Thursday, December 1, 2016

Survival of the Fittest

I don't have definitive numbers, but I'd say the vast majority of Marxists and the like are evolutionists (regardless if they're atheist, Christian, or other.) As one of the laws of evolution is survival of the fittest, this may draw some questioning as a contradiction. Indeed, it many propose that capitalism embodies survival of the fittest, with the CEO and board of directors being the fittest. They fought (and/or (il)legally exploited) their way to the top of the pyramid. Thus, they deserve to survive, or get their profit. But what if that's wrong?

Indeed, if only the CEOs survive they will have nobody to work for them or to buy their products and services. Therefore instead of capitalism being the embodiment of evolutionary thought, I'd posit that socialism is much more in line. The fittest is actually the masses, the working class upon whose back society rests. When the masses thrive, society itself does. Seeing the world disconnected and individualistically (or even broader as nuclear) leads to it's demise. However if we recognize we are all in this together, then we become the fittest.

To elaborate, with our current system the CEO and/or board of directors (or whoever heads the business, henceforth CEO, regardless actual title) make the majority of decisions. The workers do not determine their pay, how to use profits, tool upgrades, or most importantly, job security. This goes for entry level on up, until you get to the CEO. While management and others have a hand in raises or other parts of the business, if the CEO decides to axe one department or freeze wages, there is little recourse. For the CEO, the bottom line is profit and doing whatever is “necessary” to obtain it. This includes producing cheaper quality products for the same price, paying workers less (or stagnant wages), outsourcing, to name a few. The point is simple, profit over people, even if that means those people cannot survive. While the CEO may survive, it is temporary.

If we were to shift to the Worker's Self-Directing Enterprises, the workers take the place of the CEO. As such, they all, whether as a small business of 10 or large corporation of thousands, democratically determine the direction of the business. Is there a more efficient production process? Discuss, vote, and implement. Do wages need to increase? Discuss, vote, and implement. While I am simplifying the process for brevity, the list can go on. The method, which is meant to involve the whole workforce, has another fundamental difference: it has an almost guaranteed focus of people over profit. Rather than decisions being made regardless of the impact on the proletariat or planet, WSDEs make choices to benefit the worker and allow their communities to thrive. As we see ghost towns of former economic centers left crumbling in the aftermath of capitalism, we can see thriving and even simple surviving is not something that is possible in the long term for the current economic structure.

Friday, October 28, 2016

All in this Together (or, Teach Them to Be Socialists)

As early as I can remember from schooling, there was a widely known rule. If you're going to bring a treat, then you have to have enough for everyone. This included everything from gum to cupcakes to birthday invitations. Now, I'm not sure the validity of the birthday invitations requirement, but the others were a good life lesson. Share. Share your threats. Share your toys. Share your swing set. Anyone who didn't encourage their child to share, whether parent or teacher, was viewed as a terrible influence.

So what happened? The teaching instilled in us as children (which, based on kids sharing, works) transforms into the selfishness of adulthood. "It's my money! It's my success! I'm not sharing!" Sentiments such as these are vilified in childhood and glorified in adulthood. The worst part is it's believed. We really think it's our money and success. Yet, just like our parents most likely provided the gum, cupcakes, and birthday invitations, so too did our money and success (or at least the opportunity to obtain them) come from our parents or at least our sitz im leben.

Have you ever heard a leader in front of his people (sports team, army, whatever) saying "Every man for himself! If one man falls leave him behind! Keep going, you can do it be yourself!" No, not at all. There is always the plural. "All for one and one for all!" and variations of it are what is shouted as they rush into battle. Even for myself with my low emotional response to many things, I cannot help but be roused by such speeches. Yet there are so any who demand we go through life alone, at least in the western individualized society. What we need to remember is we are all in this together. Whether it is the butterfly effect or something much more direct, our six degrees of separation show that we all affect each other. We are all on this floating blue marble together. As Brian Zahnd reflected on his pilgrimmage on the Camino de Santiago, "the pilgrims seem to understand we're all in this journey together and kindness goes a long way." As I replied, that's one of the biggest lessons I'm trying to instill in my son. We're all in this together. It's not every man for himself. This education will continue past elementary, middle, and high school. I will attempt to remind him long into the future.


Why am I a socialist? Perhaps it'd be best to start with defining socialism. I will be the first to admit I am still growing in my understanding of socialism and communism. Growing up I always heard both as evil and only done by authoritarian dictators. However, over the past ten years or so, my view has changed. No longer am I fixed on dictatorial socialism, or even what everyone assumes is “socialism” which is really state-run capitalism. Not to say this version of socialism isn't beneficial, with taxes providing the basis for infrastructure, education, emergency services, etc. However, more recently in the past few years my mind has been opened to the beauty of democratic socialism. While idealistically I am a Communist, pragmatically I am a Socialist. This is seen in Marx as well as modern ideas such as Dr Richard Wolff's “Workers Self-Directed Enterprises,” where the employees themselves make the decisions rather than CEOs and disconnected board members. That said (knowing even more can be said as explanation), I will return to the question as to why.

I believe all men are not only created equal but they remain equal the rest of their lives, regardless of their sitz im leben. That does not mean that I think the (over) privileged need to be brought down to the impoverished level. Rather, the impoverished need to be elevated the world over. Universal healthcare should imply for the world, not just those settled in a richer nation. (Which, this is beneficial to everyone as a healthy worker is more productive than a sick or beaten down worker.) Everyone should be able to meet their caloric and nutritional requirements everyday without scrounging in the trash. (This is fully capable as reports show we can feed everyone over 2800 calories a day.) Education should be accessible to all (Society cannot afford for the potential lost from uneducated masses.) Jobs, too, should be equally attainable. (Everyone has different interests, so we should be able to find tasks for everyone.)

Related to my last point, to say socialism creates or causes laziness is to ignore the fact that there are more than enough lazy people in a capitalist structure. There will always be lazy people. However, socialism provides more opportunities, especially equal opportunities to be active and interested. One of the main issues is the current structure says it encourages entrepreneurship. Yet, that is based on the needs of the environment and if the needs are satisfied elsewhere for cheaper (typically through further exploitation of workers), then the ones who want to be entrepreneurs will not be successful without said exploitation. If they then partake in the exploitation they encourage the cycle of downward mobility to continue, leading to more crises. Conversely, when entrepreneurs and workers succeed, that means more wealth which can then support businesses which creates more opportunities. This is a much more positive, less volatile cycle of growth as compared to Capitalism's necessity of higher profit and stagnant wages.

Socialism is not about making things free or even necessarily cheaper. It is about making things equal and accessible (such as healthcare, education, emergency services, drinking water, etc.) It is about ending the exploitation of the proletariat. When we echo Marx's cry for “Workers of the world, unite!” we are crying out for the liberation of the working class. Not to be lazy and unproductive members dependent on a “welfare state.” Rather, to be loosed from the chains that have bound them to the grindstone. This WILL be difficult. Sacrifices will have to be made. However, unless we are to deny that every human is equal, then we have no ability to deny them an equal chance.

As an end note, I would love for this to be a genuine, open dialogue. I reserve the right disagree, as I'm sure many of you will disagree with me. However, civility is a must.