What would it take for Russia to be #1?
Posted 08 July 2003 - 11:25 AM
Back in the thread after a great Nordic and Baltic vacation. Discussion here has been awesomely fascinating - it is rare that deep structures are analyzed in a public discussion. It is quite impossible to answer to the many arguments and observations that have been made. In any case, to sum up my position, I would say that capitalism is not the disease, only a symptom of it (and a less severe one than bolshevism or fascism). The disease is our human inability to function reasonably as a collective - institutions are not rational and do not permit rational behaviour or developement, other than locally and for short periods. Moreover, the historical process is so chaotic that even the most rational actions and decisions can and will have unforeseen concequences outside the very short term. In short, we are not in control of history and every concerted attempt to be so has only contributed to the problem. As far as I can see the causality does not really differ from the physical world. The factors are so unimaginably many and in concequence the process is both chaotic and determined (as for example is the weather). It just is not very comforting to think of our increasingly sophisticated techniques of mass destruction and the chaos and aggression that is history: this combination is deeply scary. I do understand if this attitude is seen to be defeatist and negative - but it's not totally so: my chief hope is that this unceasing blind change will one day result in a cultural transformation that will enable us to end its most destructive aspects. In this sense modern history seems to me to be a race between reason and aggression - I only don't see any meaningful political master plan to affect its result, other than (perhaps) a rainbow collection of the most local grass roots actions.
Posted 08 July 2003 - 04:35 PM
Human animals, yes; others, only for eating.
But it can be said in the deffense of the first animals that too often the system pushes them in that direction. For example, they have been taught there's a competitive god that doesn't like other gods, and thus that killing others is a divine task.
Posted 08 July 2003 - 04:51 PM
<Hi don, you sound like you are the lion. arent you contradicting yourself by asserting for a system without the lion. >
How so? The hope lies with the proles or little animals... We don't need no lion...
OK, here's another pig story...
THE PIGS' REVOLUTION
(Characters in this story: wolf #1, the USA; wolf #2, the former USSR; and wolf #3, the EU and others. The Little and the Big Pigs are always the same... The action takes place in Cuba.)
(This story shouldn't be taken too literally. However, it has its moral...)
Once upon a time there were some little pigs who decided to carry out a revolution and established a utopia called "socialism," in which everything was supposed to be shared equally. And, of course, soon enough they were attacked by some wolves. Then it turned out that the Big Pigs (by now some of the pigs got big and fat) allied themselves with some other wolves. They petted them and told the Little Pigs (these remained little due to lack of freedom and food) that these wolves were peace-loving creatures. And they even sent the Little Pigs into wars in order to free the other farms from the old wolves and secure them for the newer ones. Down the road, these wolves decided that the pigs ate too much and banded together with their former enemies, who knew where the real food was. The Big Pigs now chose the only wolves left. They felt that they could hang up to power and keep living high on the hog if they struck a deal with the new wolves: The Big Pigs get to feed their power appetite; the new wolves get to fill their piggy banks thanks to cheap labor, and get to enjoy wolves-only tourist attractions. The Little Pigs, in the meantime, receive promises: The Big Pigs tell them that if the put up with the new wolves, they'll be safe from the old ones; the new wolves tell them that if they work hard enough, they'll soon have plenty; and the old wolves tell them that if they rebel, they'll get to live in a brand new pigsty called "democracy," just like before. And they lived happily ever after...
<have not read the animal farm, will read it. about to finish reading natural capitalism. >
Animal Farm is a lot of fun and teaches you more than any treatise in politics. Let me know about Natural Capitalism or better post your opinion at their site.
<there are still problems for the mondragon coop, which is why didnt include it into my ideal system. i believe the curitiba approach would overcome it.>
They are not contradictory, but complementary. The more options the better. And Mondragon is perhaps the only successful *industrial* large coop in the world...
ESCAPE FROM CAPITALISM
lessons from the Mondragon experience
In order to move beyond capitalism, solutions for several problems have to be found. Mondragon is important because it offers viable and workable solutions for some (but not all) of these problems. I want to study the experiences by the Mondragon cooperatives more closely, but here are some preliminary data, and references that I could locate so far.
Ownership of means of production.
Means of productions should be owned by those who use them to work. Both capitalism and communism fail in this respect. Under capitalism, means of production are owned by shareholders. Often, these shareholders have no knowledge of the production process. They are not interested in production, but in profit and gain. Under communism, means of production are owned by the 'community'. In practice, this means that state bureaucracy and party bosses are steering production. Both under capitalism and under communism, economical processes are directed by people that lack the capacity and the knowledge to do so - although practice has shown that communism is more problematic still than capitalism.
Nobody owns stock in any Mondragon cooperative. A cooperative is financed by members' contributions. Every member, when entering the cooperative, lends a substantial amount of money to the enterprise. The amount of this loan is fixed every year by the 'governing council' (junta rectora). It corresponds to about the lowest annual salary. Candidates that do not have the cash, can borrow it from the cooperative; their salary during the first three years of membership is diminished by about one third.
The contribution of the new member is allocated to the new owner-employee's internal capital account (ICA). The ICA is created when the member enters the cooperative, and it is closed when he/she leaves it. Everybody having an ICA has one vote at the General Assembly.
About fifty percent of the profits is also allocated to every members ICA. Every year, the member receives 6 percent interest on his or her ICA. When a member leaves the firm, mostly at retirement, he/she receives the capital on his or her ICA. The ICA is closed and the right to vote is cancelled. At the age of retirement, the amount saved on the ICA can be considerable. By 1995, a representative member of a Mondragon co-op had an ICA balance of about $70.000 (Lutz 1997); older members have considerably more.
It is important to note that the principle 'one person- one vote' is strictly applied. Those with more money on their ICA do not have increased voting rights.
This means that a new kind of 'ownership' is created. The owner-employee's of Mondragon cannot sell their property; they can only transfer it. Those who are members gradually elect and coopt their successors.
I am inclined to believe that this system is basically sound and offers a viable alternative for capitalistic (stock) ownership. There is an important caveat, however. Kasmir notes that cooperative workers do not consider the firms theirs in any meaningful way (p.197). As a matter of fact, one cannot even speak of ownership proper in the case of Mondragon, because there is no stock that can be sold. The very concept of 'ownership' loses much of its usual meaning. Therefore, I believe that the question of 'ownership feeling' is not very important. What is important, is the feeling of self-determination by the workers. Clearly, the Mondragon cooperatives are very succesful in motivating managers. Probably, this is caused by the fact that managers are not subordinated to stockholders outside the firm. But in order to remain competitive within a capitalistic economy, managers are pressed to introduce methods and measures that hurt the sense of self-determination of blue collar workers. Although the Mondragon type of 'ownership' constitutes a crucial step forwards, it does not automatically induce self-determination and intrinsic motivation on the shopfloor.
Democracy and Work
A second problem to be solved is that of democracy on the workfloor.
"The participatory role of the rank-and-file co-op member is essentially constrained to their electing every year two members to the Governing Council. They do so by majority vote in the General Assembly which ordinarily convenes once a year. Besides voting two of the six electable members of the Governing Council for a three-year staggered term, the General Assembly also has to decide to accept the annual business report and vote on some basic matters like the internal rate of interest to be charged on equity accounts and the level of threshold payments for new members" (Lutz 1997, p.1410).
The Governing Council has nine members and appoints the management proper for a period of 4 years.
This structure strongly ressembles that of a classic representative democracy, with the voting at the general Assembly corresponding to a general election, the Governing Council playing the role of the parliament, and the management functioning as a kind of government. After their appointment, the management has large autonomy. There are two advisory councils: the Management Council and the Social Council. But as long as the management operates within the initial guidelines, they remain independent (although, of course, they are at risk of missing their reappointment when the four-year term is over).
Nevertheless, there are also direct-democratic decision channels.
Workers, just as managers, can demand a meeting of the General Assembly. In order to reach this goal, they have to collect signatures, just as for a legilative initiative. When one third of the workers demand it, the General Assembly of the cooperative is convoked.
Although it has only an advisory role, the Social Council can also convoke a general Assembly. I believe that the democratic structures in the Mondragon co-ops are basically sound. It should be remembered, however, that democratic structures are necessary, but not sufficient for real democracy to evolve.
Posted 08 July 2003 - 05:07 PM
<I only don't see any meaningful political master plan to affect its result, other than (perhaps) a rainbow collection of the most local grass roots actions.>
So you don't trust the Americans democratizing the world? No they won't because they are associated with the lion and the lion can't possibly be democratic. Perhaps if Scandinavia were proposing the new world... You are from there, right?
Posted 08 July 2003 - 05:31 PM
<Can't you paste animal farm in a whole?
I always wanted to read it in english then.... >
OK, you wish has being granted! The full text, chapter by chapter analysis and readers' reviews... It doesn't get any better.
It's 20 bucks... Sorry no checks!
Posted 08 July 2003 - 05:38 PM
I read the book ,Animal Farm, back in 1975. and I wrote an essay
at that time comparing what I believe is the theme of the book and
how it can be related to all countries around the world, not just Russia.
1. Struggle for power, over throwing governments/ by force or elections.
2. Maintaining Power, via propaganda, military force.
3. Propaganda,[media] used to control the mass or keep them ignorant.
The book illustrates why a society of fairness, equality would not work,
how power corrupts the individual/groups of individuals. But more
importantly, I think that Orwell was trying, through this story, to
enlighten people to the realities of how they are being exploited/fooled
by governments, indiviuals, special interest groups, big bussiness, etc.
Posted 08 July 2003 - 07:55 PM
I was born in Russia, Moscow in 1981 and immigrated to the US in 1991. As such I have at least some understanding of what communism, and the US version of Democracy represent. I find it interesting that Animal Farm is always described as only pertaining to the USSR. When Orwell wrote AF the preamble included a warning that the same situation can in fact occur in the UK. I would argue that the state of the US today is very close to what Manor Farm was before the revolution. Like it or not all societies face the same problems of equality, and the ending are laways the same. Orwells ending to his book was quite true to life. He was not there to see the collapse of the USSR, but if he was there I doubt that he would have changed the ending to his book. Today Russia is once again Manor Farm, except this time under the guise of Capitalism and Democracy, just like the US.
Posted 08 July 2003 - 08:19 PM
Eliminating economic competition
Economic competition can be replaced by economic association within the cooperative complex. But the cooperations have to compete with capitalistic firms, and to do so succesfully, they are pressed to introduce stressful working conditions, lowering wages and so on. This how Lutz (1997) sees it:
"..what is really crucially important is the simple conclusion that we now have a living and prosperous example of an alternative to the capitalistic absentee-owned corporation. Economic democracy can indeed be made to work on a rather massive scale, and no capitalist corporation seems capable of really threatening its succes in the marketplace. This is the lesson from Mondragon. At the same time, it must be remebered that this new structure of an enterprise is not a panacea for the solution of all economic problems. As long as we have an international and global economy with low wage producers in China and elsewhere, it is doubtful that even the best organized and most efficient co-op can remain competitive in the long run. It is too early to assess the Mondragon response to this challenge, but in theory there seems only one practical option that does not undermine the ethical principles on which everything is built: to create co-operative firms abroad that would be associated with the Mondragon group. In so doing, the new economics of industrial co-operatives could spread around the globe in an even more impressive manner. Time will tell whether this path is or even can be chosen".
The solution? Remind the little people that they won't have a lion on their back in the coops. Except for a few masochists, I'd say they rather be free...
Posted 09 July 2003 - 08:06 AM
I left the fish well alone (unlike the pints!). Yes, I am from Norden, but hopefully not too sanctimonious (an unfortunately common combination). I would see our relatively just and well developed societies as the product of specific historical conditions (i.e. lutheranism, the absence of serfdom, the traditional inclusion of the peasants in the political process etc. etc.) It's no finished blueprint ready to be exported everywhere. Tides change and conditions could easily turn worse again - the current anti-immigration atmosphere in Norway and Denmark, for example, is not very enlightened or nice to watch - and shows how enlightenment is easy when not demanding any special sacrifices, just a surface attitude. Still, I really do think this is as best as it has so far been. Social justice is here combined with wealth and technological dynamism which shows that the American way is not the only one, even within capitalism.
Anyway, I think that many of the models proposed here are very promising, the more local and individual, the better. Their spread could be a kind of unviscious circle being both the cause and concequence of further reason and enlightenment. But no revolutions or conscious attempts of power grapping for me - these projects are and have been selfdefeating and destructive.
Posted 09 July 2003 - 10:29 AM
I accept the universal negatives of human nature but to stop there appears to leave the worst aspects of this problem excused and I don't believe you would anyway.
I don't need to remind anyone of the more notable imfamous
coldblooded individuals or regimes to make the point. They didn't carry out the wishes of humanity but on humanity against their will. (there's that B. Lion again)
As President Roosevelt said to the effect that what ever happens in politics is because it was planned ( not an aggregate of human nature in general) that way.
I never interpreted Animal Farm any other way than as Roosevelt put it. I can accept that people can win a lottery and become rich by chance but not just happen to control industry, governments,
media etc, instigate revolutions and wars, assasinate Presidents etc by chance.
There is a level at which riches and public position relating to
greed and vanity become meaningless and a new level relating to power takes over- they become pawns in a bigger game, a game that goes back thousands of years.
The world has never had the opportunity as the world today to
uncover truth, information, decode the myths and false science and teaching and systems that have kept humanity captured,
expose the ancient secret societies that still select some of our leaders and re-write true history which has been grossly distorted even before our eyes- and disseminate it all across the globe.
What John Pliger (freelance journalist) is exposing, for example, on his site regarding the Middel East is
what mainstream media tries to hide, its not in the vain that its
just the failings of human nature but specific people in power doing evil on specific human beings. And specific people in the media who wittingly decide what is "truth".
This might help the point I'm making. (I accept that it is still human nature.) But society outside prison is not the same society
inside prison. One can choose to focus on the common
characteristcs of human nature and find there is no difference
between the two- and even decide on that basis to remove the prisons. On the other hands one can focus of the differences
regarding how they express their so called humanity and effect others around them- which is why they were put there.
They were put there because humanity is still good enough
to set standards. (the standards set in Russian and elsewhere
isn't good enough and given the popular concerns around the globe its everywhere) but do we give up because its human nature or because power corrupts and we can never stop it?
History is not all bad there are victories against tyrany and
cultic cultures etc and I know you aren't for giving up but I think
there is a wider view but which however also has a worse side to it that otherwise remains hidden. The worst side of the Soviet Union may get religated to the
status of a "moderate" and clumsy model by what I see on the horizon (not in relation to Russia, they have been punished enough). -Not shaping up by aggregate but by design.
And we are all plugging away because (human nature) we don't like what we see and we KNOW instinctively (human nature) that there is a better way.
Posted 09 July 2003 - 12:43 PM
As practically always your text is what I would describe as noble and highly idealistic. Something truly admirable. I accept that we have to have this positive faith in order to get any results. Still, I suppose I do feel that I'm currently observing an almost deterministic (though chaotic) process where individual or even group action, however noble and enlightened is constrained and disfigured by huge structural factors imbedded in our human nature and social live. I cannot imagine a rational plan or political action to change this. My hope is that this blind, unpersonal unfolding of history will eventually result in a cultural transformation that will enable us to end or at least better control the process. This is basically quite like ***uyaman (or Hegelian) ending of history if you like. I have to say that I can't really imagine how this would happen in practice, but it would necessarily involve a profound change in awareness and enlightenment (a certain change then in human nature and behaviour). This would absolutely mean a kind of spiritual transformation and a more unified being in the world (as opposed to modern alienation) - not though abandonment of reason, only its full application in our lives and behaviour. Quite liberal dreaming this...
Edit: Hmm, Francis F-yama's name was automatically censored by the system, I sympathize with the feeling, but isn't this going a bit too far?
Posted 09 July 2003 - 08:29 PM
<I find this question a bit strange, as pointed out by Howard M. Unger over , Animalism represents Marxism. The pigs undermining Animalism just as Stalin undermined Communism.>
If you read the article above (Marxism vs. Animalism) you will find that Orwell did critized Marxism on several counts. I quote:
"To Orwell, Socialism through warring was just as decadent as what Socialism was supposed to overthrow capitalism. Orwell did not want war because it would put Socialism on the same scale as its enemy because, as Vladimir Lenin wrote, capitalism led to war not Socialism. Where Animalism stresses a long process and some sort of mechanism, "classical Marxism misses the essential nature of revolution as a complex and extended process. It offers no conception of the natural sequence of stages in the revolution- (Daniels, 12)."
So one difference is no war, nonviolence is the way to go. What a huge difference! Instead of launching guerrilla wars in China, Cuba, Latin America, or an assault on power like in Russia, just use campaigns of nonviolence. Not a bad idea...
One problem with violence is that once some lesser animal dresses like a lion to beat the lion... it stays a lion.
"Another criticism Orwell had of Marx was the idea that one man could foresee the future and predict the actions of men, as Marx had done in many of writings.
Orwell the novelist could write fictional political tales about the future as he did in Nineteen Eighty-Four, but he believed no man could accurately understand the nature by which man acts. "The main weakness of Marxism,- wrote Orwell: "is the failure of human motives... As it is, a Marxist analysis' of any historical event tends to be a hurried snap-judgement based on the principle of ciu bono?... Along these lines, it is impossible to have an intuitive understanding of men's motives, and therefore impossible to predict their actions- (The English..., 193).
It is a criticism evident after the rebellion in Animal Farm, as each animal's heart driven motivations drives them to individually try and make life better for themselves and leads the pigs towards greediness and the eventual assertion of power. The pigs go through the Jones's farm house and eventually come away with all its clothing, excess food and alcohol three things that eventually set them apart from the rest of the animals.
We can see this lead to the argument, inherent in the episode, that man will always be driven towards such things as private property another evident criticism of Marxist belief. The materialistic understanding of society, however, is a nod to Marxist analysis, though the notion that men are so different that can not fully be understood is but another criticism."
So there's greed in animals, and there's a lust for power, and there's unpredictability in animals... Nobody can predict the future, nobody should be followed to the letter... Yet animals are *different*, and so some are born to compete and some to cooperate, something to take into account...
"Orwell did, however, want the tendencies that lead some men to guide societies and other men to obey them, to fade away; in effect, he wanted to change the state of nature that led to hierarchal social structures."
So the real problem is that of the hierarchal structures. There's *always* the risk of a lion, even in Marxism. And in denying that fact they perhaps created the vacuum for the worst lion there is: State Capitalism.
I find the following interpretation more realistic than the theoretical Marxist analysis...
Source: book 'You Are Being Lied To'; article 'Will the Real Human Please Stand Up?' by Riane Eisler. Fragments.
Humanity at the Crossroads
In sum, the outcome of the tension between the partnership and dominator models as two basic human possibilities is far from settled. We are now at what scientists call a bifurcation point, where there are two very different scenarios for out future.
One is 'dominator system breakdown': the unsustainable future of high technology guided by the dominator model [the Lion]. This is where high technology in service of the domination of nature despoils and pollutes our natural habitat. It is a future where advanced technologies will be used not to free our human potentials, but to more effectively control and dominate. And ultimately, it is a future of environmental, nuclear, or biological holocaust.
The other scenario is 'breakthrough to partnership': the sustainable future of a world primarily orienting to the partnership model [for the benefit of all species]. Here advanced technologies are developed and used in ways that promote environmental balance and the realization of our species' great untapped potentials. International regulations ensure corporate accountability to workers, communities and natural habitats. [I'd add here the promotion of cooperatives as an option to counterbalance corporations.] New economic institutions and rules recognize the value of the work of caring and caregiving, and discourage violence, exploitation, and the despoliation of nature.
" It's so clear that Orwell did reject both Marxism (the pigs) and Capitalism (the farmer), that it hardly needs to be bothered about. Nevertheless we can learn from the enemy, I mean the lion..."
<This is not true. The pigs (revolutionary elite) undermined Animalism (Marxism), this was the problem. George Orwell novell can perhaps be better understood with understanding George Orwell. George Orwell was Communist. In Spain he was among Trotskist (POUM), fighting Fascists. He was very close to the Stalnist aggression, were "Napoleons dogs" killed several of his POUM comrades and Andreas Nin, a leading member of POUM, was skinned alive(!). Luckily, George Orwell escaped this aggression, and also survived a bullet which passed through his throat and out his neck, shot by a fascist-sniper at the front in Spain. I think "Snowball" (Trotsky) is more the person George Orwell see as defender of Animalism (Communism).>
"If I had understood the situation a bit better I should probably have joined the anarchists". (Extract letter, October 1937 written by George Orwell to his friend Jack Common).
Orwell was an *anarchist*. Just read his work and you'll see him rejecting hierarchy over and over (Big Brother). That's his legacy: NO LION NO PROBLEM!
PS: I skipped the last part not to make it too long. Your English is perfect.
Posted 09 July 2003 - 09:03 PM
Well, I'm sure you do it to respect traditions...
<Yes, I am from Norden, but hopefully not too sanctimonious (an unfortunately common combination). I would see our relatively just and well developed societies as the product of specific historical conditions (i.e. lutheranism, the absence of serfdom, the traditional inclusion of the peasants in the political process etc. etc.)>
Another factor may have being the fear of the Bolshevik revolution spilling over to Scandinavia, an explanation I recently heard and that makes sense. I know Norway and I found it exemplary: peaceful, no poverty, no littering, educated... The only drawback being their high prices, and state monopolies on alcohol that may be detrimental. Say in a scale of 10 I'd give it a 7, the US getting a 3, and the poor countries somewhere between a 0 and a 1, and what's possible a 10...
<It's no finished blueprint ready to be exported everywhere. Tides change and conditions could easily turn worse again - the current anti-immigration atmosphere in Norway and Denmark, for example, is not very enlightened or nice to watch - and shows how enlightenment is easy when not demanding any special sacrifices, just a surface attitude.>
The racists may have their way if we can get the world to change, at least to a 7. No injustice, no emigration, no terrorism, or at least so much less...
<Still, I really do think this is as best as it has so far been. Social justice is here combined with wealth and technological dynamism which shows that the American way is not the only one, even within capitalism. >
Exactly, that concept is so important: America is not the only model, and they constantly remind you here how bad things are in, say, Cuba but never how good they are in Scandinavia... They know better.
<Anyway, I think that many of the models proposed here are very promising, the more local and individual, the better. Their spread could be a kind of unviscious circle being both the cause and concequence of further reason and enlightenment.>
Exactly. A competition toward a better world, not toward distruction. We can say now Scandinavia is #1, but we can do even better!
<But no revolutions or conscious attempts of power grapping for me - these projects are and have been selfdefeating and destructive.>
Nonviolence is the way to go!
Posted 10 July 2003 - 01:45 AM
We are in agreement here. Education is the key.
Once the former communist countries were taken over by capitalism, education was the first casualty. We must reverse this sad trend. Likewise it should be the first priority for poor nations...
The state of education in the world...
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