(This is the second part of a 2-part interview with Sam. You can see the first part here.)
Just before the historic 2012 US presidential election, Rishi Awatramani interviewed long-time labor activist and scholar Sam Gindin to find out what his new book, The Making of Global Capitalism, authored with frequent collaborator Leo Panitch, has to say to social movement activists about the intimate relationship between global capitalism and the US state, and the possibilities for social movements to transform capitalism.
Some highlights from the interview:
0:28: People need finance…[When the crisis hit] people began to figure out ”I get my check through my bank; My pension depends on the stock market and finance.” … So we don’t have the luxury of saying “well, screw them! Let them go – I don’t have to go under.” The point is, we’re dependent on them. That has strong political implications …We have to actually make them [banks] into a public utility…. And in fact, if we begin to talk about what we’d like to do in the economy, what other options there are, we keep coming back to: you have to control the banks. Otherwise, they don’t like what you do, they won’t lend you money, they’ll leave the country, they’ll screw up the economy.”
7:21: Business is sitting there with tons of money. …Its got tons of money and it isn’t investing. It doesn’t need more money…Its not investing because its not confident that things are going to change in the economy. The only thing that really will change is massive stimulus, massive stimulus that’s direct, massive stimulus in infrastructure.
12:50: I think at this point, the way we should think about a lot of our demands are: They’re demands that we’re making but we recognize that we don’t have the power to win them, so they are actually demands for organizing. We cannot win taking over the financial system right now, but raising it and getting people to understand why it’s a necessary thing is part of building the capacity to do it.
13:22: I think our demands we have to think about: What kinds of demands help build capacities for future change? For example, one of the things we have to think about is conversion in the private sector. …If you want to go beyond the crisis we have to change power. …In the auto industry, we have hundreds of plants closed in North America. These are all plants that can make things. What they’re robbing us of is our productive potential. ... Instead of saying, “let’s save General Motors,” we should have said, “let’s save the productive capacity.” Instead of asking “how do we become more competitive again by lowering our wages?” we should have said, “how do we develop a plant that is not based on profit but instead based on solidarity and social use?” And that would have led us to start talking about planning instead of competition, and social use instead of profits. And it would led us to think about, “why don’t we convert this to deal with the environment?”
15:29: Public sector unions have to see themselves as leaders in a defense of social services and public services. If they don’t do that, they’re going to get killed, because they cannot go in and bargain with the state and win. The only way they can mobilize the public is if they get the public on their side, and that isn’t going to happen through billboards, and PR, and convention documents. They’re going to have to prove it. And the only way you can prove it is to do things like, go into bargaining, and say … “We’re not asking for anything. We want that social service expanded. That’s our demand, we’re ready to strike over a social service.” Then you can mobilize the community, and then you can position yourself differently, and then you’re beginning to develop a class perspective.
19:01: To me the main criticism of capitalism is that its fundamentally undemocratic because some people control the labor power of others, and when they’re controlling that, what they are controlling is your creativity as a person, and your ability to develop as a person.
About Sam Gindin
Gindin spent most of his working life as the research director and then Assistant to the President of the Canadian Auto Workers. In 2000, Gindin retired from the CAW, and joined the faculty of York University, where he continues to teach. Amongst his many written works, he is a frequent contributor to Canadian Dimension, The Bullet, Alternatives, and other journals. In addition, Gindin has published In and Out of Crisis: The Global Financial Meltdown and Left Alternatives (with Leo Panitch and Greg Albo), and a biography of the CAW entitled, The Canadian Auto Workers: Birth and Transformation of a Union. Sam is the Packer Chair in Social Justice at York University.
Just before the historic 2012 US presidential election, Rishi Awatramani interviewed long-time labor activist and scholar Sam Gindin to find out what his new book, The Making of Global Capitalism, has to say to social movement activists about this current political moment, the nature of global capitalism, and the possibility for a future beyond capitalism. This is part one of a two part interview with Sam Gindin. Stay tuned for part two next month!
Gindin spent most of his working life as the research director and then Assistant to the President of the Canadian Auto Workers. In 2000, Gindin retired from the CAW, and joined the faculty of York University, where he continues to teach. Amongst his many written works, he is a frequent contributor to Canadian Dimension, The Bullet, Alternatives, and other journals. In addition, Gindin has published In and Out of Crisis: The Global Financial Meltdown and Left Alternatives (with Leo Panitch and Greg Albo), and a biography of the CAW entitled, The Canadian Auto Workers: Birth and Transformation of a Union.
Reviewed by David Cohen
The collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s brought forth an abundance of declarations that socialism was once and for all dead. However, for some, the task became developing a new vision of socialism for the twenty-first century. Across several books, Michael Lebowitz develops a new vision of socialism by going back to how Marx envisioned socialism as an alternative to capitalism.
Lebowitz writes, “There is though, a new vision of socialism that has emerged in the twenty-first century as an alternative to barbarism. At its core is the alternative that Marx evoked in Capital; in contrast to a society in which the worker exists to satisfy the need of capital for its growth, Marx pointed to “the inverse situation, in which objective wealth is there to satisfy the workers own need for development.” Human development, in short, is at the center of this vision of the alternative to capitalism.” (Page 17).
At the 2012 Left Forum, The Rosa Luxemburg Institute and the Socialist Register partnered to offer a pair of workshops entitled Occupy the Banks. The workshops intended to suggest an ambitious demand that social movements can and should make against the state: nationalize the banks! In this excerpt from those workshops, we hear Canadian Marxist scholar and activist Leo Panitch join Philipp Hersel, spokesperson for the German parliamentary party Die Linke (The Left) to 1) offer a rare detailed examination of how German socialists have advanced and won demands that have fundamentally transformed the German banking system, and 2) provide context for social movements in the US to make parallel demands in this country.
An Interview with Peter Hudis
At the 2012 Left Forum in New York City, author and teacher Peter Hudis joined other scholars in a panel entitled ‘Alternatives to Capitalism: Ecological, Economic, Political’ to identify immediate tasks for activists interested in identifying a vision for an alternative to capitalism.
Social and economic justice movements are on the defensive. While we've had lots of specific victories and built some terrific organizations, the balance sheet overall in the U.S. and global economy is pretty bleak. Activists are pushed into fighting on a daily basis, against the constant attacks from the right, and for the basic needs and rights that so many people do not enjoy.
We know we need to link our individual struggles in order to gain momentum as a movement, and build a more just world. But how do we get there? We are forced to fight daily struggles to defend what we have, so do we have the time or luxury to have bigger visions? Is it foolish to spend time dreaming of alternatives to a world so different from what we have?
Imagine you’re at a rally, listening to a speaker—I know that’s probably not too much of a stretch for most of us, but imagine that the speaker is especially compelling. She is making a hard pitch for everyone to join a new campaign.
The campaign is calling for the eradication of a process that limits, constrains, and narrows the lives of almost everyone in the world. Left unchecked, this process diminishes our capacity, forces us into isolation, limits our choices, and eventually kills everyone it touches. The speaker backs up her claims with facts, figures and stories of people who have fallen victim. Her case is rock solid, and she’s got everyone ready to sign on.
As a part of its tenth anniversary issue, our favorite allied publication, Left Turn, asked Organizing Upgrade editor, Harmony Goldberg, to write an article reflecting on the development of the U.S. left over the last decade. Harmony points out several key developments: the growth of a stronger trend of left organizers rooted in social movements, the development of a stronger culture of unity and principled struggle and the emergence of more integrative and holistic approaches to left work.
The story is getting painfully old. Local governments and corporations starve working class communities— normally also communities of color— for generations. Then, as if channeling Christopher Columbus, they announce that they have discovered that the neighborhood has been neglected for decades and that developers will build market-rate housing, trendy shopping and some massive sports complex in an effort to turn the neighborhood around.