Richard Wolff: Enterprise Structure Is Key to the Shape of a Post-Capitalist FutureWednesday, 26 February 2014 09:33 By Leslie Thatcher, Truthout | Interview
Richard Wolff talks about "The Shape of a Post-Capitalist Future," his entry in the new anthology Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA, and his conviction that making the transition from capitalism to socialism requires a deliberate critique of capitalist workplace organization.
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Leslie Thatcher for Truthout: What motivated you to choose (of all things!) "corporate structure" in your search for a "powerful, attractive and credible vision of socialism?"
Richard Wolff: Chiefly because the internal organization of our workplaces has been so badly undervalued and thus so little transformed in and by socialist practices. This was true not only in the efforts to establish actual socialism but likewise in the theoretical and political projects for transition from capitalism to socialism.
Human beings spend most of their adult lives - the central parts of most days of most weeks - at work. How their work structures their interactions with other people (their interdependencies, interactions, freedoms and responsibilities) are crucial to everything from daily personal life to politics, culture ... everything. Socialists have focused on changing ownership of means of production - from private to social - and on changing the mechanism of distributing resources and products - from market to planning. Those foci meant that the internal organization of workplaces was neglected and/or treated as a secondary matter of what technology and efficiency require, something largely independent of the transition from capitalism to socialism.
I am convinced that to make the transition from capitalism to socialism requires a deliberate critique of how capitalism organizes its workplaces. It likewise requires a deliberate specification of how and why socialism organizes its workplaces very differently.
"Marx stressed there that a central dimension of capitalism that he wished to see transformed was 'exploitation.' "
A transition to socialism would thus require the transformation of capitalism's exploitative internal organization of enterprises. In other words, the transition to socialism requires that workers not only produce surpluses, but also themselves appropriate and distribute them. Workplaces stop being conflict-ridden confrontations of two different groups of people - employers and employees - and become instead cooperatives in which the same people who produce the surpluses also - collectively and democratically - appropriate those surpluses. Workplaces are reorganized into workers self-directed enterprises (WSDEs). In WSDEs, workers (rather than capitalists) decide what, how and where to produce and what to do with the surpluses their labor generates.
Imagine a socialism for the 21st century that included among its central goals the democratic transformation of the workplace, a dramatic advance beyond the major 19th and 20th century versions of socialism.
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