Especially with all it’s infrastructural work in Africa. Rolling out smart grids with wind and solar power would be effective in Africa. It’s positive on top of positive. As Bastani argues in Fully Automated Luxury Communism, providing energy to Africa would bring an immediate and massive improvement to public health in many places. Even through simple stuff like being able to turn electric lights on at night will reduce nighttime accidents, crime rates, and improve health outcomes e.g. during pregnancy, as giving birth is otherwise extra dangerous in the dark at night.
These are good ideas. I agree that socialists should not seek to abolish schools. The system and curricula need to be reformed, the commodity form must be forcibly removed from the equation (no more numerical grades and inspections used solely to introduce market-like competition between pupils and institutions, etc), the teachers need to be retrained and multiplied, and the bourgeoisie must be kept away.
I think everyone should be dedicated to at least degree-level. But I’m also willing to accept that not everyone will want this (at least in the early stages of socialism).
There can probably be room for lots of different types of education but however it is delivered, it must be led by those concerned. As you say, democratic. There is a limited role for a socialist central government in enforcing socialist education. Otherwise, it should be left to teachers, parents, local authorities, health bodies, academics/researchers, trades unions/workers bodies, and the pupils. By this, I mean, education must be scientific, democratic, and serve the pupil/student and society.
There’s a limit to how much pupils (or students at university) can be involved in curricula design. Education is supposed to be transformative, so those who have yet to go through the process/course are not yet fully ready to judge it’s content. But they should be meaningfully consulted, and can have more say about the general running of the school.
Pupils could even be involved in the practical side of running their school. So cooking lessons age 5–14 prepare students to do a ‘group dissertation’ where they create and deliver a menu in the canteen for everyone else at age 15–16. Same for maintenance of the grounds, admin, etc. It’ll be up to each institution, so long as they are also tight on health and safety.
With better resources, schools can put on a wider variety of classes, too, and students can still have some choice in what they want to study. But everyone should reach age 16–21 with a broad foundational knowledge and skill set, so far as possible, before taking a note focused degree (which can also begin broad and become narrower). In capitalism, there’s an incentive to specialise early and to take courses that will lead to a job – the whole system is distorted because still the best jobs go to the wealthiest children, but the logic of merit prevails.
Under socialism, where specialist training and higher education is available to all, where all are encouraged to participate, and where all young people can forget about whether they need to pay or help with bills (and so leave education as early as possible), everyone can get a general education before heading towards a specific degree (or higher). When these people graduate, they’ll make much better decisions than people who only know their field.
Importantly, this will prepare everyone to participate in political life. It is fundamental that socialist education provide this to everyone (the main reason I argue that all should get a degree, if possible), rather than only providing this to the children of the ruling class. Well, let me put it another way: under a dictatorship of the proletariat, every child will be a child of the ruling class, and they must be as prepared to govern in the same way as all other children of ruling classes have historically been prepared to govern.
Then there’s room for lifelong learning, too. It’s probably unnecessary and counter-productive to force everyone into the same kind of educational structure and pathway. So lifelong learning opportunities must be provided for all. If someone really does just want to leave school at 15/16 and just get on with something they know they were born to do? They should be allowed to and receive the same kind of institutional support that those who stay in education receive. At the same time, this may rely on a bourgeois logic; I don’t see why socialists would divide ‘professional’/‘practical’ from ‘academic’ study, so the person who does ‘leave school at 15/16’ can still receive awork-based education/training and be around their academic peers for part of the week.
Under bourgeois education, there are three tiers of schools. Schools where the ruling class get taught to rule. Schools where the talent from the middle class get taught to prop up the ruling class. And schools where everyone else gets taught to be a disciplined worker. Socialist education must abolish these divisions.
Class sizes must be appropriate. If that’s 40 or 600, fine. But in most classes, it should be capped around 8. Schools must be provided the resources to achieve these numbers.
I’d also say – and this may be controversial around here – that children’s education can be mostly low tech. There’s a place for advanced tech. But it’s better to spend scarce resources on books, teachers, support, and space. We need to not give pupils tablets and laptops, etc, to perform tasks that can be completed on paper just because a tech salesman has convinced the school that tech is more important than the library, and the library gets smaller and smaller because the school now needs to keep replacing it’s tech due to planned obsolescence. But then, this issue is really about taking capitalists out of the environment. Under socialism, tech will last forever and can be repaired, so maybe the library doesn’t need to be affected.
This is quite misrepresentative of what was said. ‘Publicly owned’ refers to some flavour of common ownership of the means of production. It’s dishonest to pretend that public ownership only requires that (some) members of the public are ‘owners’. It could mean that, but it doesn’t.
Even if you’re referring to something like stakeholder capitalism, where workers own shares, it’s packaged as private ownership, not public.
Bourgeois parties themselves try to distance themselves from any hint of public ownership. Any politician within the party who supports anything that looks like public ownership will be disciplined or kicked out. All the major and most of the minor political parties in almost all liberal democracies vigorously argue that if they get elected they will not move towards public ownership of anything. They don’t want to spook the bourgeoisie.
The mere whisper of nationalisation makes bourgeois politicians come out in hives. If they mention it at all, it’s to promise to privatise any remaining nationalised industries. This is the essence of neoliberalism; everything moved to the realm of the private market.
If the single party’s ideology is so broad that it basically encompasses “don’t be evil” then …
It’s only this broad if you change the accepted meaning of public ownership to something that nobody would seriously accept.
You seem to be on the right track, but your comment is idealist (in the sense that it’s not materialist) and you may be missing a class analysis.
Are there any examples of where a multiparty system has led to a change in ideology away from capitalism?
The two major parties in every liberal democracy that I can think of are capitalist parties. While fringe parties could theoretically win power and change the state’s ideology it could only do so by becoming major parties. Otherwise they could not win power or, if they formed a coalition, they would have to share power (with capitalist parties).
The crushing of small parties is an inherent feature of liberal democracies as a matter of fact. Whether it’s a corruption of the ideal of liberal democracy seems to be beside the point.
Even if the argument is accepted that small parties get crushed in liberal democracies because of corruption, the fact remains that these states are therefore corrupted (I don’t think they are corrupt, but I’ll ignore this semantic issue for now). The ‘corrupt’ rulers will never not be corrupt because they will not willingly rescind power. To not crush socialist parties is to invite socialism, which means the current ruling class must agree to having it’s own power abolished. Why would it ever do that? Capitalists will never let the people vote away their power.
Even major political parties have been kept away from power for the mere suggestion of curbing (not even abolishing) capitalism: Sanders was not allowed to lead the Dems; Corbyn was not allowed to lead a majority Labour party government; Syriza was not allowed to enact it’s promised reforms when it won power. It doesn’t matter how many parties there are in a bourgeois state, the only acceptable option is capitalism (otherwise it wouldn’t be a bourgeois state).
Liberal democracies are not meaningfully democratic. The working class(es) have no real say over policies, laws, or the economy. Whether they could do so by forming a party (it would have to become a big party before it could achieve anything, so any talk about small parties is a red herring), the fact remains that they have never been allowed to (unless you can give me an example).
I know. In short, no.
A class analysis-based distinction must be made before giving the long answer.
A country is not a homogenous bloc. Bourgeois theory accepts that views will differ within a country. This is a given. It’s not what Marxists mean when they challenge the view that a state is a homogenous bloc.
Marxists go further. A country is a combination of classes, whose material interests are fundamentally opposed. The ruling class (the bourgeoisie) wants one thing. The ruled class(es) (mainly the proletariat in most modern states) wants another thing. So when Marxists refer to a state, they tend to mean the ruling class within that state. They don’t mean everyone who lives in the state.
It’s absolutely unthinkable for any western country to integrate aspects of Marxism into the system.
I believe Yogthos was referring to decisions and policies of the ruling class. If this class doesn’t like something, it can legislate against it and enforce that legislation through what Althusser calls repressive and ideological state apparatuses. The ruling class is not all powerful and it does require some buy-in from the workers.
The ruled class clearly has some room to maneuver, as you rightly pointed out. Similarly, these workers can establish, join, and organise in trade unions. Co-ops, though, as with trade unions, can only be lawful if they operate within the rules of and created by the bourgeois state, which are created to achieve what the ruling, bourgeois class wants, and have a dialectical relationship to there logic of capital. (Incidentally, this is why Marxists don’t care much whether the red or blue party is in power – they’re both still capitalist.)
Co-ops, again as with trade unions, may even be set up by or otherwise involve Marxists. They may well be an improvement on the ordinary way of working for private companies. But two problems arise.
First, co-ops must work within the logic of capital. Otherwise, within a bourgeois state, there will be two consequences: (i) they will be run out of business by capitalists who can e.g. suppress wages and use the savings to undercut the co-op; or (ii) if they threaten the logic of capital or the institution of private property, the state will crush them.
Working within this logic, the co-op can only do so much, falling far short of any revolutionary goals. Two aspects unfold. One, the co-op is likely shown to be a spontaneous movement. Two, the co-op, like trade unions, can lobby for some reforms, but these are limited to economic reforms and will rarely be political, or political economic.
This leads smoothly into the second problem. Before stating the second problem, it must be noted that co-ops, like trade unions, could provide an structure that survives the dissolution of the bourgeois state, unlike fully for-profit corporations. And I’m not saying that I dislike co-ops; I’m saying they do not (generally) introduce Marxism into a bourgeois state.
Second, then, cooperative movements, again much like trade unions, cannot develop revolutionary consciousness (because they are spontaneous, apolitical, and they must accept and work within the logic of capital from the beginning).
Something Lenin said of trade unions seems to apply here (footnote omitted) (https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1901/witbd/ii.htm):
The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness, i.e., the conviction that it is necessary to combine in unions, fight the employers, and strive to compel the government to pass necessary labour legislation, etc.[…] The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical, and economic theories elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals. By their social status the founders of modern scientific socialism, Marx and Engels, themselves belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. In the very same way, in Russia, the theoretical doctrine of [revolutionary] Social-Democracy arose altogether independently of the spontaneous growth of the working-class movement; it arose as a natural and inevitable outcome of the development of thought among the revolutionary socialist intelligentsia.
Note that when Lenin says ‘social democracy’, etc, he’s not using it in the way that people use it today to refer to liberal democracy. The labels have changed over time. He’s talking about the revolutionary socialists.
In sum, co-ops do not introduce Marxism into a bourgeois state. Co-ops cannot take workers any closer to revolution. Indeed, they may undermine revolution, by raising those who would be in the proletariat into the ranks of the petite bourgeoisie.
Additionally, co-ops simply try to capture some of the market/capital currently held by ordinary for-profit enterprises. And as the world is already capitalist, the co-op must enter relations with the bourgeoisie to acquire resources, to distribute it’s goods and services, etc.
This is why co-ops do not represent a micro-system of workers owning the means of production. The co-op is more like a spontaneous organisation of trade unionists who simply cut out the middleman.
If you want to know more about the Marxist theory of the state, you might want to look at Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto and Lenin’s State and Revolution. The former is quite short and straightforward. Both texts explain some of what I said above in more detail.
Edit: here’s a good article that responds to your point about workers being granted shares (which does the opposite of integrating some Marxism into the bourgeois system): https://en.rnp-f.org/2018/09/29/exploitation-of-workers-by-the-workers/#top.
What about Elon Musk? He’s a scientist. You might not have heard of him, but he invented that it is possible to make a Hot WheelsTM for adults but – here’s the clever bit that other boffins couldn’t fix – it has to be underground to stop the cars shooting off into the air and banging into buildings and such.
No more than when people become self employed or ‘entrepreneurs’ (without employees, as that would make them petite bourgeois).
Co-ops don’t change any of the fundamental social relations. The co-op must still compete within a framework of capitalist logic. It cannot challenge private property, the system of wage labour, the broader capitalist power over resource extraction, rent, logistics, etc.
Marxism is revolutionary. It’s not possible to do just a little bit of Marxism without diluting Marxism and making it meaningless.
(I’m expecting some pushback on this comment. It will be welcome as I’m not entirely sure what to think of Wallerstein or the broad ideas that I’m about to lay out. This is also a rather one-sided, Anglo-centric description.)
You’re right to separate these questions apart, but the first statement should be a question, too: did the bourgeois overthrow the monarchies?
The bourgeoisie ‘overthrew’ the monarchies more clearly in e.g. France than in e.g. the UK only because the UK still has a figurehead monarch whereas the French are better known for collecting royal heads. But in both places (again, more clearly in the UK), the bourgeoisie did not so much overthrow the monarchy as the monarchy became bourgeois.
There is a common misconception that one day there was feudalism and the next day there was capitalism. Marxists tend to be more correct in their retelling of this narrative because they explain how capitalism grew out of the contradictions of feudalism. But sometimes even some Marxists imply a clean division between feudalism and capitalism. And this idea may lead to only half the solution.
Immanuel Wallerstein argues in Historical Capitalism that instead of a neat (albeit bloody) transition, there was a slow transformation of the aristocracy into a bourgeoisie.
I can’t remember if all this is in Wallerstein, so I’ll start a new paragraph to explain the broad idea.
Initially, the aristocracy was powerful enough to control the merchant class. But this did not last too long. Eventually, the wealth accumulated by those merchants began to give them power but not legitimacy. Legitimacy was only secured by bloodline.
Today, members of the haute bourgeoisie are usually the children of marriages between the aristocrats (who had legitimacy declining power) and the rising merchant class (who had wealth and growing power). For example, by marrying an aristocratic daughter to a merchant son, the aristocratic family would receive a great dowry, sufficient to continue living in luxury, etc, in a world that was quickly becoming dominated by merchant wealth; and the merchant’s heirs would receive legitimacy, in a world still dominated politically by feudal lords of one sort or another. When the couple had children and the grandparents died the parents and then the grandchildren would inherit the wealth, the titles, the family estate, and the power.
Eventually, the two classes were integrated and the logic of capital began to dictate that only the wealth mattered. The aristocratic titles were now essentially worthless. The senior European aristocrats had long since tried to curtail the power of the king. Bear in mind, kings may have ruled by divine right, but they were only ‘first among equals’ among the nobility because they were all related and so any of them could also feasibly rule with god’s blessing.
Hence the Magna Carta of 1215, an attempt to grant the nobility some protections from the king and the power to make decisions in an early parliament. It failed.
Over time, Parliament grew and developed but the king was still more or less in charge. Unfortunately for Charles I, he was quite unaware of his surroundings. He didn’t see that the monarchs were going out of fashion. When he wasn’t looking – or maybe he was looking but Parliament was willing to be a bit impolite – he lost his head by tripping over and landing with his neck underneath an axe. The politicians couldn’t believe their luck.
Oliver Cromwell (who was not a royal in line for the throne but was certainly of the ruling class) took over as Lord Protector. After he died, his son took his place but he was a bit crap, so Parliament eventually asked the exiled Charles II to be king. Then they remembered. Kings are a bit crap, too! How could they forget.
It took until 1688 for parliament to depose Charles II’s son, who became the next king (James II – or James VII if you ask the Scottish), after Jimmy, the daft bastard, suspended Parliament at a time when the bourgeoisie was gaining power. Luckily for James, he managed to get out with his head still on his shoulders, so he (IIRC) left England but was also, probably, careful not to go in holiday in the south of France anymore.
The politicians put the Crown on the head of William (and Mary) of Orange (a Dutch guy and potentially a relation of @DankZedong@lemmygrad.ml) on the promise that the new king would promise just to sit there and look like a king – because this would make countries look at England like it was still governed by grown ups – while Parliament did the real work and had the real power.
That Parliament was filled with the people I mentioned earlier, the children of the marriages between the aristocracy and the merchant (now bourgeois) class. Incidentally, these people are almost all closely related by blood to the current haute bourgeoisie of the US and of Europe. A report came out recently about the noble roots of most of the US’ billionaires. I’ll try to find it.
This takes us somewhere nearer to the answer to your other questions. Today’s European monarchs (I’m unsure about e.g. SA) are bourgeois. The rest is all a performance. Nobody seriously believes the UK king is either a god or appointed by god (or maybe they do, the Brits do seem a bit weird like that) nor does the king have any real power to govern his realm. But the royal family does have hundreds of millions of pounds sterling in capital.
At the same time, many of the politicians, being the children of the people mentioned above, would in any earlier era be called aristocrats and nobles. In fact, even in this era, half of them are Lords, Ladies, Barons, Knights, etc. Tony Blair pretended to abolish this system by banning hereditary peerages (a seat in the House of Lords just because your parent was a Lord or Lady) but now the ‘life peers’ just appoint their children on the way out. They’re all capitalists, though. Then just enjoy the theatre and pageantry.
As for the current role of modern aristocrats, without naming names they seem to like to play the role of paedophiles and of keeping paedophiles out of prison.
This long and rambly comment may answer some of your questions (but not as directly as I had planned). Essentially, it’s as you say, bourgeois with bells and whistles. But also, the bourgeois without the bells and whistles are the people who would have been aristocrats if they were born 3–400 years ago. Essentially the modern haute bourgeoisie are the descendants of those nobles who were wise enough to see what changes were coming with the dawn of capitalism.
The drugs that are actually killing people here are primarily meth, heroin, cigarettes, opiates and alcohol.
Would marijuana not be added to that list if its usage were as widespread as alcohol and tobacco, though?
Not that you’re doing this, as you are including caveats, but I find the whole discourse around weed problematic. The potential medical uses are used as an argument for widespread use by (going by the users I’ve met) young people who just want to get high. They’re not using it to avoid seizures, etc.
Any notion that we should be endorsing weed for supposed health benefits or as something with which to self medicate needs to be challenged. Maybe it can be used in a medical setting (I’m actually quite hopeful that it can). But in the current set up, that’s not really what’s being proposed.
And considering the standard of education where I live (I can’t see why it would be much higher anywhere else in the west), most people are not nearly knowledgeable enough to start self medicating. Most people who I’ve spoken to who are in favour of decriminalisation/legalisation seem to be under the impression that because there are some potential medical uses that weed is somehow ‘safe’ and ‘good for you’. This is, of course, the intended impression from those who stand to profit from it’s legal sale but neither is generally true.
I’m all for decriminalisation, btw; as that seems to be one sensible tool in the fight against racial policing. (On the other hand, if it wasn’t drugs, the institutionally racist police would simply find another reason for racial policing, so….)
But otherwise, I think the whole issue needs to be approached with far, far more caution than it’s currently given (generally speaking). The decriminalisation point tends to be interpreted as ‘this is fine and deemed safe now’, but it’s not. As you say above, there are two competing bourgeois factions with a view on weed. Any progressive policy needs to be critical of both.
Strongly agree with the comparison with unhealthy food. Sugar and processed fats are possibly far more dangerous than weed, simply because they’re more-or-less invisible and ubiquitous. At least most people can’t keep a job and get high or drunk 24/7; there’s a natural limit to their use and to still ‘function’ in society (I’m talking about recreational use, here). That’s not true of sugar, which people can guzzle and consume every wakeful hour.
And if this is approached from an overall public health issue, we’re better off legalising most drugs, educating people about them, creating safe environments for their consumption, and – wait for it – adequately regulating working environments to (not exhaustively): (a) minimise alienation, which leads people to over indulge in all recreational drugs (especially alcohol); (b) prevent employers from forcing employees to be either sat down or stood up hours in end; and © prevent employers from putting employees in any position where they have to manage pain in the first place or risk starvation.
The problem is, the industry views aren’t at all concerned with public health but profits, and if we make progress down this regulatory path, public consciousness will already have changed to such an extent that everything is up in the air and open to positive change.