What to do about the center that will not hold?

Writing for a recent Nation forum, Immanuel Wallerstein characterized the current moment thusly:

What is going on [today] is the disintegration of capitalism as a world system, not because it can't guarantee welfare for the vast majority (it never could do that) but because it can no longer ensure that capitalists will have the endless accumulation of capital that is their raison d'être. We have arrived at a moment in which neither farsighted capitalists nor their opponents (us) are trying to preserve the system. We are both trying to establish a new system, but of course we have very different, indeed radically opposed, ideas about the nature of such a system.

His practical recommendations:

First of all, we must be clear what the battle is about. It is the battle between the spirit of Davos (for a new system that is not capitalism but is nonetheless hierarchical, exploitative and polarizing) and the spirit of Porto Alegre (a new system that is relatively democratic and relatively egalitarian). No lesser evil here. It's one or the other.

What must the left do? Promote intellectual clarity about the fundamental choice. Then organize at a thousand levels and in a thousand ways to push things in the right direction. The primary thing to do is to encourage the decommodification of as much as we can decommodify. The second is to experiment with all kinds of new structures that make better sense in terms of global justice and ecological sanity. And the third thing we must do is to encourage sober optimism. Victory is far from certain. But it is possible.

So, to resume: work in the short run to minimize pain, and in the middle run to ensure that the new system that will emerge will be a better one and not a worse one. But do the latter without triumphalism, and knowing that the struggle will be tremendously difficult.

A sound script for an unsound time.

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