Labour stopped calling itself socialist long ago. The last vestige of its former ideological underpinning is expressed by its continued commitment to achieving “equality”. With a sigh, the proponents of “equality” will explain that they don’t mean “equality of outcome”, they mean “equality of opportunity”. Basically, this is just some watered-down, technocratic cover-version of the US trope that “anyone can be president”.
The idea is that as long as there is “equality of opportunity”, then a highly competitive economic system that naturally sorts people into “winners and losers” – let’s call it a meritocracy – is perfectly reasonable. But the rhetoric is laughably fallacious. In a system that divides people into winners and losers, you can’t have “equality of opportunity”. The children of the winners will, broadly, always have the advantage. The children of the losers will, broadly, always have the disadvantage, the inability, if you will.
“One source of antagonism that all of these movements will have to confront, even those that have just toppled dictators, is the insufficiency of modern democratic constitutions, particularly their regimes of labor, property, and representation. In these constitutions, first of all, waged labor is key to having access to income and the basic rights of citizenship, a relationship that has long functioned poorly for those outside the regular labor market, including the poor, the unemployed, unwaged female workers, immigrants, and others, but today all forms of labor are ever more precarious and insecure. Labor continues to be the source of wealth in capitalist society, of course, but increasingly outside the relationship with capital and often outside the stable wage relation. As a result, our social constitution continues to require waged labor for full rights and access in a society where such labor is less and less available.
Private property is a second fundamental pillar of the democratic constitutions, and social movements today contest not only national and global regimes of neoliberal governance but also the rule of property more generally. Property not only maintains social divisions and hierarchies but also generates some of the most powerful bonds (often perverse connections) that we share with each other and our societies. And yet contemporary social and economic production has an increasingly common character, which defies and exceeds the bounds of property. Capital’s ability to generate profit is declining since it is losing its entrepreneurial capacity and its power to administer social discipline and cooperation. Instead capital increasingly accumulates wealth primarily via forms of rent, most often organized through financial instruments, through which it captures value that is produced socially and relatively independent of its power. But every instance of private accumulation reduces the power and productivity of the common. Private property is thus becoming ever more not only a parasite but also an obstacle to social production and social welfare.
Finally, a third pillar of democratic constitutions, and object of increasing antagonism, as we said earlier, rests on the systems of representation and their false claims to establish democratic governance. Putting an end to the power of professional political representatives is one of the few slogans from the socialist tradition that we can affirm wholeheartedly in our contemporary condition. Professional politicians, along with corporate leaders and the media elite, operate only the weakest sort of representative function. The problem is not so much that politicians are corrupt (although in many cases this is also true) but rather that the constitutional structure isolates the mechanisms of political decision-making from the powers and desires of the multitude. Any real process of democratization in our societies has to attack the lack of representation and the false pretenses of representation at the core of the constitution.”