I finished up my last post saying:
(…) simply by nationalizing Monsanto and Walmart we would have a perfect, planned economy… in other words we are all dressed up and waiting for Lenin.
And several people have since asked me what I meant by that.
It comes in two parts the “planned economy” part and the “Lenin” part.
I use the word “Lenin” very loosely, what I mean by it is a signifier for someone or more probably something, which changes everything. Used like this digital photography played “Lenin” to Kodak’s Romanov. More about this later.
The idea of a nationalized Walmart being a “planned economy” is based on the idea that the new technologies, which the Soviets never mastered, would make it possible.
The idea simply assumes that Russians are bumbling incompetents and that with “American know how” making it tick, and with the American genius for logistics once applied to it, the whole thing would work smoothly. The centralization is already there, the question is only of ownership, not execution.
One of the great paradoxes in all this is that who actually owns the great corporations of today is not very clear. For example a man named J.P. Morgan no longer owns JP Morgan, it is a publicly traded company and no one institution or individual owns more than 4.00% of this financial mastodon. More on this ownership question later.
Actually what it appears we have now is a sort of socialism of the rich. Losses are socialized and profits are privatized. We have a great centralization of economic power of unclear ownership tied by lobbies to political power enabling the corporate managers to craft laws to the benefit of all concerned: lobbyists, their clients and the politicians, but not to the benefit of the public (sanitized name for “The People”). If we look at the control that is accumulated in this system we see that we already have a “planned economy,” but not exactly planned for our benefit. There is even a “nomenklatura” of the previously mentioned, highly paid managers, who run everything, and often move from corporation to corporation and even from industry to industry or from public “service” to the “private” sector.
The idea, for the moment, merely amusing, is that by the state simply taking control of a few corporations, as might happen during a war, they would instantly possess a “ready to wear,” planned, socialized (if not socialist) economy.
Where is the “Lenin” for all of this? Could there be a “revolution?”
Understand that for a steak on a grill being turned over to be cooked on its other side constitutes a revolution. In that sense yes, Virginia, revolution is possible … more on that later.
An American Pol-Pot leading the masses to take Capital Hill and liquidating the enemies of progress? Not very likely. In the case of the United States, because of its enormous size, ethnic diversity and institutional solidity (petrification?) I think that capitalism will just have to take its own sweet time to rot.
At bottom, Americans are practical people and if something doesn’t work, they either fix it or throw it out and get something new, preferably the second option.
I think that if the capitalist era is ever to end it will happen in the USA, because America is the vanguard of capitalism, its most complete expression. And I don’t see it happening violently, but in the same way Americans passed from horses to Model-T Fords, from Wang word processors to PCs and from cassette players to Walkmen to iPhones. America is just one revolution after another, if you think about it … and plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Revolution is part and parcel of the American way of life.
Americans are really famous all over the world for being practical and innovative and when and if the system spins off its wheels as old Karl predicted, I think that those qualities would surely come to the fore. But given how well the system is vertebrated, it would be traumatic or it wouldn’t be.
What could cause our present system to spin off its wheels and self-destruct?