Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism

by Richard Wolff





People are looking for an alternative to capitalism and old forms of socialism/communism.

Karl Marx’s theory of the production, appropriation, and distribution of surplus – “class analysis”

What happened during FDR’s New Deal, after the Great Depression?
A lot of socialist/communist groups emerged via Congree of Industrial Orgs (CIO). Their actions prompted FDR to create a plan for big business and the rich. They were taxed to meet social welfare demands of CIO. He told business that if they refused, anti-capitalist forces would seek more fundamental change. And he told the left to be reformers, not revolutionaries. He won over both sides, though things never fundamentally changed.

What are the reasons for why there as has been no FDR-type solution for today’s capitalism crisis? 
1. decline of labor union movement and comm/soc movement
2. biz and rich have no need to compromise on tax increase
3. no existing socialism serves a model that attracts the working class

Political and economic establishment’s mainstream mantra: maintain trickle-down program with hype about government’s efforts to end crisis and wait until crisis depresses wages and costs of doing business enough that profit opportunities prompt capitalists to invest. Wait rather than pay costs of government intervention to overcome crisis. Capitalism will evntually produce and economic upturn...

What is the potential cure for capitalism and in what wages would it need to be structured?
Must consist of :
— permanent end to periodic crises
— economic system reorganized to secure greater income and wealth equality
— democratic distribution of power among individuals at workplace and communities

No more exploitation. Production of surplus appropriated and distributed by people other than its producers stopped. Much like earlier forms of class structure: lords exploiting serfs, masters exploiting slaves. Capitalism is employers exploiting wage laborers. 

The cure:
1. surplus-producing workers make decisions, be own board of directors. Capitalist enterprises become worker’s self-directed enterprises (WSDE)
2. WSDEs partner together to create interdependent orgs. Social decisions codetermined by workplace and community democracies, self-governance. Decide on: mix of private and socialized properties, mix of markets and planning for distribution, mix of representation and direct democratic decision-making.

How would WSDEs differ from traditional forms of socialism/communism? 
The crucial elements is that workplace exploitation (power imbalance) is eliminated. Workers are the appropriators and distributors of surplus. State is dependent on WSDE revenues and operation.

In WSDEs, decisions no longer primarily serve smmall subgropus (receivers of profits, dividends, etc) rather than majority majority of workers and their communities.

What would a typical WSDE worker role consist of?
Employee and employer. They would have a specific production tasks within workplace division of labor. Also, they equally participate in the design, operation, and change of the division of labor and its outputs. Mental and manual labor.

How is capitalism defined? 
1. a system in which means of production and products are privately owned, not by society
2. market – system in which resouces are distributed via exchanged between private owners, not by means of state or planned decisions.
These definitions are weak because feudalism and slavery also involved private property and market.

Freedom as a distinguishing factor of capitalism? Not even. Workers are not free because to live even minimally, they must work for others. They must sell labor power to those who own the means of production in order to survive.

Describe the instability and unevenness of capitalism.
Capitalism is unstable because growth and decline oscillate in extreme ways, e.g., busts, downturns, depressions, booms, inflations. It also develops unevenly. Wealth grows in one part of the world while another grows in poverty. Employers gain while/because employers lose. Defenders of capitalism say cyclical downturns and inherent inequality are the necessary price to be paid for economic and social progress.

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