hister is just oppressing the masses again. His non-vote is really keeping us down.

On a sincere note, to quote from the article:

quote:
(Some radical left groups were calling for a “critical vote” for the NDP. Personally I found this more confusing than enlightening. What were you supposed to do — scowl furiously as you marked your ballot?)

The way I understand it is that calling for a critical vote or critical support means you push for people to support an organization or party or government without putting one's faith in those organizations or its leaderships. You support them because they are the best option to support in a constantly changing system.

Uncritical support would be just that, supporting the organization no matter what and attacking those who don't support it.


From: Babylon, Ontario | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged
Ivan
recent-rabble-rouser
Babbler # 6340

posted 07 July 2004 11:25 PM      Profile for Ivan        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Gir Draxon:

And without voting, what hope is there of "changing the system"???

Things will have to get worse before the working class will change the system.....and it will take a revolution.

If you genuinely beleive that capitalism is inherently a bad thing,.......

It's a great system for private ownership and the rich.

If social-democrats can govern effectively.....

Social Democrats have no choice but to govern from the Right because the means of production is controlled by private ownership (the rich) and the electorial system is set up by capitalists for capitalists to support a capitalist system.


And failing that, wouldn't the social-democrat NDP be preferable to Conservatives or Liberals?

Ontario's Bob Rae proved not!!



I apoligize if I am not using the "quotes" properly but I am new to rabble and the message boards. It is going to take me some time to figure out how to use them.


From: gta | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
spatrioter
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 2299

posted 07 July 2004 11:28 PM      Profile for spatrioter     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Erik the Red:
I'm afraid we're all capitalists by that definition.

That was my point. We do all support the capitalist system in some way. But hopefully we use our participation in the system to help change it. Do you support an employee of McDonalds who is trying to unionize the workplace, or do you condemn them for being a McDonalds employee in the first place?

In the same way, do you help elect a social democratic government, or do you condemn them for being political at all, and sit back on your couch and wait for the revolution?

[ 07 July 2004: Message edited by: spatrioter ]


From: Trinity-Spadina | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Gir Draxon
leftist-rightie and rightist-leftie
Babbler # 3804

posted 07 July 2004 11:40 PM      Profile for Gir Draxon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Ivan:

I apoligize if I am not using the "quotes" properly but I am new to rabble and the message boards. It is going to take me some time to figure out how to use them.


Total embarassment for not reading you post closely enough. A thousand apologies.

I therefore redirect my comments to Mr. Hister.


From: Arkham Asylum | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
thwap
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 5062

posted 08 July 2004 01:04 AM      Profile for thwap        Edit/Delete Post
Again, i think it is highly important that we be highly critical of the NDP, and other managerialist, leftist parties. (F'r instance; i thought the Naomi Klein piece had merit, tho' it wuz a trifle smug in places.)

But we have to also put something on the table if we're going to reject the electoral process.

I believe that the problem with leftist politicians who reject the "dictatorship of the proletariat" (in whatever guise) is that they believed that significant power could be left in capitalist hands, and that these capitalists could be regulated by a strong, democratic state.

But the power that remains in the capitalists' hands is too vast to allow them to be dictated to by gov't. Thus the socialists, soc-dems, are at a loss.

I think that the thing to do is to fight for the protection of workers' citizenship rights within workplaces. I think this should be advanced on several fronts, but especially the political-electoral front, because that is the system that supposedly commands legitimate respect.


From: Hamilton | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
windymustang
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 4509

posted 08 July 2004 01:32 AM      Profile for windymustang     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Choosing not to vote...this is such a problem here in Canada. I agree with many of you who talk about the armchair non-voters who complain without doing anything or even exercising their right to vote.

What is the point of not voting, without your vote, what right have you to complain and like others have said, sit back and wait for the revolution.

I believe that one of the key problems is to get young voters out there marking their ballots. How this can be done is a tough question. I have personally tried to talk my children and other young voters into voting. They reply that because they have no understanding of the issues, that they choose not to vote. A cop out of course, but how do we change this?

Although I am only a mom who shares custody and have less influence than my ex who is a non political animal, I have spent many hours over the years trying to instill in them the history of getting the vote, the struggles fought and the responsibility we carry for living in this country. My opinion and education to them has netted 0 results.

I believe, that our only recourse is through the educational system. At least that will enable some discourse on the subject, after having to find out the fact of the struggles.

Afro-Americans have put forth a tremendous effort to further the cause of their culture. Can we learn from their experiences and employ similar strategies to get young people and other non-voters interested in our history and out to the poles? What think you?


From: from the locker of Mad Mary Flint | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged
Erik Redburn
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 5052

posted 08 July 2004 05:24 AM      Profile for Erik Redburn     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by thwap:

I believe that the problem with leftist politicians who reject the "dictatorship of the proletariat" (in whatever guise) is that they believed that significant power could be left in capitalist hands, and that these capitalists could be regulated by a strong, democratic state.

But the power that remains in the capitalists' hands is too vast to allow them to be dictated to by gov't. Thus the socialists, soc-dems, are at a loss.


Repectfully, I've never been shy of criticising the NDP myself, but the problem I have with most Marxist criticism of the "mainstream" left is that it mostly just accuses the rest of "us" of being no different than the "others"...because we're not Marxists. And we're supposed to feel guilty if we criticise back?

I don't want to start a big argument here but the rest of the left, social democrats in particular, have come up with a few practical ideas over the years for managing if not neutralizing global capitalism, without falling back on dangerous illusions about some "dictatorship of the proletariat" that's subsequently supposed to fall away of itself.

The problem remains that there isn't the public support for even half of what everyone would like achieve, or the medium to promote it, it's not because there isn't the will. Something else some critics on the far left don't seem to understand. Capitalism of itself is hardly uncontainable though, as long as we don't see it as a single conscious entity.

[ 08 July 2004: Message edited by: Erik the Red ]


From: Broke but not bent. | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
jfcorbett
recent-rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1782

posted 08 July 2004 09:00 AM      Profile for jfcorbett     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Hister writes:

quote:
Yes, I know the Liberals are better on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. I don't underestimate the damage and suffering that Stephen Harper's right-wing yahoos can cause once they get into power.
[But...]
You can't sustain little pockets of democratic rights in a social fabric being ripped apart like this.

Hister is completely oblivious to the facts here. He offers no supporting evidence. Anyone serious will realise that some gains HAVE been made, and maintained, by applying popular force on the proper politicians. Civil rights? Abortion rights? I'll spare you the list of examples we all know.

The fact is that, between the various capitalist parties, there is a differential in the rate at which such gains are made/eroded. Hister admits this, but then, puzzlingly enough, dismisses it as irrelevant.

Hister's whole argument is so crass. It completely disregards the anguish of those most affected by extreme right-wing policies. How can we ever expect to build a movement and make it grow, if we are so disconnected from their real life, and narrow-mindedly theoretical?

How can we ever, possibly reach out to those most affected by saying, "I know that these right-wing social policies will make a measurable negative difference in your life, and that you will experience much misery if they are enacted by the conservatives. But I'm still not going to vote against them, because capitalism will still be here afterwards anyway. Now will you join my movement, please?"

It's just not going to happen. This lack of concern with people's short-term, desperate needs is extremely damaging to the movement. Not to mention insulting. It reduces the appeal of the movement, and will prevent it from growing.

And it's not even that we'd be compromising long-term goals by voting for limited short-term gains or against erosion. Zero harm is done by voting against the conservatives! So what could possibly be the argument for not doing it?!

(I'll let tactitians debate who they want to vote for.)

The "everything's so wrong with the capitalist system so why vote" argument is a non sequitur. I wish people would stop using it.

[ 08 July 2004: Message edited by: jfcorbett ]


From: Copenhagen, Denmark | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
elixir
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3434

posted 08 July 2004 10:11 AM      Profile for elixir     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Hister's whole argument is so crass. It completely disregards the anguish of those most affected by extreme right-wing policies. How can we ever expect to build a movement and make it grow, if we are so disconnected from their real life, and narrow-mindedly theoretical?

How can we ever, possibly reach out to those most affected by saying, "I know that these right-wing social policies will make a measurable negative difference in your life, and that you will experience much misery if they are enacted by the conservatives. But I'm still not going to vote against them, because capitalism will still be here afterwards anyway. Now will you join my movement, please?"



One of Hister's points is that it is precisely the people most affected by right-wing social policies that do not go out to vote.

I would like to see the exact statistics before making such a sweeping statement myself, but this certainly appears to be part of the "Americanization" of our political system and society: only the middle and upper classes appear to turn out in significant numbers for elections. Berating people for not voting isn't going to change anything.

You also cannot ignore that segment of the population which will participate in protests or organizing/petition campaigns (workplace/union, tenant, neighbourhood, social issues, campus, etc) but who don't see the point in voting. That probably only accounts for a small percentage of the 40% who didn't vote, but such people do exist and Hister's piece is reflective of the views of many of them.

I would add, though, that the NDP does appear to do better in those ridings where there is a stronger working-class political mobilization and culture. That's why I can't agree with Hister's dismissal of those on the radical Left who, while agreeing with much of what he says about the NDP and everything else, feel that we have to relate to this expression of Left working-class politics in some way or the other. "Critical vote for the NDP" is not the way I would put it, but I am sympathetic to the way this formula tries to grapple with certain realities and dilemmas facing the radical Left.

[ 08 July 2004: Message edited by: elixir ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
jfcorbett
recent-rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1782

posted 08 July 2004 10:57 AM      Profile for jfcorbett     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by elixir:

One of Hister's points is that it is precisely the people most affected by right-wing social policies that do not go out to vote.


Sure, but that is beside the point. That is not a logical argument for ignoring the electoral arena.

I too am pretty sure that voter turnout is lower at the lower end of the class spectrum. But those hundreds of thousands who do go out to vote for their lives (so to speak) will not receive you well if you say "I'm not going to vote with you, because capitalism will still be here afterwards anyway." That's no way to make a movement grow.


quote:
Originally posted by elixir:

You also cannot ignore that segment of the population which will participate in protests or petition campaigns (workplace/union, tenant, neighbourhood, social issues, campus, etc) but who don't see the point in voting. That probably only accounts for a small percentage of the 40% who didn't vote, but such people do exist and Hister's piece is reflective of the views of many of them.

Perhaps, and I think that's unfortunate. I'm trying to argue against this point of view, which I find is based on frustration rather than good analysis. We are indeed talking about extremely small numbers here, but these are people who can be very vocal and often incite others to action one way or another.


quote:
Originally posted by elixir:

Berating people for not voting isn't going to change anything.

May we be saved from those who berate! I fully agree. Berating sucks and turns people off. Though we should all reserve the right to discuss and argue, as for any other topic.


From: Copenhagen, Denmark | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
jfcorbett
recent-rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1782

posted 08 July 2004 11:20 AM      Profile for jfcorbett     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The more I read Hister's piece, the more it strikes me as being out of touch. I am surprised it got past the editors.

Check this out:

Hister's message is that voting is useless and makes no difference. (e.g. "To my mind, the real puzzle isn't why people aren't voting but rather why so many people still bother to vote at all.")

The direct implication of this is that our elections make no difference. This leads to the following reasoning:


Premise 1: Our elections make no difference.
Premise 2: Things that make no difference may as well be abolished right away. (according to me)

Conclusion 1: Our elections may as well be abolished right away.


Unless I missed something, this conclusion flows directly and incontrovertibly from Hister's argument. Clearly, it makes absolutely no sense. Anyone want to argue that we would be better off in the short or long run if elections were abolished today? If someone just pre-filled our ballot boxes?

Hister's argument implies Conclusion 1.
Since (unless someone somehow wants to argue otherwise) Conclusion 1 is false, then Hister's argument is flawed.


From: Copenhagen, Denmark | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
guilty-pleasure
Babbler # 3469

posted 08 July 2004 11:49 AM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Anyone want to argue that we would be better off in the short or long run if elections were abolished today?

Yes. Communists. Elections can only force the contradictory and immature will of the masses on the all-knowing central government. The party knows best, comrade.


From: ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
elixir
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3434

posted 08 July 2004 12:15 PM      Profile for elixir     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
]
quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Originally posted by elixir:

One of Hister's points is that it is precisely the people most affected by right-wing social policies that do not go out to vote.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sure, but that is beside the point. That is not a logical argument for ignoring the electoral arena.


I was just responding to your argument that Hister is somehow "out of touch" with the concerns of people most affected by right-wing policies. You asked:

quote:
How can we ever expect to build a movement and make it grow, if we are so disconnected from their real life, and narrow-mindedly theoretical?

Hister is saying (and I generally agree, with the caveat mentioned in my last post) that these very same people are themselves not voting in large numbers, so it is also possible that they have drawn the same "theoretical" conclusion about the importance of elections. Perhaps it appears "disconnected from their real life" to believe that voting for such and such candidate will actually have any effect on their real lives.

While I have already expressed my disagreement with some of Hister's conclusions, it should be possible to make the points he does without being called a dictator or accused of wanting to abolish all elections. It is possible and legitimate to criticize our highly imperfect and unjust system without being a nutcase or a Hitler or Stalin in waiting.

[ 08 July 2004: Message edited by: elixir ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
guilty-pleasure
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posted 08 July 2004 12:19 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
It is possible and legitimate to criticize our highly imperfect and unjust system without being a nutcase or a Hitler or Stalin in waiting.

For a moment there, it looked as though "Stan Hister" might be an anagram of "Hitler Stalin". It's not, but it's close.


From: ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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Babbler # 478

posted 08 July 2004 12:23 PM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Mr Magoo:
From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
lagatta
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posted 08 July 2004 12:37 PM      Profile for lagatta     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Magoo, psah! Hister is a perfectly normal family name, and Stan, a common name especially among Poles and other Slavs. For that matter, although Stalin (Man of Steel) is a made-up nom de guerre, Hitler was a perfectly normal family name as well. Names do not carry the crimes of dictators that bore them. I've met a Chilean exile named Pinochet and an Argentinean exile named Videla. And many German Jews and other people persecuted by Hitler were named "Adolf"... As for Stalin, his given name is so common throughout the Christian ... and Muslim ... world that we have the expression "an ordinary Joe".

As for Stan Hister, although like Elixir I don't fully agree with his conclusion, I think it is clear that he is aiming to achieve more democracy, not less, and I'm glad to have read his thought-provoking article.


From: Se non ora, quando? | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
guilty-pleasure
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posted 08 July 2004 01:06 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Uh, I'm not trying to suggest that Hister is Stalin's love-child here. I just noticed it when the names were all physically juxtaposed and thought it amusing.
From: ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Polunatic
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posted 08 July 2004 02:23 PM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
As for Jack Layton, there was a basic phoniness in his politics, as in his smile. He claimed to be offering a “positive choice” but even before the election he was openly angling for a deal with the Liberals. This meant that voting NDP amounted to a vote to keep the Liberals in power. No wonder that a lot of potential NDP voters opted in the end just to vote for the Liberals directly.
I thought this was the most illuminating part of the article actually. There was some debate on babble earlier about the degree to which Layton should have used the "minority government" card. I was on the side that thought it was a good idea. But I think Hister makes some sense on this point. (I reacted to "the smile" in the same way as well. Did the NDP undermine itself by laying bare its "minority government" card?

From: middle of nowhere | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
Rufus Polson
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posted 09 July 2004 12:17 AM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Funny how impressions work, isn't it?
A lot of people seem to have seen Layton's smile as phony. It seems in fact to have been a political liability. Certainly not something his handlers would have told him to do.
I strongly suspect that in fact whatever the truth may be about his policies, Layton's smile is the opposite of phony--it's something he naturally does, even if it's not advisable. If he can just master being phony by repressing his smile, doubtless he will look sincere.

So a good part of Hister's, apparently reasoned, thesis comes down to a vague, and probably false, impression about the NDP leader's smile. OK, I'm not that surprised when mainstream political analysis boils down to being that light weight--but leftist political analysis? There's less to Hister's thesis than meets the eye.

On the policies--the NDP campaign from the left, sort of, and govern from the centre, especially for the past couple decades. Which is a lot farther left than any other party has been willing to govern. But the distinction I think between the NDP and other parties is that the NDP haven't internalized the rightward pressures. The Conservatives simply are right-wing, and they'll go as far as they can get away with and a bit more. The Liberals meanwhile talk left-of-centre a lot, but the heart of the modern Liberal party is fairly far right. It's not that they want to govern the way they talk but are prevented by capitalists. They want to govern how they govern, which is to the right, but they know they have to talk somewhat left to keep the voters quiet.

The NDP at least *want* to govern rather further left than they generally in fact do (except maybe Bob Rae, who doesn't seem to be a dipper any more anyway); their governing from the centre is a matter of caving to outside pressures, which are potent ones. To my mind the financial pressures are ultimately less significant than the media pressures. If there were equivalent counterpressure from an organized left balancing the demonizing they get from the media whenever they do anything remotely progressive, I'd say the NDP would happily govern fairly left. But there is no organized left capable of generating such counterpressure, and to the extent that there is it rarely backs up any progressive move they make. The only way an NDP government can make much difference is simply by going into government with no plan for reelection--just go for it, assume you'll lose next time but make it worth it. Few politicians are willing to make that decision.


From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
Lard Tunderin' Jeezus
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posted 09 July 2004 12:35 AM      Profile for Lard Tunderin' Jeezus   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Embracing the armchair and developing a whine as your battlecry does not make you a revolutionary.

Hear, hear !!!

Mr. Hister never seems to have anything constructive to suggest. I wonder why Rabble even bothers to provide him a forum?


From: ... | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
Polunatic
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posted 09 July 2004 02:24 AM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
If there were equivalent counterpressure from an organized left balancing the demonizing they get from the media whenever they do anything remotely progressive, I'd say the NDP would happily govern fairly left.
I think this is a key point which is not well understood by the NDP (who expect blind support for whatever they do while in power - at least in Ontario) and the left and social movements (who have a hard time getting out of opposition and protest mode). Quietly lobbying NDP ministers with wish lists is a demobilizing activity which can only lead to disappointment and being labelled as "special interests".

During the NDP tenure in Ontario, they should have (and could have) filled the lawn of Queen's Park with people in support of public auto insurance and other initiatives. But they didn't because they saw the social movement's role as not much more than election volunteers (and later enemies at the gate).


From: middle of nowhere | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
N.Beltov
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posted 09 July 2004 03:34 AM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
During the NDP tenure in Ontario, they should have (and could have) filled the lawn of Queen's Park with people in support of public auto insurance and other initiatives. But they didn't because they saw the social movement's role as not much more than election volunteers (and later enemies at the gate).

Over twenty years ago, while Bill Bennett and the Socreds were carrying out their Fraser Institute inspired atrocities against the people of BC, the then NDP leader Dave Barrett was making speeches about the necessity of obeying the law while 60 000 people demonstrated on the lawn of the provincial legislature. I know. I was there. That certainly clarified for me the limits of electoral politics. The way I saw it, the provincial NDP of those days were as afraid of the mass movement as the provincial government was antagonistic to it.

Mind you, I still worked for and voted NDP this time around. My little bit helped ensure that Pat Martin defeated Northcott. And that's a good thing. However...

Pushing the NDP from the left is essential to moving towards fundamental change in any era. I think the NDP is more amenable to being pushed in that way...and therefore, for that reason alone, deserves our serious consideration at election time. And PR can help get other left voices heard in the future. We need to convey a more dynamic notion of politics that includes political parties (plural!) worthy of our sometime support, social movements that can generate enough power to support policies that are worthy and demand better policies that are possible, and clearly defined political goals or landmarks ahead. We shouldn't idealize one form of struggle over another, is all.

Our enemies are flexible. We should be too.


From: Vancouver Island | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
thwap
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posted 09 July 2004 06:49 AM      Profile for thwap        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Pushing the NDP from the left is essential to moving towards fundamental change in any era. I think the NDP is more amenable to being pushed in that way...and therefore, for that reason alone, deserves our serious consideration at election time.

Exactly. And, for all the negativism, I think Mr. Hister's writings operate on the farther edges of this form of pressure. As i said, there is a lot of truth to what he said, but I still see the NDP as an important entity and worthy of my time.

For a good look at the Ontario Rae Gov't and social groups, Thomas Walkom's Rae Days is excellent.

But we do have to change the system. Soc-dems in capitalism cannot produce anything truly lasting.
Post-1945 Social justice measures were achieved as a result of capitalists' weaknesses following the Great Depression and successful state activism in WWII. Leftist politicians rarely advance anything anymore, because capitalism is re-energized (thanks to its own compromises, now abandoned). Left politicians are generally in defensive or retreat mode now.


From: Hamilton | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
skdadl
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Babbler # 478

posted 09 July 2004 08:43 AM      Profile for skdadl     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Since we seem to have a momentary consensus here, I'll join in and echo Non-pp's and N.Beltov's analyses as well.

It's an interesting thought: that a major division within the NDP is between those who fear (or simply discount) social movements (a minority but an elite, perhaps?) and those who consider them an essential and integral part of the party -- or at least of all left politics.

[ 09 July 2004: Message edited by: skdadl ]


From: gone | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
jfcorbett
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posted 09 July 2004 10:10 AM      Profile for jfcorbett     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by elixir:
[QB]]

While I have already expressed my disagreement with some of Hister's conclusions, it should be possible to make the points he does without being called a dictator or accused of wanting to abolish all elections. It is possible and legitimate to criticize our highly imperfect and unjust system without being a nutcase or a Hitler or Stalin in waiting.

[QB]


I did not imply Hister was a dictator or a nutcase, as you seem to be saying. I am sure he is just as smart and passionate about justice and democracy as you and I. You are putting words into my mouth, which are not mine.

I fuly agree that it is possible to criticise our electoral system, and I would even say it's pretty bloody necessary (understatement of the month).

Hister's argument, however, is deeply flawed. Its logical implications are invalid. It is therefore a poor and misleading critique of our electoral system.

I am guessing that Hister does not think we should abolish the elections. His argument, however, implies this, whether that is what he feels in his inner soul or not.

Therefore I think that Hister's critique is counterproductive and harmful.


From: Copenhagen, Denmark | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Polunatic
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posted 09 July 2004 11:02 AM      Profile for Polunatic   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I don't think Hister's position is all that different from a number of non-NDP left groups who have NOT YET concluded that electoral reform is necessary, even within a capitalist framework.

Proportional representation is not the revolution but it is an important necessary step for engaging more people politically, for giving the left a greater voice and then putting other reforms on the agenda.


From: middle of nowhere | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
elixir
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posted 09 July 2004 01:04 PM      Profile for elixir     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
I did not imply Hister was a dictator or a nutcase, as you seem to be saying. I am sure he is just as smart and passionate about justice and democracy as you and I. You are putting words into my mouth, which are not mine.

jfcorbett: Mr Magoo referred to Communists wanting to abolish elections, which you said was the "direct and incontrovertible conclusion" of Hister's argument. The bit about Hitler and nutcases is my poetic license. Anyway, you're on pretty thin ice complaining about people "putting words into my mouth" given that you freely extrapolate the (direct and incontrovertible, no less) "logical conclusions" of Hister's arguments...

My criticism of Hister would be that he makes far too much of his own individual decision on voting day. I don't know if he belongs to a political group or if he is prepared to work through these questions with those on the radical Left who are trying to do so in difficult circumstances. He only makes a passive and dismissive reference to such people. Since he professes to speak for the 40% of people who didn't vote, although it's unlikely they have given him a mandate to do so, his argument can too easily be dismissed as populist demagogy.

I'm modest enough about my own individual vote and open-eyed enough about our "democracy" to know that the result and consequences are pretty much determined well in advance of voting day. And so I try to work with others on the Left to develop some kind of collective strategy around these matters. Most of what I write or say about elections and other political things takes this as its starting point.

This doesn't appear to be Hister's approach. It might just be a different kind of writing, but I suspect it is more than that.

[ 09 July 2004: Message edited by: elixir ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Stephen Gordon
rabble-rouser
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posted 09 July 2004 01:27 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post
If Hister is unable to work out the consequences of his approach, then he's not a serious thinker. If he is able to do so, why didn't he tell us?

[ 09 July 2004: Message edited by: Oliver Cromwell ]


From: . | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
guilty-pleasure
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posted 09 July 2004 01:55 PM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Has he ever written anything here at rabble that couldn't be summarized by "He/She/it isn't radical left enough to satisfy me, therefore it's craaap!"?
From: ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Sharon
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posted 09 July 2004 02:38 PM      Profile for Sharon     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
And then there's Duane Nicol who was so annoyed when he read Stan's piece that he wrote his own thoughtful explanation of why he votes and even chose to run as an NDP candidate.

quote:
I believe choosing to abstain from the voting process is a valid political expression, just as valid as my choice to mark an X. And I completely understand the frustration people feel with politics and politicians. But the same frustration that pushes others away from the system drives me to participate.

[ 09 July 2004: Message edited by: Sharon ]


From: Halifax, Nova Scotia | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
Stan Hister
recent-rabble-rouser
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posted 09 July 2004 02:56 PM      Profile for Stan Hister        Edit/Delete Post
There are two basic assumptions in this thread that I don’t think hold up to analysis:

1.That you can push the NDP to the left.
2.That electing NDP governments moves us closer to socialism.

We’ve had a long history with the NDP in government provincially and with social democratic regimes in power in Europe and elsewhere. And I don’t think you can find in that history any confirmation of those two assumptions.

Yes, such regimes have introduced some important reforms (although so have non-social democratic parties like the Liberals here or the Democratic Party in the US).

But these reforms always have a DUAL character – they not only address some important social need but they also serve to stabilize capitalism. This second part is essential – without it there would be no reform at all.

That’s why the argument that electing NDP governments produces some sort of incremental movement to socialism doesn’t stand up. If this were true, then we would already have socialism in places like Britain or France or Germany which have had social democrats in power for much of the last century. Instead, you find just the opposite – capitalism is more firmly entrenched than ever.

Social democracy is a safety valve for the system, relieving pressure from the have-nots. That’s why it doesn’t get you closer to socialism; on the contrary, all it does is make capitalism more stable.

That’s why attempts to push such parties to the left never get very far, as the history of such efforts inside the NDP (Waffle, NPI, etc.) has shown. Social democrats won’t – can’t – tolerate anything that seriously challenges the system.

This isn’t going to change by putting in a better leader. Somebody like Layton has no alternative to capitalism. Which is why you get this almost schizophrenic split between his ‘progressive’ rhetoric and his unseemly haste to make deals with the mainstream parties. Now he refuses even to rule out taking a cabinet seat in a Martin government.

This is the logic of NDP politics – making the system work. At its most extreme (and pathetic) you have the German Social Democrats trying to make a deal with Hitler when he came to power to run the German labour movement for him.

A related assumption is that if we get the NDP to power, this will somehow legitimize more left-wing ideas. Again, this doesn’t hold up, especially nowadays. This is because with globalization the room for reform has been drastically reduced.

The NDP comes to power, having aroused big expectations, which it can’t fulfill. The result is that its own supporters become demoralized, while the right-wing becomes galvanized. Bob Rae’s record made Mike Harris’s reactionary crap sound credible, sound like ‘common sense’. And this is a common pattern in the history of social democracy – it opens the door to a big swing to the right.

Look, I am not against elections. But I found it almost amusing that no one in this thread challenged my somewhat exaggerated characterization of this election as being between a crook, a fascist and a fraud. If this is what our democracy has come to, then it’s in serious trouble. It means that our elections are increasingly meaningless exercises.

Of course if all democracy means to you is elections, then you’ve got nothing to worry about. Capitalism will gladly go on supplying you with meaningless elections until kingdom come.

I happen to think that democracy means a whole lot more. Above all for me it means the ability of the have-nots – who are after all the great majority – to take control of their own lives. We need a real alternative – not to the Liberals or the Tories, but to capitalism.

As for my supposedly claiming a “mandate” on behalf of the 40 percent of the population who didn’t vote, this is nonsense. I was saying two things: first, that it was possible to have abstained not out of apathy but out of conviction. Second, that whatever the motives for abstention, the sheer size of it indicates a deep and abiding alienation from mainstream politics. I don’t think either of those two claims are exaggerated or unreasonable.

Finally, as to what is to be done. I wasn’t writing an election manifesto. I’m not a member of a party. If others are, then they should advance their programs and we can discuss that. I’m a writer with some strong convictions. I think the left is in serious trouble – you’d have to be politically out to lunch not to see that – and we badly need some discussion about why that is so. What my writing is aimed at doing is provoking such discussion, and in a small way I don’t think it’s been entirely unsuccessful.

Elixir talks about working with others on the radical left to develop a “collective strategy” on issues like the elections. It would be good to hear what the upshot of that strategizing was. To be honest, I didn’t see much beyond the banality of a “critical vote” for the NDP. So far as I can tell, the logic is that because the NDP has a lot of working class people who vote for it, we need to be with them. But the Catholic Church has a lot more workers in it than the NDP. Does that mean that radicals should start attending communion?

If I have an ‘answer’ to put forward, it is that socialists should start coming out of the closet. If everybody who says they are a socialist really meant it, we’d have a sizable group in this country. But nobody talks about socialism anymore, not as any meaningful alternative to capitalism. Socialism has just become a sort of generic synonym for social justice – social justice WITHIN the system. That’s what I’m working to change, and I don’t think that’s an unworthy project.


From: Toronto | Registered: Sep 2003  |  IP: Logged
Scott Piatkowski
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1299

posted 09 July 2004 03:00 PM      Profile for Scott Piatkowski   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Stan Hister:
That's what I'm working to change, and I don't think that's an unworthy project.

Please tell us: How are you working to change this?


From: Kitchener-Waterloo | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Stephen Gordon
rabble-rouser
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posted 09 July 2004 03:21 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post
By writing columns like this. Very clever, don't you think?

[ 09 July 2004: Message edited by: Oliver Cromwell ]


From: . | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged
Scott Piatkowski
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 1299

posted 09 July 2004 03:26 PM      Profile for Scott Piatkowski   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Hey, I write columns too, but I've also managed to find ways of putting actions behind my words. I'm wordering what else Stan is doing to bring about the kind of society he wants.
From: Kitchener-Waterloo | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Stephen Gordon
rabble-rouser
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posted 09 July 2004 03:49 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post
But you don't write columns like this. You know what you want, and you've got a fairly good idea of how to get there.
From: . | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged
Scott Piatkowski
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posted 09 July 2004 04:25 PM      Profile for Scott Piatkowski   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Awwwww shucks...
From: Kitchener-Waterloo | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Stephen Gordon
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 4600

posted 09 July 2004 05:18 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post
Didn't say you were always right
From: . | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged
Stephen Gordon
rabble-rouser
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posted 09 July 2004 06:03 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post
I've decided that Stan Hister is not a serious thinker, and that the rabble editorial board would do well to look for someone who can mount coherent arguments from radical viewpoint.

Here's how the article starts:

quote:
I take my politics seriously, which is why I refuse to buy into the sham democracy of electoral politics.

babblers take him to task. Here's how he responds:

quote:
Look, I am not against elections.

And how does he respond to demands for an answer to the questions he raises?

quote:
If I have an ‘answer’ to put forward, it is that socialists should start coming out of the closet. If everybody who says they are a socialist really meant it, we’d have a sizable group in this country. But nobody talks about socialism anymore, not as any meaningful alternative to capitalism.

Bleah.

If he had started his piece with that last sentence, and then went on to explain what version of socialism he favours, how it would work, and why it would be better than what we have now, I'd be more sympathetic.

As it is, he seems more interested in raising questions than answering them. This is not a characteristic of an intellectual.


From: . | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged
elixir
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 3434

posted 09 July 2004 06:53 PM      Profile for elixir     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I don't know what it is about people to the left of the NDP and a number of contributors to these exchanges. You can almost always count on people trying to demonize such authors -- Hister in particular -- and suggesting they be censored out of existence. With this in mind, I would like to express my strong opposition to any attempt to badger the Rabble editorial board into refusing Hister's pieces in future.

There is a real debate within the non-NDP radical Left around the ideas Hister has raised in his article and now in this thread. With no disrespect intended to Babblers (or to Hister), I personally don't think Babble is the place to hold such debates.

I am even a bit amused by Hister's apparent surprise and indignation about the responses to his Rabble pieces. Babble is largely an NDP-dominated board, and not by (the very very few) NDPers who see the party as some kind of stepping stone to the "socialism" Hister so desires. The NDP is not about socialism; huffing and puffing about it isn't going to change a whole lot.

There are people, like myself, outside the NDP who are trying to build some type of framework for more radical Left politics. Hister attended one of our public meetings and only drew from it the call for a "critical vote for the NDP", even though only one of the panelists was a member of the NDP and only one of the speakers actually used that formula. Two speakers came out very strongly against the NDP, and one essentially promoted an abstentionist position, not only for the recent federal elections but in relation to elections per se.

I respect critical writers and polemics, but at some point you have to give a nod to the efforts people are making and to the difficult overall political circumstances we are operating under.

I submit that Hister does recognize the difficulties the radical Left faces, including and perhaps especially in relation to the NDP. Hister makes a quip about there being as many or more workers in the Catholic Church than among NDP voters. Well then, why not write entire articles denouncing the Catholic Church and its undoubtedly nefarious influence on working-class consciousness? No, Hister has chosen the NDP because he recognizes that, unlike the other mainstream parties, it is an expression (or receptacle or whatever you want to call it) of working class and Left politics in this country, and that socialists cannot ignore it (in the way we might the Catholic Church, on most days), its fate and the hopes and thinking of its many supporters and voters. Hister doesn't like the slogan "critical vote for the NDP"; nor do I particularly. But how is "virulent journalistic broadside against the NDP" any more helpful in taking us beyond NDP-focused strategy and tactics for the radical Left?

[ 09 July 2004: Message edited by: elixir ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
elixir
rabble-rouser
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posted 09 July 2004 07:04 PM      Profile for elixir     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
I've decided that Stan Hister is not a serious thinker, and that the rabble editorial board would do well to look for someone who can mount coherent arguments from radical viewpoint.

I've already stated my opposition to this call to dump Hister. But I also disagree that Hister is not a serious thinker -- at least in comparison to other pieces on Rabble.

There are interesting points of political analysis and commentary in the piece. Here are a a couple related ideas:

1. The NDP (and moreso the Layton-led NDP?) was angling for a special relationship with the Liberals from the start. This was misguided electoral strategy and a worrying sign of the party's drift to the centre-right.

2. At a time when neo-liberalism has shifted politics so far to the right and severely restricted the possibility of progressive reforms, it is utterly misguided to see the teary-eyed nostalgia about the accomplishments of minority governments in the 1960s and 1970s (and especially the 72-74 Trudeau government) as an indicator of what the NDP could achieve under a minority government today.


Again, I find it a bit amusing that Hister wants to be both the NDP's harshest critic and most enlightened advisor. But there are some important analytical nuggets in his piece.

[ 09 July 2004: Message edited by: elixir ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Stephen Gordon
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 4600

posted 09 July 2004 07:23 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post
It's not that I disagree with Hister, it's that he doesn't have anything interesting to say. A coherent radical argument deserves an honoured place on rabble. Hister does not.
From: . | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged
Ivan
recent-rabble-rouser
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posted 09 July 2004 07:41 PM      Profile for Ivan        Edit/Delete Post
You can't reform capitalism. The NDP supports the capitalist system.

40% of the population did not vote in this election because they are tired of a system that works for the rich but does very little for the working class.

40% of the people want change but they do not know what that change should be. I believe we need socialism. Like Mr Hister says; we need to talk about an alternative to capitalism. We need to talk about socialism.

How do we get there?

We need a new political party that offers an alternative to the capitalist system (not a political party that works within the capitalist system). A political party that openly talks about and supports the establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruements for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.

How will it work?

We need to first establish a majority of the population who want an alternative to capitalism (anything less than a majority will likely have the capitalist right put us against the wall and have us shot) and then we can democraticly decide how socialism is going look and work.

Will we ever have a socialist system?

I believe so. When conditions finally become unbearable/unlivable for the working class under capitalism we will see a move to a socialist system.

Mr Hister has it right. I just wish that 40% of the population that did not vote in this election could see what he is saying.

Ivan the Red


From: gta | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
jeff house
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posted 09 July 2004 08:15 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I think threads like this are interesting. So I think people who stimulate interesting threads should be encouraged to continue.

That said, I find Stan Hister far too theological for my taste:

quote:
It's always the same, always an exercise in choosing the “lesser of two (or three) evils.” But if evil is all there is on offer, then evil is all you end up with. The road to hell is paved with “lesser” evils.

There has seldom been a clearer demand for nirvana in the annals of socialism.

Yes, it is "always the same". And it will ALWAYS be that way. In the real world, compromises on questions of doctrine are necessary because it is unlikely that everyone will agree on EVERY topic.

If you collect and work only with those who agree with you about all political topics, you will likely be in a closed cult.

Not voting for the "evil" Jack Layton may keep our author pure and free from sin. But it won't bring holy socialism any quicker.


Let's check in on Stan Hister every five years, and see how much closer to socialism his strategy actually brings us. Myself, I hope that Stan Hister eventually decides to come down from the mountaintop and join in making Canada a better country, even if it will never be a perfect one.


From: toronto | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Stephen Gordon
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posted 09 July 2004 08:17 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Ivan:

40% of the population did not vote in this election because they are tired of a system that works for the rich but does very little for the working class.

40% of the people want change but they do not know what that change should be. I believe we need socialism. Like Mr Hister says; we need to talk about an alternative to capitalism. We need to talk about socialism.


*Yawn*

The first point requires empirical support. The second point has been made roughly a kazillion times with no follow-through.

Is this really the best the radical left has to offer? What do you guys do in grad school?


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Tommy_Paine
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posted 09 July 2004 08:38 PM      Profile for Tommy_Paine     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I think it's interesting that Hister points to more radical ideas coming out of the German system, which has PR.

Our system doesn't. I at least share Hister's frustration. I've seen London Riddings "Redistributed" (the Family Compact euphamism for gerrymandered) to cut up the NDP vote time and time again. If you've worked in an election, you know you use progress made in previous elections and community activism campaigns. When this work is swept aside by the party in power in order to negate your vote, well, it does make the whole thing seem rather pointless at times.

But I vote. And maybe one day there will be democratic reform in Canada-- Something we haven't seen since Lord Elgin laid out this system sometime back in the 1850's.

But even then, one has to realize Rome wasn't built in a day. If you are a socialist in this country, you have to take a long term view of things, and realize that even if you convinced and overwhelming majority of Canadians to adopt your ideas, there are other more serious hurdles to assail before implementing your policies.

The first of which would be how to clamber over the Abrahms Tanks that surround the House of Commons on your way to your first throne speech.....


From: The Alley, Behind Montgomery's Tavern | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged
Frank13
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posted 09 July 2004 11:19 PM      Profile for Frank13     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
This 40% nonsense is just that. I don't know of any Ipsos-Reid poll that says the 40% that don't vote are far-left types who are making a statement by not voting. If this were so, then how come the Aussies don't see huge support for the Marxists since they make everybody vote? I have my own poll, friends and relatives. Those that don't vote, shouldn't. They can't even name the premier of the province next door. Any issue that wasn't raised on Survivor or Oprah draws a blank stare. I'm glad Canada doesn't make those 40% vote, it would just cheapen the votes of the 60% who are tuned in enough to be able to name the parties contesting the election. Stan? Ivan? Guess what? Those 40% are more interested in watching The Swan than they are in bringing down the system. Fact is, I bet most of them love the system as it is as long as it keeps entertaining them. Go Canucks.
From: Vancouver | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged
thwap
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posted 10 July 2004 03:51 PM      Profile for thwap        Edit/Delete Post
I'm sure some of our active voters are also "Swan" and "Survivor" watchers. I wouldn't say that only the smart ones are voting.

(that's how the previous post sounded.)


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thwap
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posted 10 July 2004 04:07 PM      Profile for thwap        Edit/Delete Post
1. First, I didn't call for censoring Mr. Hister.

2. I don't think Hister responded to my concerns about the dangerous consequences of a completely right-wing dominated electoral system (like in the United States.)

quote:
But these reforms always have a DUAL character – they not only address some important social need but they also serve to stabilize capitalism. This second part is essential – without it there would be no reform at all.

That’s why the argument that electing NDP governments produces some sort of incremental movement to socialism doesn’t stand up. If this were true, then we would already have socialism in places like Britain or France or Germany which have had social democrats in power for much of the last century. Instead, you find just the opposite – capitalism is more firmly entrenched than ever.


..This seems akin to Lenin's "the worse the better." There's truth in Hister's (and Lenin's) argument, but it's a risky proposition. Soc-dems/socialists aren't trying to stabilize capitalism, so much as they are trying to work within a democratic system and to preserve and extend benefits for their constituents.

They could, I suppose, call for sweeping everything aside, and implement widespread nationalizations and expropriations, and radical social transformations. But were the western left voters ever calling for this? Would they support these upheavals?

quote:
This isn’t going to change by putting in a better leader. Somebody like Layton has no alternative to capitalism. Which is why you get this almost schizophrenic split between his ‘progressive’ rhetoric and his unseemly haste to make deals with the mainstream parties. Now he refuses even to rule out taking a cabinet seat in a Martin government.

This is the logic of NDP politics – making the system work. At its most extreme (and pathetic) you have the German Social Democrats trying to make a deal with Hitler when he came to power to run the German labour movement for him


Or, a less pathetic example, a leftist party joining a centre-left coalition gov't and making them provide more worker protections than they would have otherwise.

Or Mister Hister's option: a purely socialist party, existing in a permanent minority, refusing any and all participation in gov't until the majority of the electorate rallies behind it.

quote:
A related assumption is that if we get the NDP to power, this will somehow legitimize more left-wing ideas. Again, this doesn’t hold up, especially nowadays. This is because with globalization the room for reform has been drastically reduced

By the same token, globalization also restricts the abiltiy of "socialism in one country" does it not?

quote:
The NDP comes to power, having aroused big expectations, which it can’t fulfill. The result is that its own supporters become demoralized, while the right-wing becomes galvanized. Bob Rae’s record made Mike Harris’s reactionary crap sound credible, sound like ‘common sense’. And this is a common pattern in the history of social democracy – it opens the door to a big swing to the right.


Unfortunately true in that instance, and others probably. We cannot go on like this, but I find Hister's recommendations that he provided in his reply a trifle disappointing.

quote:
Finally, as to what is to be done. I wasn’t writing an election manifesto. I’m not a member of a party. If others are, then they should advance their programs and we can discuss that. I’m a writer with some strong convictions. I think the left is in serious trouble – you’d have to be politically out to lunch not to see that – and we badly need some discussion about why that is so. What my writing is aimed at doing is provoking such discussion, and in a small way I don’t think it’s been entirely unsuccessful.

I don't mean to be mean, but it would be helpful if you joined the discussion with some concrete proposals. I think there's a lot of merit to your critique, but I've heard this negativism before. It's time for some real alternatives.

quote:
If I have an ‘answer’ to put forward, it is that socialists should start coming out of the closet. If everybody who says they are a socialist really meant it, we’d have a sizable group in this country. But nobody talks about socialism anymore, not as any meaningful alternative to capitalism. Socialism has just become a sort of generic synonym for social justice – social justice WITHIN the system. That’s what I’m working to change, and I don’t think that’s an unworthy project.


I find it troubling that Mr. Hister felt compelled to put 'answer' in quotation marks. We need answers.
And plenty of people are talking about socialism. We just don't make that much headway. And we disagree with each other.

and i could keep typing, but i grow so weary ...


From: Hamilton | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Frank13
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posted 10 July 2004 04:25 PM      Profile for Frank13     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Has nothing to do with "smart". I'm not putting them down, these are my friends and co-workers etc. I could name names if there was any point. It has to do with being interested. It would be nice to think that the 40% that don't vote just can't find a party that represents them but I don't think its true. I think they don't care. I know they can tell me what season Ron Sedlbauer scored a lot of goals or how to frame a house or make good wine or a bunch of other things. But I also know they've never heard of Lorne Calvert and they don't know what party Ralph Klein belongs to. And I would say they're generally quite happy with that. A reverse snobbishness to not knowing or caring about politcs. Its like doing bad at Physics in grade 11, its cool and proves you're not a geek.

So maybe they're not representative, maybe there really are 12 million Canadian Marxists who are planning the destruction of the system while staying out of the political process. And maybe this only happens in Canada since countries with mandatory voting don't see it. And maybe they never say any of this to pollsters or talk about it with friends, perhaps they're all meeting secretly in abandoned town halls across the country late at night planning how not to vote.

But I'm willing to bet on the simple answer which is they just don't care enough about politics to vote. People are busy, there's only so much time in a day so 40% of the country deciding to change channels instead of listening to a Gordon Campbell sound bite and then a political panel dissecting what he just said makes perfect sense to me. But if they did learn the names of all the parties and leaders and Canada forced them to vote I don't think you'd see any change in the results because in the end their respective belief systems would probably break down the same as the other 60% among whom they live.


From: Vancouver | Registered: May 2004  |  IP: Logged
N.Beltov
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posted 10 July 2004 05:37 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The option of going to the Polling Place and not voting for one of the candidates seems to have been ignored by Stan Hister and some other contributors. My understanding is that Elections Canada took away our right to a “rejected ballot” but that the option of a “spoiled” ballot is still available. Elections Canada has the following comment about other ways of dealing with a ballot…

quote:
Eating a ballot, not returning it or otherwise destroying or defacing it constitutes a serious breach of the Canada Elections Act.

Of course eating a ballot could be a form of protest. But I doubt it would work. I make these observations because it seems to me that an election is not only a way to elect MPs and form a government. Elections are also an opportunity for like-minded people to identify themselves by their numbers. If Hister doesn’t belong to some political group then he should support the “free survey” that an election is and encourage people who think like him to (a) fight to restore the rejected ballot, or (b) spoil their ballots in record numbers, or (c) eat their ballot as a form of protest, or finally (d) as Rod Manchee suggested, add “None of the Above” at the bottom of every ballot. That way, federal elections could at least serve as an opportunity to “count the troops” or something. Why the lack of imagination, Stan H?

quote:
From Hister: You can't sustain little pockets of democratic rights in a social fabric being ripped apart like this.

All or nothing? But how does “nothing” become the “all” except by becoming “something” first? Or does “nothing” simply become “all” in some great dialectical leap? That’s quite a leap.

quote:
Hister: There are two basic assumptions in this thread that I don’t think hold up to analysis:
1.That you can push the NDP to the left.

How is it that we can make a conclusion about the conduct of a political party outside of the details and the circumstances of the issue(s) at hand? It’s in the analysis of the balance of forces in a particular situation that leads the thoughtful person to sound conclusions. If the NDP can be pushed from the right (successfully), why should we suppose that the NDP cannot be pushed from the left? Isn’t this surrender in advance? NDPers are the very people that are most like other leftists outside the NDP.

Frankly, the left doesn’t have enough practice in this regard. The non-NDP left should be building up political muscles for the eventual heavy lifting of a hoped-for future. And there’s no reason, for example, why the left couldn’t have public actions IN FAVOUR OF some policy that the NDP has implemented, is about to implement, or is thinking about implementing. All that holds us back is lack of imagination. God knows we could use the exercise.

quote:
2.That electing NDP governments moves us closer to socialism.

Socialism will never come about as the result of an election. Chile proved that. So, people who focus exclusively on electoral politics aren’t really socialists in this sense of the word. But people, all people, are also capable of change and it is that change that genuine socialists have faith in. How could it be otherwise?

quote:
If I have an ‘answer’ to put forward, it is that socialists should start coming out of the closet. If everybody who says they are a socialist really meant it, we’d have a sizable group in this country.

No argument here on that…although babble shouldn't be the only place where that is asserted.

A last point/whine or two from me.

I’ve noticed in this thread that a number of contributors have used the term “class” (meaning social class) in a number of anti-socialist ways. For example, I think “lower” class is a term used by people who can’t see the possibility of socialism, if by socialism we mean “working class government/power” or something like that. “Lower” class means you’ll never be in charge. Class and income are getting mixed up here. I think a term like that also betrays a lack of imagination as well as terminological clumsiness. The terms “middle class” and “upper class” are also clumsy and not quite right.

Nobody has yet convinced me that socialism is anything other than working class power … whatever form it will ultimately take. I think it is very telling, as well, that words used to describe the social class that governs our society are, without exception, objected to on the grounds that they are too ideologically charged. It is as if we are not allowed to clearly express our socialist goals or identify which social groups can be expected to oppose us.

The opponents of socialism would be happiest if we never talked about it. And they’re very successful at ensuring that such lack of talk continues. Funny how that is.


From: Vancouver Island | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
mhandel
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posted 10 July 2004 05:53 PM      Profile for mhandel   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
It's pretty funny, very pro-capitalist thinkers like Max Weber and Robert Michels at the beginning of the 20th century, understood that social democratic parties helped sustain capitalism because of how the party is often dominated by a few people ("the iron law of oligarchy") who are more interested in securing their power than actually achieving social change. See for example, Robert Michels "Political Parties" which is an empirical examination of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD):

http://religionanddemocracy.lib.virginia.edu/library/tocs/MicPoli.html


Every time a social democratic party comes to power they end up betraying the working class....THat seems to be adequate precedent to justify beief that political parties only seek to contain protest within acceptable channels (i.e. into struggles that are no longer a threat to the ruling fucks)


From: Ottawa | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
N.Beltov
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posted 10 July 2004 06:06 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by mhandel:

Every time a social democratic party comes to power they end up betraying the working class....THat seems to be adequate precedent to justify beief that political parties only seek to contain protest within acceptable channels (i.e. into struggles that are no longer a threat to the ruling fucks)


If they didn't "betray" the working class then they could also reach a political compromise on a particular issue. An example would be Medicare with doctors allowed to bill individually rather than be on a salary from the state. The socialist part is the medicare and the capitalist part is the billing methodology. And that's exactly what happened in our country.

It seems your approach is, indeed, a belief. Are we expecting the NDP to lead us to the promised socialist land? It ain't the NDPs goal. Be fair.

Sidebar:I've got to admit that I like your term "ruling fucks." Can I use it, mhandel?


From: Vancouver Island | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
Stephen Gordon
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posted 10 July 2004 06:35 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by thwap:
I find it troubling that Mr. Hister felt compelled to put 'answer' in quotation marks. We need answers.
And plenty of people are talking about socialism. We just don't make that much headway. And we disagree with each other.

Why isn't any headway being made? From what I've seen, the only analyses socialists put forward are class-based criticisms of capitalism. Exactly why this is an interesting exercise is unclear to me. As I said in another thread (one that didn't get the traction I'd hoped), when workers can save,

quote:
the class distinction becomes an almost meaningless notion.

Voters want to know what a candidate or party will do with the mandate to govern. So far, the radical left's answer to this question is simple "Smash capitalism!". Then what? "Er, we haven't given much thought to that. Once we're done smashing things, we'll figure something out."


From: . | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged
mhandel
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posted 10 July 2004 06:42 PM      Profile for mhandel   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Firstly, medicare is certainly not anti-capitalist....it could be argued that a healthy worker is a more productive worker thus medicare is quite beneficial to capitalism (even in the United States many within the auto industry are supportive of universal health care)

Secondly, why did it take so long for universal health care to come to Canada? The CCF was around since the 1930s, but it was only till the 1960s (i.e. when social struggles were heating up around the world) when medicare came into existence. It seems that it was not the NDP who brought in universal health care (and the expansion of the welfare-state in the 1960s/early 1970s), but social struggle forced the ruling class to expand the welfare-state as a concession to keep the people from revolting against capitalism. If instead of engaging in social struggles, they put their energy into electing CCF/NDP people into the parliament, the ruling class would have conceded much less than it did.

In the United States, it was Richard Nixon, who even though he was pretty right-wing, expanded various elements of the welfare-state. Why? It was because the incredible amount of social struggles that were happening in the early 1970s, forced Nixon to concede things to the oppressed.

The implications are pretty damn obvious, lets not put our energy into campaigning/supporting the NDP, let's put our energy into working class struggles at the point of production and into autonomous struggles outside the point of production.

ANd yes, I don't mind you use that term "ruling fucks"


From: Ottawa | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
N.Beltov
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posted 10 July 2004 07:48 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by mhandel:
If instead of engaging in social struggles, they put their energy into electing CCF/NDP people into the parliament, the ruling class would have conceded much less than it did.

quote:
mhandel:...lets not put our energy into campaigning/supporting the NDP, let's put our energy into working class struggles at the point of production and into autonomous struggles outside the point of production.

I think this is more of that "either/or" thinking which is a little one-sided. How could Medicare be implemented without a friendly government? Doesn't that make it easier to prevent sabotage of our goals by a hostile state apparatus? What's wrong, in general, with a flexible approach? The thing in common is the class point of view...which contributors such as Oliver Cromwell can't see the value of.

quote:
OC: From what I've seen, the only analyses socialists put forward are class-based criticisms of capitalism. Exactly why this is an interesting exercise is unclear to me

Let me see if I can give OC a short answer. It is important because class analysis identifies friends and foes and lays out some of the requirements for a transition from what we have (capitalism at a certain stage of development) to what we want (social property in the main means of production, socialism, and so on). In particular and most importantly a class approach identifies what social groups will lead the "transition period" and why socialists think they can be counted upon TO lead. That's the start of an answer I hope.

It is my view that an approach that views the socialist project as some simple democratic exercise of reaching the magic 50% plus 1 is really a socialist project defined by the enemies of socialism. Capitalist countries, this one included, have long accepted governments formed by parties that do not have over 50% of the support of the population. Why should socialists be required to abide by a higher standard that the ideological guardians of capitalism set for themselves?

I'm no great guns of a socialist theoretician. But I sure know what side of the fence I'm on and it seems that that is one of the most fundamental truths of the socialist agenda...that people are crystal clear about what side of the class fence they are on.

The class distinction becomes meaningless when the benefits of social production are no longer private. My understanding is that that happens when capitalism is no longer the dominant socio-economic formation. It'll be a while.


From: Vancouver Island | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
Hendrik_Nieuwland
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posted 10 July 2004 07:57 PM      Profile for Hendrik_Nieuwland     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I was discouraged to see the traditional dichotomy play itself out on this thread - that the only alternative to capitalism is socialism.

There is another alternative that has recently been proposed and which I believe requires further attention and analysis - David C. Korten calls it "mindful markets".

Mr. Korten, as well as a gentleman named David Schweickart, argue that, contrary to popular belief, "capitalism" is not equivalent to "market theory". Rather, capitalism roots market theory within a specific normative framework - that being the pursuit of maximum profits. Korten and Schweickart state that other frameworks could inform market theory to create a more just system.

Here are the names of the books if anyone is interested in looking into this alternative.

David Schweickart, "After capitalism" (2002)

David C. Korten, "The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism" (1999)


From: Kingston | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
jeff house
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posted 10 July 2004 09:07 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Every time a social democratic party comes to power they end up betraying the working class

Well, that's obviously not true. Social democratic parties in Scandinavia have delivered pretty well for the working class.

Words like "betrayal" contain more heat than light. If a social democratic party promises capitalism with a human face, and delivers, is that betrayal?

And while you are berating social democratic parties with your large brush, ask yourself this:

Have communist parties faithfully brought the good life to working people? Or did they betray them?


From: toronto | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Erik Redburn
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posted 10 July 2004 09:19 PM      Profile for Erik Redburn     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:

Mr. Korten, as well as a gentleman named David Schweickart, argue that, contrary to popular belief, "capitalism" is not equivalent to "market theory". Rather, capitalism roots market theory within a specific normative framework - that being the pursuit of maximum profits. Korten and Schweickart state that other frameworks could inform market theory to create a more just system.

Very good, thank you. "Capitalism" and "socialism" aren't black and white polar opposites, "market economies" of various types predate both, existing within all societies, as do varying forms of "class" exploitation, communalism and government intervention (for better and worse) and yes, there is such a thing called "Social Democracy" which continues to work quite well within certain European nations, particularly in Scandinavia. It's not small-L liberalism either, as too many Marxist-socialists now seem to insist.

I'm not suggesting we can just graft a Scandinavian type economy onto our present North American society either (or that it's perfection- too much privatization under the EU) but we could take some inspiration from how they have actually achieved a sustainable pluralistic balance, which is what we abandoned here when we abandoned our own social democratic principles and allowed corporatism take over.


From: Broke but not bent. | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Erik Redburn
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posted 10 July 2004 09:36 PM      Profile for Erik Redburn     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Oh and to clarify, I don't believe what we're experiencing now is the inevitable byproduct of "capitalism" so much as out of control corporatism - democracies being held hostage by international finance and state supported trading monopolies -- something else that doesn't quite fit the simple framework of worker versus owner.
From: Broke but not bent. | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Stephen Gordon
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posted 10 July 2004 09:53 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by N.Beltov:

[C]lass analysis identifies friends and foes and lays out some of the requirements for a transition from what we have (capitalism at a certain stage of development) to what we want (social property in the main means of production, socialism, and so on). In particular and most importantly a class approach identifies what social groups will lead the "transition period" and why socialists think they can be counted upon to lead.


But my point is that it does no such thing. Consider a 25-year-old currency trader making 150K$/yr who has no assets (and is probably paying off student loans) and a retired auto worker whose income is derived from his pension plan's investments. Marx' theory is quite clear about how these two should be classified: the former is a worker and the latter is a capitalist.

From what I can see, Marx's original proposition was:

'Workers will favour the overthrow of capitalism. A worker is defined as someone whose earnings are entirely derived fom his/her labour income.'

This is a testable proposition about observables. It didn't do too well when confronted with the data, so the theory has been revised somewhat. The current version appears to be:

'Workers will favour the overthrow of capitalism. A worker is defined as someone who favours the overthrow of capitalism.'

I really don't see how transforming a testable theory into a tautology can be interpreted as progress in socialist thought.

[ 10 July 2004: Message edited by: Oliver Cromwell ]


From: . | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged
N.Beltov
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posted 10 July 2004 11:58 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
OC seems to be asserting that Marxists claim that once an individual's objective social class is determined, then that individual's political views can also be determined. And in the case of those who belong to the working class, then, OC asserts, Marxist theory states that they will favour the overthrow of capitalism. Apparently Marxists don't believe in free will. Furthermore, Fred Engels, for example, could not take the point of view of a social class that he did not objectively belong to. And so on.

But perhaps OC could explain this curious statement from the 1848 Manifesto of the Communist Party :

quote:

Finally, in times when the class struggle nears the decisive hour, the process of dissolution going on within the ruling class, in fact within the whole range of society, assumes such a violent, glaring character, that a small section of the ruling class cuts itself adrift, and joins the revolutionary class, the class that holds the future in its hands. Just as, therefore, at an earlier period, a section of the nobility went over to the bourgeoisie, so now a portion of the bourgeoisie goes over to the proletariat, and in particular, a portion of the bourgeois ideologists, who have raised themselves to the level of comprehending theoretically the historical movement as a whole.

Apparently Karl Marx and Fred Engels didn't understand their own theory. What a pity OC wasn't around in 1848 to set them straight.

There is no transmission belt from objective class position/location to class consciousness to socialist consciousness. Marx obviously recognized that in 1848, long before he made his great study of political economy. He also recognized that individuals can, by dint of effort, raise themselves above their selfish bourgeois class interests when they are able to "comprehend theoretically the historical movement as a whole." But Marx also recognized that history is not some fait accompli ...which is presumably why he, and his pal Fred Engels, made such an effort in organizing the International Working Men's Association.

Defining objective social class is no easy task. And it is an especially difficult task in a society that openly denies that classes exist or are of any social significance whatsoever. For those who are interested, I recommend looking at the work of Erik Olin Wright. But there are others of course. Lenin's definition is not a bad place to start....just don't stop there.

[Edited to add:

Wright doesn't even call himself a Marxist...he says that he belongs to the Marxist tradition. I like that sort of healthy scepticism towards "sacred" texts. It's the appropriate attitude of a serious social scientist. Karl, Fred and Vladimir would be proud.]

Interview with Erik Olin Wright

What social class "membership" does mean is that Marxists would prefer to spend their time agitating among workers rather than appealing to the good graces of their bosses. And, by golly, that's what Marxists do! And Marxists will be wary of individuals who haven't done a stick of work in their life but blather on with the most radical sounding phrases. But that's another story...

What a caricature OC! I await your clever reply.

[ 11 July 2004: Message edited by: N.Beltov ]


From: Vancouver Island | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
N.Beltov
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posted 11 July 2004 12:49 AM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I've dug up some of EO Wright's remarks about social class and some may be worth repeating.

The following is interesting in terms of conveying the complexity of class position or "location" as Wright uses it:

quote:

Now, part of the effort of my work has been to give more precision to this idea (the idea that people occupy locations-within-social-relations...N.Beltov)in a world where there is a lot more complexity than is captured by the simple idea of capitalist class relations as a perfectly polarized relation between Capital and Labour. This has meant that I have had to "redefine" class location in order to capture this complexity. I consider managers, for example, to be a special kind of class location, which I call a "contradictory location within class relations", a location that in some sense occupies both the capitalist and working class location (or, more precisely: a location within a complex set of relations in which with respect to some dimensions of these relations occupies the capitalist location and with respect to others, the working class location).

[ 11 July 2004: Message edited by: N.Beltov ]


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Rufus Polson
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posted 11 July 2004 04:04 AM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Someone mentions the "iron law of oligarchy" as dictating that social democratic parties will always end up betraying the working class. Assuming that were true, I don't see why this would apply any less to socialist parties or Communist parties or even Anarchist groups.
While tendencies for even theoretically egalitarian groups to become oligarchies do exist and are dangerous, to radical as well as moderate groups, what exactly is this "iron law of oligarchy"? I hear the term, but does the "law" consist of anything more than someone's assertion that oligarchy is inevitable? Do they, for instance, say why? I'm sure there are workarounds, given well-designed structures and perhaps well-designed communication technologies and frameworks.

On reform--some people seem to be saying that any reform that is enacted in a democratic system within capitalism is by definition useless to class struggle or it wouldn't have been enacted. The implication would seem to be that it is impossible for democracy to produce anything useful under capitalism. After all, if it's not just hard but by definition impossible for valuable reforms to be democratically enacted, simply because they are valuable to people and inconvenient to capital, then presumably it's also by definition impossible for a hard-left party of any sort to be elected, because that too would be inconvenient to capital. So the left must confine itself to action outside the electoral system. Now, action outside the electoral system is necessary--but surely you could assume the same criticism. After all, reform isn't claimed to be impossible because the state is democratic, but because it is capitalist and capital brooks no interference. But the state is still capitalist outside the electoral system--if you're going to say it's impossible to buck the capitalists in one arena, what's different in another? So this is a recipe for despair.

But I agree with Michael Albert. Whether through electoral or more direct means or both in concert, it is possible to win reforms that are meaningful. There are two reasons reforms can be meaningful. One is that they can be reforms that make further reform easier--strategic reforms. Things like proportional representation, for instance, or passing laws favouring the establishment and prosperity of co-ops. The second reason is that they make people's lives better. That's kind of supposed to be the goal, right? So, like, public health care. It made people's lives better. It still does. That's a Good Thing. If people can't trust the Left to try to make people's lives better, why the hell should they listen to us?

An aside--as to the guy who rubbished the CCF's involvement in that, get a life. Duh, the CCF/NDP didn't form a government that brought it in nationally, because the CCF/NDP never formed a national government. But they brought it in in Saskatchewan long before it was brought in nationally. And they were key in pushing it as a national agenda.

Meanwhile, as to the "swing to the right" of the NDP people are talking about based on the fact that Jack Layton was from the start talking about having an impact on Liberal policies in a minority government situation. Yeah, I'm sure if you guys had been in charge, you would have been right in there saying the NDP planned to be completely irrelevant. I'm sure that would be a far superior stance. And what was and is the primary goal Layton pushed for? Why, the very strategic reform of proportional representation. How terrible! How right wing!

Look, I'm way left of the NDP. But a lot of the commentary I'm seeing from anti-NDP far left people amounts to shooting yourself in the foot and commenting on how much cooler you look with the blood pooling around you, and how being able to walk around is for wimps who haven't realized that they should be learning to levitate through transcendental meditative techniques. I want to get to the promised land, and I really think that while less glamorous, walking a step at a time will get me there faster than shooting my foot off and meditating on levitation techniques.

Finally, Mr. Cromwell--I hope you realize that when you critique socialism and theories of class, you sound to people who know anything about it just the way various people sound to you when they critique economists. That is, like an ignoramus dismissing something a lot of people have studied very carefully *because* you don't know anything about it.


From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
Stephen Gordon
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posted 11 July 2004 08:19 AM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post
Point taken.
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mhandel
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posted 11 July 2004 11:24 AM      Profile for mhandel   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
"An aside--as to the guy who rubbished the CCF's involvement in that, get a life. Duh, the CCF/NDP didn't form a government that brought it in nationally, because the CCF/NDP never formed a national government. But they brought it in in Saskatchewan long before it was brought in nationally. And they were key in pushing it as a national agenda."

You are missing my point, what one has to do is understand the relationship between struggles of the oppressed with the bread crumbs that the ruling class concedes to the working class to get the workers to stop struggling against their oppression.

Obviously, universal health care makes people's lives better but to accept the NDP/CCF's "explaination" for the origins of universal health care seems rather naive to me.

Many conservative parties in Western Europe did expand the welfare-state (e.g. Germany) in the post WWII period, this suggests, social democratic parties were fairly irrelevant in the growth of the welfare-state.

As to the Scandinavian countries, yes, the ruling class has given a relatively high amount of concessions to the workers, but in the end these concession help sustain capitalism.


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RickW
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posted 11 July 2004 12:30 PM      Profile for RickW     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Booker:
The fact is, even when New Democrats buck the neo-liberal consensus they get no help from the self-styled radical left.

We DO like to eat our own young, don't we?

But for Stan Hister to get the system he prefers, he's going to have to participate in seeing that a party is elected (or is in a positon of influence) to make the changes necessary to get past our FPTP, two-party (in essence), adversarial inanity.


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RickW
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posted 11 July 2004 12:32 PM      Profile for RickW     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Anarchist groups[/QB]

Isn't that an oxymoron?


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N.Beltov
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posted 11 July 2004 01:10 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
ONE

You know, I've got to agree with the approach of Oliver Cromwell who has, on more than one occassion, brought to light the point that some assertions made by the "radical left" seem the kind of propositions that can't be shown to be true OR false. Tautologies is the word OC used. I don't agree with the most recent example he gave but the point, in general, is well taken.

Here's an example of what I mean. If all reforms of a capitalist country in the form of Medicare-type social programs are simply "sops" to buy off working people, then why wouldn't this "sop" be the same in every capitalist country? What makes things different in each country? To ask the question, I think, is to already have an idea of an answer. The difference is the result of the struggles of working people in the different countries to advance their own (socialist) agenda. And some are more successful than others. So it is worth fighting for "footholds" towards some better future.

There doesn't seem to be any way to disprove the thesis that social improvements under capitalism are "sops" the purpose of which is to bamboozle working people away from the important business of fighting for socialism. This stuff is like some sort of theoretical disarmament. It can't be shown to be true or false and it has a real demobilizing effect, both theoretically and practically.

TWO

I wanted to make another point in regard to the contribution of Hendrik Nieuwland and his "mindful markets." Does the theory of mindful markets elaborate any social group as being the likely agent of social change to the improved society? No? Then how will the desired change take place? By convincing people in positions of power? Now I am the discouraged one...

THREE

quote:
Originally posted by mhandel:
Many conservative parties in Western Europe did expand the welfare-state (e.g. Germany) in the post WWII period, this suggests, social democratic parties were fairly irrelevant in the growth of the welfare-state.

This statement has got me thinking about a pet thesis of mine. For babblers of the left persuasion, here is something that I have always felt was worth investigating.

Following the Russian Revolution and the establishment of a variety of social advancements and programs in that country, a great number of European and other capitalist countries "followed suit" in regard to many aspects of policy. Pensions. Unemployment Insurance. Improved status of women. Better laws protecting working people and compensation for injury on the job. And so on. Canada falls into that group as well.

Flash forward to the 90s...and many aspects of the social safety net fall under ferocious attack in these same countries. The same laws are gutted in many ways following the collapse of (an admitedly far from perfect version of) socialism. Could the argument be made, therefore, that the presence of a socialist country was a major factor in the development of these social programs and policies in the capitalist countries?

I realize that this sounds like a post hoc, ergo propter hoc sort of an argument. But the study of policy changes both AFTER the Russian Revolution and AFTER the collapse of the socialist countries would strengthen the argument, wouldn't it? (If the data collected was compelling I mean.) No causal link could be proved of course...that would be formulating the thesis too strongly. But it would be a powerful piece of propaganda for socialists trying to demonstrate the worthiness of the socialist project. Unions do the same thing when they try to demonstrate the worthiness of membership. Hmmm...

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again! That's a good motto for demoralized socialists. It's a whole lot better than the despair that tries to pass for wisdom in this thread.

And now to end with a favourite quote...

quote:
...There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.

Believe me,
dear citizen,
Your devoted,
Karl Marx


I especially like the "dear citizen" salutation that echoes with the righteous sounds of the storming of the Bastille on that glorious July day, 215 years ago this month...


From: Vancouver Island | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
Ivan
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posted 11 July 2004 01:31 PM      Profile for Ivan        Edit/Delete Post
quote:

N.Beltov said

It is my view that an approach that views the socialist project as some simple democratic exercise of reaching the magic 50% plus 1 is really a socialist project defined by the enemies of socialism. Capitalist countries, this one included, have long accepted governments formed by parties that do not have over 50% of the support of the population. Why should socialists be required to abide by a higher standard that the ideological guardians of capitalism set for themselves?


Capitalists are never going to allow a political party, that does not support the capitalist system, to come to power with under 50% of the vote. Any party that is offering an alternative to capitalism is probably going to need over 80% of the vote and even then the capitalist class (those in control of the army and police) are not going to give up control without a fight.

Parties that are forming governments with 30% to 40% of the vote ALL support the capitalist system.


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Ivan
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posted 11 July 2004 01:58 PM      Profile for Ivan        Edit/Delete Post
N.Beltov said:

quote:
Following the Russian Revolution and the establishment of a variety of social advancements and programs in that country, a great number of European and other capitalist countries "followed suit" in regard to many aspects of policy. Pensions. Unemployment Insurance. Improved status of women. Better laws protecting working people and compensation for injury on the job. And so on. Canada falls into that group as well.


There has never been a country with a socialist government system based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of society as a whole.

Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Sweden etc are examples of STATE capitalism. State ownership is not socialism. State ownership is capitalism.

Pensions, Unemployment Insurance, Workers Compensation are all safety valves (as refered to by Mr Nister) that support the capitalist system. They are not alternatives to the capitalist system. Social programs are not socialism.


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N.Beltov
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posted 11 July 2004 02:10 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
My point was that socialists are just as entitled to bring in "the socialist revolution" as neo-conservatives are entitled to bring in "the common sense revolution" with the same popular support. Why the hell not? Considering the instruments of moulding public opinion and the manufacture of consent ...socialists may well NEVER get 80% of the vote. Shall we, therefore, forever abandon socialism? I think not.

I agree that it will likely never happen without an extremely nasty fight. That just means that we have to be better organized, etc., than the other guys. Think...critical mass. Think...key sectors of the economy. Think...winning over a chunk of the military. And so on. There's enough experience of social and political revolutions to make generalizations about any transition to a new society...just as long as we're not bull headed about ideological purity, take the balance of forces into account, have good leadership, be prepared, blah blah blah....


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N.Beltov
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posted 11 July 2004 02:44 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Ivan:
There has never been a country with a socialist government ...

Strange then, that the advanced capitalist countries spent so much effort to overthrow them, engaged in an arms race with them, and so on. I guess the leadership of the capitalist countries were just confused. Funny, they even claim to this day that the collapse of the "socialist" countries proves the untenability of the socialist project.

quote:
...State ownership is capitalism.
[And again... NB]
Social programs are not socialism.

Remind me never to talk about art and aesthetics with you, Ivan. Apparently, you can't distinguish form from content.

How does one thing go over to another, pray tell? And just as important, where do people get the experience to govern themselves in a new way?

The state is a battleground. Sometimes our side wins a battle or two. Then the other side wins. Even within a capitalist state there are institutions that are more or less helpful to the cause. And things even turn into their opposite. Life is more complicated than any theory.

Take state ownership. Now add democratic control.
Sautee lightly over a warm socialist flame. Voila! That's socialism. But wait! When did it become socialist? Was it the flame? When did it become fully democratic and socialist? When the new board was elected? But the old board was needed to keep things going. So maybe it was socialist when 50% plus one member of the board says it was! What a waste of time, Ivan! Am I getting through?

Try studying some dialectics instead of quoting slogans and asserting your ideological purity. I don't see the helpfulness of jettisoning the entire Soviet experience by giving a different name to that group of countries and allowing yourself to avoid struggling with the meaning of their failures.


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jeff house
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posted 11 July 2004 08:59 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The difference between "socialism" and "state capitalism" is the difference between: "We like them" and "We don't like them."

China made this leap about the Soviet Union at the time of the schism' one day the USSR was "socialist" the next day, "state capitalist."

No policies had changed in the USSR, but in China they did.


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N.Beltov
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posted 11 July 2004 09:27 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Good point jh. BTW, some recent contributors to Monthly Review have argued quite strongly that China is no longer a socialist country. They trash the idea of a "market road to socialism" as well and debunk the "myth that Chinese socialism survives".

MR - China & Socialism


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thwap
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posted 11 July 2004 10:05 PM      Profile for thwap        Edit/Delete Post
The Russian and Chinese alternatives were one part of the picture certainly.

It was important that Western leaders thought these countries were rivals who had to be bested in the battle for hearts and minds. Then they had to show that capitalist system could deliver the goods better than these socialist countries could.

There was also the growth towards big corporations and greater state regulation in the economy, the debilitating crisis of the 1930s, the triumph of state activism in ww2, the discrediting of right-wing businessmens' early embrace of facism, the rise of fordism and powerful union movements, etc., etc., ....

Most of these things have fallen by the wayside. But we still live in exciting times.


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Rufus Polson
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posted 12 July 2004 03:54 AM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by mhandel:
As to the Scandinavian countries, yes, the ruling class has given a relatively high amount of concessions to the workers, but in the end these concession help sustain capitalism.

How can you tell? True, the countries in question are still capitalist. But then, in countries where workers have *not* gotten a bunch of concessions, has capitalism gone away? No, it has not. How then can we tell which sustains capitalism more? It certainly seems as if the capitalists themselves, given the option, prefer to cultivate an atomized non-society where workers are divided and ignorant and no concessions need be given. Aside from that, for the moment we have no evidence which direction is more likely to kill capitalism in the longer term.

But in the mean time, in the Scandinavian countries the economy is more mixed, there are more groups with some impact which are social in nature. In countries where social democratic and similar left electoral parties are strong, is there more apathy and less activism? Do they, in short, displace and weaken the activist and labour left? Quite the reverse. The labour movement remains strong in the more left European countries, strikes and protests are far bigger and more militant than here, direct action against capitalist targets is more common, grassroots community building is more of a practical reality. Bigger moderate-left electoral parties and bigger activist and community-level left seem to go hand in hand.

So basically, I think you're as wrong as rain. If we ever see something most people could look at and say yeah, that's pretty much real socialism, or real Anarchism for that matter, it's at least as likely to happen in places where there has been strong involvement by the electoral left in gaining reforms and concessions. Not the electoral left *alone*, mind you. But strong involvement. Venezuela to me is a good example of a productive relationship between the popular, community level left, a good part of the radical left, and the ruling electoral left.


From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
jfcorbett
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posted 12 July 2004 08:17 AM      Profile for jfcorbett     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
[QUOTE]Originally posted by elixir:
[QB]
jfcorbett: Mr Magoo referred to Communists wanting to abolish elections, which you said was the "direct and incontrovertible conclusion" of Hister's argument.
[\QB]
[\QUOTE]

With argument gymnastics like these, elixir, I give up. You can pin anything you want on me.

Magoo says that Communists dictators want to abolish elections. Hister's piece implies that elections may as well be abolished. Therefore I'm saying Hister is a communist or dictator?!? Makes no sense.

"Cats are a form of animal based on carbon chemistry, dogs are a form of animal based on carbon chemistry, so aren't dogs a form of cat?"


[QUOTE]Originally posted by elixir:
[QB]
Anyway, you're on pretty thin ice complaining about people "putting words into my mouth" given that you freely extrapolate the (direct and incontrovertible, no less) "logical conclusions" of Hister's arguments...
[\QB]
[\QUOTE]

A classic "Tu quoque - Argumentum ad hominem" fallacy, a type of personal attack. "You did this bad thing, so it's okay for me to do it too."

I did not put words in Hister's mouth. I showed through simple reasoning that the argument he wrote implies that elections may as well be abolished.

Now if you think that my simple reasoning (as written in my first post) was wrong, then you have to show where it is wrong. But you haven't done that.

It's really a very simple logical argument, so it shouldn't be hard to find where it's wrong, if you think it is. In which case, fair enough, I will retract.


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jfcorbett
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posted 12 July 2004 10:20 AM      Profile for jfcorbett     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I want to argue that Stan Hister misunderstands the function and value of reforms (whether we call them social programs or social democracy) in the struggle towards wide-sweeping revolution.

Movements fight for certain reforms. We do this by "destabilising" capitalism by organising people and applying various strategies and tactics. Threatened with further destabilisation, the elite occasionally caves in and implements the fought-after reform.

As Hister accurately points out:

[QUOTE

... these reforms always have a DUAL character – they not only address some important social need but they also serve to stabilize capitalism. This second part is essential – without it there would be no reform at all.

[/QUOTE]

The elite gives in and concedes the reform, thereby gaining *temporary* stabilisation, because their short-term alternative is further destabilisation.

This is why we as, a movement, must choose carefully and fight for reforms that, once implemented, leave us in a better position to continue our struggle towards revolution.

We are thankful to people in the past who fought for political reforms (right to strike, to assemble, to vote), but also the other types of reforms (shorter working hours, living wages, affirmative action, etc.). These reforms left us in a better position to organise today than in the past.

Talk to people trying to do some organising in sweatshops in Indonesia: it is much more difficult to organise people when they are starving and exhausted from a 90-hour workweek. And thanks to reforms, it certainly is easier to organise today in Canada, the US, and England than it was during the industrial revolution.

This is the point that Hister disregards. Carefully-chosen reforms leave you in a better, not worse, position to continue the struggle.

Judging from Hister's main drive, reforms stabilise capitalism, therefore they are a bad thing.

Stopping the war is not a revolution; it's a reform of the capitalist system. It stabilises the capitalist system. Does that mean that it's bad? The same goes for worker and women's rights and the other reforms mentioned above. Are they bad things?

If they are bad, and only serve to entrench capitalism, then we should be fighting against them, right? This is preposterous.

quote:

At its most extreme (and pathetic) you have the German Social Democrats trying to make a deal with Hitler when he came to power to run the German labour movement for him.

Pathetic indeed. But since Hister brings up this particular example: conversely, many from the European communist/socialist left were excited when Hitler came to power, because this would "destabilise" capitalism by making people's lives miserable, and in the end lead to popular uprisings promoting a communist revolution in Germany. Clearly this position was completely delusional. German fascism only died after 5 years of continuous, intense military conflict with outside powers. It did not collapse on its own because of popular uprisings, far from it.

I do not expect Hister would rejoice at the rise of a Hitler. Yet his was an example of a capitalist regime stripped of any "reforms" that would purportedly stabilise it. But was it really less stable? We can judge by the minuscule (and gradually decreasing) size of any effective internal resistance or uprising throughout the Nazi years.

To quote another of Hister's European examples:

quote:


That’s why the argument that electing NDP governments produces some sort of incremental movement to socialism doesn’t stand up. If this were true, then we would already have socialism in places like Britain or France or Germany which have had social democrats in power for much of the last century. Instead, you find just the opposite – capitalism is more firmly entrenched than ever.


Here Hister is skewing the debate. Is capitalism more firmly "entrenched" than before? Hard to say, because the test cases are so far apart, separated by decades and centuries.

The appropriate question is, is capitalism more entrenched in social-democratic Germany, France, or Scandinavia (my humble abode) than in, say, Canada or the US, where social-democrats have been secondary actors at best?

Having experienced both sides of the Atlantic, I will say, without supporting this with argument, that capitalism is NOT more firmly entrenched in Scandinavia than in the US or Canada. On the contrary.

But then again, it is very hard to argue about this with Hister, because I have absolutely no clue what he means by "entrenched". Judging by what he writes, better worker's rights, better pregnant women's rights, better welfare, etc. are all signs of capitalist "entrenchment". So in this case, yes, I guess, there is more entrenchment here in Denmark. But such a definition makes no sense to me.

More importantly, however, on what does he base his argument that "If this were true, we would already have socialism" in Europe? This is a completely gratuitous affirmation. Hister is implying that the election of social democratic governments is the sole cause of the current lack of revolution, thereby ignoring all other factors.

I'll make an equally unsupported statement, and say that we're quite a bit closer to socialism now (and life much less miserable), than if, instead of social democrats, radical right-wingers and fascists had been in power all along.

quote:

The NDP comes to power, having aroused big expectations, which it can’t fulfill. The result is that its own supporters become demoralized, while the right-wing becomes galvanized.

Here Hister raises a valid point. A big mistake is made when people rest all their hopes and aspirations in the elected party, NDP or equivalent. Their true power resides in popular movements being built to apply force and pressure.

However, this does not contradict the fact that some parties are more responsive to such force and pressure than others (such as the new Conservatives). On this subject:

quote:

I found it almost amusing that no one in this thread challenged my somewhat exaggerated characterization of this election as being between a crook, a fascist and a fraud.

Allow me. These are funny labels for the party leaders. But they are far too simple to reflect the mechanisms by which, and the constituencies by whom, these parties are influenced.

This is an anecdotal illustration of how Hister's critique of the electoral system lacks refinement, to the point that it is milseading and harmful.


From: Copenhagen, Denmark | Registered: Nov 2001  |  IP: Logged
Ivan
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posted 12 July 2004 10:33 AM      Profile for Ivan        Edit/Delete Post
N.Beltov said:

quote:
My point was that socialists are just as entitled to bring in "the socialist revolution" as neo-conservatives are entitled to bring in "the common sense revolution" with the same popular support. Why the hell not? Considering the instruments of moulding public opinion and the manufacture of consent ...socialists may well NEVER get 80% of the vote. Shall we, therefore, forever abandon socialism? I think not.

I am not talking about abandoning socialism. I am talking about socialist revolution. A new party offering an alternative to capitalism. For over a 100 years we have been trying to reform capitalism within the capitalist system and it isn't working world wide. Capitalists control everything including our perception of democracy under their capiatlist system. You can't vote in a socialist revolution......and you can't reform capitalism into something it isn't.


From: gta | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Ivan
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posted 12 July 2004 10:55 AM      Profile for Ivan        Edit/Delete Post
N.Beltov said:

quote:
Strange then, that the advanced capitalist countries spent so much effort to overthrow them, engaged in an arms race with them, and so on. I guess the leadership of the capitalist countries were just confused. Funny, they even claim to this day that the collapse of the "socialist" countries proves the untenability of the socialist project.


The so-called socialist countries like Russia, China, Cuba, etc are/were systems of state capitalism. Social power is monopolized by privileged party bureaucrats that live off the labour of the working class. The characteristics of capitalism are present in all of these countries. Production is for sale at a profit, instead of need. Wage work and control by a minority class. The bogus socialist states (Russia, China, etc) have always been part of the world capitalist market and can/will not detach themselves from the requirements of profit.


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jeff house
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posted 12 July 2004 12:12 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
some recent contributors to Monthly Review have argued quite strongly that China is no longer a socialist country.

My Monthly Review reading goes back to about 1962. And so I remember that at one time they argued that the ONLY importance of the Russian revolution was that it allowed for the birth of the "truly socialist" Chinese revolution.

According to MR, while the Russian one was backsliding badly, the Chinese one could not, because it is never in the interests of the workers and peasants to undermine socialism (Trotskyists said this about why the USSR would always be socialist, too.)


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BLAKE 3:16
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posted 12 July 2004 08:07 PM      Profile for BLAKE 3:16     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
Oh mr. house... You make Monthly Review sound like some monolith. Clearly its editors have had a semi-Maoist orientation, but the point of the publication has been quite pluralistic and consistently socialist in substance. I believe it was Paul Sweezy who defined socialism as the state ownership of property. This is opposed to Marx's defnition of a free association of producers.

Some Trotskyists might argue that the working class never betrays itself, but its clear that it does. Sectionalism, racism, sexism, and nationalism all play out in combined forms through out the instruments and institutions of the exploited. As a for instance that I and I'm sure other babblers are aware of, is the contradictions of the huge public sector union locals which have emerged with municipal amalgamations. I'm in the biggest CUPE local in the country, just a few thousand shy of the biggest local in the country, and there's huge stratification. There' s something like a thousand job descriptions, which doesn't include what your rank/seniority is within a job. Annual wages vary at a 1:100 ratio. Solidarity ain't so easy in some of these situations.

Now for that silly state capitalist argument, Ivan. Equating Russia and Cuba and Sweden really says nothing. It's completely non-dialectical mechanistic thinking. Capitalist social relations were smashed in Russia and North Korea and Cuba, while they've been very enlightened in Sweden. South Korea is one of the best examples of a state capitalist regime, oddly enough in contradiction to the North and very very clealry antisocialist. Does that make South Korea and North Korea the same?

The kernel of the state capitalist critique is the critique of substitutionism.

The only basis for a socialist society is within an international federation of some sorts.


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Critical Mass
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posted 12 July 2004 08:22 PM      Profile for Critical Mass        Edit/Delete Post
My only take on the question whether reforms by/through the NDP strengthen the quest for something called socialism is that I don't believe there is any evidence most of us NDP electors want socialism.

I wouldn't be surprised if most of us only want a mixed market economy that was greener, with better social services and some fairer taxation policies. Add in better regulation of financial markets, a social charter and better peacekeeping and I think most of us would be satisfied. I don't see much demand for radical change in Canada (and frankly, given what I've read and seen of totalitarian socialist societies and what I've experienced from left wing radical circles in Canada, I'm quite content being a wishy-washy social democrat who can manage to get along with other people who are liberalish or vaguely conservative or Green)

I have no polls or studies and I have only done a little door-to-door canvassing but I can't recall any person at a door telling me they would vote NDP because this would bring us closer to the earthly Marxist paradise. Well, OK, I did meet a Trot once while knocking on doors but I don't sense any socialist uprising.

I think a lot of the radical left and people like Mr.Hister are a bit disconnected from real people.

During the election, I had a conversation with my motherand the opinion of a friend of hers came upthat voting never changed anything because corporations had to much powerand would never allow governments to implement reforms forthe average citizen. My mother always laughs at this nonsense: she was born before national medicare. Voting in medicare changed her life and that of everyone of her generation. I can't say I'm too unhappy if that made capitalism more "entrenched".

[ 12 July 2004: Message edited by: Critical Mass ]


From: King & Bay (downtown Toronto) - I am King of the World!!! | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
N.Beltov
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posted 12 July 2004 08:39 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
The last time I checked ...the NDP belonged to the Socialist International. It was even on the website. But that fact seems to have been deleted. And the little history of the NDP seems to have been deleted as well.

Come back, Stan Hister! You were right!!


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Ivan
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posted 12 July 2004 10:14 PM      Profile for Ivan        Edit/Delete Post
Blake said:

quote:
South Korea is one of the best examples of a state capitalist regime, oddly enough in contradiction to the North and very very clealry antisocialist. Does that make South Korea and North Korea the same?

North Korea is a good example of state capitalism governed by dictatorship (wage work and control by a minority class). South Korea is a capitalist country which holds democratic elections (to the best of my knowledge) but within the capitalist system. Therefore they are the same in as much as they both support a capitalist production for profit economy.


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jeff house
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posted 12 July 2004 10:56 PM      Profile for jeff house     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Oh mr. house... You make Monthly Review sound like some monolith. Clearly its editors have had a semi-Maoist orientation, but the point of the publication has been quite pluralistic and consistently socialist in substance.

I was referring to an editorial by Paul Sweezy, though, so it did carry the imprimatur of the magazine.

You are right that they often carried a broad group of third world friendly articles, mostly by economists. I do not believe any were ever pro-Soviet, though.


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Ivan
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posted 12 July 2004 11:06 PM      Profile for Ivan        Edit/Delete Post
Critical Mass said:

quote:
My only take on the question whether reforms by/through the NDP strengthen the quest for something called socialism is that I don't believe there is any evidence most of us NDP electors want socialism.


I agree Critical Mass. In my opinion a very large number of NDP and Lefties don't want or understand true Marxist Socialism (Not that I am a Marxist expert, far from it). Most NDP and Lefties support the capitalist system.....so why ask me, a Marxist, to vote for a party that supports a capitalist system.


Critical Mass said:

quote:
.......I can't recall any person at a door telling me they would vote NDP because this would bring us closer to the earthly Marxist paradise.


So don't expect a Marxist, or someone against the capitalist system, to vote for any political party that supports the capitalist principle of production for profit.


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Ivan
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posted 12 July 2004 11:41 PM      Profile for Ivan        Edit/Delete Post
Whenever labour parties like the NDP are elected to power they must govern within the rules of capitalism. Under the capitalist system the rules of governing are heavily weighed against the working class and as a result the economic policies are not significantly different from any other elected governement that must administer capitalism.

History proves this claim.

In the 1990's Ontario had Bob Rae's NDP labour government with his SOCIAL CONTRACT and RAE DAYS. Elected by the left and governing from the Right. This Ontario NDP government was disastrous because it was elected to function within the rules of capitalism. It all but totally destroyed the Ontario NDP.

In October of 1975 the BC Federation of Labour had this to say about the NDP labour government in British Columbia. "Rarely in modern times has any government in Canada interfered so brutally in free collective bargaining. No government has engaged in strike breaking on such a massive scale. In fact, the real beneficiaries of this legislation are the employers who have seen this government go further in serving the employers' interests than any previous government dare go."


Any government elected under a capitalist system must govern according to capitalist rules (production for profit, maximize profit) because that is what they were elected to do.

We need a real change.


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Mister Quickly
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posted 13 July 2004 01:34 AM      Profile for Mister Quickly     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
What is "real change" though? All of this socialist revolutioneering seems disturbingly unaccompanied by an economic platform save for the blanket statement "redistributive measures for the good of society." How do you control prices when they can't adjust to a market system unless controlled by a central authority, a task so daunting it can only be accomplished by millions working in concurrence to the tune of the free market? Is there a success story of a pure socialist system or is the fact that we've never seen one all that sustains the belief in the possibility of one? Are we trying to convince each other unicorns can exist or something, I dunno.
From: Vancouver | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged
Erik Redburn
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posted 13 July 2004 03:24 AM      Profile for Erik Redburn     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Ivan:
We need a real change.

We need a real change?? Try listening to some living socialists for a start, then you might learn something new.


From: Broke but not bent. | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Ivan
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posted 13 July 2004 12:58 PM      Profile for Ivan        Edit/Delete Post
Mister Quickly said:

quote:
How do you control prices when they can't adjust to a market system unless controlled by a central authority,......

Marxist Socialism is a wageless, moneyless society. Money prevents the basic needs of millions of people because they can not afford to buy even the fundamentals of life, food and shelter. Production for need, not profit has nothing to do with economic markets and money that are contoled by a "central authority" of capitalists.

Mr Quickly said:

quote:
Is there a success story of a pure socialist system or is the fact that we've never seen one all that sustains the belief in the possibility of one?

There isn't now and never has been a pure socialist system......not according to marxist theory......but that doesn't mean there never will be one. If a majority of the working class decide they want pure socialism it can happen.

As it stands right now the media and the education system are both controled by the capitalist system (if you can't pay you can't learn or have a voice). So how is the working class going to get the message that there is a difference between pure Socialism (Marxist), Labourite reformism (NDP etc) and Leninist state capitalism (Russia, China etc)when they are all contoled within "the box" of capitalism?

Labourite reformism and Leninist state capitalism are not socialism.


From: gta | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Stephen Gordon
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posted 13 July 2004 01:11 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post
Okay, no wages, no money, no prices. But how are resources allocated?
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Mister Quickly
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posted 13 July 2004 01:20 PM      Profile for Mister Quickly     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Marxist Socialism is a wageless, moneyless society. Money prevents the basic needs of millions of people because they can not afford to buy even the fundamentals of life, food and shelter. Production for need, not profit has nothing to do with economic markets and money that are contoled by a "central authority" of capitalists.

Who is doing/deciding the distributing of these basic goods? A central authority? How does the body entrusted with distribution respond to changes in demand and supply? Is it all done with referendums or what?

quote:
If a majority of the working class decide they want pure socialism it can happen.

So socialism is a majoritan system? How would a socialist enshrine gay rights, and especially gay marriage, by leaving a decision like that to the public at large? "Workers" are not the people I feel should be the one responsibible for deciding this issue, and is this not tyranny of the majority?

I was looking at this statscan chart and.... which ones are the workers? They don't seem to constitute a clear majority anyways.

http://www.statcan.ca/english/Pgdb/labor10a.htm


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Mister Quickly
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posted 13 July 2004 01:20 PM      Profile for Mister Quickly     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Oliver Cromwell:
Okay, no wages, no money, no prices. But how are resources allocated?

yes, exactly.


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Rufus Polson
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posted 13 July 2004 02:14 PM      Profile for Rufus Polson     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Ivan:
I agree Critical Mass. In my opinion a very large number of NDP and Lefties don't want or understand true Marxist Socialism (Not that I am a Marxist expert, far from it). Most NDP and Lefties support the capitalist system.....so why ask me, a Marxist, to vote for a party that supports a capitalist system.

For as long as the conventional wisdom is that left parties fail and nobody supports them, Marxism isn't even going to be on the page as an option. That's the reality. If you can't shift the debate somewhat to the left from the current situation where the centre is at what historically would have been considered the fairly hard economic right, nobody is even going to comprehend the idea that Marxism (or, in my case, Anarchism) is something that can be thought about. You're not going to shift the debate left without a moderate-left party or social movement gaining some degree of success--the more the better.
Once the moderate left has successes and many people can see that it's an improvement over neoliberal economics, then there's an opening to say "Yes, but more radical ideas are still better." As long as the popular consciousness is locked into "There is no alternative", and the moderate left is seen as whacko, the more radical left won't even be seen.
That's why I, an anarchist of some stripe, would ask you, a Marxist, to vote for a party that supports a capitalist system. You're not going to win tomorrow. If you want to win *someday* you'd better start by laying some groundwork, creating some space.

That and, reformist parties if nothing else do make people's lives better in the medium term. Again, if we're not for making people's lives better, what the heck is our ideology for? All else being equal, we should vote for situations which will make people's lives better. Refusing to isn't principle, it's just sour grapes.

On Mr. Cromwell's question, I've been quite interested in Michael Albert's Participatory Economics. It's somewhat dependent on the existence and use of computers, which means it wouldn't have been practical before now and still isn't most places, but if anything that's a good answer to the question "why hasn't anyone tried this before if it's so great?"

Stuff can be found at this
Parecon link

Although actually, it should be noted that Parecon does have wages (they're just all the same on an hourly basis, and the idea is that everyone will have balanced jobs where they do some more empowering work and some scutwork rather than some people doing one and some doing the other), does have money as I understand it, and does have prices they're just set very differently. But it's also made a fair degree of effort to set up an allocation mechanism that is not capitalist, or even really market-based, in nature but which is more than the hand-waving one often sees on the far left.

[ 13 July 2004: Message edited by: Rufus Polson ]


From: Caithnard College | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged
Erik Redburn
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posted 13 July 2004 06:44 PM      Profile for Erik Redburn     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by Mister Quickly:
So socialism is a majoritan system?

He's not talking socialism, he's talking a kind of "pure" anarchism and trying to associate it with orthodox Marxism, which isn't socialism either and in many ways the very opposite of anarchism.

Socialism is actually a complex of diverse but related beliefs, which only begin with Marxist analysis, but tend to blur together and become more mainstream in practice. Most socialists recognize constitutional protections for minorities and seek to increase democracy rather than replacing it.

As a social democrat and onetime socialist, I find anarchist precepts depend on rather optimistic assumptions about human nature, but to be fair, anarcho-syndicalism has been shown to work quite well in a number of specific cases -1930's Barcelona, present day Mondragon and some succesful Kibbutz and communes. Whether this kind of organization would be sustainable outside of localized groups of believers is an open question, maybe, maybe not.

But then there's not much proof that "pure" socialism, communism or capitalism are sustainable in the real world either.


From: Broke but not bent. | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
thwap
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posted 13 July 2004 07:11 PM      Profile for thwap        Edit/Delete Post
There seems to be a disconnect between those who feel socialist and social democratic parties, while perhaps flawed, are worth supporting, and those who say these parties are entirely worthless because:

1. Upon winning an election they don't legislate capitalism out of existence, but instead ...

2. "Entrench" capitalism "even more" [than what?] by implementing humanizing reforms.

[Somebody else mentioned this curious standpoint. That supposedly the US populace is closer to embracing true socialism because they've been exposed to an unreformed capitalism longer.]

Oliver Cromwell: The price system does a wonderful, amoral job of linking supply to [effective] demand. How to make sure that supply actually goes to serve genuine human needs is to bring more democracy into the economy.

Once democracy gets its hands on capitalism though, its goodnight for capitalism.

My pet theory is that democracy produces the best economic effects. The relative merits of both cap and com arise from the democratic elements within them.


From: Hamilton | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Stephen Gordon
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posted 13 July 2004 07:41 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by thwap:

Oliver Cromwell: The price system does a wonderful, amoral job of linking supply to [effective] demand. How to make sure that supply actually goes to serve genuine human needs is to bring more democracy into the economy.

My pet theory is that democracy produces the best economic effects. The relative merits of both cap and com arise from the democratic elements within them.


This is far from clear. 'Democracy' is a very slippery notion when you look at it closely; you may want to look at this thread on Arrow's Impossibility Theorem.

To make this point operational, you're going to have to be more specific about what people's needs are, and about what you mean by democracy.


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N.Beltov
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posted 13 July 2004 07:48 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
We could really use an injection of history in this discussion. Capitalism came into the world in the interstices of the old feudal society. Without prison and slave labour there would be no capitalism. Rapacious plundering of entire continents was also part of the deal. And there sure as shit was no democracy as we understand it today. And on and on and on. Just read the historical part of Marx's Capital if you don't believe me.

Point two. The 20th century made it very clear that the period of transition to socialism is a very lengthy one, with reversals and losses. And socialism itself is seen by most serious thinkers as a transitional period. I don't have any problem assuming all sorts of fits and starts till we get it right. But only an ignorant person assumes a new phenomena comes into the world already fully mature.

Point three.

The biggest lie about socialism is to suppose that this current system of social production for private benefit (today's capitalism) is somehow some ne plus ultra beyond which human beings cannot go. Let any mouthpiece of capitalism explain how it is that human beings should go through all these millenia of biological and social evolution but come to a grinding halt at that form of society that organizes production in a social manner but sends the benefits in a private manner. Bill Gates is a monstrosity in a world with homeless, starving people. And capitalism has no answer. And those that are indifferent to the question, by default, have no answer as well.

The conjuction of crises (ecological, environmental, population, biodiversity, dwindling non-renewable resources, weapons of mass destruction that must be destroyed before they destroy us, the need for a balance between homo sapiens and planet earth) that we face means that we have to master our future, including production and distribution, before it masters us. As Thomas Frank put it, "The market is a God that sucks."

Socialists are those people who don't presume that their own society is eternal and who take a serious view of the future and attempt to prognosticate about how we might get there alive.

[ 13 July 2004: Message edited by: N.Beltov ]


From: Vancouver Island | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged
Stephen Gordon
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posted 13 July 2004 07:56 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post
Then why don't we hear more from socialists about how a society based on socialism would work? And why it would be better than what we have now?

This is 2004, not 1904. These questions deserve honest answers. And if they're not forthcoming, I think we deserve to know why.


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N.Beltov
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posted 13 July 2004 07:59 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I dunno...Perhaps all that is necessary is to show that our current society is going to lead us to hell or annihilation. Then we better ALL get working on it.
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Stephen Gordon
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posted 13 July 2004 08:04 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post
Even that's going to be a challenge. It'll require a theory that

1) Predicts this sort of catastrophe, and is
2) Demonstrably better than capitalist economics at predicting observable data.


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N.Beltov
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posted 13 July 2004 08:22 PM      Profile for N.Beltov   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
OC: Even that's going to be a challenge. It'll require a theory that

1) Predicts this sort of catastrophe


There's enough people in the environmental movement to make a strong case for this. You could use the issue of global warming. You could use the issue of dwindling bio-diversity and argue that we're in for a genetic melt-down. You could argue that, eventually, somebody is going to "drop the big one" if we hang on to these weapons indefinitely. I'm in over my head here...but I've reviewed the work of better minds than mine and I don't think it would be all that hard. If Carl Sagan could find the time to make his nuclear winter argument in between sending little robots to Pluto then it's probably already been done. Hell, we could go right back to the Einstein-Russell arguments at the end of WW2 about nuclear weapons. We could also argue that a society with the built-in premise of infinite growth is in for a gigantic crash. I'm not convinced that capitalism won't just suck the resources of this planet dry and then eat itself.

Silly sidebar: I like the speech that the artificial intelligence gives to Nemo in "The Matrix" where humans are compared to a virus. I was rooting for the bad guys at that point.

quote:
2) Demonstrably better than capitalist economics at predicting observable data.

What does this mean, exactly? Does production for need fit here, somehow? You're losing me.


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BLAKE 3:16
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posted 13 July 2004 08:31 PM      Profile for BLAKE 3:16     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Then why don't we hear more from socialists about how a society based on socialism would work? And why it would be better than what we have now?

Very good question. The short answer is that the social base for effective socialist movements has been undermined for the last thirty years. The counter-revolution in Chile alongside the concurrent capitalist offensive on workers rights internationally has made dreaming a better world more difficult and more necessary. I think Judy Rebick's Imagine Democracy is one of the best of recent socialist writings on how to qualitatively improve social life in the current context.

Imagine the human potential unleashed if we didn't have to worry about unemployment? Or advertising? Or becoming homeless? Or pollution to the environment due to stupid production methods?

Now to Ivan, are North Korea and South Kore identical?


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thwap
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posted 13 July 2004 09:09 PM      Profile for thwap        Edit/Delete Post
Heyzues-Krist!

I was going to talk to O-C, but then i started his arrow impossibilium theorum thread, and now i'm tired.

... take it up in another thread. this is over 100, right?


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Stephen Gordon
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posted 13 July 2004 09:14 PM      Profile for Stephen Gordon        Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Originally posted by N.Beltov:

What does this mean, exactly? Does production for need fit here, somehow? You're losing me.

I was referring to the need for statistical evidence showing that these theories explain the data better than their competitors.


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Erik Redburn
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posted 13 July 2004 10:41 PM      Profile for Erik Redburn     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:

I was referring to the need for statistical evidence showing that these theories explain the data better than their competitors.

I wouldn't know about statistical models, but the results of globalization indicate the gap between rich and poor has grown as the left predicted, and there are a number of progressive ideas for limiting the negative effects of global capital. I doubt if they could be considered as particularly "socialist" though.


From: Broke but not bent. | Registered: Feb 2004  |  IP: Logged
Ivan
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posted 14 July 2004 12:38 AM      Profile for Ivan        Edit/Delete Post
OC said:

quote:
Okay, no wages, no money, no prices. But how are resources allocated?

MQ said

quote:
Who is doing/deciding the distributing of these basic goods? A central authority? How does the body entrusted with distribution respond to changes in demand and supply? Is it all done with referendums or what?


This is a point form answer for the alternative to the present capitalist system.

--the absence of any property rights, private or state, over natural and industrial resources needed for production.

--the existence of a non-coercive democratic decision making structure (local community being basic unit of this structure, sending elected delegates to regional council, and so on, up to world council). Don't we have a similar type of structure now under the capitalist system of production for profit?

--the guaranteed access for all to what they need to satisfy their needs. (productive units will produce what people chose to take from common stores. There will be no money or market system.)

--the orientation of production towards the direct satisfaction of real needs in a flexible and self-regulating way without the intervention of money and buying and selling. (It is the alternative both to the mechanisms of the market and to central state planning.)

--the organisation of work as a voluntary service under the democratic control of those working in the various productive units. (People choose the work they want to do and the productive units can be run be a democratic council elected by all those working in them.)


MQ said:

quote:
I was looking at this statscan chart and.... which ones are the workers?

The working class are anyone who works for a wage or salary. A capitalist derives their wealth by owning the land we farm, the factories we work in, the offices we mange their businesses in, their trucks we drive, and the news media that reports the news they want us to hear.

MQ said:

quote:
So socialism is a majoritan system? How would a socialist enshrine gay rights, and especially gay marriage, by leaving a decision like that to the public at large? "Workers" are not the people I feel should be the one responsibible for deciding this issue, and is this not tyranny of the majority?


Why wouldn't the working class be able to elect a committee? (or whatever) of experts? authorities? professionals? to deal with these issues and put forward their recommendations? I don't see this as a problem for a socialist society (or any society for that matter) so long as it is done honestly, transparently and democraticly.


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Ivan
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posted 14 July 2004 12:46 AM      Profile for Ivan        Edit/Delete Post
Blake 3:16 said:

quote:
Now to Ivan, are North Korea and South Kore identical?



Not identical but they both support capitalist economies. Production for profit.


From: gta | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
Ivan
recent-rabble-rouser
Babbler # 6340

posted 14 July 2004 09:47 AM      Profile for Ivan        Edit/Delete Post
As long as capitalism exists, profits will always come before the needs of the working class.

Capitalism is globally entrenched and bigger than ever, thanks to right wing governments, our educational institutions (MBA's are a dime a dozen), the business community and the media, just to name a few.

Social Democrats everywhere are losing the battle trying to reform capitalism. Over the last two decades there has been nothing but concessions from the working class to capitalists. Unions are running more like capitalist businesses than proper trade unions. In an earlier post someone mentioned, right to organize and sign union cards. What a joke! CLC's own stats show that union numbers are dwindling away to nothing......(well under 10% in USA) and the only thing big unions are interested in is merge, merge, merge of smaller unions into their unit for the dues. Yes it is all about money. There are very few NEW union cards being signed.

Mr Nister is right, reforms are the safety valve for capitalism, do very little for the working class and prolong the life of capitalism.

Don't vote for political parties that support the capitalist system.


From: gta | Registered: Jun 2004  |  IP: Logged
BLAKE 3:16
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 2978

posted 14 July 2004 10:41 AM      Profile for BLAKE 3:16     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
quote:
Mr Nister is right, reforms are the safety valve for capitalism, do very little for the working class and prolong the life of capitalism.

So should true socialists oppose public education and healthcare? Environmental regulation? I guess abortion rights and access to social assistance don't matter either.

Should we not oppose police brutality because it's all the same in the end? Woud you suggest socialists go into hospitals and tell people the quality of their care doesn't matter, it's all just to prop up capitalism?

Unfortunately, Ivan, the real world does matter and people who've had the shit kicked out of them don't just suddenly wake up and in unison say, "Today we're building socialism."


From: Babylon, Ontario | Registered: Aug 2002  |  IP: Logged
Mr. Magoo
guilty-pleasure
Babbler # 3469

posted 14 July 2004 11:48 AM      Profile for Mr. Magoo   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
I think the idea is this: you take away those "safety valves" so that life, for pretty much everyone, sucks. Then, spurred on by their sucky life, the masses give rise to the Glorious People's Revolution.

Problem right now is that if you did a "man-on-the-street" interview and asked Canadians whether they feel oppressed, whether they believe that the Man has stolen the surplus value of their labour, whether they would prefer state ownership of production, and simply whether they're miserable under Capitalism, the answer would be no. Reforms take away that 'miserable', and so are toxic, to a revolutionary.


From: ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°`°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø,¸_¸,ø¤°°¤ø, | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
audra trower williams
rabble-rouser
Babbler # 2

posted 14 July 2004 12:11 PM      Profile for audra trower williams   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post
holy crap how did this thread get so long?
From: And I'm a look you in the eye for every bar of the chorus | Registered: Apr 2001  |  IP: Logged

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