Re: [OPE] market - and other kinds of - socialism

From: Paul Bullock <>
Date: Mon May 02 2011 - 15:40:41 EDT


well we can point to two extremes here, those who sit down work out a
programme ( lets call it for fun - a 'transitional' programme) then show
it to those who ask what they are going to do. It is unlikely to be
concrete enough to serve purpose, and the programme vendors won't be the
one's asking the questions - which is the important point - because
those asking the questions will be those involved in or initiating the

The other extreme, would be, as you suggest, to say 'well lets
experiment and to hell with experience'!

I wasn't suggesting either.

In a process of crisis, closures, unemployment and so on, inumerable
questions will be thrown up by those losing out (who will not all be
workers). One of them now is whether to support the war in
Afghanistan. Not a lot of theoretical reflection is needed here. As
class conflicts deepen some sort of political organisation will have to
present some answers that meet workers needs as a whole, proposing some
lines of action and gatehring some forces. In this discussion those best
armed with some reflected *experience* might be able to play a role.
(Where there is little experience and no real tie to the key actors it
might be negative, as in the Argentine when the 'intellectuals'
approached the piqueteros to (subjectively) support them... the result
was a temporary foray that supplied some e-technology and quite a lot of
divisive sectarianism). But who will do this? One cannot substitute
some academic enquiry for a discussion amongst those who are actually
changing the circumstances. I am far from denying the role of thought,
but even really knowing why eg Bukharin was right or wrong on what,
won't be the real response needed in a very new situation. First one has
to be *involved* in an aspect of the struggle, *then* the worker
theoretician will have a role in answering the contemporary questions
practically. This includes supressing the market mechanism.


On 02/05/2011 19:47, Ian Wright wrote:
> Hi Paul
>> The point to remember is that capitalist societies will have a common
>> structure of exploitation and reproduction. Socialist societies that are
>> this able to run the show , ratehr than having the show run them, will
>> show a very great variation in structure and experiment, and this is
>> only to be discussed, by the working class itself, as they create such
>> societies.
>> We can't have the answer before the answer, and we have to build it.
> I think your view is common but I don't think it makes sense, and (to
> be frank) I also think it creates a material barrier to the
> development of socialist consciousness.
> When working people are confronted with Marxist ideas they naturally
> ask what we intend to replace capitalism with. Answering along the
> lines of, "the class as a whole will work it out in practice during
> the revolution", isn't very convincing, even if some comments of
> Marx's seem to support it.
> The view seems to rely heavily on a black-and-white (non dialectical)
> categorization of historical time into non or pre-revolutionary
> situations and the revolutionary situation. Only when the situation is
> deemed to be revolutionary (by who?) is the issue "to be discussed"
> because -- presumably -- only in this situation can the theory be put
> into practice. But adequate theory is essential to good practice (and
> vice-versa). And plenty of practical activity can be organized today
> around ideas and projects of alternative economic organization.
> I have (in practice) always found this view deeply problematic. For
> example, as a member of the working class I have thought about and
> discussed alternative economic organizations (including learning from
> prior history and practice). I have been told by (some) socialists to
> basically shut up and stop thinking about it. I am certainly not alone
> in this. For example, whole generations of activists associated with
> certain socialist parties in the UK have been trained to *not think
> about these issues*. I think it's a crippling philistinism.
> In contrast, if socialist activists were theoretically armed with good
> answers to these kinds of questions (e.g., what will we place
> capitalism with? How will we organize an economy? Who will get what?
> etc.) I think they'd get a lot more traction with the working class.
> -Ian.
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Received on Mon May 2 15:41:44 2011

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