Proposed by the Bush administration, the plan has been described as the largest government intervention in private markets since the Great Depression. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership, by and large, support the plan.
I appreciate the historical perspective and critical analysis the Socialist Equality Party statement provides, including its incisive critique of capitalism. However, like so many political statements, from either the left or the right, it is long on rhetoric and short on specifics.
For example, what exactly would “democratic control” of financial institutions by “the working population” look like?
Have there been (or are there) successful models of such control?
What are the actual steps by which “the working people” can “assume control of the financial institutions and use them for the common good, not corporate profit and personal enrichment.”
And who defines “the working people”?
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely remain a “socialist-leaning” guy, and I agree with Ronald Aronson that “many of our key values and starting points are drawn from a common historical source: the socialist tradition.”*
Yet at the same time I’m open to an economic system that acknowledges and encourages the best aspects of both capitalism and socialism, open to considering capitalism and socialism as, in the words of Jeremy Rifkin, “complementary ‘visible hands’ that continually balance individual self-interest in the market with a collective sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare.” According to Rifkin, “the social market-economy model practiced across the member states of the European Union comes closest to this mechanism.”
Having said all of this, I share now excerpts from the Socialist Equality Party’s response to the current financial situation.
The plan, which is being rushed through Congress for passage this week, is the response of the government and the entire political establishment to what is acknowledged to be the greatest economic crisis since the Wall Street crash of 1929. It calls for an unprecedented transfer of public funds to the major banks and the American financial elite at the expense of the broad mass of the people.
Both the plan itself and the manner in which it is being imposed are deeply undemocratic. Exploiting the breakdown in US and global financial markets, the financial aristocracy, which is responsible for the crisis, is exercising its control over the government, both political parties, and the media to implement policies of the most far-reaching character without any genuine debate or discussion. As in the aftermath of 9/11, it is seeking to utilize the crisis to push through policies that would otherwise be considered entirely unacceptable.
None of the measures being carried out address the underlying causes of the financial meltdown, nor will they resolve the crisis. At most, they will only postpone the day of reckoning.
None of those who control the banks and finance houses are being held accountable, and not a penny is being provided to provide relief for millions of working class families who are losing their homes, their jobs, and their livelihoods as a result of the frenzied speculation that led to the crisis.
Make no mistake: The working people, who are the victims of the financial parasitism of the ruling elite, will foot the bill to bail out those who have enriched themselves by plundering the social wealth. The massive expansion of budget deficits and the national debt as a result of this plan will be used to justify a brutal assault on basic social programs, education, housing and the wages, jobs, pensions, and health benefits of the working class.
. . . The real source of the financial crisis is not and cannot be discussed by any of the official institutions or any of the political representatives of big business, whether Republican or Democratic. It is the capitalist system itself, which has for decades sought to overcome its fundamental contradictions by engaging in ever more parasitic and fraudulent forms of financial manipulation—piling up debt while dismantling the productive infrastructure of society.
American capitalism has become the global leader in the creation of personal wealth for the ruling elite entirely separated from the creation of real value in the process of production. The current economic breakdown, which threatens the world’s people with catastrophe, is the inevitable result.
The alternative to the naked dictatorship of capital and the impoverishment of the working people is socialism. The Socialist Equality Party insists that if the resources of the American people must be mobilized to avert an economic catastrophe, then the American working people should assume control of the financial institutions and use them for the common good, not corporate profit and personal enrichment.
We propose that the major banks and financial institutions be nationalized and turned into public utilities, operated under the democratic control of the working population. The vast financial resources that they control must be used to provide decent education, housing, health care, retirement benefits and good-paying jobs for all.
* Writes Aronson: “Socialism’s values continue to nourish community life. Much of our world continues to be organized collectively, democratically, and socially, operating according to need and not according to profitability – in schools and cooperatives; libraries and nonprofits; local, state, and federal government programs. September 11 and Hurrican Katrina showed the undying need for extensive and intensive structures of community. The socialist standards of fairness, democracy, equality, and justice for all are as much a part of daily life as are capitalism’s values of privilege, unequal rewards, and power.”
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
R.I.P. Neoclassical Economics
Capitalism on Trial
A System That’s Not Going to Survive
The Wrong Type of Government Intervention
John le Carré’s Dark Suspicions
A Lose/Lose Situation
Recommended Off-site Link:
How Socialism Works - HowStuffWorks.com.
Socialist Equality Party - Statement of Principles (Part 1) - World Socialist Web Site, September 25, 2008.