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…