CHALLENGES TO CAPITALISM AND SOCIALISM: IS THERE ANYTHER WAY?

By Humberto Miranda Lorenzo

Institute of Philosophy, Havana  - GALFISA//El Taller International.

 

This essay has two fundamental characteristics: first, it is brief; second, it is written in three thesis, that is, a) the impossibility of the capitalism like a way of coexistence; b) the critical analysis of the historical-known socialism as alternative and, c) self-management as a possible model of organization of society overcoming the logic of the capital.

These three theses could be translated to the common imaginary in three questions: why is the capitalism «bad»? Why if the real existing socialism was against capitalism did not overcome it, or was not completely «good»? And, why could self-management be «better»?

1. The saga of the Capital

A lot has been written, a lot is discussed about the society that bases its functioning on the logic of the capital. A society centered in the economy above the human beings. As expressed by Fidel Castro in his last interview to Ignacio Ramonet, «the only existing economy is the capitalist one». And this outlines a serious challenge in emancipatory terms. How to overcome this rationality? Will a revolution like those that characterized the XX century from its beginnings be enough?

The economy, as a system of knowledge, as a form of the social conscience and as a structure of thinking, reproduces the cycle of capital that takes place in the reality. The emancipatory movements along the history have tried to solve in the theoretical, political environment and in the social practice the problems outlined by the capitalism to the humanity. Changing this system already has a history of search for alternatives, more or less successful in certain historical terms, but that have not been able to unblock the necessary obstacles to give place to the formational-civilizatory transit wished and foreseen by the emancipatory theory since the 19th century.

One of the biggest obstacles has been the economy, as practice and speech that, in one or another way, puts limits to forms of a non alienated coexistence. In my opinion, if the economy is the structure in which the capital spreads -in the reality- and the system of knowledge that reproduces it-to the scale of the thought--, the more we go into and deepen in the waters of the economy, we finish reproducing-voluntarily or not—the relationships of the capital. We will not be able to «to surpass it», «to overflow it», «to go beyond».

The capital has turned the economy into its mean of expression, in its «vital» environment, even more, the capital has turned the economy into the objective reality. The economy has become an occult, intricate science, full with figures and categories «incomprehensible» for the common human being, but in turn, thrown to us as the essence of all our living process, the reality in which we live, the reality of which we cannot come out if it is not taken by the hand of the «experts». Is the economy the vital space of the society? Is the human essence only centered in it?

Unfortunately, today these questions find affirmative answers when looking at the way in that the world is functioning. The human life lapses caught in the nets of the economy, the economy of the capital. An idea of economy that is said taken from the Aristotelian concept, but that has nothing to do with the «self-management of the house» for a group of people by means of the agreement, but an economy oriented to increase profits and the conversion of the human creative abilities into a value of use.

The power of the financial capital is exercised at the present time above any other manifestation of the capital. The work is aimed to make money, money that should be aimed to obtain consumer goods. Consumer goods associated to the notion of the human happiness.

The capital «advises», the more objects are possessed, the happier people will be. And this is the main «spark plug» for the capitalism to function, a system of multiple domination that surpasses the marks of the economic exploitation and embraces, in domination terms, all the facets of the human life.

The liberalism of Smith and Richard, before an economic theory is an ethics, a group of rules for the management of the scarcity by the society through the market, the only vehicle of human interaction and construction of sociality. In the pray of the contemporary liberalism of Hayek, Polanyi and the «troop elite» of the neoliberalism, it is not another thing that the «over valuation» of the market as the main regulator not just of the economic processes, but of all the processes of the human life.

The market is the fetish, the «invisible hand», the space of consecration of the human aspirations, projected from an architecture whose fundamental foundations lie in the sacred private property. Private property disguised in the property on the things, but that makes no sense if it is not carried out in the property on the nature and more important still, on people, the property of the human capacities to produce wealth, to create, to transform the world.

But the system in its operation, and as a consequence of its own logic, trends to the destruction of both sources of production of wealth. The same foundation of its existence, the constant increase of the profit's rate is, as a tendency, driven to its decrease and, consequently, the system leads to its self-destruction.

The capital depends on its essential pair: work. And starting from the 70's last century, when it fell in a recessive long wave, a process of deregulation began with the objective of impacting in the denominator of the equation to increase the profit's rate. It meant the crash of the welfare state, of the labor markets, of the power of the unions, the constant fall of the wages and the exclusion as a structural phenomenon of the system.

The traditional «standby industrial army» is part today of the Jurassic park of the social development. The technological revolution has been constituted in a tool of displacement of big masses of workers out of the production. The own material production of goods and services registers a decreasing tendency and that space is occupied every time in more measure by the financial speculation.

The times are reduced. The time it self is associated, in the present logic about the progress, to the speed. The efficiency is the fundamental index of economic success, and that efficiency depends on the increase of the rhythms, of the acceleration, of the reduction of the time, and even worse, of the subjection of the vital time at the necessary time for making the money that will provide the objects promoted by the culture of the consumption.

It is a vertiginous cycle that does not leave space for the human agreement, for dialogue, for the simple fact of sharing human values, even in a family scale. Those of us, who have a job, should spend as much time as possible, in order to earn the sustenance that allows us to buy the objects that will make us happy. And people continue constituting couples, families, having children, because that is a point that the capital has not been able to break directly. The reproduction of the system and its own existence depends also on that. But the parents do not have time to take care of our children because we should work. The affection is replaced then by more objects, satellite television channels, Internet, video games and for a dominance lattice that leads inexorably to the people's idiotization.

The first part of the Hollywood film «The Matrix» is very explicit in that sense. The whole purpose of the system is the control; it is to convert the human beings into simple «batteries», energy providers. To think by one-self, to associate by one-self, to differ minimally of the system, to give a part from our time to our family above the demands of the capital is already an act of rebelliousness, a first antidote against the idiocy that the system requires from us to continue functioning.

The capital, when implementing the monetarist policies which caused the destruction of the balance of the work, «burned» it last reserve of productivity. Every time that more and more people are excluded from production, they are disabled to be reinstated to such cycles due to the inability of managing the more and more complex technological processes.

The education and the training are subject to the laws of the market. Those who can not afford them will not be able to be (re)inserted into the production again. Consequently, no matter how much the capital finds roads of optimization of the work, the limits continue decreasing, and therefore, surplus (the real source of profits) also decreases gradually.

The financial speculation constantly inflates a bubble that will explode at some moment. The energy carriers, no matter how much they produce earnings at the present time, they are in the road of exhaustion, the manufactures of high added value have the inconvenience of their cost and prices, that is to say, less and less people will be able to buy them.

The crisis is inevitable, as well as the state of «incivility» that it brings and that is manifested in the increase of the violence, in the lack of contact, consensus, and agreement among people, in the increase of the war, armed conflicts and the lack of control on the possession of more and more destructive weapons, in the violence of the system proportional to it needs to keep the control. The future, in the medium term is a future of ungovernability, the lack of control and the crash of the civilization project promoted by the West to globalize the capitalism. The system of institutions that has been built under the society of the capital no longer represents a mechanism of reproduction of the human life.

In the society centered in the economy of the capital the manager is the market. And market distributes, blindly, the possibilities of life or death. In the present stage of development of capitalism, the reproduction of life, as a concept that embraces the own existence, does not figure in the formula. Exclusion means to be left out of the frameworks of life, and each time it is greater the amount of masses having excluded at a planetary scale. For the sake of maintaining a profits rate, the capital induces the death in a massive way. Either for hunger and illnesses, either for wars, either by means of the violence in all its manifestations (domestic, family, of gender, ethnic, racial, for drugs, for the increase of the delinquency, for the uncontrolled use of firearms-as it is the case of the United States where annually more than eleven thousand people die for this cause - for epidemics impossible to control, for the own logic of the market).

Violence is linked to the existence of the system, and it has a history in the implementation of the liberal utopia about market as regulator of life. The «fences», the process which pushed big masses of people into the cities, with the rising labor force liberation, exactly when the construction of the railroad began in England, happened for violent means. The «schools of work» in Amsterdam on the 18th Century, true centers of «training» for workers to work under the orders of the capital, the colonization processes in Asia, África and Latin America, took place through the violence. The control of the oil market at the present time and in the next future, the control of the sources of water, is exercised by more and more violent means. The preservation of the human life, of the creative capacities of people does not count neither for the market neither for the capital. Where we oppose resistance to the reason of the capital, bombs will be convincing enough.

But there is another manifestation of the crisis of capitalism as a model of coexistence and as an attack to human life and happiness, the constant destruction of the vital sources for the existence, the destruction of the environment.

The object-symbolic paradigm of the system is the automobile. We work and we have as central aspiration to drive, to be private owners of an automobile. The vanguard of the world capitalism, the U.S society is obsessive in that sense. The proportion of vehicles for inhabitants is irrational (700 cars for each 1000 inhabitants). Annually 16 million vehicles are made.

This issue gets more complicated given the globalization of U.S consumer patterns as maximum aspiration, as the «dream» to reach. That model expands, and more and more countries try to follow this logic. Because one of the parameters for the «certification» of development of a country it is the amount of vehicles circulating, particularly, in individual, private hands.

A country like China is promoting such a pattern. At the present time 1000 new cars are bought daily in the Asian giant. And the world must be seriously alarmed before the race for possessing automobiles in China. A proportion similar to that of United States would leave the planet without fuel in a fleeting term. And India (along with China they make a third part of world population) is implementing the same globalized pattern in a more uncontrolled rhythms.

The emission of polluting gases, result of the combustion of the vehicles is reheating the atmosphere and the planet. This is causing the increase of the thaws, of the level of the sea, the increase of the intoxication levels, of the incidence of harmful rays to the body, cancer in the skin and other implications.

But the fetish of the car goes farther. Let us suppose that the science is able to revert the combustion process and the ideal engine appears taking monoxide of carbon and expelling oxygen. Cars need roads to move, and each new freeway that is built means millions of burnt hectares of productive soil for the circulation of vehicles become useless for the production of food, for the indispensable forest growth for the maintenance and the balanced reproduction of life.

The capital, when exterminating the work and the nature, exterminates the life and makes more and more difficult the human coexistence, in fact, is already in danger the own existence in the planet. And it does not seem very realistic the idea of colonizing other places in the external space.

The indigenous chief of North America describes the end of the logic of capital in a lapidary fashion “when the last tree is cut off, when the last fish is fished, people will realize they do not eat money”.

However, society intending to overflow the limits of capital and transform work, faces theoretical and practical challenges, linked to the issued of moving beyond the limits of economy:

- the shift towards a process of  socialization of means of production, that is, the management of means to produce the subsistence managed by society without the compulsion of scarcity as the structuring principle.

- the kind of transformations necessary to achieve a state of a real socialization of production (stepping aside from production in its present predatory and exploiting form), of knowledge and power.

- the kind of practices necessary to replace those established by the regime of the economy and production, as the framework in which human life develops, and with it, the change of social relationship whose center are the established relations in the production nowadays.

- the ethics and juridical norms to substitute the ethics of hunger and violence made law by the capital in order to promote a process of socialization.

- the boundaries for transformations to begin, that is, to locate the starting points of change, within and out of the system (which will be directly linked to the issue of seizing and/or construction of power)

- the types of ownership which will replace the capitalist private property.

- the kind of state, the principles of representation, and the participation of the state in the control of the economy, as well as social participation in the direction and control of the state.

Society of capital, the way it is conceived, does not provide spaces for transformations, no matter if they are evolutive or radical.  But at the same time, the way the socialist experiences in the last century ended up, the seizure of political power will not be a sufficient condition nor the guarantee for such processes will occur.

To go beyond the economy, at least in its coopted and alienated form by the capital, seems to be the great challenge and one of many ways for social changes.   It is not a matter of “abolishing” the economy, but breaks the limits in which liberalism has trapped it, and search even further, in those patterns of social interaction which overflow it and provide a real transformation of society. 

Today it is necessary to question the own limits of economy, as a process of practices and interactions in the reality, as a system of knowledge, as a form of social conscience.  The society, the post capitalist civilizatory process will have to put these questions in its agenda.  The displacement of “the economic”, as a sole component of human centrality is an issued in the debate of the emancipatory movements.

The survival of our species, and the own balance of the planet, depend upon the search for alternatives to the present world order.  “Collective agreement on the means of subsistence” Jean Robert[1], says; the “politics of the solar age” as an alternative to the economy proposes Hazel Henderson[2], communism says Marx, “socialism of the 21st. Century” is promoted from Venezuela.

Nevertheless, the most advanced  anticapitalist alternative known in the history could not escape from the webs of economy in terms of liberal inheritance.  A regimen of distributive justice of wealth was installed, but did not go beyond the precedent logic, for the production remained according to the law of value, with development and economic growth as its main goal in a similar sense of the logic of capital.  The resulting contradiction of distributing scarcity in a fairer way according to the capitalist mode of production ended up with the collapse of the system.

2. The unconcluded alternative of socialism.

The model promoted by the Soviet Union and extended throughout  Eastern Europe simply vanished. It is said that China is moving forward to a market socialism.  And the side of market orientation is very clear, but the one of socialism is in the dark.  Even worse, the replication of the economic growth patterns of capitalism, that is, that socialist be “more efficient” than capitalism, does not seem to be a viable alternative for all the planet.

The revolution initiated in 1917 in Russia fell down in several traps of which it never recovered.  First of all, capitalism was constituted as a world-system, and, besides all the national forms it took (and the inherent logic of unequal development) was presented as a unique system at a planetary scale.  This fact greatly conditioned the idea of socialism, also, as a unique system at a global scale.

On one hand we have the proposal of Marx about a world revolution, on the other hand, the practice of the Soviet Revolution led to the promotion of a unique model of socialism.  All the debate about the diverse ways to reach socialism and its practical implementation died out in the context prior to World War II.  Afterwards, the attempts to build a new society different from the model “real existing socialism” were rejected and confrontation prevailed instead of alliances for globalization of socialism taking into account the diversity of emerging proposals.

This kind of strategist blindness prevented a debate and articulation of the proposals to move beyond capitalist society in the last century, and, as a result, capital remained practically intact.

Secondly, the proposal of a society substituting capitalism always came through “the seizing of power” by a party or vanguard movement.  Even though this is a strongly necessary step (and or course, feasible), it did not draw the self-extinction of such vanguard as mechanisms of power, through a constant process of socialization of production, knowledge and power itself.

The result was the emergency of beaurocracies cysted in their spaces, not willing to “yield” and whose permanence was outlined by their inability to eliminate the sources of alienation inherited from capitalism (if production was not surpassed out of the logic of capital, it was impossible to move away from its inherent alienation) but also by the emergency of new forms of alienation causing apathy among the masses in the revolutionary processes.

The known socialist practice did not surpass the mechanisms of representation and delegation of liberal tradition either. Right where forms of direct democracy emerged (the soviets, the councils in Hungary and many other expressions) the space was granted to “professional” and delegative forms that stepped real people away from the decision mechanisms of their lives.  There was no other possible outcome: disappointment or apathy.

State and planning by themselves were not negative elements.  They were in the same way that men and women committed to the emancipatory project were prevented to have access, they lost control over the institutions and were these the ones that decided over their lives in a very “impersonal” way.  The property of the state over the means of production, the state direction of the economy and the social processes did not replace then the existing forms of domination, as long as society lost the access to the state that represented it.

The socialist practice of the past century did not come out from the historical trap of capitalism in the sense of underestimating the ability of human beings to discern in their daily lives.  Just a few number of “experts”, whose IQ´s and intellectual capacity was supposed to be above the social average and unique as a quality, ere capable of planning “in big”, to design policies, and hence, decide what would be more convenient for the life of common people, of the “mass”.

In that same trend was the idea identifying planning, the designing of long-range policiesi and decision-making, as a process “per se”, something besides, “above”, unreachable and alien to common people.  The social organization is always conceived “from top”.  In this logic, or course, decision-making process is linked just to complex, strategic and above all hierarchical topics.  This way, it is impossible to make a decision, if every time the politicians, the “chosen ones”, the “experts” have to submit to a plebiscite every idea coming to their minds.  This, at the same time, is associated to voting, the liberal inheritance, the great conquest of capital “one man-one vote”.  Following this way, it was ignored  the human capacity of organization from the bases, the human capacity of interaction, the flexibility of these relations, the speed  and (today) the agility that that communication can reach with the new technologies.  Following this way, it is cut off from the very beginning the possibility of construction of power from bottom up, in the bases, at small scale and the capacity of articulating the most diverse experiences at a sectorial, local, social and global level.

We have all fell in the same trap with the old idea. A group of “wise persons”, “experts”, someone always above the rest, thinking, making decisions on behalf of the “others”. The known anti capitalist experiences did not break those limits. That is why the discussion on the economic democracy always ends up with a tautology, in the circle of a permanent referendum as the model of impossibility. People can perfectly organize their daily lives as individuals, as part of human collectivities, as an articulated social complex. On referendum must be voted a general social program, those strategies affecting the whole social network on short, medium and long terms.

The real problem, even more, the real fear of those who enjoy the way in which the power is built according to the logic of modernity, the logic of capital; is that people organize their lives autonomally and then the function of “policy-makers”, of “experts”, the “caudillos”, the leaders becomes superfluous, or at least, completely subordinated to that “disorganized mass” which will know (and already knows) how to get self-organized, with the capacity to promote and remove them taking into account the way they perform the responsibilities assigned to them, and not the way it happens today, all the way around.

The axiom “peoples never get wrong” has been manipulated.  By the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Socialist block in Eastern Europe this idea was on fashion.  There was a discussion on whether or not those peoples got wrong.  But the truth is that throughout the whole history masses have never been wrong and not because they were always right, but because they have never been allowed to. There have always been movements, leaders, parties, etc., that have made mistakes on behalf of peoples.  It is time now that peoples make their own mistakes and be responsible for them.

The notion of about only one party and central planning are “deficiencies” of anti capitalist societies has been widespread. From Hayek to Hinkelammert, two completely antagonical authors in their ideologies, there has been certain consensus on this particular matter.  However, the problem does not lie here; this is a kind of myth facing central planning against market economy, only one party against lack of control and freedom.

Somehow, historical reality confirms this idea. Notwithstanding, in this antipode a crucial element is forgotten: the society. Not seen as the opposite of the state, against it, but as the real subject accessing to, and in control of the state. The issue is not an organization of just one political party, nor how centralized is the planning. The crucial problem is the degree of real participation of civil society in the decision making processes.

It is no so frequent to find analyses on the fall of socialism in Eastern Europe and the USSR, about fragmentation of Yugoslavia, emphasizing this aspect. Planning can be more or less centralized; there can be one or more parties. However, when there is no real articulation of every social sectors, when the demands of that society find no channels of expressions; when access to control (political, ideological, administrative, economic, etc) is just in the hands of a very reduced professional group (not subject to any kind of control) and participation means just “to be part”, to attend, and not to decide over the processes, then it is very difficult to advance beyond the boundaries of relationships and practices imposed by capital. The social organization must take place according to the socialization of knowledge, production and power each time wider.

That is one of the greatest problems and challenges faced by socialism, the decision-making processes at a social scale have been in the hands of men and women who have not seen their daily lives, nor their families´ affected by the consequences of the decisions they made.  It is quite difficult to think about a high-ranked representative of the state who has directly suffered (nor their families) the consequences of wrong decisions made in their responsibility. Most of the cases the structures established let the officers to report among themselves, never directly to those they represent, never directly to the people not as an abstraction, but concrete persons at local, social and national scales.

Modern societies are not conceived in a way in which bases really determine and decide, but in a very hierarchical, pyramidal form, where the base obeys and the high side decides and commands.  Then, a decision-making process rooted in the base and in the real needs of real people (not numbers and global statistics, preferred  by the “experts”) will have as an advantage that people who decide are aware of the impact each decision they make will have in their own lives. This will make the process much more participative and attractive.

In most cases in which post capitalist society is drawn, emphasis is made in the increase of productivity, more efficient economic performance than capitalism, otherwise, it would not make any sense to try.  These proposals imagine a kind of transition which would provide a combination of factors and practices established by capitalism with new mechanisms and relationships that would come up, giving a change of essence in the prevailing system nowadays.

The question of how to get to that point still is the biggest question mark. The change in the economy, in its form of organization, in its objectives, is crucial, but it would imply certain forms and political practices to regulate them that would give way to a rational course.  Then we are trapped in the same circle. Either we think on economic changes making it necessary certain political organization or vice versa. And again alternatives  fall in the same historical trap. Would we have to seize power to be able to carry out these changes? Will we have to imagine the change just in terms of seizing power?

Socialism was in power for more than seven decades in the USSR, but it disappeared.  Then, is it a sufficient condition the seizing of power?  What happens with the issue of hegemony?  Was the hegemony of capital in seventy years of socialism in power surpassed?

And the proposal here is not to discard beforehand the seizure of power as something obsolete.  This problem is in the core of the anti system thinking.  it is still crucial, however, it is obvious the need of  reinventing the ways and methods to make it possible.  And not only the “how”, but also the “who”.  Who will be the subjects that will do all the necessary to reach that point?  How will they get organized? 

Social revolutions on the 20th century implied a great liberation and empowerment of work in front of capital, particularly by dignifying people’s life.  The full access to employment, to education, to high level sanitary standards, the protection of childhood, the human growth on women who felt free from precedent domination were a giant social leap.  An ocean of social achievements taken out with blood and toil from capital, in the midst of really difficult circumstances.

But the perpetuation of the vanguards in the socialist state, far away from real persons tended much more to the restrictions than liberation; tended more to alienation that full emancipation of men and women. How then, can we explain the return to the most savage capitalism, as “happy cradle”, of those peoples who had fought to die for being free of capitalism before?

People were not in control of their lives, they did not manage their lives by themselves. And at that point, the generations who studied, were educated, reached high levels of instruction, but did not see them selves reflected in the prevalent social logic, decided to “cross the border” toward the consumerism restricted in their systems. It was always better the “mistakes” because of openings than “succeed” because of the censorship. But the option was to restrict, even to cut off liberties ripped off capital domination in the middle of workers and social struggles.

Socialist revolutions happened because people felt they were not represented in the capitalist system, because this system exploited them.  The return to capitalism happened, also, because the socialist systems and states did not represent common people and they felt they were exploited too.

3. Self-management of life.  Struggle against capital and recovering the historical  experience.

The failure of the experiences mentioned above cannot be the final argument to decree it non-viable.  Socialism (or for the time being let us call it post-capitalism) as we have seen before, is necessary because of the destructive course of capitalist rationality.  It is also, and for the same reasons, desirable.  It is in the desire of the great majority of people in the planet excluded from access to the distribution of scarcity of capitalism, the goal of a way of coexistence in which we all men and women could fit in, in which we are the ones to decide our own destinies, not the market or a “big brother”.  And what is more important that for this immense majority of persons it is a possible, practicable world.  How would that world be possible?

Marx thought socialism as a free association of producers.  It was necessary to free work from capitalist production, and for that emphasis was made in the role of workers associations (in cooperatives and in self-managed associations) as a necessary step for a transit towards communism.  Reading Marx, Engels and Lenin, and experiencing practice itself, a vision of socialism as a process of socialization of production, knowledge and power comes up.  And for that self-management can be a way.

Marxism did not think self-management as an alternative to the order of capital “out of nothing”.  There had existed a prior history which, stemmed from ancient Egypt, the Phoenicians, Rome, places and ages in which cooperative associations worked. From late 18th century, and above all after the third decade of the 19th century workers associations appeared whose orientation was toward self-management. 

The experiments of Owen, Saint-Simons and Fourrier, who organized communities and tried to change the prevailing order by means of self-management, were undoubtedly an important source for the thinking of Marx, Engels and Lenin at the time of proposing a society different and superior from that of capital.

It would be interesting to point out that together to the most radical ones, there also surged trends within cooperative movements attempting (they still follow this line today) to reach a form of organization that would not break the bases of the system and would provide margins of action with the political clash and class struggle that a solution like this implied.

That is the case of the Rochdale experiment, a poor neighborhood in Manchester where in 1844, thirty workers established production under a cooperative regimen and agreed upon seven principles (open registration, political neutrality, one partner one vote, limited interest on capital, cash sales, profits returning to the partner, education and training) practiced today in all associations of cooperatives not moving forward to a shift of the system, but a “peaceful” coexistence with the capital.

Marx in his works could just point out his reflections in the sense that a post capitalist society would have a strong tendency to economic and political self-management towards self-government.  The idea about the extinction of the state is not only funded in the logic of class struggle, but also, in this trend to self-management already seen at that moment with extraordinary strength.  “To produce without masters” is still among the dreams of human emancipation.  It is what Engels used to define as the transit from the control over people to the administration of things.

Lenin, on his part, paid special attention to cooperatives as seeds of socialism.  He indicated especially that once the state was socialist, the association of production in cooperatives would be something evident and would send away the irony with which it was used to look at that type of experience.  If all the production were organized in cooperative, he affirmed, “we would already be with both our feet well planted on socialist soil”.

However, the NPE was unconcluded, Lenin died too early for the Bolshevik revolution.  The outcoming historical juncture and the leadership of Stalin led the USSR by paths apart from self-management.  The Hungarian revolution was crushed; the debate about the free association of producers was silenced and in the best of cases, postponed.  A way of practicing socialism was imposed and it made it impossible any transition by ways of self-management.

In the present day, on the other hand, capital each day is leaving less space for peaceful coexistence.  The border lines are each day closer, because the central issue is life or death.  To remain on the ground of capital becomes a Russian roulette, we can get out of the game in the worst way at any time.  And it not having to enlist against it is a path of roses.  Struggle is acute, not exempt from errors and risks.  But it is clear enough that we have to start managing our lives by ourselves.   It will not be the capital nor a group on our behalf who will make it possible the transcendence of life as a natural fact.  We will have to do it by our own, in agreement, with exploitation, without domination, without any other inequalities that are not those due to our abilities, that in order to be happy we will necessarily have to harm other people. And here we are not talking about happy co-existence aside class struggle, aside from the efforts of capital to maintain its domination, but, that in the middle of this struggle, to change ourselves, to access the struggle, to participate in it in our autonomous and responsible condition, already establishing, in that very struggle, a new ethics allowing the permanence in time and space of an alternative to capitalism.

Self-management is a concept that means an attitude in front of life,  a concept that makes reference to the individual or group performance in an autonomous way.  Reference is made to a specific manner or organizing life of people, as a process combining economic, political, psychological, affective, volitive factors; a whole process of human-social interaction in which people take control of their lives, “assault” the decision-making process with an adequate balance of collective and individual.

Self-management means organizing life in a conscious mode (individual conscience and the belonging to a human collective) having as an objective the integral human improvement, beyond the narrow framework of economy.  A way of transition from the social accumulation to the political one, as a key to comprehend and carry out the process of socialization of production, knowledge and power, to carry out a real processes of absorption of politics by society (what Marx called the absorption of political society by the civil society) .

This notion is associated to key terms such as participation.  Besides “being part”, being called, subjects must participate, fundamentally and with the necessary information, in the decision-making on the process in which they are involved and that will affect their lives.

Autonomy, in the sense that people arrive in participation consciously and with total independence, without political or ideological conditioning on the part of hierarchical structures, being individual or group.  Autonomy means, first of all, responsibility, participation and treatment in conditions of equality to decide and manage their lives.

Solidarity, surpassing the charity framework of western culture and  channeled on unconditional y critical help, as the base of a self-managerial ethics whose central axis is the non-prejudice to the other, as opposite to the organizing principle of the logic of the capital on a subjective level that establishes starting from inequality, to harm others to achieve  personal realizations.

Cooperation, as a process of solidarian collaboration in the processes in which people participate, no matter if within or outside the economy.  At the same time, cooperatives, a form of ownership and production originated in the core of capitalist society, based on such principle, and not necessarily having anti systemic purpose, are, in fact, an essential bridge for an anti system exit in the sense of a primary vehicle of socialization of production.  Without solidarity as an ethical principal, cooperation will not have a social sense different from the one proposed by the logic capital.

Self-management, is also understood as a feature, an orientation of human activity taking place in and throughout the interaction among (and within) human collectivities, particularly on the environment of class struggle and with the main purpose that persons and human groups lead their destinies by themselves.

In a historical perspective, it has been a response of work against capital,  a response tending to generate an organization of production and people’s life beyond the framework of the relationship master-employee resulting from the system of exploitation, domination and alienation in which capitalist society conditions human relationships.

This orientation of the human activity supposes independence and autonomy in the organization of production and the political projection of subjects and social groups more or less radically against capitalist system, with a certain degree of collective, active and conscience participation in the decision making process in the context in which those experiences have occurred during the history, and a certain degree of autonomy of individuals and collectives involved in such experiences.

In order to finish the domination of capital, we must step aside from its ground rules. It is necessary, as Oscar Wilde said in “The soul of man under socialism”, precisely, to propose a non practicable model, going against human nature, because change is the only real quality we can pray of it, and the systems that have failed are those who blindly trust in the unmovable permanence, and not in its change, its growth and development.

The change proposed is a counter cultural one. The struggle for keeping the life in the planet is calling us for a civilizatory change, a change that we all men and women must operate all together in order to make it real and long enough. Human kind can no longer afford the permanence of capitalism, or the socialist experiences of 20th Century which ended up making people “wanting” to be exploited again.

In order to transcend its logic, to go beyond capitalism, we will have to manage life in an autonomous way, we, among all of us, through agreements, through the dialogue, building together, men and women the society in which we all fit in without being dominated by anything or anybody.

-- Flores, October  2006



Notes

 

[1] Robert, Jean: “El Fin De La Economía. Escasez, Economía y Concepto de la Buena Vida en el Umbral de la Realidad.”Revista IXTUS. Espíritu y Cultura. 1999, No. 26, Año VII, Cuernavaca, Morelos, México.

[2] Henderson, Hazel: “The politics of solar age. Alternatives to economics”. Anchor Press/Doubleday. New York. 1981.

Issued in “Asking, we walk. The South as new political imaginary”. Edited by Corinne Kumar. Streelekha publications. Bangalore. 2007

 

 

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