Forget Traditional Terms for Globalized Workers, Research Time, 31/03/2016

I could call this one of a series titled “What Liberals Get Wrong About the 21st Century Left and Marxism.” But I feel like it would last forever.

Here are some important communication messages that left-wing activists or just plain old left-leaning people have to drill into a lot of people’s heads. The old psychology adage is that it takes seven repetitions of a message to give someone the impression that it’s true. 

Well, when it comes to the commentariat, it’s more like 700. Or maybe 7000. Probably a few more zeroes.

Yeah, because Bernie Sanders and Yanis Varoufakis
are all authoritarian Stalinists. You can read the sarcasm
in that sentence, right?
Jonathan Chait continues to earn clicks antagonizing people with left-wing political beliefs by calling them all authoritarian marxists. In other words, headlining an article about young people’s new sympathy for socialist politics and values with a big propaganda photo of Josef Stalin.

Conservatives in America call anyone on the left a liberal. Well, in terms of the actual concepts involved, a lot of American conservatives are liberals themselves. All the free speech* and free market** values that conservatives support are as philosophically liberal as John Stuart Mill, Adam Smith, and Friedrich Hayek.

* Paying no heed to the destructive effects of some speech like racism and mob harassment.

** Which are more like global business oligarchies enabled through government-created trade treaties.

There’s a widespread belief among liberals (including libertarians, who are basically extremist liberals) that all left-wingers want total state control of the economy and people’s daily lives. That’s because too many people – under the influence of libertarian ideas like Hayek’s – believe that the role of the state in society is the only fundamental political question.

Well, politics is a whole hell of a lot more complicated than that. The subject matter of politics is every question about how people relate to each other to build their societies.

In that context, here’s what the traditional political directions of left and right mean to me. Horrifyingly simplified, of course. On the right are people who think society is generally alright, that ongoing dominant trends should continue and strengthen. On the left are people who want to change society’s course.

Those on the left once thought you had to use state control to change society. But that lesson has been learned. The memory of Stalin and Mao are the most extreme examples of the failures of social and economic state control.

The real driving concept of those leaders on the left who properly have their heads together is building a democratic, economically fair globalization.

Whether or not he wins the US Presidency (and he still
has a shot), Bernie Sanders has kept a generation of
people sick of the worsening labour conditions for
those entering the work force politically engaged to
fight for a better, more fair society and economy. I
consider him the only true democrat in the race.
Here’s an example of a bind that globalized knowledge workers find themselves in today. In a Facebook conversation about rough times working freelance these days, my friend L told me about a dispiriting experience on eLance (which, after a corporate buyout, is now upwork).

L is a well-educated former grad student like myself. He’s quite proficient in English, and makes an excellent freelance writer and editor. Or at least he would if he was able to live on the rates that have become competitive.

You see, on eLance, L had to compete with freelance writers from India who could – thanks to much lower salaries, as well as standards and costs of living in that country – afford to set their rates extremely low compared to North Americans. 

It was not uncommon for L to find ads for freelance writers where companies would post rates of only a few dollars for a 500 word blog post. Depending on how much research had to go into a given post, it would only work out to $1 or less per hour. 

That's an effect of unrestrained globalization. The labour pool available to many companies in all industries grew by literally billions in less than two decades. And it grew without a corresponding expansion of workers’ rights. 

North American and European workers had struggled for more than a century for fair rights, protections, and standards that unregulated, uncontrolled globalization eradicated. Simply by opening the market for labour while the circle of political rights stayed closed.

So what would I call myself? Honestly, I’m not sure. I call myself a believer in network politics, I believe that globalization can be turned into global democracy, I believe in fairness for all people on Earth. I believe that prosperity flows from the wealth of ordinary people, not state treasuries or private fortunes. 

Other people would call and have called me a lot of other things. They aren’t necessarily accurate.

The Christians in the audience know what the most infuriating answer to that question would be.

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