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.
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.
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.
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.