[Marxism] Re.: Marx was right?
kranney at rogers.com
Sat Feb 7 11:19:04 MST 2004
Louis Proyect seems to be calling me a neo-utopian. I do not consider this
to be a downer, for I have never understood what was wrong with
utopianism. I do not think that Marx really made the case for his
condemnation, other than to say that before him, everybody was wrong. Had
his concept of class struggle eliminated capitalism he might have been
shown to be right, but, as capitalism is now well ensconced, he has not.
He also says: "I am opposed to the market". I quite agree, for the market
is an immoral institution. The market is ruled by a profoundly selfish
principle: that A will not give to B unless B returns something which A
regards as of at least equivalent value to A. This means that, if, for
example, B is starving, but has no money, A feels no reluctance to withhold
food, even if A has food in excess. Such immorality may not be due to the
market as such, but rather a result of the ethics induced by the market
The market, in a phrase extracted from Tawney, "offer(s) peculiarly
insidious temptations to lapse into immorality."
The complete quote is:
In the sixteenth century, whatever the political conditions, the claim of
the Calvinist Churches is everywhere to exercise a collective
responsibility for the moral conduct of their members in all the relations
of life, and to do so, not least, in the sphere of economic transactions,
which offer peculiarly insidious temptations to lapse into immorality.
R. H. Tawney, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism Pelican Books 1938, p 133
At 03:21 PM 2/6/2004 -0500, Louis Proyect wrote:
>Ken Ranney wrote:
>> From the closet: I suggest that the best method of eliminating
>> capitalism is to give the ownership of the corporations to their
>> workers. Each worker, in this plan, would have one non-saleable voting
>> share in her/his company, to be surrendered if s/he leaves the company.
>>The workers would elect their own management.
>It is really hard to believe, but adherents to rival utopian visions can
>have nasty splits just like "Marxist-Leninists". Evidence of this is
>contained in the most recent copy of "Democracy and Nature", a journal
>formerly known as "Society and Nature". The International Managing Editor
>is Takis Fotopoulos.
>In the "Dialog" section of the issue, the editors air their dirty laundry.
>Murray Bookchin, a member of the advisory board along with other
>luminaries such as Noam Chomsky, Andre Gunder Frank and Cornelius
>Castoriadis, is tendering his resignation. Bookchin is the guru of the
>social ecology movement, which --crudely put-- is a mixture of anarchism
>and environmentalism. He lives in Vermont and posts jeremiads against
>capitalism to his followers near and wide.
>"Very disturbingly, Takis and I have even drifted apart on the issue that
>long held us together, libertarian municipalism. (I now strongly prefer
>the word 'libertarian' over 'confederal' municipalism because
>'libertarian' has a revolutionary political content, rather than merely a
>structural and logistical one.) His current advocacy of a personal voucher
>system and an 'artificial market' (whatever happened to a
>libertarian-communist moral economy?), and his notion that libertarian
>municipalism could somehow creep up on the bourgeoisie and erode the power
>of the state are highly disturbing to me. These notions divest libertarian
>municipalism of its confrontational stance toward the state in the form of
>a revolutionary dual power. I did not propound this theory of politics to
>see it mutate into Bernsteinian evolutionary social democracy."
>Bookchin's "libertarian municipalism" is offered as an alternative to the
>Marxist vision of a transformation of society led by the working-class.
>"Social ecology would embody its ethics in a politics of confederal
>municipalism, in which municipalities cojointly gain rights to
>self-governance through networks of confederal councils, to which towns
>and cities would send their mandated, recallable by delegates to adjust
>Okay, let's see if we can get this right. Capitalism will be replaced by a
>more humane system through the incremental replacement of capitalist
>chunks of real estate by new egalitarian units. Today we have liberated
>Putney, Vermont and Madison, Wisconsin. Next week we have a shot at taking
>over Dallas, Texas. When all the towns and cities have been become
>liberated zones, we then celebrate our victory by eating dishes of Ben and
>Jerry's ice cream.
>What is that Takis Fotopoulos believes in that so exercised Bookchin? The
>fight is over models and nothing else. Bookchin clings to one model, while
>Takis to another.
>In his "Outline of an Economic Model for an Inclusive Democracy",
>contained in the very same issue, Fotopoulos makes a sales presentation
>for this breakthrough in model-creation. He starts off by trying to parry
>the thrust that he knows I have in store for him:
>"Although it is up to the citizens' assemblies of the future to design the
>form an inclusive democracy will take, I think it is important to
>demonstrate that such a form of society is not only necessary, so that the
>present descent to barbarism can be avoided, but feasible as well. This is
>particularly important when the self-styled 'left' has abandoned any
>vision that is not based on the market economy and liberal 'democracy',
>which they take for granted, and has dismissed an alternative visions as
>'utopian' (in the negative sense of the word.)"
>Hmmm. I think that there is a problem of utopianism, but his definition of
>the 'left' would seem to exclude me since I am opposed to the market. In
>any case, the notion that "feasible" visions of socialism is the world is
>waiting for certainly does appear "utopian" to me. It is the same vision
>that Schweickart and Hahnel-Albert share. Each is vying to present a model
>that works on all planes: economic, political and ethical. The problem,
>however, is that class struggle will dictate the contours of a new
>socialism, not excellent working models.
>Fotopoulos takes swipes at Hahnel-Albert in his article, who are of course
>rival utopians. He believes that their schema invites bureaucracy because
>it provides for some state agency that invites people to state what their
>consumer "needs" are. Agencies, as we know from bitter experience, can
>turn into utter monstrosities. One day they will ask you whether you want
>pleats in your trousers or not. The next day they will be sending you to
>prison for stating the wrong preference.
>Fotopoulos' schema revolves around the issuance of vouchers.
>"Basic Vouchers (BVs) are used for the satisfaction of basic needs. These
>vouchers, which are personal and issued on behalf of the confederation,
>entitle each citizen to a given level of satisfaction for each particular
>type of need that has been characterized as 'basic', but do not specify
>the particular type of satisfier, so that choice can be secured."
>Eureka! Choice can be secured. All across the planet a mighty roar can be
>heard. Basic Vouchers are the answer to consumer demand under a
>postcapitalist system. Why didn't the Nicaraguans think of this. I can
>just see Fotopoulos putting his papers across Carl Oquist's desk and
>declaring like Ross Perot that there is "no problem" in satisfying
>consumer demand. Just issue BV's. Of course, BV's are not very useful in a
>wartime economy and during economic blockade, the exact circumstances of
>Nicaragua and all postcapitalist societies since 1917.
>In a couple of days or so, I want to try to get a handle on why all these
>utopian schemas have proliferated over the past 5 years or so. Obviously,
>they are related to the collapse of the USSR but there is a lot more going
>on that would be useful for scientific socialists to understand when
>considering this new outbreak of utopian socialism.
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