[OPE-L:1358] Re: Re: Political economy of socialism

From: Paul Cockshott (clyder@gn.apc.org)
Date: Mon Sep 27 1999 - 17:33:36 EDT

>> For all but a tiny minority of
>> intellectuals today, "socialism" simply means something that was
>> tried, and failed horribly, in the middle two quarters of the
>> twentieth century. Why would anyone want to make a revolution
>> to re-establish that?
>Certainly I wouldn't want to re-establish what existed in the "socialist"
>world in the middle two quarters (1925-1975). And I agree with you that the
>masses of the world don't want to fight to re-establish Stalinism.

I think we have to be carefull here. If we consider the late 1940's at
the time when the presteige of Stalin and socialism were at their height,
even then, you could not say that the masses of the world wanted to fight
to establish socialism. It was true of the masses in China and probably the
mass of the population in several other countries, but not of the whole world.

Allin was speaking of intellectuals, saying that for most intellectuals
socialism was a failure. You switched the focus to the masses. If we focus
not on the masses of the world, but on the masses of some of those countries
that were socialist, then we can see quite simple reasons why the masses
should want to re-establish socialism whatever intellectuals might think.
For significant portions of the masses in Russia, who give their support to
the various communist parties there, the simple reason was that socialism
gave them work, food, free health care, and by international historical
standards, a low level of income inequality. Compared to what capitalism offers
them now, these are pretty strong reasons.

>Yet, the issue that most question -- *indeed all but a tiny minority of
>intellectuals* -- is not how planning can be efficiently organized but is
>rather how you can have socialism _and_ democracy. And that question can't
>be settled with mathematical and/or accounting methods and models.

No this is far too optimistic, most intellectuals think that socialism is
economically inferior to capitalism, and thus undesirable on first principles.
In 1960, perhaps, many intellectuals assumed that socialism was economically
superior to capitalism but questioned whether it could be combined with
democracy. Now, that is not even regarded as in interesting question.
Unless it is regarded as economically superior, it will be rejected
out of hand. If, on the other hand, there are clear economic advantages
to a system, then for a significant portion of the population lack of democracy
is regarded as a secondary question. Economically sucessful tyrannies
are popular. Look at the old newsreel clips, see the popular enthusiasm
even ecstacy that greeted Hitlers motorcades.
Paul Cockshott (clyder@gn.apc.org)

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