market socialism and all that

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Mon Nov 13 06:24:56 MST 1995


On Sun, 12 Nov 1995 ROSSERJB at vax1.acs.jmu.edu wrote:

>      2)  How do you (Uncle Lou) explain why Slovenia
> has the highest per capita income of any socialist or formerly
> socialist economy?  It is ahead even of the Czech Republic which
> had severe command central planning in contrast to the market
> socialism of Slovenia.  The Czechs along with the GDR were the

Louis: I am looking for answers to a whole different set of questions. 
How will the planet survive when the market system, whether private or 
state-based, is destroying human, animal and vegetable life at a tempo 
unseen in history? When we are facing extinction, the issue of whether 
Slovenia or the Czech republic had a better growth track-record seems 
completely trivial.

What does market socialism mean for the vast majority of the world's 
population living in the third world? Markets mean competition. How will 
Bengla Desh fare under global competition from a vast network of 
Mondragons in the former imperialist nations, if such an implausible 
event were to actually transpire?

Market socialism might address questions of on-the-job performance, 
profits, etc., the sort of stuff that Burns calls "incentivization", but 
there's more to economics than the viability of individual firms. 
Housing, education and health-care are three of the most pressing needs 
facing humanity today. Market socialism puts forward the idea that a 
socialist government will address these needs while allowing the free 
flow of commodities in the market-place. You will, in effect, be able to 
have your cake and eat it too. Top-flight medical care and blue jeans 
that look and fit just right. The problem is that global competition is 
the enemy of the welfare state. Sweden and other "socialist" nations 
are cutting back because the market system is driving down the cost of 
labor. In order to compete, each nation will have to dump excess baggage: 
Medicare, public housing and schools, etc. During the recession of the 
1970's, Mondragon cut wages as well, as Whyte and Whyte clearly point out.

Finally, what you and Burns don't seem to understand is that I don't 
oppose decisions made by worker's states such as the Soviet Union in the 
early 20's or Cuba today to make accomodations with the market system. As 
long as imperialism dominates the world economy as it has done throughout 
the 20th century, there is no other choice. What I do think is snake-oil 
and utopian is the notion that any capitalist nation will become 
socialist through the gradual encroachment of worker's cooperatives into 
the private sphere. If the fascist dictator thought that Mondragon had 
been a threat to Spanish capitalism, he would have destroyed it in the 
1940's or 1950's. Mondragonism is a form of utopian socialism, so are the 
Kibbutzim in Israel. The Kibbutzes gave Israel a socialist cachet, but 
the real character of the Israeli state was capitalist. In later years, 
the Kibbutzes began to exploit Palestinian labor as the "socialist" 
vision in Israel gave way to the realities of class society.

Socialism only comes through class-struggle. Every instance of genuine 
socialism in the 20th century has been produced through revolution. When 
a new state power emerges as it did in the Soviet Union, Vietnam, Cuba, 
etc., decisions about the strategic direction of the economy will have to 
be made within the context of objective national and international 
conditions. When guerillas seize power, they are not likely to be 
carrying around Schweickart or Roemer in their back-packs. Revolutionary 
Nicaragua gave birth to large state-owned enterprises and peasant 
cooperatives while allowing the non-Somozaist private sector to function. 
Our job is not to lay out a blueprint for a future socialism in the 
United States, it is to wrest political and economic power from the 
ruling class that is methodically destroying the planet.


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