History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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R48G: Polanyi, markets and postcapitalism

December 28th, 2016 · No Comments


Polanyi’s The Great Transformation is one of the most classic texts on the question of markets, their artificial creation and their destructiveness. But we need to learn the lesson and resolve a practical strategy for a new kind of post-market economy and society. Actually, we have proposed, not abolishing markets completely but putting them in the context of a neo-communist foundation: if the conditions of private property were withdrawn from large-scale capital formations (and this could be done even in a nationalistic context of international globalization) and resulting social and political system were a mixture of multiple modes. At the point of critical climate change history has given the rebellion against the market both opportunity and license and we should multitask activist platforms to include the option of a revolutionary change of system.

Too much leftism is fixated on the working conditions of the working class and while this perspective needs a fundamental focus by any platform the larger reality is that we must move to design a system that can mediate all classes (the universal class), and aspire to an economy that is fundamentally different from what we have. We can’t assume that markets can self-regulate beyond the reality of the disaster they have created and we can’t even assume that we can assume a growth economy for the near or far future. A form of communism is deducible as the only solution to the rising contradictions. Our discussions of democratic market neo-communism are an abbreviated attempt to consider the possibilities. The potential combinations are immense and we should both study and detach from the legacy of marxist thinking, remaining careful to maintain the level of discipline offered by that canon: it is all too easy to fritter away the sharp edge of the original marxism with social democratic fancies. But at one and the same time the classics suffer their own limits, and in any case the misleading case of Russia and its bolshevik fiasco. It is hard to claim, yet we must, that the Russian case is not relevant to the newly imagined neo-communism we need to coin from the universe of possibilities. Our approach eschews utopian speculation by remorphing the possible into near equivalents. Our democractic market neo-communism is a series of such remorphed steps from a typical ‘democratic capitalism’ to a system very similar yet with a changed axiom set: the question of private property is resolved into a foundational expropriation to a Commons. This is actually the basis for a new conception of real democracy and does not require the entire abolition of markets.
Our perspective allows three/four sectors of potential: a planned sector, a market sector based on licenses from the Commons and a stance on transnational trade issues dealing with ‘as yet free capital’, an autonomous lower level of relatively diffuse possibilities. To this we must add a new form of politics that can balance strong authority with new and stronger democracy. We have a suggestion for doing that and in any case half the battle is to free politics from the control of capital in the grotesque situation we see in the American case. If the system of legalized bribery could be abolished and politicians were freed from domination of money a new and more efficient system could come about very quickly.
Such a system has many threats to its recovered sanity: from questions about its current deep state, to its covert agencies and alarming evidence of a criminal mafia at work. The obvious need to break the connection of imperialism and markets, the war economy, confounds the basic game plan with some options that only a revolution could actualize. But it is still possible in principle to realize this ‘revolution’ via an evolutionary path. In fact we have few other options until such time as the revolutionary window opens.
In any case Polanyi’s classic is one of the clearest x-rays of the situation that has all too obviously confirmed his diagnosis. But we must also shake loose of the conventional canon of stale marxism (much of which can easily be reactivated with a new set of habits) for a versioning that is fresh yet classic.
In any case the fixation of growth economies, jobs for the working class, and a revolution in their name is now a fantasy sunk by the reality of climate change and the populist capture of the working class by such as Trump.
In reality the working class is intact and our ‘universal class’ can invoke that sector as a spearhead for a new socialism, to which such an entity would certainly respond out of self-interest in the context of properly realized neo-communism. But we need a larger consideration of all classes, sectors, and social partitions. The current left has no coherent platform and feels like its situation is hopeless. But a new and comprehensive platform, evolutionary and/or revolutionary, would swiftly focus activist leftism toward the necessary resolve.
The question of climate change alone forces our hand. We must act now, or we are dead.

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