16. Q&A: Getting There 

If we are to consider ourselves revolutionaries, we must acknowledge that we have an obligation to succeed in pursuing revolution. Here, we must acknowledge not only the power of our enemies, but our own power as well. Realizing the nature of our power, we must not deny ourselves the exercise of the options available to us; we must utilize surprise, cunning and flexibility; we must use the strength of the enemy to undo him, keeping him confused and off-balance. We must organize with perfect clarity to be utterly unpredictable. When our enemies expect
us to respond to provocation with violence,
we must react calmly and peacefully; just as they
anticipate our passivity, we must throw a grenade.
- Stokely  Carmichael 

You ask, suppose most citizens decide in favor of parecon, or militate in favor of it, and we win this transformation. Some still won’t want the change—in particular, rich people with lots of property. True enough. Indeed, capitalists will fight by any means they can usefully and self-servingly muster to prevent any new system that would take away their private property. 

There is no parecon created in the U.S., say, alongside Ross Perot (the example you gave) still owning means of production. Creating a parecon means, among many other things, that the private holdings of economic infrastructure of the rich are taken from them...against their wills, no doubt, in most cases. 


Over time, increasingly the workers in GM become advocates of a new type of economy, even while GM is still privately owned and pursuing profit. And during this period the GM workers battle for better conditions, new job definitions, and all manner of other positive steps. But, when the GM workers and all others seeking a new economy win, there is a large change. No longer are they fighting against a class of owners seeking profit, or a class of coordinators maximizing their own relative advantages. Now, the prior owners no longer own, and the coordinator class is no more. 

All historical progress, from the ending of feudalism and slavery through women’s rights, the end of Jim Crow, inauguration of labor rights, and so on, is impossible if one cannot make progress against an initially richer and better armed opponent—but, of course, one can. This is what organizing and developing opposition movements is all about. But the main solution to the other side having lots of guns and being able to pay people to brandish them is to organize those people so they become unwilling to play such a rule. There is no such thing as out-shooting something like the U.S. army, or even its police forces, even if such a scenario wouldn’t corrupt participants and have unacceptable casualties—which it would. What can be done instead is to build ever larger movements which incorporate ever more constituencies and use diverse tactics to essentially disarm elites by creating conditions in which elites cannot exploit what advantages they have, whether money, or communicative tools, or forces of repression, until finally winning the allegiance of their troops right out from under them. 


The best approach is the approach that works. Most likely this will involve, in part, winning a variety of reforms that make the existing system less painful for most folks. But one can do that, and still not create a launch pad for real change, so to speak, falling back, later, when capital becomes resurgent. Sweden is an example. Or one can win the needed gains, and at the same time create an ever stronger movement, able to aim for and win still more, in a trajectory that continues until the new economy is in place. Each gain is a reform. The former is a reformist approach to them. The latter is a non-reformist approach. 

Parecon doesn’t have to appear everywhere in the world all at once. While it is a system with a logic and with principles, and capitalism is a different system with a different logic and with different principles, and the logic and dynamics of each system are inconsistent with that of the other—and undermine the successful reproduction of the other system to the extent that they co-exist in the same time and space—parts of parecon can exist and grow in a hostile capitalist framework. In fact, that is exactly what will have to happen. It is part of what we should call “the transition from the economics of fear and greed, i.e. capitalism, to the economics of equitable cooperation, i.e. parecon” and should recognize as a really important and difficult question. Thus establishing institutions in the present that embody some or even many features of a parecon is desirable partly as a means of learning, partly for inspiration, partly to fill needs. 


However, if a country adopted a parecon system, it could still trade and even borrow from or lend to countries using capitalist systems. With capitalist economies that were richer than the parecon, relations would be quite simple. Enter into trade and borrowing relations that benefit the parecon economy—and bargain, maneuver, push, pull, manipulate to get the best terms of trade and credit terms possible for the parecon—since getting more than the lion’s share of the benefits of international economic relations for the poorer country is completely consistent with parecon principles. 

If the other country is a poorer parecon economy, the trade and credit relations that are consistent with parecon principles would require the richer parecon economy to grant the poorer one more than half the benefits that result from the efficiency gain due to the trade or lending activity. If the other country is a poorer capitalist country, things are a little more complicated. Parecon principles would require that the parecon country NOT drive the hardest bargain it could get—and appropriate the lion’s share of the benefits from trade and lending—but instead to make sure that the poorer economy, even though it is capitalist, benefited equally if not more from the trade or international lending arrangements. 

The exception to this is if such actions helped stabilize the capitalist ruling class in the poorer capitalist country. Then the parecon country should let the anti-capitalist movement in the poorer capitalist country decide if the parecon economy should drive a hard bargain, drive a hard bargain and give the liberation movement the financial gain, or boycott in order to help the liberation movement overthrow capitalism. Exporting revolution and international solidarity are admittedly tricky, tricky issues. But these are political, not economic subtleties.