America Beyond Capitalism

Published on ZNet (first on Dollars & Sense), by Gar Alperovitz, November 14, 2011.

Black Monday, September 19, 1977, was the day 34 years ago when the shuttering of the Youngstown Sheet and Tube steel mill threw 5,000 steelworkers onto the streets of their decaying Midwestern hometown. No local, state or federal programs offered significant help. Steelworkers called training programs “funeral insurance”: they led nowhere since there were no other jobs available.  

Inspired by a young steelworker, an ecumenical religious coalition put forward a plan for community-worker ownership of the giant mill. The plan captured widespread media attention, the support of numerous Democrats and Republicans (including the conservative governor of the state at the time), and an initial $200 million in loan guarantees from the Carter administration.

Corporate and other political maneuvering in the end undercut the Youngstown initiative. Nonetheless, the effort had ongoing impact, especially in Ohio … //

… Central to these various developments is the question of perspective: Many of the possibilities in one way or another have begun to take shape and move in a new direction, again, because as in Ohio traditional progressive reform strategies are no longer capable of providing solutions to ever more painful problems. Confronting—and taking advantage of—this paradoxical dynamic presents challenges to both traditional and radical understandings. The “evolutionary reconstructive” strategic approach they illustrate is a form of change different not only from traditional reform, but different, too, from traditional theories of “revolution.” The various efforts all also involve a sense of the importance of a long, evolutionary process that builds towards institutions (and ideas) that may offer ongoing ways to fundamentally alter economic and political relationships over time.

At this stage of development the central strategic questions are how to refine and expand various models—and how over time to legitimate the idea of democratized ownership in general. Ultimately, however, such strategies must converge with (and provide new content for) political mobilizations, movement-building and electoral efforts that take us beyond liberal and populist categories of change. As in the prehistory of the Progressive Era—when what subsequently became elements of the New Deal were first developed in state and local “laboratories”—it is also possible that the quietly emerging mosaic of experience and ideas could establish principles that might be applied to larger scale structures when a new progressive politics once again arises out of the pain. The U.S. government did, after all, nationalize two auto giants, G.M. and Chrysler, in the recent crisis for a substantial period. Given the huge financial flows it directed to major banks and other financial institutions, it also could well have established public control of one or more of these as well. Such possibilities are likely to return in future. Far-reaching change of this kind, and beyond, might one day be achieved if serious scholars and activist are able to build forward on the emerging developments to create even more advanced democratizing models—along with constituencies that have come to understand why they are important to a democratic future. (full long text and Sources).

(GAR ALPEROVITZ, Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland and co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative, is the author of America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty and Our Democracy, a new paperback edition of which will be published this month by The Democracy Collaborative and Dollars & Sense. He is working on a new book on long-term institutional and systemic change).

Links:

Stop Beating Students, don’t beat Nonviolence, Watch this video, 2.55 min, published on Dollars and Sense – RealWorld Economics, by Chris Sturr, November 14, 2011 … (My comment: again, the blackmailed govs’ only power remains to beat the 99% in the name of the 1%).

Troika to PIIGS: Shut Up and Take Your Medicine, on Dollars and Sense – RealWorld Economics, by Chris Sturr, November 11, 2011;

… and found on eastern bloc party: John Reed, Ten Days That Shook the World (1919), the whole book to be read online on en.wikipedia;

GAR ALPEROVITZ’ Website;

His Publications on the New Economics Institute;

Community Wealth.org;

Univ. Maryland /Faculty: Dept. of Gov. and Poitics: Gar Alperovitz Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy.

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