Howie Chodos howie at magi.com
Tue Jun 13 22:15:33 MDT 1995

Scott Marshall wrote:

>And to compare and glorify the achievements of social democratic europe is
>the height of bankruptcy - capital with free reign, some rights true enough
>won by struggle - but democracy - what a laugh.

This raises the question of how to evaluate the achievements of
social-democracy. Now I cannot argue the data on this, but I did hear Ian
Gough (His "A Theory of Human Need", with Len Doyal, won the Deutscher Prize
a couple of years ago) make the case that on a scale of meeting basic human
needs that he had worked out (with others) the Scandinavian
social-democratic states (perhaps it was only Sweden, but the point remains
unchanged) came out at the top of the pack. This is, of course, a relative
statement. It does not say anything about whether this is the best we can
do. But as relative statements go it is a relatively strong one. Is there
not something to be said for organizing one's society to set the standard in
meeting human needs? Isn't this what Marxism proposes: a society organized
around meeting human need and not around the maximization of private profit?
We might want to argue that Scandinavian social-democracy is still deficient
in certain important ways, but that cannot diminish its status of being
relatively the best at meeting human need. At the very least whatever one's
assessment it seems to me that one has to argue it, and not assume, as Scott
does, that there is sufficient agreement amongst Marxists on this question
that a peremptory dismissal of the opposing position will resonate with
those one wishes to reach.

There was another point that Scott made in a recent post which also deserves
comment, (and about which I would second R W Daum's trenchant criticism). He

> No I didn't get into a long sociological diatribe about the mechanism by
> which loss of socialism caused the drug problem. Pehaps silly of me to think
> that folks on this list can make that connection on their own, since some
> like Justin feel that the loss of sociaism is a good thing no matter the
> consequences to regular working people.

Now I must admit that I feel that I may have inadvertently given the
impression of arguing something similar to Scott when I took issue with
something Justin had written. So let me apologise for that unclarity. On the
substantive issue of whether the collapse of the old Soviet union was a good
thing, my position would be that it is too soon to tell, though I am not
optimistic that progressive forces will be able to take advantage of the
political and organizational vacuum that this has created anytime soon. But
I do not condemn the collapse as an unequivocal "bad", which Scott clearly
does. That is because he saw the previous system as on the whole "good",
which I do not.

Howie Chodos

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