-from Audre Lorde's "Call"


Thursday, May 9, 2013


Policy is essential, but it must be placed in the context of the broadest understanding of how the world works, how our life prospects are shaped, and how we create ad use our great capacity for wealth and community involvement. Introducing class into the national conversation can invigorate the political process and bring new energy and understanding to a broad range of questions, including the continued importance of race and gender as points of tension and needed progress.
Class talk allows us to recall the language of economic and social justice and to revive calls for economic democracy that have been the foundation of progressive social movements for over a hundred years. The corporate agenda has stripped all reference to morality from economic affairs. For the Right, unrestricted markets are all that is relevant in economic matters. This is a core question that progressives must address directly. Class understandings will help us to illuminate and ground the ethical dimensions of our politics and help us imagine and crate organizations, coalitions, and social forces capable of turning back the destructive power of capital and replacing it with values and policies that relieve human suffering and promote the social good.-Michael Zweig, “Six Points on Class”

                I use the last two paragraphs of this piece as an epigraph to this post because I will primarily be addressing this portion of the text. As it is the conclusion one could argue that the main argument of the essay is summarized here. Zweig takes the points he made earlier in the essay and formulates a concise and powerful way of bringing them all together for a strong conclusion. Throughout my reading of the text something didn’t feel right (well, a few things didn’t feel right but I
will primarily focus on one), and it was not until the end that it became glaringly obvious to me: Zweig is, or at least appears to be, a reformist. And, because of my own ideological framework, I cannot get behind Zweig’s general prescription. I do not see the value in “turning back” the destructive power of capital. The text reads as if it is calling for a more conscious and ethical capitalism which is not possible. Capitalism, at its core, is a destructive immoral force. We cannot reform capitalism. If we want to relieve human suffering we need to do away with it entirely.
                Now, one could argue that a destruction of capitalism, particularly in the USA, is idealistic and impossible. I can only say in response that I do not have all of the answers. I am not here to give a complete prescription for what we must do, but I can critique what I have before me. I can know something is wrong and not quite know exactly what to do to fix it/change it (even if I know what the end product should look like, I don’t necessarily have the map for the territory). To poach from Marco McWilliams who devoted this analogy in response to me stating exactly what I’m saying here: I can see that the sink is broken and know that a new sink should be put in, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I know, nor have all of the tools, to go about putting that new sink in. And, just because I may not be able to put the new sink in myself it does not override the fact that I can see that the sink is broken.
                There is no going back to a more ethical time when we are talking about capitalism. Capitalism was never ethical. Capitalism was always about the exploitation of labors. Factor in intersectionality and we have a complete disregard for human life at play. Capital is important, human life and the quality of that life, is not. Policy is like putting a bandaid on a wound that needs to be sutured. Or putting a cast on a leg that needs to be amputated and replaced. It will not give us a new life. It will not give us what we deserve. It will simply make our suffering a little bit less unpleasant. Policy does not speak to the structure enough. Policy works within the structure that’s in place.  

1 comment:

  1. completely agree. we don't need to have a blueprint for the future to complain and protest. Revolutions come from misery with the future as well as a mix of formed and unformed ideas about social and economic structures
    But I read Zweig differently - his call for ethical social and economic organizations seems the opposite of capitalism to me and therefore not reform.