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What is Anarchist-Communism? PART 2

category international | the left | opinion / analysis author Sunday December 30, 2007 09:46author by Wayne Price - (NEFAC) personal opinionauthor email drwdprice at aol dot com Report this post to the editors

It is Not the Label but the Content Which Matters

We have the industrial potential for full communism, but there remain difficulties such as the need to reorganize technology and to appropriately industrialize the "Third World." This raises the need for some sort of phasing-in of communism.

Part 1: The Contradictory Meanings of Communism

In the century since Kropotkin and Marx wrote about communism, there has been an enormous increase in productivity. For millennia, 95 to 98 % of humanity had to be involved in producing food. Today the ratios are reversed; in the United States, only 2 or 3 % work in agriculture. Similarly, with automated factories, it has been argued, we could produce enough for a comfortable life for everyone. More people would volunteer for work than there would be necessary jobs. An industrialized and cooperative, democratically-planned, economy could provide plenty of leisure for everyone. This is essential for any society based on democracy-from-the-bottom-up. In all previous revolutions, once the upheavals were over, the masses went back to their daily grind while only a few had the time available to actually run things. With leisure for all, then all would be free to self-manage their communes, worksites, and society as a whole.

In short, there exists all the technological preconditions for full, libertarian, communism, what Marx called the “higher phase of communism.” Therefore, some have argued that it is possible to go immediately to full communism, once the social and political conditions were met. However, I do not think that this is true.

For one thing, the productive technology which we have is a technology created by capitalism for capitalism. It is “productive” only in terms of achieving capitalist goals, that is, of accumulating capital. In other terms, it is enormously wasteful and destructive, polluting the environment, wiping out natural species, using up nonrenewable resources, stockpiling nuclear bombs, and causing global warming. In human terms, it was consciously developed to hold down the workers, to keep us from thinking, and to maintain social hierarchies. After a revolution, the workers would begin to totally overhaul industrial technology, to make it ecologically sustainable and to do away with the split between order-givers and order-takers. We would create a new technology which is “productive” in encouraging human creativity and ecological harmony.

The Need for Increased World Production

Also, while North America, western Europe, Japan, and a few other places, have much modern technology, this is not true of most of the world. The so-called Third World is underindustrialized or unevenly industrialized right now. These impoverished and exploited countries do not have the wealth or industry necessary to go even to the lower phase of communism (called by Lenin the phase of socialism), let alone achieve full communism. The workers and peasants are able to take power in their countries, establishing a system of workers’ councils and popular assemblies. However, to solidify their path to communism they would have to spark revolutions in the industrialized, imperialist, nations, in order to get aid.

I disagree with some council communists and other Marxists who claim that the oppressed nations can only make bourgeois revolutions; on the contrary, the workers and peasants of these nations can overthrow the national bourgeoisie and then spread the revolution to the industrialized countries, which will help them in developing toward communism. This view is opposed to Stalin’s concept of Building Socialism in One Country. A great deal of help from the industrialized parts of the planet will be needed to develop Africa, Asia, and Latin America, in a humane, democratic, and ecologically balanced fashion.

Therefore to say that there exists all the technological preconditions for full communism is certainly true, but true only in potential. Humanity has the technical knowledge and skills necessary to create a world of plenty for all, with leisure for all, in balance with the natural world, but it will require much work to create this world after a revolution.

Phases of Communism

It is for such reasons that libertarian communists have often presented the change to a fully communist society as taking place over time, being phased-in after the revolution. Marx proposed a higher and lower phase of communism. Bakunin implied the same. Even Kropotkin (as Anarcho has pointed out in last month’s discussion) suggested a sort of phasing-in of full communism. Immediately after a revolution, Kropotkin indicated, able-bodied adult working people would be required to work a half day (5 hours) in order to get a decent amount of food, clothing, and shelter. Most goods would still be scarce so they would have to be rationed by the community. Over time, as productivity improved, the economy would develop into full communism. Most goods would be plentiful and people could freely take them off the shelves of community warehouses. Work would be done out of social conscience and a desire to keep active. But this would not be immediately possible.

There is another factor. A revolution is likely to be carried out by a united front of anti-capitalist political groupings. For example, North America or Europe is so large and complex that no one revolutionary organization will have all the best ideas and all the best militants. They will have to work together. But some will be anarchist-communists while others will not. Leaving aside out-and-out authoritarian statists, we are likely to be in coalition with pareconists, noncommunist anarchists, revolutionary-democratic socialists, various types of Greens, and so on. We cannot force all these people to live under anarchist-communism. Compulsory libertarian communism is a contradiction in terms! The majority of one region may decide to live under anarchist communism, but a neighboring region may decide for parecon (“participatory economics”). So long as workers are not exploited, the anarchist-communists will not start a civil war inside the revolution. In an experimental way, different approaches may be tried out in different regions and we will learn from each other.

Malatesta wrote (1984), “Imposed communism would be the most detestable tyranny that the human mind could conceive. And free and voluntary communism is ironical if one has not the right and the possibility to live in a different regime, collectivist, mutualist, individualist—as one wishes, always on condition that there is no oppression or exploitation of others” (p. 103). He expected some sort of anarchist-communism to win out eventually, but felt that this might take considerable time to achieve everywhere.

Should We Call Ourselves Communists?

With modern technology, anarchist-communism is a practical goal, whether or not we have to pass through various stages or compromises. However, this does not answer the question: Should we call ourselves communists? We are, after all, opponents of every (big-c) Communist state that exists or has existed, and of every Communist Party. Yet we cannot call ourselves anti-communists, since this usually means endorsement of Western imperialism, its (at most) limited democracy, and its rule by a minority class. We are opposed to this class’ rule, far more fiercely than have been the Communist Parties. But we endorse the goals of Kropotkin and Karl Marx, of a classless, stateless, society organized by the principle, “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.” In this sense, we are truly authentic communists.

The mainstream of historical anarchism has been anarchist- communism. We can, and, I think, should, identify with the communist tradition in anarchism, which goes from Bakunin (as a goal) to Kropotkin (as a label) to Malatesta, Goldman, and almost all anarchists of their time. There have been factional conflicts between those anarchists who called themselves anarchist-communists and those who called themselves anarchist-syndicalists, but they did not have differences of principle. The anarchist-communists were afraid that the anarchist-syndicalists would dissolve themselves into the union movement (“syndicalism”); the anarchist-syndicalists were afraid that the communists would downplay the central power and importance of the organized workers. However, the anarchist-communists mostly agreed on the need for working class self-organization, particularly on the need for unions, while the anarchist-syndicalists shared the libertarian communist goal.

Our modern agreement with the historical goal of working class anarchist-communism should certainly be stated in our documents and programs. But should it be more prominently stated, in our leaflets and in the names of our organizations?

My answer is: It depends. In some countries, communism has a positive connotation among most militant workers. This is mainly due to the historical self-sacrifice and struggle of the rank-and-file of the Communist Parties, whatever their weaknesses. Apparently this is the case, for example, in South Africa, where our co-thinkers formed the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front.

But in other countries, communism has a very negative connotation. This is not just due to negative bourgeois propaganda, but also to 75 years of its identification with the totalitarian reality of the Soviet UnionWha. This regime called itself Communist, as did its puppets and imitators in Eastern Europe, China, etc. In other countries, the Communists were well known for their slavish adoration of the USSR, for their heavy-handed domination of their followers, and for their reformism. With such reasons, I think, the Anarchist Communist Federation of the UK changed its name to the Anarchist Federation. The Irish Workers Solidarity Movement obviously does not include Communist in its name. Leaving Communist out of our name does not necessarily mean abandoning the communist tradition.

I think the United States falls into the second category. Putting Communist in our name just creates unnecessary barriers between ourselves and most U.S. workers. It makes it more difficult to distinguish ourselves from statist tendencies which also call themselves Communist. So I recommend against it, especially if we ever form a North American-wide federation.

“Social anarchism” is commonly used among anarchists to distinguish ourselves from individualists and “libertarian” supporters of capitalism. I prefer the term “socialist-anarchist.” Malatesta agreed, “We…have always called ourselves socialist-anarchists” (p. 143). Socialist is a vaguer term than communist. To some it indicates reformism , due to its being used widely by the social democrats (“democratic socialists”) as well as by the Communists. But at least it does not imply totalitarian mass murder, which is the real problem. The Trotskyists called themselves “revolutionary socialists” to distinguish themselves from the Stalinists, and non-Trotskyists have also used the revolutionary socialist label. For generations, “libertarian socialist” has also been used to mean anarchist.

My preference for “socialist-anarchist” and “libertarian socialist” over “anarchist-communist” is my personal opinion, which may be a minority view among U.S. anarchist-communists. In any case, it is not a matter of principle. It is not the label but the content which matters most.

References

Malatesta, Errico (1984). Errico Malatesta; His life and ideas (Vernon Richards, ed.). London: Freedom Press.


Written for www.Anarkismo.net. Wayne Price has recently published a book, The Abolition of the State: Anarchist & Marxist Perspectives, AuthorHouse.

author by ajohnstone - Socialist Party of Great Britainpublication date Mon Dec 31, 2007 13:18author email ajsc21755 at blueyonder dot co dot ukauthor phone naReport this post to the editors

You say:-
"some have argued that it is possible to go immediately to full communism, once the social and political conditions were met. However, I do not think that this is true."

i find myself one of those optimistic socialists ( i still find no need to have anything hypenated to the word socialist unless it is world-socialist as a label ) who believes that we still underestimate the capability and potential of the productive forces of present society to provide for all .
Where the material conditions exist for free access then there will be free access . Where there remains a shortage of resources then we will need to prioritise the use of them . If 30 enterprises produced goods that were regarded as essential, using resource X , and 70 enterprises produced goods using X that were not regarded by a socialist society as essential , then clearly it makes sense to allocate X in such a way as to ensure that the 30 enterprises in the above example have access to X first.
Social rationing of scarce goods is an exception to the general rule that most goods will be relatively plentiful and therefore freely accessible.
But we need to take into account this dual aspect of a socialist economy - free goods and rationed goods but it will be the free access that will be the defining feature of socialism and that rationing will be itself marginal .

The probability is that a socialist society will regard the satisfaction of basic needs for food, water , housing,sanitation , health and so on as being the highest priority. The production of luxury goods etc, on the other hand are likely to be a low priority objective. Low priority goods will essentially be "residual" in the sense that their manufacture will depend on resources left over after high priority goods have been produced.

Indeed , imagine the waste of the to-day's capitalist world , not just in the use of energy and natural resources but in the mis-directed application of human labour . As i say , i share Kropotkins optimism and suggest that he may have erred on the side of caution .

It is a FACT that socialism will inherit immense inequalities from capitalism and yes i accept the argument that there may be a problem of uneven development in industrialisation and consciousness . The establishment of socialism is not a race between national sections to see who can get there first, but a co-ordinated world movement to ensure that we all get there at more or less the same time. If there is any uneven development it will be up to the world socialist movement to decide what to do . (The case that there still exists need for countries of the Thirld World to go through bourgeois revolutions is now a redundant debate. Capitalism has now become the dominant world socio-economic system)

But those problems will not be unsurmountable and ideas are , after all , social .
In the words of William Morris :-
"One man with an idea in his head is in danger of being considered a madman: 2 men with the same idea in common may be foolish but can hardly be mad; 10 men sharing an idea begin to act, a 100 draw attention as fanatics,a 1,000 and society begins to tremble, a 100,000 and there is war abroad and the cause has victories tangible and real and why only a 100,000 ? Why not a 100,000,000 and peace upon the earth? You and I who agree together,it is we who have to answer that question"

As a final aside ,i would add that for all the time of its existence the Socialist Party of Great Britain and companion parties of the World Socialist Movement ( a grandoise label but more a declaration of an aspiration) we have been committed to the voluntarist nature of socialism and that a pre-requisite is majority understanding and agreement and that it cannot be imposed by so-called revolutionary vanguards or sneaked in by a series of so-called reforms .

Related Link: http://www.freewebs.com/socialistcommonwealth/socialism...e.htm
author by krinkpublication date Mon Dec 31, 2007 18:17Report this post to the editors

I 'd rather just stick with plain old 'anarchist'. If anyone asks, you simply explain what you mean by 'anarchist'. I don't think adding 'communist', 'socialist', 'syndicalist' etc. is of any help other than in anarchist-only circles.

author by Ilan Shalif - AAtWpublication date Tue Jan 01, 2008 01:16author address Tel AvivReport this post to the editors

""The contradictory meanings of Communism""

The usurpers of power often also usurp social ideals. It was common practice in the ancient times as protested by social activists of the times - as documented in religious scriptures....

The pretensions and the use of the word communism by the Bolschevics and their hairs is not their invention.

The use of "justice", "liberty" "freedom" and "solidarity/fraternity" - among others were "corrupted too... However, the "laundering" them is not so hard, and by using a suitable modifier adjacent to the original words can be the best practical tactic.

The basic concept of communism as social system is that "From each contribute according to ability - to each according to needs".

Marx was one of the first to corrupt the meaning of the concept "communism" by using it to define the post capitalist society which as described by him was not communist but a transitional one as "lower level of communism".

""Marx’s concept of communism is most clearly explained in his “Critique of the Gotha Program.” Communism would be “the cooperative society based on common ownership of the means of production…” (Marx, 1974; p. 345). In “the first phase of communist society,” (p. 347) there will remain scarcity and the need for labor. “We are dealing here with a communist society…as it emerges from capitalist society…still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society…” (p. 346). In this lower phase of communism, Marx speculated, individuals would get certificates stating how much labor they had contributed (minus an amount taken for the common fund). Using their certificates, they can take means of consumption which used up the same amount of labor; this is not money because it cannot be accumulated. However, it is still a system of bourgeois rights and equality, in which equal units of labor are exchanged. Given that people have unequal abilities and unequal needs, this equality still results in a certain degree of inequality"".

The above is a more or less the system proposed by Michael Albert and company Parecon* model... they just do not pretend it is a lower level for something else.

It expressed the basic disbelief in the positive affinity of the communist ideal of "From each contribute according to ability - to each according to needs.

As if the above is not the most appropriate for human nature, and need some kind of imagined plenty for people to adopt it.

""(For reasons known only to himself, Lenin re-labeled Marx’s “first phase of communist society” as socialism, and the “more advanced stage of communist society” as communism. Most of the left has followed this confusing usage.)""

It seems Lenin was more honest and consistent than Marx, and refrained from stretching the word "communism" to cover a different kind of social order.

""Despite his rejection of the term communism, Bakunin also advocated a two-phase development of the post-revolution economy, according to his close friend James Guillame. Guillame wrote an essay in 1874, summarizing Bakunin’s views. “We should…be guided by the principle, From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. When, thanks to the progress of scientific industry and agriculture, production comes to outstrip consumption, and this will be attained some years after the Revolution, it will no longer be necessary to stingily dole out each worker’s share of goods. Everyone will draw what he needs from the abundant social reserve of commodities….In the meantime, each community will decide for itself during the transition period the method they deem best for the distribution of the products of associated labor.” (in Bakunin, 1980; p. 361-362) He mentions various alternate systems of remuneration for the transitional period; “…systems will be experimented with to see how they work out” (p. 361).""

Despite the disbelief of Marx and hesitation of Bakunin, many communist communities in which the principle of "From each contribute according to ability - to each according to needs", existed in the last two hundreds years in many parts of the worlds, in which people choose to share poverty among their members in a communist way.

""... both Marx and Bakunin, then, full communism requires a very high level of productivity and potential prosperity, a post-scarcity economy, when there is plenty of leisure time for people to participate in decision-making, at work and in the community, ending the distinction between order-givers and order-takers. However, neither Marx nor Bakunin described a social mechanism for moving from one phase to the other.""

The idea that direct democracy need the precondition of post-scarcity economy is based on false assumption that direct democracy needs plenty of hours, and the false conclusion that the deterioration of previous revolutions resulted from economic scarcity.

Even Mao Tse Tung predicted the deterioration of the revolution on the willing of the masses to deliver the power to the hands of leaders of the revolution and the ultimate deterioration of such leaders when the power is delivered to their hands.

Direct democracy needs the deep understanding of the masses involved in the revolution not to accept any authority any more - not even one of good intention activists of the revolution. The refusal of the activists and organizers involved in the revolution to take power into their hands can compliment it.


""Kropotkin rejected the two-phase approach of the Marxists and the anarchist-collectivists. Instead he proposed that a revolutionary society should “transform itself immediately into a communist society,” (1975; p. 98), that is, should go immediately into what Marx had regarded as the “more advanced,” completed, phase of communism. Kropotkin and those who agreed with him called themselves “anarchist-communists” (or “communist anarchists”), although they continued to regard themselves as a part of the broader socialist movement.

It was not possible, Kropotkin argued, to organize an economy partially on capitalist principles and partly on communist principles. To award producers differentially by how much training they have had, or even by how hard they work, would recreate class divisions and the need for a state to oversee everything. Nor is it really possible to decide how much individuals have contributed to a complex, cooperative, system of production, in order to reward them according to their labor.""

The understanding that there are products and services that cannot be distributed according to needs was you cannot really regard them as needs or measure such if there was one. Those objecting to the communist principle use it to show how absurd is the idea of "From each contribute according to ability - to each according to needs".

As human resources increase, the answering of this point need answered, but it can only be answered by people who really feel the affinity to the principle of
"From each contribute according to ability - to each according to needs" as the only one in accord with the Trinity of "Liberty, & Equality & solidarity/fraternity"

Kropotkin suggested a crude solution to that problem:

""Instead, Kropotkin proposed that a large city, during a revolution, “could organize itself on the lines of free communism; the city guaranteeing to every inhabitant dwelling, food, and clothing…in exchange for…five hour’s work; and…all those things which would be considered as luxuries might be obtained by everyone if he joins for the other half of the day all sorts of free associations….” (p.p. 118-119) This would require the integration of agricultural with industrial work, and physical with mental labor. There remained an element of coercion in Kropotkin’s proposal. Presumably able-bodied adults who would not contribute five hours of work would not get the “guaranteed” minimum.""

In a modern economy in which the basic essentials needs less than 5 hours a week, a more sophisticated system needs to be developed for the obtaining the contribution of work according to ability, and the distribution of the "luxury" products and services according to needs. A bit more modern description of that was suggested in Isaac Puente Ame pamphlet El comunismo libertario 1931


"" We have the industrial potential for full communism, but there remain difficulties such as the need to reorganize technology and to appropriately industrialize the "Third World." This raises the need for some sort of phasing-in of communism.""

By joining an obvious claim to a less obvious one it implies the second is logically derived from the first... and it is entirely wrong.

If you regard that communism is the summation of direct democracy with the principle of “From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.” non of these is conditioned on level of production, but both are conditioned on their adoption by the masses during the revolution.

The first one is even a condition for the success of the revolution to defeat class society, as any kind of authoritarian order of power will defeat the revolution and restore class society.

The second one too is obviously hard to delay as distribution according to a complicated combination of remuneration according to needs and individual qualities is nearly impossible.

""... More people would volunteer for work than there would be necessary jobs.""

It seems to be a fantastic claim that contradict known human natural laziness and the natural tendency of channeling of energy to satisfy basic urges.

For sure there is and will be some needed work that satisfy basic urges like art and research. However, most of the activities in modern society are so far from our basic nature, that the work needed will have to be shared through direct democracy channels.

""In all previous revolutions, once the upheavals were over, the masses went back to their daily grind while only a few had the time available to actually run things.""

The masses went back to their daily grind because they were still under the influence of authoritarian mode of thinking. They trusted the leaders of revolution to do the managing in appropriate hierarchical way... not knowing that it is a sure way to corrupt even the most honest revolutionaries.

It was not done because people had not free time to do it themselves.

""With leisure for all, then all would be free to self-manage their communes, work sites, and society as a whole.""

As if manging communities and work sites is so complicated that it needs lot of time.

(In the modern Israeli communes, few hours weekly meetings of the people in work place, a weekly evening meetings of comities responsible for each life aspect of the commune, and a weekly evening meeting of the whole commune members were enough.)

Wayne Price do not believe the revolution will bring very soon communist society - or deteriorate:

""In short, there exists all the technological preconditions for full, libertarian, communism, what Marx called the “higher phase of communism.” Therefore, some have argued that it is possible to go immediately to full communism, once the social and political conditions were met. However, I do not think that this is true.""

I think that such a claim is the usual opinion of people who oppose anarchist communism for various reasons, but still prefer to label themselves anarcho-communists.

""For one thing, the productive technology which we have is a technology created by capitalism for capitalism. It is “productive” only in terms of achieving capitalist goals, that is, of accumulating capital.""

For sure the whole capitalist system will need reorganization, but why it need to be done by a system that is not anarchist communist?

""The Need for Increased World Production
Also, while North America, western Europe, Japan, and a few other places, have much modern technology, this is not true of most of the world. The so-called Third World is underindustrialized or unevenly industrialized right now. These impoverished and exploited countries do not have the wealth or industry necessary to go even to the lower phase of communism (called by Lenin the phase of socialism), let alone achieve full communism.""

The description above take for granted the winning world revolution will not be based on world solidarity.

For sure the development and the success of world antiauthoritarian anticapitalist revolution could become an option only at a certain level of development of humanity.

However, the success of the revolution in Russia, China and Cuba, refute the above claim. The deterioration of these revolutions to class society was not because of level of industrialization but because they had not even tried direct democracy.

""The workers and peasants are able to take power in their countries, establishing a system of workers’ councils and popular assemblies. However, to solidify their path to communism they would have to spark revolutions in the industrialized, imperialist, nations, in order to get aid.""

The option for a revolution in one world region to happen and succeed to resist the assault of other developed regions is questionable, but not because the less developed regions need the help of the more developed regions.

The winning world revolution will equalize the inequalities inherited from the old class society systems, but this is not a precondition for the establishing of anarchist communist mode in the less developed regions.

""Therefore to say that there exists all the technological preconditions for full communism is certainly true, but true only in potential. Humanity has the technical knowledge and skills necessary to create a world of plenty for all, with leisure for all, in balance with the natural world, but it will require much work to create this world after a revolution.""

Here again Wayne put (like the Marxists) the so called future "plenty for all, with leisure for all" as a precondition for full mode anarchist communist
society - as if we are not already there.

""Phases of Communism
It is for such reasons that libertarian communists have often presented the change to a fully communist society as taking place over time, being phased-in after the revolution.""

People who were not fully convinced in the worth of communist social order, or just hard to imagine such social order, tend to defer it to the such imaginary future plenty in which every one will just contribute as one feel the urge fore and will take what one wish, with no complicated system of grass root communities direct democracy for regulating it.


""Marx proposed a higher and lower phase of communism. Bakunin implied the same. Even Kropotkin (as Anarcho has pointed out in last month’s discussion) suggested a sort of phasing-in of full communism. Immediately after a revolution, Kropotkin indicated, able-bodied adult working people would be required to work a half day (5 hours) in order to get a decent amount of food, clothing, and shelter. Most goods would still be scarce so they would have to be rationed by the community. Over time, as productivity improved, the economy would develop into full communism. Most goods would be plentiful and people could freely take them off the shelves of community warehouses. Work would be done out of social conscience and a desire to keep active. But this would not be immediately possible.""

For sure the revolution will accelerate the development of our knowledge and resources available. The revolution will not be the end of history.

""There is another factor. A revolution is likely to be carried out by a united front of anti-capitalist political groupings. For example, North America or Europe is so large and complex that no one revolutionary organization will have all the best ideas and all the best militants. They will have to work together. But some will be anarchist-communists while others will not. Leaving aside out-and-out authoritarian statists, we are likely to be in coalition with pareconists, noncommunist anarchists, revolutionary-democratic socialists, various types of Greens, and so on. We cannot force all these people to live under anarchist-communism. Compulsory libertarian communism is a contradiction in terms! ""

There are lot of complications and obstacles that delay the end of a virgin boy - many are real, lot of them are just subjective inferiority feelings....

The revolution will not be an act of any organization, as the authoritarian ones already bank roted and the antiauthoritarians are mainly anti organizationals.
For sure anti authoritarian anticapitalists will contribute to the ferment, but only the uprising of the masses which will organize in grass roots bodies and integrate in a modern of from below upward, will succeed to develop a successful revolution.

Based on my knowledge of some of the involved, I think that no one will succeed to convince the involved to deliver the power to any authoritarian structure.
I am also sure the solidarity tendencies will direct people to the communist mode of contribution and distribution.

[In pre Israel times of hardship, even fascists and religious movements, socialist and even pro capitalists, choose the communist mode for building new communities.]

""from borganizations
The majority of one region may decide to live under anarchist communism, but a neighboring region may decide for parecon (“participatory economics”).""

After the collapse of the capitalist system people will experiment till the models of grass roots communities will be ripe. However, as most of grass roots communities are integrated economically into regional systems, it is hard to imagine competing modes.

It is hard to imagine that each grass root community in a big city will differ much from the others in the same neighborhood.

As for the Parecon, it is absurd to even imagine it can be applied in individual communities that are not in a region that adapt it.

For sure there will not be around any anarchist communist organization that will be able to force any one to obey any decision.

""So long as workers are not exploited, the anarchist-communists will not start a civil war inside the revolution. In an experimental way, different approaches may be tried out in different regions and we will learn from each other.""

As the anarchist communists are not intending to take over state or power, the above is oxymoron...

In a direct democracy society no one initiate any kind of war. For sure during the revolution the capitalist system will not collapse in one day all over the world. There will be probably armed resistance to the revolution for a while that will need a military confrontation. However, it is hard to imagine another round of split world between two social systems as it was between the old capitalist West and the state capitalist East.


""And free and voluntary communism is ironical if one has not the right and the possibility to live in a different regime, collectivist, mutualist, individualist—as one wishes, always on condition that there is no oppression or exploitation of others” (p. 103).""

For sure grass roots communities will not be forced to adopt direct democracy and communist relations. Even individuals will have the option not to adapt... however, it is hard to imagine any logistic that will enable an individual or group to go it alone without exploiting or infringing on the freedom of others.

The internal system of the grass roots communities will be flexible and tolerant enough to accommodate to the whims of every member - as long as that member will not infringe on the Freedom and Equality principles...

* The non communist mode of distribution according to "efforts" of this model is so problematic to apply, that only these who regard the discrimination among people to be so important will insist on it.

How you can really estimate how much efforts one make? As you cannot really measure people differential abilities you can only measure the results. Thus, the more energetic more intelligent and healthier will get more... and it is usually hard to imagine in most usual tasks. And where is the social solidarity?

The most important remuneration for special efforts in a communist society is the social respect gain by it. In such society, people who have so strong urges to get more than their equal share will have the option to contribute more hours of needed work than the norm.

Related Link: http://ilan.shalif.com/anarchy/glimpses/glimpses.html
author by Tom - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Wed Jan 09, 2008 07:05Report this post to the editors

I don't think that claims about what can be done thru automation and so on should be the basis of our vision. that is asking people to buy into a "technical fix", something unproven. I think it has to be based on the current technical capacity of humanity.

I also think it is simply mistaken to try to explain the class system by reference to time required in work, due to lower levels of productive capacity. that is a kind of technological determinist theory of class power which is reminiscent of Marx's theory of historical materialism. I don't buy it. If technical methods that are adopted reflect capitalist priorities, as Wayne says, and I agree, technology doesn't determine social structure but the other way around.

I've said before here that i don't think it's even clear what the principle "from each according to ability, to each according to need" mean. In reality scarcity is part of the human condition so "rationing" in some form is inevitable. In other words, for anything we choose to spend our time and reousrces making, there are others we could have made instead. The issue isn't "abundance" but elimination of deprivation.

Individuals or small groups don't control the language. Meanings of words is controlled by how the mass of speakers of a language use it. At least in the USA, "communism" came to refer to the countries run by Communist parties, with government owned economies. That's what the C word means to people. Due to the individualism of American society, i'm not sure "anarchism" is without negative connotations either, tho this is not as clear as the C word. my preference is "libertarian socialism," for the aim. this is vaguer than "anarchist-communism". All A-Cs are libertarian socialists but libertarian socialists are not necessarily all anarchist-communists. It's not clear that all libertarian syndicalists historically have been anarchist-communists. In the U.S. most of the founders of the IWW came out of the left-wing of socialism, Socialist Party and Socialist Labor Party. They did not necessarily identify as "libertarian communists". This was in fact a reason the IWW didn't affiliate to the IWA.

author by Waynepublication date Fri Jan 11, 2008 16:54Report this post to the editors

I am not proposing a technological fix or technological determinism. I am pointing out that humanity now has the technical capacity to produce plenty for all with much leisure for all, for the first time in human development. Surely this affects our arguments for anarchism? However, technology cannot provide a free society without a social revolution which will reorganize technology on a human scale.

When Tom writes, "The issue isn't "abundance" but elimination of deprivation," I don't know what he is talking about. What is the difference between abundance and the elimination of deprivation for all. Or perhaps he means this literally: under socialism, people will only have a little more than just above deprivation, not a comfortable life for all. It sounds like he is saying this, but I don't believe it.

author by Tompublication date Mon Jan 14, 2008 00:51Report this post to the editors

Some people mean by "abundance" absence of scarcity. I think there will always be some level of scarcity. Doesn't mean there can't be a comfortable existence for everyone. What we do know is that capitalism is grossly ineffective for most people. But i wouldn't want to try to predict what technology there will be in a self-managed society or what the way of life will be. Depends on how people choose to use their freedom.

author by dave balmer - world socialist movementpublication date Thu Jan 17, 2008 05:38Report this post to the editors

The Transition State & The Gotha Programme


I am joining this a bit late and have to admit that I haven’t read every comment, so apologies in advance.

Ilan Shalif make some good points, and again Karl’s Gotha programme is mentioned.

I think it is a mistake and a miss reading of the Gotha Programme pamphlet to interpret it as Karl proposing or supporting a labour voucher or Parecon or a Deleonist type system. What he is doing is critically appraising this type of idea that was being and had been put forward before by others.

The idea that Karl was proposing a ‘transitional’ labour voucher type system in the Gotha Programme is a Leninist and Trotskyist interpretation. As ever the Leninists present an interpretation of Karl and the ‘Anarchists’ believe it.

I think in order to understand Karl and thus the Gotha Programme thing you have to understand where he was coming from. The basic idea in theory if not in practice was to educate or enlighten the working class as to their economic position. To make them aware of the fact and how they were being exploited, robbed and were supporting a parasitic class.

In addition perhaps to teaching them or enabling them to understand the dynamics of historical development and how that affected them etc.



What the working class was to do with that information once assimilated was up to the working class themselves as in the emancipation of the working class would have be by the working class themselves type of thing.

Karl and Fred did not think that it was their role to dictate to the working class how they should behave or what ‘communism’ should be like but only that they should be informed so that they could make democratic informed decisions as to how to organise their lives.

Which was why they infamously never laid out in any detail about what socialism or communism would be like. Although what they had in mind was perhaps best revealed by Fred in his commentary on the shaker community at;

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/10/15.htm


Karl was so in love with the labour voucher idea that he only mentioned it once in Das Capital in a passing comment;

‘In the case of socialised production the money-capital is eliminated. Society distributes labour-power and means of production to the different branches of production. The producers may, for all it matters, receive paper vouchers entitling them to withdraw from the social supplies of consumer goods a quantity corresponding to their labour-time.’


http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1885-c2/ch18.htm#2


And in the Gotha Programme thing and more importantly in Grundrisse which represented his own personal viewpoint that was never meant to be read.

Actually the issue with regards Karl’s attitude to labour vouchers and a transition state is in reality quite simple.

So Karl you are protesting that there is a parasitic class who consume but do not produce, the capitalists, and that the working class do not receive back what they contribute to ‘society’.


What happens Karl if the working class, having understood that and your ‘brilliant’ analysis of capitalism and then accept the ideas of Robert Owen, John Gray and now the Pareconist and Deleonists and say well we can solve that problem.

We will organise a system whereby every one receives back in kind what they contribute mediated by some kind of labour voucher, certificate or chit system. No one is exploited by anyone else and it is to each according to their ability, albeit their ability to work.


(With some socially acceptable provision for those who are unable to work, contribute and earn labour vouchers for which they can obtain what they need.)


Karl’s response to this, in the Gotha programme, is that this sucks. It is part of the bourgeois ideology of what is mine is my own and I will only exchange it or sell it for an equivalent of something else. If I have twice the natural ability of another I naturally deserve twice as much. A form of the meritocratic bourgeois ideology of the deserving poor and the deserving rich in labour voucher land even if it is stripped of its capitalist pretensions.

Bourgeois ideology stamped on the the working class is about the ‘I’ and the ‘me’ in contradiction with the ideology of the ‘we’ and the ‘us’ (society) of socialism or communism.

Encapsulated within that is in fact the theoretical split that Karl and Fred had with ‘Anarchism’. It was the theoretical emphasis on individualism or automatism within ‘Anarchism’ as much as it was an antithesis to collective ‘socialistic’ democratic organisation that unnerved them.


Karl discuses the idea of labour or time chits in Grundrisse below beginning with;

‘Now, it might be thought that the issue of time-chits overcomes all these difficulties.’



http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1885-c2/ch18.htm#2


I cannot understand how it can be read as an enthusiatic endorsement of a labour voucher system even as a transition to socialism.

The standard Leninist or trotskyist interpretation on this issue can be read below I think for those that are interested in it at;

3. The Dual Character of the Workers’ State


http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1936/revbet/ch03.htm#ch03-3

Related Link: http://www.worldsocialism.org/index.php
author by Waynepublication date Fri Jan 18, 2008 09:15Report this post to the editors

Dave raises some interesting thoughts about Marx and Engels conception of the post-capitalist/transition to full communism period. Being a Marxist-informed anarchist but not an orthodox Marxist, I do not read Marx to get the truth of what will happen, but as an opinion worth thinking about.

I have always read the passage in the Critique of the Gotha Program as Marx clearly predicting that labor credit chits will be used in the lower phase of communism. I was not aware of the passage in the Grundrisse, in which he seems to be more tentative about the labor chits. In any case, if Marx only mentioned this topic on these two occasions, then not much can be said about what Marx really meant. (Like the vexing question of whether, in this document, he regarded the transitional dictatorship of the proletariat to happen along with the lower phase of communism--which it may be saying--or as happening before it--as Trotsky held. Who knows?)

The passage from Engels is from 1845. It says something about how Engels was influenced by utopian socialism. But it tells us little about what he thought in 1871 about the transition to communism.

In any case, I do not believe that there can be such a thing as a workers' state.

author by dave balmer - world socialist movementpublication date Sat Jan 19, 2008 03:44Report this post to the editors

Hi Wayne

First of all I think it is important to dispel any other myths there may be about Marx’s and Engels’ concept of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’.There were of course Leninists in Karl’s an Fred’s time except they called themselves Blanquists. Fred describes them well enough in ‘The Program of the Blanquist Fugitives from the Paris Commune’ and ‘The Civil War In France’, and anyone remotely familiar with Leninism would be able to recognise them as such.

‘The Blanquists fared no better. Brought up in the school of conspiracy, and held together by the strict discipline which went with it, they started out from the viewpoint that a relatively small number of resolute, well-organized men would be able, at a given favorable moment, not only seize the helm of state, but also by energetic and relentless action, to keep power until they succeeded in drawing the mass of the people into the revolution and ranging them round the small band of leaders. this conception involved, above all, the strictest dictatorship and centralization of all power in the hands of the new revolutionary government’

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/postscript.htm



And;


‘From Blanqui's assumption, that any revolution may be made by the outbreak of a small revolutionary minority, follows of itself the necessity of a dictatorship after the success of the venture. This is, of course, a dictatorship, not of the entire revolutionary class, the proletariat, but of the small minority that has made the revolution, and who are themselves previously organized under the dictatorship of one or several individuals’



http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1874/06/26.htm


On what Fred thought what the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ was rather than what it wasn’t, from again the ‘The Civil War in France’;


‘Of late, the Social-Democratic philistine has once more been filled with wholesome terror at the words: Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Well and good, gentlemen, do you want to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.


Frederick Engels


London, on the 20th anniversary
of the Paris Commune, March 18, 1891.’



I believe views on the Paris Commune vary a bit amongst ‘anarchists’ so I suppose views on that statement may vary accordingly. I seem to remember in private communication between them Karl and Fred were a bit wary of what might happen at the outbreak of the Paris commune, presumably anticipating the disaster that followed.

I do not slavishly follow the ‘teachings’ of Karl and Fred either but I think they can provide a useful focal or starting point for discussion as the ‘Critique Of The Gotha Programme’ does. Just as in some Social Science type of exam question where you read a statement followed by the ‘discuss’.

I am a chemist by the way and thus a pure scientist.

Actually we have Mikhail to thank for the existence of this contraversial and interesting pamphlet of Karl’s that was never really intended to be a part of his main body of work and was produced as a reaction to events elsewhere. Scribbled down on the back of a beer mat almost.

They or Karl responded to ‘The Gotha Programme’ as they were afraid that it would be blamed on them and they would get an ear full from Mikhail over it. Thus;

‘And secondly, we were at that time, hardly two years after the Hague Congress of the International, engaged in the most violent struggle against Bakunin and his anarchists, who made us responsible for everything that happened in the labour movement in Germany; hence we had to expect that we would also be addled with the secret paternity of this programme.’


http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/foreword.htm


I am not interested by the way in the alleged personal Machiavellian feuding between Karl and Mikhail. If Karl did some of the things that he was alleged to have to done by the ‘anarchists’ then he was wrong.

To return to the labour voucher thing and the ‘higher phase of communism’. To have this ‘higher phase of communism’ two things are required; 1st socialist consciousness or a willingness to go along with it and 2nd the technological capacity or means of production to satisfy all the material needs of society etc. So as in the Critique of the Gotha Programme;

‘after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly.’

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch01.htm


The 2nd condition, the development of the means of production, was not in my opinion at high enough level in the 19th century to have free access socialism let alone the 1st.

Then the only ‘realistic’ alternative was some kind of rationing of the labour voucher system. The level of socialist consciousness, personal commitment and responsibility that would have been required then to sustain free access would have been unrealistic.

This is the ‘realist’ perspective.

Then, over a hundred years ago, a labour voucher system was probably the only inevitable alternative for a better kind of society. The advances that humanity has made since are beyond what they at the time could have even conceived or imagined.

Since then we have moved on then, and that reality is now redundant.

So historically, that I think raises the question, what exactly was Karl’s gripe about the take on the labour voucher system as laid out in the Gotha Programme a hundred years ago?

Again the labour voucher idea predated Karl and Fred and was circulating around independently of themselves.

We in the world socialist movement are familiar with this issue as we had a long, interesting, intelligent albeit fiery but mostly polite and productive debate with the labour voucher Deleonists.

Some took the ‘realist’ view, that whilst free access would be a nice idea the working class would be too stamped with the ideology of capitalism to go from one to the other.

Others took the view that it was ‘wrong’ or wasn’t ‘right’ that individuals could consume more of an equivalent of what they produced themselves. This second ‘bourgeois ideological position’ was implicit in the Gotha Programme and it was that which Karl was criticising, in my opinion.

‘while again perverting, on the other, the realistic outlook, which it cost so much effort to instill into the Party but which has now taken root in it, by means of ideological nonsense about right and other trash so common among the democrats and French socialists.’

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch01.htm



To a certain extent we reached a stalemate with the ‘realist’ proponents of the labour voucher argument. With a; ‘once all the working class understood what was involved’, they would make the decision then, so what we thought about it now mattered jack shit irrespective of how strongly we felt about it. One way or the other.

The idea that the whole concept of a system of free access and voluntary labour was a moral anathema or a ‘bad idea’ as the Pareconists say, was what was totally unacceptable to us. And I think that was the nature of the disagreement that Karl had with the proponents of the Gotha programme.

And something I suspect that Mikhail might have had a field day with.

The ideological objective would have looked too much like state capitalism.

On the workers state thing I don’t like the idea of ‘states’ either due to the connotations it has. But I do believe that workers need a democratic organisation if they want to obtain what can only be produced from organised, co-ordinated and co-operative production.

Related Link: http://www.worldsocialism.org/index.php
author by Tompublication date Mon Jan 21, 2008 00:13Report this post to the editors

dave confuses remuneration for ability with remuneration for effort. the time one spends working is one criteria of the effort one puts in for the social benefit. it's not the only criteiron. We could look at how hard a person works or how onerous the conditions are. but it will do as a stand-in.

my point is that this is completely different than the idea of a "meritocracy", that people of greater "ability", "expertise" etc. should earn a higher rate of remuneration. these ideas in fact are inconsistent.

two people with completely different abilities coul nonetheless make the same effort.

Moreover, the idea of remuneration for "merit" isn't a "bourgeois" principle of remuneration. it's a coordinatorist principle of remuneration. the bourgeois principle of remuneration is "you get whatever you can based on the power you have in the market". the capitalists aren't remunerated for their "ability" but for their ownership. merely owning something is no sign of skills or expertise, tho there are skills for how to make money in a capitalist arrangement. but a person born with a fortune is entitled by the system to reap the rewards of ownership.

humans are both individual and social. and they need to have both their own sphere of private consumption they control, as well as participation in a generous realm of public or collective provision. "communists" often ignore the first and mistakenly focus only on the second.

dave also confuses participatory economics with a labor voucher scheme. the two are rather different. and the difference shows where his critique goes off the rails. in participatory economics a person is not entitled to the value of their output. in other words, prices are not equal to labor time. the problem with setting prices at labor time is that this ignores the total human effort in making things, which includes the social investment in developing skills and the productive forces in general which may result in one hour of work in one type of work having more value than a different type of work. setting prices to labor hours would thus tend to lead to over-use of the more expensive types of labor power. in participatory economics remuneration is based only on effort, not the value of the labor product. this is a totally "anti-bourgeois" standard for entitlement to consume.

the thing about "communism" is this: its proponents have never proven it would work. in fact they are unlikely to persuade the working class majority in a revolutionary situation of the viability of their notion. workers will resent slackers, and that's just the reality.

author by dave balmer - world socialist movementpublication date Mon Jan 21, 2008 06:23Report this post to the editors

Hi Tom

I think you do me an injustice in claiming that I have not taken into consideration remuneration according to effort as opposed to mere labour time or as you put it by a criteria of ‘the time one spends working’. As I stated on 15-09-07 on this site whilst debating with yourself;

‘So ultimately we return to the Parecon solution in which by some incredibly complicated system all these natural variations in ability are taken into consideration and somehow or other personal effort is calculated and remunerated appropriately.’

http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=6204&search_text=Genesis%209,%20Verse%2027&search_comments=on


I think when debating in this kind of way one needs to show a bit of generosity. In an attempt to be brief I avoided going into all the details of how various types of labour voucher systems work.

I think it is unfair to infer that I was not aware of differences between them just because I avoided going into that kind of detail.

I accept that the Parecon system is ‘ethically superior’, for the want of a better expression in that it attempts to remunerate according to personal effort rather by some other way. As a free access socialist I am not an advocate of labour voucher type systems but a critic of them. Therefore I do not feel under any particular obligation to figure out how they should or could work.

However;

I don’t really understand how you could remunerate according to personal effort unless you implant some kind of personal effort chip in everyone’s brain and download the results into some kind of Parecon bank account.

As you said ‘two people with completely different abilities could nonetheless make the same effort’. And not only that produce different amounts of product. So the big guy could dig two holes in a day and with the same amount of personal effort the little guy could only dig one.

Views about whether the big guy gets twice the remuneration or the same and what the value of a hole in the ground is worth will vary no doubt.

All the problems of the labour voucher or chit system are I think laid out by Karl in those few pages of Grundrisse. Like for instance assaying the ‘value’ of a product and how many apples can you obtain from your remuneration for your product, the hole in the ground.

The Deleonist system for instance proposes a kind of market driven system. Whereby if unpleasant or unpopular work needs to be done the remuneration for it and thus its value is increased until sufficient number of people offer themselves up to do it.

And vice versa presumably. Although the ability and willingness to do a job are slightly different things. Thus I would expect in this system that people with rare skills that produce a product in demand would be better remunerated than others.


Then again you will have one parent with ten kids to look after and another individual with none. Maybe a social fund or the ‘state’ dare I say it will look after the needs of children out of the ‘diminished’ remuneration of the workers in general.

To reiterate these are not my problems as I am not proposing the system, I am for a moneyless free access ‘socialism’ as some ‘Anarchists’ are I think, but obviously not many.

All remuneration will based on some kind of merit system, it just a case of defining the criteria of the merit ie according to personal effort as opposed to a piece rate system of digging a hole in the ground or your natural ability etc.

On a minor point the bourgeois physiocratic economists of the 19th century considered the capitalist profit as merely wages. An argument that was somewhat easier to make then as many capitalists then were actively involved in the production process itself.

This argument obviously started to fall apart and was revealed for what it was as more and more capitalists became mere shareholders creaming of a dividend.


From Capital Volume III

‘With the development of co-operation on the part of the labourers, and of stock enterprises on the part of the bourgeoisie, even the last pretext for the confusion of profit of enterprise and wages of management was removed, and profit appeared also in practice as it undeniably appeared in theory, as mere surplus-value, a value for which no equivalent was paid, as realised unpaid labour. It was then seen that the functioning capitalist really exploits labour, and that the fruit of his exploitation, when working with borrowed capital, was divided into interest and profit of enterprise, a surplus of profit over interest.’

At the end of;

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch23.htm


I did say when I mentioned that ‘stripped of its capitalist pretensions’. Perhaps I did express it well enough.


We are obviously quite familiar with the lazy worker argument from elsewhere and the belief that the working class are inherently incapable of co-operating together for their own mutual benefit.

Related Link: http://www.worldsocialism.org/index.php
author by Waynepublication date Mon Jan 21, 2008 12:09Report this post to the editors

(1) I agree with Tom and Dave that in the period after a revolution there will have to be some system of incentives to help keep people working, although I agree with Tom that we will be able to move toward a full communist society. I forsee different regions deciding to experiment, using different methods: Tom's, Dave's, and perhaps immediate communism. Perhaps one would clearly work better. Perhaps different approaches will both work. I am very much in favor of working on possible alternate societies, but not in favor of claiming to know what will definitely work the best.

(2) Dave writes, " On the workers state thing I don’t like the idea of ‘states’ either due to the connotations it has. But I do believe that workers need a democratic organisation if they want to obtain what can only be produced from organised, co-ordinated and co-operative production."

Me too. The workers need a form of coordinating self-organization, an association of workers' and community councils and associations--associated with a popular militia to replace the army and police. The workers and their allies do not need a socially alienated machine above the rest of society (a state) because (unlike other ruling classes) they will be the big majority holding down the minority of capitalists and their hangers-on. Therefore there is no workers' state.

author by Ilan Shalif - AAtWpublication date Mon Jan 21, 2008 21:46author address Tel AavivReport this post to the editors

On his reply to previous comments Wayne wrote:

"(1) I agree with Tom and Dave that in the period after a revolution there will have to be some system of incentives to help keep people working, ..."

I wonder how many findings of psychology of motivation studies Wayne have read.
Human beings are inherently lazy and when we have lot of energy we prefer to play - not to work. Based on long life and work years, in communes and out of it, I am hard to imagine any one - even those who like what their work is about, doing it regularly without a strong incentive.

In the communes I lived and probably in future society people will work because the world and local direct democracy one participated in decided so. For sure one could opt out, but it is hard to imagine that in class less society one will find any place where one can choose not to contribute one's share of work.

The only acceptable system to make people do what they do not like and refrain from doing what they like is the direct democracy of community that will maintain the equal distribution of freedom (and needs) modulated by solidarity.

Wayne:
"although I agree with Tom that we will be able to move toward a full communist society. I foresee different regions deciding to experiment, using different methods: Tom's, Dave's, and perhaps immediate communism. Perhaps one would clearly work better. Perhaps different approaches will both work. I am very much in favor of working on possible alternate societies, but not in favor of claiming to know what will definitely work the best".

Ilan
For sure the conditions will be better after the reconstruction of the world after the end of class society will be completed. The distribution of products and services will be easier than at the beginning. However, I do not understand the stages and the "pluralistic" approach - as if the mode of distribution will have to start as non communist and later pass to a communist one. (in a way, it is easier to distribute according to needs when there is scarcity than when there is plenty and lot of luxuries to distribute). For sure the decisions that will be taken by the grass roots communities after the revolution will be easier after the reconstruction. But, we know enough about the world and human being to draw the model we want and the one we advice people to take, and it will better be based from day one on freedom & equality & solidarity. (Meaning each contribute according to ability and each receive according to needs - with luxuries distributed equally.

We better work on possible alternates to work towards the revolution, but also to the best model for direct democracy, work and distribution.

Wayne:
"but not in favor of claiming to know what will definitely work the best".

Ilan:
I wonder if you apply such approach to medical surgery, and technology....

For sure there are "betters" to any "bests" we can in every sphere and domain, but this is not a good reason not to search for the best we can in every point on the time continuum.

Wayne:
(2) Dave writes, " On the workers state thing I don’t like the idea of ‘states’ either due to the connotations it has. But I do believe that workers need a democratic organization if they want to obtain what can only be produced from organized, co-ordinated and co-operative production."

Me too. The workers need a form of coordinating self-organization, an association of workers' and community councils and associations--associated with a popular militia to replace the army and police. The workers and their allies do not need a socially alienated machine above the rest of society (a state) because (unlike other ruling classes).

Ilan:
The world commune of grass roots communities - a unified multi tier direct democracy system was proposed already long ago as the only viable alternative to capitalism.

Wayne:
"...association of workers' and community councils and associations--associated with a popular militia to replace the army and police."

Ilan:
The parallel to "association of workers" is grass root communities - not community councils. (Community councils will be only delegates like the work place councils.). Militia will be needed only as long as capitalist states or pockets of armed resistance will continue. I do not think there will be need and place in class less society for people to be professional keepers of order. The managing to disobedient behavior and other antisocial activities will be mostly dealt within the grass roots communities.

The vacillation between the syndicalist model of society organized along work places logic and the anarchist communist one based on grass root communities, result in a dual power in which people will have "split personalities" that will have to negotiate between themselves.

Wayne:
they will be the big majority holding down the minority of capitalists and their hangers-on. Therefore there is no workers' state.

Ilan:
I heared it from the authoritarians of the left who opposed to a direct passage to class less society, but why from anarchist?

If the revolution will succeed, there will not be any capitalist economy or capital around. So there will not be capitalists any more. For sure there will be people who will still be regretting the abolishing of capitalism and the state, but the measures of the grass roots communities to preventing them from causing damage and exploiting others will not need a complicated system of any dictatorship. My guess is that it will be easier to deal with them than with the remnants of patriarchy.

Related Link: http://ilan.shalif.com/anarchy/glimpses/glimpses.html
author by dave balmer - World Socialist movementpublication date Tue Jan 22, 2008 03:05Report this post to the editors

By the way just in case there is any confusion, ‘Dave’ is advocating going straight to the ‘higher phase’ of communism and is not advocating any kind of labour voucher system.

As I said

‘As a free access socialist I am not an advocate of labour voucher type systems but a critic of them.’

I merely gave a resume of what I thought the various labour voucher type systems were. Only In response to Tom’s accusation that I was confusing one type with another.

Personally I much prefer Peter Kropotkin’s take on the nature of humanity as in;


Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution Peter Kropotkin 1902 CONCLUSION


‘The higher conception of "no revenge for wrongs," and of freely giving more than one expects to receive from his neighbours, is proclaimed as being the real principle of morality -- a principle superior to mere equivalence, equity, or justice, and more conducive to happiness. And man is appealed to to be guided in his acts, not merely by love, which is always personal, or at the best tribal, but by the perception of his oneness with each human being. In the practice of mutual aid, which we can retrace to the earliest beginnings of evolution, we thus find the positive and undoubted origin of our ethical conceptions; and we can affirm that in the ethical progress of man, mutual support not mutual struggle -- has had the leading part. In its wide extension, even at the present time, we also see the best guarantee of a still loftier evolution of our race.’


http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_archives/kropotkin/mutaidconclu.html


The idea that we are an innately co-operative species rather than an innately competitive one.

Fred himself belatedly seemed to take up this argument as a result of the introduction of Darwins theories. Thus;



‘6) On the other hand I cannot agree with you that the “bellum omnium contra omnes” was the first phase of human development. In my opinion, the social instinct was one of the most essential levers of the evolution of man from the ape. The first man must have lived in bands and as far as we can peer into the past we find that this was the case....’


http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/letters/75_11_17-ab.htm

Although I should emphasise that I am in dispute with most of my comrades in the World Socialist Movement on this one as they tend to take the Blank Slate position on human nature, ie that there isn’t one.

On the state thing, I am not interesting in arguing with people over nomenclature and what particular string of letters to use to label something. If ‘a socially alienated machine above the rest of society’ is what Wayne wants to call a state then there will be no state in my version of socialism.

Although it would be helpful if we had a word, for future reference, for ‘coordinating self-organization, an association of workers' and community councils and associations’. As it is a bit of a mouthful.

Although I might want to quibble about the details about what that might mean, I can probably go along with it in the meantime.

I don’t like the idea of a worker’s militia by the way or any other kind of militia.


So if Mikhail can say;



‘I am a supporter of the Paris Commune, which for all the bloodletting it suffered at the hands of monarchical and clerical reaction, has nonetheless grown more enduring and more powerful in the hearts and minds of Europepis proletariat. I am its supporter, above all, because it was a bold, clearly formulated negation of the State.’

http://flag.blackened.net/daver/anarchism/bakunin/paris.html



And Fred can say;

‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Well and good, gentlemen, do you want to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.’

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/postscript.htm



Perhaps once we get rid of the misconceptions of the meanings of labels some of us might not as far away from each other as we might think.

I must point out that I generally have much less antipathy towards ‘Anarchism’ than most of my comrades however I do not believe I am totally alone. Anyway the opinions I have expressed here are my own.


I suppose Tom, who does support the labour voucher system, would fully agree with one of its early advocates, John Gray, when he stated;

‘If the idle, the slothful, the apathetic are to be on a level with
the diligent, the active, the skilful, these last who are the
marrowbones of society will have no motive to exert themselves.
Since all their exertions would lead to support the idle in idleness
as now slaves do for the masters.'

Related Link: http://www.worldsocialism.org/index.php
author by Tompublication date Tue Jan 22, 2008 07:47Report this post to the editors

Dave protests that I forgot about some interaction with him many months ago, then says:

"I suppose Tom, who does support the labour voucher system"

this after i went to quite a bit of trouble to explain the way in which participatory economics differs from the labor voucher system. The labor voucher system is a system based on labor time prices. I don't agree with that for the reason i explained.

in regard to how we tell what someone's effort is, we only need to know this in a rough way and I think coworkers can tell this. the length of time someone works is itself one criterion of work effort. another way we can tell is by looking at the output. if groups A and B do not differ in things like their education, training, disruptions to their work, equipment they're working with, then work effort may be the best explanation for the difference in their output.

the problem with Wayne's proposal for experimentation is that there may be incompabilities. I can envision differences in for example the number of things a region or community decides to provide through social provision (for free) rather than via individual consumption. Even if they provided everything "free," however, they'd still need to do social accounting of the costs and benefits to ensure an effective and not wasteful economy. and that would presuppose something equivalent to prices. if one region provides everything "free" and another less so, as long as they do this social accounting through a price system based on participatory planning, there is no incompatibility.

So experimentation may come down to the fact that there are separate economies, in different regions of the world. and that is certainly a possibility. but there are limits to "experimentation" within a single economy.

author by Nilpublication date Tue Jan 22, 2008 10:53Report this post to the editors

"I am not proposing a technological fix or technological determinism. I am pointing out that humanity now has the technical capacity to produce plenty for all with much leisure for all"

Both the primitivists AND much of the mainstream these days would suggest that that technical capacity is hugely unsustainable, and it is only possible to produce that much by poisoning ourselves in a way that is soon going to make our lives awfully unpleasant, possibly irevocably so.

Is this true? Do we have the technical capacity to produce plenty and much leisure for all currently on the planet in a sustainable way? Or not?

I'm not really sure. And it doesn't seem like the desirability or feasibility for 'true' anarchism depends upon it, to me. Tying your arguments for anarchism to a hypothetical post-scarcity fantasy seems mistaken to me. No matter how much or how little we have, it is both possible and desirable for us to freely share what we have and freely and collectively make decisions about how to use what we have, no? LeGuin's _The Dispossessed_, while a fantasy, still provides a plausible picture of anarchism in an environment of extreme scarcity. Israeli Kibbutzim in the original decades of settlement, while a colonial project at the expense of the original inhabitants of palestine, also provide an example of a kind of communism among scarcity and adversity. We don't need 'post-scarcity' to make anarchism and communism either desirable OR possible, it is both already.

And while I'm not really sure how much 'sustainable' productive capacity we have or if , once we rationalize ourselves to be sustainable, we've really reached a new 'post-scarcity' economy differnet from centuries past--I AM sure that we DO need to live differently (and as a society, not individually) way different than we have been in order to keep from poisoning ourselves. When you look at what those social changes might have to look like---it makes anarchism/communism look not only possible and desirable, but downright neccesary to get where we need to be.

And I'm no primitivist, so I hope I don't sound like one. But the ecological limits we are running into are in fact very prominent material contradictions, no?

author by Nilpublication date Tue Jan 22, 2008 11:34Report this post to the editors

- another name for "‘coordinating self-organization, an association of workers' and community councils and associations’" that's less of a mouthful -

Well, "autonomous organization" is one phrase that might be applicable.

However, honestly, realizing that "autonomous organization" really is just one way of saying "kind of like a government, but without all the bad stuff, like a government if we could have a _good_ kind of government"---is what makes me wonder if I'm really an anarchist anymore. But I still think the same things about things as most of my anarchist friends, I've just realized (where they haven't, or disagree) that, okay, that is, sort of, a _sort_ of government after all. But the sort that I like. That autonomous organization (ie, 'coordainting self-organization').

I do say 'government' and not 'state' though. 'State' is really a very certain sort of government that I can't see _anything_ about that except what ought to be disposed of. Which is why it's always seemed curious to me that the Communists talk about a "worker's state" rather than a "worker's government". "Worker's [or "people's"] government" maybe I can see for the right definition of 'government' (ie, the kind that says any political self-organization is a kind of government after all) , but man, 'state' seems entirely irredeemable. Maybe something was lost in the translation to English.

author by ajohnstone - Socialist Party of Great Britainpublication date Tue Jan 22, 2008 16:22author email ajsc21755 at blueyonder dot co dot ukauthor address Edinburgh , Scotlandauthor phone naReport this post to the editors

Tom says :-
"Even if they provided everything "free," however, they'd still need to do social accounting of the costs and benefits to ensure an effective and not wasteful economy. and that would presuppose something equivalent to prices. "

How does this alternative to the prices system to allocate resources sound ? : -

Decisions involving choices of a general nature, such as what forms of energy to use, which of two or more materials to employ to produce a particular good, whether and where to build a new factory, there is a technique already in use under capitalism that could be adapted for use in socialism: so-called cost-benefit analysis and its variants. Naturally, under capitalism the balance sheet of the relevant benefits and costs advantages and disadvantagesof a particular scheme or rival schemes is drawn up in money terms, but in socialism a points system for attributing relative importance to the various relevant considerations could be used instead. The points attributed to these considerations would be subjective, in the sense that this would depend on a deliberate social decision rather than on some objective standard. In the sense that one of the aims of socialism is precisely to rescue humankind from the capitalist fixation with production time/money, cost-benefit type analyses, as a means of taking into account other factors, could therefore be said to be more appropriate for use in socialism than under capitalism. Using points systems to attribute relative importance in this way would not be to recreate some universal unit of evaluation and calculation, but simply to employ a technique to facilitate decision-making in particular concrete cases. The advantages /disadvantages and even the points attributed to them can, and normally would, differ from case to case. So what we are talking about is not a new abstract universal unit of measurement to replace money and economic value but one technique among othersfor reaching rational decisions in a society where the criterion of rationality is human welfare.

Planning in socialism is essentially a question of industrial organisation, of organising productive units into a productive system functioning smoothly to supply the useful things which people had indicated they needed, both for their individual and for their collective consumption. What socialism would establish would be a rationalised network of planned links between users and suppliers; between final users and their immediate suppliers, between these latter and their suppliers, and so on down the line to those who extract the raw materials from nature. There is no point in drawing up in advance the sort of detailed blueprint of industrial organisation that the old IWW and the Syndicalists used to , but it is still reasonable to assume that productive activity would be divided into branches and that production in these branches would be organised by a delegate body. The responsibility of these industries would be to ensure the supply of a particular kind of product either, in the case of consumer goods, to distribution centres or, in the case of goods used to produce other goods, to productive units or other industries.

Since the needs of consumers are always needs for a specific product at a specific time in a specific locality, we will assume that socialist society would leave the initial assessment of likely needs to a delegate body under the control of the local community (although, other arrangements are possible if that were what the members of socialist society wanted). In a stable society such as socialism, needs would change relatively slowly. Hence it is reasonable to surmise that an efficient system of stock control, recording what individuals actually chose to take under conditions of free access from local distribution centres over a given period, would enable the local distribution committee (for want of a better name) to estimate what the need for food, drink, clothes and household goods would be over a similar future period. Some needs would be able to be met locally: local transport, restaurants, builders, repairs and some food are examples as well as services such as street-lighting, libraries and refuse collection. The local distribution committee would then communicate needs that could not be met locally to the bodies charged with coordinating supplies to local communities.

The individual would have free access to the goods on the shelves of the local distribution centres; the local distribution centres free access to the goods they required to be always adequately stocked with what people needed; their suppliers free access to the goods they required from the factories which supplied them; industries and factories free access to the materials, equipment and energy they needed to produce their products; and so on. Production and distribution in socialism would thus be a question of organising a coordinated and more or less self-regulating system of linkages between users and suppliers, enabling resources and materials to flow smoothly from one productive unit to another, and ultimately to the final user, in response to information flowing in the opposite direction originating from final users. The productive system would thus be set in motion from the consumer end, as individuals and communities took steps to satisfy their self-defined needs. Socialist production is self-regulating production for use.

To ensure the smooth functioning of the system, a central statistical office would be needed to provide estimates of what would have to be produced to meet peoples likely individual and collective needs. These could be calculated in the light of consumer wants as indicated by returns from local distribution committees and of technical data (productive capacity, production methods, productivity, etc) incorporated in input-output tables. For, at any given level of technology (reflected in the input-output tables), a given mix of final goods (consumer wants) requires for its production a given mix of intermediate goods and raw materials; it is this latter mix that the central statistical office would be calculating in broad terms. Such calculations would also indicate whether or not productive capacity would need to be expanded and in what branches. The centre (or rather centres for each world-region) would thus be essentially an information clearing house, processing information communicated to it about production and distribution and passing on the results to industries for them to draw up their production plans so as to be in a position to meet the requests for their products coming from other industries and from local communities. The only calculations that would be necessary in socialism would be calculations in kind. On the one side would be recorded the resources (materials, energy, equipment, labour) used up in production and on the other side the amount of the good produced, together with any by-products.

Stock or inventory control systems employing calculation in kind are, as was suggested earlier, absolutely indispensable to any kind of modern production system. While it is true that they operate within a price environment today, that is not the same thing as saying they need such an environment in order to operate. The key to good stock management is the stock turnover rate – how rapidly stock is removed from the shelves – and the point at which it may need to be re-ordered. This will also be affected by considerations such as lead times – how long it takes for fresh stock to arrive – and the need to anticipate possible changes in demand.

A typical sequence of information flows in a socialist economy might be as follows. Assume a distribution point (shop) stocks a certain consumer good – say, tins of baked beans. From past experience it knows that it will need to re-order approximately 1000 tins from its suppliers at the start of every month or, by the end of the month, supplies will be low. Assume that, for whatever reason, the rate of stock turnover increases sharply to say 2000 tins per month. This will require either more frequent deliveries or, alternatively, larger deliveries. Possibly the capacity of the distribution point may not be large enough to accommodate the extra quantity of tins required in which case it will have to opt for more frequent deliveries. It could also add to its storage capacity but this would probably take a bit more time. In any event, this information will be communicated to its suppliers. These suppliers, in turn, may require additional tin plate (steel sheet coated with tin), to make cans or beans to be processed and this information can similarly be communicated in the form of new orders to suppliers of those items further down the production chain. And so on and so forth. The whole process is, to a large extent, automatic – or self regulating – being driven by dispersed information signals from producers and consumers concerning the supply and demand for goods and, as such, is far removed from the gross caricature of a centrally planned economy.
It may be argued that this overlooks the problem of opportunity costs .For example, if the supplier of baked beans orders more tin plate from the manufacturers of tin plate then that will mean other uses for this material being deprived by that amount. However, it must be born in mind in the first place that the systematic overproduction of goods that Marx talked of – i.e. buffer stock – applies to all goods, consumption goods as well as production goods. So increased demand from one consumer/producer, need not necessarily entail a cut in supply to another – or at least, not immediately. The existence of buffer stocks provides for a period of re-adjustment.

Liebig’s Law of the Minimum - states is that plant growth is controlled not by the total amount of resources available to a plant but by the particular factor that is scarcest. This factor is called the limiting factor. It is only by increasing the supply of the limiting factor in question – eg nitrogen fertiliser – that you promote plant growth.
Liebig’s Law can be applied equally to the problem of resource allocation in any economy.It makes sense from an economic point of view to economise most on those things that are scarcest and to make greatest use of those things that are abundant.To claim that all factors are scarce (because the use of any factor entails an opportunity cost) and, consequently, need to be economised is actually not a very sensible approach to adopt.You cannot treat every factor equally – that is, as equally scarce – or, if you do, this will result in gross misallocation of resources and economic inefficiency.The most sensible basis on which to make such a discrimination is the relative availability of different factors and this is precisely what the law of the minimum is all about.When a particular factor is limited in relation to the multifarious demands placed on it, the only way in which it can be “inefficiently allocated” (although this is ultimately a value judgement) is in choosing “incorrectly” to which particular end use it should be allocated . Beyond that, you cannot misuse or misallocate a resource if it simply isn’t available to misallocate (that is, where there are inadequate or no buffer stocks on the shelf, so to speak). Of necessity, one is compelled to seek out a more abundant alternative or substitute .

To determine priorities Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” would be a guide to action. It would seem reasonable to suppose that needs that were most pressing and upon which the satisfaction of others needs were contingent, would take priority over those other needs. We are talking here about our basic physiological needs for food, water, adequate sanitation and housing and so on. This would be reflected in the allocation of resources: high priority end goals would take precedence over low priority end goals where resources common to both are revealed using the earlier discussed “points” system of cost benefit analysis.

To sum up , a communist steady-state equilibrium, will have been reached. Gradual change, growth, will be simple and painless. The task of planning becomes one of simple routine; the role of economics is virtually eliminated .

Prices are indeed superfluous when society is organised on the basis of production for need and exchange-values are replaced by use-values to employ Marxian terms

Related Link: http://www.worldsocialism.org/articles/william_morris_h...e.php
author by Ilan Shalif - AAtW ainfospublication date Tue Jan 22, 2008 17:36author address Tel AvivReport this post to the editors

There are two qualities in minimum "supply" the future society will have to concider: One is environmental-ecological limits. The other is time allocated to work.

As people urges are limitless, there will surely be a kind of rationing of supplies containing the two factors above.

I am not sure what units will be available to measure environmental-ecological inputs, but I am sure the statistics of input of work time will be easily to monitor.

Thus, in future society there will be a quota of the two limmitined factors both for grass roots communities and individual members.

As work is taking time from the free time of individual person, the unit for statistics will be probably the usual time units.

This will enable to decide by the coordination system where to direct the increase and decrease of needs.
(Instead of the capitalist costing of firms that is based on market costs and profits.)

Related Link: http://ilan.shalif.com/anarchy/glimpses/glimpses.html
author by Nilpublication date Wed Jan 23, 2008 05:39Report this post to the editors

- another name for "‘coordinating self-organization, an association of workers' and community councils and associations’" that's less of a mouthful -

Well, "autonomous organization" is one phrase that might be applicable.

However, honestly, realizing that "autonomous organization" really is just one way of saying "kind of like a government, but without all the bad stuff, like a government if we could have a _good_ kind of government"---is what makes me wonder if I'm really an anarchist anymore. But I still think the same things about things as most of my anarchist friends, I've just realized (where they haven't, or disagree) that, okay, that is, sort of, a _sort_ of government after all. But the sort that I like. That autonomous organization (ie, 'coordainting self-organization').

I do say 'government' and not 'state' though. 'State' is really a very certain sort of government that I can't see _anything_ about that except what ought to be disposed of. Which is why it's always seemed curious to me that the Communists talk about a "worker's state" rather than a "worker's government". "Worker's [or "people's"] government" maybe I can see for the right definition of 'government' (ie, the kind that says any political self-organization is a kind of government after all) , but man, 'state' seems entirely irredeemable. Maybe something was lost in the translation to English.

author by Tompublication date Wed Jan 23, 2008 13:44Report this post to the editors

the basic problem with ajohnstone's reply is that it is technocratic. it fails to deal with the real question in "costs" and "benefits".

something is a benefit only if someone wants it. something is a cost if someone doesn't want it. there is no way to get an accurate picture of costs and benefits determining the outcome unless this derives from actual requests of people who are going to consume things. this means the social economy, to be effective, needs a way to measure how much people want certain things. because labor and materials could be used to produce any number of different things, we need a way to put these degrees of desire for outcomes of different things on a common scale. that is precisely what a price system does. the price system allows people to make the allocation decisions themselves by seeing how much other people want different things and how expensive to the society are the things they have been thinking about requesting. you can't have an effective use of resources, including our labor, unless we know this.

i say that ajohnstone's reply is "technocratic" because it's all in the passive voice or abstract so it never says who is doing what. the assumption seems to be that there is some structure of control that does "cost-benefit analysis" or "figures out how much of X people need" or whatever and makes allocation decisions.

author by ajohnstone - socialist party of great britainpublication date Wed Jan 23, 2008 23:35author email ajsc21755 at blueyonder dot co dot ukauthor phone naReport this post to the editors

Tom says:-
the price system allows people to make the allocation decisions themselves by seeing how much other people want different things -

Unfortunately , prices can only reflect the wants of those who can afford to actually buy what economists call “effective demand” .
- and not real demand for something from those without the wherewithal - the purchasing power - to buy the product (or even to express a preference for one product over another . I may want a sirloin steak but i can only afford a hamburger )

The function of cost/pricing is to enable a business enterprise to calculate its costs, to fix its profit expectations within a structure of prices, to regulate income against expenditure and, ultimately, to regulate the exploitation of its workers.

Socialist determination of needs begins with consumer needs and then flows throughout distribution and on to each required part of the structure of production

But with capitalist [and neo-capitalist ] system , the information is a contra-flow of information. It flows from producers, through distributors, to the consumer. This information is the prices of goods determined by the accumulating costs of production and distribution plus profit. Prices are increased in each part of production, from mining through industrial processing, manufacture and assembly, then accumulating further through distribution until the final price is passed on to the consumer.

It is indeed very questionable that prices can represent the Social Costs of allocation of resources - put a monetary value on a beauty spot to be ravaged by an open-cast mine ? Once again it is the subjective judgement of a points based cost-benefit analysis of the pros and cons that will be the more accurate deciding factor , not the $ or £.
Nor does prices effective solve the dilemma of calculating Opportunity Costs . Prices simply are Accounting Costs and i see no substantial difference with Parecon Prices regardless of claims contrary .


Tom says:-
ajohnstone's reply is "technocratic" because it's all in the passive voice or abstract so it never says who is doing what.

Perhaps he skimmed over the caveat i had made about not laying down a blueprint of socialist society like the IWW or SLP plans which were quickly made superfluous by technological and communication developments but i did make some general statements which i will repeat :-
"...it is still reasonable to assume that productive activity would be divided into branches and that production in these branches would be organised by a delegate body. The responsibility of these industries would be to ensure the supply of a particular kind of product either, in the case of consumer goods, to distribution centres or, in the case of goods used to produce other goods, to productive units or other.... we will assume that socialist society would leave the initial assessment of likely needs to a delegate body under the control of the local community ...To ensure the smooth functioning of the system, a central statistical office would be needed industries ...(or rather centres for each world-region) ....local distribution committees ...etc etc

Details of how they are elected or appointed or delegated may indeed be vague , but no more abstract than all the committees of the Parecon model which it will be required to create for its administration . We will no doubt both be building upon but transforming what already exists , and that more than probably will be capitalism's own organisations .

On Tom's unspoken accusation that it will be central planning - No .

The object is to minimise direction and have society as self-regulating and de-centralised with the minimum of intervention .

For one writers advocacy of a moneyless society read the link below

Related Link: http://www.pieterlawrence.com/11903.html
author by dave balmer - world socialist movementpublication date Thu Jan 24, 2008 04:15Report this post to the editors

I think Alan is correct, there are self regulating systems for production available now and they are increasingly being used in capitalism particularly for large volume standard consumables like baked beans and cartons of orange juice etc.

I am fairly familiar with this system as I work myself in the food industry and so happen to have several friends who have written these computer controlled stock control systems for years. In fact one of my closest friends was writing the first of these retail computer stock control systems in the UK anyway in the early 1980’s and the software house she worked for were one of the pioneers in this field.

One of the most popular computer system or package being used at present and the one ‘we’ use is the SAP system. The relevant part for this discussion is probably the;


‘supply chain management (SCM) - helps companies enhance operational flexibility across global enterprises and provide real-time visibility for customers and suppliers.’

What follows is of course the idealised way that this is supposed to work and how it works in practice in capitalism is a bit different, in my experience.

However it is supposed to work something like thus;

The supermarkets have their stock of cartons of orange juice on their shelves and a bit in their own warehouse but that is kept to a minimum. As the product is sold and is scanned at the checkouts, the supermarkets are constantly ‘aware’ or a computer programme is, of how much they or it has left.

Once it drops below a certain predetermined amount, the ‘re-order level’, I think it is called, their computer sends a message to our computer at the orange juice carton manufacturing factory to make and send them some more.

Our task is theoretically a bit more complicated. First of all even a simple product like a carton of orange juice requires several things to make it. Like the pallets that it is to be stacked on, the outer cases or boxes that it is to be put in, the packaging itself, the shrink wrap and the juice itself. But actually that is theoretically the simple bit.

So when we get an order for 100,000 litres from Asda or Wallmart for orange juice that just gets typed into our computer and that gets dealt with in a similar way to the reorder system being operated by the supermarket.

Ie what to do we need, and will that reduce our stock level to our reorder level etc.

And so one down the supply chain.

The whole thing would work fine in practice if enough stock were held at each level of the supply chain, as Alan understands, which of course it isn’t in capitalism. Because the all important rate of profit is dependent on the amount of value or capital (including stock) you have invested in your business.

However once you reach a steady state system the system is anything but centrally planned. It really is an administration of things and a computer or information driven one at that.

The only input is human labour all along the supply chain demanded by a truly autonomous machine with no self-serving agenda of its own. Or if you want that you will have to do this.

These systems of course all have price level inputs in capitalism. But I was reassured by my Trot computer programmer friend, who surprisingly has some understanding of free access socialism, that setting all the price levels at ‘0’ would not interfere with these kinds of systems, as fortunately computers have no real understanding or concern about such meaningless things. So no major re-write of the source code would be necessary.

There are of course problems with the less steady state aspect to the system like when and how to expand the means of production ie at what point to build another factory or order in extra tetra pak or elopack machines or alpha laval pasteurisers and plant in general etc.

But on a larger global world socialist scale these kinds of problems that face ‘small’ capitalist enterprises within the capitalist system would become less of a problem. As re-ordering plant or means of production could be treated in the same way on a macro scale as re-ordering 100,000 litres of juice.


However I don’t want to be accused of over simplifying the issue.

There will obviously be ‘centrally democratically planned’ issues about what we produce, where and how. To take up Nil’s interesting point about trashing the planet producing garbage and scarcity etc.

In my view we will democratically decide not to produce those kinds of things that mess up our environment. That will make them scarce for sure as the only stretch humvees available will be those left over from capitalism.

The people interested in that kind of thing will hopefully fight to the death over them for all I care.

At the end of the day we may be interested to some extent in producing things with the least amount of effort as possible. Therefore working out how much time and effort goes into doing it one way rather than another, a we and an us rather than an I and a me.

Somewhat different in approach to the Taylorist time and motion study approach of a labour voucher type system where the personal effort of each individual is monitored by the Pareconista’s and Tom of the WSA to make sure there are no slackers on the job.

Let alone the slackers that don’t work, who would probably be bourgeois shoplifters in labour voucher land, trying to dodge ‘anarchists’ store detectives.

That would be a bit of a turn around.

By the way Tom, and I am enjoying the debate, I think Parecon falls into the classification of a labour voucher ‘type’ system.


But you have a point as ‘labour’ in a purist Marxist perspective labour is denominated by time. Thus labour voucher systems are labour time voucher systems and the Parecon system is a ‘personal effort voucher system’.

Splitting hairs I think, especially when it comes to Marxist theory on intensity of labour but lets leave that alone shall we?

Related Link: http://www.worldsocialism.org/index.php
author by Tompublication date Tue Jan 29, 2008 02:52Report this post to the editors

to Dave: how about if we get out of the 19th century? participatory economics -- notice I don't say "parecon" -- is not a "voucher" system because it isn't a system of market socialism. a labor voucher system sets prices at labor-time values. participatory economics does no such thing. it is an entirely different kind of system, and it is merely obfuscatory to label it a "labor voucher system." Doing so derives from SPGB/WSM's sectarian approach.

i said that the SPGB/WSM spokespeople here expound a "technocratic" vision because they envision the production system as a machine independent of grassroots self-managment. this is clear from the way both Dave and johnstone talk about their moneyless scheme.

a "technocracy" is a system run by members of the coordinator class. the coordinator class is a subordinate class within capitalism, but the working class is under its control. The coordinator class became a main class in the early 1900s based on the expropriation of skills and role in production previously the preserve of skilled artisans. engineers and other members of the coordinator class take over the role of concentrating and developing technical know how in their hands, a role formerly the preserve of the working class.

the coordinator class was the ruling class in the old Soviet Union and in the other "Communist" countries.

author by Jamespublication date Tue Jan 29, 2008 07:30Report this post to the editors

The WSM Tom refers to is the "World Socialist Movement" (the international that includes the Socialist Party of Great Britain) as opposed to "Workers Solidarity Movement" the Irish anarchist organisation that helps run this website.

author by ajohnstone - socialist party of great britainpublication date Tue Jan 29, 2008 18:14author email ajsc21755 at blueyonder dot co dot ukauthor phone naReport this post to the editors

Tom repeats :-
SPGB/WSM spokespeople here expound a "technocratic" vision because they envision the production system as a machine independent of grassroots self-managment.

Tom creates a straw dog argument offering little evidence to back up his claim except for his assertion , and probably because we have doubts about Parecon's vision of committee -management .

Where is this "co-ordinator class" within money-less society ?

It is the actual essence of free access to goods and services that it denies to any one particular group the political leverage with which to dominate or control others .
So where will this co-ordinator class power come from , if it cannot withhold the means of life or restrict access to society's wealth from those it wishes to subjugate or exploit or take advantage of .

And how can the status of conspicuous consumption be used as a reward as it is now for a privileged elite when all have equal free access .
In free access socialism , the notion of income or purchasing power would be devoid of meaning. So therefore would the notion of status based upon the conspicuous consumption of wealth because individuals would stand in equal relation to the means of production and have free access to goods and services.

Comparisons with Soviet Union and the aspiration of a moneyless society is comparing oranges with apples . Just as the reformists tried to confuse nationalization ( or as many anarchists labelled it , state-socialism) with free access socialism .
It is a complete red herring and no doubt results from the Neo-Trotskyist roots of Parecon and its denial of the state-capitalist nature of the USSR - The eternal search for the revolution betrayed , rather than the discovery of a bourgeois revolution without the bourgeoisie.

But , of course , thats another debate for another day but this link to recording of a talk on Julius Martov may be of some interest

Related Link: http://theworldsocialist.blogspot.com/2008/01/julius-ma....html
author by Tompublication date Thu Jan 31, 2008 06:29Report this post to the editors

"moneyless communism" is a mere abstraction. it's just rhetoric. it can't prevent anything. the real issue is how the transformation to a post-capitalist society is to come about and who is in control in that process, as well as in the new structures that are set up. if the coordinator class is empowered in the process, privileges will exist in some form.

author by dave balmer - world socialist movementpublication date Fri Feb 01, 2008 05:55author address manchesterReport this post to the editors

Hi Tom

You say that free access socialism or "money less communism" or money less ‘Anarchism’ is just rhetoric. Which is ironic as it is yourself that engages in ‘rhetoric’ and continue to make unsubstantiated and unreasoned statements and assertions.

Certainly in a labour voucher system or a Parecon type system there will not be free access to what people autonomously decide they need. Therefore where there are restrictions in place to what people need there will always be a hazard of individuals using their ‘power’ to enhance their own access to goods and in the process limit the access of others to what they autonomously decide they need.

Which is one reason why we don’t want it.

That is a problem that you have to solve for your own ‘abstraction’ and not one that faces our own.



Incidentally if anything looks like a ‘state’, it is the mechanisms and apparatus that will have to be in place in ‘Anarchist’ Parecon land, to police the proper remuneration of labour in order to make sure people don’t take or ‘steal’ more than their ‘fare’ remunerated share.

At least in our free access socialism our ‘state’ will be free from any apparatus for the protection of the ‘rightful’ remunerated property of others.

On rhetorical assertions just what do you mean by;

‘The coordinator class became a main class in the early 1900s based on the expropriation of skills and role in production previously the preserve of skilled artisans.’

How exactly do you expropriate a skill? What do you do, hold a gun to someone’s head and say ‘your ability to make a rational argument or your life’ and subsequently find yourself bereft of the later.

Although that could explain a lot in your own case.

In fact the opposite of what you state is the case. In the 19th century there were specialised skills, like chemistry and engineering, as distinct from mechanics or fitters which is the more modern term in the UK.

These people like Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Robert Stephenson to pluck two examples out of the air could in effect go into partnership with money capitalists in exchange for a share of the surplus value. That share being called ‘profit of enterprise’. Where the surplus value is divided between the capitalists who stumps up the cash and the individual who uses part of his empowered skills to exploit the workers.

The capitalist class rather than being held to ransom by these self serving and opportunistic individuals solves the problem by proletarianising these skills, like chemistry and engineering by educating the working class.

Reducing these ‘co-ordinating skills’ in fact to just another kind of wage labour.

The same applies as regards to this trend to the ‘supervisory skills’ or in more modern parlance mental labour as regards to the 19th century and now.

Thus from an individual who was well aware of the nature of the co-ordinating class or profiteers of enterprise, even if he plagiarised it from another, Ramsay I think ;


‘the more these wages of supervision, like any other wage, found their definite level and definite market-price, on the one hand, with the development of a numerous class of industrial and commercial managers, and the more they fell, on the other, like all wages for skilled labour, with the general development which reduces the cost of production of specially trained labour-power.’

With footnote;

‘The general relaxation of conventional barriers, the increased facilities of education tend to bring down the wages of skilled labour instead of raising those of the unskilled." (J. St. Mill, Principles of Political Economy, 2nd ed., London, 1849, I, p. 479.) ‘


http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1894-c3/ch23.htm#n8


Far from the ‘co-ordinating class’, ‘expropriating’ the skills of the working class, the working class are in fact ‘expropriating’ the skills of the co-ordinating class.

And what was once an acquired skill that was a preserve of the co-ordinating class, like mine, chemistry, it is now the ‘property’ of wage labour and of the proletariat.


So, in another example, here is Fred commenting, somewhat flippantly I think, on the problem of the co-ordinating class in 1890 and the danger of the influx of Bolshevik intellectuals, literati and students into the party. Particularly given Freds propensity for irony and sarcasm I think you have to read his personal correspondence with some caution, however;


‘The patronizing and errant lecturing of our so-called intellectuals seems to me a far greater impediment. We are still in need of technicians, agronomists, engineers, chemists, architects, etc., it is true, but if the worst comes to the worst we can always buy them just as well as the capitalists buy them, and if a severe example is made of a few of the traders among them — for traders there are sure to be — they will find it to their own advantage to deal fairly with us.

But apart from the specialists, among whom I also include schoolteachers, we can get along perfectly well without the other "intellectuals". The present influx of literati and students into the party, for example, may be quite damaging if these gentlemen are not properly kept in check.’


http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1890/letters/90_08_21.htm


Even barely three years later he could see that these so called ‘co-ordinators’ were increasingly being reduced to wage slavery and were capable of seeing where their interests lay and which class they belonged to. The class that depends on a wage for a living.



‘Yes, whatever the frightened bourgeois say, we are able to calculate the moment when we shall have the majority of the people behind us; our ideas are making headway everywhere, as much among teachers, doctors, lawyers, etc. as among the workers. If we had to start wielding power tomorrow, we should need engineers, chemists, agronomists. Well, it is my conviction that we would have a good many of them behind us already. In five or ten years we shall have more of them than we need.’


http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/bio/media/engels/93_05_13.htm

Well a hundred years later this is at least one chemist with a schoolteacher for a sister who needs no explanation of which class they belong to.


On the content of other contributions as regards to the substitution of the word ‘state’ for something else I think Fred recognised this difficult issue for the ‘anarchists’ and suggested the word ‘Gemeinwesen ["commonalty"] be universally substituted for state’


‘The people's state has been flung in our teeth ad nauseam by the anarchists, although Marx's anti-Proudhon piece and after it the Communist Manifesto declare outright that, with the introduction of the socialist order of society, the state will dissolve of itself and disappear.

Now, since the state is merely a transitional institution of which use is made in the struggle, in the revolution, to keep down one's enemies by force..’

Like perhaps the 19th century co-ordinating class, just as the Parecon and WSA state would have to keep down its enemies, the co-ordinating class, by force.

‘it is utter nonsense to speak of a free people's state; so long as the proletariat still makes use of the state, it makes use of it, not for the purpose of freedom, but of keeping down its enemies [eg the ‘co-ordinating class’} and, as soon as there can be any question of freedom [from the co-ordinating class?] , the state as such ceases to exist.

We would therefore suggest that Gemeinwesen ["commonalty"] be universally substituted for state; it is a good old German word that can very well do service for the French "Commune".’


http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/letters/75_03_18.htm

An outdated viewpoint in my opinion as the working class now has ‘expropriated’ all the skills necessary to run socialism for itself and without having to coerce any ‘co-ordinating class’ of chemists for instance.

And of the state according to Fred;


‘at best an evil inherited by the proletariat after its victorious struggle for class supremacy, whose worst sides the proletariat, just like the Commune, cannot avoid having to lop off at the earliest possible moment, until such time as a new generation, reared in new and free social conditions, will be able to throw the entire lumber of the state on the scrap-heap’


http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/postscript.htm


Although in the WSA system, that lumber of the state required to police the bourgeois rights of the remuneration system, would need to be retained in a form that no doubt would be all to familiar to us today.


There is of course still a more visible ‘co-ordinating class’ or ‘technocratic elite’ who are under the illusion that is they that rule the world. However at the end of the day they are at the beck and call of the interests of corporate power, the capitalist class themselves. Despite any bargains and alliances they might make it is the capitalist class proper that hold the whip hand. Claims from this class of independence and that they rule the world is pure hubris.


‘My feeling is that they’re nowhere near as powerful as they think they are. So, when, say, John Kenneth Galbraith wrote about the technocratic elite which is taking over the running of society—or when McNamara wrote about it, or others—there’s a lot of illusion there. Meaning, they can gain positions of authority and decision-making when they act in the interests of those who really own and run the society. You can have people that are just as competent, or more competent, and who have conceptions of social and economic order that run counter to, say, corporate power, and they’re not going to be in the planning sectors. So, to get into those planning sectors you first of all have to conform to the interests of the real concentrations of power.’

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=13555

Related Link: http://www.worldsocialism.org/index.php
author by Tompublication date Fri Feb 01, 2008 09:28Report this post to the editors

Dave babbles rather incoherently but demonstrates pretty clearly my point about how the SPGB have no clue about the coordinator class. For the record, what happened in the period between the 1890s and 1920s was the emergence of the big corporation and with it a radical re-organization of social production. In the 1800s the employers basically provided the workplace, and supervisors to ensure people keep to the grindstone, and they marketed the product but they didn't control the techology. They depended on skilled workers for that to a large extent.

With the "scientific management" movement of the early 1900s, expertise, planning, control of techniques was moved to a separate bureuacracy, of engineers, bookkeepers, inspectors, etc. The work over time was increasingly reorganized, with simple tasks being assigned to be done repetitively, reducing the skill requirements of the workforce. Presentday "lean production" is simply an extension of the standard Taylorist practice, so called after Frederick Taylor, the original exponent of "scientific management". In the 1880s engineering hardly existed. In the US at that time there were only 5,000 engineers. By 1930 there were several hundred thousand in the U.S. Engineering was created as the reservoir of the technical lore that would have in an earlier era been the prerogative of worker craftsmanship. Corporate capitalism thus organizes a system that under-develops the skills of the working class, and creates an elaborate hierarchy to control workers in production. This isn't just managers. Engineers design jobs, work flow, they design equipment often with an aim for control of labor. The coordinator class includes engineers, accountants, professors, lawyers, doctors. But it isn't defined by occupation but by their relative monopoly of the conceptualization, design and decision-making tasks in social production. This is what i mean when i talk about appopriating expertise and skills that should be the prerogative of the working class, and which the working class needs to take back to make selfmanagement effective.

The coordinator class has the capacity to be a ruling class as illustrated by the system that existed in the Soviet Union. The liberation of the working class from the class system can't happen without the redesignof the jobs, the re-integration of conceptualization and design and decision-making work with the physical work. The ideology of traditional socialism was ambiguous, fatally so, because it advocated directions that would empower, not the working class, but the coordinator class. This is why traditional socialism has to be superceded. It can't possibly liberate the working class. The liberation of the proletarian class presupposes eliminating the power of the coordinator hierarchy.

Now one more thing. Dave writes:

"Although in the WSA system, that lumber of the state required to police the bourgeois rights of the remuneration system, would need to be retained in a form that no doubt would be all to familiar to us today."

I have noted that the things I write are in a "personal capacity." But Dave wants to credit everything I say to WSA....again, this is how sectarians like the SPGB work. in reality WSA is neutral between participatory economics and anarchist-communism. That's because in fact there is a lot of overlap, and we have members sympathetic to either. The SPGB's fixation with their moneyless blueprint overlooks what is needed to actually liberate the working class.

author by Tobypublication date Fri Feb 01, 2008 11:08Report this post to the editors

Getting back to the article...

"A revolution is likely to be carried out by a united front of anti-capitalist political groupings. For example, North America or Europe is so large and complex that no one revolutionary organization will have all the best ideas and all the best militants. They will have to work together."

Um, i disagree. The revolution will need to be carried out by the workers themselves, most of whom are non-political. Most revolutions have not been the product of a united front of politicos, but instead the product of an enormous, creative upswelling of dissent from below. Often the political groups, including anarchists, are left behind. This is not to say that political groups do not have an important role in a revolution (they do!), but just that i don't that role is as central as the author contends. (obviously i'm not a platformist!)


"The mainstream of historical anarchism has been anarchist- communism. We can, and, I think, should, identify with the communist tradition in anarchism, which goes from Bakunin (as a goal) to Kropotkin (as a label) to Malatesta, Goldman, and almost all anarchists of their time."

It is an incredible error to call Bakunin a communist. He famously detested communism, and instead stood for anarchist collectivism,. that is, property held in common but the social product divided up according to work done.

"There have been factional conflicts between those anarchists who called themselves anarchist-communists and those who called themselves anarchist-syndicalists, but they did not have differences of principle."

Cripes! I disagree, there are many differences of principle between anarcho-syndicalism and anarchist communism. Many anarcho-syndicalists historrically are not communists for a start, (they have tradtionally followed Bakunin's collectivism or some sort of mixed capitalist-communist economic system, hence it was no suprise that in Spain in the 1930s the spanish anarcho-syndicalists tended to implement slef-managed capitalism (in its collectivist form) tho communism was attempted, mainly in some rural areas.

"the anarchist-syndicalists were afraid that the communists would downplay the central power and importance of the organized workers."

nah, the anarcho-syndicalists recongised that an-communists saw the importance of self-orgniasaiton in the working class. Their main critique of an-comm that it was purist, ideological and tended to be based on small propaganda groups that were isolated from the working class.

Reading this mistake ridden generalisations that lack historic specificity makes be believe that the author has not read widely enough about the anarchist communist historical tradition, or is purposely glossing over differences and beliefs for some undeclared purpose (or tactic).

author by ajohnstone - socialist Party of Great Britainpublication date Fri Feb 01, 2008 13:33author email ajsc21755 at blueyonder dot co dot ukauthor address edinburgh scotlandauthor phone naReport this post to the editors

Dave ,

I believe Tom talks in a personal capacity as a proponent of participatory economics - Parecon - and that the WSA - the Workers Solidarity Alliance - which he is a member ,does not endorse Parecon ( if i am correct ) as an organisation therefore i would caution yourself against assigning support for Parecon ideas to the WSA itself .
I have no idea how prevalent Tom's views are within the WSA or how many share them .

author by dave balmer - world socialist movementpublication date Fri Feb 01, 2008 19:13author address manchesterReport this post to the editors

Hi Toby and Wayne

Perhaps we are back again to the problem of the meaning of words and labels. When you are having a debate the first and most important thing is to make sure you both mean and understand the same idea is associated with a particular word or label.

Personally I am not interested in claiming a copyright on a meaning of a word and therefore I am happy here to accept Bakunin’s definition of ‘communist’. Once done so, I can declare that I am not a ‘communist’ that wishes to impose ‘communism’ on people (Leninism) and not only that, I am opposed to it. Bakunin seemed to be happier in the 19th century with the word ‘socialism’ and ‘socialist’ so perhaps Anarcho-Socialism would be more acceptable to the pure Bakuninists.

I am using quotes just to provide a focal point for discussion, thus from Bakunin;



‘The revolutionary Socialists organize with the view of destroying, or if you prefer a more refined expression, of liquidating the State. The Communists are the partisans of the principle and practice of authority, while revolutionary Socialists place their faith only in freedom. Both are equally the partisans of science, which is to destroy superstition and take the place of faith; but the first want to impose science upon the people, while the revolutionary collectivists try to diffuse science and knowledge among the people, so that the various groups of human society, when convinced by propaganda, may organize and spontaneously combine into federations, in accordance with their natural tendencies and their real interests, but never according to a plan traced in advance and imposed upon the ignorant masses by a few "superior" minds.’

http://flag.blackened.net/daver/anarchism/bakunin/bakunin2.html

So when Mikhail talks of the communists he is talking about the ideas and the people Fred called the Blanquists. Fred describes and criticises this ideology of the Blanquists in much the same way as Mikhail criticises the communists in;


The Program of the Blanquist Fugitives from the Paris Commune


http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1874/06/26.htm


And on the second part of the Mikhail quote about propaganda etc Fred makes the same idea in ‘Class Struggles in France’;



‘The time of surprise attacks, of revolutions carried through by small conscious minorities at the head of unconscious masses, is past. Where it is a question of a complete transformation of the social organization, the masses themselves must also be in it, must themselves already have grasped what is at stake, what they are going in for [with body and soul]. The history of the last fifty years has taught us that. But in order that the masses may understand what is to be done, long, persistent work is required, and it is just this work which we are now pursuing, and with a success which drives the enemy to despair.
In the Latin countries, also, it is being more and more recognized that the old tactics must be revised. ‘


http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/class-struggles-france/intro.htm


And in;


Draft of a ‘Communist’ Confession of Faith



Question 6: How do you wish to prepare the way for your community of property?
Answer: By enlightening and uniting the proletariat


http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/06/09.htm


On labour vouchers and Parecon type systems, Bakunin in the 19th century believed in a system based on restrictions on what any individual would be allowed to consume based on what they contributed. So from the same article by Mikhail.

‘but to enjoy it only in so far as he contributes directly toward the creation of that wealth’

Or to quote from Toby;

‘that is, property held in common but the social product divided up according to work done.’

This is the difference in principal between the objective being put by free access socialists of to each according to need and the objective of ‘Anarchists’ of ‘to each according to what they contribute’.

The details of how one might organise a ‘to each according to what they contribute’ be it by a parecon system or some other does not address my principled objection to it.

I choose to classify all these systems under a ‘to each according to what they contribute’ classification as opposed to my ‘to each according to need’.

One can call all these ‘to each according to what they contribute’ systems what ever you like and organise them in different ways, for me they are all in principle the same as in not being ‘to each according to need’.

One can sympathise with people like Mikhail.in the 19th century recognising that given the limitation on the products available for ‘distribution’ some type of rationing system would need to be devised and doing it the ‘just’ way ‘according to what they contribute’ may have been as ‘good’ as anything else.

Karl and Fred saw that system as an imposed limitation based on material circumstances of the time. It was important for them however that people understood that and with the ‘progress of production and social organization’ superior methods of organising society were possible.

That was the point that Karl was making in the ‘Gotha Programme’ with his From each according to their ability and to each according to need.

Fred put it this way;


‘There has also been a discussion in the Volks-Tribune about the distribution of products in future society, whether this will take place according to the amount of work done or otherwise. The question has been approached very "materialistically" in opposition to certain idealistic phraseology about justice. But strangely enough it has not struck anyone that, after all, the method of distribution essentially depends on how much there is to distribute, and that this must surely change with the progress of production and social organization, so that the method of distribution may also change.

But everyone who took part in the discussion, "socialist society" appeared not as something undergoing continuous change and progress but as a stable affair fixed once for all, which must, therefore, have a method of distribution fixed once for all. All one can reasonably do, however, is 1) to try and discover the method of distribution to be used at the beginning, and 2) to try and find the general tendency of the further development. But about this I do not find a single word in the whole debate.’


http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1890/letters/90_08_05.htm


Surely we have moved on along enough as far as ‘the progress of production and social organization’ is concerned in the last 100 years to begin at least to think about getting out of the 19th century mindset of ‘to each according to what they contribute’.


I personally have some sympathy with Mikhail’s fears that ‘democratic’ organisation is vulnerable to being turned into an ‘institution’ and being highjacked by political hacks or a ‘governmental aristocracy’ whilst the rest of society just wants to get on with living their own lives. Thus, again from the same article for convenience;


‘Such a system, as I have already said, inevitably would lead to the formation of a governmental aristocracy, that is, a class of persons which has nothing in common with the masses of people; and, to be sure, this class would again turn to exploiting and enthralling the masses under the pretext of common welfare or of the salvation of the State. ‘


The implications or dangers of this are of course that much less when there is an ‘institutionalised’ system of free access.

There is in fact a way around this problem as a result of better methods available for ‘social organisation’ than were conceived of a hundred years ago that I have proposed to my comrades.

I was unaware at the time that it was basically the same idea as had been proposed by an Australian.

There are two links on it below, obviously not that I subscribe to all of it. I approached it from a statistical sampling system as a method of obtaining the wishes of society as a whole and to dispense with the cumbersome system of everyone having to vote on everything. And to prevent the possible development of Bakunins ‘governmental aristocracy’.




http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/pubs/95sa.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demarchy


Perhaps just something to talk about?


On the red menace and Karl and Fred not predicting that Leninists, nee Blanquists, would seize power in Russia and institute a reign of terror and that ‘the Russians were approaching their 1789’ Fred predicted exactly that in;

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1885/letters/85_04_23.htm


Although he thought of it as just a historical necessity, the bourgeois revolution, that would have to be gone through. Although obviously what never occurred to him was that it would be done under his own flag.

Related Link: http://www.worldsocialism.org/index.php
author by Waynepublication date Sat Feb 02, 2008 04:14Report this post to the editors

To Toby,
Of course I agree that the revolution will be carried out by the working class, as a whole or at least the large majority, plus other oppressed people. But I also believe that a key role will be played by organized political trends. The relationship between the minority revolutionary organizations and the majority of the working class is a topic I have discussed elsewhere on Anarkismo.

To Dave,
As I wrote in the article above, I prefer the label socialist-anarchist, as did Malatesta. This is pretty much the same as anarcho-socialist, which Dave proposes. The label communism has meant many things over the last two centuries. It has been used by the Blanquists and their elitist heirs, who advocated an "educational dictatorship" of the elite over the backward masses. Bakunin opposed them as did Mark and Engels. It has also been used to mean an extremely democratic collectivism, which is what Kropotkin meant and also M & E.

Thanks to Dave for pointing out Engels statement, in his lettter to Conrad Schmidt, that we can expect a post-revolutionary society to evolve in its forms of distribution of goods, according to its level of productivity. An important point.

And then the Leninists, affected by certain authoritarian aspects of Marx's thought, built a totalitarian, mass murdering, state capitalism they created. With the revival of anarchism as a movement, there has been a revival of communism as a term to mean extreme democracry and From each according to their ability to each according to their need. But this is still among a small minority of the population, so farl. That is why I personally prefer not to use it as a public label.

BTW, I see that this article has been reprinted as a pamphlet by the ZACF of South Africa. Thanks comrades!

author by Griffin - Zabalaza Bookspublication date Tue Feb 05, 2008 05:08author email griffin at riseup dot netReport this post to the editors

As mentioned by Wayne above, a PDF pamphlet including both parts of this text is now available from the Zabalaza Books site or directly from the link below:

http://www.zabalaza.net/pdfs/varpams/what_is_anarcomm_wp.pdf

BTW Wayne - hope you're alright with us publishing your texts like this (should of maybe asked first but life is a bit crazy atm).

Yours for freedom,
G.

author by Allenpublication date Tue Feb 26, 2008 23:12Report this post to the editors

You mentioned both Anarcho-communism and Anarcho-syndicalism in your piece. Could you please explain the difference between these two philosophies? They seem to be the same to me. Would I be wrong in lumping them together as the same?

author by Tompublication date Thu Feb 28, 2008 07:35Report this post to the editors

quote: "You mentioned both Anarcho-communism and Anarcho-syndicalism in your piece. Could you please explain the difference between these two philosophies? They seem to be the same to me. Would I be wrong in lumping them together as the same?"

yeah, that's why i regard reliance these labels as divisive.

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