Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Vision of the Future

In this article on Common Dreams, a 93 year-old woman has provided a vision of the future - from the past. Dr. Grace Lee Boggs shows us how Detroit is a vision of the future, a city that "no longer has to adhere to the usual capitalist mantra of growth and expansion because it is absolutely clear that the industrial system is finished. This fact allows citizens to respond by starting something new all over again."

We are witnessing the final failure of capitalism, as gleefully predicted by Socialists everywhere. Even official economists are beginning to admit that the whole idea of free market capitalism is failing, that traditional methods of propping up the capitalist economy have failed to budge the current growing recession, even unto "wars" (read: invasions and occupations) waged on two fronts.

Although it may seem to young people that we are "starting something new all over again," we are really reviving what has always worked: local self-reliance, local politics, local economy, local social services. Victory gardens, allotments, cooperative child care, extended families, cooperative housing, flexible kinship systems, midwifery, and, most importantly, self-reliance and mutual aid, have always been the most effective social organizations to support the people at the local level. It is only when a professionalized central authoritarian government attempts to take control, supported by a professional constabulary and a standing army, that local social systems are broken down and forced to fail.

This doesn't mean that capitalism, the private ownership of production, is bad in itself. It is only centralized capitalism that breaks down "normal" social relations, with the extension of the concept of a "free market," which has never been free, outside the realm of economics. Social services can never be organized under free market auspices, which is intrinsically based on distinctions between haves and have-nots. In "free market" social serves, someone is always, by definition, left out.

The only social system that is historically documented to provide egalitarian social services is non-state, locally organized, bioregionally-based mutual aid. Call it (small c)communism, socialism, anarchism or what have you, the concept of local self-reliance based on mutual aid and local resources is the only demonstrably "sustainable" social form ever devised by human societies.

As our civilization, if that's what it is, faces the unavoidable limitations of Peak Oil and climate change, David Brower's advice becomes increasingly relevant:

Progress consists of turning around and taking a step forward.