But one system might be better than the other

In my last post I wrote . . .

“Leftists: Rather than thinking in terms of a ‘new system,’ think in terms of new lifeways.”

. . . which is a good thing to do, but a leftist could say: “A major transition of lifeways could (figures to) take a very long time (many generations), and meanwhile capitalism is killing the planet.”

And they would have a point.

When thinking about modern industrial socio-economic systems, it’s really an either/or situation: either society’s major productive assets are owned privately or they’re not (the latter can involve public ownership or some other form of collective ownership, like cooperatives).

Ultimately it will be best if downscaling, decentralization, simplification, and re-localization lead to a green world of bioregional diversity — including diversity of economic relations. But such (a desirable result of deconstructing the industrial leviathan) is obviously not on the immediate historical agenda. So those who cite the capitalist system, characterized by private ownership of society’s major productive assets, as the extant overarching problem must be advocating some kind of socialism.

The word was so discredited during the twentieth century that you’ll see many socialists using other terms:

“Solidarity Economy” … https://ussen.org/

“Pluralist Commonwealth” … https://thenextsystem.org/

And they, understandably, try to avoid any association with the horrible bureaucratic state-dominated Soviet model.

They all accept some private ownership of small businesses, though with a preference for cooperative forms. But a post-capitalist “next system” must deal with the extremely difficult issue of what to do about the large corporations. Until the happy day when we can live without large-scale production and international-scale distribution, the behemoth industrial enterprises must be socialized in some way … but how?

Gar Alperovtiz says: “New hybrid forms — like joint ownership between the public as a whole (defined nationally or regionally) and workers or community-based organizations, are likely to offer new ways to ensure both accountability and efficiency of larger forms.”

Well, the dominant multinational corporations operate as global empires and their activities can’t be contained within the bounds of a national economy. So the scale of “the public” in those cases is global. Does Alperovitz think the global citizenry as a whole is going to be able to exert some kind of democratic control over Walmart, Amazon, Shell, BP, etc. Such a consideration would apply to the two or three hundred largest corporations. At the “commanding heights,” what a challenge to think about socializing the enterprises and planning the economy . . .

* * * *

So, in regard to “system change” . . . I don’t know the answer.

I’ve come to agree with Samuel Alexander that a period of eco-socialism is probably needed. What, where, when, how, who? Got me. But I guess we have to strive for such a transition. It’s on that basis that I support policy wonks like Howie Hawkins.

That part of our work is kind of a bummer. Headaches of power and protest and politics. The inspiring and uplifting and convivial part can be the direct building of the new world, community by community, place by place, generation by generation.

We need both kinds of social change work.

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Steven Welzer

The editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a movement activist for many years (he was an original co-editor of DSA’s “Ecosocialist Review”).