[Marxism] Red Plenty

Joonas Laine jjonas at nic.fi
Sun Mar 4 22:45:54 MST 2012

> Funny, I was just thinking a couple hours ago while walking
> dogs that I hadn't really read anything on this subject.
> Are there other works people can recommend on any period of
> the USSR and how its economic system worked both internally
> and externally?

Alec Nove's 'Economics of Feasible Socialism' has criticism of the USSR 
planning system, which means he offers a discussion of how it 
functioned, and his 'The Soviet Economic System' is worth reading too.

Paul Cockshott & Allin Cottrell's 'Towards a New Socialism' (that is 
available online), while not focusing on the USSR experience, has good 
stuff on how economic planning with computers can actually work, instead 
of just short assertions that "it can be done", and they deal with the 
USSR experience to some extent as well. See also their 2008 foreword to 
the Czech translation of the book and the section 'Historical failings 
of socialism'.

In Louis' writings on computers and socialism he criticises 
Cockshott-Cottrell for utopian schemes, but I see the value of their 
work in offering valuable ammunition for discussions with people who 
think socialism is a good idea but doesn't work in practice.

Most of the marxist discussion on planned economy I've read is very 
vague, and a lot of it seems to rely on communist abundance which is 
thought to solve all problems in the end (thus e.g. Ernest Mandel in 
'Marxist Economic Theory', which is a rather old book I admit).. Whereas 
Alec Nove didn't believe it was possible to plan an economy (like the 
USSR) that produces 12 million products, politically much more radical 
David McNally in his 'Against the Market' doesn't believe that it's 
possible to plan even hundreds of thousands of products, so he makes a 
virtue out of necessity by saying that well it's doesn't really make 
even sense to try to plan everything, and besides many prices could be 
regulated. Unless you've got something like Cockshott-Cottrell's book 
(which was written as a reply to Nove's 1983 book), it's hard to argue 
against this credibly.

jjonas @ nic.fi

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