Build It Now

Build It Now: Socialism for the Twenty-First Century

Michael A. Lebowitz
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    Build It Now
    Book Description:

    Build It Nowputs forward a clear and innovative vision of a socialist future, and at the same time shows how concrete steps can be taken to make that vision a reality. It shows how the understanding of capitalism can itself become a political act-a defense of the real needs of human beings against the ongoing advance of capitalist profit.

    Throughout the book, Lebowitz addresses the concerns of people engaged in struggle to create a better world, but aware that this struggle must be informed by the realities of the twenty-first century. Many chapters of the book began life as addresses to worker organizations in Venezuela, where worker self-management is on the agenda. Written by an eminent academic, this is far more than an academic treatise. The book brings an internationalist outlook and vast knowledge of global trends to bear on concrete efforts to transform contemporary society.

    Build It Nowis a testament to the ongoing vitality of the Marxist tradition, drawing on its deep resources of analytical insight and moral passion and fusing them into an essential guide to the struggles of our time.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-511-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 9-12)

    The nature of capitalism, Marx once noted, comes to the surface in a crisis. Then, it is possible to see some things that were hidden—that the whole system revolves around profits and not human needs. Yet, we see every day what capitalism produces. The blatant waste in advertising, the destruction of the planet, the starvation of children alongside the obscene salaries of professional athletes, the despotic workplace and the treatment of human beings as so much garbage, the coexistence of unused resources, unemployed people and people with unmet needs—these are not accidents in the world of capitalism. Things...

  4. 1 The Needs of Capital Versus the Needs of Human Beings
    (pp. 13-30)

    Like other early nineteenth-century socialists, Karl Marx’s vision of the good society was one that would unleash the full development of all human potential.¹ “What is the aim of the Communists?” asked Marx’s comrade Friedrich Engels in his early draft of theCommunist Manifesto. “To organize society in such a way that every member of it can develop and use all his capabilities and powers in complete freedom and without thereby infringing the basic conditions of this society.” In Marx’s final version of theManifesto, that new society appears as an “association, in which the free development of each is...

  5. 2 Ideology and Economic Development
    (pp. 31-42)

    Economic theory is not neutral, and the results when it is applied owe much to the implicit and explicit assumptions embedded in a particular theory.¹ That such assumptions reflect specific ideologies is most obvious in the case of the neoclassical economics that underlies neoliberal economic policies.

    Neoclassical economics begins with the premises of private property and self-interest. Whatever the structure and distribution of property rights, it assumes the right of owners—whether as owners of land, means of production, or the capacity to perform labor—to follow their self-interest. In short, neither the interests of the community as such nor...

  6. 3 The Knowledge of a Better World
    (pp. 43-52)

    There is an old saying that if you don’t know where you want to go, then any road will take you there.¹ I think that recent years, years of neoliberalism, imperialist outrages, and the virtual destruction of almost every effort to create an alternative, have disproved this saying. Our experience tells us that if you don’t know where you want to go, thennoroad will take you there.

    Our greatest failing is that we have lost sight of an alternative. And, because we have no grand conception of an alternative (indeed, we are told that weshouldhave no...

  7. 4 Reclaiming a Socialist Vision
    (pp. 53-60)

    In the wake of Seattle and other dramatic displays of opposition to capitalist globalization, many people are now talking about capitalism and describing themselves as anti-capitalist.¹ Great! But what do they mean? That capital’s international institutions are bad because they usurp the right of citizens to make democratic decisions? That financial speculation detracts from real, productive investment that creates real jobs? That the drive for profits on the part of transnational corporations has led them to ally with and strengthen authoritarian regimes that deny human rights? That neoliberal policies are producing a race to the bottom in terms of wages,...

  8. 5 Socialism Doesn’t Drop from the Sky
    (pp. 61-72)

    Some people think you can change the world without taking power. No, they argue, you must not even think about trying to make use of the state.¹ Why? Because, as John Holloway asserts, “To struggle through the state is to become involved in the active process of defeating yourself.” No, they proclaim, the state (by definition) cannot challenge capitalism. Why? Because it is part of capital; indeed, as Holloway writes, “The state (any state) must do everything it can to provide conditions that favor the profitability of capital.”

    Ideas like this are not new. But they have been revived in...

  9. 6 Seven Difficult Questions
    (pp. 73-84)

    In April 2004, I was invited to make a presentation on the experience of Yugoslav Self-Management to the Commission on the Trade Union Movement in the Bolivarian Revolutionary Process at the Second World Conference of Solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution in Caracas, Venezuela. In my talk on the lessons from that experience (which was translated and circulated in Venezuela), I identified the basic characteristics of self-management, how it changed over forty years, and some positive and negative aspects

    Within a year, the process of moving toward worker management had accelerated considerably in Venezuela. So, when I was invited to speak...

  10. 7 The Revolution of Radical Needs: Behind the Bolivarian Choice of a Socialist Path
    (pp. 85-118)

    A specter is haunting capitalism.¹ Behind growing attacks on capitalist globalization and neoliberal economic policies, there is the hint that something is dying—something more than particular forms of capitalism, something more than the current distribution of power and domination (which governments in service of local elites, capitalists, and oligarchies would like to modify, just a bit).

    There are, of course, the morbid symptoms—the sanctimonious aggression of “the greatest nation” that ever bombed the earth, the tears of melting ice shed by a natural world stripped and strip-mined in the drive for profit, the race to abandon commitments to...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 119-122)
  12. Index
    (pp. 123-127)