[OPE-L:2113] Re: Re: socialism and markets

From: Jurriaan Bendien (djjb99@worldonline.nl)
Date: Wed Jan 12 2000 - 12:03:10 EST

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Claus wrote:

>You did not provide a theoretical ground for your believe that a market for
>labor-power will persist.


In Marx's conception socialism is a society without markets (without
commodity production) and without classes. He regarded this as desirable.
To get there, we need a process of transition, i.e. an intermediate form of
society which (as quickly as possible) replaces class relations and market
relations with egalitarian relations and planned economy. An intellectually
honest Marxist like Mandel, who seeks to be orthodox yet credible,
therefore goes the whole hog and proposes the concept of a "transitional
society" between capitalism and socialism. Other Marxists regard Marx's
concept of socialism as undesirable or unfeasible, and revise it to be a
species of market socialism with or without classes. My theoretical
foundation for a "market for labour-power" in the transition to socialism
is that superior allocative mechanisms must first be invented and accepted,
and this does not occur instantly in the way that, for instance, you might
fall in love with a girl who has completely different behavioural norms and
cognitive interpretations than you do (cf. the Cuban experience). It's not
simply an information problem or an economic problem, but a cultural
problem and a political problem.

State ownership has a meaning, as we understand
>it, only in capitalism and in the institutional framework of capitalism.

I would dispute that most strongly on historical and theoretical grounds.
To sort this out, we ought to discuss real pre-capitalist and
post-capitalist ("transitional") societies and various conceivable hybrid
societies. I think that although we live in a capitalist society, this does
not prevent us from understanding the meaning of forms of state ownership
in other types of society. We may have to do some study, but we can
understand them.

>confront public property to state property without defining them, which you
>would be supposed to do in order for your statement to make sense.

The essential difference between public property and state property
concerns the question of who has effective control over it and who has
access to it (who can use it). By genuinely public (socialised) property
means I mean the citizenry has effective control over it and can
effectively access/use it. In the case of state property this is not
necessarily the case (e.g. the former USSR).
I am talking about "theoretical problems" in the sense of drawing correct
and appropriate conclusions from practical experience, for the purpose of
building socialism. This is what people like Catherine Samary try to do, by
looking at attempts to construct socialism so far. Of course, in this
respect the Mandel/Samary approach is different from, for instance, the
Uno/Itoh approach. The Mandel/Samary approach is internationalist and aims
for a general Marxist theory of socialist transition (see e.g. Ernest
Mandel, "Towards a general theory of the transition from capitalism to
socialism". Report to the Managua Symposium, October 1988 mimeo). The Itoh
approach however denies the utility of this, and argues polycentrically and
pluralistically (in a way similar to how the PCI used to) for "many paths
to socialism", seeing "socialism in one country" as feasible like
Bukharin/Stalin did, for example in the People's Republic of China. As Marx
himself already noted in his own time, there are many different socialisms
produced by different strata of the population and different personalities;
his own brand is only one among others - see Hal Draper, Karl Marx's Theory
of Revolution - Volume 4: The Critique of other socialisms. Monthly Review

To work out a feasible and desirable theory of socialist transition, which
meets all the more common objections, I imagine I would have to spend ten
years or more working on it, perhaps a lifetime. Since I don't have all the
necessary skills and resources for it, however, I think I had better stick
to something less grandiose and regard this project as a collective
endeavour to which I might make a modest contribution, such as this one.
When one is dealing with utopia's, or bringing about more desirable states
of affairs, it is healthy to bear in mind the parameters of effective
action, I think.

In solidarity


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