Democracy at work

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zugzwang
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Jan 26 2017 20:54
Democracy at work

Any thoughts on Richard Wolff's "WSDE" (worker self-directed enterprises), a word he made up for some reason to refer to worker cooperatives? He authored a book about this topic and has amassed a bit of a youtube following. I like talk about democratizing the workplace to replace the normal capitalist top-down structure, but I don't think democratizing individual workplaces, or changing from private to cooperative enterprises, by itself is enough. He recommends democratizing workplaces in both state socialist/capitalist and capitalist countries, and allowing these WSDE to compete against private enterprises. Wolff opposes central planning and private capitalism as ideal solutions (sounds a bit like anarchism). As far as I've gathered, he hasn't really mentioned anything about libertarian socialist thought, which advocates part of what he's proposing (i.e. putting the workers and community in control).

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jondwhite
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Jan 27 2017 16:11

I'm opposed to state capitalism as well as private capitalism, but isn't the goal under capitalism to accumulate capital regardless of whether the workplace is democratized?

zugzwang
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Jan 27 2017 21:08

I don't understand how exactly worker cooperatives are supposed to compete against capitalist enterprises in a market system. The latter are more willing to cut corners and socialize the costs of that onto their workers and the larger society (lower wages, outsourcing, polluting, etc.), seeing as how it's only a few capitalists who are not negatively affected by such decisions. While worker cooperatives may decide against relocating to another country, as that would put all its members/workers out of work (firing yourself would be a bit strange), the capitalist enterprise would be willing to do this, firing all its employees and raking in the larger profits and increase in market share owing to that country's lower wages and worse working conditions. The worker cooperatives in a market system would be driven to the same kind of anti-social, self-interested behaviors in order to stay in business and compete against other enterprises, albeit in a different manner. A worker cooperative would still need revenue to invest in production and pay the cooperative's members. It's doubtful whether you can have capitalist and cooperative enterprises together, as the former would always dominate the latter.

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Khawaga
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Jan 28 2017 20:36
Quote:
The worker cooperatives in a market system would be driven to the same kind of anti-social, self-interested behaviors in order to stay in business and compete against other enterprises, albeit in a different manner. A worker cooperative would still need revenue to invest in production and pay the cooperative's members. It's doubtful whether you can have capitalist and cooperative enterprises together, as the former would always dominate the latter.

Spot on. What happens is that the workers become their own collective capitalists when they have to make decisions to cut their own wages, hire cheap labour etc. See the sorry affair that is Mondragon or what remains of Israeli kibutzim. Why the fuck people still look to that as some "solution" is beyond me.

Anarcho
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Mar 22 2017 21:12

My I suggest my review of his book -- he seems to have not heard of anarchism and tries to squeeze his market socialism into Marx.

ajjohnstone
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Mar 24 2017 09:00

Wolff's articles often appear on American "progressive" websites such as Truthdig and i frequently challenge their content. For a person who claims to stand for workers' democracy and participation Wolff disdains from responding to not only my own criticisms but anybody else's in the comments.(Ellen Brown, a currency crank eg appears to take an interest in the reactions her articles provoke)

I find that rather elitist in the sense that he declines to engage in debate and discussion and i can only presume it is because we are not sufficiently academic enough to respond to.

zugzwang
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Mar 25 2017 00:52
Anarcho wrote:
My I suggest my review of his book -- he seems to have not heard of anarchism and tries to squeeze his market socialism into Marx.

Yeah, I read part of it. Wolff is strange, as he seems to praise Bakunin in one essay of his:

Quote:
Detroit, Cleveland, Camden and many other cities display what capitalism left behind after it became profitable for capitalists to relocate and for new capital investments to happen more elsewhere. Capitalism and its driving profit motive first developed in England before spreading to western Europe, north America and then Japan. Over the last two centuries, those areas endured a growing capitalism's mix of horrific working conditions, urban slums, environmental degradation, and cyclical instability. Capitalism also brought economic growth, wealth for a minority, labor unions and other workers' organizations. Writers like Dickens, Zola, Steinbeck, and Gorky saw that capitalism's workings clearly, while those like Marx, Mill and Bakunin understood it critically.

So perhaps he is not completely ignorant about libertarian socialist thought?