12 Sep 2018
This is a working list of hobbies, gigs, volunteer opportunities, and other activities that don’t take place in a work office, with ratings (on a scale of 0-3) of how productive they are at
- keeping you in shape
- wetting you this money
- exercising your creativity
- enriching your social life
The list was mostly compiled from available lists of hobbies—with some emphasis on activities that people I know have done or that I’ve found interesting at some point—and the productivity criteria were inspired by the piece of Internet advice “Find three hobbies you love: one to keep you in shape, one to make you money, and one to be creative”. I’m open to suggestions for additions to this list and edits to any of the ratings.
08 Sep 2018
A recording of the panel with Terry Tapp, Anne Jaclard, Andrew Kliman, Pete Dolack, and Douglas Lain is at Zero Squared #70: Overcoming Capitalism.
Necessary assumptions to discuss the topic of overcoming capitalism:
- Capitalism is a social relationship that organizes the material production and reproduction of our lives.
- The attempt to transcend capitalism is therefore the most radical task that can be taken on. It requires a high level of dissatisfaction (and a strong desire for a better world), as there are risks to overthrowing the system that provides us with food, shelter, energy, etc.
These assumptions bleed into issues that emerge when discussing overcoming capitalism:
- Viewing capitalism as just one of a list of piecemeal issues to address rather than the root.
- Viewing the overcoming of capitalism as primarily a matter of political will (or of sufficient revolutionary spirit). This happens when the question ‘How can we change the basis of society?’ gets flipped to ‘How can we get other people motivated enough so that they can change the basis of society?’
- The “scream against the world [our deep dissatisfaction with the state of our lives under capitalism] must be turned into a cheer”. Thinking about overcoming capitalism requires imagining what the world can be.
- Previous attempts to overcome capitalism have failed, and we have not yet transcended capitalism. There is still work to be done.
Tapp was organizer of the U.S.’s longest wildcat strike, at the JeffBoat shipyard in 2001. Strike was won by not caving into the corrupt union and company, but strikers ultimately lost by failing to achieve more radical changes.
Question of overcoming capitalism splits audience into two:
- “Book people” have access to academic language and have a specific set of theoretical concerns with respect to the question.
- Everyone else. Concerned with getting more control over their daily lives, and to get some reward for taking that control.
Strikers lost because they had no more options to take more control of lives after standing up to the union and the company. To overcome capitalism, we should look at how society is already changing. For example, the recent spread of worker-owned businesses that trade with one another and may be the beginning of a new economy.
In order to overcome capitalism, the current mode of production must be completely uprooted and replaced with new cooperative workplace relations. A lot more needs to be theorized to give direction to mass movements, and theorizing can’t just exist in revolutionaries’ heads. It has to exist in relation to ordinary workers, who are also trying to develop as theorists.
The Old Left’s practice (which persists today): expose the horrors of capitalism and urge its overthrow, presupposing that socialism would follow automatically. Many revolutions in the last century began with the goal of worker control, but failed to uproot capitalism or quickly reverted back. Soviet Union was an example of “state capitalism”, where worker conditions were not that different than those in conventional capitalism.
Revolutions (in China, Cuba, etc.) have been truncated by a combination of outside forces and the persistence of capitalism from within. Latter refers to not just greedy capitalists and rightwing ideologues subverting the revolution, but the “inevitable” pull of capitalism, which is entrenched because it has proved sufficient to raise the global standard of living, and a new alternative system has not yet been fully worked out or firmly established in practice.
Utopian socialists have designed workers’ cooperatives since before Marx. Many socialists view cooperatives as the means to and even the end form of socialism. The cooperative workplace cannot escape the pull of the world economy (raw materials bought from world market, products sold in competition with the world market). Competition is the enforcer of capitalism, not what makes capitalism miserable. The world-famous Spanish worker-owned cooperative Mondragon weathered the economic recession by using contract labor: cooperative members have job security and amenities but contract wage workers do not get to join the cooperative.
“There is no alternative.” The biggest barrier to overcoming capitalism is capitalist ideology.
It’s possible to have capitalism based on worker-owned cooperatives, with workplace democracy. This gentler capitalism is reproduced when cooperative enterprises have to compete in the global market. Marx notes that cooperators become their own capitalists. Main strength of cooperatives: teach people that there are alternatives to capitalism as it exists today.
- Violence in revolution is a consequence of how much violence people in power are willing to wield to maintain power.
- It’s possible that Mondragon has to rely on contract labor because it’s just too big. But downsized teams can be retrained and put to work elsewhere in Mondragon.
- Certain industries need to be in public hands as public utilities/state enterprises; e.g. banking, energy. For state-owned enterprises, how to maintain democratic control? Tension between high-level planning and enterprise-level autonomy/democracy.
- Without socialism, capitalism will collapse into feudalism/techno-fascism.
Marx was concerned with political determinism: Why are we not in control of our lives? Because those people are in control of our lives? Solution: replace those people with these other people. In reality, capitalists don’t control capitalism as much as capitalism controls capitalists.
In Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program, “from each according to her ability, to each according to her needs” is not immediately realizable. How to achieve directly social labor?
Workers’ control movement in Prague Spring wanted worker control of state-owned enterprises—no private enterprises or cooperatives. Workers formed assemblies that elected councils that eventually led up to national representation. Before experiment was cut off, governance depended on duality: everyone is a member of the collective and everyone is a member of a trade union. High-level workers’ collective does top-down planning for the collective good, while trade unions advocate for workers’ conditions bottom-up.