in defense of planned socialism (and just a little science fiction)

Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Thu Nov 3 22:39:22 MST 1994

On Fri, 4 Nov 1994, wesley david cecil wrote:

> I would argue that Marx is not much of a socialist at all.  An exact
> quote from the Econ and Phil Manuscripts: "even the equality of wages
> demanded by Proudhon only transforms the relatiosnhip of the present day
> worker to his labor into the relationship of all men to labor. Society is
> then conceived as an abstract capitalist."

You shouldn't put too much weight on the Paris Manuscripts--unpublished
notes written by a very young man on his honeymoon. Nice stuff in them,
but not worked out. The section on Private Property and Communism, which
you quote, is interesting and puzzling, but he doesn't stick with the
schema he sketches there (a primitive "capitalist" communism giving way to
the developed form). I have a line on this passage is anyone is
interested, and maybe Marx ought to have followed up his treatment of
crude communism, but he didn't.

Incidentally Marx did not call himself a socialist, a term he associated
with utopians and middle class reformers. He called himself a communist,
which was supposed to indicate a connection to proletarian self-activity.
At least it was by 1845, when the German Ideology is written.

> And wages, in the following passage, are linked directly to the notion of
> private proerty.  So, if by socialism you mean a society without wages
> and without private property then ok, marx was interested in socialism.

Well, he certainly was interested in such a society.

> Further, Democracy just does not work out because self-possesion is,

What's that? Self-ownership, the idea that I have a property in my body
and my labor? In the manner of Locke?

> Marx, the fundamental form of private property

Text, please.

and thus any sense of
> representative subjectivity

What's that?

> becomes a real problem.

Marx is an ardent democrat. He has contempt for mere democrats, who think
you can solve social problems through political reform alone, but he is
firm on representative institutions, competitive elections, universal
suffrage, and extensive social and political liberties. Hal Draper wrote
four fat books on this (Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution. Monthly Review),
but you can just read Marx's praise of the democratic institutions of the
Paris Commune in The Civil War in France.

My general sense of
> socialism is that it does not mandate the elimination of either wages or
> private property and is often linked with notions of democracy and,
> therefore, is not at all what Marx had in mind.

Depends on what you mean by socialism. What _I_ mean by socialism is
linked to democracy--a shorthand expression might be the democratization
of the economy--but definitely involves the elimination of wages and
private property. But perhaps you are thinking of European social democracy.

--Justin Schwartz


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