If capitalism is the virus, “solidarity” can’t be the cure. It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.
Capitalism is way of organizing economic activity. Every society has an economy. An economy is producers making stuff, consumers using that stuff — and an allocation mechanism that mediates the transfer of stuff from producers to consumers.
Solidarity is not a way of organizing economic activity. It’s a value that says that I should care about you and you should care about me. It’s an admirable value, and any good economy should propel it rather than squash it. But it’s not an economic system.
You get no argument from me when you say capitalism is the virus. But if you’re going to be anti-capitalist — which I certainly am — then you have to get serious thinking about what you’re going to replace it with.
In particular, you have to think about allocation. Everyone on the left wants to overthrow capitalism. There’s no shortage of people on the left who will tell you how bad it is. For its replacement, they will talk in vague generalities about “socialism” or some variation on this theme.
But the question of allocation has to be confronted. Capitalism uses market allocation. Socialism uses either markets or central planning. In markets, prices are set competitively and solidarity is systematically destroyed. In central planning, the entire society becomes inexorably authoritarian; that is the logic of central planning.
Suppose I give you a magic wand, and you can create any kind of world you want with it. What kind of economy do you create? In your vision of how an anti-capitalist economy should function, how are resources allocated? That is, how does stuff made find its way from producers to consumers? You can’t be anti-capitalist without grappling with this question.
The reason the left refuses to grapple with this question is because it’s a deeply-classist, coordinator-class left. The left is not a working-class left. That’s why, 30 years after the introduction of the formal mathematical model of participatory economics, the left still ignores it.
In the same way, say, the New York Times acts like Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model of the media doesn’t exist, so too does the left act like parecon doesn’t exist. The left will acknowledge the existence of participatory economics at the same time the media acknowledges Manufacturing Consent: never.
The only revolution the left is interested in is one in which it, the coordinator class, is in charge. The left wants to overthrow the capitalists, and install themselves as the new ruling class. I’m not saying they’re doing this consciously. They essentially never are. That it, they’re not self-aware or in control of their actions.
But the people on the left are the children of the coordinator class. They grew up at the ends of cul-de-sacs. They world view is inherently managerial. They’re not duplicitous curs who are cynically trying to manipulate the working class in order to get their way. They’re generally good people at heart.
But they think like coordinators, because they are coordinators. So their reflexive world view is one in which they have freed themselves from the yoke of capitalist-class rule. They are the overseers who know perfectly well how to run the plantation on their own, but still must answer to the plantation owner. Their ideal world is one in which the plantation owner is gone and they can manage the operation on their own, without having to answer to the big man in the big house. But they have absolutely no intention whatsoever of ever getting out into the fields under the hot sun and doing their fair share of picking the cotton.
Picking the cotton is working-class work. Smart, educated coordinators have a reflexive revulsion to the idea that this work should be shared equally. Again, this isn’t because they’re bad people — it’s because they grew up on cul-de-sacs, and it’s just how they see the world.
The left is a coordinator-class left. It’s not going to help the workers pick the cotton, ever. That’s why it won’t and can’t even acknowledge the existence of parecon. And that’s why it’s reduced to saying stupid bullshit like “capitalism is the virus, solidarity is the cure.”