Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Is the SPGB an anarchist organisation

Another post of an online discussion that took place here .

Some would say that the SPGB are the political wing of anarchism !!!!

However some comments made here are simply mistruths or misunderstandings .

First lets begin with the structure and orgnisation of the SPGB. In keeping with the tenet that working class emancipation necessarily excludes the role of political leadership , the SPGB is a leader-less political party where its executive committee is solely for housekeeping admin duties and cannot determine policy or even submit resolutions to conference (and btw all the EC minutes are available for public scrutiny with access on the web as proof of our commitment to openness and democracy ) . All conference decisions have to be ratified by a referendum of the whole membership . The General Secretary has no position of power or authority over any other member being a dogsbody . Despite some very charismatic writers and speakers in the past , no personality has held undue influence over the the SPGB . Although some wag can wise-crack that we are "museum marxists" , the longevity of the SPGB as a political organisation based on agreed goals, methods and organisational principles and which has produced without interruption a monthly magazine for over a hundred years through two world wars is an achievement that most anarchist organisations can only aspire towards .

Knightrose and Django are correct in saying that there are common misrepresentations and parodies of the SPGB positions rather than the genuine disagreements which they hold ( particularly on Parliament , trade unions and Trenchone's comment is an example of such a typical dismissive and misinformed one that no wriggling is required ). I have put the SPGB case forward on a couple of threads here , A simple search will locate those . But just briefly to set the record straight , the sole purpose of the SPGB is to argue for socialism, and put up candidates to measure how many socialist voters there are. We await the necessary future mass socialist party as impatiently as others and do not claim for ourselves the mantle of being or becoming that organisation . The function of the SPGB is to make socialists, to propagate socialism, and to point out to the workers that they must achieve their own emancipation. It does not say: “Follow us! Trust us! We shall emancipate you.” No, Socialism must be achieved by the workers acting for themselves. We are unique among political parties in calling on people NOT to vote for them unless they agree with what they stand for. Contrary to rumour, The SPGB do not insist that the workers be convinced one by one by members of the party
Quote:
".... if we hoped to achieve Socialism ONLY by our propaganda, the outlook would indeed be bad. But it is capitalism itself, unable to solve crises, unemployment and poverty, engaging in horrifying wars, which is digging its own grave. Workers are learning by bitter experience and bloody sacrifice for interests not their own. They are learning very slowly. Our job is to shorten the time, to speed up the process." Socialism or Chaos

This socialist majority will elect socialist delegates to whatever democratic institutions exist ( and these may be soviets or workers councils in some places), with the sole objective of legitimately abolishing capitalism. The SPGB are well aware that if such a majority existed it could do as it damn well pleased, but we consider that a democratic mandate would smooth the transition and we are also aware that the socialist majority might in certain circumstances have to use force to impose its will, but consider this an unlikely scenario.

The difference between the SPGB and anarchists is not over the aim of abolishing the State but over how to do this. Anarchists say that the first objective of the workers' revolution against capitalism should be to abolish the State. socialists say that, to abolish the State, the socialist working class majority must first win control of it and, if necessary, retain it (in albeit a suitably very modified form) but for a very short while just in case any pro-capitalist recalcitrant minority should try to resist the establishment of socialism. Once socialism, as the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production by the whole people, has been established (which the SPGB has always claimed can be done almost immediately ), the State is dismantled, dissolved completely We are not talking years or decades or generations here , but as a continuation of the immediate revolutionary phase of the over- throw of capitalism .

But to end with the Anarcho-Marxist case , some quotes from Marx about the abolition of the State .
In 1844 Marx wrote that
Quote:
"the existence of the state and the existence of slavery are inseparable" - "The King of Prussia and Social Reform"
Again, as Engels wrote in a letter to Bebel in March 1875,
Quote:
"Marx's book against Proudhon and later the Communist Manifesto directly declare that with the introduction of the socialist order of society the state will dissolve itself and disappear" .

Then, in a circular against the Bakunin prepared for the First International in 1875, Marx wrote:
Quote:
"To all socialists anarchy means this: the aim of the proletarian movement--that is to say the abolition of social classes--once achieved, the power of the state, which now serves only to keep the vast majority of producers under the yoke of a small minority of exploiters, will vanish, and the functions of government become purely administrative"

And i am much sympathetic to Joseph Dietzgen (who greatly influenced the council communist Pannekoek). Dietzgen had this take on this problem which we should heed , since the "thin red line" is very thin
Quote:
"The terms anarchist, socialist, communist should be so "mixed" together, that no muddlehead could tell which is which. Language serves not onlythe purpose of distinguishing things but also of uniting them- for it is dialectic." June 9, 1886

And on anarchists and socialists generally , he said :
Quote:
"For my part, I lay little stress on the distinction, whether a man is an anarchist or a socialist, because it seems to me that too much weight is attributed to this difference."....
"While the anarchists may have mad and brainless individuals in their ranks, the socialists have an abundance of cowards. For this reason I care as much for one as the other."... "The majority in both camps are still in great need of education, and this will bring about a reconciliation in time."-
April 20, 1886

Concerning the hostility clause ,(It only commits the SPGB to opposing all other political parties, defined as organisations that contest elections and/or make demands on governments to enact reforms.) , there needs to be only one working-class class party and that this must be opposed to all other parties which can only represent sections of the owning class and if there were two groups of organised socialists, with more or less the same principles, then it would be their duty to try to unite to further the coming into being of the single "ideal" socialist party, opposed to all others, mentioned in Clause 7. They would both want socialism; they would both favour democratic revolution to get it; they would both be democratically organised internally; they would both repudiate advocating or campaigning for reforms of capitalism. There would no doubt be differences over tactical questions (which presumably would be why there were two separate organisatiions), such as over the trade union question, the attitude a minority of socialists should adopt in parliament,even over whether religion was a social question or a private matter. But it would be the duty of the two groups to find a solution to this and form a single organisation.

In 1904 the SPGB raised the banner for such a single, mass socialist party and offered itself (proclaimed itself, actually) as the basis or embryo of such a party (Clause 8). Not only did the working class in general, or in any great numbers, not "muster under its banner" but neither did all socialists. So we were left as a small propagandist group, but still committed to the principles set out in our declaration of principles. But we have never been so arrogant as to claim that we're the only socialists and that anybody not in the SPGB is not a socialist. There are socialists outside the SPGB, and some of them are organised in different groups. That doesn't mean that we are not opposed to the organisations they have formed, but we are not opposed to them because we think they represent some section of the capitalist class. We are opposed to them because we disagree with what they are proposing the working class should do to get socialism -- and of course the opposite is the case too : they're opposed to what we propose. Apart from the SLP and its offshoots, nearly all the others who stand for a classless, stateless, moneyless, wageless society ( "the non-market, anti-statist sector") are anti-parliamentary. For the SPGB , using the existing historically-evolved mechanism of political democracy (the ballot box, parliament) is the best and safest way for a socialist-minded working class majority to get to socialism. For them, it's anathema. For the SPGB , some of the alternatives they suggest (armed insurrection, a general strike) are anathema. We all present our respective proposals for working-class action to get socialism and, while criticising each other's proposals, not challenging each other's socialist credentials (engaging in comradfely froiticism) . In the end, the working class itself will decide what to do."the thin red line " is condemned to remain thin it seems . At a later stage, when more and more people are coming to want socialism, a mass socialist movement will emerge to dwarf all the small groups and grouplets that exist today. In the meantime, the best thing we in the SPGB can do is to carry on campaigning for a world community based on the common ownership and democratic control of the Earth's natural and industrial resources in the interests of all Humanity . We in the WSM/SPGB will continue to propose that this be established by democratic, majority political action; the other groups will no doubt continue to propose their way to get there. And we'll see which proposal the majority working class takes up. It's not us handful of socialist/anarchists today who're going to establish socialism, but the mass of people out there. Until they move,we're stymied. Until then we agree to disagree. Those who want to argue that such a society should be established through democratic majority political action based on socialist understanding, and who want to concentrate on arousing this, will join the SPGB. Those argue that it will come about some other way, or want to do other things as well, will join some other group.And while at the same time addressing ourselves to non-socialists we should also keep on discussing with each other, which is what this LIBCOM forum is for .

From the comments of some on this thread , there is no need for them to have a clause in their equivalent declaration of principles to express hostility against the SPGB .
To paraphrase Ken McLeod in the Stone Canal, an SPGBer answering the charge of sectarianism from a Trotskyite exclaims:
'how can a member of a split from a split from a split from a split from a split from the Fourth International call US sectarian?'
Such a similar reposte can be so easily directed at those on the anarcho/council communist milieu . In the main , it remains true that no other organisation or group comes anywhere near the comprehensive case which the SPGB set out. If there was one, myself and many others would be joining .

I have not claimed that we are not a political party but insist that we are a unique political party . The SPGB is the oldest existing socialist party in the UK and has been propagating the alternative to capitalism since 1904. A Marxist-based ( but perhaps a William Morris - Peter Kropotkin amalgam , may be a better description ) organisation . It is a non-Social Democrat 2nd Internationalist , non-Leninist 3rd Internationalist , non-Trotskyist 4th Internationalist political organisation that is a formally structured leader-less political party .( under UK electoral law , a registered political party , which we are, has to name its leader and to comply the SPGB simply drew a name out of a hat and i doubt any member recollects who it was )

We share one thing in common with the IWW in the sense that unions should not be used as a vehicle for political parties and have their control fought over . The SPGB have always insisted that there will be a separation and that no political party should , or can successfully use , unions as an economic wing , until a time very much closer to the revolution when there are substantial and sufficient numbers of socialist conscious workers . And for the foreseeable thats far off in the future . It is NOT the SPGB's task to lead the workers in struggle or to instruct its members on what to do in trade unions, tenants' associations or whatever , because we believe that class conscious workers and socialists are quite capable of making decisions for themselves.For the Lenininist , all activity should be mediated by the Party (union activity, neighbourhood community struggles or whatever .) , whereas for us, the Party is just one mode of activity available to the working class to use in their struggles.

We agree with Anton Pannekoek who said:-
Quote:
'If...persons with the same fundamental conceptions (regarding Socialism) unite for the discussion of practical steps and seek clarification through discussion and propagandise their conclusions, such groups might be called parties, but they would be parties in an entirely different sense from those of to-day'.

Class struggle without any clear understanding of where you are going is simply committing oneself to a never-ending treadmill. This is where the Leninist Party also goes wrong. They think mechanistically that a sense of revolutionary direction emerges spontaneously out of "the struggle" thus circumventing the realm of ideology - the need to educate . It does not. The workers can never win the class struggle while it is confined simply to the level of trade union militancy; it has to be transformed into a socialist consciousness.Conversely, socialist consciousness cannot simply rely for its own increase on ideological persuasion. It has to link up with the practical struggle. The success of the socialist revolution will depend on the growth of socialist consciousness on a mass scale and that these changed ideas can only develop through a practical movement.( Knightrose has argued that when it comes to socialist consciousness the SPGB puts the cart before the cart-horse, and personally i accept he has a point ) .

Just to reiterate, the real difference with the SPGB and various anarchists/syndicalists is over which form of activity and organisation--political or industrial--is the more important. Our view is that it is the winning of political control which is more important and that is why we emphasise this ( and in the past may have made a fetish of it but i think there is much more of a balance on the matter these days , and just maybe , the anarchists could also shift their position in return.)

What we do share in common with anarchism , however, is failure to convince the majority of workers of the strengths of both our respective positions , and that is worth debating sometime.

And anyone who considers the SPGB to be Leninist BECAUSE we hold a set of basic principles must also disagree with many anarchist organisations , who also have a collective identity and strategy that they understand to be the most appropriate means for establishing socialism/anarchism .

I said that the working class will ultimately decide the means to emancipate itself .
The SPGB stands by its analysis that we should use Parliament, not to try to reform capitalism but for the purpose of abolishing capitalism and that at the same time, the working class will also be organising itself, at the various places of work, in order to keep production going . The SPGB case of the primacy of political action has not been hid in any of my posts . Its a point that we will disagree upon and as i said we present our arguments and let the working class choose.

Another principle held by the SPGB is the need for the majority to understand and support the socialist transformation of society . Anarchists have to envisage some other means of expressing the popular will and public demand than a parliament elected by and responsible to a socialist majority amongst the population. But what, exactly? It would have to be something like the Congress of Socialist Industrial Unions or a Central Council of Workers Councils or Federation of Communes . Possibly similar bodies such as these will exist at the time, the SPGB has stated that they probably will arise , but would any of these bodies be more efficient and more effective and even more democratic in controlling the State/central administrative machinery than a socialist majority elected to Parliament by universal suffrage in a secret ballot.Simply go to Anarchist FAQ for descriptions of how the soviets were manipulated and gerry-mandered by a minority .

Goodness me , Trenchone is projecting a travesty of interpretation of the SPGB and its aim of capturing the State machine .

Which part of
Quote:
"the socialist working class majority must first win control of it and, if necessary, retain it (in albeit a suitably very modified form) but for a very short while just in case any pro-capitalist recalcitrant minority should try to resist the establishment of socialism. Once socialism, as the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production by the whole people, has been established (which the SPGB has always claimed can be done almost immediately ), the State is dismantled, dissolved completely We are not talking years or decades or generations here , but as a continuation of the immediate revolutionary phase of the over- throw of capitalism .
did he not understand from my earlier post .

And lets be clear , there are government departments such as of health and agriculture and environment which according to Trenchone will all be relegated to history and the experience and skills and knowledge of socialists within those organisations will not be utilised to tackle the problems facing the re-structuring of society and its socialisation .
Control of parliament by representatives of a conscious revolutionary movement will enable the bureaucratic-military apparatus to be dismantled and the oppressive forces of the state to be neutralised , so that socialism may be introduced with the least possible violence and disruption. Parliament and local councils , to the extent that their functions are administrative and not governmental , can and will be used to co-ordinate the immediate measures to transform society when socialism is established . Far better , is it not , if only to minimise the risk of violence, to organise to win a majority in parliament , not to form a government , but to end capitalism and dismantle the state.

As for having confidence in the working class , Trenchone doesn't even trust them with the vote .

The SPGB say that the capitalist’s legitimacy comes from their ‘democratic’ rule, so we believe that the capitalist’s legitimacy can be totally be broken by taking a majority in Parliament . But “capturing” Parliament is only a measure of acceptance of socialism and a coup de grace to capitalist rule. The owning class has a supreme weapon within its grasp: political power, – control of the army, navy, air and police forces.
That power is conferred upon the representatives of the owners at election times and they, recognizing its importance, spend large amounts of wealth and much time and effort to secure it. In countries like Britain the workers form the bulk of the voters; a situation the employers are compelled to face and deal with. Hence the incessant stream of opinion-forming influences which stems from their ownership and control of press, radio, schools to influence the workers to the view that capitalism is the best of all possible social forms. And that only political groups who accept this view are worthy of workers votes. It is the Achilles heel of capitalism and makes a non-violent revolution possible.Therefore , the first, most important battle is to continue the destruction of capitalism’s legitimacy in the minds of our fellow class members. That is, to drive the development of our class as a class-for-itself, mindful of the fact that capitalism is a thing that can be destroyed and a thing that should be destroyed.They must withdraw their consent to capitalism and class rule .

The SPGB view its function to be to make socialists, to propagate socialism, and to point out to the workers that they must achieve their own emancipation. The abolition of capitalism MUST entail organisation without leaders or leadership. The act of abolition of capitalist society requires a primary prerequisite and that's knowledge on the part of the individual as to what it is that is responsible for his or her enslavement. Without that knowledge s/he can only blunder and make mistakes that leave their class just where they were in the beginning, still enslaved. That knowledge must precede intelligent action. And intelligent action in this instance means intelligent organisation ( A lack of unity of ideas and purpose always ends in defeat even for the non-socialist and non-revolutionary groups and parties.). The working class must want and understand a socialist society of common ownership and democratic control.We need to organise politically, into a political party, a socialist party and i have said it previously , a mass party that has yet to emerge ,not a small educational and propagandist group such as the SPGB . This future party will neutralise the state and its repressive forces and there is no question of forming a government and "taking office", and then it will proceed to take over the means of production for which the working class have also organised themselves to do at their places of work. This done, the repressive state is disbanded and its remaining administrative and service features, reorganised on a democratic basis, are merged with the organisations which the majority will have formed (workers councils or whatever) to take over and run production, to form the democratic administrative structure of the stateless society of common ownership that socialism will be.

However , before we are labelled pure and simple parliamentarians “capturing” Parliament is only a measure of acceptance of socialism and a coup de grace to capitalist rule. The real revolution in social relations will be made in our lives and by ourselves, not Parliament. What really matters is a conscious socialist majority outside parliament, ready and organised, to take over and run industry and society. Electing a socialist majority in parliament is essentially just a reflection of this. It is not parliament that establishes socialism, but the socialist working-class majority outside parliament and they do this, not by their votes, but by their active participating beyond this in the transformation of society.

Irrelevant and out-dated ideas - i beg to differ .

Since some weary of my lengthy replies , and some simply don't take any notice of what is stated in them , preferring to repeat their own prejudices , i refer Trenchone to anarcho's earlier comment.
Quote:
No, they [the SPGB] are Marxists. In fact, probably the closest Marxists to Marx and Engels in the UK. Key issue of difference is over fighting for reforms if a socialist gets elected. They reject it, arguing it would produce reformism. Marx and Engels advocated it and it did, as Bakunin predicted, produce reformism....
As discussed here, the SPGB agree with Marx and Engels that universal suffrage equates to the political power of the working class and that it can be used by socialists to capture the state, which would then be reformed to make it more democratic -- which would then quickly wither away...
In terms of goals, what they call socialism is pretty much communist-anarchism. They just disagree with anarchists on the best way to get there -- they support, as per Marx and Engels, "political action" (voting) while we support direct action.


A fair summary of the SPGB position.

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The doomed hopes of the Greens

From an exchange here and mostly a repeat of other posts i have made .

Socialists are seeking ultimately to establish a “steady-state economy” or “zero-growth” society which corresponds to what Marx called “simple reproduction” – a situation where human needs were in balance with the resources needed to satisfy them. Such a society would already have decided, according to its own criteria and through its own decision-making processes, on the most appropriate way to allocate resources to meet the needs of its members. This having been done, it would only need to go on repeating this continuously from production period to production period. Production would not be ever-increasing but would be stabilized at the level required to satisfy needs. All that would be produced would be products for consumption and the products needed to replace and repair the raw materials and instruments of production used up in producing these consumer goods. The point about such a situation is that there will no longer be any imperative need to develop productivity, i.e. to cut costs in the sense of using less resources; nor will there be the blind pressure to do so that is exerted under capitalism through the market.

It will also create a ecologically benign relationship with nature. In socialism we would not be bound to use the most labour efficient methods of production. We would be free to select our methods in accordance with a wide range of socially desirable criteria, in particular the vital need to protect the environment.What it means is that we should construct permanent, durable means of production which you don’t constantly innovate. We would use these to produce durable equipment and machinery and durable consumer goods designed to last for a long time, designed for minimum maintenance and made from materials which if necessary can be re-cycled. In this way we would get a minimum loss of materials; once they’ve been extracted and processed they can be used over and over again. It also means that once you’ve achieved satisfactory levels of consumer goods, you don’t insist on producing more and more. Total social production could even be reduced. This will be the opposite of to-day's capitalist system’s cheap, shoddy, “throw-away” goods and built-in obsolescence, which results in a massive loss and destruction of resources.

In a stable society such as socialism, needs would change relatively slowly. Hence it is reasonable to surmise that an efficient system of stock control, recording what individuals actually chose to take under conditions of free access from local distribution centres over a given period, would enable the local distribution committee to estimate what the need for food, drink, clothes and household goods would be over a similar future period. Some needs would be able to be met locally: local transport, restaurants, builders, repairs and some food are examples as well as services such as street-lighting, libraries and refuse collection. The local distribution committee would then communicate needs that could not be met locally to the bodies charged with coordinating supplies to local communities.

We can set out a possible way of achieving an eventual zero growth steady state society operating in a stable and ecologically benign way. This could be achieved in three main phases.
First, there would have to be emergency action to relieve the worst problems of food shortages, health care and housing which affect billions of people throughout the world.
Secondly, longer term action to construct means of production and infrastructures such as transport systems for the supply of permanent housing and durable consumption goods. These could be designed in line with conservation principles, which means they would be made to last for a long time, using materials that where possible could be re-cycled and would require minimum maintenance.
Thirdly, with these objectives achieved there could be an eventual fall in production, and society could move into a stable mode. This would achieve a rhythm of daily production in line with daily needs with no significant growth. On this basis, the world community could reconcile two great needs, the need to live in material well being whilst looking after the planet

Marx was fond of quoting the 17th century writer Sir William Petty’s remark that labour is the father and nature the mother of wealth.

What would a society have to be like to be environmentally sustainable? Basically, according to Jonathon Porritt, well-known Green this would be a society whose methods of providing for the needs of its members did not use up non-renewable resources quicker than renewable substitutes for them could be found; did not use up renewal resources quicker than nature could reproduce them; and did not release waste into nature quicker than the environment’s ability to absorb it. If these practices are abided by, then the relationship and interactions between human society and the rest of nature would be able to continue on a long-term basis – would be able to be “sustained” – without harming or degrading the natural environment on which humans depend.

Socialists contend that these practices could be systematically applied only within the context of the Earth’s natural and industrial resources being the common heritage of all humanity under democratic control. In other words, we place ourselves unambiguously in the camp of those who argue that capitalism and a sustainable relationship with the rest of nature are not compatible. The excessive consumption of both renewal and non-renewable resources and the release of waste that nature can’t absorb that currently go on are not just accidental but an inevitable result of capitalism’s very nature. Endless “growth” (even if in fits and starts) – and the growing consumption of nature- given materials this involves – is built in to capitalism. However, this is not the growth of useful things as such but rather the growth of money-values .If, as a politically active environmentalist or campaigner for social justice, one’s answer to the question is that they are, indeed, mutually exclusive (that capitalism, in whichever manifestation, is in its very essence inherently unsustainable), then one’s only morally consistent response is to devote one’s political activities to the overthrow of capitalism.

But the picture of capitalism is still not complete. Capitalist investors want to end up with more money than they started out with, but why? Is it just to live in luxury ? That would suggest that they aim of capitalist production was simply to produce luxuries for the rich. It is possible to envisage such an economy on paper. Marx called it “simple reproduction”, but only as a stage in the development of his argument. By “simple reproduction” he meant that the stock of means of production was simply reproduced from year to year at its previously existing level; all of the profits would be used to maintain a privileged, exploiting class in luxury . As a result the circle keep on repeating itself unchanged.
This of course is not how capitalism operates. It is not a “steady state economy”. On the contrary, it is an ever-expanding economy of capital accumulation. In other words, most of the profits are capitalised, i.e. reinvested in production, so that production, the stock of means of production, and the amount of capital, all tend to increase over time (not in a smooth straight line, but only in fits and starts). The economic circuit is thus money-commodities-more money-more commodities, even more money . This is not the conscious choice of the owners of the means of production . It is something that is imposed on them as a condition for not losing their original investment. Competition with other capitalists forces them to reinvest as much of their profits as they can afford to in keeping their means and methods of production up to date. As a result there is continuous technological innovation. Defenders of capitalism see this as one of its merits and in the past it was insofar as this has led to the creation of the basis for a non-capitalist society in which the technologically-developed means of production can be now—and could have been any time in the last 100 years—consciously used to satisfy people’s wants and needs. Under capitalism this whole process of capital accumulation and technical innovation is a disorganised, impersonal process which causes all sorts of problems—particularly on a worldscale where it is leading to the destruction of the environment .

Whether it is called “the market economy”, “economic liberalism”, “free enterprise” (even mixed economy or state capitalism) or any other euphemism, the social system under which we live is capitalism. Capitalism is primarily an economic system of competitive capital accumulation out of the surplus value produced by wage labour. As a system it must continually accumulate or go into crisis. Consequently, human needs and the needs of our natural environment take second place to this imperative. The result is waste, pollution, environmental degradation and unmet needs on a global scale. The ecologist’s dream of a sustainable ‘zero growth’ within capitalism will always remain just that, a dream.If human society is to be able to organize its production in an ecologically acceptable way, then it must abolish the capitalist economic mechanism of capital accumulation and gear production instead to the direct satisfaction of needs.Many Greens and ecologists have talked about “zero-growth” and a “steady-state” society and this is something we should be aiming at. What it means , as said earlier , is that we should construct permanent, durable means of production which you don’t constantly innovate. We would use these to produce durable equipment and machinery and durable consumer goods designed to last for a long time, designed for minimum maintenance and made from materials which if necessary can be re-cycled. In this way we would get a minimum loss of materials; once they’ve been extracted and processed they can be used over and over again. It also means that once you’ve achieved satisfactory levels of consumer goods, you don’t insist on producing more and more. Total social production could even be reduced. You achieve this “steady state” and you don’t go on expanding production. This would be the opposite of cheap, shoddy, “throw-away” goods and built-in obsolescence, which results in a massive loss and destruction of resources. This is something that socialism could do. The problem for the Greens is that they want this, but they also want to retain the market system in which goods are distributed through sales at a profit and people’s access to goods depends upon their incomes. The market, however, can only function with a constant pressure to renew its capacity for sales; and if it fails to do this production breaks down, people are out of employment and suffer a reduced income. It is a fundamental flaw and an insoluble contradiction in the Greens argument that they want to retain the market system, which can only be sustained by continuous sales and continuous incomes, and at the same time they want a conservation society with reduced productive activity. These aims are totally incompatible with each other. Also what many Green thinkers advocate in their version of a “steady-state” market economy, is that the surplus would be used not to reinvest in expanding production, nor in maintaining a privileged class in luxury but in improving public services while maintaining a sustainable balance with the natural environment. It’s the old reformist dream of a tamed capitalism, minus the controlled expansion of the means of production an earlier generation of reformists used to envisage.

Can i recommend the book “Eco-Socialism” by David Pepper.

Socialists, he says, start from a concern for the suffering of humans and look for a solution to this. This makes them “anthropocentric” as opposed to the “ecocentrism” – Nature first – of many ecologists and Greens. The plunder and destruction of Nature is rejected as not being in the interests of the human species, not because the interests of Nature come first.Nor is it true that humans as such are a pollutant says Pepper. It is in identifying the causes of pollution and environmental degradation that Greens can in his view learn most from Marx.
Marx’s materialist conception of history makes the way humans are organised to meet their material needs the basis of any society. Humans meet their material needs by transforming parts of the rest of nature into things that are useful to them; this in fact is what production is. So the basis of any society is its mode of production which, again, is the same thing as its relationship to the rest of nature. Humans survive by interfering in the rest of nature to change it for their own benefit.
Greens are wrong to see this interference as inherently destructive of nature. It might do this , but there is no reason why it has to. That humans have to interfere in nature is a fact of human existence. How humans interfere in nature, on the other hand, depends on the kind of society they live in. Present-day society, capitalism, which exists all over the globe is a class-divided society where the means of production are owned and controlled by a tiny minority of the population only.
Capitalism differs from previous class societies in that under it production is not for direct use, not even of the ruling class, but for sale on a market. To repeat once more , competitive pressures to minimise costs and maximise sales, profit-seeking and blind economic growth, with all their destructive effects on the rest of nature, are built-in to capitalism. These make capitalism inherently environmentally unfriendly.

i find very few Greens who reject capitalism .Most Greens i have encountered are in favour of some form of capitalism, generally small-scale capitalism involving small firms serving local markets and if they desire to be seen as progressive they call for “co-operatives”. An underlying philosophy that “small is beautiful”and a philosophy that leads to mistakenly blaming large-scale industry and modern technology as such for causing pollution and not the capitalist system per se.

Also to be a recommended read and i am sure most are aware of him and that is Murray Bookchin who has also exposed the “anti-humanism” of Greens and ecologists. He argues that human beings are both a part and a product of nature and humans have a unique significance in nature since they are the only life-form capable of reflective thought and so of conscious intervention to change the environment. It is absurd to regard human intervention in nature as some outside disturbing force, since humans are precisely that part of nature which has evolved that consciously intervenes in the rest of nature; it is our nature to do so. True , that at the present time, the form human intervention in the rest of Nature takes is upsetting natural balances and cycles, but the point is that humans, unlike other life-forms, are capable of changing their behaviour.In this sense the human species is the brain and voice of Nature ie. Nature become self-conscious. But to fulfil this role humans must change the social system which mediates their intervention in nature. A change from capitalism to a community where each contributes to the whole to the best of his or her ability and takes from the common fund of produce what he or she needs. Bookchin too is critical of those with the highly misleading notion that society can live with a market economy that is ‘green’, ‘ecological’, or ‘moral’, under conditions of wage labour, exchange, competition and the like.

The framework within which humans can regulate their relationship with the rest of nature in an ecologically acceptable way has to be a society based on the common ownership and democratic control of productive resources, freed from the tyranny of the economic laws that operate wherever there is production for sale on a market

For a more specific article on sustainability and capitalism see
http://www.worldsocialism.org/articles/deforestation.php

To the best of my abilities I have tried to identify the fundamental reasons why a sustainable zero-growth society is inherently not possible under capitalism [ again we can call the interpretation as " impossibleism" ] and have argued for the creation and establishment of a different type of society which will permit a steady- state , ecologically sound world to flourish. I have presented a critique of current accepted Green alternatives which i say are doomed to failure because of the nature of capitalism .

“Capitalism can no more be ‘persuaded’ to limit growth than a human being can be ‘persuaded’ to stop breathing. Attempts to ‘green’ capitalism, to make it ‘ecological’, are doomed by the very nature of the system as a system of endless growth. ” –Murray Bookchin

[Max] you said i should debate on the merits of what you posted and i believed i did but in general terms , but if you want a specific then you have said “..I’m closely aligned with a Green distributed governance, and an economics of steady-state zero growth…” and praised Porrit for offering solutions without contradictions.

One of the ways in which Porritt suggests that governments could achieve a “a market-based model of sustainable capitalism” would be to force the competing enterprises to treat natural resources as if they were capital, subject to depreciation which had to be accounted for in monetary terms. He talks of “natural capital”, treating Nature as an economic category with a price-tag .
Porritt complains that “we show nothing but contempt for the contribution from nature, valuing it at zero as some kind of free gift or subsidy” and that, as a result, “today’s dominant paradigm of capitalism” leads to the plundering of non-renewable resources (such as oil and minerals) and the over-harvesting of renewable ones (such as fish and forests).

This is true but his proposed solution – to take into account the non-renewed consumption of natural material as a negative amount when calculating GDP, as an incentive to cut back on it as a way of avoiding a reduction in GDP leaves the real world unchanged.

In the real world, which GDP attempts to measure, the competing enterprises would still only take into account as a cost what they had to pay for. As it costs no labour to produce natural materials (only to extract or harvest them, not to create them), whether or not they are renewed doesn’t enter into the calculation. If enterprises were forced to artificially take into account using up non-renewed natural resources in their business accounts, that would distort the calculation of the rate of profit which is the key economic indicator for capitalism. There is no way round this under capitalism, which simply cannot be remodelled or reformed on this point.

Porritt does concede that he could be wrong about capitalism and environmental sustainability and how bad it would be “to be committed to a reform agenda if the system one sought to reform was inherently incapable of accommodating the necessary changes in the first place”. This is precisely the case I have been trying to present and if being so his own conclusion must stand :

“If, as a politically active environmentalist or campaigner for social justice, one’s answer to the question is that they are, indeed, mutually exclusive (that capitalism, in whichever manifestation, is in its very essence inherently unsustainable), then one’s only morally consistent response is to devote one’s political activities to the overthrow of capitalism”.[quotes from Porritt's Capitalism As if the World Matters]

“Is Socialism a real alternative or it like the two party system…”

Socialism is a money-less society in which use values would be produced from other use values. Socialism is a decentralised or polycentric society that is self regulating , self adjusting and self correcting , from below and not from the top . It is not a command economy but a responsive one .

Planning in socialism is essentially a question of industrial organisation, of organising productive units into a productive system functioning smoothly to supply the useful things which people had indicated they needed, both for their individual and for their collective consumption. What socialism would establish would be a rationalised network of planned links between users and suppliers; between final users and their immediate suppliers, between these latter and their suppliers, and so on down the line to those who extract the raw materials from nature. The responsibility of these industries would be to ensure the supply of a particular kind of product either, in the case of consumer goods, to distribution centres or, in the case of goods used to produce other goods, to productive units or other industries. Planning is indeed central to the idea of socialism, but socialism is the planned (i mean consciously coordinated and do not want this to be confused with the central planning concept ) production of useful things to satisfy human needs precisely instead of the production, planned or otherwise, of wealth as exchange value, commodities and capital. In socialism wealth would have simply a specific use value

Production and distribution in socialism would be a question of organising a coordinated and more or less self-regulating system of linkages between users and suppliers, enabling resources and materials to flow smoothly from one productive unit to another, and ultimately to the final user, in response to information flowing in the opposite direction originating from final users. The productive system would thus be set in motion from the consumer end, as individuals and communities took steps to satisfy their self-defined needs. Socialist production is self-regulating production for use.

Simply put , in socialism there would be no barter economy or monetary system. It would be a economy based on need. Therefore, a consumer would have a need, and there would be a communication system set in place that relays that need to the producer. The producer create the product, and then send the product back to the consumer, and the need would be satisfied.

Humans behave differently depending upon the conditions that they live in. Human behaviour reflects society. In a society such as capitalism, people’s needs are not met and reasonable people feel insecure. People tend to acquire and hoard goods because possession provides some security. People have a tendency to distrust others because the world is organized in such a dog-eat-dog manner. If people didn’t work society would obviously fall apart. To establish socialism the vast majority must consciously decide that they want socialism and that they are prepared to work in socialist society. If people want too much? In a socialist society “too much” can only mean “more than is sustainably produced.” For socialism to be established the productive potential of society must have been developed to the point where, generally speaking, we can produce enough for all. This is not now a problem as we have long since reached this point. However, this does require that we appreciate what is meant by “enough” and that we do not project on to socialism the insatiable consumerism of capitalism.
If people decide that they (individually and as a society) need to over-consume then socialism cannot possibly work. Under capitalism, there is a very large industry devoted to creating needs. Capitalism requires consumption, whether it improves our lives or not, and drives us to consume up to, and past, our ability to pay for that consumption. In a system of capitalist competition, there is a built-in tendency to stimulate demand to a maximum extent. Firms, for example, need to persuade customers to buy their products or they go out of business. They would not otherwise spend the vast amounts they do spend on advertising. There is also in capitalist society a tendency for individuals to seek to validate their sense of worth through the accumulation of possessions. The prevailing ideas of society are those of its ruling class so then we can understand why, when the wealth of that class so preoccupies the minds of its members, such a notion of status should be so deep-rooted. It is this which helps to underpin the myth of infinite demand. It does not matter how modest one’s real needs may be or how easily they may be met; capitalism’s “consumer culture” leads one to want more than one may materially need since what the individual desires is to enhance his or her status within this hierarchal culture of consumerism and this is dependent upon acquiring more than others have got. But since others desire the same thing, the economic inequality inherent in a system of competitive capitalism must inevitably generate a pervasive sense of relative deprivation. What this amounts to is a kind of institutionalised envy and that will be unsustainable as more peoples are drawn into alienated capitalism .
In socialism, status based upon the material wealth at one’s command, would be a meaningless concept. The notion of status based upon the conspicuous consumption of wealth would be devoid of meaning because individuals would stand in equal relation to the means of production and have free access to the resultant goods and services . Why take more than you need when you can freely take what you need? In socialism the only way in which individuals can command the esteem of others is through their contribution to society, and the stronger the movement for socialism grows the more will it subvert the prevailing capitalist ethos, in general, and its anachronistic notion of status, in particular.

All wealth would be produced on a strictly voluntary basis. Work in socialist society could only be voluntary since there would be no group or organ in a position to force people to work against their will. Free access to goods and services denies to any group or individuals the political leverage with which to dominate others (a feature intrinsic to all private-property or class based systems through control and rationing of the means of life ) . This will work to ensure that a socialist society is run on the basis of democratic consensus. Goods and services would be provided directly for self determined needs and not for sale on a market; they would be made freely available for individuals to take without requiring these individuals to offer something in direct exchange. The sense of mutual obligations and the realisation of universal interdependency arising from this would profoundly colour people’s perceptions and influence their behaviour in such a society. We may thus characterise such a society as being built around a moral economy and a system of generalised reciprocity.

Does it mean there are no markets ?
Capitalism is not just an exchange economy but an exchange economy where the aim of production is to make a profit .Profit is the monetary expression of the difference between the exchange value of a product and the exchange value of the materials , energy and labour-power used to produce it , or what Marx called “surplus value” .
Defenders of capitalism like yourself , Max , never seem to ask yourselves the practical question about what the critical factor determining a production initiative in a market system.
The answer is obvious from everyday experience . The factor that critically decides the production of commodities is the judgement that enterprises make about whether they can be sold in the market .Obviously , consumers buy in the market that they perceive as being for their needs . But whether or not the transaction takes place is not decided by needs but by ability to pay . So the realisation of profit in the market determines both the production of goods and also the distribution of goods by various enterprises . In the market system the motive of production , the organisation of production , and the distribution of goods are inseparable parts of the same economic process : the realisation of profit and the accumulation of capital. The economic pressure on capital is that of accumulation , the alternative is bankruptcy . The production and distribution of goods is entirely subordinate to the pressure on capital to accumulate . The economic signals of the market are not signals to produce useful things . They signal the prospects of profit and capital accumulation , If there is a profit to be made then production will take place ; if there is no prospect of profit , then production will not take place . Profit not need is the deciding factor . Under capitalism what appear to be production decisions are in fact decisions to go for profit in the market .
The function of cost/pricing is to enable a business enterprise to calculate its costs, to fix its profit expectations within a structure of prices, to regulate income against expenditure and, ultimately, to regulate the exploitation of its workers. Unfortunately , prices can only reflect the wants of those who can afford to actually buy what economists call “effective demand” . – and not real demand for something from those without the wherewithal – the purchasing power – to buy the product (or even to express a preference for one product over another . I may want a sirloin steak but i can only afford a hamburger ) .

Socialist determination of needs begins with consumer needs and then flows throughout distribution and on to each required part of the structure of production. Socialism will make economically-unencumbered production decisions as a direct response to needs . With production for use , the starting point will be needs .
By the replacement of exchange economy by common ownership basically what would happen is that wealth would cease to take the form of exchange value, so that all the expressions of this social relationship peculiar to an exchange economy, such as money and prices, would automatically disappear. In other words, goods would cease to have an economic value and would become simply physical objects which human beings could use to satisfy some want or other. (One reason why socialism holds a decisive productive advantage over capitalism is by eliminating the need to tie up vast quantities of resources and labour implicated in a system of monetary/pricing accounting.)

Yes , socialism is a real alternative .

I haven’t employed the word “pathologies” as you and some orthers have done on this thread but we can only “cure the planet” by establishing a society without private productive property or profit where humans will be freed from the uncontrollable economic laws of the pursuit of profit and the accumulation of capital. Only a world socialist society, based on the common ownership and democratic control of natural resources, is compatible with production that respects the natural environment.

Humans are capable of integrating themselves into a stable ecosystem. and there is nothing whatsoever that prevents this being possible today on the basis of industrial technology and methods of production, all the more so , that renewable energies exist (wind, solar, tidal, geothermal and whatever ) but, for the capitalists, these are a “cost” which penalises them in face of international competition.No agreement to limit the activities of the multinationals in their relentless quest for profits is possible. Measures in favour of the environment come up against the interests of enterprises and their shareholders because by increasing costs they decrease profits. No State is going to implement legislation which would penalise the competitiveness of its national enterprises in the face of foreign competition. States only take into account environmental questions if they can find an agreement at international level which will disadvantage none of them. But that’s the sproblem , isn’t it ? Competition for the appropriation of world profits is one of the bases of the present system. So it is not “Humans” but the capitalist economic system itself which is responsible for ecological problems and the capitalist class and their representatives , they themselves are subject to the laws of profit and competition.

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