[OPE-L:1357] Re: Re: Political economy of socialism

From: Paul Cockshott (clyder@gn.apc.org)
Date: Mon Sep 27 1999 - 17:33:32 EDT

At 08:29 23/09/99 -0400, ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu wrote:
>Brief comments by David and Paul C lead me to respond --
>Jurriaan wrote:
>> 1. It's a law of human psychology that you cannot achieve a goal unless
>> you can clearly specify what it is.
>I question whether this has been the case historically. It seems to me
>that many movements historically had a very different "goal" at the outset
>than was realized afterwards.
Gerry, surely you realise that this is a different point. True the results
that people achieve may not correspond to what they had initially set
out to achieve. The National Socialist movement had as a goal the establishment
of German hegemony in Europe, it achieved the large scale loss of German
territories and the occupation of Germany by rival powers for half a century.
Such ironies of history have been well understood since the birth of tagedy.
What Jurriaan was asking whether a goal can be achieved if you do not
know clearly what it is in advance?

Even if you know what you want to achieve you may fail, but if you
dont have a clear conception of what your goals involve, then the
chances of your failing are all the greater.

But lack of goal clarity leads to other problems, not only may you
run a greater risk of failure, but, you do not have any clear success
criteria. You do not even know whether you have succeeded. This is
particularly the case with the socialist movement. The marxist movement
prior to 1917 took the attitude that one could not be too specific
about just what socialism would entail. The concequence of that lack
of clarity was that
a. that the revolutionists had to improvise like mad in the establishment
   of socialism
b. that the non revolutionist socialists in other countries could waste
   reams of paper polemicising as to whether the revolutionists had
   succeeded or not in establishing socialism.

Since the prior prescriptions of the goal were so vague, the revoltionists
could justifiably claim that whatever they achieved was the outcome of
the historical process, that what they had done was learn lessons in
the struggle for socialism etc, while the anti-revolutionists could find
some portion of the mutually contradictory literature of the preceeding
period that showed that the achievements of the revolutionists was not

Gerry goes on:
>What of "learning by doing", for example?
>In any event, there is no reason to believe that whatever "goal" (by
>which, I take it you mean a detailed outline of the operation of a
>socialist economy) we (or the working-class) identify today will be the
>same goal that is identified in the future (both before and following an
>insurrection). What is not appreciated above is that it will be lessons
>learned during the struggle for socialism which will modify what we want.

Yes true enough, but what of the lessons learned in the stuggles so far.
Do these not help us to concretise our goals for the next time?

Paul Cockshott (clyder@gn.apc.org)

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