Talk Delivered to Venezuelan Conference on Crisis of Capitalism

Full transcript of a talk by Michael Albert, delivered this week in Venezuela, on the Crisis of Capitalism courtesy of ZNet.

Michael Albert, along with Greg Wilpert, is currently attending a conference in Venezuela  He will be conducting a series of interviews there, with responsible people about economics, politics, kinship, race, ecology, and international relations over about a week’s time, as well, and ZNet hope to provide further audio and transcripts so for more information go to http://zcommunications.org/znet

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Talk Delivered to Venezuela Conference on Crisis of Capitalism
By Michael Albert

Introduction

First, I want to thank you for inviting me to speak, at this conference.

It is always a privilege, honor, and responsibility to speak publicly…

…especially to a highly sophisticated audience…

…and even more so when the audience is overwhelmingly anti capitalist.

How humbling and inspiring to be talking and listening to you all here today.

Thank you very much for the opportunity.

More, I am not from Venezuela, not from Latin America, not from the Third World – but rather, from the U.S.

And to have a gringo like me here – from the heart of the beast – that presents a daunting responsibility.

My country, the U.S. is the world’s leader in violent crime per capita.

It leads in the gap between richest and poorest.

It leads in means of communication, but also in levels of ignorance and deceit.

It leads in the manufacture, dissemination, and use of weapons of mass destruction, and of weapons generally…

My country leads as well in interventions abroad, in violent coercion, in arrogant export of commercial and often vapid culture, and of course in virtually unlimited hypocrisy.

My country, its core institutions and the commitments they impose on leaders and led alike, is an enemy of every person on this planet seeking a better life.

And yet, my country, like all others, also has potential to change.

Capitalism’s Crisis

The broad theme of this conference is the crisis of capitalism.

I think I know what you mean by that phrase.

But I have to say that for me, and I imagine for you too, the crisis that is just the ebb and flow of changes deviating from capitalism’s average, is not the big story.

The deeper crisis of capitalism – well, it is like the crisis of slavery, say, or the crisis of starvation – it isn’t the variations that occur in ugliness.

It isn’t the moment when the system is somewhat worse.

No, the crisis of capitalism is capitalism itself.

The crisis is not just when capitalism is upset, rickety, having problems.

The crisis is capitalism’s persistent perpetual ugliness per se. It is the system per se, even at its very best.

Of course the ups and downs of capitalist economic cycles and conflict dramatically affect the context in which we work, live, and fight for change.

That is true, but for me, the catastrophe of capitalism – to use a more graphic word – is that capitalism, even at its very best, is theft from the many to profit the few.

The harsh and subservient labors of most citizens fantastically enrich a few others who don’t have to labor at all.

All too often, those who work longer and harder get less for their efforts. Those who work less long and less hard get more. It is an upside down morality.

Likewise, capitalism, again even at its best, is alienation and selfishness.

Within capitalism the motives guiding decisions are pecuniary not personal. They are selfish not social.

We each seek individual advance at the expense of others. We suffer an anti-social environment in which nice guys finish last.

In capitalism, venality is rewarded, greed is rewarded, selfishness is virtuous – and evil rises.

And if you don’t believe evil rises, if you think that is too harsh – just look in the White House.

Capitalism is indignity for most of the population. It reeks of subservience to bosses and owners.

Capitalism crushes us with nearly perpetual atomization, routinization, and manipulation.

Capitalism so aggressively abuses us that we begin to see these horrible impositions as the currency of our lives.

We begin to forget that they are actually obstacles to good living.

Capitalism’s most consistent product is degradation of human potential.

Capitalism routinely generates vile individualism imposed on our personalities as our only way to get by at all, much less to do well.

Capitalism is a rat race in which winners and losers alike must behave ignominiously, becoming much less than their best selves.

In my country about forty million people are poor – about 7 million have no homes and live in public spaces, under bridges, and in cars. in a country with a gross domestic product of some 14 trillion dollars, what kind of moral decrepitude is that?

Capitalism is war, starvation, ruling and being ruled. Capitalism is barbarism. It is the Devil’s idea of home.

But we here in this conference all know this. There is no new insight in this message about capitalism. So the issue becomes, what do we want instead?

Our Alternative Vision?

Suppose we come at this question by doing a kind of thought experiment.

Let’s make believe we, here in this room, are a gathering of all the employees in some Venezuelan or U.S. workplace. Let’s say, we are an aluminum plant.

We are considering what we want for our better economy by thinking first about our own workplace.

What do we want here?

Property/Profit

First, we all reject capitalism so we all easily agree that we don’t want a few folks owning our workplace.

So we eliminate private ownership of our aluminum plant, right off.

More generally, we want no more private ownership of productive assets anywhere in our country.

The owners need to be expropriated.

Councils and Self Management

But beyond that very obvious step, I hope we would all also agree that we don’t want top down decision making by a relatively small elite.

We don’t want a few people to decide everything for us, here in our aluminum plant, while the rest of us just implement their instructions.

And if we did agree on that, then maybe we would decide, as well, that instead of top down rule, we would like to have self management.

Maybe we would decide, that is, that we want each of us to have a say in the decisions that affect us in proportion to how much we are affected by them.

If we are more affected, we have more say. If we are less affected we have less say.

We of course utilize the insights of people who are more knowledgeable, but we do not let experts have excess power or more votes.

If we like self management, we will likely also decide that we need a place for all workers to exert their influence – a workers council.

After all, if we the workers in this aluminum plant don’t have a venue to develop and express our views, how can we manage ourselves?

And with self-management as our aim, our decision-making methods at every level might often be one person one vote and majority rules.

But sometimes more support might be required, say two thirds for a decision, or consensus.

And for some decisions more time might be taken than for other decisions, for more deliberation.

The point is, we agree to pick the method of debating and resolving different issues in ways designed to convey self-managing say to everyone involved.

So, uncontroversially, we in this aluminum plant decide that in our workplace we will have a workers council, and various groups and work teams, and self-management throughout.

And of course we hope other workplaces will follow a similar path.

Equitable Remuneration

Next, we consider income.

How much should each person receive for his or her labors?

At first – we are a very radical bunch – we propose we all should just get the same amount and be done with it.

But then someone says, wait, what if I want to work longer or less long than others?

Shouldn’t I get more or less as a result of working more or less? We all pretty quickly agree on that.

And then someone says, okay, but what if I work harder, or, for that matter, what if I like to take it easy, and I work less hard?

Shouldn’t I get more of less in accord with the intensity of my efforts? And, yes, we all agree about that too.

And then someone says, hold on, a second.

I am going to be working in front of a hot furnace, and some of you work in nice air-conditioned offices.

I have to be alert every minute, and constantly exerting myself, and some of you spend a lot of time chatting on the phone, or otherwise congenially involved.

My situation is clearly much more onerous. None of you with better conditions would trade with me.

Shouldn’t I get more pay, for doing more onerous work?

This takes a little discussion but, before long, yes, we agree on this too.

So it turns out we agree that equitable remuneration or income payment, in our aluminum plant, will be based on how long people work, how hard people work, and how onerous the conditions are under which people work.

And we also agree that nothing else will warrant remuneration.

We won’t remunerate for property: you can’t own and earn that way.

Nor will we remunerate for power. You can’t have more because you have the bargaining power to demand it.

And we won’t remunerate for output either. You can’t have more because you are more productive due to using better tools, or even due to having more talent. There is no moral or incentive reason to reward that.

Therefore, for both moral reasons and incentive reasons we decide that the thing to provide income for is the thing we can actually impact in response to incentives, and the thing we are responsible for and that we give of ourselves for – duration, intensity, and onerousness of work.

But someone points out, well, wait, we shouldn’t get paid for doing stuff that is useless, or that we are no good at.

And is certainly true, so we finally decide that remuneration in our new workplace – and by extension what we want for our whole economy, too – should be for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor.

Balanced Job Complexes

Okay, we institute self-managed decision-making and equitable remuneration in our aluminum plant.

We are all very excited and very proud as well as very serious about these innovations.

So far, this is not uncommon.

It is broadly what happens, often, when factories are occupied or otherwise turned over to their workforces as co-ops, for example.

And at this point, in our aluminum factory, we decide, okay, we know what we want, so let’s get started.

So we all begin work, at the same jobs we had in the past.

But that means about one fifth of us are doing all the empowering tasks – the conception, administration, and design.

Our work inspires us and gives us confidence, skills, and knowledge.

The other four fifths or us, however, are doing rote, repetitive, and otherwise disempowering work.

Our work tends to exhaust us, reduce our confidence, and curtail or even diminish our knowledge and skills.

I want to call the former 20%, the ones who have a monopoly on empowering work – managers, financial officers, engineers, lawyers, doctors, etc. – the coordinator class.

And I want to call the latter 80% who do the rote and repetitive labor the working class.

So now comes the problem.

In this aluminum factory of ours we’ve made decision-making innovations and we’ve made remuneration innovations, but we’ve left the old division of labor as it was.

And this is indeed a problem for many co-ops and other workplaces trying to become more humane.

That is, in our aluminum factory, when we meet in our council…who has all the evidence and insight to offer and the confidence and even energy to contribute?

The answer is the coordinator class, the one fifth, not the workers, the four fifths.

And what happens is after a time the coordinator class members – the people with a monopoly on empowering work – start to dominate all outcomes.

And the rest of us are exhausted, bored, and alienated, and we begin to not want to even attend decision-making meetings.

And in time we stop attending, and the coordinators make some very important decisions.

They change the norms of remuneration so they get much more, and they  generally usher back in oppressive relations.

In short, the old corporate division of labor divides the workforce into empowered coordinator class members and disempowered workers.

It subverts our other accomplishments and impedes our very worthy desires.

The old division of labor, even just naively preserved, reintroduces into our workplace, class rule and all the attendant indignities and inequities that go with it.

So what do we do about this?

How do we undermine the coordinator / worker class hierarchy in our Aluminum plant?

Well, this is a bit like the situation with owners.

We didn’t just remove the owners, we removed the structural cause of some people existing as a separate and powerful class above others.

And that’s what we have to do regarding coordinator rule too.

We have to redistribute that which gives the coordinator class its dominance.

We have to ensure that from our work we are all prepared and able to participate fully.

And so we decide to implement what I call balanced job complexes as our new division of labor.

With balanced job complexes, the old empowering tasks still exist, of course.

But now the empowering tasks are shared throughout the whole workforce rather than being monopolized by a fifth of it.

We all of course do a mix of tasks we are suited to in our jobs.

What is new is that my mix, and your mix, and the next person’s mix are all comparable to one another in the overall empowerment they convey.

In this way we go beyond getting rid of the owner / worker division to also get rid of the coordinator / worker division.

In other words, our attention to the division of labor is all about classes.

By virtue of their deed to property, owners in capitalism preside over means of production. They hire and fire wage slaves. But eliminating this incredibly oppressive class relation is not the same as attaining classlessness.

Another group in place of owners, and also defined by its position in the economy, can wield virtually complete economic power and aggrandize itself above workers.

To avoid rule by this coordinator class requires that we eliminate the basis for its separate existence.

We must replace corporate divisions of labor with a new approach to defining work roles.

Everyone who is able in any society will by definition be doing some collection of tasks as his or her job. That much is inevitably true, always.

If the economy employs a corporate division of labor, for about a fifth of us, our tasks will combine into a job that is largely empowering, and for about four fifths of us, they will combine into a job that is largely disempowering.

In contrast, balanced job complexes combine a range of tasks into jobs so that the overall empowerment effect of each full job is like the overall empowerment effect of every other full job.

We won’t have managers and assemblers, editors and secretaries, surgeons and cleaners.

The functions these actors now fulfill largely persist in a good society, of course, but the tasks are divided up differently.

Some people still do surgery while most don’t, but those who take scalpel to brains also clean bedpans, or sweep floors, or assist with other hospital functions.

The total empowerment and pleasure that the surgeon’s new job affords is made average by remixing tasks.

The surgeon now has a balanced job complex that conveys the same total empowerment as the new balanced job complex of the person who previously only cleaned up.

The domination of what I call the coordinator class over all other workers is removed by distributing empowering and rote work so that all economic actors are comparably prepared to participate in self managed decision making.

No one group has undue advantage accruing to them due to their monopolizing more empowering economic roles.

Allocation

Okay, so far so good – but how do we connect up our workplace and other workplaces?

What if we use central planning or markets for allocation?

Would these ways of connecting up our new workplaces complete a new and worthy vision?

Central Planning

With central planning the planners would be distinguished by the conceptual and design character of their labor as well as by their academic or other credentials.

Central planners would seek to have agents in each workplace with whom they could interact and who would be responsible for enforcing the central plan.

These local managers would hold similar credentials to the planners and be vested with similar elite rights.

The dynamics of central planning are down go instructions up comes information about the possibility of fulfilling them.

Down go altered instructions up comes more information. Down go final instructions and up comes obedience.

The command structure is authoritarian and as we saw in the old Soviet Union, the class implication is to resurrect the coordinator/worker division in each workplace and in the whole economy.

Central planning undoes our other innovations and so we must reject central planning as unfit for classless allocation.

Markets

Markets are similar in their unworthiness, and the case is even more important because markets have so much more support around the world, and even on the left.

First, markets would destroy equitable remuneration and create large differentials in wealth by rewarding output and bargaining power instead of rewarding only duration, intensity, and onerousness of work.

Second, markets would force buyers and sellers to try to buy cheap and sell dear, to fleece each the other as much as possible in the name of private advance and even economic survival. Markets would subvert solidarity.

Third, markets would even produce dissatisfaction as an aim, because only the dissatisfied will buy, and then buy again, and again.

As the general director of General Motors’ Research Labs, Charles Kettering put it, business needs to create a “dissatisfied consumer”; its mission is “the organized creation of dissatisfaction.”

Kettering, by the way, acted on his beliefs and introduced annual model changes for GM cars — planned obsolescence designed to make the consumer discontented with what he or she already had.

Fourth, markets also mis-price transactions by taking into account only their impact on immediate buyers and sellers but not on those affected by pollution or, for that matter, by positive side effects.

This means markets routinely violate ecological balance and sustainability. Propaganda aside, markets aren’t even good at pricing and are deadly for the environment.

Fifth, markets create a competitive context in which workplaces have to cut costs and seek larger market share regardless of implications this might have for other societal values.

To cut costs and win market share, even new workplaces like the one we are envisioning for ourselves in this aluminum plant, would have to maximize revenues to keep up with competitors.

We would have to dump our pollution on others, if doing so would lower costs.

We would have to gain revenues by inducing excessive consumption.

And we would have to cut production costs at workers’ daily expense.

But to do these things requires both a managerial surplus-seeking mindset, and also freedom from suffering the pains that managerial choices induce.

Thus we would hire folks with the appropriately callous and calculating minds that typical corporate business schools produce

More, we would give these corporate managers air conditioned offices and comfortable surroundings, and then tell them, okay, cut our costs.

Hurt us, hurt the environment, and hurt our customers. Do it so we don’t go out of business.

Ironically due to the pressure of markets we would impose on ourselves a coordinator class.

This would occur, that is, not via natural law, and not because we genetically seek to be subservient.

No, it would occur because markets would force us to do this to win market share and avoid going out of business.

Cost cutting and surplus maximizing, in short, require all kinds of anti social decisions.

More, the best way, in fact the only competitive way, to successfully undertake these types of decisions is to hire people to explicitly do it.

And we even have to protect these people from the harmful implications of their decisions, so that they are willing to oppress the rest of us by worsening our conditions, speeding up our work, dumping our pollution, etc., without having to pay the price themselves.

What turns out to happen, in other words, is that markets impose on us the old division of labor, and, in the end, bring back coordinator rule and everything that goes with it.

All these particular market ills, I should add, are aggravated the more free – our markets are. The problems I have listed are not a matter of monopoly power or even of private ownership, but of market competition per se.

By way of evidence, there have rarely if ever been markets as competitive as those of Britain in the early nineteenth century. Under the sway of those nearly perfectly free markets, however, as the economist Robert Solow put it, “infants typically toiled their way to an early death in the pits and mills of the Black Country.”

Solow adds that “well-functioning markets have no innate tendency to promote excellence in any form. They offer no resistance to forces making for a descent into cultural barbarity or moral depravity.” Markets are therefore ruled out for a desirable economy.

Okay, that dismissal of markets and central planning was way too brief, I admit, to be completely convincing.

But let’s say, nonetheless, that we agree that we can’t use markets or central planning because those approaches will subvert everything else we are trying to do.

They will obstruct all that we believe in, and will also, for that matter, make a mess of allocation itself.

We can’t use them because they inexorably promote by their logic and methods, class rule.

So what do we do instead?

Participatory Planning

Well, the answer to that question that resonates with me is that we opt for what I call participatory planning.

It has no top or bottom.

It has no ruling class or class division.

It just has workers and consumers councils cooperatively negotiating inputs and outputs in accord with true social and ecological costs and benefits.

My summary of participatory planning goes like this.

What we need in place of central planning and competitive market allocation is to have informed, confident, capable, self managed workers and consumers cooperatively negotiate inputs and outputs.

And we need them to cooperatively negotiate, moreover, using accurate information and valuations and with each participant having a say in proportion as choices impact him or her.

But what allocation approach can accomplish all that?

Suppose worker and consumer councils propose their work activities and consumption preferences in light of best available and constantly updated knowledge of true valuations of the full social costs and benefits of their choices.

Suppose councils engage in a back and forth cooperative communication of mutually informed preferences.

Workers and consumers indicate their personal and also their group preferences.

They learn what others have indicated.

They alter their preferences in an effort to move toward personally fulfilling work and consumption, as well as a viable overall plan.

Suppose also that at each new step each actor can improve their lot only by acting in accord with more general social benefit and not by exploiting others.

Suppose, too, as in any economy, that consumers take account of their income and the relative costs of available items and choose what they desire.

And workers similarly indicate how much work they wish to do in light of requests for their output, as well as their own labor/leisure preferences.

What emerges?

There isn’t enough time to make a full and compelling argument, addressing all possible concerns.

But what I claim emerges is that in a good new economy, a classless economy, not only does no one have an interest in selling at an inflated price, no one has an interest in selling more for the sake of income either – because selling more is not how income is earned.

Nor is there any competition for market share.

Motives are simply to meet needs and to develop potentials without wasting assets.

We seek to produce what is socially acceptable and useful and to fulfill our own as well as the rest of society’s preferences as our only way to get ahead personally or collectively.

To return to the nuts and bolts of it -negotiations occur in a series of planning rounds.

Councils utilize a variety of simple communicative tools including indicative prices, facilitation boards, and other features which permit actors to express, mediate, and refine their desires in light of other actors’ desires.

Every actor has an interest in the most effective utilization of productive potentials because each actor gets a share of output that is equitable and grows as the whole output grows.

Each actor also has an interest in investments that reduce drudge work and improve the quality and empowerment of the average balanced job complex, because this is the job quality and empowerment level that everyone on average enjoys.

I call this classless economy a participatory economy.

Someone else might call this classless economy participatory socialism, or might call it a Bolivarian economy, or might call it 21st century socialism.

But whatever anyone calls it, my claim is that this participatory economy is not only classless – but to the extent possible and with no systematic biases, it apportions to each worker and consumer an appropriate level of self managing influence about each economic decision.

Participatory economics, or for short, parecon, doesn’t reduce productivity or foster an untamable drive to accumulate. Instead, it provides adequate and proper incentives for people to work in accord with what desire to consume.

Parecon doesn’t bias toward longer hours. Instead, it allows free choice of work versus leisure.

Parecon doesn’t pursue what is most profitable for a few regardless of impact on workers, ecology, and even consumers.

Instead, it reorients output toward what is truly beneficial in light of full social and environmental costs and benefits.

Parecon doesn’t waste human talents when it has people who are now doing surgery, composing music, or otherwise engaging in skilled labor do offsetting less empowering labor as well.

Instead, by this requirement parecon surfaces a gargantuan reservoir of previously untapped talents throughout the population.

It not only apportions empowering and rote labor justly, and in accord with self management and classlessness, it also fulfills the potentials of all participants.

Parecon doesn’t assume selfless much less divine citizens.

Instead, it ensures that for people to get ahead in their economic engagements they must attend to the general social good and thus the well being of others.

In capitalism buyers seek to fleece sellers and vice versa. Capitalism trains people to be anti-social. To get ahead people living in capitalism must learn this lesson well.

In parecon, in contrast, solidarity among citizens is produced in the economy just like vehicles, homes, clothes, and musical instruments are produced there, and just like greed and selfishness is produced in capitalism.

Due to the logic of parecon’s remuneration, its decision making, its division of labor, and its planning, my gain is built on and derives from your gain – and that holds for every me and for every you.

Implications For Now

Let’s suppose we all agreed that 21st century socialism, Bolivarian economy, and participatory economy were broadly the same thing – a classless economy whose merits are ensured by four key defining institutional features – self managed workers and consumers councils, equitable remuneration for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued work, balanced job complexes, and participatory planning.

If we were seeking this system, what implications would our long-term commitments have for our immediate programmatic activities?

The Class Question

The first implication is that one can be sincerely, courageously, and humanely anti capitalist, and yet not be for classlessness.

One might even be personally, emotionally, and intellectually for classlessness, and yet act in ways contrary to attaining it.

That is, one can sincerely want classlessness, but utilize old corporate divisions of labor.

Or one can sincerely want classlessness but utilize markets or central planning.

And utilizing corporate divisions of labor and/or markets or central planning, whatever one’s other intentions and choices might be, and whatever one’s hopes and dreams might be, will not usher in classlessness.

Instead, those choices will usher in class division between coordinators monopolizing empowering work, and workers doing rote and repetitive work.

With corporate divisions of labor and/or markets elevating them, about 20% of the population will rule over about 80% of it.

This economic outcome should be called coordinatorism, I think.

But the sad truth is that it has often gone by the name market socialism or centrally planned socialism.

Coordinatorism is 20th century socialism, the type we want to transcend.

In other words, the first major implication of a really classless economic vision such as parecon is that our anti capitalist efforts need to be pro classlessness not pro coordinator class. More, this needs to be true not just rhetorically, but in our actual daily and long term organizational and policy choices and methods.

Program

The second major implication of a classless vision I want to address has to do with what we fight for, and with how we fight for it, while we are seeking to replace capitalism.

To win higher wages or better work conditions or more progressive taxes or subsidies, or restraints in the form of laws about ecology, or a higher minimum wage, or more co-ops, and so many other possible economic gains, can of course be part of an attempt to get beyond capitalism.

But it can also be part of an attempt to ameliorate capitalism’s ills while accepting, however, that the basic system will persist.

This is the difference between a reformist approach and a revolutionary approach to winning gains.

In the former reformist case, gains exist unto themselves, and you win them, and that’s the end of it. You celebrate a job well done and you go home.

In the latter revolutionary case, gains are themselves still worthy and desirable, but you fight for them and seek to win them in ways that cause everyone involved to be well prepared to win more gains, on the road to a new economy.

You organize a campaign for higher wages, better conditions, or other gains based partly on the benefits to accrue to worthy recipients.

But you also organize based on advocating the values of a new society.

And you organize in ways developing infrastructure that can last and that reflects the features of a new society, and in ways arousing passions for that new society.

I think this lesson is well understood by all anticapitalists and certainly by everyone here.

But, in line with the prior point about post capitalist coordinatorism, a deeper insight is that even fighting for worthy gains and even constructing new institutions can be done in ways that will tend to usher in coordinator outcomes or can be done in ways that will tend to usher in participatory or Bolivarian or 21 century socialist outcomes.

This is a life or death, victory or defeat difference.

But this implies that efforts to move away from capitalism should also be very self consciously moving toward classlessness.

Getting rid of private property is absolutely wonderful and exemplary.

So too are campaigns that increase literacy, advance health, improve distribution of income, and so on.

More, when these types of pursuit are coupled to transforming businesses from being privately owned to more socialistic relations, as they have been here in Venezuela, the changes are not just inherently worthy, they are also anticapitalist.

But to really be part of seeking classlessness requires more.

Changes aiming for classlessness need to not just reject capitalism but also move toward self-managing decision making structures, equitable remuneration, balanced job complexes, and participatory planning.

They need to create understanding of these sought features and desires for them, and they need to create exemplary instances of these structures or at least move toward them in society, in our own movements, and in our own organizations.

By way of example, just imagine that the 228,000 coops and 3,000 social production enterprises in Venezuela all had, and that their workers all actively supported, self management, balanced job complexes, and equitable remuneration.

Just imagine that the participatory budgeting in Venezuela was meant to extend to all inputs and outputs from all workplaces, and that the exemplary approach to cooperatively negotiating various international trade arrangements was also meant to extend to all exchanges.

So my second implication of seeking a classless economy, in other words, is that planting seeds of the future in the present is absolutely critical and involves, for the economy, if we aren’t to fall back into mere reform or be diverted into coordinator class rule, paying attention to decision making, income distribution, division of labor, and allocation, as well as to property relations and desirable policies.

Closing

I apologize that I have gone on so long. I clearly need to finish up.

When Margaret Thatcher said “There is no alternative,” “TINA,” she accurately identified a central obstacle that prevents masses of people from actively seeking a better world.

If a person sincerely believes there is no better future, then he or she will understandably react to calls to fight against poverty, against alienation, and even against war by replying, go get a life, grow up, face reality.

The TINA person will feel that we are proposing a fool’s errand, a thankless and impossible project.

Seeking justice, equity, self-management, and classlessness, will appear to that person to be like blowing in the wind.

It will be like fighting gravity. It will seem hopeless because that person feels there is no system that can deliver the aims.

In that context classless economics  needs to be a vision aimed to replace cynicism with hope and reason.

It needs to be a vision that seeks to clarify that capitalism is not like gravity – that it was created by humans and that humans can replace it.

And let me end by saying two more things, please.

First, as you all here in Venezuela know, and as people in my country need to learn, anyone who believes that capitalism can be replaced, given the incredible harm that capitalism does, ought to fight relentlessly not only to ameliorate the current ills produced by capitalism, but also to usher in the benefits of a classless economy.

I sometimes say to my fellow citizens, that when we all go to movies and see courageous souls of the past represented on the screen, fighting against slavery, or against the subordination of women, or against colonialism, or for a shorter work day or for a higher minimum wage, or for peace and justice and against dictatorships, we rightly feel sympathy and admiration for their acts.

The abolitionists, the suffragists, the labor union organizers, the anti apartheid activists, all the seekers of freedom and dignity in struggles and revolutions against colonialism and capitalism of the past, are heroes for us. Che is a hero for us.

But it seems to me we should not admire some cause and then avoid fighting in the same broad cause.

If we admire standing up against injustice, we ought to ourselves stand up against injustice.

If we admire seeking a better world, we should ourselves seek a better world.

If we admire rejecting exploitation, alienation, domination, and their violent maintenance, we should ourselves advocate and fight for an economic model and a societal structure that will eliminate these horrors.

I believe that participatory economics is such an economy and should be part of such a new society which will of course need not just new economics, but also new kinship, new culture, and new polity.

And the second thing I want to say in closing, is, well, honestly, that I apologize.

I apologize for my country – the scourge and devourer of honest efforts to attain freedom and justice.

I apologize for our militarism, our commercialism, our arrogance, and our hypocrisy.

But I know apologies aren’t worth much.

I know that what I and other U.S. citizens who understand imperialism need to do is to battle against our country’s inclination to crush international revolutions.

In the world today, Venezuela is the home of the most exciting, most inspiring, most hopeful efforts at justice I know of.

As such, sadly, Venezuela is also dead center in the sights of Washington – Bush’s Washington, McCain’s Washington, and yes, Obama’s Washington too.

I apologize for that.

And I pledge to try to restrain the corporate oriented, morally degenerate thugs that my country produces and then elevates to godlike power as best as I and others can, to help you find the room to show the world what free people can accomplish.

Thank you, for your work, your spirit, your accomplishments, and what I hope and pray will be your ultimate success against the imperial beast you are trying to slay and against all the oppressive residues of the past you are trying to overcome.

Thank you.

View online here, Z-sustainers can comment: http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/18709

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One thought on “Talk Delivered to Venezuelan Conference on Crisis of Capitalism

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