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

From: Michael Webber <>
Date: Mon May 02 2011 - 21:20:54 EDT

this has become an entertaining and illuminating discussion: thank you all.

i have a lot of sympathy for ian's argument: what is it exactly that we are
aiming at? but i also have some understanding of what has happened in
practice in some places, especially china. the difficulty is that
'transitional' forms produce 'transitional' class structures that in turn
drive new dynamics of social change. to take an example, once markets --
even markets that are populated by cooperative or collective enterprises --
are formed, then new dynamics appear, different from those that produced the
collective-market system.

in some parts of china, for example, collective rural enterprises were
created to produce for the newly emerging markets. they were competitive
enterprises. they were subject to substantial worker influence -- though
not control -- with flat wage structures and preferential hiring of local
workers. they were making surpluses, usually.

as such, these enterprises resolved one problem of the old command economy:
they were oriented towards markets, and so resolved the problem of what and
how much to produce. they reproduced or nearly reproduced old features of
the command economy: strong worker influence and collective ownership. so
they reflected historical class structures.

but they did create a new problem. in this system, the roles of state
administrators and enterprise managers became formalised. a new class
system evolved, in short order (10-15 years), that gradually led to
increasing managerial control at the expense of worker power within
enterprises and in the local societies at large. this new system is evident
in increasing rates of surplus value. and that new class of managers /
administrators then managed to effect a transformation in the property
relations within the enterprises, effectively privatising them.

in other words, even if the original economic forms were intended merely to
resolve a problem of planning, they set in motion a completely unforeseen
train of social changes, that in turn impelled further changes. this seems
to me to imply that whatever we aim at, we have to understand what the
structure of interests in the interim will be and how that structure of
interests will itself influence the evolution of social and political
change. this is likely to be difficult: impossible even?


On 3 May 2011 09:18, Paul Bullock <> wrote:

> On 02/05/2011 22:21, GERALD LEVY wrote:
> > Well, Paul B, if you want a more concrete discussion of an actual,
> unfolding
> > historical process, there's Cuba. For instance, there is this interview
> > with Ricardo Alarcon titled "Trying to Re-Invent Socialism":
> >
> >
> > In solidarity, Jerry
> > _______________________________________________
> > ope mailing list
> >
> >
> >
> >
> _______________________________________________
> ope mailing list

Michael Webber
Professorial Fellow
Department of Resource Management and Geography
The University of Melbourne
Mail address: 221 Bouverie Street, Carlton, VIC 3010
Phone: 0402 421 283

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Received on Mon May 2 21:21:57 2011

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