Debating with pro-market capitalists: A waste of time?

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appledoze
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Aug 14 2009 19:37
Debating with pro-market capitalists: A waste of time?

So, yesterday my dad and I had another one of those discussions about capitalism. He's usually more centrist, but he's also into the whole market populism crap and "invisible hand" theory, with some supply side. He even believes markets are the most democratic form of democracy, which I strongly disagree with, because of the constant hypocrisy of his arguments. He says capitalism is democratic while admitting corporations function like Stalinist systems, and says people are rewarded by the market for "innovation and hard work" while believing the market manipulates our lives, while those who can afford it get to manipulate the market to their own desires. And yet when I tried to prove him that democracy in workplace is possible, as shown in Spain in 1936 and Hungary in 1956, he still often confuses state capitalism and libertarian communism a lot. When I told him the workers of Hungary were suppressed by the Soviets, he asked me if that meant that the workers got oppressed by the workers, implying that workers had any say or power under the Soviet system. And once I got him to admit that he thinks prosperity under capitalism is worth sacrificing the well-being of millions (he tries to justify Pinochet's massacres through his economic policies), I just didn't bother anymore. He just kept going in circles as to whether capitalism is democratic or not. Yet he still continues to debate with me. For example, today he offered to give me $1000 for me to use for investments in the market, to prove to me that it is democracy and rewarding. But should I take his offer? Is it worth it? Will it contradict my stance as a libertarian socialist?

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 14 2009 19:41

if he's not going to be persuaded, you might as well be $1000 richer.

baboon
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Aug 14 2009 20:01

Bite his hand off. And read about the soviets in 1905 and 1917 - I recommend Trotsky.

Angelus Novus
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Aug 14 2009 20:02

With every passing day I'm more convinced that arguing with people who are affirmative towards the system is a complete waste of time.

Not because they're bad people or because they'll never change their mind, but only because I think people like that are only susceptible to having their minds changed when confronted with some sort of viable alternative in the form of a mass movement for communism.

I think it's far more useful to concentrate on the people who are already sort of "left" in some way, but who either have muddy thinking or who are completely passive and cynical about the prospects for changing society. Better to start with the people who agree with you but who see the prospects for change as hopeless, rather than people who don't share your assessment of the situation to begin with.

That said, if anybody offered me 1000 dollars, no conditions, I'd take it in a second.

Boris Badenov
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Aug 14 2009 20:55

I would take the money.
also, when arguing shit like this with people who are either fairly apolitical or pro-market, it's best to not go into a big rant about the bourgeoisie and spain 36 and all that jazz, but to use the socratic method (i.e. ask questions to know exactly what the other person is thinking, and then offer a counterargument). The way to understanding the nature of capitalist society is doubt, so if you can make someone doubt the Truths of the free market you're closer to making them see things your way than by drowning them in a bunch of theoretical and historical information that they probably don't give a fuck about.

Angelus wrote:
I think it's far more useful to concentrate on the people who are already sort of "left" in some way,

I beg to differ. Leftists (esp. of the trot variety) are, in my experience anyway, the people most dogmatically opposed to any idea of a libertarian society. Also fairly hostile are post-structuralist artphags who believe it's all relative MAN (lol irony). Apolitical people are usually much more receptive even if they believe you're a starry-eyed utopian.

appledoze
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Aug 14 2009 21:01

As for the money part, I should clear up that the money will only be used to invest in stocks as my dad wants, not for anything else. Which is why I'm doubting whether or not to take it and use it.

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waslax
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Aug 14 2009 21:16

So what does he hope to prove by you using his money to invest in equities on the stock market? That capitalism is democratic? How would that be established? And rewarding? So what? It is indeed, sometimes, if you have enough money to begin with, to invest prudently? What about the majority of people who don't have that money? And in any case, most stocks right now are not very rewarding. You should invest it for him in some random stocks, and see how he loses (i.e. isn't rewarded) on the investment.

petey
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Aug 15 2009 01:20
Quote:
he still often confuses state capitalism and libertarian communism a lot

this is the core of the problem. here in the states 'socialism' has become so tainted with associations of totalitarian statism that you may not be able to break though. try to find some anti-statist common ground - is he a ron paul type? but the argument will be about the nature of markets as much as of the state, as it seems you've already found out.

RedHughs
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Aug 15 2009 17:42

Well, unseriously, if you are not interested in the money, I would suggest that you send it Western Union, directly to me smile Even more unseriously still, I don't know how much $1000 is worth to you but if it's not worth much to, you must be a posh bastard arguing the issue in your effete drawing room. laugh out loud

Now seriously...

Since none of us can read the mind or even determine the social situation of you or your dad, so none of us can tell exactly how worthwhile arguing with him is.

Certainly, in any process of persuasion, direct, logical argument tends to play a rather small part. The ideological positions people take under capitalism tend to have a large portion of "I am respectable" and similar justifications of the person's class-position mixed into their logical statement. Those who put forward an ideological position of marketism psychologically wish to seem respectable through this identification. Thus, when one wishes to argue with these people, one can go a long way by avoiding arguments that make them seem stupid, however easy these might be to make. I have found that if I instead begins with concrete things like the manner in which the person experiences exploitation as a worker, then I can sometimes quite easily get person to toss out their marketism completely.

One thing, though, I've also found that "winning" the argument often is pointless. Just having the person see the validity of the communist position for "one shinning moment" doesn't do anything if they see it isolation. Marketism works for a person one more than a logical level - it gives the person "protection" on a day-to-day psychological level. So the chances that the person will go back to their conditions of thought unless material change is somewhat at hand, which it sadly doesn't look like it current is.

Regardless, I don't think we communists engaging with others workers is useless at all. At the very least, it is an exercise in learning how ideological positions reproduce themselves in people's minds. Is it also an exercise in getting out of the mindset of destroying the other person's arguments and instead discussing their material conditions - if you are aware enough to actually do that. And one never knows whether there just might be a period of more activity right around the corner.

Unseriously again, smile all this is assuming your dad is some form of worker. If he's a millionaire posh bastard justifying his Chinese lead paint factory holdings, you should just pretend to debate with him while draining as much money as you can manage.... for the revolution, wired directly to me, of course laugh out loud

petey
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Aug 15 2009 20:05

smashing post red.

RedHughs wrote:
Is it also an exercise in getting out of the mindset of destroying the other person's arguments and instead discussing their material conditions

that can sometimes take discipline embarrassed

Angelus Novus
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Aug 16 2009 21:08
Vlad336 wrote:
I beg to differ. Leftists (esp. of the trot variety) are, in my experience anyway, the people most dogmatically opposed to any idea of a libertarian society.

I wasn't talking about leftists. I was referring more to your cousin who's seen a John Pilger or Michael Moore documentary, more-or-less roughly agrees with sort of world view implicit in that sort of thing, but is not politically engaged in any way or inclined to become "active".

Quote:
Apolitical people are usually much more receptive even if they believe you're a starry-eyed utopian.

The last part of the sentence contradicts the first part. If they think you're a starry-eyed utopian, then they're not "receptive". Polite and attentive perhaps, but not receptive.

The point is to create more communists. The chances for that are greater with somebody who is tending in your general direction, rather than somebody who tends in the opposite direction or who isn't interested in any direction whatsoever.

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 16 2009 21:32
Angelus Novus wrote:
The point is to create more communists. The chances for that are greater with somebody who is tending in your general direction, rather than somebody who tends in the opposite direction or who isn't interested in any direction whatsoever.

this is something we've discussed recently in Brighton. we're drafting our new pamphlet on anarcho-syndicalism, and had to decide who it's aimed at. we settled on 'people who have decided something is wrong and voting isn't enough.' while that's a little vague, it echoes AN's logic that you've more chance of persuading people looking for alternatives that you advocate a coherent and viable one than persuading people to reject capitalism and adopt your particular politics from a standing start.

i think a more widespread questioning of capitalism is dependent on the level of class struggle, but there's plenty of people already questioning it that don't end up at libertarian communist politics who we could be winning round (hence libcom deciding to do the ParEcon debate for instance). that's not to say you can't 'convert' apolitical people, but our ideas make more sense in practice (solidarity, direct action, self-organisation) than in the abstract, unless you're specifically looking for them imho.

Boris Badenov
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Aug 17 2009 02:42
Angelus Novus wrote:

The last part of the sentence contradicts the first part. If they think you're a starry-eyed utopian, then they're not "receptive". Polite and attentive perhaps, but not receptive.

I've had discussions with apolitical people whom, in hindsight of the ideas being discussed, have admitted that:
1. capitalism is exploitative and "wrong" and it's responsible for the current ecological crisis
2. people should stand up and fight for better work and life conditions.
Most of them however have also expressed deep scepticism about the notion of "anarchist society," mainly due to confusion based on media stereotypes about molotov cocktail throwing thugs, or "paradox of the communes" type sophistry. This however, is not such a a great obstacle imo. Education can (in most cases) solve it. The important thing is to make people realize that there is nothing democratic or empowering about the current system for the vast majority of the world's population. That is the great leap that needs to be made, rationally and ideologically. The fact that they remain suspicious of certain aspects of communist theory (such as how a stateless society would be run) is not the end of the world, and people can very well be genuinely receptive while maintaining a certain intellectual distance.

As for your definition of leftist, thanks for clarifying, and yes I agree that people who are vaguely left (have seen MM docus, voted for Obama etc.) but not really political do tend to be more responsive.

Quote:
The point is to create more communists. The chances for that are greater with somebody who is tending in your general direction, rather than somebody who tends in the opposite direction or who isn't interested in any direction whatsoever.

ok fair enough, but "not interested in any direction" is usually not a dogmatic position (except for in the case of relativist pomo/new age types); it is rather a lack of position, and that makes the individual open to discussion.
In any case, even if the person is left-leaning, discussion will not lead to a complete "conversion" to communism. In many cases, dialogue will be seen merely as a philosophical thing, and even if the other person basically agrees with you, they will not go so far as to actually study revolutionary ideas/texts (either because they see it as superfluous or because they have better things to do). This is in fact usually the case, in my experience, which is why I tend to agree with JK when he says that "our ideas make more sense in practice (solidarity, direct action, self-organisation) than in the abstract," while maintaining that dialogue (and even more overt forms of propaganda) can still be very useful for "planting seeds."

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juozokas
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Aug 17 2009 16:54

edit: there's no flaming in libcom, first warning juozokas

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juozokas
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Aug 17 2009 16:54

k bro

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juozokas
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Aug 17 2009 17:00

your dad sounds like he is probably just worried that his son is going to have a hard time in life because of some ideas that he picked up when he was young. while i side with you, it's obviously better to be alienated and financially comfortable. i predict that once you get a bit older and you have tried paying rent, finding a wife and snorting cocaine you will realise that you should have taken the money.

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Chilli Sauce
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Aug 18 2009 16:49

Personally, I'm of the belief that for a lot of apoloticals/workers on the right, it's struggle that will help bring them around. I mean, even an unsuccessful workplace action demonstrates the nature of class society way better than any debate or pamphlet could.

Anyway, take that cash, invest that shit, and sell it the next day. Have a big party.

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PartyBucket
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Aug 18 2009 19:39
ncwob wrote:
Personally, I'm of the belief that for a lot of apoloticals/workers on the right, it's struggle that will help bring them around. I mean, even an unsuccessful workplace action demonstrates the nature of class society way better than any debate or pamphlet could

Yeah. During the Visteon dispute, one activistoid type remarked that 'finally, all those years of summit protests are having an effect, people are fighting back'. embarrassed
Yeah mate, theyre fighting back cos of summit protests, not because capitalism just clubbed them round the head.

Ludwig Giozer
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Aug 18 2009 21:46

taking the money will undermine the core of your ideals. Investing from $1 to 1 million dollars still proves that you have faith in the capitalist economy. Even if you were a right wing Republican, investing money now is one of the worst ideas.

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Khawaga
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Aug 18 2009 21:56
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taking the money will undermine the core of your ideals. Investing from $1 to 1 million dollars still proves that you have faith in the capitalist economy. Even if you were a right wing Republican, investing money now is one of the worst ideas.

Lol.

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jef costello
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Aug 18 2009 22:48
Ludwig Giozer wrote:
taking the money will undermine the core of your ideals. Investing from $1 to 1 million dollars still proves that you have faith in the capitalist economy. Even if you were a right wing Republican, investing money now is one of the worst ideas.

Taking the money could mean several things:
You recognise that money can improve your material conditions in society
You recognise that capital can be used to accumulate more capital
You want $1000 to buy a big fucking TV.

None of these things are wrong. I'm not sure what lesson your dad is trying to teach you but just because you can use that $1000 to make some money doesn't mean that your politics are thrown into question (in a wider sense). We don't fight the capitalist system because it doesn't work all the time, we are against it because it doesn't provide many of us with what we need and it forces most of us to do things that we don't want to in order to get the things that we need and want.
Just because you can make money on the stock market doesn't throw into question the basic premise of the critique of capitalism.

Capitalism allows those in possession of capital to exploit workers and those without capital are forced to subjugate themselves to those who do. I believe this is wrong and whether or not I can successfully invest money is irrelevant.

I personally believe that intensive factory farming has negative effects on health but it doesn't mean that I'll turn down a free steak.

petey
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Aug 19 2009 01:53

word to jef

appledoze
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Aug 20 2009 21:45

I think the whole point my dad is trying to make is that capitalism is a democratic system, and wants to show me it is by letting me get involved in it. Of course after all the contradictions I pointed out I still disagree strongly that it is in any way democratic.

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Khawaga
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Aug 20 2009 21:55

Hmm, why don't he just let you get involved in it by saying: "Get a job!". Same thing really. Does he subscribe to buying products is like "voting" for a company? Lots of people describe capitalism as democracy in that way.

appledoze
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Aug 26 2009 01:29

Well other than that, from talking to him it seems that it involves more about the stake we all have in the market and how it pretty much controls our lives, that we depend on it, and that we need the market to use the savings of our wage money on the market so we will be rewarded through saving and investing.

Parker
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Aug 26 2009 08:23

the principal means by which most of us "save and invest" is through pension funds. If these track the stock markets, like most do (typically 40%-70%), your savings have taken a massive hit over the last couple of years, meaning if you were thinking of retiring soon, you now have to wait. Some reward, eh?