Michael Lebowitz democracy under capitalism and socialism



put this last plenaries of today's seminar of the last plenary of today is actually a very core and key theme of this whole conferenced and we hope to have a really good presentation and also discussion we have very distinguished speakers who have worked on these issues for a long time today's panel this plenary title is democracy under capitalism and socialism we have three speakers Michael labour which the deep gravely and ravi sinha and professor jihar gopal will be chairing the session it's my pleasure to introduce professor G hey gopal professor her go pal this thing with political scientist is currently icss our national fellow with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences Hyderabad he was with the University of Hyderabad as a professor in the Department of Political Science and later in the Center for Human Rights he was also a visiting professor at CSS eip nlsiu bangalore he is a well-known human right activist he was with APC LC for several years and played an important role in conflict resolution between the state and the Naxal groups he has published extensively in epw and several other journals written for both the tail go and English English press for human rights and political economic issues I and over the session to Professor Val profile you you a friends welcome to this very important to a session on democracy in capitalism and socialism an unresolved question and I think it is also a civilizational challenge because between two isms democracy seems over being caught up and I think this session will be very important session because very distinguished persons with lot of experience and insight will be making their presentation Michael labour which is a professor emeritus of economics there Simon Fraser University Vancouver Canada and hits a program on transformative practice and human development at the center centro internacional miranda when Azula his books improved build it now socialism for the 21st century beyond capital marks political econ with working class which one it was her memorial prize in 2004 he is currently working on two books the socialist alternative real human development and a volume on Karl Marx from Palgrave Macmillan see greatest economy series so I am very happy to introduce Michael lipomas and I request him to make his present is the other two panelists include Ravi Sinha is an activist scholar and a leading member of the new socialist initiative he has been associated with the left moment for nearly four decades trained as a theoretical physicist he has a doctoral degree from MIT Cambridge USA he worked as a physicist at the University of Maryland College Park we are safe at physical research laboratory ahmadabad and gujarat university another bar with the principal author you of the book globalization of capital published by null Berchem and lo que hasta in 1997 and a co-founder of the highly acclaimed social science in the some sometime I am reminded of JD Bernal who was a physicist who wrote not only a very interesting book on physics the expansion of man but you also has written a book on east of social sciences I think this one of those rare combination of a scientist who is interested not only in science but in the larger social systems find the way that systems developed because his book globalization of capital perhaps as nothing directly to do bbbj physics but it has a lot to do with the development of science and technology the third speaker is the Pradeep / diwali Havel is a well-known politician of Nepal affiliated with the lift student moment in the in his early days he left his call it to join the pro demócrata comment in nineteen eighteen nineteen seventy-nine and worked as an underground political activists until nineteen ninety when a moment got success and the multi-party democracy was established he was elected for two consecutive terms in Parliament from Constance in number to a bull may districted and served as MP since 1999 to 2012 before the resolution of the constant assembly he was the Minister for culture tourism and civil aviation 2006-2007 he played influential role in nepali peace process to end a decade-long violent conflict he let various panels to investigate the big corruption scandals a government agency is currently agency he works at the chief of central department of publicity of party and editor in chief of party Arkham now awoke he is a columnist in national newspapers and author of 80 books I think you know you would make out from the the details of these three distinguished speaker then they have a lot we have people with experience in the movements people who participate in an underground moment we have a scholar who has written so I mean extensively on capital and socialism I think we are looking forward to these presentations which will provide is very deep insight into the whole systems and the social system working of the system dynamics of the system may now request Michael to make his presentation sir we might take about 20 minutes you but i want to thank you very much treehugger po let me indicate that the description is the old description I'm not at in Venezuela anymore and I didn't write the book on marks that had been advertised there because I decided it was were capitalist press and the prices were too high so I instead wrote books on that for months review press and they're all available here now on the socialist alternative and following marks and also the last book being contradictions of real socialism the conductor in the conducted I I want to thank very much the organizers of the conference it's only as the days go by that I realize more and more of the significance and importance of this conference especially in this time in telangana so that's I'm very happy to be here on this occasion I also want to thank them for placing me on this particular panel because it wasn't a subject that I had specifically thought about and it forced me to rethink a number of questions and which is always exciting but on the other hand it means that my paper was is still in a process and some of my notes some of the pages i'll read from or just filled with arrows and things in the margins etc like that so i don't know where they'll fail to decipher this but what I want to talk about is three perspectives on democracy everyone agrees that democracy is a good thing let democracy means different things to different people and how those views differ depends on their particular premises so I want to identify three different general premises and then consider democracy in that light first respect viduals freedom to choose is the value to be maximized the second perspective is the coordination of in should be maximized in order to advance the interests of all and to avoid disharmony and dysfunction and the third perspective is the development of human capacities is the value to be maximized and I call these three perspectives consumer choice the orchestra conductor and revolutionary practice let's consider the first of these the consumer choice perspective the argument is made that we are free if we have complete freedom to choose if we as individuals can choose whatever we want if we can choose whatever job we want if we can vote for whether a candidate or party we want we are free the argument is that in HK and in each case the starting point is the atomistic isolated individual who is free to choose from this perspective unfreedom and dictatorship exists if we are restricted in our ability to choose commodities jobs and candidates in an election that is the ideological perspective of democracy and capitalism every individual appears free if they if they can choose but it is important to distinguish between that appearance and the underlying inner structure the essential underlying structure for example consider the choice of a job the this position would say that if you feel free if that if if you are free to move to another job you can't be exploited you can choose to go elsewhere however in fact in the capitalist workplace as a result of the sale of labour-power capital determines the purpose of production it has authority over the worker in the workplace and it owns the products of labor there is no freedom in the capitalist workplace rather there is the dictatorship of capital and the freedom to move from job to job is the freedom to seek a different capitalist exploiter a different dictator in other words you can be free to choose but what is there to choose from what is the choice set considered choice in the market Marcus comment on marks market exchange was that despite the overall dependence on one another the social connection of people is the connection of quote mutually in different persons and a quote in other words the connections through the market appears as in external to the individuals and independent of them that's the quote from the grundar s so consider what happens when with people who function in the market as producers the appearance is that these in isolated and indifferent individuals take the data from that social connection the market and are free to choose to seek their own self-interest we choose we are the masters of our fate marxist point though was that we were in fact dominated by our social connection dominated by the market these seemingly independent individuals he argued or in fact moved by the market they are ruled by abstractions he said abstractions which are quote nothing more than the theoretical expressions of those material relations which are their Lord master end of quote in fact we are driven by the market we are driven by the need for money the real needs that mud that capitalism creates and if the market tells us we will get the money we need by engaging in a particular act we do so Marx's comment was seemingly individual independent individuals are in fact subject to quote complete dependence on the so-called world market close quote and we need to stress that that market is dominated by those who have the most money those individuals who are free to choose individuals are choose free to choose but the choice set in other words what there is to choose from is dominated by those who have capital finally consider the seemingly independent of the individuals in the process of loading here the choice said is also a function of those who have money those who control the media those who control the bank's the firm's they choose the candidates who can win and again there is the question of who determines the choice set we can of course always choose the vote for someone who has no chance to look through up to win but of course the choice set has been established not by us so in other words what we can see is the different this apparent freedom of these seemingly independent individuals is real for those individuals but it is in fact domination by the power of capital the appearance of individual freedom is indeed central to the reproduction of those mutually independent mutual mutually in different persons and the key is always to ask in all question what kind of people are produced in this relation indeed the kind of people producing this relation or mutually ended mutually in different people so the appearance of democracy as the individual ability to choose plays a central ideological role in capitalism and we always have to look below the appearance to the underlying structure and how that underlying structure is reproduced consider the second perspective the orchestra conductor this perspective entirely rejects a focus on isolated animistic individuals it focuses instead on the collective unity of individuals and on the importance and necessities to coordinate those individuals marks in this respect stressed the necessity of a directing authority to ensure quote a harmonious cooperation of the activities of individuals close quote and his metaphor for that directing authority was the orchestra conductor the orchestra conductor is the metaphor for the need to coordinate many people quote a single violin player is his own conductor and orchestra requires a separate one close quote and that job of considering whole marks noted is the special work of particular individuals in this context I think it is important self perception of the conductor and I talked about this in my book the contradictions of real socialism the conductor and they conducted for the conductor in the words of elias canetti and his book crowds and power music is the only thing that counts no one is more convinced than the conductor quote that his business is to serve music and to interpret it faithfully close quote in other words the perspective of the conductor is I am necessary without me there would be chaos so consider what the person democracy is in this particular perspective in practice democracy in this case is the right to participate collectively in discussions and to offer suggestions which can improve a predetermined course of actions in other words democracy here is collective participation sometimes considerable participation but not participation in the development of the goal rather it is the opportunity to comment and to approve the plan of the conductor let me give you examples consider the place of trade unions of the Soviet Union their principal function was to serve as a transmission belt from the state to the workers in order to support mobilize workers to support state goals and that was set out exclusively in article 96 of the fundamental labor legislation of the Soviet Union our nickel 97 of that labor legislation noted the right of workers to take part in discussions and quote to submit proposals on improving the work of enterprises institutions and organizations close quote in other words workers had the right to make suggestions and that article continued both the officials of enterprises institutions organizations must promptly consider proposals made by factory workers and office employees and then inform them regarding the steps taken on these matters close quote it's not much compounder workers is aside in that process rather it's the basic perspective is the company will be happy to receive suggestions from the workers and the company will decide which ones if any it will follow a more recent example of this concept of democracy as consultative participation was the very extensive discussions in cuba on the linea mentos the guidelines the guidelines for the party circulated through the party which have functioned now as the basis for the new directions being taken in cuba these guidelines regulated by the party and everyone was mobilized for these discussions they are immobilized in workplaces in communities and neighborhoods in organizations everywhere people were discussing the linear approach the party coordinated these discussions in each separate location on the base and on the basis of these reports there were adjustment for example there was a great expression of concern in many discussions about the phasing out of the libretto the list of sub subsidized goods which was the party was moving too subtle to remove and the clear opposition to that concern about that significantly slowed down that process more recently in Cuba New Labour the new labor code was established and that involved extensive discussion of a document prepared by the party sent to the site sa the Cuban Labor Federation and in this case there was extensive participation here intra and a process of transmitting the concerns from below and adjusting you know to the nature of those concerns but there were extensive limits in the labor code for example there was no place for a general discussion of worker management there was no means from one community to communicate to another community about their concerns about for example worker management there was a kind of collective animism that existed in that particular case the perspective of the conductor is that he knows the whole score that he alone knows that score and therefore activity outside that score is to be discouraged one community wanted to discuss the whole question of professionalization of sports it was not allowed to have that discussion the logic to of the conductor is there can only be one conductor and also the logic of the conductor is that if there are differences among the lowes the top they should be hidden because all this would create confusion among those below there's absolutely no doubt that the extensive discussion such as existed in Cuba are very important and if the del Este distinguished the cuban process from the soviet process etc however that participation in this case is not an opportunity it's not the same as the opportunity to develop one's capacity through protagonism and through protagonist it democracy and we have to ask what kind of people are produced here in this case in this relation not what Marx called rich human beings that rich individuality which is all cited in its capabilities in the Soviet Union we could see that that kind of process did not build the protagonist stick subjects who have the strength and power to prevent the restoration of capital capitalism this brings us to the third perspective revolutionary practice the concept of revolutionary practice comes from martha's third theses on Feuerbach and is specifically oriented to her Robert Owen who was praised here the other day and that was a critique works was critiquing here an approach which said that if we change circumstances for people then that will lead to a change in their nature and Marxist comment was this doctrine quote forgets that it is man who changes circumstances and that the educator must himself be educated hence this doctrine is bound to divide society into two parts one of which is superior to society close quote and then came the key statement the one that is the statement of revolutionary practice quote the coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self change can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice close quote and Marx was entirely consistent on this point throughout his life this combination of the change of circumstances and self change is the red thread that runs throughout his work workers struggle in order to change circumstances they change themselves at the same time they themselves fit to build the new world and it is not only workers struggles that lead to these two changes circumstances and changing human beings every activity has two products the material product and the human product it is very clear for example in the sphere of production that every activity has two products the material product and a joint product which is the human being who is engaged in production for example under capitalist relations of production there is a growth of material output but there's also a human product that human product Marx was so clear is on was a fragmented crippled human being crippled by the separation of head and hand very simply he talked about how production under capitalist relations of production destroy as human beings destroys nature and one aspect of the destruction of human beings was the alienated production which leaves workers empty in the process of production and emptiness which they feel can only be filled by the desire to have things in other words consumerism is not an accident in capitalism well one can talk about this yo process and see what was happening in mark how marks described capitalist production but he also in capital described an alternative it's hidden there its present there though and that is he talked about the inverse relation in which means of production are used to serve what he called quote the workers own need for development and when you see him talk about this inverse relationship you start to say where else does he talk about inverse relationship and you can see he talks about capitalism is an inversion capitalism has means of production hire workers employ workers we must invert that inversion and have workers employed means of production not the capitalist inversion and that is this general perspective because when we think in terms of that inverted society a society in which workers you know control the process of production to produce things which allow for the satisfaction of the workers only 24 development we can see and entirely you know the elite that the concept of the alternative is present in Marx's capital working under capitalist Thunder news relations of production under the relations of associated producers produces a different human being a different human product and mark says explicitly in capital quote when the worker cooperates in a planned way with others he strips off his individuality and develops the capabilities of his species there was the key link here of human development and practice points to the importance of protagonism in the workplace protagonism in the communities protagonism everywhere this is how rich human beings and Marxist view are produced and that is what Marxist concept of socialism was all about the creation of a society which allows for the full development of human beings the full development of human capacities with socialist relations of production or the relations of associated producers there is what Marx called in the critique you let go the program the all-around development of the individual and the result is that all the springs of cooperative wealth flow more abundantly this view is precisely the perspective of socialism for the 21st century as it is emerged in Latin America this focus on human development and practice this key link is that no concept and it distinguishes the concept of socialism with the 21st century from the theory and the experience of 20th century attempts at building socialism we see it very clearly in the sections of the Bolivarian constitution of Venezuela the first act of Chavez after his 1998 election was to call for the Constituent Assembly but a new constitution was written with the very strong participation of the social movements if you look at that constitution you see its explicit goal is quote ensuring overall human development and the quote there's a focus on quote creating the developing the creative potential of every human being and the full exercise of his or her personality in a democratic society close quote there is the quote the segment that hope everyone has the right to be free to the free development of his/her own personality that is the human development side of this constitution and the practice side is also there it's there in the declaration that participation by people is quote the necessary way of achieving the involvement to ensure their complete development both individual and collective close call the necessary way without that you cannot have human development without that protagonism that's the statement in that Bolivarian Constitution and that Constitution also goes on to talk about the importance of democratic planet participatory budgeting self-management co-management cooperative etc and in many respects one and one looks at them as well in the subsequent period after that constitution you see the clear attempt to realize that you see the clear attempt to realize that especially in the development of the communal council where people participate on their local level making local decision and are transformed in that very process and you could see Chavez's orientation to move this into the sphere of work as well at one point he said in one of those open cabinet meetings what we have now is state capitalism without worker control you cannot have socialism so what you can see in this you know process is that central to the concept of socialism for the 21st century is protagonist amok recei protagonist stick democracy in the workplace protagonist if democracy in the community protagonist democracy throughout the society because that is precisely the necessary way to ensure the complete human development both individual and collective and well jonathan i know i'll begin thinking of himself as a socialist and when he did you know move considerably to the left he was propelled by what are called slave owners result revolts which put the sword in the hand of the social revolution but he did not immediately start talking about social he began simply to talk about how capitalism is perverse a perverse society and he contrasted that for a year with what he called the social economy the social economy cares about people who puts human beings that look at its core is oriented toward youths value not exchange value he was talking about socialism for at least a year before he actually took use the term socialism and then he used that term socialism at the world social forum in january 2005 in porto alegre where he said it can we have to reinvent socialism it can't be the kind of socialism we saw in the soviet union but it will emerge as we develop new systems that are based on cooperation not competition and he continued quote but we cannot resort to state capitalism which be the same perversion of the soviet union we must reclaim socialism as a thesis a project and a path but a new type of socialism a humanist socialism which puts humans and not machines were the state ahead of everyone now one should not think it's only Chavez that we can look at because I want to read you a long lengthy statement made by the vice president of Bolivia Alvaro de garça ln era yeah and Garcia linaro made this speech to the meeting of the party of the European left in Madrid last December where he said among other things that faced with modern capitalism's predatory of destructive capacity the European left and the world wide left must come forward with proposals with initiatives it is up to us the left in Europe and throughout the world to build a new common feeling and he continued we must recover the concept of democracy the left has always waved this banner it's our banner the banner of justice equality of participation however for all that we must free ourselves from a purely institutional conception of democracy democracy is much more than institutions it is much more than voting and elected a parliament it is much more than observing the rules of alternation of ins and outs we are prisoners of a liberal fossilized conception of democracy democracy means the values the organizational principles of understanding the world tolerance pluralism freedom of opinion freedom of association it is true that these are principles values but they are not solely principles and values they are institutions but not solely democracy is practice a collective action it consists of increasingly taking part in the management of the common areas of society there is democracy if we take part in the common good if our heritage is water then democracy is taking part in the management of water if our heritage language the democracy is defending that common good if our Heritage's forest lands knowledge then democracy is managing administering them in common we must have an increasing participation in the management of forests water air Natural Resources democracy exists living not as fossilized democracy if the population and the left they're taking part in the manikin boxes institutions rice and riches the old socialist in 1970 said democracy should not be at the factory gates that's a good idea but it's not enough as well as knocking at the factory gates it must not get the doors of banks firms institutions resources everything that belongs to the people and the end this section by saying we need to you know begin with the growing participation of citizens in the management of the Commonwealth of the whole of society of the whole region well back to the plenary theme democracy under capitalism and socialism democracy under capitalism is a real form of appearance but its underlying essence is dictatorship democracy under socialism in contrast must be based on the protagonism that transforms both circumstances and human beings and does so in such a way as to satisfy the workers own need for development we need to build a society a society of associated conductors and so let me end by simply pointing quoting a statement a slogan that was originated with the South African Communist Party which apparently has forgotten the slogan that is socialism as the future built it now it has been indeed a very refreshing because this paper has gone back to fundamentals which I think in the current global model almost have been forgotten so the one question that his lecture raises is the what exactly the relation between individual and the collective normally when we discuss in human rights the logical limit of individual freedom is on our key and logical limit of collective or common group is despotism how do I a life where individual freedom and collect to boot can be so reconciled that while individual realizes meaning to life a potential to life in the same time the collective good does not suffer I think this is a civilizational challenge but he has built a very interesting postulates and particularly when he explained the revolutionary practice in fact he'd stalk the democracy is not a form of government or institutional arrangement it's a transfer me to process human society being dynamic and human beings being created two species if they're constantly changing then the human being has to have capacity to construct upward adopt to the change and at the same time should be able to engage in self a man and his fish is a book the struggle for democracy self am anticipation and also am anticipation of the collective and work is not a source of livelihood but love life work is a labor is a source of meaningful human life because human beings realize meaning to light through labor so as long as the labor work for capital there is no way that human being can realize meaning to light I think these are very fundamental questions of socialism mind when he talks of the socialist democracy while he has argued that Soviet Union collapse because it was not a socialist democracy but to the state capitalism and state capitalism can be worse than market capitalism that I think Soviet Union demonstrated but the way it crumbled I think it has failed on the market a freedom scale and it also failed unequal injustice scale I mean it's a failure on both friends I think capitalism survived because of its own self adjustment and its own adoptability I think socialist experiment instead of being a revolutionary practice somewhere it has drifted into state capitalism I think these are some of the very important questions so democracy in this context is the continuous revolutionary practice of human beings engaged in a struggle of changing themselves and changing their circumstances and that continuous practice should be I'm going to construe at the essence of democracy I think this is one of the very profound formulations that the paper made I think it will be open for discussion I don't know what practice you are following but I think we will take up all the three presentation because all three have a common theme then we take up the debate and comments from the house now I request or friend from Nepal of course his fresh from the experience I think of course he was a part of the moment he was underground then he was in the constituent assembly then it was a minister and of course Nepal all of us were looking to this experiment but now of course it has its own ups and downs now a person with the fresh experience of an experiment of socialist you know some sort of you know I mean movement in Nepal now I request our friend Pradeep to make his presentation thank you sir distinguished panelists comrades you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *