Susie and I are home after a complicated trip that included a stop in Amherst, MA to see old friends. I promised to respond to the many interesting comments provoked by my posts on the transition to socialism, and I shall, but in various ways, the world has preempted our cozy discussion. I refer not only to the two dramatic Supreme Court decisions, the first of which was announced while I was in the air over the Atlantic, but also to the terrible murders in South Carolina and the crisis unfolding in Greece. Sufficient unto the day, as they say. I shall get to all of that anon.
Let me begin by responding to the comment of Wallace Stevens and others about cooperatives and other innovative arrangements within capitalism that may point the way to a transition to socialism. I recently read an interesting book by Gar Alperovitz called What Then Must We Do: Straight Talk About The Next American Revolution. [I hope I am recalling this correctly. I cannot find it on my shelves.] As I remember, Alperovitz at one point itemizes the enormous number of cooperatives of all sorts that already exist -- operations a good deal larger and more economically significant than farmers' markets. I see these as real world experiments from which we can learn. I have always been sceptical of such efforts because they seemed to me to be so small in scale next to the great collections of capital that we call corporations, but perhaps I have dismissed them too hastily.
By the way, magpie is of course right that my account of CEO pay is only part of the story. His comment illustrates my more general point, which is that capitalism as we know it now is so complex that no simple story about a transition to socialism will suffice. My reaction to that complexity is always the same: Let us start with a massive redistribution of income, and see what changes that works in the economy as a whole. Then perhaps we will see more clearly what the next step must be. Of course, when we talk about such a redistribution [say two trillion dollars a year from the richest to the poorest], we immediately realize how far we are from the political power to carry out even that sort of amelioration, temporizing as it is and far as it is from anything we could ever call socialism.
Wallace Stevens' initial comment raises a good many important questions, which I shall put off responding to until tomorrow. [I am still sorting through five weeks of mail, almost all of which is catalogues. aasarrrggghhh!] Two points that call for some response: First, the importance of examining the actual historical examples of revolutions made in the name of Marx or communism -- Russia, China, perhaps Cuba; and second, the question whether there is a conflict between the celebration of individual rights [Black Liberation, Women's Liberation, Gay Liberation, etc.] and the communitarianism seemingly inseparable from the socialist ideal. Let me try to say something about those topics tomorrow.
Oh, by the way, Susie and I sat in our favorite cafe in Paris and watched Serena Williams win the French Open. That was in many ways the high point of our stay.