From the Left: A co-op economy can effectively replace Wall Street
Published: Friday, October 11, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 11, 2013 01:10
What my “From the Right” comrade Philip Boynton continues to miss, week after week, is that an endless regurgitation of antiquated, colonial-era moralism and FOX News romanticism does nothing to improve the material conditions of the working class. The elitist notion that a cabal of financial aristocrats know what is best for the economy is one of the most cancerous, anti-democratic parts of corporate ideology. The transnational companies that control the flow of the economy, and who warp elections with million-dollar super PACs, need to have their hegemony brought to an end. Corporations need to be fundamentally changed, to be radically deconstructed and re-built in a manner that is conducive for economic security, working-class prosperity and a dedication to legitimate democracy.
“Democracy” is not just a sensational talking point, comrade. It is not rhetoric; it is a legitimate way of organizing society. Democracy and capitalism are mutually exclusive and completely irreconcilable.
The banks can no longer privatize successes and socialize losses. How long are we going to allow the redistribution of wealth upwards? How long are we going to let these parasites use their super PACs to appoint our Congress or dictate how the economy runs? Capitalism is not just unstable, but also profoundly undemocratic; it is characterized by the monopolization of economic decision-making by people who are not proletarian. Capitalism is antithetical to liberty and the embryo of totalitarianism.
The banks must be nationalized because state power is the only force strong enough to legally wrest ownership of major industries from the ruling class. If the workers can politically capture the state, and have the state capture major industries, then steps can be taken to make the now-public businesses into full co-ops. Nationalization is a means, not an ends; the ends is always local, decentralized control of the economy by the working class so that it functions in their direct interest. By nationalizing industry, it can be expropriated from the hands of profit-driven aristocrats and turned to serve the interest of the working class by changing it into worker-owned and worker-managed co-operatives.
An economy based on competing co-op conglomerates that enter into large, long-term business contracts with public agencies has the potential to phase out the market and introduce economic planning. It has the potential to be the seeds of a new economy – an economy where resources are allocated through the decentralized, democratic decision-making of workers’ councils, not the heartless up-and-down of the market. People would actually have a say in how the economy is structured, and the input of the common worker would have more weight than that of the corporate accountant hundreds of miles away.
All power needs to be given to the workers. They need to collectively own and democratically manage the workplace as equals – as a genuine co-op. These co-ops need to join together into large industry-specific or cross-industry conglomerates and be left to compete against one another, mixing both a competitive market mechanism and direct worker control. The best conglomerates would win stable, long-term business contracts with government institutions. This new system would be simple, democratic, worker-based, and hold the seeds of a truly democratic economy.
Think of the wild threats that this would pose to the top-down, hierarchical sociology that we have now. Imagine a co-op economy, where the workers actually own and manage the workplace and run it in a way that’s conducive for their own economic security. Imagine the profound impacts that this would have on all social and economic relationship if we had both political and economic democracy?
In practice, a very real possibility would be to do something akin to what President Salvador Allende did in Chile from 1971-1973, before Nixon ordered the CIA to violently topple him and appoint fascist dictator Augusto Pinochet and a military-junta government – but never mind that British Prime Minister Margret Thatcher said Pinochet “brought democracy to Chile,” even though he was indicted for human rights violations, suppressing and assassinating political dissenters, and embezzling taxpayer funds for personal profit.
Under Allende, the Chilean government began a famous program called Project Cybersyn. With it, various business enterprises installed computer programs so that information – employee hours, material input and output, quotas, shipping manifestos, manufacturing statistics, etc. – could be readily and instantaneously shared, turning a single workplace into constituent pieces of an enormous, multi-business network. The “Cybernet” networks could be plugged into the government’s “Cyberstride” software program to provide detailed, minute-by-minute statistical models of how the national economy was doing. If the economy was not doing well, it would automatically alert all those in the affected Cybernets and offer incentives (tax breaks, funding, regulation changes, etc.) to improve them as positive re-enforcers to encourage economic growth.
Rather than punishing poorly-functioning businesses by cutting their funding and tax benefits as in done under capitalism (think of Bush’s No Child Left Behind, or Obama’s Race To The Top, which cut funding to failing schools), Project Cybersyn encouraged innovation by providing a series of instantaneous incentives to motivate the workers. It was a united, digital economy. It opened the door to economic models other than that of corporate bureaucracy and promised that workers would have both democratic control of the workplace and the national economy.