Democratic socialism at the forefront, or the fall of neoliberalism?
This very serious crisis and the arrival of a leader with ideas have coincided. Obama has brought back hope for another renaissance to the world.
(From Madrid) A CHANCE ALIGNMENT OF THE STARS has made this very serious crisis coincide with the arrival of a leader with ideas. Obama has brought back hope for another renaissance to the world. Some rush to point out that he is only one more centrist politician, that he isn’t a reformer, that he isn’t a leftist. This might be so, but the left is much more than what lies to one side of a dividing line; it is above all hope for rationality for the collective whole.
“The current events seem to have brought democratic socialism to the forefront, but it is really just an illusion caused by the fall of the ideas put forth by the neoliberals”
Social crises always surprise us. They batter us and, at the same time, force us to urgently search for ways out without having enough references, to rethink progress on the way. For the moment, the current events seem to have brought democratic socialism to the forefront, but it is really just an illusion caused by the fall of the ideas put forth by the neoliberals.
The truth is that the left has also been slipping for twenty years, heading towards a pragmatism without ideas. And the left cannot limit itself to either putting anti-cyclical Keynesian policies in place or establishing a new balance between state and society.
BUSINESS MODELS IN CRISIS
Democratic socialism hasn’t made much of an impact on the productive system in quite some time; its cures have been limited to correcting its inequalities with distributive policies. “When we hope to keep a minority of executives – behaving like absolute monarchs – from appropriating the collective profit for themselves, it is necessary to know what is expected from the worker”And what has happened is that the ability of these policies to actually work has done nothing other than decrease throughout the past 20 years: on one hand, taxes on capital are being homogenized downwards; on the other hand, fiscal progression has diminished so as to not hurt the middle classes. And meanwhile, the system’s ability to create inequality has been growing: before this financial crisis reminded us of the one in 1929, another less visible parameter – profit distribution between capital and labor – had already fallen to its Depression-era levels in the United States. Similar recessions have taken place throughout all of the OECD.
The business models that were paradigms yesterday are at the root of the crisis that the world is going through today. The desire for good government and the invocation of business responsibility are empty words if they are disassociated from a model of coexistence based on the revaluation of labor and – in its new incarnation – capital. Good economic management is not something that comes about from the outside through regulatory laws; it must arise from within the business itself. For this very reason, internal counter-powers are so important. When we hope to keep a minority of executives – behaving like absolute monarchs – from appropriating the collective profit for themselves, it is necessary to know what is expected from the worker, as well as the crucial free citizen, in order to create wealth. And how they can contribute to that internal control.
SUPPORTIVE FLEXIBILITY IN VIEW OF THE CRISIS
Germany, which in 2007 continued to be the number one exporting country in the world in spite of its high salaries, “The workers have more right than ever to demand capitalization in the form of stock options for whatever sacrifices they have to make” has a co-management model that makes it easier for workers to have a role in the control. Should one thing be separated from the other? The workers of a good deal of the big American technological companies are also stockholders in their companies. Should one thing be separated from the other? Despite decades of neoliberal hegemony, more than 11,000 American firms still follow the Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOP) created in 1971, including 14 percent of the companies listed on the stock market, those that are worth the most. The weight of these firms grows during times of recession, even coming to represent well above 20 percent of the labor power.
Obama (as well as Zapatero) “There is a paradigm of the contemptible in existence, a mixture of neoconservative insolence and politics as spectacle, combining populist demagogy and social wiliness” is obliged to promote a supportive flexibility in view of the crisis so that its negative effects do not spill over to employment. It will be absolutely necessary to resort to sacrificing the worker’s salary, but coming from where we are coming from –a world full of lies and excess– the workers have more right than ever to demand capitalization in the form of stock options for whatever sacrifices they have to make.
With this, they would be laying down the first building blocks for a new type of power relationship in businesses. Capitalism would perhaps survive, but by incorporating necessary post-capitalist participatory elements in order to drive innovation and a knowledge-based society, which are currently being held back, and would use them to open the door to another renaissance.
THE POWER OF IDEAS
Today more than ever, politics is obliged to grow larger in order to bring the social majorities together around new ideas, those that focus on the important things and isolate the forces that constitute an obstacle to progress. Lest we forget, there already is a paradigm of the contemptible in existence: a mixture of neoconservative insolence and politics as spectacle, a master at combining populist demagogy and social wiliness, a proponent of a new form of neofascism, covering up any institutional counter-power: his name is Berlusconi and he has absolute power in Italy, the birthplace of Western civilization.
At the other extreme, Obama is, objectively, a key element of the policies of progress, a symbol of the power of ideas. For the moment, we only need to remember his words in The Audacity of Hope: When we become pragmatic we stop arguing; when we stop arguing, we become lazy, and when we become lazy, we are incapable of offering responses to challenges. That’s where we are.
Ignacio Muro Benayas has just published the book Esta no es mi empresa. El desapego de los profesionales del siglo XXI (This is not my business. The 2lst century professionals’ lack of interest).