Published on CommonDreams.org, by Linda Burnham, October 22, 2008.
Capitalism in crisis is a sight to behold. Most of the time the system seems to hum along quite nicely. Oh, maybe a passel of people loses their jobs when some big-headed suit at the top decides to up and move on to a cheaper labor market. And maybe a city or two, or even a whole region, goes bankrupt and destitute, shops boarded up, ghosts in the street. Maybe a generation of young people ends up poorly educated because nobody could figure out how to turn a decent profit schooling ten-year-olds, so it slid down to the bottom of the priority list. Maybe there’s an aberration here or there, like the positive incentive to filling up prisons. But overall, the thing has the reputation of the proverbial well-oiled machine, humming along and delivering the greatest good to the greatest number. And besides, it’s the only machine in town.
But then it breaks down. Spectacularly.
And it turns out that this highest possible form of human development has more than a few foundational flaws, the relevant one at the moment being that it is subject, inevitably and constitutionally, to periodic, devastating crisis.
At such moments the verities of capital are called into question, and not by the closet Marxists and nostalgic revolutionaries. No, the capitalists themselves, in deed if not in word, are heaving great chunks of their ideology overboard. Invisible hand of the market? Heave ho. Limited government intervention in business? Heave ho. Self-correcting system? Heave ho. Whatever it takes to re-stabilize the system, let’s do it. Principles be damned …
… We stand at the brink of multiple disasters in the howling absence of an alternative vision for sustainable, people-centered human development, or an alternative platform for deep reform, or an organized base capable of challenging and shifting power.
And so this moment – the great unmasking – should serve as an urgent reminder that we have a multi-generational project at hand. That is, to construct a viable politic and effective organizational forms capable of acting on the belief that it is possible to build a society that lifts up that which is generous and creative and humane while curbing the greedy, the short-sighted and the predatory. There must be an alternative.
Otherwise we, and generations to come, will remain at the mercy of the players and their game. (full text).
(Linda Burnham, co-founder and former Executive Director of Women of Color Resource Center, is a writer and social justice activist).