April 15, 2013
A New Political Strategy
Across the history of modern capitalism until recently, three forces often combined to contest for political power as one strategy for basic social change. The three were labor unions, social movements, and, finally, labor, socialist, or democratic parties. The changes they favored often included a transition from capitalism to what they called socialism (usually an economy with [1]more public than private ownership of the means of production and [2] more central planning than markets as mechanisms for distributing resources and outputs). In practice, what they mostly sought and often achieved was a transition from a largely private, harsh, unstable capitalism to a relatively more state controlled, state-interventionist, mass-welfare-focused capitalism.

The unions provided members, voters, institutional supports of all sorts, and financing for the social movements and political parties allied with them. The social movements organized mass support as well as voters for various parts of the alliance’s agenda. The political parties aimed to win elections and thereby change the legislative, executive and judicial conditions to favor achievement of the alliance’s objectives and enhanced effectiveness for unions and social movements. Precisely because of such alliances’ victories – often in response to private capitalist recessions and especially to the Great Depression of the 1930s – the supporters of the more private capitalism evolved a set of strategies to prevent future victories and undermine the alliance. The last 30 years of so-called “neo-liberalism” have marked the success of those strategies and many retreats for state and welfare capitalisms and the social alliance that once championed them. Even the crisis since 2007 (capitalism’s worst since the 1930s) has not – yet – disrupted that success. The continuing prevalence of austerity programs demonstrates that.

A new political strategy, new goals, and a new alliance are needed to respond to the history summarized above. We need them now to transform what proved to be temporary and partial transitions toward socialism into more secure and more far-reaching transitions. A social movement for change from largely capitalist to largely WSDE organizations inside offices, stores and factories can be the basis of the needed new strategy, goals, and alliance.

The social movement for WSDEs would focus on explaining what the democratization of enterprise (i.e. the establishment of WSDEs) means for individual lives, for workplace and residential communities, and for the solution of major social issues (e.g., environmental degradation, unemployment, extreme inequalities of income and wealth, and so on). Two of its major functions would be education and agitation advancing the proposition that WSDEs represent a major social advance for civilization beyond the capitalist organization of enterprises. Blogs #1-8 on the democracyatwork.info website as well as many other materials on that website provide the specifics to support and elaborate that proposition.

This social movement’s third major function would be to mobilize and help train supporters in starting new WSDEs, converting capitalist enterprises into WSDEs, and growing existing WSDEs. Finally, this social movement would provide mass support for a new political party seeking state power to facilitate the transition from capitalist enterprise organization to WSDEs as the prevalent business form. With such state power, an allied political party could expand such state supports for WSDEs as access to capital, technical assistance, state orders for outputs, and tax advantages.

In alliance with such a social movement there would be the WSDEs themselves. They would play the role in this alliance that was formerly played by labor unions in earlier alliances that worked for forms of state and welfare capitalism. The WSDEs would provide the social movement with examples of successful WSDEs of all types, sizes, and histories. WSDEs would furnish ever more experienced worker-directors to enhance the social movement’s education and agitation functions. WSDEs would also provide crucial memberships and financing for the social movement. Finally, WSDEs would provide voters and financing for a new political party advancing its interests.

Lastly, the new political party would be based on the WSDEs and the social movement for transition beyond capitalist organizations of enterprise. It would engage in electoral and non-electoral politics to advance WSDE goals (including legal changes and the provision of resources and supports to them) and to strengthen the social conditions for the allied social movement’s activities (access to mass media, educational institutions, etc.). The new party’s basic argument would be that the best solutions to pressing social problems lie in going well beyond the state and welfare (“socialist”) reforms of the past in the precise sense of changing the organization of enterprises, democratizing them into WSDEs. Again, the specifics of such a party’s argument are contained in previous and in future blogs in this section of democracyatwork.info.

After 50 years of decline, the organized labor movement in the US today engages mostly in defensive activities. Its long-time ally, the Democratic Party, delivers relatively little for the union support it still gets. Increasingly over recent years, the Democrats have compromised away many of the New Deal’s remnants so that the old alliance for a state and welfare capitalism is remarkably weak. Nor has it been able to rouse masses of people to fight again for the New Deal reforms it proved unable to secure. Perhaps it may find the sort of strategy described in Blog #8 attractive and so become a fourth member of this new WSDE-focused alliance.

Here is one example of an immediate program that might be advanced by an alliance of WSDEs and the social movement and new political party briefly sketched above. It would propose to solve the current problems of unemployment and environmental degradation by instituting an altogether new and different Green New Deal. Government funds would provide the capital for new WSDEs comprising chiefly unemployed workers engaged in environmental restoration and development. Spread across the country, these WSDEs would give all Americans concrete examples of (real options and real choices between) capitalist and WSDE types of workplaces. Workers could then observe which kind of workplace organization they would prefer, while consumers could cast their votes by buying the products from one or the other type of business. Much as FDR financed his original New Deal by raising taxes on capitalist corporations and those whom they made rich, this Green-WSDE New Deal would be paid for similarly.