Welcome login | signup
Language en es fr
OccupyForum

Forum Post: chomsky on occupy and socialism

Posted 2 years ago on March 12, 2012, 9:38 a.m. EST by flip (6866)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Dada Maheshvarananda: The viral growth of the Occupy Movement, and the public support of it, is testament to the tremendous dissatisfaction with the inequities and abuses of corporate capitalism. The slogan “We are the 99%” has resonated with many people. What is your view of the potential strength of this type of mass protest and its possibility to effect social change?

Noam Chomsky: Well the Occupy Movement already has had a number of significant successes. One of them, as you say, is to kind of change the national discourse. These concerns and fears and so on were, of course, prevalent for a long time for perfectly objective reasons, having to do with changes in the socio-economic system in the last 30 or 40 years. But they weren’t crystallized very clearly until the Occupy Movement put them forward. And now they are kind of common coin. So the 99 percent and one percent, the radical inequality, the farcical character of purchased elections, the corporate shenanigans that led to the current crisis and have been crushing people for a long time, the overseas wars, and so on. That’s one major contribution.

The other one is not discussed so much, but I think it’s pretty important. This is an extremely atomized society. People are alone. It’s a very business-run society. The very explicit goal of the business world is to create a social order in which the basic social unit is you and your television set, in which you’re watching ads and going out to purchase commodities. There are tremendous efforts made, that have been going on for a century and a half, to try to induce this kind of consciousness and social order.

In fact if you go back say 150 years, in the early days of the industrial revolution, right here in Massachusetts, where it started, there was a very lively press at the time, probably the period of the greatest free press in the United States. All kinds of press – ethnic, labor, etc. And the labor press, which was extremely interesting, lively and participatory, had a great many harsh criticisms of the industrial system that was being imposed and to which people were being driven. One of the core criticisms was what 150 years ago they called the “New Spirit of the Age”: “Gain wealth, forgetting all but self,” which they considered savage and inhuman and was being driven into their heads. Well, 150 years later they are still trying to drive into people’s heads, “Gain wealth, forgetting all but self.” Now it’s considered kind of an ideal, but it’s also intolerable to human beings.

One effect of the Occupy Movement has been simply to spontaneously create small social systems of solidarity, mutual support, cooperation, cooperative kitchens, libraries, health services, general assemblies in which people actually interact and so on. That’s something that is very much missing in this society. When we talk about potential, part of the potential would be to first of all maintain those bonds and associations after the tactic has outlived its usefulness. And tactics do outlive their usefulness. After that happens, if what has been learned and internalized can be sustained and extended, that would be very important in itself.

The other dimension is how much can you engage the rest of the so-called 99 percent in these activities, concerns, interactions and so on. That’s the next big step that has to be taken.

Dada Maheshvarananda: Many in the Occupy movement have realized that political democracy is controlled by big money. Few however have expressed that economic democracy is essential for a truly democratic society. The Progressive Utilization Theory or Prout advocates economic democracy to empower people and communities through cooperative management of most enterprises. Economic democracy requires that the minimum requirements of life must be guaranteed to everyone, and decision-making be decentralized so people have the right to choose how their local economies are run. It is the responsibility of all levels of government to promote policies that achieve full employment. Do you think that economic democracy and local economies could move us forward?

Noam Chomsky: First of all, this is the traditional stand of the Left. So if you go back again 150 years to the same newspapers I was mentioning, one of their demands was that those who work in the mills should own them, and of course manage them. That was the slogan of the Knights of Labor, the huge labor organization that developed in the nineteenth century. European socialism was mostly coming from several branches, but the more Left branches if you like, were essentially the same – committed to workers’ councils, community organization, guild socialism in England was the same. This is the traditional thrust of the socialist movement. It is not understood here, because, as I said, this is a very business-run society. You’re not allowed to know any of these things. So socialism is some kind of bad word.

Well, that is what happens in a highly controlled society, a highly indoctrinated society. But these are very familiar goals. In fact, you can even go to the leading social philosopher in the United States, who everyone recognizes as John Dewey, who just took this for granted. As he put it, unless every institution in society – industry, farming, communication, media, all of them – unless they are under popular democratic control, with wide participation by the workforce and the community, he said politics will just be the shadow cast over society by big business. That’s the alternative.

You can’t have meaningful political democracy without functioning economic democracy. I think this is, at some level, understood by working people. It has to be brought to awareness and consciousness, but it’s just below the surface.

In fact, things are happening. Some of the most interesting are [the Evergreen] cooperatives in Ohio in the Cleveland area. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of, not huge, but significant enterprises, that are worker-owned and less frequently worker-managed. The biggest worker-owned conglomerate is Mondragón in the Basque Country [Spain]. That’s worker-owned but not worker-managed industries, banks, schools, communities, a very broad configuration. And there are various other elements of it here and there. A couple of quite good books have just come out about it, one by Gar Alperovitz, America Beyond Capitalism, which is about the worker-owned enterprises that are sprouting around the country. This could go much beyond.

So, for example, a couple years ago, the government effectively nationalized the auto industry. It came pretty close to that. There were a couple choices. One choice, which is the choice that is reflexive in a business-run system, is to reconstitute it, hand it back to the original owners or to people very much like them, and let them pursue very much the course they pursued before. That’s one possibility; that was of course the choice undertaken without discussion.

But there was another choice. And if there had been a live, functioning Occupy Movement at the time, it could have put that other choice onto the national agenda. It would have to have been much larger and more organized than it is now. It’s been only a few months after all. The other choice was to hand the auto industry over to the workers in the community, and have them own and manage and run it. Have it directed to things that the country needs.

There are, after all, things that we very badly need as a society. One of the most obvious is high speed rail. The United States is off the international spectrum in this respect. It’s kind of a scandal. It’s economically harmful, socially harmful, humanly harmful, ecologically harmful, and everything that you can think of. It’s just ridiculous. And the skilled workforce in what is called the “rust belt” could easily be reconfigured to do that. People like Seymour Melman have been arguing for that for years. It might take some kind of federal aid, but nothing like what was poured into the banks.

To make this even more ironic, at the very time that Obama was reconstituting the auto industry and handing it back to the normal ownership, he was also sending his transportation secretary to Spain to get contracts for high speed rail from the Spanish, who are way more advanced than we are, or the French or the Germans. And here you have this industrial system sitting there, workers wanting to work, communities wanting to have their own lively work-based communities, and the country needing things badly. But they can’t be put together. And we have to go somewhere else, like to Spain to get them to help us out. I mean, that’s an incredible condemnation of the semi-functioning system. And that’s the kind of thing that an Occupy Movement, when it moves beyond this particular tactic, should be addressing.

59 Comments

59 Comments


Read the Rules

[Removed]

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

people need to be in control of their work practices in order to participate in a democracy ?

[-] 1 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 2 years ago

I think that the right to democratic say should be proportional to how much things affect you and how much you're a part of these things. That's not an unreasonable suggestion. If one agrees with this principle, then it logically follows that right to democratic say in your workplace - which is a pretty big part of your life - should be central part.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

our jobs effect our lives just like the government

[-] 1 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 2 years ago

Both government and workplace affect our lives, yes. Was there a point?

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

our jobs are our government aswell

[-] 1 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 2 years ago

Is this some form of argument against what I said above here? If so, then I don't understand what you're getting at.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

an extension

an interpretation

as Andrea Potts once said

"Can you tell me what I'm thinking so I know you understand."

[-] 1 points by flip (6866) 2 years ago

is that a question - i assumed it was obvious - we are talking about real democracy not what is practiced here - which war monger will you vote for this year - obama or the other fool - you call that democracy

[-] 1 points by ShubeLMorgan2 (1088) from New York, NY 2 years ago

Occupy ought to be supporting BDS. Oakland already has, but Oakland seems to be in the lead of this movement now.

http://occupywallst.org/forum/noam-chomsky-blasts-tutu-the-presbyterians-and-elv/

[-] -3 points by Dumpthechump (96) 2 years ago

As usual Chomsky makes all these motherhood statements about the superiority of 'genuine' democracy and "workers control" but what strikes me as really odd is use by Maheshvaranda and Chomsky of the term "economic democracy" as being "truly essential for a democratic society".

Firstly, I agree with that statement but those two have misinterpreted (or reinterpreted) the terminology. The term "economic democracy" merely means "primitive capitalism" i.e. that I can buy and sell whatever I want to & from whoever I want.

It does NOT mean obligatory workers' control - though it will certainly permit it. Such workers' control is not very self-sustaining however - and either has to have state support or will be bought out by businessmen emerging under the economic democracy.

Economic democracy (and not politcal democracy) was introduced into the Soviet Union by Lenin in the immediate aftermath of the Kronstadt Uprising - you know of that incident, don't you you Kronstadter huggers and weekend Trotskyists!!!!!! - being called the New Economic Policy (NEP). After a few years an emerging business class - the Kulaks (meaning "fists") - gradually arose. Stalin murderously suppressed them by Forced Collectivization, creating the bureaucratic Soviet State that was always short of food in later decades.

Good things such as economic democracy would return however. For example, China under Deng Xiao Ping changed from a command economy to an economic democracy - but it is certainly not a political democracy as the Tienanmen Incident of 1989 demostrates.

Chomsky and the Chumps are misusing economic terms here - as well as misunderstanding the implications of economic democracy.

Capitalism began as economic democracy, political democracy - as we have it in the West today - emerging in First World countries as a secondary development due to mass pressure and the increasing wealth. THIS SITUATION HOWEVER IS TEMPORARY since economic growth on our finite earth is temporary.

Chomsky's drivel about linking economic democracy with anarchist Spain confuses two entirely different situations. Indeed, had anarchist Spain survived without Fascist/Phalangists and without Communists, either a new kulak class would have emerged there OR the chronic anarchy and poverty would soon have led to the creation of neo-Fascists or neo-Communists to halt the chaos and restart the economy.

The point is: dump the Chump. I.e. Drop the false equation between anarchist communalism and "economic democracy". The latter is primitive capitalism - the former is a pipe dream among naive people in the earliest capitalist state who have not yet realized the need for large scale hierarchical economic organization.

"A pipe dream?" you say.

Yeah! A pipe full of CHOMAKKO!

[-] 2 points by flip (6866) 2 years ago

The term "economic democracy" merely means "primitive capitalism" i.e. that I can buy and sell whatever I want to & from whoever I want. - ok - you have proved yourself a fool or a liar - or maybe you just don't know what words mean.

[-] -3 points by Dumpthechump (96) 2 years ago

That "economic democracy" means a free-market capitalism is obvious from books on China.

To use the same term to refer to anarchist communitarian democracy is grossly misleading - for the simple reason that the economic democracy of primitive capitalism leads either to capitalist advance (as in the first capitalist countries) or the subjugation of an economy to foreign domination (e.g. Haiti - its reduction to a third-world country).

The point is: economic democracy is NOT political democracy!

While the two went together in the West - creating capitalism, this is not the case in China or Lenin's NEP where the former was present but not the latter.

Chompo says: "One effect of the Occupy Movement has been simply to spontaneously create small social systems of solidarity, mutual support, cooperation...etc."

These small social systems are examples of LOCAL DEMOCRACY and I have no objection to this terminology or its practice, except that it is NOT the be-all and end-all of human existence as the Chumps preach.

The point is that in our complicated modern society we have to obtain our food etc. from distant sites, hence economic FREEDOM or some sort of command system (e.g. Communism) is required over a suitably large (i.e. non-local) area.

It is this pressing need that leads to "economic freedom" (either NEP or frank capitalism) in order to organize the complicated hierarchy required to serve economic aims. The joint-stock companies or free associations of merchants and factory-bosses constitute economic freedom - certainly a better term than "economic democracy" I candidly admit (but you cannot honestly use those words to describe anarchist communitarianism) - and such a thing does not of course imply political democracy in a Soviet or Chinese system.

Nevertheless it does constitute an economic freedom and thus "economic democracy" for such participants in order for them to make money - and NOT the broad masses!

Anarchist communitarianism (AC = Libertarian Socialism) in contrast would deny such economic freedom since AC denies the need for such hierarchical structures - hence anarchist communities can only remain stagnant because their restrictive rules, though undoubtedly democratic and forcefully upheld, prevent the formation of higher economic organizations.

[-] 4 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

It seems to me that Chomsky is suggesting that the term economic democracy has, in fact, been misused by its referring to free market capitalism, that the meaning of the words would suggest socialism instead.

Economic democracy , in the real sense, meanss that the wealthy can't makes laws to exempt themselves from those that the rest of society must live by, that they don't have disproportionate influence in the halls of power. Economic democracy means that workers have a say about their working conditions and pay. It means those who produce have a seat at the table.

And since economic power IS political power, economic democracy is political democracy. The alternative is plutocracy.

If it has meant something other than that in the past, it was the past definition that got the phrase wrong. John Dewey was right. So was, in this instance, Noam Chomsky.

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

economic democracy would regularly supply money into the hands of each person

that person is than free to decide how to spend its share

money will be collected from where it flows to be given back to the people

[-] 3 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

The entire system would mean that those who produce are the ones who control the economy instead of CEOs and plutocrats. The supply of money would remain in the hands of those who produce the wealth: labor. It would not be given back to the people, because it would never be taken from them in the first place.

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

people spend money for good and services

if a group provides goods well, many people will give that group their money

[-] 2 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

That doesn't contradict what i wrote as far as I can tell.

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

did it add anything ?

people will collect money together if they can and pull it out of circulation

[-] 2 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

Other than savings, if the people, rather than Wall Street, control the wealth, why would they pull money out of circulation? If a factory, for example, was owned by the workers, why would they take the money that factory generates out of circulation? I don't know where you're going with this.

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

if 90% of the money is pulled out of the system,

the remaining money becomes ten times as valuable

when exchanged for the same goods and services.

.

Those with the large savings can outspend the total money enchanged for good and services

[-] 3 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

I really don't understand how this relates to economic democracy. You seem to be describing manipulation of capitalist systems. Such manipulation must be centralized and autocratic, an would be undemocratic. Economic democracy is not about capitalism. It is about a system that keeps control of the economy in the hands of the people, not in the hands of a central bank that can pull money out of circulation in massive amounts. Only large centralized banks can engage in the kind of deflationary tactics you seem to be referring to.

Nor do such tactics actually do anything in the long term. As money eventually is released back into the system, inflation takes over, wiping out any temporary gains deflation might have created. What's more, artificially inflating the value of currency is not well looked upon in the international market, and can have severe retaliatory repercussions.

Unless I'm completely misunderstanding what you mean.

How, exactly, would what you're suggesting work in the kind of Anarcho-socialist system Chomsky talks about? (I don't necessarily agree, by the way, with everything Chomsky advocates, but that is what this thread is about

It might be useful to get very specific. An acquaintance of mine owns a small production company in Sweden. Including her, there are about 15 people working there. The board of trustees is all 15 of those people. They make all of the decisions that effect the company and everybody's rates of pay together. That is the kind of economic democracy that is being discussed. I have no idea how anything you are saying relates to that model.

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

I don't know Chomsky's system

I propose a system in which those savings would be taxed to maintain a constant supply for each individual

savings could still be allowed perhaps at twice the amount of money that flows

but those savings would have to be taxed to restore money to the people

[-] 2 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

Since this thread is about Chomsky's ideas, it might do some good knowing about what he proposes.

It might be useful to get very specific. An acquaintance of mine owns a small production company in Sweden. Including her, there are about 15 people working there. The board of trustees is all 15 of those people. They make all of the decisions that effect the company and everybody's rates of pay together. That is the kind of economic democracy that is being discussed. That is Chomsky's system. (Well, not really his, but at least the one he advocates.)

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

sorry

I thought economic democracy meant everyone had a dollar with which to vote with

[-] 1 points by Dumpthechump (96) 2 years ago

I note with interest MattLHolck's reply ABOVE. If, epa1inter, your description of "Chomsky's system" is merely what you have written here I would have no objection since this board of trustees is clearly sensible and workable. But "Chomsky's system" or "economic democracy" has to apply at a larger scale as well. As I posted above, where is the Great Democratic Commune of Manhattan (successor to OWS as Wall Street collapses) to get its wheat and bread from? Surely not through a gigantic democratic "board of trustees", a ouija board and a seance! So where?

[-] 1 points by Dumpthechump (96) 2 years ago

In reply to MattLHolck, epa1nter wrote: "I really don't understand how this relates to economic democracy. You seem to be describing manipulation of capitalist systems. Such manipulation must be centralized and autocratic, an would be undemocratic. Economic democracy is not about capitalism."

Manipulation of a capitalist system is for the most part NOT centralized and autocratic. It is by capitalists themselves e.g. corporate raiders, trusts, "gentlemens' agreements", Ponzi schemes, i.e. Gordon Gekkoism writ humungous! Banks can sure do it even more devastatingly but, already filthy rich, they are usually more content to do it on the sly - at least those banks that have survived the GFC.

In this way the rich get richer without producing compensating value-bearing commodities and services which the public can buy and benefit from. And the converse situation is what we the people want from them instead!

Please everyone, reread Rosa Luxemburg's "Accumulation of Capital" and "the Anticritique". Chomsky has read it for sure - and therefore so must you!

[-] 1 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

Very good point. I was too rushed in my response to MattHolck and should have thought it through more.

[-] 1 points by Dumpthechump (96) 2 years ago

Yes, so was I on the issue of defining "economic democracy". I realize that I have to tease out the implications more clearly than I have done already!

[-] 0 points by Dumpthechump (96) 2 years ago

Aha! Thank you epa1nter for your illustration of what you mean by "Economic democracy". I only read this after I replied to your posting above.

I see that what you are referring to is not the Joint Stock Company sitting at the committee table alone but that there are workers or their representatives there as well - a "board of trustees". Now this is undoubtedly a very good idea - since it works.

But in order to stop your "economic democracy" being run by business you will have to bring in authoritarian rules to stop the takeover of such companies by financiers and other capitalists.

If such "economic democracy" is not run by big business it will either have to be run by the state (Communism) or break up into tiny production units, anarchist communes denying any authority & hierarchy over them whatsoever.

Such "economic democracy" will not work since merchants and traders will be needed to link the anarchist communes together in order to get economic growth. In this way the state - and no doubt business-run capitalism - will be re-estabished.

If you disagree I can only ask: how is the Great Democratic Commune of Manhattan (established by OWS after the sudden and surprisingly peaceful collapse of US capitalism) to grow its own wheat to make its own bread?

[-] 2 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

reply t your post below.

It IS a PRIVATE enterprise, collectively owned. It does NOT mean no managers, it does NOT mean no specialization. It means EVERYBODY OWNS THE COMPANY EQUALLY AND HAS AN EQUAL VOICE IN ITS OPERATIONS AND DISTRIBUTION OF WAGES.

Economic democracy does NOT mean there is no government. I means that government isn't paid off by corporations or a wealthy elite to do its bidding and its bidding alone.

It is beginning to look to me like you are being intentionally obtuse.

[-] 2 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

"But in order to stop your "economic democracy" being run by business you will have to bring in authoritarian rules to stop the takeover of such companies by financiers and other capitalists."

NOt id the company doesn't issue stocks. If it is all employee owned, it cannot be taken over. And if all businesses ran along these lines, their wold be no financiers with any power. Since there would be no capitalists, there would be no threat of a capitalist takeover.

This system does not eliminate merchants or trade.

And nowhere does it it preclude leadership within the company. My friend, who owns the production company I mentioned is the boss. She is the producer and direct of her films. The cinematographer must shoot scenes as she tells him or her to. But the running of the business itself is decided by everyone who works there. Anarchy does not mean chaos. An orchestra still needs a conductor. But the musicians can fire that conductor if he become abusive, and they aren't required to work for slave wages while the conductor makes tens of thousands of dollars per performance - unless the workers (musicians) decide otherwise.

[-] 0 points by Dumpthechump (96) 2 years ago

Well that is a really good answer epa1nter since you have delineated the limits to which a democratic form of organization can go.

But this is still not enough to secure the wheat supply to the Great Democratic Commune of Manhattan (GDCM). Rather, the new commune government there has to organize for trucks and trains to deliver the wheat as well as assuring payment for the farmers and farm laborers growing the wheat - who live far away, and I suspect, outside New York State.

The point is that you have a vast complicated enterprise with a pressing need to ensure that all the parts work correctly. The growth of "economic democracy" over 150 years led to plutocracy but this plutocracy emerged because it organized and controlled the railroads, the fertilizer companies etc.

Mere democracy and "boards of trustees" do not ensure that this vast interconnecting system will work. There is specialization of roles and the need for hierarchy - i.e. somebody telling others what to do.

Hence the "merchants" and "traders" are not those even of Lenin's NEP, i.e. a few entrepreneurs with a truck or cart-load of city goods at inflated prices with empty promises. They are large and organized concerns and their employees have to be paid. To replace the employees with a "board of trustees" obscures the fact of the need for travel and the specialization of roles.

Once again you need either a state organization or private enterprise or both to ensure that such a complicated system works. A single company with its board of trustees or a symphony orchestra is not an adequate representation of the requirements of a large-scale economic system - such as that to provide wheat to the GDCM.

Nor will the anarchist pipedream be assuaged by the use of Lenin-style "Workers' and Peasants' Inspectorates" - this is why Lenin had to abandon communism and bring in the NEP over the objections of so many in his party, particularly the anarchistically inclined!

[-] 0 points by Dumpthechump (96) 2 years ago

Maheshvaranda wrote: "Many in the Occupy movement have realized that political democracy is controlled by big money. Few however have expressed that economic democracy is essential for a truly democratic society. The Progressive Utilization Theory or Prout advocates economic democracy to empower people and communities through cooperative management of most enterprises. Economic democracy requires that the minimum requirements of life must be guaranteed to everyone, and decision-making be decentralized so people have the right to choose how their local economies are run. It is the responsibility of all levels of government to promote policies that achieve full employment."

He realizes that "political democracy" as "controlled by big money." My point is that this IS political democracy.

For him (and for flip) the opposite is "economic democracy" which is somehow not controlled by big money yet provides "minimum requirements for life." He does not mention "LOCAL" but that is discussed a paragraph or so above.

Chomsky rightly replies that "this is the traditional stand of the Left. So if you go back again 150 years to the same newspapers I was mentioning, one of their demands was that those who work in the mills should own them, and of course manage them."

The obvious defect in their argumentation is that this primitive so-called "economic democracy" of 150 years ago has evolved into the present political democracy controlled by big business. It did not happen by some mysterious coup but by the "natural" economic evolution of capitalism itself - under the regime of "economic democracy".

Hence, epa1nter your last four words... "And since economic power IS political power, economic democracy is political democracy. The alternative is plutocracy." ...make no sense whatsoever.

The economic democracy of 150 years evolved into the political democracy of today WHICH IS RUN BY BIG BUSINESS. That is, modern political democracy IS PLUTOCRACY - the exact opposite of what you have stated!

I.e. you are creating artificial definitions in order to have Chumpo state something useful and meaningful. You are afraid to admit the need for hierarchy and authority and think you can dump capitalism and make the world "democratic and egalitarian" so that the resulting anarchy will somehow lead to everything being "hunky dory without coercion and hierarchy".

Dream on - under another puff of CHOMAKKO no doubt.

[-] 2 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

No, I don't think you have a handle on it. Big Money is the opposite of political democracy. It is the few controlling the many. That is plutocracy, or at best, corporate oligarchy.

The need for authority, or more accurately, leadership. is different that the need for hierarchy. A marketing manager may still direct associates to follow a particular strategy. A logistics director can still tell the truck drivers where to deliver merchandise. But they are all working for the company, and that company is owned by all of them. The manager may be a designated leader, designated as such by everyone, but he is not the boss. He can't, by himself, determine what pay another employee receives, only the collective can do that, and the manager has one single vote in that collective.

I went to a school that was founded along these lines. There were only three rules that existed without a vote being taken: no one could engage in physical violence, no one could knowingly violate the law (unless they had to as a matter of conscience) and everyone had to participate in cleaning the school if they were physically able (that included the faculty and administrators as well as the students). I often cleaned the urinals alongside the headmaster. (And we also played volleyball against each other at times, with faculty and students on mixed teams.)

That was the sum total of the undemocratic rules. No one was required to go to class, you could eat wherever and whenever you wanted. This being the Sixties and early seventies, racial tensions existed and sometimes flared. Other issues came up as well, with frequency. In those cases, all classes were cancelled and the entire school met, argued, voted, came to agreement. And that's how rules were created.

The entire school also met every morning to deal with daily business. Votes were taken on whether or not to allow smoking in the cafeteria, or whether classes should be scheduled for 20, 40 or 60 minute blocks. The board of trustees had fully voting students, faculty, parents as well as local investors. I was one of the board members, at the age of 16, and voted on the school budget and policies. In fact , I forced that administration, after it had done months of work, to revise one yearly budget. THe headmaster had eliminated a program and I objected, made an impassioned speech and gained enough votes to table the budget and restore the program.

Guess what? It worked. It wasn't easy, it took great deal of effort, but it worked. And the school wound up with the second highest college placement record in the state. And everyone owned the school.

Businesses can be run the same way. Many already are all over the world. They are anti hierarchical, anti capitalist, and very successful.

[-] 1 points by Dumpthechump (96) 2 years ago

Your school sounds really interesting. Very different to mine which were just ordinary state schools (not in the USA).

You are quite right to state that leadership and hierarchy are different things - though often associated.

Your next paragraph is interesting because you write of a "company owned by all of them" and then discuss "employee" in the next sentence. By definition I would have thought than an employee receives a wage and is not a co-owner. Could I replace your word with "share-worker" or some other term? - since the term "employee" is confusing here.

When you state that "Big Money/plutocracy/corporate oligarchy is the opposite of political democracy" you are providing a (new) definition of an oppositional situation. It sound a bit like Thomas Jefferson's waffling about natural aristocracy versus moneyed elites - his phrases mean nothing but I will NOT put yours in that category.

What we have to find is a way to engender acceptance and participation among ordinary people. Democracy has a limited role to play here but the basic first answer - hopefully achievable if the environment has not collapsed - is to provide people with productive jobs.

Small businesses along the lines you describe will certainly work - but the real problem is organizing the larger structure e.g. how do I feed the GCDM? Mass democracy cannot be applied to every detail of the system - Karl Popper is correct even if one thing only, that all governance is and will be institutional!

[-] 1 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

"Could I replace your word with "share-worker" or some other term? - since the term "employee" is confusing here..."

Yes, by all means. A lifetime of being an employee has effected my language.

Unlike many in this movement, I am not an enthusiast of "direct democracy" politically. Even in terms of my school, it was a small and unique place, and it's structure could not work for everyone: it took real commitment and dedication, and not everyone flourishes under those conditions. I ma still an adherent of representative democracy. But that can only work if power and money is more horizontally distributed. Large gaps in either wealth or power between inevitably leads to influence weighted in the direction of the haves. Poverty erases one's political voice. Extreme concentrations of wealth automatically provide access to decision-makers. and that access is invariably used to widen the gap further. That, in turn lead to even greater power. And so the cycle feeds on itself.

How a necessary leveling of this influence and wealth is to be achieved, is up for discussion. Likely no one solution, Chomsky's or anyone else's, will be a panacea. Utopias simply aren't possible, os even desirable. But it is nevertheless dangerously past time to have that discussion.

I absolutely agree that creating jobs is an immediate necessity. But the broader discussion must not be forgotten about, or we will find ourselves right back here in no time at all, and we will have no chance to address larger, global problems that Capitalism had created: environmental destruction, systemically created mass poverty, and global political disenfranchisement, otherwise known as slavery.

[-] 3 points by flip (6866) 2 years ago

reread my last comment - if you can read - sorry but you really are stupid - books on china? really stupid!

[-] 1 points by Dumpthechump (96) 2 years ago

Read the recent biography (2011) of Deng Xiao Ping. 700 pages of holiday reading for ya!

[-] 1 points by flip (6866) 2 years ago

The obvious defect in their argumentation is that this primitive so-called "economic democracy" of 150 years ago has evolved into the present political democracy controlled by big business. It did not happen by some mysterious coup but by the "natural" economic evolution of capitalism itself - under the regime of "economic democracy". - capitalism and democracy - a contradiction in terms as madison understood - you clearly do not - go read some cato institute shit

[-] 1 points by Dumpthechump (96) 2 years ago

Capitalism and democracy are not a contradiction in terms.

Democracy - notably that under Protestantism in Switzerland, Holland, Scotland and then England, led to capitalism as its natural development i.e. what Milton Freedman would call "economic freedom" - which I suspect is merely "economic democracy" i.e. people can produce buy and sell whatever they want with as minimual external rules as possible.

However, when capitalism was exported to other countries, these countries were at a relative disadvantage socially and economically relative to the core capitalist countries (UK, USA, Canada and less so France).

Other countries could only imitate capitalist development - and this would take time! Yet this could also only be done NOT by democracy which would lead to anarchy and Western takeover but by authoritarian decrees and encouragement to business permitting massive economic growth. Germany in the 19th century and China in the late 20th century are very good examples of this.

The best example of all is Japan which copied capitalist norms from the USA even before the Meiji Restoration, becoming a full fledged capitalist country by 1914! No democracy as OWS would understand it was required for capitalism to be estabished! Democracy existed partially from public pressure there in the early 20th century and was imposed rather easily by the USA after WW2. But the point is that Japan was already fully capitalist by the time democracy was introduced. The two have worked in harmony since of course.

[-] 2 points by flip (6866) 2 years ago

read slowly - try to get a handle on what is being said - i have faith in your ability to open your mind - chomsky -"I started from the beginning, with Aristotle's Politics, which is the foundation of most subsequent political theory.

Aristotle took it for granted that a democracy should be fully participatory (with some notable exceptions, like women and slaves) and that it should aim for the common good. In order to achieve that, it has to ensure relative equality, "moderate and sufficient property" and "lasting prosperity" for everyone.

In other words, Aristotle felt that if you have extremes of poor and rich, you can't talk seriously about democracy. Any true democracy has to be what we call today a welfare state -- actually, an extreme form of one, far beyond anything envisioned in this century.

(When I pointed this out at a press conference in Majorca, the headlines in the Spanish papers read something like, If Aristotle were alive today, he'd be denounced as a dangerous radical. That's probably true.)

The idea that great wealth and democracy can't exist side by side runs right up through the Enlightenment and classical liberalism, including major figures like de Tocqueville, Adam Smith, Jefferson and others. It was more or less assumed.

Aristotle also made the point that if you have, in a perfect democracy, a small number of very rich people and a large number of very poor people, the poor will use their democratic rights to take property away from the rich. Aristotle regarded that as unjust, and proposed two possible solutions: reducing poverty (which is what he recommended) or reducing democracy.

James Madison, who was no fool, noted the same problem, but unlike Aristotle, he aimed to reduce democracy rather than poverty. He believed that the primary goal of government is "to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority." As his colleague John Jay was fond of putting it, "The people who own the country ought to govern it."

Madison feared that a growing part of the population, suffering from the serious inequities of the society, would "secretly sigh for a more equal distribution of [life's] blessings." If they had democratic power, there'd be a danger they'd do something more than sigh. He discussed this quite explicitly at the Constitutional Convention, expressing his concern that the poor majority would use its power to bring about what we would now call land reform.

So he designed a system that made sure democracy couldn't function. He placed power in the hands of the "more capable set of men," those who hold "the wealth of the nation." Other citizens were to be marginalized and factionalized in various ways, which have taken a variety of forms over the years: fractured political constituencies, barriers against unified working-class action and cooperation, exploitation of ethnic and racial conflicts, etc.

(To be fair, Madison was precapitalist and his "more capable set of men" were supposed to be "enlightened statesmen" and "benevolent philosophers," not investors and corporate executives trying to maximize their own wealth regardless of the effect that has on other people. When Alexander Hamilton and his followers began to turn the US into a capitalist state, Madison was pretty appalled. In my opinion, he'd be an anticapitalist if he were alive today -- as would Jefferson and Adam Smith.)

ItÕs extremely unlikely that what are now called "inevitable results of the market" would ever be tolerated in a truly democratic society. You can take Aristotle's path and make sure that almost everyone has "moderate and sufficient property" -- in other words, is what he called "middle-class." Or you can take Madison's path and limit the functioning of democracy.

Throughout our history, political power has been, by and large, in the hands of those who own the country. There have been some limited variations on that theme, like the New Deal. FDR had to respond to the fact that the public was not going to tolerate the existing situation. He left power in the hands of the rich, but bound them to a kind of social contract. That was nothing new, and it will happen again.

[-] 0 points by Dumpthechump (96) 2 years ago

Wowee! A fantastic post, flip. You exceeded even my wildest dreams here! So I quote you:

"Aristotle took it for granted that a democracy should be fully participatory (with some notable exceptions, like women and slaves) and that it should aim for the common good."

Now I had hoped to bring in Aristotle when discussing the basis of democracy - but was reluctant to do so because many would say "but Aristotle supported slavery and has been used by all sorts of corrupt coercive authorities."

Well it is certainly true that Aristotle has been used in this way - but Aristotle as you say is EXACTLY the champion of democracy nevertheless (my ref. "An Introduction to Democratic Theory" by Henry B. Mayo.)

Furthermore, Aristotle's position is bolstered by another Greek philosopher, a contemporary of Socrates called Democritus, whose views also chime with those of democracy. This is perhaps harder to read in Democritus' own words but my supportive reference here is John Keane "The Life and Death of Democracy" , Pocket Books, London (2009) pp. 34-35 especially.

What a happy coincidence of names - Democritus supporting democracy!

Now I entirely agree with you that "It is extremely unlikely that what are now called 'inevitable results of the market' would even be tolerated in a truly democratic society." However these free market results are intolerable to any society, whatever its people or leaders might believe or preach.

Well Madison tried to put power in the hands of rich men (as the capitalist does thru the free market anyway - but I don't know much about Madison) while FDR "bound them with a social contract". That contract was undone after 1972 - and the end result today is crippling debt worldwide - primarily a debt to private institutions by public institutions and the public generally, and this is an international, not just an American problem.


Thank goodness the word "chomaky" is out of the title!

More importantly though, I am going to have to show you how the philosophical teachings of Democritus and Aristotle, while underpinning democracy, are also false - as they misrepresent the true nature of the world!

[-] 2 points by flip (6866) 2 years ago

once again - don't bother - you need help

[-] -1 points by Dumpthechump (96) 2 years ago

You're the ones that need help - or perhaps Obama will seduce OWS to go into the army and fight Iran!

[-] 1 points by flip (6866) 2 years ago

well thought out - just what i expected

[-] 1 points by flip (6866) 2 years ago

well madison and aristotle disagree with you - along with anyone with a brain that is not completely warped by a good capitalist education - you must have gone to yale. you use lots of words but say absolutely nothing of sense - maybe you should stop now

[-] 1 points by Dumpthechump (96) 2 years ago

Well I did not attend Yale since I am not an American - but I have read a bit about Aristotle and Democritus.

As John Keane makes clear in his book, democracy in Greece (despite its anti-women and pro-slave position) worked because its people were religious and the religion was mixed up with the democracy in ensuring that people remained honest in their democratic actions. Evidently something like this has happened in the USA over the last 200 years - though the consensus is now breaking down.

That Aristotle disagrees with me is nothing - because his whole philosophical position is wrong, and was proven wrong! Aristotle's democratic pretensions rest upon his belief in a Harmonious Universe. It is finite in time and place and is ruled over by an Unmoved Mover (UM). Aristotle interpreted the UM as a person (i.e. a God) but one does not have to personify this being to claim that democracy is the only way!

The UM underpins democracy because It guarantees the correct outcome in democratic actions and elections. The UM (according to Diane Collinson, Fifty Major Philosophers, Routledge, NY, 1987, p. 25) is "the essence of being" and he is also "The Final Cause of the universe, the ultimate good towards which everything moves."

However, this Aristotelian notion, underpinning his Ethics and supposedly proven by his Physics, is utter nonsense.

Aristotle's proof for the UM relied on the existence of the PLENUM (or "fullness"), a diffuse material comprising space itself and which acted to retard motion,. Hence Aristotle claimed that this plenum retarded small objects more than large objects hence the bigger the object the faster it fell!

Epicurus, an apolitical philosopher, countered this by revealing the paradoxes of A's teachings, proposing instead that all bodies (in a vacuum) fall at equal rates. His teachings were proven by Galileo!

However as the Enlightenment and its tendentious democratic ideals took over, the plenum was reintroduced as "the Sensorium of God" i.e. Newton's Absolute Space. This was developed into the stagnant ether theory of the 19th century - this stagnant ether now becoming a "transmission medium for light" - hence the EXISTENTIAL horror at the end of the 19th century when the Michelson-Morley experiment, designed to prove the existence of the plenum, showed instead that Epicurus was right. I.e. there is no plenum, no UM, no justification in physics for the pretensions of democracy!

But there is more. Epicurus' own atomic speculations were not properly developed, as he denied the divisibility of atoms i.e. denied infinite divisibility. When this oversight is corrected, one is inexorably drawn to the conclusion that democracy does not work and that human character differences are FUNDAMENTAL not peripheral.

The point is that the universe is hierarchical and infinite in space, time and matter-content. Matter is also infinitely divisible, hence human character differences reside in this infinite divisibility and uncalculability of the universe.

Hence democracy's application is only ever local and transient - hence the solutions to mankind's difficulties reside in a hierarchical answer where the best people to rule must rule!

(We are getting off the Chomsky relevance here, so with your permission I would like to start a new thread called "Aristotle, Democracy and the Michelson-Morley Experiment")

[-] 2 points by flip (6866) 2 years ago

don't bother - you have a lot to say but it is all senseless in my opinion - you are like the religious fundamentalist who has worked out a theory based on that the stupid book written by fools and crazies a few thousand years ago - you theory may sound good in your head but i would keep it there if i were you - name the author of this quote and you get a booby prize "better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and dispel all doubt!" - does that shoe fit - again - keep in mind that democracy means something in common discourse and you seem to have no idea of what that might be - go rant to someone else - you are not getting anywhere with me - take another tack if you like but otherwise give up!

[-] -1 points by Dumpthechump (96) 2 years ago

Because the "common discourse" you espouse is just miserable half-witted crap - like that served up by the mainly English philosophers (Hume, Verulam, Berkeley, Spinoza, Locke & Bentham etc.) and their acolytes for over 300 years.

Primitive conceptions like Aristotle's do not solve the issues either!

Consequently, it seems that many members of OWS will have to start starving to death - or be shot by the cops etc. - before SOME of them start to wake up!

[-] 1 points by flip (6866) 2 years ago

as i said you need help -why not go to david icke's website - they will understand your thinking there (would you call what you do thinking?)

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 2 years ago

I don't know ... you're not sounding very imaginative or creative here? I can think of many ways that workers could enjoy more autonomy, and many areas where our central government wastes our money.

[+] -5 points by aflockofdoofi (-18) 2 years ago

High speed rail is a joke!! What an asshole Chomsky proves to be.

[-] 2 points by flip (6866) 2 years ago

and what an intelligent take you have on things

[-] 1 points by Demian (497) from San Francisco, CA 2 years ago

How old is this interview?

[-] 1 points by flip (6866) 2 years ago

why would that matter

[-] -1 points by aflockofdoofi (-18) 2 years ago

Chomsky is one of the biggest hypocrits there is.

[-] 2 points by flip (6866) 2 years ago

any evidence of your idiotic opinion

[-] 2 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 2 years ago

is that all

[-] -2 points by aflockofdoofi (-18) 2 years ago

Anybody that espouses high speed rail is a dunce.