A revived and mainstreamable left should offer large numbers of people productive roles in an economy that can actually build the alternative energy technologies, decentered electric grids, urban food-production systems and well-maintained housing and collective infrastructures that are needed to face the ravages of environmental decay and climate change.
We need a commons-centric, peer production based, ‘design global, manufacture local’ approach to create a massive programs of productive work for disintegrating communities, with jobs that are compatible with the need for a social-ecological transition.
I am very happy to see the same sentiments and idea expressed by Brian Holmes, in this following excerpt from the Networked Labour mailing list (with minor modifications):
“The US now has to cope with the cultural consequences of deindustrialization. Those consequences are alienation from the sense of self-worth that is generated by freely exercising one’s own productive capacities. Alienation gives rise to resentment: the keyword of today’s proto-fascist politics. Ignoring the problem of increasingly disenfranchised non-professional workers will not make it go away.
The last thing to do is to pander to a racist and chauvinist cultural complex. Instead the urgency is to create a political economy that does not foster proto-fascist resentment.
The key point is collective investment. This doesn’t have to mean laptop computers with word processors and graph functions, which are the hallmark of what the Ehrenreichs long ago called “the professional-managerial class.” Nor, however, does it mean taking contemporary Germany’s path, because despite all the solar power and local industry, Germany depends in reality on so-called free trade, which is predatory on other economies. But what this “new economy” could mean is the new tool-kit of numerically controlled production machines, or CNC tools, which are open to the peer production that Michel Bauwens talks about. I’m talking about digitally controlled routers, lathes, bandsaws and so on, not only additive 3-D printing. The advantage of these relatively inexpensive machine tools is that they allow small groups of workers to autonomously carry out sophisticated projects, fulfilling the cultural demand for dignity of labor without oppressive management by suits. If people learn to use them in a local capitalist factory producing quality goods for decent wages, then during periods of unemployment or early retirement they could also use them in a commons-based economy, to help rebuild a resilient community. In this way the value of one’s own labor would be reinforced along a pathway that leads outside of current managerial capitalism.
Such an approach could be applied in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods as well as white ones. In fact, I got the idea of “community production” from a Black social entrepreneur in Detroit named Blair Evans. It’s crucial to remember that Black communities were the first to be hit with deindustrialization in the Northern US cities, to absolutely devastating economic and social consequences that can never be repaired by welfare, nor even less by policing and imprisonment. In Chicago where I live, the gun violence in the impoverished neighborhoods is staggering, and what does society do? Half of us (myself included) protest against police atrocities, and the other half calls (successfully I’m afraid) for yet more police. Meanwhile the schools are dismantled, the health services are closed, the murder rate hits new records every year and absolutely nothing is done to promote employment, personal and familial autonomy, or any kind of community resilience whatsoever.
Managerial capitalism created financial governance, global supply chains and the China-centric economy of low-priced and badly made commodities. It promoted naked greed, hyperconsumption and mesmerizing spectacle for its university-educated cadres, while destroying much of the hands-on productive education offered by factory labor and the trades. It disenfranchised the former industrial working classes of all races, and among whites it fostered a politics of resentment that is now wide open to full-blown racist fascism. The situation cannot be changed by simply wishing that all these disenfranchised people will suddenly switch to a counter-cultural sharing-economy lifestyle, or by expecting them to endorse an eco-socialist program with no immediately tangible benefits. Nor even less can it be changed as the US Democratic party attempts, by symbolically exalting minority populations in order to get out the votes for the very same policies that impose precarity, unemployment and racialized exclusion. Instead a revived and mainstreamable left should offer large numbers of people productive roles in an economy that can actually build the alternative energy technologies, decentered electric grids, urban food-production systems and well-maintained housing and collective infrastructures that are needed to face the ravages of environmental decay and climate change. Rather than doing this according to an ideological prescription, the yet-to-be-created new mainstream left should create economic opportunities that will allow people to fulfill their desires for autonomy and a sense of self-worth. In my view, that’s the pathway of radically egalitarian social democracy in the twenty-first century.”