By Jeff J. Brown
Pictured above: left, Joan Roelofs and right, her book, Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism.
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Sixteen years on the streets, living and working with the people of China, Jeff
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I am truly honored to have Dr. Joan Roelofs on the show today. Our discussion will revolve around some of her publications. I’d like to thank our mutual friend, Dr. T.P. Wilkinson for putting us in touch. First, a little bit about Joan,
Joan Roelofs is a semi-retired political science professor and author of a few books and many articles in scholarly journals and online news magazines. She has been an activist in Green and peace organizations, and lives in Keene, New Hampshire, USA.
Joan’s website and book information are listed here,
The World War of Small Pastries by Charles Fourier. Translated by Shawn P. Wilbur and Joan Roelofs, New York: Autonomedia, 2015. https://www.autonomedia.org/node/230
Translation and Introduction: Victor Considerant’s Principes du socialisme: Manifeste de la démocratie au XIX siècle (Paris, 1847), Washington, D.C.: Maisonneuve Press, 2006. https://www.marxists.org/archive/considerant/manifesto/index.htm
Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003.
(Now an E-book also) https://www.sunypress.edu/p-3716-foundations-and-public-policy.aspx
A synopsis of the book can be found at: http://rupe-india.org/38/foundations.html
Greening Cities. New York: Apex Press, 1996. (New publisher: Rowman and Littlefield)
Social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Academia.edu
On a personal note: Joan’s photos (1980s) USSR, Cuba, Bulgaria, 2011 Turkey and my arts and crafts
Joan and I have been communicating for several months via email and it’s hard not to be impressed with her intellect, wit and friendliness. Her experience and productivity put me to shame. Joan’s CV makes mine look like a short order cook’s recipe for French fries! She is from my parents’ generation, thus for me, people like her who are still giving it the good fight for a better world, a more inhabitable planet and socio-economic justice for the global 99% are very special, indeed.
I learned and appreciated much reading Joan’s articles and monographs, to prepare for our conversation. When finished, I’m sure you will agree with me that all of her students were very lucky to have Joan as a teacher and lecturer.
Without further ado, enjoy a great written interview, which I am happy to podcast for China Rising Radio Sinoland’s audio-visual fans.
Jeff J. Brown’s Question #1: Joan, please tell us about yourself growing up, and your arc of awareness about Western empire, socialism, to the point that it inspired you to be a journalist and author.
Dr. Joan Roelofs’ Answer #1:
There were several socialists in my family, including my maternal grandmother and various relatives. My parents were New Deal Democrats. My early political awareness was inspired by attending Camp Woodland in Phoenicia, NY, a left-wing interracial summer camp, reading Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, and a high school class “Problems of Democracy.” That required us to travel in groups (without our teacher) throughout New York City to participate in fora and debates. Their content was “progressive” but not especially socialist. It was the McCarthy era.
When I began college at Cornell, I was a chemistry major, but also on the debate team. My history courses introduced me to Fourier and other socialist thinkers. I changed my major to political science, and transferred to Barnard College for personal reasons. I did not plan my life rationally. Somewhat accidentally, I obtained a teaching fellowship and Ph.D. in political science from NYU. My political views were based on my own research and values, and had been tolerated or mocked by my professors.
As a political scientist, I have 2 broad approaches. One, the ancient one: what is the good life and how can it be attained for all? Two, who or what institutions have political power: the ability to make or prevent change?
For a college professor, writing and research is part of the job. I had always enjoyed public speaking, writing, and teaching, so becoming a professor was a reasonable place to land. For intellectual stimulation, I published, presented at conferences and as a guest speaker, and served as an editor of two journals: Telos, and Capitalism, Nature, Socialism. Before I retired from full time teaching as a full professor, I had two books published, Greening Cities and Foundations and Public Policy.
When I retired I wanted to reach a wider, more activist, audience, so I wrote short, journalistic articles, especially for Counterpunch. However, I also freely indulged my Fourierist interests, translating Victor Considerant’s socialist manifesto, and with a co-author, translating an episode from Fourier’s writing, “World War of Small Pastries,” an anti-war parody.
During the last 15 years I have been mostly concerned with the political power of the military-industrial complex, especially the embrasure of the nonprofit sector in its arms.
Jeff’s Question #2: What is Greening Cities about?
Joan’s Answer #2: Many of my publications were inspired by the courses I taught. Among those I taught annually at KSC was local public administration. The textbooks available lacked a Green perspective, so when I had a year-long sabbatical I decided to write a Green textbook, which, incidentally, required me to travel. At first I thought it would be mostly games and simulations. My students had loved and learned from Nicholas Henry’s Doing Public Administration, but Prof. Henry had moved on and had no time to update it; he encouraged my attempt at something similar.
At the time I was an active member of the Green movement in the US. We had a local group, the Monadnock Greens—I called it a functional dysfamily—that was productive and supportive. Like many activists of the 1980s and 1990s, we were influenced by the affinity group style of the Clamshell Alliance. At the national level, I was elected to the Coordinating Council of the Greens/Green Party USA, serving from 1992-1993.
My concept of Green was based on the Green movement’s values—social justice as well as environmental concerns. While the book does include simulations and student exercises for each chapter, it mostly describes aspects of a sustainable and just community, and examples of projects undertaken throughout the world (by governments and nongovernmental organizations) that have furthered Green values.
During my travels I spent most time in Australia, and also investigated developments in the US, Canada, and Europe. Greening Cities was much more successful than I had anticipated. It was used in an architecture college in Australia, by the European Commission on Sustainable Towns and Cities, and in the environmental studies program at Middlebury College, which granted me a medal in 2000. To my surprise, I discovered it in an installation by Nils Norman at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
Jeff’s Question #3: In your 1995 Monthly Review article entitled, The Third Sector as a Protective Layer for Capitalism, https://monthlyreviewarchives.org/index.php/mr/article/view/MR-047-04-1995-08_2
it was awe inspiring to see how 99% of the global citizenry have a good concept – foundations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), but that like the global media and many governmental entities, has been highjacked by the deep state, which includes the military-industrial complex (MID), Wall Street/London, the CIA/MI6 complex for starters. You mentioned a figure of $400 billion just in the USA alone.
It is not new. Christian foundations and NGOs were all over China in the 19th-20th centuries, trying to save Yellow souls, and still are, in the form of above- and below-ground churches.
What was really fascinating is your analysis that these foundations are incestuous, with interlinking funding, NGOs, corporations, media, political parties, governments, investments, churches, private universities, schools, museums, zoos, teaching hospitals, conservation trusts, opera houses, and all their directors, boards, client targets and outcomes.
It is a cozy club indeed. You wrote that real ecological, socialist movements get buried, while the aforementioned steamroller whitewashes all of global capitalism’s poverty, militarism, racism and environmental damage.
It is really hard for well-intentioned, high-ideal, but money desperate groups to not get compromised, infiltrated by imperial, global capitalist interests and eventually suborned.
The Black Panther Party (BPP) produced its own national newspaper to pay for its self-reliance, people serving socialist programs. In the 1930s, the Rockefellers reached out to Mao Zedong and the Communist Party of China/People’s Liberation Army (CPC/PLA) and supposedly advanced them money, with the hopes of coopting them, but the Chinese communists were very successful in their self-sufficiency soviets to grown, produce and manufacture all their needs, even high tech items.
I just interviewed USA political prisoner of conscience Mumia Abu-Jamal (https://chinarising.puntopress.com/2020/10/03/mumia-abu-jamals-audio-interview-he-is-a-tower-of-revolutionary-resistance-and-an-inexhaustible-inspiration-for-us-all-in-the-face-of-seemingly-insurmountable-odds-parts-i-of-ii-china-ris/). He recommendation to Black Lives Matters (BLM) is intense historical study of how noble causes get infiltrated and sabotaged, as well as citing the BPP with their self-financing as a model to look to.
It seems like the global capitalist oligarchy has the foundation-NGO sector totally sewn up towards their dystopian plans.
What are we communists-socialists and anti-imperialist to do? Sell newspaper subscriptions and carve out Chinese soviets in the hinterlands?
Is communist-socialist revolution, like in the USSR, China, DPRK, Vietnam, Cuba and Eritrea one of the only ways, or another ideological-socialist revolution, like Iran’s Islamic Revolution? When you look at what happens to social democracies, like Venezuela, Angola, Cambodia and many others, with the Western deep state crushing them 24/7 and often overthrowing them, is there a third or fourth way for lasting social and economic justice for the global 99%?
Joan’s Answer #3: Foundations were not hijacked by the deep state, they were co-conspirators. Like the other elements of the Progressive Movement of the early 20th century, the creators of the Carnegie, Rockefeller, Sage and other foundations took seriously many criticisms of the “free enterprise” system made by the increasingly threatening socialist movements. They wanted to clean up capitalism, to preclude its demise by socialism; some were genuinely disturbed by the murder and mayhem of unfettered laissez-faire. Thus they were servitors of the “cold war,” which I say began in 1848, the year of the Communist Manifesto—and hasn’t ended. The capitalists took Marx very seriously, and worked to make sure his were self-denying prophecies.
In the mid-twentieth century, when the Ford Foundation became national in scope, it was the soft cop of US imperialism. Kai Bird’s biography states: “John J. McCloy, for many years Chairman of the Ford Foundation’s trustees, ‘thought of the Foundation as a quasi-extension of the U.S. government. It was his habit, for instance, to drop by the National Security Council in Washington every couple of months and casually ask whether there were any overseas projects the NSC would like to see funded.’” [Kai Bird, John J. McCloy and the Making of the American Establishment (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 519]
The Rockefeller Foundation, predecessor of the UN World Health Organization among other institutions, supported medical education worldwide, including in China, which facilitated a globalized economy.
A major theme in Foundations and Public Policy is evidence that the large liberal foundations channeled and co-opted the activist movements of the 1960s and 1970s. For research and humanitarian motives, I became a member of the Haymarket People’s Fund board, a radical foundation, and the book includes information on its impact.
The foundations and the co-opted nonprofit sector not only prevent radical change, they, along with governments, often provide the rudiments of civilization that free enterprise neglects, although most of the world remains unjust, environmentally destructive, and subject to nuclear annihilation.
I don’t have very hopeful hints on how to change the world. I believe the first step is for those concerned with the sorry state of things take some time to work together to figure out how to produce change, in the light of history and the current circumstances, and some detail about desired outcomes. There is too much individualism among the communards.
Jeff’s Question #4: Your Counterpunch article entitled, The Political Economy of the Weapons Industry www.informationclearinghouse.info/49914.htm In Russian: http://svpressa.ru/politic/article/206531/
reminds me of great documentary movie that came out in the early 2000s, and I can’t remember the title, unfortunately (https://www.imdb.com/list/ls059705680/). Capitalism is based on war, which Marx and Lenin wrote about. Capitalism and war are a tautology.
You write how the military-industrial complex (MIC) should add the “legislative” to its name, like parting US President Dwight Eisenhower warned about, and who gave us the moniker. Just like deep state coopting foundations and NGOs, the MIC corrupts all the aforementioned institutions, charities, governments at all levels, as well as the sports, entertainment and prison industries.
In my interviews with John Potash, he reported that the US Department of Defense is the publisher of 1,200 magazine titles around the world (https://chinarising.puntopress.com/2019/12/16/john-potash-talks-about-his-explosive-book-the-fbi-war-on-tupac-shakur-and-black-leaders-u-s-intelligences-murderous-targeting-of-tupac-mlk-malcolm-panthers-hendrix-marley/ and https://chinarising.puntopress.com/2020/02/28/john-potash-talks-about-his-explosive-book-drugs-as-a-weapon-against-us-cia-murderous-war-on-musicians-and-activists/). This, not to mention putting some kind of military institution or program in every congressional district in the USA.
It’s no better in France, where the military facilities and armament factories are spread all over the country. We just had a platoon of soldiers come to our village to spend the weekend and their money, handing out promotions, awards and filling up all the restaurants and souvenir shops. Who’s going to protest against that?
You paint a pretty grim picture of resignation and hopelessness. The MIC is embedded in Western economies like the sand in concrete. What to do?
Seems to me that as long as there is global capitalism, there isn’t much we can do. It really gets my goat, all these many antiwar organizations who do not see or refuse to see that capitalism and militarism are co-joined twins. Environmental groups rarely mention that the world’s biggest polluter is the US military and by extension, NATO.
Joan’s Answer #5: I have tried to reach the peacemongers, urging them to consider what we are up against. It is not merely the weapons makers seeking huge profits. The military budget is a huge prop of the economy (see “Military Keynesianism Marches On.” https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/10/03/military-keynesianism-marches-on/). It underpinned the industrialization of the South, and it mitigates the corrosion of the rustbelt, which has accelerated with the offshoring of civilian manufacturing. From “The Military Industrial Complex in New Hampshire” https://joanroelofs.wordpress.com/2018/12/12/why-it-is-so-hard-to-give-peace-a-chance-the-military-industrial-complex-in-new-hampshire/
Readers of specialty publications, such as the NH Business Review, may learn that: “In New Hampshire, the F-35 program supports 55 suppliers – 35 of which are small businesses – and over 900 direct jobs, much of them located at BAE Systems in Nashua. The F-35 program generates over $481 million in economic impact in the state” (9-21-17). (Incidentally, this aircraft, considered the most expensive weapon in history, has been rated unfavorably by military experts.)
The city of Nashua’s website informs us that BAE is the largest employer in the city, and in addition: “A total of 130 defense contractors were awarded contracts between 2000 and 2012, which is indicative of how robust the defense industry has become in Nashua. “Not coincidentally, Nashua has been rated the #1 place to live by Money Magazine.
Enormous “defense” contracts are awarded to information technology firms, intelligence specialists, universities, think tanks, construction companies, logistics—food, clothing, furniture, transportation, janitorial, and security guard firms—as well as many progressive organizations, including environmental NGOs such as The Nature Conservancy and Ducks Unlimited. Building, maintaining, and upgrading military bases, in the US and worldwide is a major item in the budget, and an economic stimulus to communities.
Philanthropy and investment funds are other ways that military profits shower the population into silence about worldwide carnage and subversion.
Jeff’s Question #6: How far back does the USA’s martial culture go back? 1607, with Jamestown; 1775 and the US War for Independence? Or 1898 and the country’s great leap into global imperialism? Or, do we go all the way back to the nonstop wars of Ancient Greece and Rome?
Joan’s Answer #6: Military values permeate our culture, and our violent history is celebrated in town square monuments, parades, and school curricula.
The overflow of military into civilian life began with the new nation. Army Corps of Engineers were charged with mapping; building lighthouses, piers, and post offices; and more recently, flood control and recreational sites. It may be a good way to get things done, but a civilian Department of Public Works (perhaps even with a draft) would not be partnered with the destructive side of the military.
Science has long been promoted by the military, which is interested in physics, for propulsion of weapons, nuclear weapons, et al; chemistry, for explosives; transportation; communications; and medicine, for protection against disease, the greatest killer of troops before the 20th century. Many advances in science and technology had military origins, for example, canned food and the internet. A vast amount of research is funded by the Department of Defense, and performed by its employed scientists or through contracts with universities and laboratories in the US and throughout the world.
The Special Operations Command sees future wars in a “Gray Zone” of “intense political, economic, informational, and military competition, with operations often of a covert or clandestine nature.” This had led to a broader array of scientists and other specialists in the military arsenal: social scientists, biologists, gamers, philosophers, even clergy.
Jeff’s Question #7: What do you mean by, National, state and local governments are well covered by this “insecurity blanket”, and …so many potential peace activists are smothered into silence under the vast insecurity blanket?
Joan’s Answer #7: The military’s unbeatable weapon is jobs, and all members of Congress, and state and local officials, are aware of this. It is where good jobs are found for mechanics, scientists, and engineers; even janitorial workers do well in these taxpayer-rich firms. Construction firms, IT, logistics, and every kind of business (e.g., child care centers, motels, and landscapers) are also beneficiaries of the military budget. Weaponry is a major part of our manufactured goods exports; our allies are required to have equipment that meets our specifications. Governments, rebels, terrorists, pirates, and gangsters all fancy our high- tech and low-tech lethal devices.
Rarely do leaders, boards, or staffs of civil rights, identity politics, art, music, environmental, poor people’s, health, or youth organizations; museums; and charities mention militarism as a concern. There is little protest from political activists about the omission of militarism in national candidates debates and “campaigns” (itself a military term). Unlikely organizations, such as the Nature Conservancy or Ducks Unlimited, receive significant DoD contracts. Others, such as the Congressional Black Caucus or American Association of University Women, receive substantial donations from military contractors. Nongovernmental organizations’ boards often include retired or current military and national security personnel, or executives of weapons firms. Technical assistance to nonprofit groups (e.g., “strategic planning”) is provided by firms such as Empower Success Corps; among its consultants are weapons contractor executives; peace organizations have used these services. Museums present shows sponsored by military industries, and invest in their stocks. Universities also have huge contracts and lucrative weapons investments. In contrast to the Vietnam War era, there is hardly a protest against our endless wars from mainstream religious bodies.
These are the educated and progressive people in our society, and they are mostly silent.
Jeff’s Question #8: You have invested a lot of your academic career in 18th-19th century French philosopher and utopian, Charles Fourier (1772-1837). I must agree, after reading your monograph, Fourier and Agriculture, I can appreciate why you have done so.
He was clearly visionary and for the lack of a better term, way ahead of his time. He is considered one of the early proponents of socialism, but you commented that both Marxists and capitalists hate him, which seems to be a strange juxtaposition.
I asked my wife about him. She went to school in France all her life and never heard of him, yet French students are taught about a whole panoply of philosophers. It would appear that he is not appreciated in his own country either.
Yet, he seems to have been Promethean in his body of work. Why is such an incredible and productive visionary so obscure?
Joan’s Answer #8: Capitalists don’t like Fourier because he had such a fine, detailed, and often funny, critique of the free enterprise system.
Marxists (with a few exceptions) don’t want to validate his insights for several reasons:
- He, and his disciple, Victor Considerant, were the source of ideas, even phrases, that later appeared in the Communist Manifesto. Marxists don’t want too much exploration of this. Engels, in his later years, did pay some compliments to Fourier.
- Fourier did not regard class struggle as an agent of history or the proletariat as a revolutionary class. His socialism would be promoted by intellectuals of all classes, and would benefit even the affluent. Fourier was also opposed to violence, and deplored the French Revolution. He is associated with “utopianism” and retrograde petty bourgeois localism or agrarianism. At best, he and more especially, Considerant, were purveyors of social democracy or “new deal liberalism,” regarded as impediments to socialism by Marxists.
- While Fourier had many brilliant ideas, he also had some that were not respectable, such as abolition of marriage and sexual freedom—often orchestrated— for all non-violent tastes. However, Fourier excluded children from this aspect of his future communal society. He had some strong prejudices; he disdained Jews because of his perception of their business practices, and Chinese for the oppression of women.
Finally and fatally, he had weird notions, e.g., that humans would grow tails. Yet, he wasn’t all that crazy with his predictions of global warming. It is quite common for critics of capitalism to be thrown out with the bathwater because their prejudices are not respectable. The defenders, rarely, e.g., Henry Ford.
Nevertheless, as a graduate student I thought that a concentration on Fourier would doom me as a nut. I was a socialist; that was bad enough, and I had little luck in finding suitable academic employment. My favorite G. B. Shaw quote: If you are protesting high heels be sure to wear a smart hat.
Jeff’s Question #9: I love his quote that civilization has been preceded by three stages, Savagery, Patriarchate and Barbarism, extant. He then proposes a utopian era named Harmony, which would last for 70,000 years.
This sounds remarkably similar to Ancient China’s Datong, which is essentially communism, where no one is in want or need, society is in ideal balance or harmony, and where crime and war no longer exist.
I understand that Chinese philosophy was all the rage in Europe until about 1680.
In all your research on Fourier, was he smitten and/or influenced by Confucius, Lao Zi and Buddha?
Joan’s Answer #9:
- Fourier considered Buddhism too austere. His utopia was to be based on food, music, sex, and flowers; no suffering permitted. He also maintained that: “The best countries have always been those which allowed women the most freedom.” Variants of this are what Fourier has been praised for, even by Marxists. He was the most feminist of socialists. He thought China was among the nations in which women were most subjugated.
Jeff’s Question #10: Fourier wrote about eliminating the twelve classes of parasites? I assume we still suffer their existence. Who are they?
Joan’s Answer #10: Twelve classes of parasites:
Domestic Parasites: 1. Women 2. Children 3. Servants
Social Parasites: 4. Armies 5. Fiscal Agents 6. Manufactures 7. Commerce 8. Transportation
Accessory Parasites: 9. Unemployed 10. Sophists 11. Idlers 12. Drop-outs
Jeff’s Question: #11: You wrote about the USA’s 19th century communitarian and associationism movement. “Fourier and Agriculture” http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.13169/worlrevipoliecon.6.3.0403
There were 29 Fourierist phalanxes founded, mostly in the US Midwest and New England. You mentioned the Shakers and Oneida Community, the latter lasting for 32 years.
This was a movement to solve the major political, social, and economic problems of the time, including race, sex, and class inequality.
They seemed to offer so much hope and set an example for many of us. Why didn’t they last and catch on more widely? Going back to preliberation China, the CPC/PLA succeeded with their self-reliance soviets. Is that what it takes to keep the flames of idealism burning, an overarching ideology and vanguard party, like communism-socialism?
Joan’s Answer #11: Communitarianism. There were several reasons for their demise. One was the development of mass production, which made their craft system less competitive and required assembly lines and huge factories, near urban workers. Socialist energies moved to the trade union movement and Marxist approaches. Today it would be easier to localize production.
The children of communalism wanted to do something different. The larger capitalist society lured once production picked up in the late 19th century. So, e.g., few men joined the Shakers (because of their celibacy policy also), and the orphans bailed out at age 18. Field work and carpentry could be done only by men, according to their theory, and the sisters had to hire outsiders to maintain their “self-sufficient” community.
Overarching ideology and indoctrination helped a lot. Yet even this faded, especially with the progress of science. The Hutterites, the most long-lived of the early communitarian societies, are now facing decline in part because of the introduction of cell phones and the internet.
A similar weakening effect occurred in Eastern European socialist countries. The children wanted to do something different. They didn’t remember why their parents and grandparents chose socialism. Many hadn’t but conformed as a practical matter. People were lured by the outside capitalist systems; there was also covert and overt subversion by cold warriors. Socialist indoctrination lost its effect, even among leaders, and crucially, among scientists and intellectuals. A useful anthology exploring this process is Communism Unwrapped by Paulina Bren and Mary Neuburger (eds.).
Communal living has so many advantages, especially in our day with the decline of the family. But it isn’t popular. I have asked experts on Soviet housing (without much useful response) why the “the state of the art” communal housing built in Moscow in the late 60s was cancelled.
An extremely well-equipped communal apartment complex (House of the New Life) designed by architect N. Osterman and others was built as a prototype. The residents were to be small families and single people, of all occupations and economic status. Some of the residents would be the staff for the building, which included a large dining room, small cafés, and closets on the main floor for overnight disinfection of clothing. Those who didn’t want to eat in the communal places could have meals sent up on a dumbwaiter. There was also a clinic, a library, a pool, sports halls, children’s playgrounds, hobby workshops, radio and TV studios, et al. However, it was deemed impractical as a model and converted into a university dormitory. Some denounced it as conferring too much privilege on residents; others deemed it a leftist deviation threatening the institution of the family.
Residential complex Denis Romodin “House of the new life” (now a dormitory for post-graduate students of Moscow State University)
Ground floor plan
1 – greenhouse; 2 – Swimming Pool; 3 – dining room with 150 seats; 4 – kitchen; 5 – a winter garden, the foyer; 6 – house-kitchen; 7 – the universal use of the hall; 8 – music room; 9 – Kruzhkova room; 10 – wardrobe; 11 – administrative and economic center; 12 – Catering; 13 – sports hall; 14 – Technology Club; 15 – center of health care; 16 – Children’s Center. http://www.sovarch.ru/catalog/object/645/?photo=1
Despite its potential benefits, communal living does not appear to be very attractive anywhere. Why is this? Is it because there are a few examples of the happy family home and many more imaginary ones, nurtured by literature and television? Is it the memory of primitive conditions in hippie and early Soviet communes? Is the tribe the natural arrangement for humans, existing for thousands of years in pre-history, or is it a form to be transcended according to the progressive view of humanity? Even in 19th century communitarian societies of the United States there was a tendency for couples to move away from collective provision into individual households, although the members had voluntarily joined as communards.
Some critics of Soviet communalism claim that its real purpose was to free women for work in the “productive” sector, rather than liberating them for self-fulfillment or promoting their equality.
Jeff’s Question: #12: On Counterpunch, you wrote a great article, What Else Is Wrong with Globalization. https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/17/what-else-is-wrong-with-globalization/
I was like 99% of humanity and swallowed the GATT/WTO/NAFTA/EU propaganda Kool-Aid.
It really has turned out to be at the vanguard of destroying our Pale Blue Dot: cut flowers shipped from Kenya to the EU in airconditioned jets, Thailand bringing in huge papayas from hot houses in Hollande, Caribbean countries being forced to sell passports and villas to rich foreigners, instead of bananas; there are thousands of similar cases, ongoing. This, not to mention chemically soaked GMO monoculture agriculture, mono-industrial economies and modern-day slaves getting paid pennies a day to die young.
Yet, Mexico just signed a new NAFTA deal with the USA and Canada, even though the first one destroyed much of its centuries’ old Native economy and culture.
Only a handful of countries seem to have thrived under global capitalism’s WTO: China, South Korea, Vietnam and a few others that have exported their way towards broad citizen prosperity.
How to stop all this madness? The French voted down the ultra-neoliberal European Treaty (EUT) twice, only to have its corrupt legislature pass it in the middle of the night, over their popular objections. As a result, everything in France is being privatized and the EUT excludes any government ownership or economic planning in their phony “free markets”.
How to end this madness, kill the WTO and save the human race?
Joan’s Answer #12:
- Global capitalism is not irrational, or based solely on greed. Governments are trying to make capitalism work with stopgap patches. The banana war ended with the WTO forbidding the EU to have even a tiny quota for bananas from their former Caribbean and African colonies. Tourism, an environmentally destructive industry with much exploited labor, is declining. So what’s a country to do? Sell passports and real estate to wealthy people, who may never touch down. Grenada lost much of its nutmeg business, because of artificial flavoring and fewer eggnog enthusiasts. Panama hats? Ganja is becoming the world’s most valuable drug, surpassing coffee. Bermuda shorts? (just kidding) Bermuda was a very nice place, although a colony; workers had a good standard of living and managerial positions. But tourists thought of it as a place for formal dress and high tea, despite the excellent beaches and snorkeling. So now the major industry is offshore corporate headquarters.
It may end because of the chaos, which gets worse when so many nations and businesses want to sell the same stuff to people who already have too much, and resources are rapidly polluted and depleting.
In Greening Cities I opined that a Green economy must be primarily local, and production based on use, not profits or jobs. Most advocates of the Green New Deal do not agree. There are people in the Chinese leadership who wish for an ecosocialist future, but they may be outnumbered; we hear of a greater focus on consumerism. I am not hopeful.
Jeff’s Question: #13: Joan, what projects do you have in the pipeline?
Joan’s Answer #13: I could write several books except that it entails too much sitting on my tail.
- For a long time I’ve been trying to discover why NATO has so much support in Western Europe. I have a few answers, but seek more concerning the economic impact.
- There is still much to learn about the ways the nonprofit sector is enmeshed with the military.
- An investigation of the lessons to be had from the experiences of former and existing socialist societies, relevant to a realistic socialism for our time.
- On the lighter side, I am an amateur bookbinder, and I have an unfinished pop-up book illustrating Fourier’s “World War of Small Pastries.” Maybe I will finish it.
- I teach in an Academy of Lifelong Learning, and perhaps next semester I will offer an update of my course on the Politics of Food and Agriculture. For anyone who can make use of it, there is a “short course,” 8 sessions, on the Military Industrial Complex on my website, suitable for high school, college and adult education.
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It all goes towards the same win-win goals: unique research, reporting on the real story of the Chinese people and truth telling in support of the global 99%, for a more just and mutually beneficial 21st century.
In Solidarity, Jeff
Why and How China works: With a Mirror to Our Own History
Read it in your language • Lealo en su idioma • Lisez-le dans votre langue • Lies es in deniner Sprache • Прочитайте это на вашем языке • 用你的语言阅读
Wechat group: search the phone number +8613823544196 or my ID, Jeff_Brown-44_Days, friend request and ask Jeff to join the China Rising Radio Sinoland Wechat group. He will add you as a member, so you can join in the ongoing discussion.