The Society We Should Strive For

In my opinion the society we should strive for is one where democracy is the core. A society where capitalism and central state power are replaced by more direct democracy and direct participation. A society where the economic institutions are run democratically by the participants and the ones affected by them. That means democratic control of workplaces, democratic control of communities and so on; a society where people participate in the decision-making and are in control of their own work, life and destiny. A system of cooperative communities that benefit everyone and  focus on people´s needs instead of short term profit.

A society like this, where power is decentralized and democracy is built from below, is often called Libertarian Socialism or Left-libertarianism. Many also refer to this type of society as Anarcho-Syndicalism which is a popular branch of Libertarian Socialism that focuses especially on direct democracy, workers´ self-management and solidarity.

In an Anarcho-Syndicalist society people are no longer profiting on other people´s work like in capitalism; no one exploits others, no one is being exploited - the economic institutions are now run democratically. Most services would be free when you need them, and production, distribution, remuneration etc. would be decided democratically by the participants. It would be a society where people are not treated like cogs in a machine and commanded to act in a mechanical way, but where each individual could live out its true potential based on its own capacity.

In a society like this human characteristics like solidarity, creativity, engagement and altruism would come to the fore. All though human nature is complex and gives room for different kinds of behavior we know that these things are at the core of human nature; just take a look at the history of human evolution which has been dominated by realtively egalitarian groups who cooperated for the common good. This type of organization which goes far back in our evolution also continued after we evolved into humans (Homo Sapiens) a little over a 100 000 years ago (cf Hunter-gatherer societies etc).

In other words, with an Anarcho-Syndicalist, or Libertarian Socialist organization society will become more egalitarian and most hierarchical structures will therfore vanish. At the same time a society like this will encourage humans to live out their true nature and create a solidaric society on all levels: Workers, workplaces, unions, communities, not any longer being encouraged to only look after themselves and striving for as much money and material goods as possible, like it is in capitalism, but instead cooperating for a best possible society for everyone, democratically run by the participants.

A Libertarian Socialist society would be based on direct democracy and not a system where representative politicians are running things. There will have to be representatives in this society as well, but they would be recallable delegates elected directly from the group or organization to which they belong, representing workplaces, communities and so on. The society would in other words be decentralized and federated, run democratically thru networks of cooperative workers´ councils, assemblies, communities, delegates etc.

All the details in this free society would be too complex to sketch out here. All details must be decided and established when the time comes by the people participating in that society.

Now, Libertarian Socialism will not become reality in the very near future. We might have to settle for reform for some time, but we should always, at any given time, strive for the best.

 

12 kommentarer

MC

10.11.2011 kl.03:52

So.. What if none of participants wanted to farm, process anything.. sit on their butts all today and do nothing .. how was your system work them? So the system was attached by Country 101 and no participants wanted to protect said system? Questions that I did not covered...

Also would this system make everyone work or just a few to produce for the entire...

struggleforfreedom

10.11.2011 kl.19:52

MC: This has no root in reality. Most people want to work. It´s a fundamental element of human nature http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WveI_vgmPz8

To think that expanding democracy to workplaces and communities would create lazy uncommited people is unreasonable. Actually the opposite will happen. When people are in control of their own lives and work they´ll become more engaged and active.

10.11.2011 kl.23:45

Great work on that video, It's definitely a future I want to be apart of.

John

19.11.2011 kl.17:41

Please read http://thenewthirdparty.blogspot.com.

Ed

22.11.2011 kl.16:41

I have a great suggestion for you. There are many small islands in the pacific where the population is rather small and the people are not well organized and all have about the same standard of living. Why don't you go there and set up your Libertarian Socialist system.? Then you could demonstrate to the world just how great it would work. If you don,t choos to do so tells me a lot. It tells me you are one of those who wants to sit hn his rear while others do the heavy lifting.

struggleforfreedom

22.11.2011 kl.18:01

Ed: That´s one of the worst arguments I´ve heard ever. So if a state or government conducts all sorts of horrible inhumane destructive policies, and people start to object and disagree, the ones in power can just say "Well, if you don´t like our policies, why don´t you just move"..?

Besides, the economy is all-encompassing and affecting people everywhere. That goes for environmental issues as well.

Øyvind

01.12.2011 kl.00:01

Despite the fact that we are both Norwegians, I am going to write in English seeing as that is the working language here.

Struggleforfreedom,

What you are proposing is undeniably appealing, and something very few people can oppose if they base their judgement on their hearts. As a former member of the Red Youth party in Norway and staunch supporter of libertarian socialism, I clearly recognize many of the arguments I myself was making just a couple of years ago. They are not to be disregarded lightly, and I believe most people should be familiar with this idea of a fully democratic society through an extension of popular power. Consider this entry of mine merely as an attempt to present some of the counter-arguments as to the viability of what you are proposing, and always keep in mind that I essentially agree with you: a fully egalitarian society is something we must always strive for.

Firstly, libertarian socialism is sadly based on a naive belief in the good of individuals, and that individuals would always make the best decision for themselves. Ironically, if this assumption was true, then capitalism - the system you oppose - would work flawlessly and fully ensure the best allocation of productive power, even by socialist standards. In fact, the whole capitalist system of a free market with entrepreneurship has been designed around the idea of "rational choice": if you buy a product, you are essentially voting for its quality and sending a positive feedback to the producer. You are telling the producer that "This is what I want, and this is what is best for me. Keep producing it!". You and I both know that capitalism does not always allocate the productive powers of society to what is collectively, and even individually, beneficial to us. McDonalds, Burger King, Camel, Marlboro and countless other successful products and brands are a testament to this imperfection. In the end, however, its underlying cause is the same assumption that you make: that people, when given the choice, will act according to their best interest. Human beings are too imperfect! Delayed gratification vs. instant gratification is a widely observable example of the folly of the human mind, and I would say that even under libertarian socialism short term profit and gain would be just as important as it is under capitalism.

Secondly, and closely related to the idea of rational choice, is the idea of the egalitarian core of human nature. I am not going to comment on whether this claim is true or not, but merely point out that the majority of the world's population does not exhibit this egalitarianism, and that they similarly do not have the same sense of collectivist egalitarianism as we do in Norway. An obvious example of this is the United States, where the idea of universal health coverage or a right to free abortion is political kryptonite. Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador and most certainly countless other countries have a population that can at times be directly hostile to the idea of collectivism. Indeed, the divisions in their societies are too great for that to be a viable alternative, and lack of trust in those beyond the inner circle of immediate family and friends make the idea of widespread cooperation with positive results seem like a distant dream most people could hardly ever imagine. Essentially, libertarian socialism is something most Norwegians would find viable, yet our unique situation compared to the rest of the world makes us dangerously naive of the daily realities that shape the lives of millions of people; a reality in which people kill, steal, abduct, rape and cheat, and where all of these things are considered an unavoidable fact of life. Our dream society where "no one exploits others, no one is being exploited" is sadly not viable under present circumstances.

Essentially, the question that you and I need to ask ourselves is not "what is the best possible society?", but "how can we make what we have better?". Libertarian socialism is just a dream, and will remain a dream until we critically and with an open mind engage in the more concrete problems that is facing modern society. Personally, I have become impervious to ideological and theoretical debates because they more often than not refuse to tackle reality. We talk about "perfect information" and "rational choice"; "egalitarian nature of man" and "comparative advantage". But what are they, in the end? How do these vague intellectual concepts translate into real life decisions and circumstances?

More often than not, they don't. They are, in the end, easy abstractions that hide the true complexity of the human mind and the world around us. Let us therefore attempt to deal with what we have, and to repeatedly consider these complexities while we continue to strive for a better, more just society.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Øyvind Ege

struggleforfreedom

02.12.2011 kl.16:01

Øyvind:

We don´t know everything about human nature, but we do know that solidarity is one of the core features. Human nature allows for different kinds of behaviour; it can be shaped to a certain extent, but we do know that there are some fundamental human characteristics. Take a look at the history of our evolution. For millions of years things like cooperation, sharing, caring, sticking together and so on, basing social organization on a realtively egalitarian principle, have been huge parts of our evolution.(In fact many of these things can also be seen among most species, simply because sticking together and helping each other increase the chances of more individuals surviving and spreading their genes (cf Dawkins 1976).With that in mind it would logically follow that these things are fundamental features of our nature.

The problem is that today these things are being suppressed. In today´s society things like greed and consumption are being encouraged. In fact, capitalism REQUIRES corporations f.ex, to ONLY think about the "bottom line". If they don´t, they´re out of business, and corporations that do think profits and greed replace them. A society like this will of course produce a lot of greedy individuals. Capitalism encourages greed, and since human nature allows for some molding of the mind, the system we have manages to supress many individuals´core characteristics. Take advertisement f.ex: Private tyrannies spend huge amounts of money on this. We´re being pumped full of this garbage almost everywhere we look, whther it`s TV, radio, internet, newspapers etc, etc day in and day out. It is a highly unnatural phenomenon, it´s been a part of human history for an extremely small amount of time, yet it affects us, many of us in a huge way.

In a libertaran Socialist organization society would incourage the good things in us. When society no longer encourages us to be greedy the true nature of humans would come to the fore. If a big part of our nature is based on cooperation and solidarity, and the society encourages cooperation and solidarty, guess what, it would produce cooperative and soldaric humans! There will of course be some "bad apples" in a libertarian socialist society as well, but that shouldn´t prevent us from organizing society to expanding democracy to communities and workplaces. In fact, even if it were true that humans have a less "good" nature than what is believed, we should still advocate more democracy. Being able to have a say in the things you´re a part of and that affect you is just logical no matter what further scientific work on human nature will conclude.

"how can we make what we have better?"

By working for creating a libertarian socialist society, thru activism, convincing, discussing etc. Working towards more democracy is just common sense to me (and if one like the idea of democracy one should agree). This has nothing to do with not wanting to deal with reality; it has to do with working in today´s world tyring to change it for the better based on one´s principles and ideology. People have overcome tyranny and oppression that pessimists told them they´d never succeed at, and that can happen in the future as well. In fact, we might have already seen the start of something that can lead to radical changes(cf the Occupy Movement)

Btw, I think, you´ll find this debate between Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault discussing anarcho-syndcalism, power and human nature, very interesting. Chomsky really nails it, again :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27NBpkzSSGU&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OgyEC4y9AA&feature=related

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. sff

AllOverIt

12.12.2011 kl.15:50

We must agree that land and natural resources are the commonwealth and also the birthright of every human. If land for a home and clean water and the tools necessary to make oneself self-sustaining are the right of each human and cannot be usurped for private benefit we will have peace, an end of wars of aggression and the need for corporate wages and government handouts.

Challenging Duelism

13.12.2011 kl.13:31

I think this website is offering good discussion and commentary. Keep it up.

However, I would like to point out that sticking to 'ideology' is 1) not needed 2) in fact, part of the problem. A truly free person is able to switch ideas as they see fit, and ideally in my view, that will be evidence based. Ideology starts with the conclusions and then rabbits on about the opposition.

I'm not saying that Libertarian Socialism is without merit (I'm actually quite sympathetic to it) or that so called Lefties aren't asking the right questions - because these questions do need to be asked, and capitalism is shit, we can agree on that. But I have never been convinced that the so called Left has done more than ask the questions that make it's answers look correct. A similar pattern occurs on the so called Right as well ;)

The take home message is, both Left and Right seem to suck because people are sticking to dichotomous frames of reference rather than critically and practically thinking things through.

struggleforfreedom

13.12.2011 kl.20:07

Challenging Duelism:

You have some interesting thoughts that I mostly agree with, but I also think that having a set of ideas that make up a vision of a better future society is crucial in the struggle for progress and change.

demo

17.02.2012 kl.09:22

I agree we should replace capitalism with democracy. Are you familiar with this post:

http://occupywallst.org/forum/solution-publicly-finance-all-elections-and-all-bu/

It gives a working model of how a democratic economic system would operate. The basics are:

To make the economy democratic, we need to make two primary changes.

1. The economy must be democratically owned and controlled. So that means all businesses would have to be publicly financed. This does not mean government does the investing. Investing will still be done by individually run banks. It just means the funds they use will be public funds.

2. The economy must work for the equal benefit of everyone. So that means the total income produced by all businesses would have to be paid to all workers according to a democratically established plan where differences in income are limited to only what is necessary to get people to do difficult or undesirable work and to give their maximum effort.

If we determined that paying top earners 4 times more than bottom earners is enough incentive and this income distribution plan was democratically approved, that would enable us to pay everyone from $115,000 to $460,000 per year - enough to make everyone wealthy and eliminate nearly every social problem we have. And since we can automate half the jobs we do, we can pay these incomes for working part time.

If we made the economy democratic, we could:

* Raise the minimum wage to $115,000 per year

* Cut the work week to 20 hours

* Eliminate interest which would cut your mortgage in half

* Make everyone wealthy

* Eliminate nearly every social problem we have

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