(This is the second part of a 2-part interview with Sam. You can see the first part here.)
Just before the historic 2012 US presidential election, Rishi Awatramani interviewed long-time labor activist and scholar Sam Gindin to find out what his new book, The Making of Global Capitalism, authored with frequent collaborator Leo Panitch, has to say to social movement activists about the intimate relationship between global capitalism and the US state, and the possibilities for social movements to transform capitalism.
Some highlights from the interview:
0:28: People need finance…[When the crisis hit] people began to figure out ”I get my check through my bank; My pension depends on the stock market and finance.” … So we don’t have the luxury of saying “well, screw them! Let them go – I don’t have to go under.” The point is, we’re dependent on them. That has strong political implications …We have to actually make them [banks] into a public utility…. And in fact, if we begin to talk about what we’d like to do in the economy, what other options there are, we keep coming back to: you have to control the banks. Otherwise, they don’t like what you do, they won’t lend you money, they’ll leave the country, they’ll screw up the economy.”
7:21: Business is sitting there with tons of money. …Its got tons of money and it isn’t investing. It doesn’t need more money…Its not investing because its not confident that things are going to change in the economy. The only thing that really will change is massive stimulus, massive stimulus that’s direct, massive stimulus in infrastructure.
12:50: I think at this point, the way we should think about a lot of our demands are: They’re demands that we’re making but we recognize that we don’t have the power to win them, so they are actually demands for organizing. We cannot win taking over the financial system right now, but raising it and getting people to understand why it’s a necessary thing is part of building the capacity to do it.
13:22: I think our demands we have to think about: What kinds of demands help build capacities for future change? For example, one of the things we have to think about is conversion in the private sector. …If you want to go beyond the crisis we have to change power. …In the auto industry, we have hundreds of plants closed in North America. These are all plants that can make things. What they’re robbing us of is our productive potential. … Instead of saying, “let’s save General Motors,” we should have said, “let’s save the productive capacity.” Instead of asking “how do we become more competitive again by lowering our wages?” we should have said, “how do we develop a plant that is not based on profit but instead based on solidarity and social use?” And that would have led us to start talking about planning instead of competition, and social use instead of profits. And it would led us to think about, “why don’t we convert this to deal with the environment?”
15:29: Public sector unions have to see themselves as leaders in a defense of social services and public services. If they don’t do that, they’re going to get killed, because they cannot go in and bargain with the state and win. The only way they can mobilize the public is if they get the public on their side, and that isn’t going to happen through billboards, and PR, and convention documents. They’re going to have to prove it. And the only way you can prove it is to do things like, go into bargaining, and say … “We’re not asking for anything. We want that social service expanded. That’s our demand, we’re ready to strike over a social service.” Then you can mobilize the community, and then you can position yourself differently, and then you’re beginning to develop a class perspective.
19:01: To me the main criticism of capitalism is that its fundamentally undemocratic because some people control the labor power of others, and when they’re controlling that, what they are controlling is your creativity as a person, and your ability to develop as a person.
About Sam Gindin
Gindin spent most of his working life as the research director and then Assistant to the President of the Canadian Auto Workers. In 2000, Gindin retired from the CAW, and joined the faculty of York University, where he continues to teach. Amongst his many written works, he is a frequent contributor to Canadian Dimension, The Bullet, Alternatives, and other journals. In addition, Gindin has published In and Out of Crisis: The Global Financial Meltdown and Left Alternatives (with Leo Panitch and Greg Albo), and a biography of the CAW entitled, The Canadian Auto Workers: Birth and Transformation of a Union. Sam is the Packer Chair in Social Justice at York University.