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Economic Democracy,
or Economic Dictatorship?

By Punkerslut

From RadicalGraphics.org
Image: From "Money" Gallery from RadicalGraphics.org

Start Date: December 9, 2009
Finish Date: December 9, 2009

"...the organizations of the miners and railway men, iron workers, and the like were not predatory movements to trespass on the rights of employers, but were a measure of self-defence forced on the men who saw their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness being taken away one by one."
          --Henry Demarest Lloyd, 1910
          "Lords of Industry," Chapter 5

     The economies of Capitalist nations and so-called Communist nations are not completely different. You could be comparing the United States and Cuba or China and Japan, and there are strong similarities. They are both systems in which a very few control society's wealth, and where the many are dependent upon them for sustenance. Both systems use the force of the state, but they also use poverty and hunger to bring their people labor. In terms of economy, the structure is the same, though it is made of different material in certain areas. It is an Economic Dictatorship, where the terms of work and the organization of the land are the privilege of a very, small group.

     In the political dictatorship, there is a king or queen, a tzar or a despot, who controls all the laws, and therefore, controls all the people. A factory owner or a corporate CEO behaves in a similar way. By owning and possessing land and the machines of production, the Capitalist controls the workers and the consumers. They act like a dictator. The terms of the economy, in terms of what land is used for, or what machines produce, or how work is managed, or how the wealth is redistributed -- these are matters decided by an isolated minority. And those who clawed their way to the top of this human food chain are very self-interested in terms of their wealth.

     Your boss will interject, "But, you can switch at any time! You don't have to work for me. Find another employer!" Yet, there is very little that is different between employers. It is like the monarchist saying, "If you don't like King Henry of England, try King Alfonso of Spain!" If you do not like your local master, just get a different local master. You can trade working eight hours a day for one employer for working eight hours a day for a different one. You can change from the gulag prisons of Stalin to the concentration camps of Hitler. At least you can choose, if you're willing to leave everything behind.

     And those who love freedom will ask, "But isn't there a piece of territory, not claimed by some government, where all can live freely and cooperatively?" Investigate any land, and you'll find that the globe is drowning in governments. Is there a piece of land without a state? No, so there is no real liberty to be out from the grasp of a state. Everywhere that one can find humans, one finds the oppressive effects of a parliament, a congress, a dictator, or a monarch.

     But then we ask, "Isn't there a piece of land or machinery, that we can work, without giving the majority of our product to some idle proprietor? Isn't there some opportunity out there that doesn't completely subordinate me to the will of a master?" The answer, again, is no. Every territory has been claimed by some state, and every piece of land or natural wealth has been claimed by some proprietor. You do not have the freedom to live without a master -- and only if you give up your community, your culture, and your family, do you have the option of changing masters.

     You can switch rulers, in government, and you will find your conditions changed only by small degrees. And it is the same in economy. You can switch employers, but you will always find yourself subordinated to the will of an economic dictator. Your manager, your supervisor, your CEO and your company investors -- you can switch exchange these, as much as you like, but you have to choose one. If you choose none, then you are excluded from the wealth produced by society.

     You must choose one master, or fear starvation, and this is the first thought that every employer considers when thinking of raises, employee benefits, or hiring. And by choosing your master, you're choosing to accept their personality, as in accepting the personality of a king. When they are tired, they delegate their workload to you. When they are angry, they rule out of vengeance. And when they make mistakes, they are too proud to correct themselves or to apologize. Your boss is an economic dictator, relying on what you perceive as you needing them, just like political dictators.

     When people speak of political Democracy, what do they mean? They might translate that to practical forms, like a public referendum, civil rights, and freedom of press. But beneath these ideas, there is a spirit of Democracy. It seeks to give each person an equal opportunity and an equal voice in determining the organization of their society. Since each person comes together in society for mutual benefit, they each ought to have a say in how their massive social relationship works.

"Sometimes I dream of this social change. I get a streak of faith in Evolution, and the good in man. I paint a gradual slipping out of the now, to that beautiful then, where there are neither kings, presidents, landlords, national bankers, stockbrokers, railroad magnates, patentright monopolists, or tax and title collectors; where there are no over-stocked markets or hungry children, idle counters and naked creatures, splendor and misery, waste and need. I am told this is farfetched idealism, to paint this happy, povertyless, crimeless, diseaseless world; I have been told I 'ought to be behind the bars' for it."
          --Voltairine de Cleyre
          "The Economic Tendency of Freethought"

     The support for Democracy comes from its ability to address the needs of the people. Not each person in the social order gets exactly what they demand, since there are others who also have an equal voice that might feel differently on an issue. But, it allows an organization where the solution that evolves from public discourse has the greatest chance of improving the happiness and liberty of all. It creates a society where the decision-makers are those with the most experience in the matter at hand -- and where they have the most to lose or gain or by decisions. Since the policy of this society is made by all, it will be made to serve all.

     Economic Democracy translates to the same idea, but applied to economy. It seeks to give an equal voice to all workers in determining the organization of land and work -- in how to operate and manage the instruments that give us our bread and our homes. In political Democracy, the people themselves must decide whether they are going to war with another nation -- since it is they who must suffer the policy of other nations, or expose their youth to death in a vicious war. In economic Democracy, the workers are in charge of the workplace. Since it is their wages that depend on whether the business functions, they have the greatest self-interest in productively contributing to the social order.

     Political Democracy makes the argument, "It is the citizen who must endure and suffer whatever may be the conditions of their society. So, it should be the citizen who determines those conditions!" The argument of Economic Democracy proceeds essentially along the same lines, "It is the worker who must toil in their industry, so it should be the worker who decides the organization of their workplace!" The reasoning is identical in both cases. The individual, once freed from a master, and allowed the fruit of their labor, is more productive, and more socially responsible.

     With the greater production, the workers have the luxury of choosing higher pay, lower work hours, or both. Since the majority of people in society are workers, or are dependent upon the workers, it would be in the interest of all to have economic Democracy. Just as political Democracy increases the potential of an individual in society to create positive change, economic Democracy does the same for the toiler at their job. If you admit one, the other must logically follow. And if you deny one, then you would be contradicting yourself to deny the other.

     If the citizen is responsible and intelligent enough to have a voice in governing society, then why are they not trusted in governing economy? The people must live with their decisions, and they have the power to change anything. Workers in charge of their work conditions will be impelled by their liberty and their opportunity to become innovative in technology, creative in research, and efficient in production -- just as citizens, in charge of their society, naturally seek liberty at home and peace abroad.

     The more Democratic spirit among a people, the greater chance does it have of uplifting them. Where they rely on courts, universities, congresses, parliaments, absolute rulers, and militaries, Democracy becomes weak, pathetic. More and more of the citizen's power is delegated to an isolated minority, often squeezed out of them by threats of war and illegal violations of civil liberties. Or the universal tactic of these representative governments is secretly funding terrorism and then using it as a justification to weaken Democracy even more. This type of democracy, found among representative governments and political parties, is the most feeble in creating a social order formed by the people themselves.

     So, too, with Economic Democracy, where the worker is most socially conscious where they are the most empowered over their workplace. Where the worker is subordinated by managers and investors, they are made more and more powerless. Where the laborer must submit to the orders of a supervisor, as in some cooperatives, they are not yet fully emancipated. They are still following a master, though the imposed conditions of the mastery may have been somewhat improved.

     The more power the citizen has, the more effective one finds political democracy in serving the interests of the people. The more power the worker has, the more effective one finds economic democracy in serving the interests of the laborers.

     Democracy, whether economic or political, is only effective to the degree it has been allowed. Where there is true workers' control, and every worker is an owner and manager of the wealth they produce, there is complete economic Democracy -- or, what is otherwise known as Collectivism. A system where each have an equal voice in managing the collective wealth. And true peoples' control, or complete political Democracy, really just means anarchism. A system where each person is responsible only to themselves, and can enter into and leave any cooperative relationship, exclusive or inclusive, according to their desire.

"... in freedom to possess and utilize soil lie social happiness and progress and the death of rent."
          --Lucy Parsons
          "The Principles of Anarchism"


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