Re: [OPE] Advice to a postgrad (Thomas More Relies to market socialism)

From: Doğan Göçmen (
Date: Tue Jul 01 2008 - 11:27:24 EDT


the concept of dictatorship you ascribe to Marx and Engels is a too narrow one. I am not sure whether you ascribe to Marx and Engels a concept which we developed in the face of our experiences in the 20th century. What Marx and Engels describe as dictatorship is just the political domination of one class upon the rest of society. In that sense Marx and Engels talk about the necessity that working classes must take power to start establishing socialism. This idea is present right from Communist Manifesto. I agree however that they changed their mind in terms of how and by means of what  the power has to be taken over.

I think you do not do much justice to Bolsheviks. If you study carefully October Revolution and what Lenin and Bolsheviks tried to you may find that they never intended to come into power as the sole party. Other Parties including Mensheviks rejected to join. Only Social Revolutionatries and that did not last long at all - the split between the right wing and left wing Social Revolutionaries was the result. (See E. H. Carr)

To the rest you say below I have nothing to say but this: to understand that "market socialism" a contradiction in terms (socialism is the negation of market relations as such) you have to pose the question about the very nature of exchange relations. Hobbes defined them as war of all against all. Smith defines them as power relations and so on......... Marx and Engels followed this line of thought. I repeated many time on this list. To understand what market relations are (they are relations of mutual negation, whereas socialism is about establishing of social relations of mutual recognition) one has to study very carefully the first chapter of the first volume of Capital. So market socialism is nonsense, nothing but nonsense.



Doğan Göçmen
Author of The Adam Smith Problem:
Reconciling Human Nature and Society in
The Theory of Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations,
I. B. Tauris, London&New York 2007



-----Original Message-----
From: Ian Wright <>
To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list <>
Sent: Sun, 29 Jun 2008 18:51
Subject: Re: [OPE] Advice to a postgrad (Thomas More Relies to market socialism)


In Marx and Engels' time the word "dictatorship" referred to a temporary
emergency institution during transitional crisis, not the idea of a
continuing dictatorship. The meaning of the term "dictatorship of the
proletariat" was abused to justify the wresting of power from the
working class by the Bolsheviks. In all Marx and Engels' voluminous
writings the term "dictatorship" is linked to the working class a total
of only 16 times. Many of these instances were used when Marx and
Engels' were working in a united front with the Blanquists, and
functioned as a compromise slogan. Others instances were employed to
differentiate and distance Marx and Engels' ideas from the Blanquist
conspiratorial approach. Other instances were employed to distinguish
themselves from the anarchist idea of immediate dissolution of the
state. The "dictatorship of the proleteriat" is very far from the
"very essence of Marx's teaching" as Lenin would have it, and it
emphatically did not mean continuing rule by a totalitarian one-party

On this issue, Richard Hunt's "The political ideas of Marx and Engels",
volumes 1 and 2 (1974), is a tour-de-force. He recovers Marx the radical
democrat from the totalitarian tradition.

I think the litmus test of a socialist economy is democratic control,
including such things as control in the workplace, and control over the
allocation of surplus-labour to either new production or a reduction in
the length of the working day. In a one-party state there is no
democratic control of this kind. The internal constitution of the single
party becomes the de facto constitution of the whole social organism.
You at least need multiple competing parties.

> So this is the characterisation of a capitalist society and challange to
> your illusionary concept of socilism: "when everyone's entitled to get
> as much for himself as he can, all available property, however much
> there is of it, is bound to fall into the hands of a small minority,
> which means that everyone else is poor." How are you going to face this
> challange. 

Markets of large numbers of people by definition have weak micro-level
coordination. This means they tend to enter states of statistical
equilibrium which have maximum entropy subject to any macro-level
constraints. So More is quite right: wealth gets scrambled and moves
toward an inegalitarian distribution, and this in many ways can be
considered a "natural necessity".

But the distribution of wealth that we see in capitalism is of a
distinctive kind. There's a long power-law tail due to capitalist
profit-income. If a society had different rules that controlled the
distribution of income -- in other words different macro-level
constraints -- you would get much more egalitarian distributions of
wealth even with markets.

So market socialism does not necessarily entail capitalist inequality.

To get a perfectly equal distribution of wealth the society would need
to formulate and enforce rules that tightly constrain the economic
activities that people can engage in; in other words, you'd need a
powerful mechanism to prevent the increase of entropy. In the past,
so-called Marxist states have employed a large bureaucracy to achieve
this aim.

I welcome Alejandro's perspective on these issues. And the history of
the working class movement, including its theory and practice, is not
exhausted by a certain kind of interpretation of Marx. The tradition is
richer and more contested than that.

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