Author Archives: Eric

A rose by any other name

The left doesn’t need a revolution and, deep down, doesn’t really want one. So why do they spend so much time telling you how awful everything is?

Partly, it’s what gets them paid. I’m not saying they’re money grubbers. Most of them could make more money on Wall Street, in medicine, in the private sector somewhere, or some such. Of course, then they wouldn’t own and operate their own businesses, and it’s nicer to work for yourself than to work for someone else.

But when you run a business, you need money. You need customers. And you don’t get customers by telling people things they don’t want to hear. If you want to make money, you have to tell people what they want to hear. People like hearing how bad everything is, because there’s no personal challenge in that.

Everybody agrees the world sucks. If you try to propose solutions, everything will just devolve into big fights because no one can agree on anything. It’s more lucrative to just say over and over that global warming is killing the planet, that corporations screw people, that the United States is a purveyor of death — whatever.

But the people who own and run the left, and the people whom the left attracts, are in agreement about what kind of world they would most like to live in, if they had the power to bring it about: They want to overthrow the capitalists.

The number one priority of everyone on the left is the preservation and enhancement of their class privileges. This is true of the right as well, but the difference is that the right is honest about it. I don’t mean the left is lying to you. I mean the right is honest with themselves about what they want and what they’re trying to accomplish.

But the left tells you how much they love the working class, and deep down they really believe it. They’re not lying to you: They really do think they love the working class. If God himself were to administer a lie-detector test to everyone on the left and ask them if they really cared about ordinary working slobs, they would pass easily because in their heart of hearts they really do love the people who take out their trash.

But that love stops as soon as it causes the slightest inconvenience to their persons. They might “love” the working class, but as soon as there’s the barest suggestion that everyone should pitch in and do their fair share of grunt work, the “worker-loving” left bares its teeth.

The left has no interest whatsoever in any kind of world where it might have to get its hands dirty. The left has no interest in a world where everyone does their fair share of picking the cotton. And if you press the left on this, they will destroy you.

The left doesn’t want a revolution because what it really wants, deep down, is a Soviet-style economy where workplaces are owned by the state (that is, where the capitalists are gone as a class) and where it (the left) runs the society. However, the left knows it wouldn’t do to say this out loud, because this would be deeply unpopular with the working people the left keeps trying unsuccessfully to organize.

The left will fight to the death to resist any revolution where it cannot control the terms of the debate. Since this is an impossibility, the left instead refuses to discuss or consider revolution at all.

Basically, whenever you encounter a lefty, just ask them if they’re willing to do their fair share of shit work. Ask them: If cotton must be picked, shouldn’t we all do our fair share of picking it?

The left is not trying to liberate the field slaves, nor does it have any interest in doing so. The left wants to liberate itself, but it is incapable of being honest with itself about this fundamental fact about itself. That’s what separates it from the right: The right embraces its classism, racism, and sexism; the left pretends (and in fact really believes) it has transcended all these things.

It’s not that the function of a left isn’t needed. It’s that the left as it presently exists (and has always existed) will never accomplish any of the things that it suggests to people it’s trying to accomplish. The left will never stop global warming, win Medicare for all, eliminate sexism and racism, or whatever. The left will never do any of these things because it’s priority isn’t any of these things.

The left’s only priority is itself, no matter how much it tries to pretend otherwise.

Welcome to Rome.

So, how’s your current approach working out for you? Are you getting the results you want? Do you even know what the results you want are?

I’ve been saying for a long time that the left will not win anything until it grapples seriously with the implications of pareconish theory. I’ve also said that the left — which is deeply classist and deeply coordinatorist — will never do this. It’s the overseers, and has no intention of ever getting out into the fields and doing it’s fair share of picking the cotton under the hot sun.

The left will never, ever even consider the possibility that it should do it’s fair share of shit work. The coordinator-class left wants to overthrow the capitalist class and take over the economy; it doesn’t want to spread the real work equitably. However, the left doesn’t hold any of these views consciously. It doesn’t consciously know that its goal is a public-enterprise economy (either with market allocation or centrally-planned allocation). But this theory explains and predicts everything the left does.

So, in a nutshell, I am saying that nothing will ever change — except that to get worse. I’d like to be wrong about that, but I see no evidence that suggests I am. When I see such evidence, I’ll modify my theory accordingly.

I look for actionable, low-hanging fruit in my own life — things I can control, and I focus on those. Anything else is a recipe for misery and failure. A left that were serious about winning would do the same thing: It would focus on things it can control, particularly the lowest of low-hanging fruit.

I claim this low-hanging fruit is a simple acknowledgement of the existence of pareconish theory. Of course, acknowledging parecon would lead to all sorts of deleterious consequences from the standpoint of the deeply-classist, coordinator-class left — it’s not no simple as simply acknowledging it.

But it is low-hanging fruit. I claim there’s no other way for the left to threaten the system, and I claim that it is sufficient to threaten the system. In the same way that I say parecon is a necessary and sufficient condition for the liberation of the working class, I also say that pareconish theory is a necessary and sufficient condition for building a left that’s capable of winning anything in the United States.

Of course, you have no idea who I am. You’ve never heard of me. What do I know? That’s all true, of course: I’m nobody in the world.

But here’s what I do know: The left hasn’t won anything since Nixon left office. It’s broke. You might try fixing it.

Do I think this will happen? Do I think the left will ever start taking parecon seriously? Of course not. But I’m still right, and no one has presented any other theoretical way for the left to move forward.

If you don’t like my theory, fine. Let’s see yours. Or just stay comfortable with losing. Because things getting worse is never going to be enough to foment change. It wasn’t in Greece. It’s not in Brazil, or Mexico. And it won’t be in the United States. If people don’t stick together in the good times — and they don’t — then they won’t stick together in the bad times.

You need something to transcend all that, but with actual institutional teeth. You need horizontal organizational structure. Without that, you may as well just accept the fact that you live in the declining days of the Roman Republic.

The next AOC?

This interview makes me nervous. It looks like elite liberals already have their hooks in Chris Smalls. He talks about about everything he’s done, and everything he’s doing. He talks about the “success” the organizing he’s done is having. He’s talking up letters he’s gotten from (worse than useless) senators like Bernie or Warren. He’s already done an interview with 60 Minutes.

I mean, what’s he supposed to do? He’s going to need money. But the liberals aren’t throwing money at him and buying him off that way. It doesn’t work like that. They’re flattering him and encouraging to see himself as an agent of change. He may end up in politics someday. But he’s young and can’t have any well-developed theory of social change.

He has no way to see how he’s being used. And plenty of reasons not to. He could end up being the next AOC. And if he realizes what’s happening (which my guess is he won’t), he’ll be unemployed and poor again.

Chris Smalls isn’t a bad guy, though he may ultimately become one. He’s a pawn in a game he doesn’t understand. The question is, how long will it take before Jimmy Dore understands it? My guess is a few years, or as soon as Smalls announces he’s running for Congress.

A concrete strategy for victory

No war can be won without an overarching strategy. So here’s one for the left:

Step 1: Acknowledge the existence of participatory economics and deal with its implications.

This is where the strategy fails, of course, because the left is never going to acknowledge the existence of pareconish theory. When I say, “The left is the overseers,” I mean it. Classism is as poorly understood in 2020 as racism and sexism were in 1820, and the left is deeply, deeply classist.

If we model the left as an alcoholic, then the left is the alcoholic that hits bottom, but never changes. We like to talk about alcoholics who hit bottom and then (finally) make the changes they need to turn their lives around. But more common are the alcoholics who hit bottom, yet the only change they make is grabbing a shovel.

Still, for purposes of presenting a strategy, let’s assume a can opener pretend that the left will actually ever change. The implications of pareconish theory are that everyone does their fair share of shit work, and that no one gets to just manage an operation from an air-conditioned office while other people are out in the hot sun doing the actual work of picking the cotton.

Parecon is built on the notions of circumstantial equity and remunerative equity. Those are fifty-dollar ways of saying that everyone gets paid the same (remunerative equity) and everyone has comparable work lives (circumstantial equity). The core of why the left hates parecon so much is because of its insistence on circumstantial equity.

The left doesn’t mind people being paid the same, but it hates the idea of it having to do menial tasks. Dealing honestly with the implications of participatory economics mean the left would have to reorganize itself along pareconish lines. Again, this will never happen, but I’m constructing a fantasy world here to demonstrate that a viable strategy forward — with concrete steps — actually exists.

Step 2: Pareconish organizations can easily merge to create larger, more powerful organizations.

If you’re in a war and vastly outmanned and outgunned, the last thing you should be doing is splintering your resources. Victory is literally impossible in such a situation. But this completely describes the extant left.

And under the current conditions, it essentially impossible for left-wing organizations to merge. Take two left-wing organizations, A and B. That they are presently viable organizations means they each have a revenue stream, and someone who controls that revenue stream.

Suppose these two organizations merge into A+B. Who’s the top dog? Who controls the money? In the real world, when organizations merge it’s generally one much bigger fish swallowing a much smaller one, or two comparably-sized large organizations where the decision makers write themselves huge checks with the money they save by firing a bunch of people.

But pareconish organizations, being truly horizontal, can merge much more seamlessly. Any workplace is just a set of tasks, with tasks bundled to create jobs. In the corporate-style workplaces that exist in capitalism and all forms of socialism, tasks are bundled according to the relative empowerment effects, with cushy and empowering tasks being jealously guarded by the managers who run the workplace.

In pareconish organizations, however, everyone works a fair job (or balanced job complex). There’s no division of labor to jealously guard, because of already-existing circumstantial equity across the workplace. For two pareconish organizations to join, all they need to do is throw the list of all the tasks in the new organization, A+B, back into a spreadsheet and re-divvy up the jobs.

Furthermore, pareconish organizations can easily respect the existing goals and cultures of the merging organizations. If organization A is fighting for workers’ rights and organization B is fighting for women’s rights, but A and B have corporate structures (which all left-wing organizations have in 2020), the new organization A+B (were it able to form at all) would end prioritizing one over the other (likely the one that produced the greatest revenue).

But because all workers in pareconish organizations have comparable power within the organization, such a hijacking would be much more difficult without essentially the entire organization being on board. This is not to say there would not be disagreements or conflicts in A+B — or indeed in any pareconish organization — just that there would not be a permanent managerial class of actors in the organization making the choices (essentially always in its own interests).

Pareconish organizations across the left could unite into smaller, larger, more powerful organizations (or even one very large and powerful organization), with greater resources at its disposal for the fights beginning at step 3.

Step 3: The newly-pareconish left becomes the “threat of a good example” that the capitalist class so fears, and it trumpets this fact.

Three of the most progressive programs in U.S. history are Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The ruling class didn’t allow these to become law because they liked them. Rather, they were faced with threats to the system that threatened the one thing they really do care about: control. So, in an effort to keep their control, they gave ground on the second thing they care most about, money.

But these systemic threats only existed because of the existence of the Soviet Union. Some people thought the Soviet system of a public-enterprise centrally-planned economy was “good” and others thought it was “bad” — but everyone agreed it was different. Not only was it different, it was (like Mt. Everest) there.

Today, no example exists of anything good, let alone different. The capitalist system of a private-enterprise market economy is the only game in town, and everyone “knows” it. How is the left supposed to inspire anyone when it can’t articulate a vision of something radically different from solidarity-destroying market economics and authoritarian central planning?

The new pareconish left can not only openly and proudly call for an end to wage slavery and the actual liberation of the working class, it can also show the working class exactly how such a system works in practice.

Workers are more concerned with wages, benefits, and working conditions than they are taking over their workplaces or overthrowing the capitalist system. But regardless of their concerns, they always the same very-justified fear of stepping out of line. Working people generally know very well how easily and quickly they can and will be crushed if they dare to raise their heads.

This is where a more powerful left steps in. Presently, when workers undertake any action for any reason, they get no external support and they are crushed. But a more powerful, pareconish left would have both the incentive and the means to step in and provide defense and support.

In short order, the pareconish left and workers could jointly form goals and strategies to eventually take over the entire economy and remake it along pareconish lines.

Step 4: None of this will ever happen, because the left is deeply classist and has zero interest in working-class liberation.

I’m not stupid. I’m not holding my breath for the left to ever actually acknowledge the existence of pareconish theory. However, notice in the above that I’ve basically said nothing about the ruling class. There’s a reason for that.

If you’re going to win something — anything — you must formulate a strategy that depends on what you do, and not on what anyone else does. The left (pareconish or otherwise) has zero control over anything done by the ruling class, corporations, the government, the media, the police, the military, or anyone else. To win, the left should be entirely inward focused. It should be focused on what it can control, and what it can control is its own choices and actions.

Think of all the time the left spends moaning and crying about how powerless it is, all the forces arrayed against it, how it always loses, and how things just always get worse. Quite honestly, pretty much the entire left is a bunch of excuse-making losers who are too comfortable in the bottle they’ve climbed into to realize they could actually climb out of it if they wanted to.

Stop being a bunch of whiny pussy crybabies, and just go take what you want. You hold all the cards. You have all the power in your hands right now.

Baby elephants are kept in place tied to a little rope. They grow up to be big elephants who could easily snap the rope like a piece of twine but don’t because they’ve become conditioned to think they’re helpless. Just move a little bit and snap the damn string.

To use a gentler metaphor, the magic’s not in the feather…

Stop whining, start winning (part 2).

Caitlin Johnstone writes:

People ask me “Well, what should we do? How do we fix this thing?” And of course my only possible answer is, “Do what I’m doing! Or your version of it.” Of course I’m doing the thing I think we should do to solve the problems of our species. Why would I be doing anything else?

Johnstone does excellent work. But what she does is what everyone else on the left does: They tell you what’s going on. They tell you about the problem.

That’s important work, and somebody has to do it. But talking about problems is all the left ever does. It never discusses solutions.

Can you imagine Bill Belichick spending the entire week before a game talking about what a great team the Rams are, what a great coach Sean McVay is, and what a great pass rusher Aaron Donald is?

If you’re going to be successful at anything, you must spend far more time thinking about solutions than problems. Yes, you need to understand the problem. But somewhere in the world are medical researchers who can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Lou Gehrig’s disease — except how to fix it.

An understanding of the problem is not enough.

Winners focus on the things they can control. Spending any time thinking about what you can’t control is literally waste.

Belichick sizes up the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. He looks at their tendencies, and watches a lot of film. But then he spends all his time figuring out what his team is going to do. He puts together a game plan, thinks of all possible adjustments he might need to implement in-game (always with an understanding that the circumstances of the actual game may force decisions on him he hadn’t been able to foresee), and spends his time having his team practice his game plan.

Belichick’s goal is to force the other team to react to what the Patriots are doing, and not the other way around. If you’re reacting, you’re losing. To win, you have to be the win who is setting the tempo, dictating the terms of the contest. You want to be the one who is imposing your will on your opponent, not the other way around.

The left spends all its time reacting, and having the establishment’s will imposed on it (the left). The left does this because it has no way to play offense. The left has no way to set the terms of the debate. The left has no way to mount an attack, because it spends no time thinking about any solutions.

Saying you’re for Medicare for all (for instance) is not a solution. It’s a wish. Think about it this way: You want Medicare for all. Fine. What’s your plan to get it?

The U.S. ruling class never wanted the population to have Social Security. But because of a threat to the system, they relented. They never wanted the population to have Medicare or Medicaid, but because of a threat to the system, they relented.

If the left is going to win Medicare for all, it has to threaten the capitalist system itself. But you can’t threaten the system by simply saying you hate capitalism. Elites don’t care about your feelings.

You also can’t threaten the system with any form of socialism. Every form of socialism (whether market or centrally-planned) is an economy in which the capitalists are gone and the managers now have the ultimate say in society.

The working class never sees any capitalists, but they answer to managers every day. As a result, workers hate managers far more than they hate any capitalists. Slogans like “the 99% versus the 1%” resonate on the left because the left is made up of managers. But they don’t resonate with the working class. And they never will.

If you truly want to win anything, you’re going to have to start by acknowledging the existence of participatory economics.

The left ignores and actually hates parecon because parecon has implications that the left doesn’t want to face. But parecon is something the left has complete control over. And parecon represents a massive threat to the the capitalist class because it also represents a massive threat to the managerial class. That distaste that virtually all managers have for parecon is precisely what gives it its power.

No power in the universe can prevent the left from acknowledging parecon’s existence, except the left itself. And the left has been doing just that for 30 years. But if the left and those within its orbit actually want to set the terms of the debate — actually want to impose their will on the capitalist class — parecon is literally the only way to do it.

The left will continue to lose until it acknowledges the existence of pareconish theory. Once it does, it will be surprised by how quickly it sees mountains move, and it will start to wonder why it took so long to get started.

I have a theory, and I’m giving you a testable prediction of my theory. But you’re going to have to look in the mirror first.