What is Capitalism? What is Socialism?

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?

Showing 56 comments

  • Joseph A. Mungai
    commented 2017-03-04 23:14:56 -0500
    “DNC Changed Rules One Hour Before Chair Vote” (2:30) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQyzL-ou5tI >> Sign the petition at https://tytnetwork.com/release/ >> In a corrupt electoral system no collective will be able to make the changes We the People are demanding. Openly condemning corporate media might be a starting point. Example, millions suffer poverty wages, a healthcare system that places profit above human life and public education being privatized to profit charter schools. Hillary as secretary of state approved the sale of a US mining company that extracts nuclear weapons material, yet the party of democrats and corporate media are focussed on trumpsters that talked to Russians. (25:59) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dky3vpDeJ-s
  • Bill Wald
    commented 2017-03-04 21:19:37 -0500
    The USA might be the easiest country in the world to become a land/business owner.

    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.
  • Lillia Frantin
    commented 2017-03-04 17:53:19 -0500
    Yes Rick, agree…‘commonsense’ and life experience of the ill effects of Capitalism (its ‘rigged’ elections, rigged everything in a system that is rigged to benefit one class, the owning class) are good ‘lessons ’’ but youre right, educating ourselves about the system that controls our every move & thought, is paramount. Reaching those who really need to know & be concerned about how their lives, children’s lives & futures & future f the planet itself will take time. But Capitalism (and the arrogance of Trumpolini & Co) will help us along more quickly. The issue is to outpace a fascist reaction that can happen & woulfd be a more ‘natural’ outcome of capitalist-proclivities. Can we reach new folks? How? That is our job & quest for the coming decades!
  • Rick Wilmoth
    commented 2017-03-04 11:42:50 -0500
    To Lilia F,
    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.
  • Lillia Frantin
    commented 2017-03-04 09:58:00 -0500
    David..Your thoughts about ‘a new economy’ and your reply about Capitalism as a system that is designed to enrich the few/owners and continue to hold at bay (reforms) & impoverish the many (we working class folks)…excellent! Yes, Trumpellini is not a product of politics, he is a product of Late Capitalism…and a misled & uninformed working class. Our job is to keep the conversation & proposals & projects ‘in the public domain’ as much as possible. The future can be ours to shape, or to be even further victimized by…up to us.
  • Lillia Frantin
    commented 2017-03-04 09:50:41 -0500
    David, Rick…If we agree we are here envisioning a new society, we need to really rethink how ‘politics’ would work, or if such a term would apply at all. A model of a cooperative commonwealth where democracy is practiced in the communities where we live & the work sites ( eg production & services) where what is required by the communities (we the people) is created in response, the notion of ‘politics-as-we-know-it’ would be irrelevant & outmoded.Simplifying the process, lets envision ‘Needs & solutions’ are derived from ‘input’ in the communities & worksites (using group meetings & technology & in combination)…see www.PeopleForANewSociety.org & Real Democracy visual models 1,2,3)…‘politics-as-combat’ has no place but dialogue & discussion & decision-making -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 values not 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!
  • Lillia Frantin
    commented 2017-03-04 09:27:04 -0500
    Rick W…..well said. If society owns & makes decisions about our societal needs/wants, technology would OF COURSE become labor-saving MEANING SHORT WORK DAYS, WORK WEEKS…read Juliet Schor’s PLENTITUDE and the obvious result from automation: better lives, more choices, self-fulfillment..NOT WAGE-SLAVE LABOR competing for scarce bad working conditions, low wage monotonous (often dangerous) jobs for SOME, unemployment & welfare & misery for others. We share in all the benefits and that means less work for all, more time for ourselves, families, communities, pleasures & ‘hobbies’…music, art, theater, gardening, sports, reading, education…ours to choose.
  • Bill Wald
    commented 2017-02-28 14:57:51 -0500
    50 or so years ago I took a class in insurance theory. The professor mentioned that “for profit” insurance companies are more efficient than mutual insurance companies. That has also been my observation. Mutuals don’t force stock companies out of business. New York Life converted to a stock company.

    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.
  • Joseph A. Mungai
    commented 2017-02-28 12:24:33 -0500
    2/24/17 Clearing the Fog radio — “Understanding the Privatization Wave: For decades, the neo-liberal agenda, first tested outside of the United States and then brought home, has driven waves of privatization. Today, it is proceeding in an unchecked way and without regard for the suffering that it leaves in its wake. We’ll discuss some of the vehicles for privatization and commodification of everything and how we fight back. We’ll cover the Trade in Services Agreement, public private partnerships and the attack on the commons, such as the Internet. This boils down to corporate power versus popular power.” (1:03:39) http://clearingthefogradio.org/monday-feb-27-understanding-the-privatization-wave/
  • Joseph A. Mungai
    commented 2017-02-28 11:46:25 -0500
    ‘J is for Junk Economics’ — Michael Hudson: “So, there’s a clause in the private-public partnership now, that if a state lets a private investor build a toll road, you can’t build any other roads. You have to force people to use the toll road. This is not a free choice economy. This is, you want to steer everybody in… You want to make the infrastructure into a monopoly…” (10:31) http://therealnews.com/t2/story:18539:%27J-is-for-Junk-Economics%27%3A-Michael-Hudson-on-TRNN-%2825%29
  • Rick Wilmoth
    commented 2017-02-28 02:07:02 -0500
    Mark, If change to the system is going to be initiated by a movement of the people then I would think the conversation needs to be directed towards the immediate threat, or blessing that technology is going to continue to make on our society and the world exponentially.
    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.
  • Joseph A. Mungai
    commented 2017-02-28 00:43:38 -0500
    Michael Hudson – Karl Marx & How We Got to Junk Economics (28:26) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhmKlNe8NDQ
  • Joseph A. Mungai
    commented 2017-02-28 00:26:36 -0500
    4/13/2012 “Michael Hudson — Debt: The Politics and Economics of Restructuring” (21:02) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gX5RHhX8E2k
  • David Audette
    commented 2017-02-27 22:34:05 -0500
    Rick, the only thing I disagree with in your last post is “change in our economic system happened, because of politics.”

    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.
  • Rick Wilmoth
    commented 2017-02-27 20:11:55 -0500
    To David: How capitalism in the US changed and evolved is precisely the problem. Change in our economic system happened, because of politics. Our political system simply got away from the people as the private sector systematically destroyed every avenue that supported a stronger democracy. The people have to accept responsibility for that. Capitalism is in direct conflict with democracy, and if we have learned anything it is that. The people have to be engaged in the process.
    The lesson here is I think, you cannot have a political system that is controlled by it’s economic system. The reverse is required.
  • Joseph A. Mungai
    commented 2017-02-27 19:48:35 -0500
    Professor Michael Hudson: “There’s a reason that the history of economic thought is not taught anymore in the universities. If people really read what Adam Smith wrote and John Stewart Mill wrote, they’d see that Adam Smith criticized the landlords. Said, you’ve got to tax away. It’s a free lunch. Mill said rent is what landlords make in their sleep, without working. Adam Smith said, whenever businessmen get together they’re going to conspire as to how to get money from the public at large and how to do a deal and mislead people. This is not exactly the kind of free enterprise that people who talk about Adam Smith as if he were a tax cutter, an Austrian economist or a Neoliberal want to hear…” (9:08) http://therealnews.com/t2/story:18475:%27J-is-for-Junk-Economics%27%3A-Michael-Hudson-on-TRNN-%2815%29
  • David Audette
    commented 2017-02-27 14:03:54 -0500
    Mr. Wilmoth, it is true that capitalism in the U.S., after the creation of benefits and protections by The New Deal, led to growth of the middle class and to significant improvement in our standard of living. By the 1970s a person could, as my own father did, support a family of four on one average middle class income. But due to the conditions of our capitalist system as it evolved and changed, since then the average real income of the middle class has not gained and in specific time frames has lost ground. This is not so much a consequence of politics as it is a consequence of the requirements of an aging capitalism. Today, the strains on the economy have multiplied and come from numerous angles, all defying resolution. Solve one problem “here,” and another worsens “over there” becoming intolerable. Watch as Trump’s reforms (if he wins them in Congress), so popular with his base, create worsening conditions overall.

    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.
  • Rick Wilmoth
    commented 2017-02-27 13:01:23 -0500
    It appears to me the problem in either system is enforcement of the rules by which they operate. In our American capitalist system, the system of the post WWll era under New Deal regulations seemed to work fairly well if you look at progress made by the growing middle class, and other social programs such as education, housing, and welfare programs.
    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.
  • Leo Parker-rees
    commented 2017-02-27 08:13:41 -0500
    Bill Wald: I think you’re underestimating the collective intelligence of the workers. Of course there’ll be people there who can balance a checkbook, some of the workers will be those who balance the accounts for the company already. Even at a different company without such workers, co-operative, democratic decision-making could involve hiring an accountant.

    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.
  • David Audette
    commented 2017-02-26 23:27:34 -0500
    Bill, that sort of question reflects willful contempt for workers. The question is not valid. Thanks for stopping by.
  • Bill Wald
    commented 2017-02-26 23:15:21 -0500
    How are workers who never learned to balance a checkbook supposed to successfully run General Motors by making majority vote decisions?
  • Joseph A. Mungai
    commented 2017-02-26 12:41:06 -0500
    “Genius of the Modern World: Karl Marx” (58:54) http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4kwc1t

    “For the Last Time” (4:10 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGLcDUCXEPA
  • David Audette
    commented 2017-02-26 12:24:58 -0500
    To Thomas Riggins : Prof. Wolff’s use of the terms “socialism”, “communism”, and “state capitalism” are in no way different from those intended in all the writings of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. It is the methods of implementing and maintaining socialism that is evolving. Yet the goal of socialism remains as it originally was.
    . . 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.)
  • Thomas Riggins
    commented 2017-02-26 11:44:30 -0500
    Lillia: “State capitalism” was not my term, it was Wolff’s. I only asked a question about his use of the term as a replacement for “socialism” as a description of the first stage of communism in classical Marxism. My own opinions on this issue cannot be deduced from the form of my question about Wolff’s views.
  • Lillia Frantin
    commented 2017-02-26 11:02:10 -0500
    To Thomas- The fact you use ‘state capitalism’ to define socialism is a starting point of misunderstanding, and an unfortunate product of a well-indoctrinated American educational system and cultural mindset. State Capitalism may describe recent & current economic/civic state controlled economies but are closer to American & globalizing capitalism than ‘socialism’….unless you believe the misdirection away from the real basis of socialism…which is real democracy in a wholistic model of society based on cooperation, equality, ‘grassroots’ participation in all decision-making—- production, distribution, the why/how/when and where of running a humanity-based (rather than profit-based) society. The unimportant thing here is not ‘labels’, it is being more interested in gaining perspectives on what we as human beings are capable of in a system, structure, model, that incorporates respect for human beings and nature in its basic ‘operations’, how it functions. Communism, as Marx used it, certainly has been tainted/poisoned by how it has been ‘imposed’ on countries & peoples & historic conditions far from capable of ‘jumping’ into democracy. Marx would be first to say democracy/socialism (call it what you will) requires the ability to provide an abundance and the possibility of democratic practices. American and the 21st c. provide the potentials for both. Its up to us to direct our next decades into realizing that potential —thru ‘transitional models’ that practice cooperative decision-making, technology for discussion & voting but an 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’…
  • Thomas Riggins
    commented 2017-02-26 10:25:06 -0500
    So, how do these distinctions differ from the classical Marxist view of the two stages —socialism (here called ‘state capitalism’) and communism (here called ‘socialism’)?
  • Joseph A. Mungai
    commented 2017-02-26 00:46:41 -0500
    “Own The Change: Building Economic Democracy One Worker Co-op at a Time” (22:11) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8G1-SYMatNc
  • Joseph A. Mungai
    commented 2017-02-26 00:11:38 -0500
    “Understanding the Mondragon Worker Cooperative Corporation” (35:28) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bcNfbGxAdY
  • Joseph A. Mungai
    commented 2017-02-25 23:31:26 -0500
    “Civilizing the Economy: Social Care” (20:56) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdgOkMYLAco
  • Joseph A. Mungai
    commented 2017-02-25 23:25:27 -0500
    “A 1990s look into the Co-ops of Bologna Italy. Civilizing the Economy” (27:10) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2cCpbNHRms

    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

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