Proyect replies to Robert Peter Burns, SJ

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Nov 9 06:37:09 MST 1995

On Wed, 8 Nov 1995, Robert Peter Burns wrote:

> A question for Louis Proyect and other supporters of a
> marketless socialism: what's your response to the following
> post <I sent it awhile back to the Progressive Economists
> list when Louis launched a short-lived and abortive attempt
> to critique market socialism.  Louis didn't answer it then,
> will he or someone else step up to the plate this time?>

Louis: Robert, you might have thought my attempt was abortive. I 
certainly didn't convince you or the two other aficionados of MS over there, 
but I wasn't attempting to do that. I was much more interested in toughening 
up the opposition to MS among the non-tenured elements on PEN-L. I was 
deeply satisfied with the results, I must say.

> Let's incentivize workers to produce such things to the requisite
> degree of availability in return for enjoyment of the profits
> of doing so.  When shoemakers indicate that they want to provide
> shoes in the requisite amounts, quality and variety, for the same 
> sorts of rewards as are available to public schoolteachers, nurses
> working in socialized health-care systems, officials working in
> government departments, etc, then that will be the time to abolish
> markets and commodities altogether. 

Louis: "Incentivize": what an ugly word. If you want to "incentivize" 
people, you don't need market socialism at all. Capitalism will do just 
fine. In his book on market socialism, the Polish economist Brus notes 
that there is a contradiction between state ownership and market 
mechanisms. That contradiction, as everybody knows, has been resolved in 
the favor of market mechanisms and private ownership in the former Soviet 

The reason "market socialism" failed is not because of the greediness or 
ill-will of individuals. It is because the powerful forces being 
unleashed by global capital today cause enterprises everywhere, private 
or state-owned, to *show a profit*. Mondragon-type enterprises will lay 
people off if they are not in the black, so will General Motors.

Marxian socialism as opposed to the utopian socialism represented by 
Schweickart, Roemer et al, takes into account the world historical forces 
capitalism is fostering at each moment in its development. Capitalism today 
is propelling globalization, monopolization and pauperization of the 
working-class. Maquiladoras are the future, not Mondragon. The 
desire for Mondragons today is as quaint and as old-fashioned as the 
attempts by some to build self-sustaining hippie communes in Vermont in 
the 1970's, or Kibbutzes in Israel in the 1950's.

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