in defense of planned socialism (and just a little science fiction)
hagena at mhd1.moorhead.msus.edu
Tue Nov 1 23:02:08 MST 1994
please humor me. :)
I like Ann Ferguson's idea of council socialism. I feel it is a derivative
of planned socialism.
I have a number of points to make against market socialism, and a few to
make for planned socialism.
First, the weaknesses of market socialism. Markets cannot be part of
socialism, because markets are instruments of class power perpetrated by
the bourgeosie. Markets presume a widening division of labor, private
property, and commodity production. Markets are so effective in
maintaining and expanding power that they are used more and more often by
the empowered class. Thus, markets seem to naturally spread all over the
globe, commoditizing more goods and services, and creating a need for the
protection of private property as a legal right.
A market socialism, whatever it looks like, would not do away with that
which is perhaps the most serious trepidation of capitalism: the
commodification of labor. The reproduction of the means of human life
would continue to be controlled by the Moneybags's of the world.
Next, the weaknesses of planned socialism. Completely leaving aside all
the "small is beautiful" arguments and the cousins to such arguments, a
case can be made for heavy planning, warts and all. Justin Schwartz
complains that planned socialism leads to lines, shortages, waste,
corruption, and black markets.
Aside from the fact that capitalism has all these, too (even lines, if
you consider starving people to be in an abstract "line" for food), and
the fact that capitalism is much worse in these areas outside the first
world, we can see that planned socialism has been unfairly judged. If
black markets exist, that is clearly a result of class machinations,
assuming democracy is working nearly perfectly. To the extent that they
exist, corruption and the others will follow. Moreover, the empirical
examples we have on this, namely the USSR and its satellites, were wholly
non-democratic and under tremendous pressure by the capitalist and
fascist regimes of the world during their existence, and so their
usefulness as empirical evidence is limited.
How do we get to a nearly perfectly functioning democracy? Through class
consciousness. Class power and political tyranny are nearly the same thing
in this day and age.
Other than that, the strikes against planned socialism seem to me to boil
down to two assertions:
1) that humankind is naturally greedy and cannot open its heart to
anything so naive as socialism.
I don't think many here will argue with me as I assert that this is
untrue. But won't people always yearn for newer and better things? Yes, if
that demand is manufactured by P.R. and advertising firms.
This is very much related to the need to dismantle the division of labor.
Greed is a result of the possibility of extravagance. No division of labor
means no possibliity of extravagance. People become persuaded of the
negativity of the DOL when they realize that sustenance and sustainability
are more important than extravagance.
2) you can can never plan out an economy.
Socialism is not really an economy. Instead of presuming scarcity, it
eliminates it. Instead of focusing on the distribution of goods (which
becomes important to a demand driven "economy"), socialism focuses on the
production of resources that result in the survival of humans globally. Of
course, socialism will produce many extravagances, but it will be for the
enjoyment of all, that is, social. For example, borrowing limousines.
Whoo-woo, everybody loves to ride in a limousine. Now everybody gets to.
You can plan out the production of resources, and to the extent needed,
the distribution of them. But it requires much more democracy than voting
once every two years. There should be votes every month. Every voting day
should be a holiday, with no one working. Everyone should have the right
to make speeches and print handbills. There should be more referendums,
and less elections of officials. Yes, you can have so much democracy that
the planning problems go away. After all, we know that organizations with
no "management" layer are far more productive than those with such layers.
Why can't societies be the same way? Obviously, for reasons of political
power plays. That's why we need a group somewhat like Plato's Guardians,
from _The Republic_.
Finally, about the assertion that we have 1.5 billion years to get
socialism right. No, we don't. From the combined likelihoods of an
asteroid-induced end-of-humanity calamity, to nuclear war, to
environmental spoilage and poisoning, to some unforeseen phenonmena, the
human race's days are numbered. And when we consider that there is no
obvious biological group to step forward evolutionarily (to play the role
of mammals, which evolved before the fall of the dinosaurs), we realize
that intelligent life on this planet is quite threatened right now.
Further, it is unlikely that a group of humans will be able to adapt to
new conditions and thus evolve into a new species, if our "supporting
cast," mammals, fishes, higher plants, insects, become extinct as well.
I may be too far into the realm of science fiction here, but humor me. My
point is that our choice is rapidly shifting from "socialism or
barbarism" (we already have barbarism.), to "socialism or death."
Andrew Hagen hagena at mhd1.moorhead.msus.edu
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obligatory Karl Marx quote: (quoted after relating tales of child labor in
England, enslavement, and imperialism.) "If money, according to Augier,
'comes into the world with a congential bloodstain on one cheek,' capital
comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt."
Capital, vol 1, International Publishers, 1967, pp 711-712.
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