In this interview with acTVism Munich Prof. Wolff answers:
- What is Capitalism and Socialism?
- What differentiates Capitalism from Socialism?
- Has either system ever existed in its purest form?
- Was Capitalism actually overcome by Socialism when the State took over private ownership?
- What changes are required in society to truly implement Socialism?
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About 10 years ago there was a story in the Everett WA Herald about Korean-American businesses having trouble getting beer/cigarette sales licenses. The Liquor Board thought they were washing Mob money.
Turns out that Koreans have a tradition that 4 families agree to buy each other a business in turn. The liquor board could not believe that 4 families could trust each other to that extent. Do any of you know 3 black or white families you could trust that far into the future if you cut cards with them and you would be the last person to get a business?
About that time I read that half the new business starts in Snohomish County WA were people with “Korean” names. In the Pacific Northwest, East Asians are running ahead of white people in all demographic lists except poverty and criminal convictions. The only ethnic group below black people are Pacific Islanders. That’s life in the real world.
I think most people understand what needs to be done, and also know the political process we use to initiate change has been hijacked from our people. That movie gets worse every time its played with this election being the worst we have seen in our lifetimes.
I have been retired for two years now. I mention that, because I think education is key if we are to move the people into a more consolidated effort toward change. I say that because of my own experience. I have had the time now to research the issues and learn the truth. Most working Americans don’t have that time, and we see the results when they depend on the corporate owned media and education system to gain insight. The propaganda and lies are relentless, and the fact is we have been subjected to this conditioning our whole lives.
I think education is key in destroying the myths and false news being projected by the Corporate State. It is a positive sign that Prof. Wolff’s programs, and others are witnessing continued growth, and interest. However, to reach more people we have to find a way to challenge the corp run media as unConstitutional. It is anything but free and open.
-and problem-solving that does the least harm & gives the most benefit (environment, health& peace) —involves all of us in an INTEGRATED, NOT DIVIDED (by class or hierarchy or power-status) economic & civic unity. Its what we think of as a good society…call it socialism or real democracy, ‘politics’ and winners & losers is a relic of the primitive Capitalist/wage-slave exploitation/ class divided/ private property/profit & dog-eat-dog competitive system of ‘the long gone past’ (think EGYPT!) In such a new society, cooperation, representation & participation, dignity for each are the valuesnot very familiar to us under Capitalism! Imagination & thinking beyond the box we’re in TODAY can open up so many better ways to live & work together. Unshackel our minds & talents, replace Capitalism with real democracy& see what we can really achieve! The future is ours if we are ready & willing to begin to build it, NOW. It starts with discussions like these!
Same with banking. Credit unions have not put small banks and loan companies out of business.
40 or so years ago I read about a small Seattle privately-owned metal foundry that had a system of the workers approving each other’s raises. A worker would ask the owner for a raise and the other workers would vote on the raise. Never heard of the company, again, and can’t think of its name.
We are about to lose 1/2 of all our jobs that exist presently over the next 20 years. Automation, robotics and artificial intelligence are already in place and are rapidly going to effect everything we do, especially productivity. The question is who will claim ownership and control of these machines? Will the elites and oligarchs claim ownership, or will the public push for a system like socialism where everyone will benefit not just the few.
This could be the defining moment in human history.
That says Marx was wrong when he said the economy, -the engine that drives a society, -is the foundation and politics arise to maintain and serve it. We can see many examples of politics doing what is needed to maintain, promote, and advance the economy at the direction of those capitalist who are most successful and richest. It happened that way when government cracked down on unions for the benefit of capitalists. We see it today in the operation of A.L.E.C. and lobbyists.
The lesson here is I think, you cannot have a political system that is controlled by it’s economic system. The reverse is required.
These problems do not arise because of “renegade” politics. They happen because of the needs of capitalism as demanded by corporations via such mechanisms as A.L.E.C. and lobbying.
A new economic form would have its own political needs and structure as dictated by the new economy and its new relationship between workers and those who direct the work. Under socialism they would be one and the same.
However, in any system the breakdown seems to come in the enforcement of rules and laws by which the system operates. It appears to me history reminds us that whatever system a society claims to be organized by it must depend on some sort of political structure to oversee the system to make sure those rules and laws are not compromised.
I am not a history expert, but it seems to me that every past society, including our own presently, sees over time the concentration of wealth and power into the hands of the few. These governments then become corrupt, ineffective, militaristic, and almost always become imperialistic involving their people in endless war, where at some point the nation collapses because it no longer can maintain the stream of resources needed to meet the demands of running, and expanding the empire.
Therefore, I doubt that there is any system, as perfect as it might sound, that can overcome ills of a greedy and selfish human nature in the long term.
Really it’s bizarre to assume that decisions about a company’s future will be better made by a board of directors than by the workers themselves. For one thing, the workers will have the best knowledge of the ‘on the ground’ reality; for another, the workers will be more risk-averse, unlikely to gamble the future of their career on a lucrative long-shot, or to pursue short-term profits at the expense of long-term growth.
Don’t buy into the myth that those sitting on a board of directors are so highly paid because of how difficult their role is, or because they perform so effectively. Would any collectively-run company decide that best practice would be hiring someone at 200+ times the average hourly wage, to unilaterally decide how to run things? Even someone who couldn’t balance a checkbook would see that as a bad deal.
It’s worth comparing a business to a country. For government we could just have an elite group of rulers who dictate to the rest of us, or we could organise around democratic systems and choose our own representatives. I think democratic representation is better, but you could say “Why should someone who doesn’t understand politics be allowed to vote? Why not just let the leaders decide? They know best”. The problem is that leaders might not know best, and even when they do, their best will probably not be the same as the best for everyone else.
“For the Last Time” (4:10 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGLcDUCXEPA
. . Socialism was attempted in notably Russia and China by militarily seizing power. That made a gradual, systematic transformation to socialism impossible. Instead, it was necessary to quickly grasp control by installing managers in government to control industry and keep factories running. This necessarily put the control and decision-making process over the workers in the hands of the government managers, and that meant the relationship between those who work to produce and those who direct work and workers was the relationship of worker to boss, and that is a capitalist relationship. And since the management of the work and workers rested with the state, it was termed “state capitalism”. This is how both Prof. Wolff and the fathers of Marxism characterized this economic structure.
. . Socialism is a different relationship. It is one in which the worker who produces and the management that directs, decides, organizes the work, etc. are all the same person – the worker.
. . Communism is a stateless, classless society that theory says will automatically evolve much later as under socialism the state “withers away” as Marx put it. Marxist communism has therefore never existed anywhere at any time.
. . Prof. Wolff does not diverge from the writings of Marx, Engels, and Lenin on any of these questions.
. . (I hope Prof. Wolff doesn’t mind me speaking for him and I would welcome any correction he may wish to make. I defer to him on this. The above is my studied conclusions gleaned from his writings and videos I’ve been privileged to access.)
—thru ‘transitional models’ that practice cooperative decision-making, technology for discussion & voting butan important component to successfully transform into a comprehensive democratic economic & civic society—-a vision/model/‘green print model’ of ‘where we’re going’. Without those elements, capitalism—-possibly in a fascist (state-corporate collusion) form that comes in when no other vision seems plausible or never discussed/seen in a tangible model (which is why I suggest going to one such model at www.PeopleForanewsociety.org (visuals 1,2,3). There are no crystal balls,but however you label our OBVIOUS need to transition from profit-based economic dictatorship of the few to a healthy humanity & environmentally-based democracy for all, we need to think clearly and constructively and reasonably about ways to ‘get there’…
Public Banking — “Richard Wolff: Curing Capitalism” (41:19) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBGw0ZyKYv4
“Laboral Kutxa (the Mondragon Bank) and National Cooperative Bank (NCB) to Partner in Growing Domestic Worker-Owned Cooperatives” https://www.ncb.coop/default.aspx?id=5248