原题为 Plutonomy and the Precariat: On the History of the US Economy in Decline 罗其云译
说 '占领运动'是史无前例的事实是正确不过的。毕竟，这是一个史无前例的时代-也就是说美国的历史以70年代做为转捩点以来,它本身是一成不变也不为过。这 国家从建国殷始，几世纪以来一直是一个发展中的社会，用的方法也不都是光明正大。但普遍的是超着财富，工业化，发展和希望的路前进。人们非常一致的期待是 这条路可以一直地走下去。就是在非常黑暗的时期都是如此。
当 时有激进的工会组织活动，特别是'工业组织会'。几乎动员到'坐地'罢工的地步，这可把商界吓坏了，从商业报道中可以看出，因为'坐地'罢工就等于是夺取 工厂的管理权以及工人当家作主的前一步.工人接管工厂正巧今天也是计划中之事,这点大家要牢牢记住.还有新政的立法在群众的压力下也开始了.尽管生存艰 辛,但是有一种共识'我们一定会脱困而出'.
这 变化始于70年代.其中有多方面的因素.一个突出的关键,照经济史学家 罗伯特.布任纳的解释,主要就是制造业的利润的下滑.还有别的许多原因.就造成了 经济上的巨大变革-把几百年来以工业化和发展为前进方向倒转成'去工业化和去发展'的模式.当然,制造业在海外的盈利还是巨大的,只是对工人没有什么好处 罢了.
1970 以前,银行只是银行.它们所做的就是国家资本主义经济下所该做的:它们从账户的未使用的资金转到帮助家庭买房或供孩子上大学这样潜在有意义的事情 上.1970彻底改变了这些.那之前,打自大萧条以来没有发生过金融危机.50和60年代的发展是巨大的.那是美国历史上的最高点,也可能是经济史上的最 高点.
这 个循环导致了财富极度的集中,主要在百分之0.1的人手中.同时,对大多数人来说,它又带来了一个停滞甚至是衰退的时代.人们藉着人为的方式,如加长的工 作时间,大量的借贷和背债,还有的依赖引起最近房地产泡沫一样的虚涨的房产价值来勉强度日.很快地,工作的长时已经超过了日本和欧洲等许多工业化的国家. 大多数人的停滞衰败的时代和财富极度集中的时代是并存的,政治体系于是消解了.
本来公共政策和公众的意志'总是有距离的,现在是呈几何级 数增长了.你现在可以看的很清楚.来看看华盛顿人人关注的题目:赤字.对大众来说,赤字真正是不被当成主要的问题的.它也确实不算是个议题.真正的议题应 该是'失业'.'赤字委员会'存在但却没有一个'失业委员会'.就赤字的议题来说,老百姓是有他们的看法的.看看历次的民意测验,绝大多数的人赞成对富裕 者课高税,就在经济停滞衰退,社会福利缩减的时候,富人的税却大大缩水.
有 财富可理者是指那些富人,有能力购买奢侈品者,以为这就是世界的中心.它说'财富管理指数'比股市的表现还好.其他的人就让他们飘在那儿,我们并不关心他 们,我们也不是真正需要他们.他们的存在只是为了一个强有力的国家,那会保护我们,等我们有麻烦的时候,可以伸出援手.除了这点之外,他们就没有什么用 了.现在他们被称做'无以立足的无产者'-活在社会的外围的飘荡脆弱的人群.只是现在已经不能叫'外围'了,因为,他们已经是美国社会非常显著的一部分 了,世界其它地方也是一样.而这些被认为是好事.
在格林斯潘被称做'圣人亚伦',而且还被专业经济学者大声赞美成历史上最伟大的经济学家 之一的时候(这是在股市崩盘之前,而他对崩盘应负主要责任),就在克林顿时代的国会作证说明,他所引导之下的奇迹般的伟大经济.他说这种经济的成功诀窍在 于他称之为'劳动者不安全性的增长'. 如果劳动者有不安全感,如果他们处于不稳定的外缘位置,他们就不会提出要求,他们得不到更好的待遇,他们的福利也不会有所增加. 当我们不需要他们的时候,我们就可以请他们走路. 这就是被技术性的称做'健康经济'的事实. 他也为此受到吹捧.
如 果如他们所愿,70年代颠倒了的历史就无法逆转了. 我们是朝着那条路走. 现在,占领运动成了第一个真正的,主要的和大众支持的可以改变这一切的对抗力量. 但我们必须认清事实, 这场斗争将是十分艰巨和漫长的.不会明天就取得胜利.你必须建构起一套可持续性的办法, 面对困难坚定奋战一赢取最后的胜利. 有很多的事情等着我们去做.
整 个70年代,虽然在衰退中,还是有几件重要的事件发生. 1977年,'美国钢铁'决定关闭他在俄亥俄州,约克斯城一家主要的工厂. 工人没有就此遣散, 工人团体和社区一起出面,想从公司手中买下工厂,将它交给工人来管,成为一个工人管理,工人负责的地方.可惜,他们最后没有成功. 但当时如果有足够的群众支持,他们应该会赢的. 其中细节,为工人和社区工作的律师 卡尔.阿尔培罗维兹 和 斯陶顿.临德 曾叙述的很详细.
从它激发后续的其它行动来说,它虽败犹荣. 如今,整个俄亥俄州还有其它地方,遍布了成百上千的由工人和社区共同拥有'甚至成了工人管理的实业, 有的规模还不算小.这是真正革命的基础. 这就是革命的起源.
一 年以前,波士顿一个近郊也发生了同样的事情. 一家跨国公司要把它的一家还盈利而且经营的不错;搞高科技的分公司关闭. 它只是未达到他们所预期的利润罢了. 工作人员和工会想把它买过来,自己来经营.这家跨国公司可能碍于情面,还是把它关了.想买的一方没想到这个结果, 如果他们有足够的群众支持,或者他们有像占领运动的力量做后盾,他们可能会成功的.
还有其它类似的事件发生. 有一些,还不是小事. 不久以前, 奥巴马总统把石油工业收归国有, 它本来就是应该由公众所拥有的. 这类的事情是可以做的, 他们是这么干的: 重组之后交回原原拥有者,或者是相关的拥有者, 回到传统的老路上.
另外一种可能是把它交到工作人员的手中-本来他们就是拥有者-把它变成工人拥有,工人管理的主要工业体系, 这体系是经济的主要部分, 让它生产民之所需的东西, 而有很多东西是人民所需要的.
我 们都知道也应该知道美国的高速交通在世界上是很落后的,问题还很严重. 这不仅影响人民的生活,对经济影响也大. 我有个人的经验.几个月前, 我正好在法国演讲, 必须从南部的亚维宁城坐火车到巴黎的戴高乐机场, 等长于华盛顿到波士顿的距离,只用了2小时. 我不知道你们坐过美国这段路线, 它还是和60年前我和我妻子第一次坐时一样的速度. 这真是羞耻啊.
欧洲做得到的,这里应该也做得到. 我们的技术工人有能力完成. 只要大众齐力来支持, 它就会对经济改变很大.
再 谈点更不可思议的. 这么好的方法不用, 奥巴马当局派了他的交通部长去西班牙签了一项建设美国高速铁路的合同. 这本来可以在我们的工厂关闭的工业没落区完成的. 我想不出这么做经济上的理由. 有工人阶级不被重视的原因, 还有就是没有动员群众的力量. 所以事情就变成这样.
我一直谈的是国内的问题. 但在国际方面. 有两项非常危险的事态在发展, 那好像阴影一样笼罩在我们所讨论的一切问题之上. 人类历史是头一遭遇上了危及人类生存的真正威吓.
一个是自1945年以来一直悬在那的, 我们能躲过它真是一项奇迹. 这就是核战和核武器的威胁. 这问题的讨论不多. 实际上,这当局的政策和它的同盟国将它的威胁升级了. 如果我们还不采取行动, 一切就太晚了.
另外一点就是环境灾难. 几乎世界上每一个国家都采取了阻止让它恶化的措施, 美国所采取的措施主要是将威胁升级. 美是主要国家中唯一的一位不但不采取任何积极步骤去保护环境, 它根本还就不闻不问. 它还扯后腿.
由商界肆无忌惮的连结庞大的宣传机器, 想要说服人们,公开宣称 '环境变化只是一场骗局'. 说"为什么要关注这些科学家?"
我们真的掉回到黑暗时代, 这不是一个笑话. 如果这是发生在一个历史上最强大和最富有的国家,那这场灾难是不可逆转的,至少是一,两代的时间, 我们谈再多的问题还是没有用的. 我们迫切地需要采取细致而且可持续的行动.
前进的道路充满了障碍,荆棘,困顿和失败. 这是不可避免的. 除非去年在这个国家和全球各地的那股精神(指占领运动)能继续成长而爆发成社会和政治世界的主要力量, 对拥有美好而令人憧憬的未来的机会是很渺茫的.
The Occupy movement has been an extremely exciting development. Unprecedented, in fact. There's never been anything like it that I can think of. If the bonds and associations it has established can be sustained through a long, dark period ahead -- because victory won't come quickly -- it could prove a significant moment in American history.
The fact that the Occupy movement is unprecedented is quite appropriate. After all, it's an unprecedented era and has been so since the 1970s, which marked a major turning point in American history. For centuries, since the country began, it had been a developing society, and not always in very pretty ways. That's another story, but the general progress was toward wealth, industrialization, development, and hope. There was a pretty constant expectation that it was going to go on like this. That was true even in very dark times.
I'm just old enough to remember the Great Depression. After the first few years, by the mid-1930s -- although the situation was objectively much harsher than it is today -- nevertheless, the spirit was quite different. There was a sense that "we're gonna get out of it," even among unemployed people, including a lot of my relatives, a sense that "it will get better."
There was militant labor union organizing going on, especially from the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations). It was getting to the point of sit-down strikes, which are frightening to the business world -- you could see it in the business press at the time -- because a sit-down strike is just a step before taking over the factory and running it yourself. The idea of worker takeovers is something which is, incidentally, very much on the agenda today, and we should keep it in mind. Also New Deal legislation was beginning to come in as a result of popular pressure. Despite the hard times, there was a sense that, somehow, "we're gonna get out of it."
It's quite different now. For many people in the United States, there's a pervasive sense of hopelessness, sometimes despair. I think it's quite new in American history. And it has an objective basis.
On the Working Class
In the 1930s, unemployed working people could anticipate that their jobs would come back. If you're a worker in manufacturing today -- the current level of unemployment there is approximately like the Depression -- and current tendencies persist, those jobs aren't going to come back.
The change took place in the 1970s. There are a lot of reasons for it. One of the underlying factors, discussed mainly by economic historian Robert Brenner, was the falling rate of profit in manufacturing. There were other factors. It led to major changes in the economy -- a reversal of several hundred years of progress towards industrialization and development that turned into a process of de-industrialization and de-development. Of course, manufacturing production continued overseas very profitably, but it's no good for the work force.
Along with that came a significant shift of the economy from productive enterprise -- producing things people need or could use -- to financial manipulation. The financialization of the economy really took off at that time.
Before the 1970s, banks were banks. They did what banks were supposed to do in a state capitalist economy: they took unused funds from your bank account, for example, and transferred them to some potentially useful purpose like helping a family buy a home or send a kid to college. That changed dramatically in the 1970s. Until then, there had been no financial crises since the Great Depression. The 1950s and 1960s had been a period of enormous growth, the highest in American history, maybe in economic history.
And it was egalitarian. The lowest quintile did about as well as the highest quintile. Lots of people moved into reasonable lifestyles -- what's called the "middle class" here, the "working class" in other countries -- but it was real. And the 1960s accelerated it. The activism of those years, after a pretty dismal decade, really civilized the country in lots of ways that are permanent.
When the 1970s came along, there were sudden and sharp changes: de-industrialization, the off-shoring of production, and the shift to financial institutions, which grew enormously. I should say that, in the 1950s and 1960s, there was also the development of what several decades later became the high-tech economy: computers, the Internet, the IT Revolution developed substantially in the state sector.
The developments that took place during the 1970s set off a vicious cycle. It led to the concentration of wealth increasingly in the hands of the financial sector. This doesn't benefit the economy -- it probably harms it and society -- but it did lead to a tremendous concentration of wealth.
On Politics and Money
Concentration of wealth yields concentration of political power. And concentration of political power gives rise to legislation that increases and accelerates the cycle. The legislation, essentially bipartisan, drives new fiscal policies and tax changes, as well as the rules of corporate governance and deregulation. Alongside this began a sharp rise in the costs of elections, which drove the political parties even deeper into the pockets of the corporate sector.
The parties dissolved in many ways. It used to be that if a person in Congress hoped for a position such as a committee chair, he or she got it mainly through seniority and service. Within a couple of years, they started having to put money into the party coffers in order to get ahead, a topic studied mainly by Tom Ferguson. That just drove the whole system even deeper into the pockets of the corporate sector (increasingly the financial sector).
This cycle resulted in a tremendous concentration of wealth, mainly in the top tenth of one percent of the population. Meanwhile, it opened a period of stagnation or even decline for the majority of the population. People got by, but by artificial means such as longer working hours, high rates of borrowing and debt, and reliance on asset inflation like the recent housing bubble. Pretty soon those working hours were much higher in the United States than in other industrial countries like Japan and various places in Europe. So there was a period of stagnation and decline for the majority alongside a period of sharp concentration of wealth. The political system began to dissolve.
There has always been a gap between public policy and public will, but it just grew astronomically. You can see it right now, in fact. Take a look at the big topic in Washington that everyone concentrates on: the deficit. For the public, correctly, the deficit is not regarded as much of an issue. And it isn't really much of an issue. The issue is joblessness. There's a deficit commission but no joblessness commission. As far as the deficit is concerned, the public has opinions. Take a look at the polls. The public overwhelmingly supports higher taxes on the wealthy, which have declined sharply in this period of stagnation and decline, and the preservation of limited social benefits.
The outcome of the deficit commission is probably going to be the opposite. The Occupy movements could provide a mass base for trying to avert what amounts to a dagger pointed at the heart of the country.
Plutonomy and the Precariat
For the general population, the 99% in the imagery of the Occupy movement, it's been pretty harsh -- and it could get worse. This could be a period of irreversible decline. For the 1% and even less -- the .1% -- it's just fine. They are richer than ever, more powerful than ever, controlling the political system, disregarding the public. And if it can continue, as far as they're concerned, sure, why not?
Take, for example, Citigroup. For decades, Citigroup has been one of the most corrupt of the major investment banking corporations, repeatedly bailed out by the taxpayer, starting in the early Reagan years and now once again. I won't run through the corruption, but it's pretty astonishing.
In 2005, Citigroup came out with a brochure for investors called "Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances." It urged investors to put money into a "plutonomy index." The brochure says, "The World is dividing into two blocs -- the Plutonomy and the rest."
Plutonomy refers to the rich, those who buy luxury goods and so on, and that's where the action is. They claimed that their plutonomy index was way outperforming the stock market. As for the rest, we set them adrift. We don't really care about them. We don't really need them. They have to be around to provide a powerful state, which will protect us and bail us out when we get into trouble, but other than that they essentially have no function. These days they're sometimes called the "precariat" -- people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society. Only it's not the periphery anymore. It's becoming a very substantial part of society in the United States and indeed elsewhere. And this is considered a good thing.
So, for example, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, at the time when he was still "Saint Alan" -- hailed by the economics profession as one of the greatest economists of all time (this was before the crash for which he was substantially responsible) -- was testifying to Congress in the Clinton years, and he explained the wonders of the great economy that he was supervising. He said a lot of its success was based substantially on what he called "growing worker insecurity." If working people are insecure, if they're part of the precariat, living precarious existences, they're not going to make demands, they're not going to try to get better wages, they won't get improved benefits. We can kick 'em out, if we don't need 'em. And that's what's called a "healthy" economy, technically speaking. And he was highly praised for this, greatly admired.
So the world is now indeed splitting into a plutonomy and a precariat -- in the imagery of the Occupy movement, the 1% and the 99%. Not literal numbers, but the right picture. Now, the plutonomy is where the action is and it could continue like this.
If it does, the historic reversal that began in the 1970s could become irreversible. That's where we're heading. And the Occupy movement is the first real, major, popular reaction that could avert this. But it's going to be necessary to face the fact that it's a long, hard struggle. You don't win victories tomorrow. You have to form the structures that will be sustained, that will go on through hard times and can win major victories. And there are a lot of things that can be done.
Toward Worker Takeover
I mentioned before that, in the 1930s, one of the most effective actions was the sit-down strike. And the reason is simple: that's just a step before the takeover of an industry.
Through the 1970s, as the decline was setting in, there were some important events that took place. In 1977, U.S. Steel decided to close one of its major facilities in Youngstown, Ohio. Instead of just walking away, the workforce and the community decided to get together and buy it from the company, hand it over to the work force, and turn it into a worker-run, worker-managed facility. They didn't win. But with enough popular support, they could have won. It's a topic that Gar Alperovitz and Staughton Lynd, the lawyer for the workers and community, have discussed in detail.
It was a partial victory because, even though they lost, it set off other efforts. And now, throughout Ohio, and in other places, there's a scattering of hundreds, maybe thousands, of sometimes not-so-small worker/community-owned industries that could become worker-managed. And that's the basis for a real revolution. That's how it takes place.
In one of the suburbs of Boston, about a year ago, something similar happened. A multinational decided to close down a profitable, functioning facility carrying out some high-tech manufacturing. Evidently, it just wasn't profitable enough for them. The workforce and the union offered to buy it, take it over, and run it themselves. The multinational decided to close it down instead, probably for reasons of class-consciousness. I don't think they want things like this to happen. If there had been enough popular support, if there had been something like the Occupy movement that could have gotten involved, they might have succeeded.
And there are other things going on like that. In fact, some of them are major. Not long ago, President Barack Obama took over the auto industry, which was basically owned by the public. And there were a number of things that could have been done. One was what was done: reconstitute it so that it could be handed back to the ownership, or very similar ownership, and continue on its traditional path.
The other possibility was to hand it over to the workforce -- which owned it anyway -- turn it into a worker-owned, worker-managed major industrial system that's a big part of the economy, and have it produce things that people need. And there's a lot that we need.
We all know or should know that the United States is extremely backward globally in high-speed transportation, and it's very serious. It not only affects people's lives, but the economy. In that regard, here's a personal story. I happened to be giving talks in France a couple of months ago and had to take a train from Avignon in southern France to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, the same distance as from Washington, DC, to Boston. It took two hours. I don't know if you've ever taken the train from Washington to Boston, but it's operating at about the same speed it was 60 years ago when my wife and I first took it. It's a scandal.
It could be done here as it's been done in Europe. They had the capacity to do it, the skilled work force. It would have taken a little popular support, but it could have made a major change in the economy.
Just to make it more surreal, while this option was being avoided, the Obama administration was sending its transportation secretary to Spain to get contracts for developing high-speed rail for the United States, which could have been done right in the rust belt, which is being closed down. There are no economic reasons why this can't happen. These are class reasons, and reflect the lack of popular political mobilization. Things like this continue.
Climate Change and Nuclear Weapons
I've kept to domestic issues, but there are two dangerous developments in the international arena, which are a kind of shadow that hangs over everything we've discussed. There are, for the first time in human history, real threats to the decent survival of the species.
One has been hanging around since 1945. It's kind of a miracle that we've escaped it. That's the threat of nuclear war and nuclear weapons. Though it isn't being much discussed, that threat is, in fact, being escalated by the policies of this administration and its allies. And something has to be done about that or we're in real trouble.
The other, of course, is environmental catastrophe. Practically every country in the world is taking at least halting steps towards trying to do something about it. The United States is also taking
steps, mainly to accelerate the threat. It is the only major country that is not only not doing something constructive to protect the environment, it's not even climbing on the train. In some ways, it's pulling it backwards.
And this is connected to a huge propaganda system, proudly and openly declared by the business world, to try to convince people that climate change is just a liberal hoax. "Why pay attention to these scientists?"
We're really regressing back to the dark ages. It's not a joke. And if that's happening in the most powerful, richest country in history, then this catastrophe isn't going to be averted -- and in a generation or two, everything else we're talking about won't matter. Something has to be done about it very soon in a dedicated, sustained way.
It's not going to be easy to proceed. There are going to be barriers, difficulties, hardships, failures. It's inevitable. But unless the spirit of the last year, here and elsewhere in the country and around the globe, continues to grow and becomes a major force in the social and political world, the chances for a decent future are not very high.