[OPE-L:2108] Re: Re: *What will happen in the 21st Century?*

From: Claus Germer (cmgermer@sociais.ufpr.br)
Date: Wed Jan 12 2000 - 06:24:36 EST

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In [OPE-L:2087] Jurriaan Bendien wrote:

> Claus wrote:
> >
> >Isn't it true that, theoretically, if socialism means the abolition of
> >private property of means of production, there can no longer be a
> >since this implies the sale and purchase of commodities, hence a
> >producing society. Things that are sold are private property.


> Two points deserve to be made here. If you abolish private property in
> means of production, they become state ownership, but not necessarily
> socialised (public) ownership. That depends a great deal on the nature
> quality of democratic arrangements that you have.


It is necessary to be theoretically consistent in the analysis both of
capitalism and of communism. In Marx's theory the private property of the
means of production is an essential basis of societies like capitalism: in
the later, private property is the basis of the existence of surplus-value,
of wage-labor, of the accumulation of wealth in the shape of capital, of
state, and so on. Consequently, if the private property is abolished, those
characteristics of capitalism lose their ground and have to disappear. This
is the theoretical implication of Marx's conception and in order to assess
it one needs necessarily to jump the transitional phase that has been
socialism, which does not mean to deny the relevance of the analysis of
phase. But we have two different problems in front of us.

If there is no division of classes (owners and non owners), there can not
a state in the capitalist sense and neither a state ownership in opposition
to non-ownership. The institutional structure of planning is not a state in
the capitalist sense. As to democracy, if we proceed materialistically, the
personal relations among individuals depend on the kind of relations in the
sphere of production and distribution of wealth. The abolition of private
property of means of production implies that no one can purchase someone
else's labor force nor accumulate means of production. On the other hand,
there can hardly be thought of a tendency to accumulate means of
provided everyone has warranted access to the basic needs.


 But whatever the case,
> there still remains a market for labour-power (sold as a commodity) and
> consumer goods/services (bought as a commodity). We can perhaps invent
> arrangements which partially "decommodify" these things, distribute them
> free, or "socialise" them to an extent (as Elson suggests) but a
> (regulated) market remains all the same.


You did not provide a theoretical ground for your believe that a market for
labor-power will persist. State ownership has a meaning, as we understand
it, only in capitalism and in the institutional framework of capitalism.
confront public property to state property without defining them, which you
would be supposed to do in order for your statement to make sense.


You can, and have to, combine
> economic planning with market mechanisms, but it is not true that you can
> eliminate conflicts between the two. (This is phrased in classical
> terms by Ernest Mandel). The real issue, the real theoretical problem is
> not, and has never been that you have to combine planning and markets, or
> that conflict exists between the planning principle and the market
> principle; the theoretical and practical problem is how you can best
> combine them, to minimise the conflict and maximise efficiency within the
> framework of socialist democracy (see e.g. Catharine Samary, "Plan,
> and democracy", an IIRE Notebook). We can debate whether such a "mixed
> economy" should be called "socialist" or "transitional" etc. but that is
> only a question of names.

IMO they are both practical instead of theoretical problems. As we have
known them, they have been practical problems both in capitalist as in
socialist countries in the 20th century. I think you need to provide a
theoretical basis for this proposition of yours and the next ones that
concern the state and the social character of labor.

> >The market is the capitalist mechanism for the distribution of use
> >but it is also the way through which social labor is distributed. Once
> >there is no longer a market, this means that the distribution of social
> >labor and of use values has to be made in another way, i.e., through
> >previous planning of production and distribution.
> This is not necessarily the case at all. As stated, state or socialised
> ownership of the means of production does not imply a market for labour
> disappears. Supply and demand for labour still has to be related in a way
> which allows workers a good choice. Further, all kinds of labour markets
> are imaginable; i.e. the arrangements for hiring and firing workers could
> take all sorts of different forms, taking into consideration ethical,
> political and juridical criteria, and taking advantage of modern
> information technology in the context of minimal "business secrets".
> If we admit that the
> >market should still have a role in the distribution of commodities,
> >shouldn't we also admit the same role for the distribution of the labor
> >force? This would imply wage labor .... Or not?
> It would imply wage labour of a sort, but various types of
> arrangements/institutions and various criteria are conceivable for paying
> out disposable income. Amounts of disposable income received need no
> be directly related to the work done in an enterprise (it could for
> instance be related to housework as well, or to participation in public
> affairs etc.). A "basic income" could be guaranteed, with additions made
> according to various other criteria. The compulsion to work from a
> age could be subject to various qualifications and exceptions, and so
> forth. This already happens to some extent in The Netherlands (although
> many workers don't like the existing system so much).

Claus Germer
Departamento de Economia
Universidade Federal do Paraná
Rua Dr. Faivre, 405 - 3º andar
80060-140 Curitiba - Paraná

Tel: (041) 360-5214 - Ufpr
       (041) 254-3415 Res.

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