I love Krystal Ball. She rightly derides Trump’s “phony populism” and points out that without the efforts of the working class — who it’s no exaggeration to say are risking their lives — the entire economy would stop.
But at the end of the day, this is irrelevant. I’m not saying she doesn’t know this, but it needs to be pointed out. Workers will never have anything in this country until they organize, shut down the economy, and demand it.
But there are two problems here. One is that it’s impossible to win anything without a plan. Saying you’re for Medicare for all (for example) is not a solution — it’s a fantasy.
Former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer once said, “Everybody wants it. What’s your plan to go get it?” He wasn’t talking about Medicare for all, but his point is correct.
If you’re a group of workers and you want your company to give you PPE (personal protective equipment) or hazard pay that you’re not getting, well, what’s your plan to make them give it to you?
That leads to the second problem, which is that workers won’t even stick together in the good times. So good luck getting them to stick together in the bad times.
I worked as a nurse aide in the early 2000s (long before the financial crisis of 2008), and I tried to organize the facility. It went nowhere.
In the good times, people don’t perceive they need to organize, and they can’t accept the costs of risking what they have. This is understandable of course. But when things get tough, people really can’t accept the costs of risking what they have.
Many commenters seem to think that the Greater Depression we are entering is going to lead to “progressive” social change like Medicare for all. They are wrong.
What the Greater Depression is going to lead to is hard fascism. People think the Great Depression of the 30s led to FDR’s New Deal, but that’s only partly true. It was this, plus the existence of the Soviet Union as an alternative that led to systemic threats that forced elites to act.
That’s not to say the Soviet Union (especially Stalin’s Soviet Union) was a good place. It wasn’t. But it was different, and therefore served as the “threat of a good example.“
Today, there is no good (or different) example that elites are threatened by. People may talk about “socialism,” but either they’re talking about socialism in poorly defined terms (more often), or they’re talking about Soviet-style socialism that was highly authoritarian (less often) that is not going to inspire anyone in the U.S. to fight for it.
Without the threat of a good example, the Greater Depression can’t lead anywhere but hard fascism. Trump will probably win reelection, after which there will be a Democrat in the White House. But after that Democrat there will be huge blowback, and the next Republican president is going to make Adolf Hitler look like a choir boy.1
But this time, there will no external good example for activists to point to like there was in the 30s. This time, the left is going to have to create that good example all on its own.
The only example that can or will qualify is participatory economics. If the left really wants to avoid hard fascism in the United States, it’s going to have get serious not just about acknowledging its own class privileges (which it essentially doesn’t do at all), to actually addressing its own class privileges with new, pareconish organizational structures.
Honestly, I don’t see this happening at all. The left avoids even acknowledging the existence of parecon like the plague. Actually implementing it would make the deeply coordinator-class left apoplectic.
However, if you want a “plan to go get it,” I’ve just given it to you. And my plan is the lowest of low-hanging fruit: There is literally no power on earth — not any corporation, not the media, not the U.S. government — no one — that can stop the left from doing this.
Only the left can stop the left. This ball is completely in the left’s court. This power is completely in the left’s hands. And the barest exercise of this power would put the fear of Jesus Christ into elites.
I say this because the only thing that elites really and truly care about is control. Yes, they want their money. But in times of mass social upheaval, elites are always willing to temporarily part with some of their money so they can keep all the control.
Parecon would be a grave threat to their control, and one that would also inspire workers, because parecon truly is a necessary and sufficient condition for the liberation of the working class.
However, parecon would also rob the coordinator class of their class privileges. And since the left is a thoroughly coordinator-class left, parecon is a non-starter on radical left websites and YouTube shows.
Hence, my hard fascism prediction. But my theory is sound. And if the left considered the threats we presently face to be truly existential (and didn’t just pay lip service to them being existential), they’d at least be talking about parecon sooner rather than later.
Or before it’s too late.