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clyde

Socialism

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njoos   

As of the Monday election we have one literal communist in our parliament. 

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On 9/12/2017 at 10:26 AM, clyde said:

@itsamoose  I think the idea is basically that capital accumulation has created a situation in which the two political parties in power (in the U.S.) both side far more with the interests of capitalists than with labor. So their plan is to find ways to give labor more influence. The DSA seems to actively avoid any details of what a socialist system will look like while aiming for one. The reasoning for this is that to come up with a socialist design for a system would lessen the power that those who inhabit that system would have to design the socialist system once it comes. I can understand why that will be an unsatisfactory answer for many, but I kinda like the idea. Capitalist interests have slowly created a circumstance where labor doesn't have the ability to organize and influence the public sphere. At this point, we can see where capitalists interests tend towards in U.S. politics (and I don't think it is a good direction). So I think increasing the influence of labor, learning about a socialist perspective on things like race, gender, and class, and promoting more active citizenship has some hope to it.

 

This is one point in particular that I'm not sure how solves any of the problems laid out.  Sure I would be in favor of eliminating corporate influence on our political process, but by replacing that with large labor unions would just be replacing one dismal power structure for another.  The current corporate influence on US politics is effective because of it's ability to get votes, and I don't see how or why this sort of bureaucracy would be changed significantly if that influence was transferred to labor unions.  We'd be changing the keys to power, but the motivations of those keys would remain unchanged.  Organizations like labor unions may be more sympathetic, but I don't see how a similarly influential groups would act any differently than their corporate counterparts.  The direction of capital accumulation might change, but I don't see how the dissemination will.  Instead of vying for the support of corporate and business leaders, politicians would play the same game but with labor leaders as they did in the first half of the 20th century.  Maybe I'm too cynical here, but I don't see how or why a labor leader would be more interested in building roads and bridges 3 states away than they would garnering more resources for their union.  If you ever read Robert Gates' writing about his time as secretary of state, he describes how he went to great pains to eliminate the corporate and monetary influence on our military.  In this time he describes learning that every single defense contract was a kingdom unto itself, and how he couldn't get even the most staunchly anti militaristic senators to vote against more defense spending because it might end up taking money away from their state.

 

This is really my key disagreement with the social democrat point of view.  It seems to hold that more people being involved in the process translates directly to more egalitarian and beneficial outcomes, but in all areas this has the capacity to create the same sort of inequality we see today.  Even just the recent past we have Brexit, Prop 8 in california, bathroom bills and a whole host of other decisions defined more by selfishness than anything else.  I get the same sense from the social democrats that I do from the occupy wall street movement--people generally against the status quo, but not with the requisite planning to identify and eliminate it's core problems.  Oddly enough, I see in the proposed policies of social democrats the same sort of policies that got Trump elected-- that is to say economic populism and trade protectionism.  I don't mean to be too harsh here, so rather than just be a nay-sayer here are a few questions I have for social democratic policies:

 

1) How and why do the motivations of labor leaders differ from corporate leaders with respect to the political process?  Specifically, how would this not lead to the situation of real power only being in a few hands, or nepotism being the mode of the day.

2) What economic policies should be implemented to prevent the overwhelming accumulation of wealth other than to tax it? In other words, how should this be done before the wealth is accumulated?

3) What role should the government play in markets other than regulating them?  Specifically, how would government domination of a market be prevented in any market the government becomes involved in?

4) What changes to government contracts and subsidies should be made?

5) What protections should be put in place to ensure smaller organizations or individuals are on a level playing field with larger ones?

6) How would the disparate needs of the various states in the US be handled, and what power would state governments need to have over federal?

7) How are strong regulatory practices, and direct government involvement or control in markets possible without a strong centralized authority?

8) If such an authority not existing is truly the difference between democratic socialism and other socialist regimes, how would the creation of this authority be prevented?

 

TL;DR I think I have a decent grasp upon the philosophy of social democracy, but how is it to be put into practice?

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Cordeos   

I am coming at this from a more socialist point of view than Dem Soc, but there is a lot of overlap in our thoughts on these topics:


I would be very cautious about blaming Brexit, Prop 8, bathroom bills on 'the popular will'. There were elites on both sides and tons of money got funneled into these campaigns. It wasn't the masses vs. the enlightened technocrats.

I don't see the issue with economic populism especially considering what we currently have is economic corporatism. Why shouldn't the people have more of a say in how wealth is distributed and how much power corporations have over our economy and government? As for trade protectionism, there are serious issues with 'free trade' deals as they are currently structured. Often they are backdoor ways to limit governments power over companies. The TPP for example would have limited the US's ability to implement the Paris Climate Agreement even before Trump pulled us out of it. The Single Market in Europe puts limits on nationalization of industry. We on the left oppose these trade deals because they allow companies to more easily race to the bottom on wages, worker safety and pollution controls by moving between countries and getting them to compete against each other to have the weakest legal checks on corporate power. 

1) Even the worst unions are more democratic structures then the best corporations. A union is by definition an organization of labor, of those on the bottom of the economic ladder. Corporations represent the interests of the 1% and of corporate power over the democratic will and best interests of the populace. It is in a companies interest to maximize its profits by lying about climate change, implementing as few safety measures as possible , paying its workers as little as possible and being taxed as little as possible. Workers and unions don't share those interests.

2) Breaking up and preventing monopolies would go some way to preventing the centralization of profit among the few. Some industries can and should be nationalized.


3) I don't see an issue with truly democratic government dominating markets it gets involved in. We would be far better off if government dominated the healthcare space.


4) Subsidies and contracts should be given in ways that benefit society. Stop giving money to anti-union anti-worker companies, ones that hide their profits overseas, ones that pollute. If all the fossil fuel subsidies we currently give out were shifted to green energy a lot of good could be done.

 

5) Again anti-monopoly laws would help here. As well as reforms to the legal system to mitigate the power wealth has there.

 

6) I don't think the differences between the states are as large as you are implying. All need more infrastructure spending, better wages and worker protections and better environmental protections. Obviously all power should not reside in a centralized government and the elimination of corporate power and influence would be just as beneficial to currently existing state and local governments as it would be on a federal level.

 

7) Dem Socs and Socialists in general argue for a strong democratic state. I am not an anarchist and am not able to properly represent their views.

 

8) I assume you are talking of the problems of Stalinist type communist states? Avoiding the accumulation of power by individuals and balancing the power of different democratic institutions is important here. I would never advocate for state unions or a one party state.

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Also the short version is that the difference between a labor union and a corporation is that a corporation's accountability is to its shareholders/owners, whereas a union's accountability is to its members. This means that corporations are not democratic and unions are democratic, or in other words if a corporation is fucking you over, you've got fuck all recourse unless you're rich enough to buy it, whereas if a union is fucking you over, you can vote to alter its policies. For the same reason democracy is a preferable way to run countries (it keeps the leaders accountable), it's a good way to run businesses (by similarly keeping them accountable). No other method of governance has an easy way to remove leaders who are not acting in the interest of their constituents.

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clyde   

Here is something I'm interested in learning more about the socialism perspective of.

So for the sake of argument let's assume that powerful labor-unions are an impossibility in the United States due to automation for instance. So at this point in our hypothetical situation you have a group of corporate conglomerates (megacorps) that have mixtures of competing and shared interests mediated by the state which all of the megacorps have established stakes in. At this point, some public poilicies that benefit the population might benefit one megacorp while hurting another. For instance having a single-payer healthcare system is more likely to benefit the Walmart megacorp because that would largely externalize healthcare costs for their labor and provide more consumers with disposable income, but the Anthem megacorp would lose its ability to monopolize the healthcare market as a seller now that there is a larger buyer for the medical industry. 

In the socialist perspective, is it possible to boost Walmart's influence on this particular issue in some way to basically create a temporary coalition between Walmart and public interests? If there is an effective way to boost the influence of particular megacorps as they war with each other over profits, could it be more effective than trying to organize labor which has no power in our hypothetical situation of full automation?

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Hypothetical questions about what would be the most effective mode of organization in a situation we aren't in are largely impossible to answer, because even knowing what is going to be most effective in the real world is a problem so difficult as to be almost insoluble in certain cases. Speculation about a hypothetical situation is even harder because even more of the relevant variables are unknown and unknowable.

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