Category Archives: Strategy

All the left does is whine.

Google is pulling sites’ ad revenue. They have immense power. So what?

This is how capitalism works. If you’re for capitalism, be for this. If you’re not for capitalism, then say what you’re for.

But to not oppose capitalism and then bitch about how capitalists operate is moronic. This is how power operates. Either shut up and accept it, or propose an alternative.

Why is ZeroHedge or Jimmy Dore bitching about this?  ZeroHedge is a libertarian website site.  They believe in unfettered property rights.  Well, Google is exercising their unfettered property rights, so ZH should shut up.  And while Jimmy is easily the best thing on the left (although it’s a low bar, I grant you), Jimmy seems generally fine with capitalism.  So he should shut up, too.

Do you think things are going to get better?  On our present trajectory, these are still just love taps the ruling class is doling out.  Things haven’t even gotten serious yet.  Wait till the ruling class starts trying.  These are still the salad days.

On our present trajectory, these actors will one day be longing for the halcyon days when Google was just demonetizing websites.

When I used to hang out at the now-defunct FireDogLake, I used to argue with site owner Jane Hamsher.  When Facebook floated the idea of charging fees to its business customers like Hamsher, she went on a PR offensive to oppose it.  Understandably, since Zuckerberg’s idea would have cost her a lot of money.

But I said to her, You never oppose the capitalist system.  Zuckerberg is a capitalist, and FB is his cash cow and his website.  If your business model depends on him, that’s not his problem.  It’s yours for not being smart enough to come up with a better business model.

She never addressed the argument.  This is typical of everyone on the left, then and now.  They bitch about the things powerful capitalists do, but they basically accept the capitalist framework uncritically.

But you can’t have it both ways.  If you say nothing about capitalism and propose no alternative to it, then you can’t bitch when capitalists do what capitalists do.  And if you’re going to oppose capitalism, then say what you’re for already.

What the left wants — and this is not at all just Jimmy, it’s the entire left — is to have its cake and eat it too.  It wants the bad capitalists gone, but it wants to take its place among the pantheon of influential owners in the economy and society.

Put more baldly, no one on the left is willing to get out into the fields under the hot sun and do their fair share of picking the cotton — and that includes Jimmy.  So when the capitalists act, as they always and invariably do, the left has no real way to oppose them.  So the left is reduced to whining.

And frankly, the libertarians are just getting what they deserve, so fuck them.  Besides, Google is going to re-monetize them within a week anyway.  ZeroHedge will be fine, and they have to know that.

The left, on the other hand, is classist as hell and will never change.

The protests have already failed. Or, hard work is for losers.

Sun Tzu writes, “The victorious army wins first and then goes to war, while the defeated army goes to war first, and then seeks to win.”

What he means is you get your duckies in a row before taking action. You don’t go into war without a strategy. Yes, as Mike Tyson says, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” But bad strategy will always beat no strategy.

And the ruling class (and the cops who work for them) do not have a bad strategy — they have a very good strategy: Discredit the protesters by allowing looting, then use that political cover to smash the peaceful protesters. This strategy always works.

But the strategy doesn’t work because it can’t be beaten. It works because no one on the left ever has any strategy for anything (except running their small businesses at a profit1).

To beat ruling class, the left needs a strategy. It needs to know what it wants — what’s its goal, or vision for the future? What’s it trying to accomplish? And it really needs good theory to orient its thinking in all of this.

I’ve said before that nothing is going to ever be won in the United States without participatory economics, and nothing that’s presently happening is changing my opinion about this. Yes, if the protesters were demanding, say, community control of police, that would help. But to even be able to formulate a demand requires some sort of theory about the world does work, and how it should work.

Recently, Chris Hedges was on the Jimmy Dore show and he said that many of the current protesters were very “politically astute.” Perhaps. But not nearly enough of them, if any, are strategically astute. And even fewer have any good theory.

Theory

We live in an economy with three classes: a ruling capitalist class that owns the plantation, a working class that picks the cotton, and a coordinator class that oversees and manages the day-to-day operations for the capitalists.

The number one, overarching priority of the owners is staying the owners — that is, keeping control. Nothing matters to the big people but control. Yes, money’s important — but they’ll part with some of their money if they have to in order to keep absolute control.

The coordinators know how to run the plantation just fine without the owners and frankly, they’d to see the owners gone. But by themselves, they lack insufficient power to overthrow the owners. However, since the owner can’t run the plantation without the coordinators, the coordinators have some leverage over the owner. They use this leverage to try to increase their power vis-a-vis the owners as much as they can.

The coordinators also don’t want the uppity workers to come in and take their positions, because the workers know even better than the coordinators how to run the plantation. The workers have the least power and are basically relegated to doing what they’re told.

The oppression faced by the workers is totally systemic. That is, the capitalist system itself is what denies workers basic dignity and control over their own lives.

The oppression faced by the coordinators is also systemic, but is much less because the system also confers upon the coordinators significant power and privileges. The removal of the capitalists would liberate the coordinators (but not the workers).

The privileges of the capitalists derive totally from the capitalist system. They face essentially zero oppression. They are economically liberated and have no interest in any sort of systemic change.

Vision

Capitalism must go. Most workers and many coordinators agree on this point. But what to put in its stead? Coordinators are liberated by some (any) form of socialism. Many coordinators see a fight for socialism as being unwinnable, and instead argue for “social democracy” (i.e., capitalism with a social safety net as in, say, Denmark) wherein capitalist power would at least be lessened. Such coordinators argue (correctly) that even workers would do better under such a system.

Examples of social democratic policies include Medicare for all, free college, a universal basic income, Social Security — basically, Bernie Sanders’s entire domestic platform. Social democracy and socialism are not the same thing.

Socialism is public ownership of the means of production, as in the former Soviet Union or the former Yugoslavia. In socialist economies, there are no capitalists — coordinators are the new ruling class. Workers are still essentially powerless. Only participatory economics actually liberates workers.

But it is at this step of discussing vision where one must decide what one wants. Do you just want Medicare for all, but retain capitalism? Do you want socialism? Do you want parecon? You have to decide this for yourself, but you must think about what it is you actually want.

Strategy

Until you’ve determined what you want, discussing strategy is pointless. If you get in your car and start driving without knowing where you’re going, then all roads will take you to the same place.

Once you figure out what you want, questions of strategy generally answer themselves. Let’s say you want Medicare for all. Okay, what did it take to win Social Security or Medicare in the first place? It took actual threats to the capitalist system.

Okay, so to win M4A, you’re going to have to threaten capitalism. How do you do that? You can’t beat something with nothing, and you can’t threaten something with nothing. You’re going to have to posit an alternative to capitalism in such a way that the ruling class will find threatening.

This is why I argue for parecon. Socialism has been played. The results weren’t pretty, and U.S. workers are never going to be attracted to it. Parecon is different, and has the added benefit of actually being the liberating theory of the working class. Just from a strategic point of view, organizing around parecon is the most powerful (and indeed only) way to win M4A.

However, parecon requires everyone take their turn in the fields doing their fair share of picking the cotton, which essentially no one on the left wants to do. Parecon is the great equalizer of class privilege and class power, which is why the coordinator-class left is so opposed to it. There is, however, no other strategy that’s ever going to win M4A.

You might say that, in theory, workers could just shut down the economy until the capitalists relented on M4A. But without pareconish theory, workers will never organize themselves sufficiently for such a battle in the first place.

You can say I’m arguing from necessity and just assuming the thing I’m trying to prove. But at some point, to quote the great NFL coach Bill Parcells, “You are what your record says you are.” The left’s record says it has no idea how to win anything, and that the only thing it knows how to do is run small businesses. Even if I’m wrong, I’m arguing for something radically different. I’m saying if the problems you face are big, then the solutions you shoot for had better be even bigger.

Plus, I’m lazy. The left seems to fetishize hard work, as though the fact that left works so hard on what it does provides moral cover for all its failures. Listen, hard work is for losers. I don’t care how hard you work, I only care about results. Doing no work yet getting results is infinitely superior to busting your ass yet having nothing to show for it.

I don’t care how successful your website or YouTube show is. If you’re on the left, you’re a loser, because losing is all the left has done since Nixon was in office. For fuck’s sake, try something different already.

Make a demand — now.

As we speak, elite liberals are working their strategy to co-opt the protests and divert them (the protesters) away from making dangerous (to the establishment) demands for things like community control of the police or Medicare for all.

You see this when you see videos of someone on a bullhorn leading masses of people in chants of “I can’t breathe.” Chanting “I can’t breathe” is not a demand. It’s getting people (the protesters) to subconsciously think that raising awareness of police violence against blacks is a sufficient thing for the protests to be doing.

When you see someone with a bullhorn, ask them where they got the bullhorn. How long have they had it? Where do they work? Where do they get their money from? Do they think I should vote for Joe Biden?

Ask them to give a one-word, yes or no answer to the question, “Do you support Medicare for all?”

If the protesters do not start making demands, there is a 100% chance the protests will eventually be co-opted by the Democratic party. It’s not police brutality that’s the biggest threat to the protests (though it might be to individual protesters) — it’s liberals who will come in and skillfully (and with money behind them) take leadership of the protests before winding them down.

To reiterate, the protests are in grave danger right now, and it’s not from the police. If the protesters don’t make a demand (or three) now, the protests will be de-fanged.

Personally, I would recommend demanding something like 1) community control of the police, 2) Medicare for all, and 3) a $2,000/month UBI (universal basic income). But honestly, just about any demand that runs counter to elite interests will do. There just has to be some application of offensive power. Otherwise, George Floyd will have died for nothing.

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.

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…