We have many times critiqued Sanders’ lack of a real definition of ‘socialism’: his social democratic orientation. And we have produced an entire model of the way a real postcapitalist socialism can be constructed. Our model of ecological socialism as ‘democratic market neo-communism’ provides a way to conceptualize the basics of a postcapitalist system.
Much of the problem is not the social democratic lack of imagination but the haunted memory of bolshevik failure and ultimately the failure of marxists, and finally Marx, guilty of the same lack of specifics, to propose a postcapitalist alternative. A moment of golden opportunity was lost with the Russian revolution: socialism could have become a global standard, but instead the same lack of imagination produced only the most sterile form of false communism.
Our circumstances have changed: the inability to imagine some alternative has yielded to a crisis so threatening that we are suddenly ‘back to the wall’ without the option of endless capitalism: the latter is showing itself to far worse than anything produced by stalinism: capitalism unchecked is going to provoke planetary destruction: from ‘there is no alternative’ we come to the same in reverse: there is no alternative to some form of postcapitalism.
We must match ecological socialism to a brand of, let us call it, neo-communism. Part of the problem is the extreme posing of opposites. In reality, we can resolve much of the confusion if we take ‘social democratic’ formulas and then drive them past the barrier of expropriation. Whether that requires a revolutionary transition or whether it can at a moment of crisis (already the socialist idea is taking off once again) become a ‘revolutionary’ reformist platform, the fact remains that we can imagine a host of postcapitalist systems: our ecological/green DMNC model produces a cornucopia of such systems. In our approach we consider the problems with total social reconstruction and attempt to remorph a liberal system into a (neo-)communist system, leaving much of the original structure in place: we consider that once we have brought expropriation to the creation of a Commons, the task of social reconstruction becomes relatively straightforward in a system that can even allow markets, albeit in a new form beyond the reign of private capital. Marxists turned the whole question into an impossibly difficult theoretical yet speculative question and the result was a kind of jargonized cult that was unequal to the task of creating anything from the abstractions of socialist slogans.
It is worth looking at one of the few successful revolutions: the american. It suffers from oversimplification and the charge of ‘bourgeois’ revolution, but it shows that men without complex theories carrying out the idea of a recipe rather than attempting to follow the abstractions of theory.
The transition to postcapitalism requires the same practical approach with a vivid and specific blueprint for a viable postcapitalist system. We have suggested a triadic balance of planned, market, and residual ‘anarchic’ systems with both a strong presidential power able to guard a Commons and a parliamentary system freed of the hopeless capture by capital that we see now. The market sector would be a part of the Commons, with licensed resources for our ‘ex-capitalists’ while the potential of planning would produce a larger cradle for the residual market factor. The left tends to discard parliamentary systems, not without reason, in favor of some kind of worker controlled politics. While we can introduce any number of worker organizations in the final analysis our system is based on what we call the universal class and a consideration of the whole population in all its diversity. There we consider a parliamentary type of system for the simple reason that if we are going to remorph a liberal system we will end up attempting to remorph its political basics in a form that can transcend the cogent critique of Marx of such systems. Whatever the case, and here our model is open to great variety.
This kind of system can deliver on the basic socialist promises of economic rights, liberal rights, democratic participation beside a strong ‘presidential’ authority that can maintain basic communist axioms. This kind of system enforces the ‘dialectics’ of paired opposites: organization/anarchy, democracy/authority, planning and markets, property/expropriation (in the sense that licensed resources, while not private property, are given a possible market implementation, in parallel to planned versions, etc…
The point is that our inherited notions of political economy are all too primitive, as bolshevism made obvious, and can be upgraded to far more complex and functional versions.
In a real sense this approach can declare private property to a Commons and then declare victory. In essence this, to some extent, leaves things alone as it changes labels. We don’t have to destroy everything and start over: the latter is a dangerous experiment in complex systems and the result is a blind walk through a maze of untried possibilities. A liberal system remorphed to a form of communism can and should leave behind a funny mien of a communism camouflaged behind liberalism, and vice versa, liberalism camouflaged behind communism.
At some point this kind of system will end up, perhaps, making reformism and revolutionary transformation merge into a desperation exit strategy from rising capitalist madness, as its inherent limits play out in public. New Bernies will arise in the wake of social democratic pilfering of ‘socialism’ for the real thing…
Bernie Sanders’ speech on democratic socialism underscored the limits of a growing movement’s imagination.