Re: [OPE] Why Markets Fail

From: Anders Ekeland <>
Date: Wed Nov 12 2008 - 13:02:43 EST

At 03:26 12.11.2008, you wrote:
>Hi Anders and all,
> >
> > If one is giving a speech these days one have to stress:
> >
> > a) Markets are unstable and cannot be left alone. Without
> > *democratic* regulation, i.e. social, political, normative - markets
> > create negative social consequences and are obviously inferior to a
> > "reasonable" way of doing things.
>I understand what you mean, but what you say implies that regulation can
>prevent markets from creating negative social consequences. What has to be
>said imo is that markets are in themselves socially negative, because they
>are based on the exploitation of the workers' labor and so on.

I agree that markets are - as a general mechanism - socially
negative, but they cannot be abolished overnight, they have to be
"aufgehebt" by creating a *relative* abundance - like what is
happening with digital music, video, information - where markets
clearly are being made superflous by close to costless sharing of usevalues.

For the most important market - the labour market - from what I learn
about real wages, working conditions, length of the working day - it
matter enormously if you have a degree of unionisation like you have
in Scandinavia for example or a fairly low degree of unionisation
like in the US.

> For the
>same reason there is no *democratic regulation* of the markets possible,
>unless one maintains that *less* exploitation of one part of the *demo" by
>the other part of it can be *demo*cratic. And more: one has to say that no
>regulation will ever prevent industrial and financial crises from
>Although it may look radical, what one must say is that only the abolition
>of the market and of private property, i.e., socialism, can solve the
>social problems, the problems of the people and of the workers. If
>Marxists don't say it, who will say it? And how will people know?

Of course Marxist should say it - I do every day, but people are
realistic enough to see that what is up for collective action in the
next few months and years are changing the relationship of forces
within the framework of capitalism, creating a slightly better
variety of capitalism.

>Finally, only the crises, economic and political, make visible the
>contradictions of the society and thus open the eyes of the common people,
>in particular of the workers, to the need for a radical change. The
>transition to socialism will only be possible after a crisis so deep of
>the capitalist economy and society, that an institutional revolution will
>look inevitable. Thus, it doesn't seem reasonable to contribute to the
>prevention or to the mitigation of the crises, because this only
>contributes to the maintenance of the political passivity of the workers
>and consequently to the maintenance of the power of the market. For two
>thirds of the world population, including a part of the population of the
>advanced capitalist countries, there is hardly any difference between a
>regulated and an unregulated market.

I do not agree with you here. I am much more "transitional" in my
approach. Fighting for increased social control - nationalisation of
banks, of industries, increasing the number of representatives of
workers in the board (in norway that is mandatory), making the unions
a discussion partner in all changes in the firms way of doing
business, that TUC is part of all big political deals - all these
things activates people.

I do not believe in "the worse it get the more radical people will
be", because it is the room for making changes that activates people.
That such processes are non-gradual, that things builds up, then
there is a fight - and a new "equilibrium" (relationship of forces)
is reached. I am not a gradualist reformist, I am much more
Trotsky-Luxemburg inspired.

> >
> > d) Strong unions is one of the best ways of keeping business
> > "decent". That is the "Darwinian" hand that weeds out obscene
> > bonuses, fraud, cheating on product quality etc. etc. Strong unions
> > in keeping pressure on a social democratic party in power is the best
> > variety of capitalism, and only varieties of capitalism are on the
> > real political agenda - regrettably.
> >

>I think one must say that there is no good variety of capitalism. Strong
>unions that don't fight for socialism are not good unions, they contribute
>to maintain the exploitation of the workers, even if a *smaller*

But "smaller" is important, more job security is important, more
dignity that comes with a larger degree of power over your work
environment is important.

>I believe that there are only varieties of capitalism on the
>agenda because, among other reasons, there are few socialists left. But
>this will not last forever. The ones that are still there have to keep
>speaking for socialism, that is the only reason for them to exist. If not,
>what is the reason to be a socialist?
>What is a social democratic party that sustains capitalism? It is a party
>of the capitalist class. A party of the working class would not sustain
>capitalism, but fight for socialism. A social democratic party aims at
>hiding the class contradictions, preventing them from being seen,
>maintaining the political passivity of the working class, sustaining the
>*democratic* exploitation of the workers and repressing the *leftist

I agree fundamentally, but again I think taht you underestimate that
people do not make a socialist rev. before all other alternatives
have been tried - including a much more regulated variety of
capitalism. Fighting for the most regulated and "social" form of
capitalism is a progressive reaction to the neoliberal offensive of
the past decades.


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