Socialism in Seattle

What happens when someone breaks the sacred principles of capitalism?

November 11, 2015
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“Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it’s just the opposite” says one of the most cynical quotes, and perhaps the most accurate critique of ideologies, whose author was the late American economist John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006).

Today, when the communism, or, as we called it socialism, is “ash heap of history” and while in the name of the holy privatization its remains are dismantled before our eyes, it would be useful to remind ourselves of another Galbraith’s maxim, according to which the main drivers of capitalism, whose victory has almost brought the “end of history” – are greed and fear – greed as an irresistible urge to amass more and more and fear that all may be lost.

We have seen with our own eyes that something was rotten in the planetary arrangement in recent months, facing the chaotic exodus of desperate people from the failed states of the Middle East and North Africa, living river of refugees across Serbia are trying to get to the rich West, whose interests and wheeling and dealing are the drivers of civil wars, people are fleeing from.

While injustices and inequalities are much discussed and written about, it is worth to highlight one lone example of someone who has tried to change something in this regard, to replace greed with generosity.

Anyway, a young American named Dan Price (31), general manager (CEO) and owner of a successful credit card processing company from Seattle, on the US west coast, pondered over the fact that his (annual) salary is something over a million dollars, while most of the 120 his employees take home only around 40.000.

He came across the study on happiness and well being, according to which every American can reach the “optimum level of happiness” only with annual minimum wage of 70.000, and in mid-April he convened his staff and told them that he is about to reduce his own net income by 90 percent, while their starting salary, with the gradual increases in due course, will reach very “optimal” $ 70.000.

He went from the belief that only the happy workers are good workers, but the applause for this move (and the happiness of the majority of employees), was followed by reactions he did not expected.

He was named almost the saboteur of the system by the conservative commentators, including the distinguished economists, while well-intentioned rated his idea as good one, but his choice of methods as bad, others firmly condemned his attempt to “introduce socialism” in Seattle.

Remains to be seen how this experiment is going to be completed, but for now, it is certain that it will not become “contagious”. And in general, it gave a new topic not only for America, but also the planetary debates.

Not all Americans are allergic to “socialism”, as evidenced by the growing number of those who come to the rallies with Bernie Sanders, a senator from Vermont, a political veteran formally in the camp of the Democratic Party and in Congress since 1991, repeatedly re-elected as a declared Socialists.

Sanders (73) is unlikely to beat Hillary Clinton in the battle for the democratic presidential nomination, but he will spoil some bills for her, who is fully described as a friend of Wall Street (and politician who charges $300.000 per hour of speech – the amount which the average American earns in six years).

Sanders has in fact, as the most “far-left” aspirant to the White House to date, returned the focus to the topic of very reduced social mobility and the backwardness of the American middle class (all those who live by wages) in the last three decades, whose standard is now lower than 20 years ago.

After the failure of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, Bernie Sanders and Dan Price, each in their own way, remind their own countrymen – and not only them – that there is not only one mold for capitalism (the Anglo-American), but also many others. For example, capitalism in “Chinese colors” (“one country, two systems”), Japanese (the practice of “lifetime employment”), Scandinavian (“welfare state”)…

But also German: capitalism with strong unions and solid (although not too high) paid workers, a system where, what a surprise, bosses and workers cooperate in their mutual interest and if we simplify things, with elements of self-government that we have banished from our system, as a symbol of better times, but not from the collective memory.

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