Debate: From Walmart to Quantum Mechanics, Stopping at Stations Lenin, Imperial, Reform and Revolution in Between
Carl Davidson starts off, replying to DJDialectic's use of a quote from Lenin's Imperialism:
You correctly call attention to:
"It is characteristic of capitalism in general that the ownership of capital is separated from the application of capital to production, that money capital is separated from industrial or productive capital, and that the rentier who lives entirely on income obtained from money capital, is separated from the entrepreneur and from all who are directly concerned in the management of capital."
But what are the implications for strategy and tactics today for segmenting, in nonrevolutionary conditions, the capitalist class, say, between 'speculative' capital and 'productive' capital? Or, to use the more popular current terminology, 'low road' and 'high road' corporations?
Typical low-roaders, for instance, are big on plant closings, gutting industries and the race-to-the-bottom export of capital, making their profit in speculation by whipsawing the margins, similar to the 'rentiers' mentioned by Lenin. The high roaders are similar to the 'entrepreneur' mentioned above. They actually want to make or expand factories, hire and train workers, have them make products for the market, and make their profit the old-fashioned way, by exploitation, i.e., by extracting it from the surplus value produced by their workers.
This is not to say there are 'good guys' and 'bad guys' here, just different sorts of capital as described by Lenin.
Now here's the interesting question: When we, as part of the working-class and grassroots community-based movements, raise the demand for "jobs" -- either for the unemployed, underemployed or for those threatened with plant closings -- aren't we implicitly making an indirect tactical alliance with productive capital vs speculative capital? Should we make it explicit? Or should we not raise the demand for jobs? Or should we just raise a demand for income, regardless of whether the income is from an actual productive job or from a make-work, phoney job?
If we do fight for real jobs, we are definitely calling for the expansion of productive capital, whether we say so or not. If so, should we raise additional conditions to increase the organizational strength of the workers and give them some measure of control over the terms and conditions of the capital expansion? Or should we just say that's the bosses business, not ours, and instead we want socialism somewhere down the road, and making these kinds of demands will just corrupt us?
In brief, is there a valild distinction to be made between 'reformist' reforms and 'revolutionary structural' reforms in nonrevolutionary conditions, as discussed by Gramsci and later by Gorz? Is this implicit in Lenin, opposed by Lenin's analysis, or an open question not foreseen or substantively addressed by Lenin?
Reply from DJDialectic:
First off, I copied this comment onto the livejournal discussion
Second off, though Carl writes very clearly--which I appreciate, he strikes me as someone with an ossified/dead understanding of Marxism (I would guess of the Maoist variety). To be more precise, his understanding appears to be thoroughly non-dialectical (see this post of mine for links
His main point is to ask about the division between productive and speculative capital, which are different--but the whole point of Lenin's book is that finance capital dominates productive capital in the imperialist epoch!
I cannot think of anything concrete that calling for an alliance of productive capital against speculative capital would mean--and truth is always concrete.
In very abstract terms, of course communists 'favor' productive capital--in the sense that we're striving to create a society based on the production of use-values. But to put it like that--like Carl does--is completely misleading, because productive capital is completely and utterly bound to finance capital.
*The rule of finance capital cannot be broken by going back to productive capital but only by going forward to the rule of the working class!* This--as can be seen partially and will be seen fully--is the point of Lenin's work Imperialism.
As far as what reforms we should call for--we should call for the best we can get. Trotsky's Transitional Program would summarize the jobs demand as: jobs for all, a full program of public works, a sliding scale of hours (divide available work among everyone), escalating scale of wages (tied to increase in prices of goods). What is most important though--and this is why it's called the transitional program--is that imperialism in its deeping economic crisis cannot solve these problems--certainly not permanently, socialist revolution is required to solve them and solve them permanently. The transitional program provides a link between the workers' consciousness in motion with the need for socialist revolution.
Dobrovolets adds a comment, directed to DJ:
I think it's a mistake to characterize transitional demands as "the best we can get". They are "the best we can get within the continued framework of capitalist social relations". And it has to be noted that "the continued framework of capitalist social relations" is not identical to "continued capitalist state power"--capitalist social relations will survive the taking of state power by the working class, which will have to use state power as a weapon for reshaping them.
It is only episodically and exceptionally that transitional demands can be achieved under the continued rule of the capitalist class, and then only temporarily. In a certain sense, they are the program of the workers state as refracted through the prism of the capitalist-ruled present, which through commodity fetishism, ideological propaganda and proletarian misleadership is misrepresented to the mass of workers as an eternal fact. By directly connecting the workers' present necessities with the program of the future workers' state, transitional demands can, through joint struggle between revolutionaries and reformist-led workers, be used to disrupt the spell of capitalist rule. But if misused, as a substitute for the revolutionary program rather than a supplement to it, they can serve to fortify reformist (false) consciousness instead. This was the case with Ernest Mandel's interpretation of the Transitional Program as "structural reforms," which he shared with Gorz. (I'm loath to toss Gramsci into the same basket.)
To connect this back with imperialism: so long as a progressive improvement of workers' conditions is compatible with continued capitalist rule, then what is needed is not a transitional but a minimum program, a system of demands explaining what the workers' party will fight for on this side of the revolution in order to politically cohere the working class and prepare it for the seizure of power, while improving its material conditions. But the dominance of finance over productive capital in the imperialist epoch expresses the culmination of capitalism's deeper tendency to the decline of rates of profit. Where capitalism was once a progressive social system, it becomes reactionary. And so while minimum (democratic) demands are not unimportant, their former strategic role, of preparing working-class revolutionary consciousness, is increasingly taken up by transitional demands.
A final note on attribution: while the Transitional Program properly so called was written by Trotsky, the discussion of transitional demands dates at least as far back as the Fourth Congress (1922) of the Communist International.
CarlD Replies to DJ:
Reply to DJ Dialectic:
From Carl Davidson
> DJ Quote:...though Carl writes very clearly--which I appreciate, he strikes me as someone with an ossified/dead nderstanding of Marxism (I would guess of the Maoist variety). To be more precise, his understanding appears to be thoroughly non-dialectical.<
Sorry if I stike you as 'ossified' and 'non-dialectical,' DJ. I try my best, as an admirer both of the 2nd Law of Themodynamics and Chaos Theory a la Ilya Prigogene, to stay on the cutting edge of science in the 21st Century, and I've admired dialectics going all the way back to Heraclitus and the Buddha.
I will admit, however, to a questioning of 19th century dialectics a la Hegel, Marx and Engels--mainly that it's based on the science of its day, as it only could have been, and things have progressed scientifically since then. The American pragmatists, especially Dewey and Mead, wrestled with this and developed the instrumental theory of truth as a third, 20th century option to either 19th centery idealism or materialism, coherence theory or correspondence theory, dialectical or otherwise. Yes, Mao made some contributions as well, and he and Dewey actually had some influence on each other when Dewey was in China in the early days of the Chinese student movement. So I would consider myself as one who held more to instrumental and pragmatic dialectics, as in Dewey, than the left Hegelian variety. Do you still think, in 19th Century terms, that the universe is made up of swirling chunks of 'matter'? I find that a bit 'ossified.'
> DJ: I cannot think of anything concrete that calling for an alliance of productive capital against speculative capital would mean--and truth is always concrete. ,
I put it quite concretely, I thought, i.e., the present day fight for jobs and against plant closings, etc. You reply by summing up Trotsky's transitional program (which seems to have more uses than aspirin as a cure-all) but even here, Trotsky's expanded "public works" programs would most likely be build by private firms under capitalism, which would then help these firms to grow. Hence the implicit alliance with productive capital is even imbedded in Trotsky.
> DJ: *The rule of finance capital cannot be broken by going back to productive capital but only by going forward to the rule of the working class!* This--as can be seen partially and will be seen fully--is the point of Lenin's work Imperialism. <
This 'going forward,' through the path of structural reform, in nonrevolutionary conditions, was exactly my point, although, since I'm a market socialist, I'm sure we might disagree on what, precisely, constitutes 'the rule of the working class' these days. I'm sure we've all got far beyond Stalin's notion of what it means, and perhaps Trotsky's too. And I'm also sure that, with the possible exception of a few liberatian Greens, that none of us want to go back to pre-imperialist productive captial days.
Yes, there is a difference between 'minimum program' and 'transitional program.' I'm not quite happy with either. That's what I'm trying to get discussed here in the context of Lenin, imperialism and present-day realities--I know most folks here are anti-reformist, but I'm also hope most of you aren't anti-reformist ultimatists, like, say, Daniel DeLeon. What exactly should be our approach to reform, as opposed to simply opposing reformism? That's what I'm interested in for today. Minimum programs tend to be simply oppositionist, redivide the pie programs without challenging the prerogatives of capital, while the transitional program is more agitational and nonpractical, ie, its not meant so much to be implemented as to be put out there as a means of exposing capital's limitations.
But thanks for letting me know that Ernest Mandel saw the transitional program of Trotsky from the perspective of Andre Gorz and structural reform. Mandel was one of the few Trotskyists I liked when I met him in NYC in 1968, even though I was a budding Maoist at the time, and now I have a reason to hang it on...
DJ Back to CarlD:
"Do you still think, in 19th Century terms, that the universe is made up of swirling chunks of 'matter'? I find that a bit 'ossified.'"
DJ: That question doesn't even begin to make sense. You admit that you hold to dialectics, just not of the 19th century variety, and then accuse me of holding to 19th centurty dialectics based on nothing. This is simply a straw man argument--though a particularly insipid one.
CD: "Trotsky's expanded 'public works' programs would most likely be build by private firms under capitalism, which would then help these firms to grow. Hence the implicit alliance with productive capital is even imbedded in Trotsky."
I'll just quote what I said the first time:
"In very abstract terms, of course communists 'favor' productive capital--in the sense that we're striving to create a society based on the production of use-values. But to put it like that--like Carl does--is completely misleading, because productive capital is completely and utterly bound to finance capital." To be even more concrete, thos private firms don't constitute productive capital as segmented from financial capital--but are merely productive firms owned and controlled by finance capital. To speak of an "alliance with productive capital" is to speak in 19th century terms, if it ever made sense.
As for the rest of your comment, you seem more worried about reforms and alliances with certain segments of capital than about increasing the consciousness and organization of the working class. Dealing with "reforms" is simple--like I said, on the one hand, we fight with the workers for the best they can get, but on the other (at the same time), we fight against the reformist leadership and fight for revolutionary class consciousness and leadership (which means in the fight with the workers for certain reforms, we must tell them the truth, which is that capitalism cannot meet their needs and must be overthrown).
From Carl Davidson
DJ, I didn't mean to ACCUSE you of holding to a 19th Century view, but since you seem to stick to the classics, I meant to ASK you a question about 'swirling chunks of matter' that, in a shorthand way, expressed some of the limitations Engels faced in Anti-Duhring and the Dialectics of Nature that resulted from the fact that quantum mechanics and E=MC2 had yet to be discovered. To do away with the shorthand, here's Engels in his book the Dialectics of Nature:
"Matter moves in an eternal cycle, completing its trajectory in a period so vast that in comparison with it our earthly year is as nothing; in a cycle in which the period of highest development, namely the period of organic life with its crowning achievement - self-consciousness, is a space just as comparatively minute in the history of life and self-consciousness; in a cycle in which every particular form of the existence of matter - be it the sun or a nebular, a particular animal or animal-species, a chemical combination or decomposition - is equally in transition; in a cycle in which nothing is eternal, except eternally changing, eternally moving matter and the laws of its movement and change. But however often and pitilessly this cycle may be accomplished in time and space, however many countless suns and earths may arise and fall, however long it may be necessary to wait until in some solar system, on some planet appear conditions suitable for organic life, however many countless beings may fall and rise before, out of their midst, develop animals with a thinking brain that find an environment that permits them to live, be it even only for a short period, we are, nevertheless, assured that matter in all its changes remains eternally one and the same, that not one of its attributes may perish, and that that same iron necessity which compels the destruction of the highest early bloom of matter - the thinking spirit - also necessitates its rebirth at some other place, at some other time."
This is generally very good, until Engels gets to the part about 'matter in all its changes remains eternally one and the same..." A bit metaphysical, don't you think? What about light? Matter or motion? A wave or a particle? Or let's set aside 'either-or,' and look at the 'both-and' solution, a photon?
Now at this point you can wrangle incessantly between coherence and correspondence theories of truth, or you could take a different route and raise the instrumentalist option, ie, what actual problem are you trying to solve with these questions. One issue might be resolved productively one way (light as a wave) while another resolved productively another way (light as a particle). In brief, instead of looking for absolute truth, look for the truths that help you operate productively in dealing with the real problems presented by life, while keeping to an 'open systems' view that always encourages you to push the envelope hiding the universe's mysteries further and further away.
In a nutshell, that's my Zen pragmatic dialectics, for want of a better term, and I was simply trying to find out, with my question, as to whether you thought modern science was mainly a further exposition on Engels, or whether there was something new under the sun of human understanding and problem solving.
DJ back to CarlD:
Carl says: "DJ, I didn't mean to ACCUSE you of holding to a 19th Century view, but since you seem to stick to the classics"
DJ: But that just's the thing: you have no ground for assuming I "stick" to the classics.
As for changing your theories of truth because of wave-particle duality, that doesn't really make sense sense the "truth" is that matter and energy are neither wave nor particles, those are just metaphors of a sort. There are mathematical equations that predict their behavior (both kinds)--the current theory being Quantum Electrodynamics, which last I checked had been experimentally verified with to a degree of precision exceeding any other theory. Meaning the behavior of light and matter corresponds to QED's set of equations and constants.
Basing a theory of truth on conflicts at the level of appearance (wave-particular) is senseless.
CD: "whether there was something new under the sun of human understanding and problem solving."
Well just so you'll be clear, I have a decent understanding of a broad swath of modern science, have done large amounts of reading on quantum physics, and understand computers and programming extremely well. So I don't think there's been nothing new under the sun, but I do still think people would do better to read Hegel & Engels on philosophy than just about anybody else.
CarlD back to DJ:
But let's get back to the more interesting and popular issue of reforms and reformism...
As for your other point to me -- "you seem more worried about reforms and alliances with certain segments of capital than about increasing the consciousness and organization of the working class.." Why put them in simple opposition rather than, to use the dialectical lingo, putting them forward as an interpenetration of opposites?
I admit that I'm partial to Lenin's idea of class consciousness, i.e, whereby the workers not only come to see, through struggle and revolutionary education, their own position, future and interests, but also become aware of their interrelations with all other classes and strata, precisely for the purpose of forming alliances, however temporary and wavering, to advance their socialist vision, strength and fighting capacity.
Lenin also often put forward the dialectical view that, on one hand, every reform contained a 'police snare,' but, on the other hand, the fight for reforms, especially in ebb periods, for gains that enabled the masses to secure 'strong points' for themselves , however temporary, were exceedingly important. (See his fight with the Otsovists) In brief, I'm arguing, until you convince me otherwise, that workers can best learn how to be the masters of society mainly through the process of winning reforms, dealing with all classes and strata, and discovering the limitations of reforms in the process (i.e., resisting and foiling Lenin's 'police snares'), but also by gaining vision, strength, allies, and fighting capacity in the process.
But let's make it very concrete, DJ. Say Walmart wants to come to town, and some folks oppose it while others are for it. This is an actual battle going on all over the country. Where would you stand on it? What perspective would your analysis have you put out to the masses who want to change Walmart's ways, one way or another?
DJ Back to CarlD:
Carl wrote: "As for your other point to me -- "you seem more worried about reforms and alliances with certain segments of capital than about increasing the consciousness and organization of the working class.." Why put them in simple opposition rather than, to use the dialectical lingo, putting them forward as an interpenetration of opposites?"
Because just because two things oppose each other doesn't meant they interpenetrate each other. Believing that music is the best way to change the world and dedicating one's life to writing music is opposed to a materialist understanding of change and then one's life is opposed to fighting for revolutionary consciousness.
There may be a certain, small, sense in which the two things you refer to interpenetrate, but if so, it's only in the sense that it's completely subordinated to the fight for revolutionary consciousness.
To take the Walmart example, I would recommend reading the latest issue of Proletarian Revolution. The particular struggle against Walmart requires a classwide struggle, it requires "a political strategy for spreading and building solidarity with other workers: it has to be part of a fight for a decent living union wage for all workers; it must demand equal pay for equal work for women and men, for Black, Latino, and white." The unions must work together on this--esp. to help with organizing strikes and picket lines. Explain that a militant strike at one Walmart that shows and gets solidarity could spark other strikes across the nation, that the key for the strike's success is to be classwide.
And at the same time tell the truth to the workers: that the gains won through these battles can only be temporary, that the union bureaucracy will either fail to fight or fail to fight well, that there is a need for revolutionary leadership, etc.
CarlD back to DJ:
Let's leave our discussion of quantum mechanics to the side for the moment. I'll agree that you've made the break with the dogmatists on this question. You may or may not see me in the same camp as you here, but that's OK...
But on the more concrete issue of Walmart and anti-reformism; the article your refer to isn't online yet, so I'll go with your summary until I can find an issue somewhere in town.
DJ Says "Walmart requires a classwide struggle, it requires "a political strategy for spreading and building solidarity with other workers:..."
The first question of strategy is 'who are our friends, who are our adversaries'? To me, that means more than just the uniting the workers. For starters, it could also mean small businesses in the area about to be crushed by Walmart. Just saying 'unite all the workers,' especially when 85% of the workers in the US don't even have the most basic organization, the trade union, doesn't help much in the current situation, does it? Do this mean your strategy is just 'class vs class?' Even Lenin said in his time 'Workers of all countries and oppressed nations of the world, unite!', which was quite broader by pulling in the masses of peasantry and other strata in the third world against imperialism.
DJ says: "It has to be part of a fight for a decent living union wage for all workers; it must demand equal pay for equal work for women and men, for Black, Latino, and white."
Of course. This is ABC of simple reformist trade unionism. But before a union wage, it helps to have a union. But even this doesn't get much beyond redistributing the profit pie, does it? That's what I meant by the minimum program, in most cases, just being 'oppositionists' and not challenging the prerogatives of capital.
DJ Says: "The unions must work together on this--esp. to help with organizing strikes and picket lines. Explain that a militant strike at one Walmart that shows and gets solidarity could spark other strikes across the nation, that the key for the strike's success is to be classwide."
Amen. Again, militant, class-struggle unionism is fine and needed. But what do you do when many of the unions concerned are too weak or too corrupt? Walmart shut down the one site in Quebec that had a union, and some of the Quebec unions and their allies are trying to do something about it. There are no Walmarts with unions here in the US. But do we wait on this battle until we change the unions into something we'd like them to be, rather than what they are? If we don't wait, what plan do we put forward just to compel Walmart to unionize, rather than, even more ambitiously, change its business plan more fundamentally?
DJ Says: "And at the same time tell the truth to the workers: that the gains won through these battles can only be temporary, that the union bureaucracy will either fail to fight or fail to fight well, that there is a need for revolutionary leadership, etc."
Of course the gains are temporary, but with your limited objectives, you have to have a plan to win them first. Everything in the universe is temporary. Tell the workers they need revolutionary leadership? That would be fine, if there was a revolutionary leadership out there of some consequence, which we know there isn't yet. But let's say you are a revolutionary leader. So far you haven't said much more than "all workers unite and fight militantly, replace leaders who won't fight, but don't count on anything until we have workers power." This is an agitational slogan, not a strategy. What's more, it's ALWAYS true, and thus does little to address the concrete, living situation. It would have gotten a few chuckles at our worker-community meetings on Walmart here, but not much more.
You're making my case, DJ. Once you dig a little deep behind the rhetoric of the revolutionary anti-reformists, there's not much there that's useful in waging an actual class struggle in the actual arena where it's going on. Some of us do have a plan for dealing with Walmart--and even it may not make it, at least right away, since Walmart is the tough case for those fighting capitalism. But I'll save that until I see your response to this.
DJ back to CarlD:
Carl said: "You're making my case, DJ. Once you dig a little deep behind the rhetoric of the revolutionary anti-reformists, there's not much there that's useful in waging an actual class struggle in the actual arena where it's going on. Some of us do have a plan for dealing with Walmart--and even it may not make it, at least right away, since Walmart is the tough case for those fighting capitalism. But I'll save that until I see your response to this."
Let's see your reformist strategy then in this concrete case.
CarlD back to DJ:
On the Walmart Case & Reforms:
Walmart is a low-road, bottom-feeder, crass exploiter, here and around the world, of the first order. They are the largest employer in the country, with over a million employees, and the poster child of everything wrong with American global capitalism.
The unions in the retail sector, other unions and their community and business allies should make them target number one to attack, and in that battle, Walmart competitors, i.e, unionized firms like Costco and even more forward-looking non-union firms like Whole Foods, can even be tactical allies.
The company has so far successfully resisted union attempts to organize workers at its 1,353 U.S. Wal-Mart stores. It also operates 1,713 Supercenters and 551 Sam's Clubs in the United States.
Walmart expansion has to be stopped cold until they unionize and change their business plan. We have to mobilize a broad front, first, to prevent them from entering our communities, and second, to change them or shut them down where they exist.
At the same time, what we really need is a 'Co-Mart' alternative to Walmart, where clusters of worker and consumer cooperatives can put together larger retail sites that can offer the same or better goods and services as Walmart, but in a more progressive, 'high road' fashion.
This is not pie-in-the-sky, since coop operations like these already exist in Canada, Italy and Spain, and are doing quite well. More info is at:
This is the site of the Center for Labor & Community Research based here in Chicago, which has produced excellent analytical work on Walmart and the alternatives to it.
Of course Costco and Whole Foods are capitalists and in business to make a profit. All businesses are. I'm sure there are probably also outrages at Whole Foods that make a good case for workers having a union there. You can probably find a few outrages at Costco, too, even with a union.
But my point is not whether it's better for workers to have unions. Of course it is.
My point is that any abuse at Whole Foods or Costco, et al, pales in comparison to Walmart, and that Walmart is where we should aim our main blow. Otherwise, if we aim most of our efforts at Walmart's smaller competitors, mainly because they're easier, while letting Walmart slide, because they're too tough, who are we really helping strategically?
What the 'Co-Mart' option does, in the places where something like it exists or can be developed, is offer an alternative development--under capitalism to be sure--but in the direction of Economic Democracy, where workers, consumers and community stakeholders increase their allied organizational strength and thus have some important measure of control and input, including but beyond simple unionism, even under capitalism.
That, to me, is what represents the best counter-hegemonic project--waging war of manuver and war of position, ala Gramsci--with Walmart, rather than just straight-up traditional unionization.
We should want to fundamentally change the business plans of these 'low-road' companies with greater and great worker control, not just win a bigger wage-benefit package for the workers while hoping for socialism to show up some day, a kind of 'waiting for lefty' who never shows up, if you're familiar with the Odets play...
Yes, all these firms need better labor standards, but cracking Walmart, the 'dragger-downer' par excellence, is the key link in getting better conditions elsewhere. Plus some real competition from the 'Co-Mart' opton, should it ever come into being...
Here's a link on applying the Spanish Mondragon Coop model to rural America:
But, once again, here's my broader point of debate over simple 'oppositionist' labor and community tactics vis-a-vis Walmart and others like them. They don't do so well. Many of the old-style demands wouldn't do when Walmart bogarted its way into the West Side of Chicago. We're still holding them off on the South side.
We had a broad, if somewhat unstable, coalition opposing them, including unions. But Walmart was and is more than willing to make deals. Some unionists here were willing to cave if Walmart just agreed to use union labor to put up the building, setting aside any effort to unionize the work force for later. And when community groups listed needs for local jobs or their favorite neighborhood or school projects, Walmart was all set to write the checks; they were just asking how much, and were probably willing to give lots more than some of the askers even thought possible to ask for. In that skirmish, Walmart divided the coalition and we lost a round.
This is the key for us to keep hammering away at in our educational, base-building work: Despite their 'donations' and their warm-and-fuzzy media campaign, Walmart would not budge an iota on their basic, low road business plan, which includes not only union busting, but also covert government subsides, racism, sexism, plundering third world suppliers, starving third world workers, ruining environments, destroying local communities and small business, and on and on. And on a scale larger than anything the world has ever seen!
Whole Foods or Costco, whatever their labor practices, are bit players by comparison, and on some union or sustainability issues, they are on our side of the barricades.
That's why I'm suggesting mobilizing all forces--unions, communities, local government, and rival businesses that are a bit better on some issues--to make Walmart the main target and stop them from expanding at all.
At the same time, we need to present a practical alternative of what a high road, pro-union, pro-consumer, pro-environment retail cluster would look like. With labor at the center, we could begin to mobilize the grassroots forces and to leverage the capital and allies to launch the 'Co-Mart' option.
Of course, the option is always on the table for Walmart to fundamentalally change their basic business plan. But then, in that case, they wouldn't be Walmart, would they?
DJ back to CarlD:
"A fool can ask more questions than a wise man can answer".
I think it's proverb Lenin once used responding to a reformist.
Your goal is to create a cooperative alternative to Walmart (or get Walmart to become like that)--a high roader. Quite simply, your goal is utopian reformist nonsense. It ignores the domination of finance capital and the deepening economic crisis brought on by the falling rate of profit.
Talking abstractly of high vs. low roaders sounds clear but is misleading. Both kinds of companies are dominated by finance capital, and Walmart isn't rogue capital, it's at the vanguard of capitalism. Your goal simply can't be achieved under capitalism today--yet due to the low level of class consciousness, it seems more viable (this is partially the fallacy of misleading vividness).
Just because co-ops exist in marginal sectors of capital, doesn't mean they can expand to include more central sectors (& thereby drive the rate of profit even lower).
I think the goal should be socialist revolution. The immediate tasks are therefore to build the revolutionary party which is the central element of the fight for revolutionary class consciousness.
This may appear utopian--it is swimming against the current--but appearances can be deceiving. There are deeper forces at work and the currents can change. Those swimming against it will be swept ahead--and those that were swimming with it...won't.
Again, I'll say that Carl is a very, very clear writer--much moreso than I am. I'm sorry I'm not better able to present my views.
CarlD back to DJ:
Let's wrap up this round, DJ.
You're in favor of militant classwide, class struggle trade unionism in fighting Walmart, for socialism now or in the near future--depending on how quickly the 'falling rate of profit' has its maximum impact in producing revolutionary conditions--as the only real solution to the problem of Walmart and capitalism generally, and for party-building as the central task in the meantime. Fair enough?
I'm in favor of a broad multiclass front against 'low road' capitalist practices in fighting Walmart, that includes both miltant unionism, community activism and a 'Co-Mart' economic democracy structural reform. I'm for market socialism, but I stress building a revolutionary organization, along with mass democratic organizations, that know how to fight, develop and grow in nonrevolutionary conditions.
If 'utopianism' is the measure we're using in distinguishing our two approaches to Walmart, I think your plan is far more 'utopian'--in the sense of how difficult it might be to win a few rounds with Walmart--than mine. But practice will settle it--we could both be off base.
I used to think, in my younger days, that the revolutionary situation was right around the corner, brought on by war, the falling rate of profit, or some other feature of the 'general crisis,' but I don't cling to that dogma anymore. But I would love to be proved wrong, since revolutionary upsurges are much better fields of struggle all around. So I've decided the wiser course is to recognize that even 'moribund' capitalism also has shown tremedous resiliance, and thus I'm preparing for what Gramsci called 'the long march through the institutions' to get to the point of radical transformation.
In any case, this has been a good thread. If you like, I'll repost it to Ben's list next week; in the meantime, I'd love to hear from any others out there...Meanwhile, there's Chapter 4 of Lenin's Imperialism coming up.
Monday, February 28, 2005
Debate: From Walmart to Quantum Mechanics, Stopping at Stations Lenin, Imperial, Reform and Revolution in Between
Posted by Carl Davidson at 11:37 AM