The People’s Tribune interviewed Nelson Peery of Chicago regarding the currently developing recession. Peery has written extensively on economics and social revolution. He is the author of Black Fire: The Making of an American Revolutionary, and Black Radical: The Education of an American Revolutionary.
People's Tribune: What is the difference between the previous
recessions and today?
Nelson Peery: The developing recession is part of a process. It is not
an isolated thing. The recessions of say the 1980s or 1990s were part
of the process of U.S. imperial expansion. But this thing is part of a
process of change in the way social wealth is produced. Therefore
this recession is different. It's part of a process that will lead to
worldwide depression, not just recession. What we are seeing is not
just overproduction, but a change in the way wealth is produced. In
other words, we cannot eat up the excess production and go back to
work. From now on, jobs will be filled by automated production. So the
recession is part of that process of epochal economic change, not part
of capitalist expansion.
People's Tribune: Do you see the end of capitalism on the horizon?
Peery: First, I want to define capitalism. Most people think capitalism
is a political thing. Capitalism is an economic system where the
workers sell their ability to work for money and use that money to buy
back some of that production. Today, automation is making huge inroads
into that process and the ability of workers to sell their labor power
is decreasing. Fewer people are needed to produce more and more goods.
The functioning of the economy is what is changing capitalism. You
can't circulate the goods. So, yes, the capitalist system is coming to
an end. But what kind of society replaces it is up to what people think
People's Tribune: What kind of new society do you envision?
Peery: There's a difference between dreams and vision. We can only do
what is possible. Vision starts off by asking what is the real world?
What are the means of production and what can they do? For example, at
the end of the Civil War, there was the same means of agricultural
production in the South as before the Civil War. Some had a vision of
creating a South of yeomen farmers. It was possible to change the class
relations to where those same means of production could be the basis of
democracy. But some had a vision of slave-like conditions without the
legality of slavery. People had to battle over vision. They established
near slave-like conditions without slavery. The point is you have to
make a vision out of what is possible given your conditions. Everybody
has a vision. Today the means of production are changing. Vision
My vision is a world where we’ll see the end of “work” as we understand
that term today. I often wonder who in the world passed a law that says
work is an obligation of humanity? I do not believe that work is an
obligation. Social contribution is an obligation. For example, under
the conditions of a cooperative society, building a house can be great
fun. Under this capitalist society it is absolute drudgery to build a
house. We will need social contribution -- not work. When we talk about
work it is associated with producing for someone else. We don't have to
have that kind of society.