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

Date: Tue May 03 2011 - 14:06:53 EDT

Ian, Paul B, Paul C, Dave Z and others:
I had a curious experience reading what Paul B and Ian wrote: I found
myself agreeing with the thrust of what both were saying and
even realizing that I - at different times - made similar arguments.
Upon reflecting on this further, I realized that the two kinds of arguments
that you are making are NOT mutually exclusive.
The key to understanding why is to realize that actually both sides in this
discussion have valid points to make.
For instance, I believe there is a legitimate danger associated with
elites, especially technocrats, developing plans for future socialist
societies. We have, after all, a number of historical experiences in
which technocrats and planners made the decisions (often, predictably
from a technocratic perspective) RATHER THAN working people. In that
context, I think it is legitimate to say that ULTIMATELY working people
in practice will be the ones who should make the decisions about
the organization of socialist society.
Yet, at the same time, I am sympathetic to Ian's argument that
explaining the basics of how a socialist society would work is
practically important NOW because working people will demand
to know what they are fighting for - and how this will be DIFFERENT
FROM some of the authoritarian, repressive experience that they have
heard about and want no part of.
The way to resolve this tension, I think, is to recognize that we should
support the right of working people to ultimately make the decisions
about how socialism will function in a particular context and at the same
time raise for public debate now different possibilities and the dangers
and opportunities associated with different conceptions.
In some ways, I think this is similar to the debate between utopians and
dystopians: if we make an attempt to understand the concerns of each group,
we can see that both groups have legitimate concerns and that the
divide between them is not insurmountable.
In solidarity, Jerry
> > 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.


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Received on Tue May 3 14:07:48 2011

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