A Post-Election Message from Richard Wolff



It appears we have entered the eve of a Trump administration. What now?

Trump rode workers’ anger at capitalism’s last 40 years: record profits from lost jobs, incomes, security and public services. For change, they voted down GOP and Dem establishments. But the system won’t let Trump bring change. There lies our opportunity.

The endless election effort is finally over (even as the next one begins to be planned by the candidates and their monied supporters). Now the nation confronts its fundamental problems after so many were swept under the rug by the “major candidates” in this election’s long exercise in mass distraction. The time lost, like the campaigns’ billions, could better have gone toward solving those problems. They just got worse during that time.

The world still remains in the aftermath of the crash of 2008 - the second global capitalist crash in 75 years - and most economists expect another downturn within the next 6-18 months. Especially because the current post-2008 crash originated in the US with the sub-prime mortgage collapse, the US has special responsibilities to deal with its economic instability and its global ramifications. Yet during the campaign, neither candidate addressed the issue. Why?

The inequality, instability and money-dominated politics besetting the U.S. all originate in basic economic decisions made by the major shareholders and corporate boards of directors they elect. These folks comprise the (in)famous 1% and their positions atop contemporary capitalist economies gives them extraordinary power, and hence responsibility for, economic conditions. What alternative organization might better serve democratic purposes? An economy of democratized, cooperatively organized enterprises is growing around the world. Yet the candidates in this presidential campaign - except for Bernie Sanders - ignored the issue. Why?

Let’s remember that elections these days are integrated parts of a system. The dominant power is intertwined with the dominant wealth. The corporate system -- and the individuals it makes rich -- normally buy the political process. That’s how systems work.

Only when massive oppositions of the people get aroused do they relearn the first of the great old lessons, that ultimate power resides with the people. When that happens, the question arises: will the people relearn the second of the great old lessons, that the power of the people becomes effective when it is organized? I believe we have already begun.


The Occupy Wall Street, Bernie, and Black Lives Matter movements are milestones along the way as people today grasp the first of the great old lessons. Building on all they accomplished as well as on the prior efforts to go beyond capitalism, we at Democracy at Work focus on that second great lesson. Our task is to help inform, focus, and, above all, organize an aroused and rising people. That’s what we do and what we invite you to do with us.

As always, thank you for supporting Democracy at Work.  We would love to hear your thoughts and reflections on how we can build this momentum together, and please know we are glad to have you as a part of this movement.

Richard D. Wolff
Co-Founder & Contributor
Democracy at Work


Showing 62 comments

  • William Pellegrini
    commented 2016-11-11 07:29:35 -0500
    The problem has not changed. Nor will electing people offered by the two major parties, both of which are owned in to some degree by the 1%, solve the problems. There are organizations in existence, with large numbers of people and an organized cadre that need to wake up and build the necessary movement. First among these is what is left of Organized Labor. Labor Unions needs to ban together and find people to run for public office. But organized Labor is no longer large enough to do the job on their own. Then should find other organizations such as Black Lives Matter, what is ever left of the OWS movement and activist political groups such as MoveOn and together with either the Socialist Party or the Green Party and join forces to challenge the establishment parties. Together these groups could field a complete slate of candidates for State Offices, and both Houses of Congress on the 2018 election cycle. Until such an organized effort is made to establish a valid third party, we will suffer with choices for pubic office of Corporate Flunky’s or almost Corporate Flunky’s. And we have no one to blame but ourselves.
  • Bob Fonda
    commented 2016-11-10 21:20:30 -0500
    The only way forward is if all of us organize and join Green Party or world socialist equality party to form the working class party. At least we can lay out the ground for the next election. With out a genuine working class party we could not achieve our political goals. Bob
  • Lawrence Gold
    commented 2016-11-10 18:24:05 -0500
    Oh, yes: and special privileges for its elite.
  • Lawrence Gold
    commented 2016-11-10 18:22:50 -0500
    What you have described is The United States of Money.

    Capitalism isn’t just an economic system (abused); it’s the new religion, with high priests, rituals, secret knowledge, and sacraments.
  • Mike Johnson
    commented 2016-11-10 16:00:06 -0500
    forgot the link
  • Mike Johnson
    commented 2016-11-10 15:59:13 -0500
    I’m reminded of this Monty Python short for some reason…
  • carrie bishop
    commented 2016-11-10 11:57:58 -0500
    How could this happen? over 50% of Americans do not even register to vote – if you do the math 20% or less vote for the winning candidate in every election – kind of embarrassing for a country that prides itself on democracy – and then consider the people that want to vote that are thwarted by new Jim Crow laws,etc – in Australia voting is mandatory and you are fined if you don’t vote – Trump won with less votes than John McCain or Mitt Romney received and with Hilary winning the popular vote – get the picture?
  • Leonardo Legorreta
    commented 2016-11-10 11:00:13 -0500
    I am happy to see so many timely reflections stemming off of Professor Richard Wolff’s post-election thoughts today. 2016 for me has been a demonstration of many similar awakenings. Amazing.

    So, are the US presidential elections a Roman Circus meant to distract and entertain the masses?

    Can we build a hope for prosperity where it matters, on the ground floor, in the work place, with worker coops?

    Can we keep the fire of hope burning? Or are we all just going to go home like tamed Roman citizens to our hovels and islets now that the well-paid gladiators have done their entertaining feats and delivered to us the head of their most infamous villain? Are you at peace with the Pretorians?
  • Leonardo Legorreta
    followed this page 2016-11-10 10:48:24 -0500
  • Peter Gorian
    commented 2016-11-10 04:30:16 -0500
    2 points. 1. The American people were given the choice of two candidates they did not like and choose the one that offered at least the allusion of the chance of some change. Others simply stayed at home. Since Trump’s policies were so vague it allowed voters to read into it what ever their hearts desired – fact or fiction. 2. Trump is a classic corporate psychopath – the short term outcome will not be good.
  • Marq Goldberg
    commented 2016-11-10 02:44:05 -0500
    Only about 15% of Americans voted for either Trump or Clinton during the primaries. Nobody in their right mind wanted either one of them. If we use this opportunity to push for Instant Runoff Voting then 4 years of Trump would be a small price for success.
  • Rafael Perales
    commented 2016-11-09 22:19:11 -0500
    The establishment composed of journals, BS-Vending talking heads with well-formulated verbs, bureaucrats-cronies, lobbyist-in training, New Yorker-reading semi-intellectuals, image-conscious empty suits, Washington rent-seekers and other ‘’well thinking’’ members of the vocal elites are not getting the point about what is happening and the sterility of their arguments. People are not voting for Trump (or Sanders). People are just voting, finally, to destroy the establishment…
  • Thomas Herzog
    commented 2016-11-09 21:08:20 -0500
    Thanks for your ideas, Dr. Wolff. Yours are economic ideas that are forbidden to be discussed among the main-stream media or among main-stream economists who want to keep their cushy, well-remunerated jobs at the New York Times and the University of California Berkeley. (Won’t mention any names!)

    But most of all thanks for your integrity.

    You keep hope alive for many of us in these very dark times.
  • Gary Serrino
    commented 2016-11-09 20:55:37 -0500
    Though I am progressive, I have many family members who are not. However, even the most conservative are receptive to workers’ self-directed enterprises, when described in familiar sounding entrepreneurial and small business terms. Similarly people who want real change on both the left and right might be likely to agree that both camps seek less centralization and more decentralization of power and wealth. Perhaps we should be on alert for any possible common ground, no matter what vocabulary opponents may be using to describe it.
  • Charlotte Traplin
    commented 2016-11-09 19:51:26 -0500
    Hi Richard, You have become my one of my Professor’s online while I continue my independent studies about the world we live in past, present and future. I liked Trent’s comments about taking action, actually reducing his costs and doing his best to work around the issues we face. Important as it is to study, debate, read, read and read some more, then write, it is equally important to act upon the academics that we can often get lost in.
    Times are changing and last night’s results ring a resounding bell to bring attention to the town square and the writing on the wall. I am a retired Canadian on my own. For two years I have lived in a charming apartment coop owning my unit and caring for the building along with my neighbors. Cooperative living has been discouraged over the years, but gradually there are more buildings joining in. It is interesting how banks, insurance companies and john q. public seem to be unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the coop system, but are learning as more coop home owners come along. I feel that I have been smart with planning my retirement and love my little home. It is all I need. And as you well know, all you need is enough. However, our consumer society is going to find it extremely difficult to change direction. I read the other day that the ‘tiny house’ movement is being muzzled, discouraging folks from owning their own little place at a fraction of the cost of what society expects to pay for a mortgage. I support Donald Trump and want him to succeed. I also want him to stay alive. He’d better or we would truly have a revolution on our hands. I hope he and Trudeau get along…but Trudeau is deeply rooted in an elite mind-set with Jesuit lineage. Thank you for your work. I enjoy your approach that makes economics somewhat fun and an understanding that our times are alive with possibilities. It is up to society at large to act upon the ideas that will make our lives better. x Charlotte
  • Walt Biggs
    commented 2016-11-09 19:45:25 -0500
    I think President-elect Trump’s speech last night was very positive and impressive. Let’s give him the respect that he is earning very well so far. He is, more than any other in decades at least, a President of the People. He said he wants to fairly represent all of us, those who voted for him and those who did not. I want to urge everyone to join together to stand behind him and show our appreciation for him going there for us. Sometimes the person who gains the office of the President grows while in office. I feel that John Kennedy did this particularly. I hope that Donald Trump will do this as well. His words last night give me great encouragement in that hope. Particularly, his words about the intentions he has for our international relations were just fantastic!

    Let us try to form or expand an alliance between the common people of this nation and the man that those people have placed in office, with President Trump working to achieve good things for the people, and the people, in fair return, showing every day that that man has our support, in ways that have substance and power. If he will promote some given initiative to benefit us, let us rally and show our support for him. This can really empower him in getting Congress to do his bidding. Those Senators and Representatives will fear for their jobs if the people show that they are siding against them in great force. This could turn into a wonderful partnership between the President and the People, defying the elites!
  • David Audette
    commented 2016-11-09 18:36:11 -0500
    Mr. Wolff, thank you for inviting our thoughts and comments.

    Now, after this election, it’s time to get serious about moving forward, and to me that means organization. I think it’s time to first publish a position statement on what to do next, and I think that would be about building a mass consciousness and movement, and then seek to unite with others on such a fundamental basis. Steps are being taken by other organizations along these lines as well, and so it may then be time to reach out to others like Occupy, Black Lives Matter, Bernie’s “Our Revolution”, MoveOn, unions, and any others with whom it is determined we can work to coordinate efforts, focus on specific challenges indicated in a position statement in a step-wise manner, establish regular high-quality publications of news and events, and spread popularity of these publications by diverse means whether online or from handouts to be distributed. These efforts should have the goal of increasing popularity and providing motivated people a means of meaningfully participating. Give them a place to turn that offers a real answer, —that answer being working class power of co-ops, unions, and organization, including running for town or city councilperson, and more.

    Maybe as we get farther into the first term of this new (it’s hard to say it…) “president”, the job of organizing will get easier and easier as people seek answers. When they do, it is important that organizations be there for them within which to release their initiative.

    Those are just a few quick thoughts. Thanks for the opportunity to share them.
  • Trent Black
    commented 2016-11-09 17:18:26 -0500
    Hi, I have watched and listened to all of Mr Wolff’s video’s going back several years, SERVERAL TIMES. I am a poor low end wage earner so I still owe him some money at $10 a video which is the best education anybody can get. So, how to you coop a capitalist industrial society? After looking around, for a few years, being clueless, it hit me. Almost everything can be done, mostly cheaper. Take TIDE LAUNDRY SOAP. It is expensive has heck. But you can make your own for about $3 per 5 gallon bucket and it works better. [search zote laundry soap on UTUBE]. The tide is full of chemicals, and your zote based is pure with only a color dye if you go pink. There is one product. Most products have a cheaper then the cooporate versions. Food is next. I planted my whole yard (to my neighbors shock) and it is easy. DON’T do it the capitalist way. Dig a 5 inch whole, put in a used trashed plastic container with cut out bottoms and tops about 5 inches into the soil, put in good soil and the plant. You just water the plants in the containers and not the soil. Water bill did not move much with 300 tomato plants. FYI you will not have enough land to grow wheat which has to be ground, so grow potatoes that will store all winter. Learn how to ferment foods (we fermented foods before we all got a fridge) …. 5 gal buckets work great but you will need to fertilize weekly. You can turn bikes into scooters for about $140 (plus $100 for the bike) = a $240 cruizer bike scooter that goe 110 miles on a gallon.
  • Richie Schlosberg
    commented 2016-11-09 16:16:13 -0500
    Rick, thanks for your insightful analysis. I agree with you that it is economically based. Somehow, I thought that Trump would win, continuing the progression which I think began in the post Vietnam War period. With enough resources to feed the world many times over coexisting with millions in poverty, the Trump victory was almost predictable. Hopefully, the world survives and we get to live in a system based on human needs.
  • Patrick Habets
    commented 2016-11-09 15:48:39 -0500
    (Off topic?)
    Dear Mr. Wolf,
    I am recently following your lectures with much interest and enthusiasm.
    I would like to permit a sort of personal favor. I also take much interest in Lyndon Larouche’s four lows of economics, based on the Hamiltonian principles in his recommendations to Congres. What you be enclined to elaborate in a future lecture on that? As I am very much interested in discussing alternatives and hoping for mankind to leap into a new sustainable paradigm.
    With the most humble respect. Sincerely,
    Patrick Habets (Netherlands)
  • Eric Gross
    commented 2016-11-09 15:47:54 -0500
    My 2018 platform for City Council will make employee ownership and cooperative enterprise, the cornerstone issue.
  • Oscar Orellana
    commented 2016-11-09 15:42:34 -0500
    (1) It will be intresting to check out (to keep an eye on) the path that will follow both the UK and Cuba, because the first (the UK) under the lidership of the Laborist Party may move from a “Privete Capitalist” Economic System to a Cooperative Economic System or at least a mixtute of both, while the second (Cuba) it may move from a “State Capitalist” Economic System to a Cooperative Economic System or at least a mixture of both. In other words, the UK and Cuba may both move toward a Coperative Economic System or at least create a Cooperative Sector in their economies in the years to come, but they will move from the diferent extrems of the stick, therefore we can learn a lot from those eventual processes.
    (2) Since it is requiered to challenge the neoliberalism and proposse alternatives to capitalism. I agree, that at the same time, it is paramount to keep democraticing all institutions (gobertment, places of work, universities, and so on and so for) and the capital (for example creting more cooperatives).
    (3) I do not know if Donald Trump will be able to bring the changes he promisses in hes campaing, probably “the system won´t let Trump bring change”. So “What now?”, either way we have to keep working toward a more democratic, pluralistic and just society.
  • Patrick Habets
    followed this page 2016-11-09 15:40:24 -0500
  • Joseph Bulterman
    commented 2016-11-09 15:30:42 -0500
    Coop’s are the future but we also need analysis of Trump’s proposed economic policies as they emerge so that we can organize when needed and to be the most informed we can be.
  • John Fitzgerald
    commented 2016-11-09 15:29:38 -0500
    Can we stop calling Americans, citizens, public, the masses, and other names that seem to diminish their importance. They are Equal American Co-owners in this great society and all 340 million of us need to begin to act like co-owners.

    We have all sacrificed in many big and small ways to build our country strong and safe and productive but there is now much to repair around us. I can only hope that our descendants become more intelligent and determined than we were.
  • Joe Murphy
    commented 2016-11-09 14:27:49 -0500
    There’s a great deal to be suggested here, and the comments above hit some highlights.

    I don’t think enough people know about cooperatives and their viablity as an alternative to the capitalist mode of production.

    I think we need to organize in such a way so as to get people running for public office with a platform focus on incentivizing the creation of democratic workplaces, with-and I cannot emphasize this enough-a repetitious focus on how WSDEs differ from the capitalist mode, and how and why they’re successful and preferable.

    This kind of information needs to be spread across college campuses as well as to rural white areas. This would be a huge political selling point to disaffected white voters. I know this, because I’be grown up, and love with, these people. WSDEs give them what they want: an alternative (to capitalism) that is a) democratic, b) fair, c) non-governmental, d) and that gives them a sense of control over their destinies.

    Reaching out to active cooperatives is also not a bad idea. I’m not sure what that could or would accomplish, but Carroll EMC is a local cooperative that is very well regarded and charitable and successful, and employs mainly white disaffected Republicans. The potential there, I think, speaks for itself.

    An ambitious tactic would be to raise enough money to post billboard and air TV advertisements of cooperatives and cooperative initiatives (and they could be stylistically modelled on the Values.com commercials).

    A strong social media presence will also help a great deal.

    Having Professor Wolff visit more university campuses would be a great strategy for getting out the word and inspiring new membership for the cause.

    A far-fetched, but really smart idea, would be to work with someone like Michael Moore or someone similar who might be sympathetic to the cause and could pull sufficient weight to produce a film that highlights WSDEs as alternative, non-threatening, democratic alternatives to the current system.
  • frank scott
    commented 2016-11-09 14:19:53 -0500
    very important that we disregard – totally! – the morbid and fatalistic thing that passes for analysis from what passes for a liberal left…they were wrong in their polling and just about everything else..trump may stink, but his smell may be less putrid than that of the mass murdering beasts who destroy nations and slaughter in the middle east, create terrorism ,and then appeal for helping refugees they have created with their slaughter..the only real loss in this vote is that jill stein couldn’t get to 5%..all who profess humanity and social justice need to get the hell out of the democratic party and into the greens with an upfront program to end private profit fundamentalist capitalism and to put people – the public – before considering individual benefit that is at social cost..fast, before we destroy the natural, political and economic environment – totally!
  • Joshua Perlman
    commented 2016-11-09 13:50:33 -0500
    Bring on representatives from currently established worker coops on the program. I think hearing more first hand accounts would be inspiring. Interview them and discuss the challenges they face, successes they have had, and talk about the experience of a different workplace structure. Anyway, just thought that would be interesting. Thanks for your work.
  • Dick Burkhart
    commented 2016-11-09 13:50:10 -0500
    The polls have difficulty predicting turnout – the white, male vote was stronger than expected in places like Ohio while the black vote was less. How much of the latter is due to voter suppression is a good question. Here in Seattle the vote was even more progressive than predicted, with Hillary winning by almost 19 points. Also most statewide progressive measures passed, including expansion of the state minimum wage and of a huge expansion of Sound Transit. Virtually all the statewide offices went to good Democrats.

    But there is a silver lining to a Trump victory, which had made me somewhat ambivalent all along: This was a vote against the political establishment of both parties. In truth, the working class in this country has been deserted by both parties (including key legislation passed by Bill Clinton and Obama’s handouts to Wall Street), and the polls show clearly that Trump supporters want change that doesn’t leave them behind. Also recent studies by Martin Gilens and others demonstrate that, statistically, Congress rarely helps the people without support from the ruling class.

    A second silver lining: The Republicans won’t be able to blame the Democrats for taking away good jobs, even though decimating unions and wages has been a Republican priority for 35 years. In fact, the Trump vote may force them to change their tune for fear of losing the next election to a democratic socialist candidate who could deliver.

    A third silver lining: If the Trump or the Republicans do anything on the nasty side, such as against immigrants or women, this will provoke a huge backlash, and the US is ripe for new mass movements, led by disenchanted young people.

    I’d start talking to people right now about organizing a movement to support workers, immigrants, students, and other minorities together, so that the ruling class can no longer play divide and conquer. All the polls show that majorities, even of Trump supporters, do not support his rhetoric against women and minorities . It was simply an in-your-face protest vote, like the Brexit vote in the UK.

    I think we can survive, perhaps even better than under Reagan or George W., because the country is actually moving left, not right. In retrospect, it is very likely that Bernie or Elizabeth Warren would have trounced Trump. Remember how Richard Nixon was forced to act like a liberal Democrat: We need that kind of movement now.
  • Eugene Hyon
    commented 2016-11-09 12:52:39 -0500
    As an important measure of social and economic self-defense, we need to set up a nationwide network of worker owned cooperatives. This will solve many problems in the years to come, which will get harder and not easier. All the safety nets are being threatened. We can no longer trust our big institutions to protect us. We have to do the job ourselves. I think we’re running out of time and we need action.

    Worker owned coops is the instrument of social and economic change in the USA.
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