New Directions

In my most recent post, I stated my intention to resume posting within this blog and to change its name. I also discussed some pf the reasons for these decisions. Within this article I will describe much more specifically the direction in which I plan to take this blog.

From its beginning in 2008 the purpose of this blog has been to provide a space in which I could articulate my own ideas regarding the political economic issues that have been of importance to me. At that time I attempted in several posts to present the vision of a long-standing minority tradition within the historical socialist movement which was variously represented in the forms of Associational Socialism, Anarcho-Syndicalism, and English Guild Socialism. While there were clearly differences between these traditions of socialism they all had clearly a very similar stance against the dominant statist form of modern Socialism. I chose to call this tendency Cooperative Socialism. I also attempted to point out the connection between this form of socialism and the vision of the kingdom of God held by Jesus and other important figures within Christianity. Little of this made any impact.

More recently since the so-called “Arab Spring” of 2010 my focus has shifted to issue of US foreign policy particularly in its relationship to the nation of Syria. I have been a passionate supporter of the Syrian oppositon’s struggle to end the Assad dictatorship and to replace it with a more democratic, less oppressive polical system. I have been very disappointed by the policy of the Obama administration of refusal to provide military support and aid to the moderate Syrian Free Army in its battle againt the regime. This has consequently led to the slaughter of over 170,000 Syrians and to the raise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or as it is also called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Clearly a better nominclature.

This support of a US foreign policy which actively supports the stuggles of peoples and nations against genocide and their brutalization by their own governments has been a dominant aspect of my political life at least since the 1990s. During the Bosnian War of the first half of the 90’s and the Darfur War of the mid 2000’s I worked with groups of people within Columbus Ohio in hope of defending first the Bosnian people against genocide and latter to defend the people of Dafur against the same. Unfortunately these campaigns neither at the local nor larger national level did much to change national policy.

While most people of the left would rather take on “progressive” domestic issues and ignore the struggles of peoples particularly within the Islamic world, I happen to believe that the existential battles of life and death of whole peoples have a much greater moral significance than have many of the often purely tactical political fights between this nation’s right and left. I believe that one of the most significant aspects of a politics of justice should be to support the peoples in nations such as Syria and Iraq in their struggles against their own brutalization and destruction.

As stated above I initially attempted to articulate within this blog a radical vision of what I call “cooperative socialism” within a religious context. While one of my articles called “God and Socialism” over the years has garnered many views, it has received little real response. Most of the other articles within the blog have received much less response. This has reinforced my view that “socialism” has essentially died as a motivating ideal within the West and within the United States in particular. Still I believe that the ideals of a cooperative socialism are sound. They are in fact the values of the kingdom of God (Thea within my religious faith). I also think that many of details of the concrete reality of this form of Socialism have been worked out brilliantly within the Mondragan Cooperative Corporation and other cooperative enterprises. All of which show that cooperative socialism can work within the real world and not just within the world of ideas. Therefore I hope to again begin articulating this vision within future posts within this blog, even if I have to utilize an alternative vocabulary to better articulate these visions of a just society.

I am perfectly aware that perhaps such writing will have little positive impact, however I feel that this is what I am perhaps called to do. I think that it makes more sense to write about what passionately interests me than to follow what every one else is doing. I do of course have an interest in issues that are more mainstream and domestic in nature and I will probably comment on them here as well. But in the more immediate future they will not take priority status.

Religion also will continue to be a part of the mix. This blog is not be a theological blog. But to the degree that religious authors write on subjects which relate to issues of justice and to the degree that religious ideas impact positively on the political, economic, and cultural issues of the day, I will discuss them here.

I of course am perfectly aware that any attempts in modern political discourse to interconnect the issues of politics and religion is viewed with deep suspicion in the West and particularly within the secular Left. Many in the West of course reject religious belief in principle and believe that it should play no role in public life. Many religious persons also reject it because they believe that religious belief and spirituality is primarily a private, apolitical, purely spiritual thing which is not really properly related to the concrete political, economic world.

Such a belief is a falsity. Traditional Islam on the contrary has always believed that the laws of Allah (Sharia) should rule not only over the lives of individual believers but over the life of society as well. The Jewish tradition historically has seen the Torah as having a similar authority over the Jewish Nation. And even within Christianity it has been believed that principles of justice to the poor and oppressed within society have been mandated by God. Confucianism, certain forms of Taoism, and Buddhism also traditionally held that religious belief does and should have worldly social consequences.

The idea of a complete separation of religious principles from a primarily secular society has been an unfortunate interpretation of the enlightenment vision of the principle of the Separation of Church and State which was first developed within the Protestant world of the Netherlands, England, and the United States. The separation of church and state was a positive response to the wars of religion that raged over Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries and religious tyranny which reigned over much of Europe through out its history. The extreme idea that religious principles have no right to any role in political discourse or influence in society is radical modernist premise of a radical secularism which seeks to end any role for religion in society.

As an American I believe deeply in the Constitutional separation of Church and State and reject all forms of religious intolerance. However I also believe that religious believers have the moral right to attempt to support legislation and laws via democratic means which they believe are in accordance with the will of God. Of course within this society the Christian Right has been most famous for its ability to channel its religious passions toward political agendas. While I reject almost all aspects of the politics of the Christian Right, I have not problem in principle with their attempts via democratic means to push their political agenda.

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New Directions

In my most recent post, I stated my intention to resume posting within this blog and to change its name. I also discussed some pf the reasons for these decisions. Within this article I will describe much more specifically the direction in which I plan to take this blog.

From its beginning in 2008 the purpose of this blog has been to provide a space in which I could articulate my own ideas regarding the political economic issues that have been of importance to me. At that time I attempted in several posts to present the vision of a long-standing minority tradition within the historical socialist movement which was variously represented in the forms of Associational Socialism, Anarcho-Syndicalism, and English Guild Socialism. While there were clearly differences between these traditions of socialism they all had clearly a very similar stance against the dominant statist form of modern Socialism. I chose to call this tendency Cooperative Socialism. I also attempted to point out the connection between this form of socialism and the vision of the kingdom of God held by Jesus and other important figures within Christianity. Little of this made any impact.

More recently since the so-called “Arab Spring” of 2010 my focus has shifted to issue of US foreign policy particularly in its relationship to the nation of Syria. I have been a passionate supporter of the Syrian oppositon’s struggle to end the Assad dictatorship and to replace it with a more democratic, less oppressive polical system. I have been very disappointed by the policy of the Obama administration of refusal to provide military support and aid to the moderate Syrian Free Army in its battle againt the regime. This has consequently led to the slaughter of over 170,000 Syrians and to the raise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or as it is also called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Clearly a better nominclature.

This support of a US foreign policy which actively supports the stuggles of peoples and nations against genocide and their brutalization by their own governments has been a dominant aspect of my political life at least since the 1990s. During the Bosnian War of the first half of the 90’s and the Darfur War of the mid 2000’s I worked with groups of people within Columbus Ohio in hope of defending first the Bosnian people against genocide and latter to defend the people of Dafur against the same. Unfortunately these campaigns neither at the local nor larger national level did much to change national policy.

While most people of the left would rather take on “progressive” domestic issues and ignore the struggles of peoples particularly within the Islamic world, I happen to believe that the existential battles of life and death of whole peoples have a much greater moral significance than have many of the often purely tactical political fights between this nation’s right and left. I believe that one of the most significant aspects of a politics of justice should be to support the peoples in nations such as Syria and Iraq in their struggles against their own brutalization and destruction.

As stated above I initially attempted to articulate within this blog a radical vision of what I call “cooperative socialism” within a religious context. While one of my articles called “God and Socialism” over the years has garnered many views, it has received little real response. Most of the other articles within the blog have received much less response. This has reinforced my view that “socialism” has essentially died as a motivating ideal within the West and within the United States in particular. Still I believe that the ideals of a cooperative socialism are sound. They are in fact the values of the kingdom of God (Thea within my religious faith). I also think that many of details of the concrete reality of this form of Socialism have been worked out brilliantly within the Mondragan Cooperative Corporation and other cooperative enterprises. All of which show that cooperative socialism can work within the real world and not just within the world of ideas. Therefore I hope to again begin articulating this vision within future posts within this blog, even if I have to utilize an alternative vocabulary to better articulate these visions of a just society.

I am perfectly aware that perhaps such writing will have little positive impact, however I feel that this is what I am perhaps called to do. I think that it makes more sense to write about what passionately interests me than to follow what every one else is doing. I do of course have an interest in issues that are more mainstream and domestic in nature and I will probably comment on them here as well. But in the more immediate future they will not take priority status.

Religion also will continue to be a part of the mix. This blog is not be a theological blog. But to the degree that religious authors write on subjects which relate to issues of justice and to the degree that religious ideas impact positively on the political, economic, and cultural issues of the day, I will discuss them here.

I of course am perfectly aware that any attempts in modern political discourse to interconnect the issues of politics and religion is viewed with deep suspicion in the West and particularly within the secular Left. Many in the West of course reject religious belief in principle and believe that it should play no role in public life. Many religious persons also reject it because they believe that religious belief and spirituality is primarily a private, apolitical, purely spiritual thing which is not really properly related to the concrete political, economic world.

Such a belief is a falsity. Traditional Islam on the contrary has always believed that the laws of Allah (Sharia) should rule not only over the lives of individual believers but over the life of society as well. The Jewish tradition historically has seen the Torah as having a similar authority over the Jewish Nation. And even within Christianity it has been believed that principles of justice to the poor and oppressed within society have been mandated by God. Confucianism, certain forms of Taoism, and Buddhism also traditionally held that religious belief does and should have worldly social consequences.

The idea of a complete separation of religious principles from a primarily secular society has been an unfortunate interpretation of the enlightenment vision of the principle of the Separation of Church and State which was first developed within the Protestant world of the Netherlands, England, and the United States. The separation of church and state was a positive response to the wars of religion that raged over Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries and religious tyranny which reigned over much of Europe through out its history. The extreme idea that religious principles have no right to any role in political discourse or influence in society is radical modernist premise of a radical secularism which seeks to end any role for religion in society.

As an American I believe deeply in the Constitutional separation of Church and State and reject all forms of religious intolerance. However I also believe that religious believers have the moral right to attempt to support legislation and laws via democratic means which they believe are in accordance with the will of God. Of course within this society the Christian Right has been most famous for its ability to channel its religious passions toward political agendas. While I reject almost all aspects of the politics of the Christian Right, I have not problem in principle with their attempts via democratic means to push their political agenda.

Regarding Center Socialism

Center Socialism is a term I coined myself to name my particular way of being Socialist. Of course that has never been the only  name possible. I could also call myself a Socialist Centrist or even a Conservative Socialist. I have some respect for the old European conservatisms of men such as Otto Von Bismark and Edmond Burke, however,  given the barbarism  and moral decadence of the modern conservative movement that would be highly misleading.

Of course historically socialists have almost always described themselves of being on the political Left either on the liberal left in this nation or in the Marxist Leninist  totalitarian left. There is also of a very small libertarian / anarchist left as well.

Why a Center Socialist? Well I am a socialist. My vision of a just society is that of a cooperative socialist society in which the dominate means of production is in the hands of the majority population of worker / owners of cooperative property. The very large modern Mondragon Cooperative Corporation is, I believe, the best successful model of what a future socialist economy might look like. Carl Davidson a Co-Chair of the “Committees of Correspondence for Democrasy and Socialism”  has written  a very good article “Eleven Talking Points on a 21st Century Socialism”  which is close to how I would envision a socialist future. This is the case even as I suspect my politics deviate significantly from Carl Davidson’s more Marxist orientation.

So much for the socialist vision. However socialism to be a real ideology must include more than a plausible vision. A socialist world view must also have a concept of long term strategy and tactics . It must answer such questions as “how do we get from an unjust capitalist society to a just socialist society and which social forces might carry us forward. It also includes many practical questions such as what attitudes should socialists take toward cultural forces such as religious institutions, the family, concepts of gender, morality and general cultural production.

In most of these areas as my life continues I find myself increasingly on the side of what can be called the cultural center. In facing the realm of practical national politics I generally find my self supporting the pragmatic “left of center positions” of the pragmatic Hilliary Clintons and the Barack Obamas of this nation. Of course there is a place for the advocacy of the best positions such as that of a national single payer health insurance plan. However in the end I am with those who choose not to  reject good but not perfect policies in the name of the ideal.

I am an officer in the Social Democrats USA, though few members of that organization would describe themselves as Center Socialists.

Glenn King

Taking Over the Democratic Party

 
The Social Democrats USA has recently made national news or at least into the Glenn Beck show which is almost as good. On his April 22 program right  tea party leader Glenn Beck attempted to further build his  case that President Obama is a socialist  by attempting to tie Obama to the now defunct radical reform organization ACORN and its executive director Bertha Lewis. Mrs. Lewis who evidently is a democratic socialist spoke at gathering of the Young Democratic Socialists the youth arm  of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) in March. At the gathering Bertha Lewis called for DSA members to build the organization and recruit new members. Since Barack Obama as have many other Democratic leaders has  had a  positive relationship to ACORN prior a series of  scandals within the organization during the last few years, Mr. Beck easily scored several propaganda points. As propaganda the argument of guilt by association normally works for those who wish to believe the main story line. Next to top it off Beck showed  a citation from the web site of the old Social Democrats USA, which calls for the Social Democrats USA to be a “party within a party” ie a caucus within the Democratic Party. The implications for Beck of this were obvious. The Democratic Party  is infiltrated by and ultimately controlled by dangerous socialist elements of the Social Democrats USA. Use link http://video.foxnews.com/v/4162511/the-one-thing-422
for the full Beck ACORN presentation and use  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ek7_oUUtzqc
for a very short version.
 
Would that this were true! However some unfortunate facts need to be stated. The first of which is that in December of 2009 a schism occurred within the Social Democrats USA and Gabe Ross the executive director of the SD USA was fired from his position by the organization’s  full National Executive Committee. The division that occurred between the NEC and its executive director was due to an increasing tendency by Mr Ross to use methods  of slander and the demonization of   board members who disagreed with him over often minor political issues. That behavior when combined with Mr. Ross’s often deliberate refusals to implement NEC decisions and his unilateral expulsions of NEC members made his continuation in his post of Executive Director an impossibility. Unfortunately since Gabe Ross controlled the SD USA web site, the NEC leadership  had to develop an alternative web site called “Social Democracy for the 21th Century.” Unfortunately this new web site due at least partially from legal harrasment from Mr. Ross  is still not up and running. Hopefully that will change soon. This does not  mean that most of the statements on social democratic political strategy, tactics and writings on the old Gabe Ross controlled site do not represent much of the thinking of the legitimate SD USA. On the contrary much on the old site was written and developed by such notable Social Democratic NEC members as David Hacker the party’s historian.
 
Now that this is clarified, a few more points regarding the SD,USA’s supposed control of the Democratic Party must be made. Unfortunately  while the Social Democrats USA is the direct lineal descendent of the old historical Socialist Party of America of such leading members  as Eugene Debs, Norman Thompson and Helen Keller, history has not been kind to the organization.  Since the party changed its name in 1972 and its loss of members to two secession movements the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee – latter to become  DSA, and another movement which became the Socialist Party USA;  the SD USA has lost membership. Thus the Gabe Ross schism of the Social Democrats USA which so impresses Glen Beck probably has less than 20 paid members. Its activist core is evidently much lower. Glenn Beck would have been advised to have done his homework more thoroughly.
Thus it is  ironic even funny that it is the old Social Democrats USA web site that Glen Beck used to show the supposed infiltration and control of the Democratic Party by dangerous social democratic elements. However on the optimistic side Glenn Beck has done a great job of getting the Social Democrats USA  in the news even if for now the schismatic group has gotten the balk of attention. That scarcely matters in the long run the party as a whole will  benefit.
 

Socialism and anarchism as spiritualiy and religion

 
 
The below named article was written by Ed ( I do not know his last name) who publishes the Yoda is I’s blog. It link is http://yodaami.wordpress.com
I think that the author makes several excellent points. First he argues I think correctly that ideologies such as socialism and anarchism are simply other forms that the human religious impulse can take. I also believe that his take on the religious type of fanaticism that in general has dominated Marxist Leninism is completely sound. Finally to the degree that one believes that the world is a battle ground between the forces of good vs. evil, I think that his analysis of how evil subverts good intentions is in fact how it is often done.
 
Glenn
 

Socialism and anarchism as spirituality and religion

Wednesday, December 30, 2009, 2:41:10 AM | EdGo to full article

Many people think of socialism and anarchism as being opposed to spirituality and religion. But if you look carefully, you can see that they are just other forms of spirituality and religion. The ideals of the French Revolution, “Liberty, Equality, Cooperation”, are a holy mantra. They are utopian in the sense that they strive to create heaven on earth. They are powerful ideas, but they can be used to mobilize people for good or evil, just like other religions.

Socialists may believe in science, dialectics, economics, the working class, the inevitability of socialism as part of their faith. They have hymns, like “The International”. They have saints, like Marx, Engels, Kroptokin, and so on. They have scriptures that explain the beliefs of their religion. Some sects fight holy wars against their opponents. There are frequent splits and accusations of heresy. And, in general, they are sincerely inspired by a spiritual calling to ease the suffering of others, by their compassion for their fellow humans. And, ironically, just like religions, some of them end up killing and torturing people, and justify it as necessary to defend the faith and to establish God’s kingdom on earth. I’m going to name names here, and call them “Leninists”. These are the Crusaders, the Jesuits, the Inquisitors of the socialist movement, whose Machiavellianism and fanaticism have given socialism a bad name. The blood of millions is on their hands, some of it direct and intentional, some of it the result of their bungled attempts at micro-managing society.

Why does this always happen? My theory is that God or some force of goodness inspires people to do good, and they proceed with good intentions, but the forces of evil subvert these good intentions with fanaticism, which turns them into something horrible and evil. Or else it’s because mentally unbalanced people are attracted to these ideas for the wrong reasons (a thirst for power, a desire to play God, delusions of grandeur, egomania) and their maniacal zeal earns them positions of leadership.

But in general, socialism and anarchism are motivated by the same desire to do good and save humanity from suffering that religions are based on.

Themes of Work, Power, and Freedom

work at clocksThis article is an attempt to look at both capitalism and cooperative socialism in relation to the themes of freedom, power, and community. This article is not the normal type of literature which comes out of the modern socialist movement. It does represent how I think on these issues however. Further more I think that perhaps Christianity is also to a certain degree concerned about issues of freedom, power, and community. If I am correct in this then the discussion of these themes might be one way to think about the relationship between socialism and Christianity.
Note. I have spent most of my adult life working  in the human services branch of county government. Certainly many of the generalization that I make are based on my own experience in government and on my observations of the experience of those  around me. I have always been a line staff person and never in management. My current income is what I would call middle middle class. Therefore I suspect the situation of a majority of workers in relationship to power, freedom, and community is similar to mine.  However I am also aware that many higher status, professional workers often see themselves as in some sense privileged and may think that my analyses is skewed. What can I say? My thoughts are based on what I experience and on the best of my understanding.
Glenn
Themes of freedom, power, and community
Most Americans believe that we live in a “free” society. The United States is the land of the “free.” “Freedom” is one of the most important words in this nation’s political lexicon and most Americans take pride in the fact that America is a “free” society. I want to start out by examining this idea of American freedom. First I want to state that I believe that the American idea of freedom is not in fact a delusional concept. It is real. Traditional American concepts of freedom, ideas that have to do with ideas of limited, representative government,  traditional ideas of freedom of religion, democracy, the freedom to peaceably assemble, and freedom from arbitrary state power are all valid concepts. They all have a certain degree of reality within the context of American society. They are not fictitious concepts. Americans have a right to feel pride in these freedoms.
While these freedoms are real, it is also a reality that there are aspects of American life which are lived in the antithesis of “freedom.” This realm of life centers primarily within the economic sphere of work and workplace. It is characterized more by freedom’s opposites, unfreedom, servitude, and submission. To initiate  discussion of this realm I will  start  by suggesting some definitions of “freedom.” This is  not easily done because freedom is generally not defined precisely by most people. However in spite of this, we can make some generalizations. Most people define freedom in primarily negative terms. Freedom is experienced as the lack of arbitrary oppressive restraints and limitations to one’s actions. Thus in America freedom is defined by the relative absence of governmental restraints on life, liberty, the use of property,etc. Often in the  conservative political lexicon, freedom is simply identified as an absence of governmental power or interference in one’s life.
However lets attempt to define freedom positively. One definition is that freedom is the ability of people and individuals to do what they want to do independent of institutional controls. Again in the American context the primary limitations of this freedom are normally seen as coming from government, the power of arbitrary religion, or  cultural limitations such as racism or sexism. What is intrinsically interesting about this is that the structure of the economic system or the  structures of individual companies and corporations are very seldom viewed as in any way limitations on the freedom of the individual worker or of people. In fact even within the political Left, economic oppression is normally seen as being only about the unequal distribution of economic resources. Left liberal analysis or even socialist analysis seldom questions the unjust and dictatorial structure both of the workplace and of economic institutions.
Yet this is what must be done. The real limitations of freedom in the modern world of advanced capitalism in fact comes not from the governmental realm but instead from the very nature of capitalist society itself. To initiate an analysis of the unfreedom that is built into the workplaces and economic institutions of capitalism one must first deal with the issue of “power.” Freedom can not be defined adequately in separation from the concept of power. The freedom to act in a certain way, the freedom to do as one desires only exists if one has the power or authority to do those things. If the  power or authority that another has over you prevents you  from doing what you want to do in the way in which you want to do it  then you are not free at least not in that immediate social context.
The capitalist work place of course is a system of structured power relationships in which the majority of workers in fact have little power over either the immediate workplace and certainly none over the over all direction of the firms and businesses which “employ” them. They do not make decisions either collectively or individually regarding the workplace or regarding the overall economic direction of the firms which employ them.
Thus in their lifes as workers they are not free. To characterize the situation further. Except for those born to wealth all people within capitalist societies must sell their labor to either the state, non profit organizations, or  more commonly capitalist firms in order to live. For the vast majority of people no real alternative to working for a weekly paycheck  exists. During the work day, often eight to ten hours, one is not free in any meaningful sense. One’s status is one of subordination to the economic firm to whom one is employed. One lives at the beck and call of one’s supervisor, boss, the production schedule, etc. The rules of the work environment is controlled by a corporate hierarchy which generally views its employees as an expendable resource, as a factor of production.
All of this of course explains many aspects of American life and particularly how Americans define freedom. Freedom in the American context is always about how one spends one’s “leisure” time. It is about the power of the consumer; it is about the beautiful automobile that symbolizes one’s freedom. It is about the golden years of secure retirement which is freedom; it is about one’s freedom as a consumer ala Milton Friedman. It is about one’s clothing styles, one’s sexual life style; i.e. it is about every thing except work.
Furthermore, freedom is almost always  defined as an individual good and not  communally. It has little to do with community. Now lets look at the issue of community within the context of American capitalist society. It is often stated, I believe correctly, that community has declined as an aspect of life within this society. What does this mean? What is this “community” which has declined.? There seems to be two primary ways of defining community. One form of community is what can be called organic or traditional community. By this I mean the traditional  hunting and gathering, horticultural, or agrarian village communities in which the vast majorities of human beings have lived through most of human history. These small scale traditional communities in which ties of kinship, common religious values, cultural ties, common political and economic activities united people in a deep net of relationships,.this form of community  scarcely exists within the United States any longer. The closest this nation has to this sort of community are the old ethnic working class communities of past generations.
However the increasing suburbanization and corporate individualization of people is increasingly erasing this sort of community from American life. What then functions as community for Americans? Church and organized religion? Religion is one of the strongest sources of “intentional” community in America. However since most church members share little of their lifes together either by ways of kinship, or in common economic or political activities; the actual communal bonds created by modern American religion are in general rather weak. The other great source of communal bonds are the friendships and relationships that Americans experience which come from out of the workplace. This is true in spite of all that has been said previously about the oppressive nature of the capitalist workplace. It is true because in spite of its oppressive aspects
the workplace is still the place in which most people spend the greatest amount to their waking lifes. Therefore one would expect the workplace to be the source of many of the most important human communal relationships. In fact the work place in many ways is the modern equivalent of the tradition village in which the common work and shared life of the villagers was the norm.
Unfortunately the positive potential of the workplace as the basis of modern community has been severely compromised by its unfree nature and its hierarchical dictatorial structure. This is why for instance are there so few television shows such as “The Office” in which the life of work is shown as a dominating aspect of social life. The reason as is portrayed in “The Office” is that  generally the work place is not experienced by  workers as a place of freedom or as a place in which to express one’s creativity through work. Thus “The Office” wonderfully shows both the beautiful potential and the down side of normal work life. It shows the community that the work life creates and also the arbitrary problematic forces that work again it. Interestingly the character Michael Scott  the boss of the office is both the hero who always strives to create community within the workplace setting which simultaneously his arbitrary and often bizare actions undercut it.
To summarize, Cooperativism wishes to destroy the dictatorship of capitalist control of the workplace. It seeks to end capitalist power and replace it with worker control over the economic institutions of society. The purpose of work within a Cooperativist society will be not just to receive a bi weekly paycheck. It will also be about the expression of one ability to make decisions, to express one’s power and creativity through one’s work. The surplus value of the cooperative firms of a Socialist society will accrue to the worker owners by adding to  the firms capital base. Finally because the workplace will be experienced as being a place of freedom and self determination it will also be experienced as one of community.

Glenn King

An Alternative Socialism

lady-justiceWhile the headline in a national news weekly recently started with an article entitled “We Are All Socialists Now,” the reality is obviously quite different. From all appearances Capitalism has won the ideological war against socialism which began when socialism took the world stage during the first half of the 19th century. Capitalism of some sort seems to most people particularly within the United States to be the natural destiny of humanity. However while capitalism won the war against the brutal perversion of socialism called communism and while the great social democratic parties of Europe seem to have given up on any socialist vision greater than that of a mixed social democratic economy, the instinct for social justice, human equality, community, and freedom that socialism historically has tried to realize has not died. The sparks of socialism still survive within  small groups and  within individuals in the United States and many other parts of the world. As the current world recession, energy, ecological and global warming crisis show; world capitalism’s future is not assured. Socialism could ultimately win the last war.
However a precondition for that victory must be a rethinking of the socialist vision. Most Americans and in fact most of the world’s people still imagine that socialism is primarily about the power of the state being utilized to dominate or control the economic direction of societies. This certainly has been the dominant conception of the Marxian and Fabian forms of socialism. Both European Social Democracy and Soviet Communism envisioned future socialist societies as being  based on statist models of  governmental ownership and control of all of the economic activities of society. Little if any role existed in either model for private enterprises or for companies which were directly owned and managed by workers themselves. The primary difference between these two was that Communism supported the totalitarian communist state and Social Democracy supported the western liberal democratic state. These are important differences.
However  historically other powerful minority forms of socialism  have existed which envisioned  alternative non statist models of a socialist future.   The socialist movement of  19th century France was dominated by “associational socialism” which foresaw a future socialist society in which workers themselves through their labor associations would ultimately take control of society. The economy of this future socialist society would be dominated by  worker owned and managed cooperatives / companies. Latter in the late 1800s and early 20th century this associative or cooperative socialism transformed into revolutionary anarcho syndicalism.  Anarcho syndicalism still  held the same basic socialist vision of a free society directly controlled by workers themselves however.   Spain and Italy were also dominated by anarchist ideals which also rejected the vision  of socialism  in which the state / government would hold absolute power over the economic institutions of society. In stead the socialism of these nations advocated a socialism of free producers or associations as did the French.
In the United States the socialist movement dominated by the Socialist Party of America reached its high point of influence in the early decades of the 20th century. Early American socialism seemed to take an intermediate position  between the purely statist concept of socialism and the more syndicalist forms of socialism. Out side of the American socialist movement during the 19th century  at least two movements one dominated primarily by American farmers and the other dominated primarily by American workers  developed ideas similar to that of Southern European socialism. These were the Knights of Labor one of the first and largest national labor unions that developed during the 19th century  and the other being People’s Party the agrarian party of reform which represented the interest of the impoverished  farmers of the American South and West. Both of these movements before they collapsed in the 1890s held a strong belief in economic cooperatives as the solution to the  “wage slavery”  of workers and the  poverty of indebted small farmers. Both typified the desire of workers and farmers for an economic system that  would incorporate the values of economic democracy and worker self management.
In France the anarcho syndicalist movement reached its height during the first decade of the 20th century and then disintegrated. The anarchists of Italy  fell together with the socialists before Mussolini’s fascists in the  1920s. The powerful anarcho syndicalist Spanish labor unions and anarchist dominated villages fell before General Franco’s fascist troops during the Spanish Civil War. From  that point in history it appeared that the alternative socialist tradition had been cast into the dust bin of history.
  However the vision of a worker self managed society or of economic democracy while it  ceased to be embeded in powerful  political movements continued in another form. Large numbers of workers and reformers beginning  in the 1800’s while avoiding politics and revolutionary rhetoric  worked hard to develop various  forms of  worker owned and managed businesses / cooperatives which have been  economically successful though out the world. These businesses if they were small often  are operated on principles of direct democracy by their worker owners. If large they are commonly governed  by workers councils elected by worker owners.  In general the worker councils of large cooperatives often having hundreds of workers  will hire a team of professional managers which instead of being to accountable to stockholders are ultimately responsible to  the worker owners of the company.
Today thousands worker owned cooperatives through out the world successfully compete for markets and customers. These cooperatives which are of many kinds agricultural, consumer, producer, service, etc have not become the dominant economic sector in the modern world. However many have become very successful in competing in the hostile environment of capitalism, Some  examples are the strong worker cooperative movement in the Emilia Romagna area of Northeast Italy. Of the 7500 cooperatives in this area over two thirds are worker owned. Over 10% of the work force in the region is employed by cooperatives. In Switzerland two of the largest supermarket chains Migros and Coop are in cooperative form. In Japan over 14 million citizens are members of the consumer cooperative movement.
However  the most successful example of worker owned cooperative success is the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation  head quartered in the town of Mondragon Spain. In 1956  five workers who had been trained at a technical school founded  by the Roman Catholic priest Don Jose Maria Aristmendi developed the first worker owed cooperative ULGOR to produce kerosene stoves. The company initially employed 24  worker owners. Now the world wide Mondragon Cooperative Corporation employs over 85,000 workers in various industries  in nations such as Brazil and China through out the world. The Mondragon Cooperative Corporation includes a united system of  self managing banks, insurance companies , a university and many other economic enterprises. Currently the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation is the 7th largest corporation in Spain. The example of the Mondragon and other successful examples of worker ownership and self management give the lie to the commonly held belief that workers simply do not have the ability to manage their own workplaces and companies. They give evidence that a different form of civilization is possible.
As this brief historical summery shows the statist form of socialism which is in fact what most Americans think of when they think of socialism has never been the only form of socialism. Another alternative form of the socialist vision has also existed.  I would argue that it is this alternative vision of socialism with which the future of the socialist movement lies. This is not to suggest that the anarchists, the syndicalists etc had all the right ideas. The political strategies developed by  these movements were extremely  flawed thus causing their  ultimate dismiss. Social Democracy in the form of the German Social Democratic Party, the France Socialist Party and the British Labor party were strategically much wiser in their overall championship of reforms which would help workers immediately. However I believe that the basic motivational vision of socialism lies in its vision of a free and just society in which workers themselves own the means of production. This is the liberatory vision of the alternative socialism in which the future lies.
Glenn King