Monday, July 24, 2017

Socialism vs Neoliberalism

In Everyone Hates Neoliberals, So We Talked to Some, Eve Peyser, well, talks to some self-identified neoliberals to try to discover what neoliberalism means. Notably, Peyser asks Aryeh Cohen-Wade about "the hatred neoliberals get from the left" (talk about a loaded question!); Cohen-Wade replies,

I think it's foolhardy and counterproductive. Trump-ism is a five-alarm fire that everyone on the left (defined broadly) should be uniting to oppose. Chapo Trap House–ism is convincing lefties that their true enemies are the people who agree with them 75 percent instead of the people who disagree with them 100 percent. If fighting Trump can't unite the left, nothing will.

But Cohen-Wade is mistaken: counting socialists as "the left," neoliberals are not on the left. Weighted by importance, socialists disagree with neoliberals 99.5 percent, and with capitalists 99.9 percent.* We have exactly two policy positions in common — middle-class women should have easy access to abortions, and the PPACA is better than nothing — and one philosophical position in common — Republicans suck marginally harder than the Democrats — but beyond that, we disagree about almost everything else.

*Nobody's wrong all the time. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Just on policy positions, socialists disagree with the neoliberal Democratic party: just off the top of my head, socialists
  • oppose the carceral state and the racialization of law enforcement and police killings
  • oppose imperialist wars and military action
  • oppose the neoliberal globalization project*
  • opposed the bailout of financial institutions and the abandonment of borrowers after the global financial crisis of 2007-2008
  • oppose the nearly-complete deregulation of financial institutions**
  • endorse single-payer, if not fully socialized, medicine
  • endorse unions, high minimum wages, and other specific working class concerns
  • endorse equal rights for immigrants
  • endorse full abortion and reproductive rights for all women
*Which is not to say that we oppose international trade; we just don't want it at all on the neoliberals' terms.
**Dodd-Frank is a joke.

In these assertions, I am relying on what the Democratic party has, you know, actually done or failed to do. The Democrats have, for example, done nothing about police violence against black people, or access to abortion for poor women, so I must conclude they either tacitly endorse these conditions, or they are utterly impotent.

Actually, I'm having a difficult time finding much of anything socialists actually agree on with neoliberals. The Democrats shed a few crocodile tears over a few socialist concerns, in contrast to the Republicans' unconcealed glee, but as far as actually doing something, the Democrats have a hard time rising even to tokenism.

More importantly, to the extent that neoliberals want to "help" those not in the top couple of income and wealth quintiles, they want to help them by sufferance and charity. Socialists want to empower those currently at the economic bottom: the working class should have a good, secure life by right, not by sufferance, and "the poor" shouldn't even be a category.

The Democratic party has essentially been operating by blackmail: Never mind that we take away any economic power and security you might have, never mind that we throw you in jail in world-record numbers, never mind that we send you off to kill brown people sitting on our oil, never mind that we kill you personally. Never mind all that: vote for us, or those nasty Republicans will take away even the crumbs we throw at you from our McMansions.

No. Fuck you, Democrats. Not for your positions, objectionable as we socialists find them, but for your insistence that you're on our side. You're not.


  1. Read the Democratic party platform, it basically affirms all the issues/policies you say that socialists on the left stand for. Whether the philosophy of the Democratic party is synonymous with neo-liberalism, and how well Democrats actually champion these causes when in power are separate issues. But generally speaking, the Democrats would appear to be your allies and not your enemies.

  2. I really dislike when people do not, you know, read the actual post (and my commenting preferences) before commenting. Specifically,

    In these assertions, I am relying on what the Democratic party has, you know, actually done or failed to do.

    Talk is cheap.


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