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Socialism, Anarchism, Communism, the Future of Online Leftism

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So recently the mother and father of post-millennial Leftism got together in a stream to chat about the discourse and get out the vote ahead of the final presidential debate. I'll link below:

Vaush is gonna be debating Tim Pool IRL in a week, and I've heard rumors Noam Chomsky is going to be appearing on his stream soon (hopefully premortem), and it's all just got me thinking about the future of leftism. It seems like we've finally got the technology for a proper global movement, and the number of young people that are becoming politically engaged has more momentum behind it than I've ever seen in my lifetime. What do they call that, "material conditions?"

I've seen socialism go from a borderline slur to a viable political label in just the past decade, and as cringey as that "The Squad" shit is, I am really optimistic about the success of representatives like AOC and Ilhan Omar who are not only able to survive repping their constituents to the detriment of the PAC money interests, but seem to thrive on it. I feel like people are finally starting to pay attention.

Anyway I know there's already a pretty active thread about politics, but I wanted to hear people's thoughts on this specific issue. How do you identify politically? (ie socialist, anarchist, communist, classic Dem/Rep) How do you feel about the American fat left? Antifa? The political engagement or lack thereof? Republicans welcome too, I'm curious to hear what right-leaning people think if there are any around.

Edited by SaltyGnosis

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I think they are basically LARPers. Neither the squad, nor Bernie Sanders, nor the new young left actually want to abolish capitalism, they just want increased government services, and like the red aesthetic. To my mind that's a good thing! I think abolishing capitalism would be awful but remaking the US in the image of Denmark yes please.

I think Republicans have a lot of the blame for this since they've called everything socialist for a while now and a lot of young people took the message, if wanting univeral healthcare and affordable college education is  socialist then I guess I am one. Ask most people who self identify that way, hell ask Bernie Sanders himself, "what does socialism mean to you?" and they'll say Europe, Denmark. But those countries economies are still fundamentally capitalist. Socialism is not the goverment doing things, it's the workers controlling the means of production and remaking the economy from as system based on capital. Maybe American defintions are too messed up for that to matter, but I worry appropriating the socialist label will make these policies toxic to a large portion of the electorate.

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On 10/25/2020 at 12:15 AM, Darzin said:

I think they are basically LARPers. Neither the squad, nor Bernie Sanders, nor the new young left actually want to abolish capitalism, they just want increased government services, and like the red aesthetic. To my mind that's a good thing! I think abolishing capitalism would be awful but remaking the US in the image of Denmark yes please.

I think Republicans have a lot of the blame for this since they've called everything socialist for a while now and a lot of young people took the message, if wanting univeral healthcare and affordable college education is  socialist then I guess I am one. Ask most people who self identify that way, hell ask Bernie Sanders himself, "what does socialism mean to you?" and they'll say Europe, Denmark. But those countries economies are still fundamentally capitalist. Socialism is not the goverment doing things, it's the workers controlling the means of production and remaking the economy from as system based on capital. Maybe American defintions are too messed up for that to matter, but I worry appropriating the socialist label will make these policies toxic to a large portion of the electorate.

The young left has no truck with the Cold War paradigm of capitalism v. socialism, so they're unlikely to be moved by appeals to the "scariness" of socialism. That's a good thing. I think it's safe to say that we're in late-stage capitalism, and we need to construct a glide-path to somewhere.

Edited by The Great Unwashed

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"Imagining the End of Capitalism With Kim Stanley Robinson"

https://jacobinmag.com/2020/10/kim-stanley-robinson-ministry-future-science-fiction/

It is a long read.

Quote

 

... First, I would want to make a distinction between economics and political economy, because by and large, economics as it’s practiced now is the study of capitalism. It takes the axioms of capitalism as givens and then tries to work from those to various ameliorations and tweaks to the system that would make for a better capitalism, but they don’t question the fundamental axioms: everybody’s in it for themselves, everybody pursues their own self-interest, which will produce the best possible outcomes for everybody. These axioms are highly questionable, and they come out of the eighteenth century or are even older, and they don’t match with modern social science or history itself in terms of how we behave, and they don’t value the natural biosphere properly, and they tend to encourage short-term extractive gain and short-term interests. These are philosophical positions that are expressed as though they are fixed or are nature itself, when in reality they are made by culture....

...I would say the Left has to fight fire with fire. Right-wing ideas are also conceptions of globalization, in terribly poor disguises as being nationalist. But the nationalist system is embedded in capitalism; it’s just completely international and global. These right-wingers, if they could make an extra dime an hour by selling out national citizens by sending their industries to China or India — they’d do it in a second, and they already have. So they need to be called out for being completely inconsistent and hypocritical. And the Left needs to be much more aggressive on that, and say the problem is not globalization per se; the problem is bad globalization, which is capitalism, as opposed to good globalization, which is mutual aid and cooperation among the nation states by way of international treaties and things like the UN.

Because saving the biosphere doesn’t make a profit in the capitalist order, we will never do it, and we are therefore doomed....

The Paris Agreement is crucial. It’s a major event in world history. It could turn into the League of Nations, in which case we’re screwed. Or it could turn into something new in history, a way to decarbonize without playing the zero-sum game of nation against nation.

So all this needs to be fought at the level of the discursive battle, and no concessions can be made on that point. I mean, right-wing thinking is supremely hypocritical and convoluted and self-contradictory, and that needs to be pushed on and pointed out at every chance — these supposed nationalists are also going to sell you out. This discursive battle, it’s very important....

 

 

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Quote

the fundamental axioms: everybody’s in it for themselves, everybody pursues their own self-interest, which will produce the best possible outcomes for everybody.

I'm assuming this is the KSR quote, correct me if I'm wrong.  Super straw man.   No one says free markets produce the best possible outcome for Everybody.   I happen to believe that having a free economy means that most people are better off than if the economy were centralized, so let's do that while still having compassion for those who either can't make it on their own or even just had bum luck, but also let's not incentivize free riders. 

Free markets used to be a leftist thing, weren't they?  From what I remember from our Marxism thread from the summer, capitalism was a necessary step towards our glorious socialist future.  Karl didn't talk much about the camps needed for a command economy, but then I wonder what he would have actually thought about Leninism if he were caught outside the power structure.

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7 hours ago, mcbigski said:

I happen to believe that having a free economy means that most people are better off than if the economy were centralized, so let's do that while still having compassion for those who either can't make it on their own or even just had bum luck, but also let's not incentivize free riders.

Lots to unpack here.

For starters, one would have to define "better off" to make sure we're talking about the same thing.

Then, one would have to point out that mixed economic systems are the successful ones. Thankfully there is no such thing as a "free economy" (that can't work), and Marxism-Leninism has pretty much disappeared, except perhaps in North Korea. So there's a false dichotocmy here.

Lastly, one would wonder about the obsession of the right for "free riders," which were never by themselves a significant problem. It's even worse today, in a situation where we have too much production rather than too little.
To reformulate this point: we're close to everyone acknowledging the ncessity of a universal basic income, and not just on the left.

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13 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

Then, one would have to point out that mixed economic systems are the successful ones. Thankfully there is no such thing as a "free economy" (that can't work), and Marxism-Leninism has pretty much disappeared, except perhaps in North Korea. So there's a false dichotocmy here.

Shouldn’t we be arguing for mixed economies then, not for pure “socialism” with command style governance of the economy?

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8 hours ago, mcbigski said:

I'm assuming this is the KSR quote, correct me if I'm wrong.  Super straw man.   No one says free markets produce the best possible outcome for Everybody.   I happen to believe that having a free economy means that most people are better off than if the economy were centralized, so let's do that while still having compassion for those who either can't make it on their own or even just had bum luck, but also let's not incentivize free riders. 

While the phrasing KSR chose for the 3rd axiom is unfortunately sloppy, it's fairly easy to tweak it to preserve the intent and message while also rendering it factually true. KSR could instead have said something like: "capitalism produces more wealth than any other possible economic system. An increase in wealth implies better outcomes for the aggregate of humanity than would be possible under any other system". You're therefore able to preserve the meaning without mischaracterizing the stated positions of capitalism.

I do have a follow-up question about having compassion for those who can't make it on their own while also disincentivizing free riders. How do you tell the difference? How does anyone? 

Also, do you think it's possible that individuals espousing an economic system based primarily on competition and personal self-interest above all else may be far more inclined to be suspicious about claims made by people about the bad luck they experienced and/or their inability to thrive in such a system? Could such entrenched beliefs in a system and culture that tends to lionize "winners" and despise "losers" inadvertently lead to policies regarding assistance that are far more concerned with catching the five free riders rather than lifting up the other 95 people who have fallen through the cracks?

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35 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Shouldn’t we be arguing for mixed economies then, not for pure “socialism” with command style governance of the economy?

There are lots of flavors of socialism that don't involve command economies.

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38 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Shouldn’t we be arguing for mixed economies then, not for pure “socialism” with command style governance of the economy?

That's the problem with all these conversations. Socialism has an image problem and nobody appears to be talking about the same thing. Something that seems communist to an american might seem absolutely normal to a european, and wouldn't be regarded as socialist. 

Isn't it always about what type of mix you want of capitalism rather than ditching the whole thing?

Ok sometimes there are those who want to ditch the whole thing, but there is a reason why that generally gets a lot of pushback. 

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4 minutes ago, The Great Unwashed said:

There are lots of flavors of socialism that don't involve command economies.

That’s great.  How do you have State ownership of all property without a command style top down economy?

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7 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

That’s great.  How do you have State ownership of all property without a command style top down economy?

There are also lots of flavors of socialism that don't involve a state at all. :cheers:

Edited by The Great Unwashed

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3 minutes ago, The Great Unwashed said:

There are also lots of flavors of socialism that don't involve a state at all. :cheers:

Really?  I like “employee ownership (collective ownership)” of individual businesses.  But how is that different from corporate capitalism?

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1 hour ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

That’s great.  How do you have State ownership of all property without a command style top down economy?

Socialism is not "state ownership," it's "common/collective   ownerhip/management" of the means of production.

No offense Scot, but please do try to know the basics, because it feels like I've been telling you this for years now, and it obviously still isn't sinking in.

1 hour ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Really?  I like “employee ownership (collective ownership)” of individual businesses.  But how is that different from corporate capitalism?

The profits don't go in the same pockets.

Minor organizational differences can have huge consequences for the people involved (employees).

BTW employee ownership IS socialism. For fuck's sake.

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10 hours ago, mcbigski said:

I'm assuming this is the KSR quote, correct me if I'm wrong.  Super straw man.   No one says free markets produce the best possible outcome for Everybody.   I happen to believe that having a free economy means that most people are better off than if the economy were centralized, so let's do that while still having compassion for those who either can't make it on their own or even just had bum luck, but also let's not incentivize free riders. 

Free markets used to be a leftist thing, weren't they?  From what I remember from our Marxism thread from the summer, capitalism was a necessary step towards our glorious socialist future.  Karl didn't talk much about the camps needed for a command economy, but then I wonder what he would have actually thought about Leninism if he were caught outside the power structure.

Whether or not any individual succeeds or fails in an economy is completely due to luck. And then once you are at the top, nepotism keeps your descendants there.  I have been around long enough and weathered enough downturns, recessions and contractions and correlated them with the governments in charge. Right leaning governments tend to do worse than left leaning ones on average in growing the economy. You don't grow by cutting.

I don't know if you still remember Jack Welch of General Electric? He cut jobs massively at GE so that he could boost profits and make the company better. Well I have GE stock in my retirement account and it has been a disaster ever since. If you run a government on the same principles as Welch used to run GE, be prepared to eat cheaper grades of cat food to live.

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20 minutes ago, Rippounet said:

Socialism is not "state ownership," it's "common/collective   ownerhip/management" of the means of production.

No offense Scot, but please do try to know the basics, because it feels like I've been telling you this for years now, and it obviously still isn't sinking in.

The profits don't go in the same pockets.

Minor organizational differences can have huge consequences for the people involved (employees).

BTW employee ownership IS socialism. For fuck's sake.

And I like employee ownership.  I always have.  Is “collective ownership of the means of production” not the way socialism is defined or is the definition of “the collective” open to varying interpretations?

Edited by Ser Scot A Ellison

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The impression left is that none of the posters arguing here about KSR's words read the interview --the whole, which contains all the context, the amplification, etc., out of which the quotations were taken.

Is that correct?

  :rolleyes: :dunno::rofl:

KSR has quite a bit to say about Musk et al. space exploration and asteroid mining, and how that's entire capitalist fantasy.  There is no money to be made from such ventures and nobody can do it either.  He believes space exploration -- NASA -- is supremely important and useful but it is utterly useless for making a profit.  He also has a lot to say about Science Fiction and what it signifies in the present times.  He has a lot to say about a lot of other issues, and makes far more sense about all of them, out of his life long personal experience and thinking and study than your average punter, columnist or twit.

 

Edited by Zorral

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47 minutes ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

And I like employee ownership.  I always have.  Is “collective ownership of the means of production” not the way socialism is defined or is the definition of “the collective” open to varying interpretations?

The 2nd one. "Collective" isn't synonymous with the State. 

Many versions of socialism that reject the idea of a State do describe a transitional period where the State maintains temporary control over certain areas (defense, for example) until a permanent, non-State entity can take over.

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22 minutes ago, The Great Unwashed said:

The 2nd one. "Collective" isn't synonymous with the State. 

Many versions of socialism that reject the idea of a State do describe a transitional period where the State maintains temporary control over certain areas (defense, for example) until a permanent, non-State entity can take over.

Can there be competing collectives in any version of socialism?

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1 hour ago, Rippounet said:

Socialism is not "state ownership," it's "common/collective   ownerhip/management" of the means of production.

No offense Scot, but please do try to know the basics, because it feels like I've been telling you this for years now, and it obviously still isn't sinking in.

Thus far about every "pure" socialist system has not worked out very well (I'm excluding mixed economies here). If people are advocating the full ownership of the means of production by the "collective", then I think it is on them to explain in detail how it will work and avoid the problems of the past.

Based on past experiences, people aren't crazy if they are somewhat skeptical and the left needs to do more than do its usual "educate yourself" thing (which often comes of as being snotty and pretentious and likely won't make any new converts).

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