Lenin & Accounting-Reply to L. Proyect

Bernard J. Goitein bjg at bradley.bradley.edu
Wed Jul 12 10:57:49 MDT 1995

To answer Jerry's question (below)-
The experiment has been done, the data are in. The production workers can
and do learn how to read and use the accounting statements- profit/loss
cash flow, assets/liabilities.  At SRC (a remanufacturing
company in Springfield Missouri), the owners (plant managers),
realized that the firm would be more efficient and
effective if the workers had financial information (and partial
ownership of the firm) rather than the traditional approach of hiding the
data or lying about them.  (The tale has been recounted in Stack's book
"The great game of business."  and in articles in several magazines and

The mangement (Stack) encountered alot of suspicion and distrust when they
opened the books, not least because of the workers practical experience with
management lies, deceit and distortion (SRC was earlier a part of
International Harvester-enough said).  But their actual experience was
positive, so the employees learned to use these data- actually redesigning
the statements so that they were more helpful to the production process
(given capitalism, accounting statements are designed more for
informing owners and investors than about informing the workers themselves).

SRC now has a subsidiary publishing guides to accounting statements for
production workers (the guide was written by a SRC transmission
rebuilders, Denise Bredfeldt, and is called "The Yo-yo company", if you
have the urge to learn accounting).

So regular capitalist accounting can be handled by the workers,
and it is improved by the workers.  The tougher
accounting questions are things like accounting for externalities-
things that don't fit in so easily into these accounting statements. But
that is true no matter who is using the systems.

On Wed, 12 Jul 1995 glevy at acnet.pratt.edu wrote:

> Jerry:
> Putting aside the issue of Jim's sarcasm, experts do have to write the
> programs and that *IS* basically beside the point.  Have those computer
> programs resulted in deskilling and increased productivity of labor?  Is
> it possible for the average factory worker in the forseeable future to
> learn the essentials of accounting with these programs, the necessary
> training in the use of these technologies, and some training in basic
> accounting methods?  Are these basic skills really beyond the analytical
> capacity of US workers?  Is there *anyone* who would deny that these
> programs can make it easier to learn accounting and perform basic
> accounting tasks?
> Yes, there will still be a need for expert accountants and software
> developers to write good accounting programs.  But, there will be a need
> for *less* skilled workers to perform this function.
> So ... getting back to the micro level.  Let's say there is a factory
> with 500 workers which needs the equivalent of 10 full-time accountants.
> If a workers' council offered workers an incentive (such as additional
> vacation time) to train how to be an accountant and to work a certain
> proportion of each year doing accounting and the remainder of the year
> performing unskilled operations, don't you think that there would be
> enough volunteers?  Or is that a utopian aspiration?
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