Additional comment for Melvin on the transition to socialism

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at
Fri Nov 14 11:50:09 MST 2003


What I forgot to say is this - in the transition to socialism, you still
need public/private distinctions and you still need individual/collective
property distinctions, and people need to be clear what they are. However,
basically the workers do need to assert their will in establishing what
collective (public property) is, and what individual property is, otherwise,
public property becomes a source of primitive accumulation by the
marketeers, sectional interests and private investors.

For example, workers will pay social security taxes to the US government,
but when you calculate what they get back from the government, it turns out
they get back less than they paid in (Anwar Shaikh and Ahmet Tonak did
this). Similarly, workers pay taxes which the government uses to subsidise
corporations. When you get this kind of thing happening, then the gross wage
payment you get, involves a legal obligation to subsidise corporations and
subsidise a government bureaucracy with a portion of your own earnings,
which however actually doesn't do anything for you. This means, that a clear
public/private distinction has been abolished, and that the mandate of the
government to spend tax dollars to benefit taxpayers is being grossly
abused, i.e. the government is a law unto itself.

You can of course argue, well, it is a bosses' government anyway, who cares,
but the point is, you are subsidising them and they can affect your life,
and therefore I think the battle to recapture the basic principle that some
things are individual property and some things are shared (public,
collective) property is a valid target for socialist politics. If socialist
parties aren't concerned with that (including pension funds etc.) then I
don't think we can build socialism either, because then we allow other
people to use our resources against our interest, and get away with it, and
we allow people to rob us all the time. You cannot build socialism on the
basis of robbery, this is impossible, this has been proved in the former
USSR countries.

One of the favourite ways private investors have to implement a bit of
primitive accumulation is, they take a public asset and then they say "well
nobody specifically owns this anyhow" and then we could just treat it as a
saleable asset which was owned by a state agency which has a legal right to
dispose of that asset, even although citizens never agreed they could have
that right. And then on that basis, with that sort of procedure, then they
privatise the asset, without any mandate from voters.

If you allow this kind of thing to happen, then you are in no way ready for
a transition to socialism, because you don't care about shared ownership or
collective property, only individual property, plus, you allow private
agencies to rob you of your stake in the assets of the society in which you
live. But if we are to advance towards socialism, then we need to make clear
and correct distinctions between individual property and public property so
that we do not get private investors encroaching on stuff we all own
together as a social, public asset, and we defend our wages against people
who want to make us subsidise things that we don't want to subsidise, and
never gave anybody a mandate to use public money for.

"TO CONCLUDE, however strange it may appear to some,or however unwilling
they may be to thing so, matters not, but many strong and striking reasons
may be given, to shew, that nothing can settle our affairs so expeditiously
as an open and determined declaration for independance."

- Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man


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