[OPE-L] David Schweickart presenting 'Economic Democracy' theory in Venezuela

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Wed Oct 25 2006 - 21:03:18 EDT

-----Original Message-----
From: Carl Davidson [mailto:carld717@aol.com]
Sent: Wednesday, October 25, 2006 12:27 PM

[Chicago's David Schweickart, Philosophy, Loyola, is in Venezuela, invited
to present his theory of 'Economic Democracy' as a market socialist
alternative for the 21st Century that is in tune with global justice,
paticipatory democracy and Karl Marx's orginal ideas as well. What follows
is just the introdction to his presentation, which is much longer, and can
be found at solidarityeconomy.net --CarlD]

Economic Democracy:

A Worthy Socialism that Would Really Work

by David Schweickart,


'Economic Democracy: A Worthy Socialism that Would Really Work' laid out a
model that was to form the basis of my book Against Capitalism, published by
Cambridge University Press in 1993. The article, like the book itself, was a
theoretical response to the triumphalism of the TINA crowd (There Is No
Alternative) that followed the collapse of Soviet Union and the rejection of
socialism by its satellite states in Eastern Europe. 'A Worthy Socialism'
was intended to demonstrate rigorously that there is an alternative, at
least in theory: an economically viable form of socialism that would be more
democratic than capitalism and at least as efficient. Against Capitalism
made the same point, but extended the argument further. Economic Democracy
would be not only as efficient as capitalism and more democratic, but also
more rational in its growth, more stable, more egalitarian, less prone to
high unemployment, more ecologically friendly. I was sick of hearing even
progressives say that 'we are going to have to stop using the term
'capitalist economy' as if we knew what a functioning non-capitalist economy
would look like.' (these words from the well-known philosopher and public
intellectual Richard Rorty, writing in the widely read liberal magazine.)

In 1998 I was approached by a publisher to do a more popular version of
Against Capitalism, less oriented to professional philosophers and
economists, more accessible to students, labor organizers and other
sympathetic non-academics. I agreed, and began what I thought would be quick
and easy project.

The project was not so 'quick and easy.' The result, After Capitalism, did
not appear until 2002. It was longer in coming than I had anticipated. I had
to do more than update statistics and alter the style. For the world had
changed significantly since the early 1990s, and, as a result (I came to
realize) my own focus had changed. My thinking had become (and remains) more
praxis-oriented than it had been earlier. Moreover, this change of focus
suggested certain supplements to my original model, which I set out in the
Postscript to my article, which is also included in this volume. What I will
say to you today draws heavily on that supplement to the original article.

The World Has Changed

History has not moved along the path foretold a decade and a half ago by so
many confident prognosticators. In particular:

-- The socialist experiments have not all collapsed, as was so widely

-- The neoliberal experiments have failed almost everywhere.

-- A new resistance movement has come into being.

In the early 1990s it seemed to most people that socialism was over, at
least for the foreseeable future. The socialist experiment in the Soviet
Union had failed. The various attempts that had been undertaken in Eastern
Europe to modify, humanize, and make more efficient the basic Soviet model
had been brought to a halt. It seemed only a matter of time, the interval
presumed to be short, before Cuba, China, Vietnam and North Korea would
abandon their socialist pretenses and join the capitalist club. But they

Cuba, despite a further tightening of the embargo, went through a very
difficult 'special period,' but has seen its economy rebound significantly.
Vietnam and especially China have done more than survive. Vietnam has seen
its economy grow rapidly, despite the million or so citizens killed by the
Americans and their (our) puppet-regimes and the millions of gallons of
poison sprayed on their countryside. China has succeeded over the last
quarter century in lifting more people out of poverty than any country has
ever done in human history, and, at the same time, has established itself as
one of the world's major economic powers.

It should be noted that all three of these countries, which still identify
themselves as socialist, have introduced market mechanisms into their
economies, which, as we shall see shortly, the theory underlying Economic
Democracy recommends. By way of contrast, the North Korean economy remains
relentlessly non-market, and continues to deteriorate-as the theory
underlying Economic Democracy predicts.

It is not the economies of the countries that continue to profess socialism
that have collapsed but the economies that most fervently embraced the new
capitalist orthodoxy. More precisely, the greatest economic disasters of
recent years have been those on the extremes-on the one hand, North Korea,
which refuses all concessions to the market, and on the other hand, those
ex-socialist countries that embraced capitalism most avidly. Among the
latter, the Soviet Union stands out, having experienced the worst economic
decline in time of peace of any country in modern history. Clearly, the
euphoria that once informed the neoliberal project has evaporated, as those
countries that followed the U.S. Treasury/IMF/World Bank prescriptions have
all experienced either sharp decline or, at best, minimal growth: not only
the countries that once comprised the Soviet Union, but also Mexico, Haiti,
most of Eastern Europe, most of Central and South America, most of Southeast
Asia, almost all of sub-Sahara Africa-the list goes on and on....



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