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

Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Sat Nov 5 21:17:45 MST 1994

On Sat, 5 Nov 1994, wesley david cecil wrote:
> On Fri, 4 Nov 1994, Justin Schwartz wrote:
> > You shouldn't put too much weight on the Paris Manuscripts--unpublished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.
> I rather like the economic and philosophic manuscripts and see no reason
> why I should not put a lot of weight on them.  His discussion of private
> property, wages, and Hegel seem coherent to me.  I think it is rather
> un-productive to play the 'my texts are more canonical than yours game'
> and shold stick more with the question of the moment which was wether or
> not Marx would support a socialist regime.

Canonical or not was not my point. If you are interested in interpreting
Marx and getting his views right, however, normal canons apply. Published
stuff counts more than unpublished stuff. Completed books, even if
unpublished (like The German Ideology, for which M&E sought a publisher,
though not very hard) count more than notes. Later stuff counts more than
earlier stuff. The Paris Manuscripts in particular are generally regarded
as pre-Marxist on the grounds that not all the pieces of the mature
doctrine are there. Historical materialism is notably missing, and the
economics is pretty primitive. I think myself that the moral theory is
pretty much the same as in the later works, but this is controversial.

Given all this the Paris Manuscripts are not very useful for deciding
whether Marx would support socialism, unless you are asking what his view
was in 1844. Not also that in the PM he flips in his terminology. In
Private Property and Communism, he supports what he calls communism. In
The Meaning of Human Requirements, what he calls communism in the earlier
manuscript he calls socialism. Sorry--looking at the text, he flips from
beginning to end of the earlier manuscript. He manifestly is working
things out. He hasn't yet got a polished view.

If you think his discussions of private property (especially!), wages, and
Hegel are coherent and can be explained lucidly, you should write this up
and publish it.

> >
Me > > Incidentally Marx did not call himself a socialist, a term he
> > 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.
> >
You > > > 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.
> >
Me > > Well, he certainly was interested in such a society.
You > Right, and this is my question, is socialism generally the pursuit of a
> society which eliminates private property and wages?  I understood it to
> be more interested in the just distribution of goods and services that
> did not require the elmination of private property.
Understood by whom? Marx is not interested in justice. Anyway, socialism
is a contested term which changes meaning. Marx contrasted middle class
socialism qua reform with proletarian communism. From Engels' Socialism
Utopian and Scientific most Marxists have called themselves socialists,
meaning minimally anticapitalist revolutionaries. With the Bolshevik
Revolution, there was also a split between the Socialist Parties, which
tended not to support the revolution and the CPs, which did. The SPs have
drifted into an antirevolutionary position of supporting the capitalist
welfare state. On the other hand the USSR was the Union of Soviet
SOCIALIST Republics, following Lenin's terminology that socialism was the
stage preceding Communism.

So if you want to use "socialism" you have to say what you mean by it. It
doesn't come with a set definition.

Me > > Marx is an ardent democrat. He has contempt for mere democrats, who
> > 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.
> >
> > 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
> >

You > I don't argue that Marx implicitly and explicitly supports democratic
> instituions in many places in his work.  Rather, I question wether
> democracy however radical can lead to the elimination of private property
> or wether it is not rather a political from that grows directly out of
> bourgeois idealism and hence the logic of private property.  I see no
> necessary link between socialism or communism or whatever and democracy
> and many points of conflict.

Marx of course thought that democracy in its modern form derived from
bourgeois society--not from "idealism" but from class struggle and the
need of the bourgeoisie to fight the aristocracy and to enlist the support
of the proletariat and the peasantry in that battle, as well as from the
demands of the proletariat itself. The first task of the proletarian
revolution, he says, is to win the battle of democracy.

Whatever Marx may have thought, even if he is right that historically
democracy grows from bourgeois society that does not mean that it grows
only from such society or that socialism (or the proletariat as ruling
class) can do without it. Whether there is a necessary link depends on
what you mean by socialism. If you define socialism as the extension of
democracy to the whole of society there is a necessary, a definitional link.

What are the "points of conflict" you see? In my book, them's fightin' words.

--Justin Schwartz


More information about the Marxism mailing list