We can’t survive capitalism much longer. We need system change, not climate change, growing inequality, and nuclear war.
Relentless growth is built into the grow-or-die competitive structure of the capitalist economy. That blind growth is destroying the ecological foundations of human civilization.
Capitalism’s wage labor relationship exploits working people by robbing them of the full value of their labor and transferring it to the rich ownership class. The wages system generates growing inequality and economic insecurity.
Wage labor reduces workers to servile order takers. On the job, workers are stripped of their freedom. Their creativity is dismissed. Their self-worth is degraded. The school system teaches internalization of this oppression from an early age through segregation by race, class, and “ability” tracking. This internalized oppression carries over into political alienation and passivity.
Inequality and economic insecurity is made worse by capitalism’s periodic economic crisis. Capitalism’s profit motive among competing firms yields periodic crises of overproduction where capitalists’ have excess productive capacity and more inventory than they can sell, so they cut back production and lay off workers. Today’s mature capitalism, with the infrastructure of production largely built out, suffers from chronic stagnation due to chronic overproduction. The paucity of profitable investments in the real economy of production yields a redirection of capital to financial instruments that further concentrate and centralize ownership of the productive assets we already have rather than investment to create new productive assets. This financialization creates credit bubbles that draw wealth away as interest paid by productive businesses, consumers, and, with public borrowing and privatization, public sector goods and services—until the debts cannot be paid, a financial crisis ensues, bankruptcies spread, and the financial oligarchy forecloses on the debtors and acquires more productive assets at bargain prices. Inequality and economic insecurity grow.
Capitalism’s competitive economic structure also yields a conflict-ridden international system in which nation-states compete and go to war for resources, markets, labor, and geopolitical military advantage. Sooner or later, these wars will lead to nuclear annihilation if we don’t change the system.
The two-capitalist-party system protects this system. It gives us the illusion of choice. While there are differences between the two major parties, mainly on social issues, the two major parties largely agree on pro-corporate economic and foreign policies to defend the capitalist system that confers privileges to the upper classes who in turn fund the two major parties.
There is no point in having a third party on the left if it is not about system change. There are plenty of progressives fighting inside the Democratic Party to patch up the system with reforms. Mostly they lose. The 2020 Green Party presidential ticket should campaign for system change, for ecosocialism to bring real solutions to the life or death problems of our time.
Ecosocialism would build a democratic and cooperative economy in which a socialist mode of production and distribution predominates. It would have a large sector of public enterprises, a large sector of cooperatives, and smaller sector of small businesses and self-employed.
The public sector would encompass the major means of production held by the large semi-monopolies, roughly the 500 largest U.S. corporations that account for about three-quarters of U.S. GDP. These public enterprises would become public utilities, operating at cost for public benefit instead of for cost-plus-profit
Public ownership of the major means of production would operate under a production plan that is democratically determined. Democratic planning for public sector enterprises would decide technology choices and the allocation of investments in public goods and services like energy, transportation, housing, and health care. Consumer goods and services would be sold to consumers in the market by public, cooperative, and small businesses.
Democratic planning of the public sector would aim not to maximize growth but to produce sufficient goods and services to meet everyone’s basic needs on an ecologically sustainable basis. Democratic planning would be how society decides whether to use increasing productivity to work more to produce more things, or to work less and increase free time at a decent standard of living.
For goods and services that are necessities, the public sector would provide them as public goods and services that are free to consume as needed, such as health care, education, child care, and urban mass transit, or at low cost, such as public housing, power, broadband, and water.
For wants and tastes that are discretionary luxuries, goods and services would be sold in the market by public enterprises, cooperatives, and small businesses. People that want to consume more would work more. People who used to be rich from exploiting the labor of others would have to do real work to pay for their discretionary luxuries.
Cooperatives in the private sector would eliminate exploitation and price gouging. In worker cooperatives, the exploitative wage labor relation would be eliminated and worker-owners would receive the full fruits of their labor. In consumer cooperatives, consumer-owners buy goods and services at cost instead of cost-plus-profits. Cooperative start-ups and conversions would be promoted by technical assistance and financial incentives. Cooperatives would be voluntary, not mandatory. Anti-trust and anti-fraud laws would protect the self-employed, small businesses, and farmers from unfair competition from monopolies and white-collar crime.
Hard? Pie in the sky? Abolition, winning the right to organize unions, civil rights were hard. We don’t give up the fight for what is right because it is hard. We don’t have a choice if a planet that can sustain human civilization is to survive.