Comment 26860

By LL (registered) - website | Posted October 06, 2008 at 21:59:45

Walkom's article was very interesting - a cut above the current orthodoxy in political economy, which uncritically assumes the capitalist marketplace to be the locus of freedom. I also like how it not-so-subtly alludes to the fascist tendencies in American capitalism.

Market regulation might seem authoritarian for corporate elites and financial bigshots. But for working class people - the vast majority of people - the most immediate sources of coercion are 1) the workplace boss, and 2) the landlord. In other words, capitalist social relations are themselves highly authoritarian. This is the elephant in the room that even academics as "critical" as Walkom tend to ignore.

Structurally, corporations are run like dictatorships, with hierarchical chains of commmand-and-obedience (historically modelled on early modern militaries). "Free choice", for the worker and consumer alike, consists of the ability to switch allegiance from one dictatorship to another (change jobs or change brands), or to become a dictator oneself (start a business or climb the corporate ladder).

Like Sal, the pizzeria owner from Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" says: "This ain't a democracy. I'm the boss."

One thing I found inocculating about Walkom's article was the apparant assumption that the only alternatives in the face of capitalist dysfunction is for the state to intervene in one way or another. This systematically ignores the great libertarian soc'list (damn spam filter) tradition.

Even "left-wing" academia seems to conveniently forget that the anarchists Proudhon, Bakunin, and Kropotkin were rivals of Marx in the soc'list movement from the very beginning, or that, until 1917, anarchism was a bigger social movement than either Marxism or social democracy in many Western nations. Shamefully, it ignores the possibilities of large-scale worker control that the Spanish anarchists demonstrated in 1936.

This isn't just historical wanking. Almost a decade ago, Argentina had a dress rehearsal for the current financial crisis. Across Buenos Aires, neighbourhoods organized directly democratic Popular Assemblies. Hundreds of factories were collectivized and kept in operation by the workers. Don't believe me? Watch "The Take".

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