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Can we go beyond capitalism ?

jeudi 8 juin 2006, par Lucien Degoy

by Lucien Degoy

translated by Hervé Fuyet and C.G. - 2006-05-30 - report by daily L’Humanité, cf.

What can we offer instead of capitalism ? This sentence could summarize the three hour long discussion of the first plenary session presided over by Elisabeth Gauthier and Roger Martelli. But it is obviously an open and difficult question, for none of the answers provided over the years has so far been able to overcome the coherence of the capitalist choices. This "marriage of order and market" evoked by the historian Roger Martelli withstood all the alternatives, from the less subversive to the most radical : communism, social democracy, and third-worldism. What is to be done when everything has been tried ? At least, let’s not repeat it ; everybody agrees on that ! For instance, Henri Weber, socialist MEP, draws attention to the emptying of the compromise between labour and capital agreed upon by part of the working class movement at the end of the Second World War. The "Rhine" or "Nordic" capitalism, that channelled capital for half a century according to "law and order", have vanished. They will not come back, and the present crisis demands new solutions. What then are the "realist" utopias that will mobilize future generations of the left, proposed by Henri Weber, as opposed to "chimeric" utopias such as, for instance, the "classless society" ? With the approval of the assembly, the current speaker calls them alterglobalization, altereuropeanization, feminism, and social-ecology. But there is some debate in the assembly on the "chimeric utopias". The 20th century showed the limits of emancipation strategies that do not articulate the various facets of social organization. It is not enough to replace the market with the state in order to build beyond capitalism : this was the illusion of sovietism and its stalinist corruption. But the opposite is also true, states the Urugayan socialist Alvaro Portillo. The emancipation of the individual wears itself out when it overlooks social transformation. From the seventies on, Latin America was shaken by many social movements - struggles for the environment, feminism, and antisexism - which were finally recuperated by merchant hegemonism, since political parties of the Left were not capable of articulating them with a goal of social transformation. Democratization alone is not sufficient, suggests the economist Paul Boccara, who suggests that the "suppression of bosses as bosses" is not necessarily utopian. But the challenge of anti-capitalism is not only economic, it is "anthroponomic" ; it is the quest for another civilization, for a society based on sharing that would overcome the "each for himself" attitude. The economist Alain Obadia showed how the micro-milieu of the workplace is the melting pot of such confrontations with Capital, how the information revolution can lead to a radical reform of relations between social categories, provided they succeed in tearing themselves away from the competition between individual "performances". To elaborate a new project of social transformation implies among other things the reconsideration of the traditional opposition between the individual and the collective, suggests the feminist Clémentine Autain. Instead of a choice between an "omnipresent collective" and a "libertarian individualism", she favours a "solidarity of the individual" and criticizes the abstract universality of equality and its corollary, the republican "meritocracy". Back to the initial question " What are we fighting against and what are we fighting for ?” For another globalization and against the "hardcore of the liberal Empire", answered the Communist MEP Francis Wurtz, without hesitation. He added that the "no" at the referendum on the proposed European constitution made the notion of changing the structures of Europe "conceivable", even though it has not yet started the transformation process. What should we change regarding the order of things ? An enormous amount, perhaps everything ! But we are not starting from scratch. We have now the "objective" prerequisites to the "going beyond" of capitalism, not just its "subjective" prerequisite, suggested the eminent philosopher Lucien Sève at the beginning of the debate. That is why, in the confrontation with the Capitalist giant, our common task may not be as overwhelming or impossible as one might believe.

Lucien Degoy

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