Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Socialism? Never heard of it.

Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! this morning interviewed Michael Albert, the founder of Z Magazine and Znet and the co-founder of South End Press. Goodman started out the interview with a rather relevant question:
It's a question that's been posed to social movements for years: We know what you oppose, but what's your alternative? My next guest is considered one of today’s leading thinkers on that very question.
Unfortunately she then spent 3/4 of the interview on Albert's past, why he was expelled from college, why he didn't join the Weathermen, etc. When they finally got around to the supposed topic of the interview, Albert starts by saying something very important, something I've written here as well:
Capitalism is a horrific system. Capitalism is a system that breeds an environment in which dignity is robbed, in which people are out -- nice guys finish last, in the words of a famous American baseball coach, or in my more aggressive formulation, garbage rises, meaning it's a competitive environment in which you care about others, you suffer. If you violate others, you advance.
OK, so far so good. Then he goes into his "answer":
MICHAEL ALBERT: And the question for me was always, starting right at the beginning in 1968, '67: what do we replace it with? If we're about changing this fundamentally, then we have to be about not just better values, people controlling their own lives, equity, justice, diversity, solidarity, we have to be about institutions that would make those values real. So parecon or participatory economics is a model --

AMY GOODMAN: You made up the word?

MICHAEL ALBERT: Yes, and it's not a brilliant choice, I'm told. It's an economic system, a set of institutions to accomplish production and consumption and allocation, stuff that makes up economics, and to do it in a way that the act of doing it gives people control over their lives, gives people solidarity with others, gives people an equitable share of the social output, gives people a range of options that's fulfilling. And so, the institutions that make it up are the key to it, and it represents an answer to the question, "What do you want?"
I linked to the ZNet page about "parecon" where, if you like, you can read more, since as far as I'm concerned, what Albert had to say on the air had virtually no information content.

But here's the point. I don't care if Michael Albert or anyone else has some vision of the future and how a non-capitalist society might be structured. But isn't he at least obliged to mention the word "socialism" when he's discussing non-capitalist alternatives, even if he thinks there's something wrong with it? The entire tenor of the conversation is that he's the first person ever to try to figure out an alternative to capitalism. Bollocks. And the fact that Goodman never even asks him a question like, "Well, aren't you talking about socialism?" is, whatever her personal politics, just plain poor journalism.

Why stop here? There's more...

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