Lenin & Accounting-Reply to L. Proyect

VINCENT M M.Vincent at city.ac.uk
Wed Jul 12 09:58:23 MDT 1995

On Wed, 12 Jul 1995, Howie Chodos wrote:

> This may be naive, but it does seem to me that there
> are important political questions related to matters of accounting, to which
> Jerry alluded in a previous post. What counts as a cost? Who pays for
> environmental restoration?

Yes these are important political questions, but the issue at stake seems
to be whether or not anybody can undertake functions that are now done by
"specialists" and "experts" who study for many years to do these things.

> As well, I am not convinced that the fact that programs have to be written
> by experts is entirely besides the point. Unless accounting is an entirely
> neutral function, equally and unproblematically applicable under capitalism,
> socialism and communism, the nature of the input of the experts into the
> technology will have an effect on the types of outcome it allows. My overall
> inclination is to think that while there are many technologies (and more
> generally knowledges) that can readily be appropriated for different social
> purposes, there are also many which are locked into particular types of
> social relations and reproduce them independently of the wishes of those who
> manipulate them.

Well, I agree that I would not like my brain operated on by anyone
except a fully-trained Brain Surgeon even under socialism, but this does not
automatically lead to particular types of social relations being
reproduced "independently of the wishes of those who manipulate

> It is the democratisation of functions such as
> accounting that seems to be to be crucial to a socialist project. In order
> to do this it is better that as many people as possible understand what is
> going on, and have practical experience of the tasks involved. Technological
> advances no doubt facilitate this, but they do not, it seems to me, exhaust
> what needs to be said about democratic control as a way of reshaping social
> relations.
> Howie Chodos

It is also the case that once education becomes real education and not a
way of crippling the potential of millions and billions of working class
people everywhere, certain skills such as computer programming and
accounting will be skills available to ALL.  I do not wish to denigrate
the person who is an accountant on this list, or Louis Proyect, who I
have seen on other lists (such as LEFT-L) and have a great deal of time
for, but it is a fact that once the mystique is taken out of many skills,
the majority will be able to use them as part of a range of skills the
future communist citizen may take for granted.

Is it not also the case that in a society which has overthrown
capitalism, there will be many things that accoutants do now which will
no longer be needed, such as interest payments, etc.?

I am new to this list, but already I am really looking forward to some
serious debates around Marxism.  The level of debate and ideas seems to
surpass other "left" lists I subscribe to.

Maxine Vincent

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