I know a number of Firedoggers have been taking Richard Wolff’s online course on Marxist Economics that Southern Dragon has been directing here. Though you would not know this from the MSM (no surprises here) but he has become a bit of a celebrity. And in some rather unusual circles as well. According to this piece from the Guardian.
For Wolff is in very high demand these days. Barely 24 hours goes by without Wolff being interviewed on one or more radio stations in America. He even has his own radio show that broadcasts once a week. He has appeared on TV, including on the conservative Glenn Beck show on Fox. He spends many days on the road visiting universities across the US, giving speeches to students and academics alike in lecture halls that are uniformly packed. This year alone he will have three books published. And through all that prodigious output his message is the same: American capitalism is on the way out.
That is not a message that has historically gone down well in America, where cultural hostility to Marxism, socialism and communism has been the norm. But, Wolff says, the great recession has changed all that. Now his phone never stops ringing, and his schedule has him crisscrossing the country from California to Texas to Maine. He even gets speech invitations from Tea Party groups.
Tea Party Groups ?? Well yes and this has a lot to do with the style and message he is giving. Not one of some wild eyed fanatic preaching “All power to the people.” or “Up against the all”. But one of a practical down to earth examination of what is going on and mixed with the humor of Richard Pryor.
But Wolff, who speaks with a strong New York accent, also serves up his radicalism with humour. “I am an economist. I do apologise,” he said, opening his speech in a packed lecture hall at Columbia College to bursts of laughter.
That was a typical Wolff line. He went on to describe the inherent instabilities of capitalist business cycles with a parallel to a crazy roommate. “If you lived with with a person as unstable as this economic system, you would have moved out a long time ago,” he quipped.
Wolff’s inspiration for his speaking style is the famed comedian Richard Pryor. Wolff was a huge fan, and he studied Pryor’s delivery and technique and how he addressed taboos around race, sex and swearing. Wolff decided he would do the same but by tackling what he says is the true American taboo: the country’s political and economic system.
“What I do is half economics, half performance art. … I say the political sex words, the dirty political words, and they like it. They like a little radicalism. They have been waiting. They want this,” he said.
Wolff’s critique is simple: American capitalism is dying in the face of stagnant wages, fewer jobs, greater debt and larger numbers of Americans being forced to work ever longer hours for ever less money.
And his message is clear. American capitalism is dying and will be replaced by something more equitable.
His answer is simple, too. It’s not revolution. It’s instead a taking over of workplaces – thus controlling the means of production – by workers, who would then organise and have a direct say in running their own companies. Such worker-run businesses, he argues, would eliminate the stock market and boards of directors. On the other hand, they would be unlikely to send themselves to China to reduce labour costs, or pay top executives millions of dollars in bonuses or pollute the environments around their own workplace.
“Have I given you some reason to think that this is a better way to organise a society?” he asked one Chicago audience by way of conclusion. “Come on. You know I have,” he said.
Change that is lasting does not come with a great deal of fanfare or ruckus or at the point of a gun. It comes rather quietly and without much notice.
The very highest if barely known.
Then comes that which people know and love.
Then that which is feared,
Then that which is despised.
Who does not trust enough will not be trusted.
When actions are performed
Without unnecessary speech,
People say, “We did it!” – Tao Te Ching