[OPE] Soviet-type socialism vs. capitalist market economy

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@tiscali.nl)
Date: Mon Jun 16 2008 - 13:55:00 EDT

In a place like Holland, far right or truly fascist elements are still a fairly peripheral phenomenon, and it's difficult for them to get a foothold. Much more important in Europe generally is the hostility to immigrants, and the refusal to treat them as human beings of equal worth. This is rather silly, because Europe needs them, and statistically they make a very large economic contribution here, as well as a cultural contribution. Many of them do jobs which the indigenous population doesn't want to do anymore. 

How the politics about it will go, depends I think a lot on the quantitative proportions of immigrants. If, for example, there are one million Muslims in Holland out of a population of sixteen and a half million, then a racist treatment of them on the ground of their faith becomes practically much more difficult to sustain, because these people have considerable clout, and will use it to defend themselves against attack. Whereas if you have only some small group which is recognizably different from the rest, it is easier to stigmatise and ostracize them. 

The odd thing there BTW is that most people haven't much of a clue about what Islam is, other than headscarfs, a conspiracy of people talking a language you don't understand, and an alleged bad treatment of women as inferior. That is dehumanising - suppose somebody said "I am a christian", what would we be able to infer about the person and his or her life? Not very much, since we know there are all types of christians, and they are no better or worse citizens than anybody else on average. Then why think that Islam is any different? I am not religiously inclined myself, but I am very much opposed to the politicization of human spirituality, especially when it takes utterly banale forms, and I am opposed to people stirring up religious hatred. Once people are afraid of a religion, the very purpose of it is lost. Whatever else you might say about religion, it is part of the human inheritance, and contains important insights about what it means to be human.

>From my observations, settler societies such as in North America and Australasia are generally more tolerant and understanding about immigrants, because they are historically immigrant societies. Indeed, on an American coin, you can read "E pluribus unum" (meaning approximately "to become one out of the many" or a "united out of a plurality or a multitude"). Discrimination does occur too, of course, for example when I was in the US sometime after 9/11, someone told me about how if you just had an Arab name, you could get bad treatment and be shut out, and I noticed prejudice against black people also. But point is, the dominant culture says clearly this is wrong, and really incompatible with the society's ideals.

In Holland the Socialist Party gets derided in all sorts of ways, including being "reformist", but actually the party is strongly committed to democracy and this involves carefully assessing what the working class really wants and aspires to in the here and now. If the Dutch SP takes up issues such as adequate care for the elderly and the sick, this is not a publicity stunt or a gimmick or an ideology of welfarism, but the outcome of research on what workers really want in the here and now. It represents fairly accurately aspects of what workers are really concerned with in their lives. It may not seem very radical, a far cry from Marx's revolution, but it does change people's lives, and convinces them that if they speak up for themselves, that it can change things for the better.  

I don't argue BTW that ordinary workers are "not too concerned about freedom". Of course they are, just as much as anybody else, and in fact I personally would like the SP programme to say more about it, in particular because there are so many rhetorics about freedom these days. It is just that people who are more practically oriented, rather than intellectually or academically oriented, from life experience, tend to look much more at what freedom boils down to in practical life, what you specifically accept or reject in real life, rather than a theoretical principle per se. It's like, what freedom, for whom, to do what, or from what? The paradox of the neo-liberal regime is really that whereas it promotes more freedom to trade, it places more and more restrictions on people in social life, and indeed on what they may do in their private lives. The debate then revolves around the limits of tolerance rather than on what society should positively aspire to. So really, neo-liberalism may not be so liberal after all. It's like, people should be free... but not too free, and that gives rise to plenty rhetorics playing on the ambiguities of the concept of freedom. 


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