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Forum Post: Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism (by Richard Wolff)

Posted 1 year ago on Jan. 5, 2013, 1:19 p.m. EST by struggleforfreedom80 (6584)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Short message from Richard Wolff:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SrF2rfx5jY

The lecture:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ifad2pMZDgg

(if you don’t feel like listening thru the entire thing, at least start at 21 min into the talk, where he begins elaborating on his solutions to the problems)

31 Comments

31 Comments


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[-] 3 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

Wolff's approach could work if people didn't want things simply handed to them. This is a workable but decades long effort and workers, or at least their unions seem unwilling to invest in themselves.

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

What you linked to seems to me to be the typical union concern. Negotiating pay, benefits, security for the short term and only for their membership. This concern only for the next contract is outdated and I see it as part of the reason unions are failing.

Unions are going to have to decide if they are going to continue to shrink and loose influence or take a more long term approach and begin to buy into the businesses they work for with the goal being to buy out the owners and become worker run co-ops. I believe they need to demonstrate a desire to help all workers not just a small group of members.

[-] 2 points by GirlFriday (17435) 1 year ago

security for the short term and only for their membership This concern only for the next contract is outdated and I see it as part of the reason unions are failing.

lolwut?

[-] 2 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

I'm paraphrasing (and probably did it poorly because I did it quickly) Wollf's view expressed at around 32:25 in the second video.

He believes labor's decline will continue unless labor unions change their focus. He believes labor knows that it's decline will continue unless it changes. He feels it needs to again become a movement for major societal change. They should, of course, continue to bargain collectively, but they must go beyond that if they are ever going to halt their decline. He sees the social change they should be working toward as worker run businesses.

My response to your link was in that light. Unions, like any responsible individual, should work toward positive social change, they should go beyond their own short term interests.

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (17435) 1 year ago

So, you signed the petition? In support of social change and all?

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

Absolutely not. The issue causing most of the impasse is container royalties. The purpose of container royalties was to protect jobs 40 years ago. It's function is over. Eliminating it for new hires won't effect any new jobs.

[-] 1 points by GirlFriday (17435) 1 year ago

Actually, that part may have already been resolved. The function is current. But, this has been noted. Further, this petition is a request. The same kind that was made by the corps and the clown. Again. Noted.

[-] -1 points by OTP (-203) from Tampa, FL 1 year ago

Wages are stagnant since your boy closed the gold window in 71.

Try thinking once in a while.

[-] 1 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 1 year ago

It's going to take time to repair a society where the population for decades have been manipulated and tought to believe that consumption and the hunt for profits is the meaning of life. The work to change things around and create a sustainable and real participatory democracy must begin; and I think we're seeng some indications of it now. Hopefully we're witnessing the beginning of the end of capitalism.

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

It's up to the individual. Right now most are more comfortable with someone else taking the risk and it's resulted in the few hoarding all the profit. Workers need to take that risk for themselves and their future. For capitalism to disappear people have to participate and change it from within. Cooperatives can, over time, cause this evolution if the workers actively participate.

It may or may not happen, unions today are still tied to short term goals that benefit only their dwindling membership. If you can't convince unions to alter their goals I don't see how you'll ever convince the general population.

While I see this as possible for the workplace, i'm doubtful it can translate into a method of governing a large and diverse population. Not that it matters much, a more equitable workplace may very well lead to a weakening of corporate influence on government and a more responsive republic.

[-] 1 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 1 year ago

“Right now most are more comfortable with someone else taking the risk and it's resulted in the few hoarding all the profit.”

I don’t think most people are comfortable with others controlling things, but even if it were true, it’s no law of nature that people feel this way.

“Workers need to take that risk for themselves and their future.”

If you like the idea of democracy – people having the right to a say in the things that affect them – you shouldn’t focus on risk-taking, but instead how we can create a society where people control things together.

“For capitalism to disappear people have to participate and change it from within. Cooperatives can, over time, cause this evolution if the workers actively participate.”

There are many things that can be done on the way to a free and democratic society. I wrote some suggestions here: http://occupywallst.org/forum/how-do-we-fight-capitalism-the-1/

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

People may wish to take control, to do so they have to be willing to accept everything that goes with control. There is no law of nature but when people feel a certain way it's their reality, suggesting to them they should feel differently is pointless. It also won't get them to change those feelings. Another reason the process will have to be slow in order to be successful. People will have to grow into a new reality and alter those feelings.

I'm not talking exclusively about accepting risk, but taking on all the responsibility of owning and running a cooperative. I like the idea of democracy, but with it comes an obligation to fully participate in all aspects of the workplace. I see workers investing in their company as a critical piece in this.

Your approach to abolish capitalism and usher in a libertarian socialist society may or may not work. I don't see you having the support of even one percent of the population and believe it has little chance of working. That's why I think the cooperative idea can be much more effective. It can demonstrate success, not just offer good intentions and promises. Successful cooperatives can alter the public perception, where demonstrations often just harden personal opinions.

[-] 1 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 1 year ago

It’ll take some time to get noticeable results, but the point is that feelings and attitudes can change; and we should try to convince people to embrace the ideas of creating a real participatory democracy in which we’re all in control of our own lives, work and communities.

Most people want to be in control of their own lives. Most people would love to have a say in the institutions they spend their time and energy, and anyone who believes in real democracy should in my view strongly favor this idea.

Libertarian Socialism does not have the needed support right now, but again: attitudes can change.

Building an economy based on cooperatives is in many ways the core of libertarian socialism/anarcho-syndicalism.

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

Try and convince people all you like, in my view it's going to be necessary to have some concrete examples of an idea's effectiveness before you win much support.

You need proof it actually works in today's world, not just faith and conjecture. Successful cooperatives operating along anarchistic principles can be a first step in changing attitudes.

People are in control, nothing prohibits a group from getting funding for an idea and opening a cooperative. They face the same hurdles any individual would face.

[-] 1 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 1 year ago

There are and have been lots of examples of workplaces and societies based on anarchist/anarchist-like organization working just fine. Here are a some examples:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEzXln5kbuw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXQb11B0UjQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPl_Y3Qdb7Y

So it's not a question of whether a co-operative economic organization works or not, it's a question of how we can achieve this society most effectively.

We're not in control when the wealthy owners have the overwhelming power over the institutions and the economy.

[-] 1 points by MsStacy (1035) 1 year ago

I will agree, the first two are examples of successful cooperatives. Also, I believe it might be Germany or maybe Austria that is currently helping workers acquire funding to form cooperatives. In a world with literally millions of businesses, a handful of examples don't offer people much proof though. Workers need to believe in themselves and believe it's possible, right now I don't think they do.

Why don't the 18000 laid off Hostess workers invest in buying that brand and produce for themselves. The high end value placed on the Hostess brand comes to less then $20000 per employee. A large sum true, but it could be done. The eventual buyer of that brand is going to use borrowed money, the workers could too, if they had the will to do so. There are ways to get funding and acquire the power you say only the wealthy have, if you want it and are willing to take a chance on yourself.

You're right, it's not IF cooperatives work or not, I believe it's more do the workers believe in them or not. They need the same faith that any start-up owner needs and the willingness to take a risk on their dream and a willingness to commit to the business, not just go and collect a pay check. Unfortunately most workers today are not willing to take that step.

As for the rise of the anarchists during the Spanish revolution, that's an entirely different thing. You're looking at running the politics of a state not just operating a business. They took power by force and there are examples where they used intimidation to maintain power. I don't see that era as a triumph for anarchy. There is also no proof their system would have worked in the long term. Had the fascists not crushed the anarchists, you might be able to point to a successful application of anarchistic principles but it's just as likely we could be looking at a repressive failed state.

[-] 2 points by ChemLady (576) 1 year ago

Dr Wolff seems to have a sensible approach. Workers develop their own businesses and invest in themselves. Taking a long term approach. Starting small and buying or developing from scratch the business they work for.

Unions today seem to have a tendency to maintain the status quo and and are interested only in the short term, salary and benefits. They need to change and should be encouraging investment in their own worker run businesses.

[-] 1 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 1 year ago

“Dr Wolff seems to have a sensible approach. Workers develop their own businesses and invest in themselves. Taking a long term approach. Starting small and buying or developing from scratch the business they work for."

Wolff’s great. What Wolff’s basically advocating is economic democracy, and that should be one of the main objectives in the struggle for a free and just society.

“Unions today seem to have a tendency to maintain the status quo and and are interested only in the short term, salary and benefits. They need to change and should be encouraging investment in their own worker run businesses.”

Unions in the U.S. have thru the years been severely weakened by politicians and the corporate puppeteers. That has probably made many workers give up more ambitions goals. Also, a society that becomes more and more commercialized and concerned with greed and consumption will create more cynicism and greed also among some workers’ organizations. There are plenty of unions around the world that are very concerned about the long term and building a solidaric and sustainable society. Having strong unions is important. In the struggle for a more free and just society, it’s crucial that workers organize.

[-] 2 points by inclusionman (7064) 1 year ago

UPD: New bit by Wolff

http://truth-out.org/news/item/15496-economic-update-economics-and-capitalism

In compliment, FYI, and a bump.

[-] 1 points by ChemLady (576) 1 year ago

I have always seen our political and economic problems as partly due to human nature. Large segments of the electorate get their only information from 10 second sound bites. This permits corruption to develop. You can't blame everything on the 1%.

Saying what workers, unions, government should do is easy. Making individuals actually feel that is the right way for them to behave on an individual basis has been nearly impossible in the past.

I see Wollf's approach as having merit, unfortunately human greed isn't limited to the rich. Cooperatives are a good start, but unfortunately I don't see many workers willing to take the risk and form one.

[-] 1 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 1 year ago

Our political and economic problems are caused by certain policies, which are not laws of nature. Policies can be changed; there are other types of systems than the current U.S. one that works and have worked just fine or at least better.

It's hard to change things around and create a better society, but it's been done many times before; it can, and it must happen again.

Humans arn't greedy, but society encourages greed and mindless consumption. A system thats based on greed and hunt for profits is of course going to create more greedy individuals.

[-] 1 points by ChemLady (576) 1 year ago

While it is true that anything is possible, it takes more then the desire of a small number of individuals. Society is the way it is because a vast majority of people make it so through their individual attitudes. I see it as people mold a society in their image, not the other way around. If society is greedy and dedicated to consuming it's because people are that way.

To me, the attraction of Wollf's ideas is that he talks about cooperatives and these can be done by small groups. It's going to take one small success at a time to change attitudes. It will be a long slow process to change human nature and that will eventually change society.

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

Society is the way it is because of many different things. An important factor is power - where's it concentrated, who has the overwhelming control. This has a huge affect. In the US power is to a large extent concentrated in the hands of the financial elite, so they can "mold" as you say, society much more so than workers f.ex. This you have to take into account.

"If society is greedy and dedicated to consuming it's because people are that way."

Greed varies a lot from society to society, all the way from communities based on libertarian communism with no money or greed during the SRevolution, to the greedy CEOs in the US. You're not making much sense.

Creating cooperative is one of many things that can be done in the struggle for a free society. I have mentioned a couple of more examples here:

http://occupywallst.org/forum/how-do-we-fight-capitalism-the-1/

Human nature we're not going to be able to do much about, it is the system that must be changed.

[-] 1 points by ChemLady (576) 1 year ago

We'll have to end things then and simply agree to disagree, I see human nature as the critical factor, the controlling factor, in whether a system will work or not. People make the system what it is, the reverse is not true. If you change the system, but not people then whatever you put into place is likely to become as corrupt as our present system.

Personally I don't see the Catalonian anarchist movement as having been successful. It was put in place by force, not by a popular vote. There were many violent acts and atrocities committed (by both sides, but that doesn't excuse the anarchists). Money was banned for a time, under threat of death, which makes me think three was a sizable portion of the population that didn't want to voluntarily give up money. The ruling committee had to eventually go to a voucher system, in effect they created their own money. It seems people were not working when they could get anything they wanted or needed without money. They needed the incentive to be forced to go to work.

[-] 1 points by repubsRtheprob (1209) 1 year ago

Rise of REAL Democracy

http://truth-out.org/news/item/14649-the-secret-rise-of-21st-century-democracy

We can learn a lot from South America

[Removed]

[-] 0 points by WSmith (1942) from Cornelius, OR 1 year ago
[-] 2 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 1 year ago

Yes! We shouldn't just increase taxes on the rich, we should do something about the entire system that allows them to get rich in the first place.

The people can do something:

Abolish Capitalism:

http://occupywallst.org/forum/abolish-capitalism/

[-] 1 points by WSmith (1942) from Cornelius, OR 1 year ago

Like everything, there needs to be laws and regulations. Big$ has manipulated our laws, regulations and government; it's no different than the rich crooks in the wild west, they own the law.

Changing our entire economical-political system would be great, IF we put the people's interests first. But let's start by reinstituting former laws that kept the greed to a safe level, and work from there. If we don't, they might not feel obliged to abstain from overt Class Warfare!!