Ed Rooksby on the socialist fraud of ‘post-capitalism’

by Jehu

pm_1Ed Rooksby alleges socialists have no idea what socialism is and spend little time trying to imagine what a post-capitalist society looks like. The lack of specifics offered by socialists to their political base is maintained by invoking a sort of historical determinism where, although not stated in so many words, all the details of a post-capitalist society — the institutional arrangements of this society — will somehow be worked out.

Rooksby wonders if socialists even really believe there is a post-capitalist future; the evasions of the Left might actually serve to avoid ever having to explain what the final aims of the movement are.

This argument sheds light on the emptiness of SYRIZA’s program, which was revealed by its Thessaloniki Program: when SYRIZA was forced to actually detail what it hope to accomplish, the party adopted a laughably impoverished set of practical measures. Gone were practical measures to address the neoliberal constraints of European Union, the imperative to exit the straightjacket imposed on fiscal policy by the euro, and the imperialist character of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In place of this radical criticism of Greece’s circumstances, SYRIZA simply proposed to shift around a few billion euros of state spending based on a reduction of its debt payments — if Greece’s creditors allowed this.

In reality, Rooksby argues, socialists have no idea what comes after capitalism (nor even if there is an ‘after capitalism’). It is all bad faith. I think that bad faith can be summed up in one word: “Postcapitalism”. A meaningless neologism coined by post-war socialists, the term is a perfect expression of the bad faith Rooksby accuses socialist of engaging in. Absent any articulated, specific, program for transition to the complete emancipation of the working class, socialists actually only promise to manage the exploitation of the working class, not to put an end to this exploitation:

“Most revolutionary accounts of the transition indicate that the economy in transition would still, for a long while, remain substantially capitalist – it’s just that political power has been transferred to the possession of the proletariat collectively.”

Which means, in no uncertain terms, that for some unspecified period, the government of the working class would be managing the exploitation of the working class on behalf of the capitalist class. At the level of socialist strategy, the proposed separation in time between the immediate aims of socialists upon taking power and their ultimate aim carries an implicit assumption: if the ultimate aim of socialism is emancipation of society from labor, its immediate aim is, by definition, a period of transition that more or less can be understood as the ‘temporary’ management of the ongoing exploitation of society by capital?

Managing present society is not simply (or even primarily) a matter of avoiding capital flight, inflation or trade deficits. If socialists aim to manage present capitalist society, they explicitly aim to manage the process of exploitation on behalf of capital, even if they are too dumb to realize this. The measures implemented by socialists to manage present society are not neutral technocratic policies, but explicitly aim to facilitate the production of surplus value. Thus, it is not simply economic forces within the mode of production – what Marx called counteracting influences – that will be systematically blocking attempts at reform; the government of the working class would be policing those limits as well.

Moreover, even under the most “revolutionary” scenarios offered by socialists, this period will last a fairly long time — perhaps centuries. How is a government of the working class supposed to justify managing the exploitation of the working class for perhaps 100 years? Simply posing the question this way demonstrates how ludicrous it is.

So let’s summarize the socialist program in the form of a political appeal to the working class:

“We socialists, who have no experience in managing society, propose you elect us to manage your exploitation for at least 100 years,  on behalf of capital. We promise to be more generous exploiters of your labor than the capitalists  and promise to bring you to the end of all exploitation after 100 years has passed.”

Postcapitalism? Where do I register to vote?

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