A PROJECTQUESTION COLUMN
FOR THE NASHVILLE FREE PRESS
Installment 6 of 13
Often after hearing that there’s no ownership of productive property, proponents of capitalism immediately argue that Participatory Economics is nothing more than regurgitated communism. The real point of which is to imply that because communism collapsed in the Soviet Union, there is no alternative.
That of course doesn’t work with our recipe. Our recipe is not just an alternative to capitalism. It’s a recipe for a classless economy. We refer to it as an alternative to capitalism because that’s the system we’re in, the system for which we’re told that there is no alternative. If we were living within a centrally planned economy in the Soviet Union, Parecon would still be a very different and desirable alternative.
In fact, while we do share a Marxist view that capitalists (owners of productive property) are indeed a particular class, our understanding of class probably pays more attention to that of capitalist political rhetoric.
While traditional Marxism spends great focus on owners and workers, or rather those at the top and those at the bottom, capitalists like to talk more about those in the middle. In fact, they almost exclusively talk about those in the middle.
Think about it. When was the last time you heard a major presidential candidate or an economist in the mainstream media talk at length about the working class? Almost never. The focus is always on the middle class.
Why? Because the middle are all that separates those at the top from those at the bottom. Those in the middle are responsible for keeping in line those at the bottom. They are responsible for enforcing orders and rules made by those at the top.
And this is not just the case in economics. You can see this in almost any hierarchical structure. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the economy, the military, the church, or the mafia. The food chain is virtually the same.
Take the military for example. In the military, we can see that class structure is more than just generals and the enlisted. It’s the officers who hold the food chain together in service to those above them. They are entrusted with keeping the system running, as well as keeping those below them in line. In return, they are afforded enough power and privilege to make it worth it.
In capitalist economy, those officers are the roughly 20 percent of wage workers who monopolize empowering work and its demand of more money, leaving the drudgery and disempowering work for less money to the other 80 percent.
Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel refer to this 20 percent as the coordinator class. Others prefer to call it the managerial class. Still others prefer to call it the boss class. And some people just call it the middle class.
But no matter what you call it, it must be acknowledged and rejected if we are ever to get to a classless society.
Breaking down hierarchy is not about persuading the generals to give different orders. Nor is it just to convince enlisted personnel to refuse orders. It’s about convincing officers to break the chain and walk away from the privilege of their rank.
Now, let me make this quite clear. We’re not saying that these economic officers, this class of coordinators, are bad or evil people. We’re just identifying class structure. If we intend to have a classless society, we must first identify what makes up class. More to come…