Friday, November 30, 2012

The "Left" Nazis

Goebbels described Berlin as "the reddest city in Europe besides Moscow." Together, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) captured 52.2 percent of the vote in the 1925 municipal elections. It could only boast a few hundred Nazi party members. In a report written in October 1926, a party official wrote of the "complete breakdown of the Berlin organization," which he described as a self-destructive, confused group that was almost beyond repair. Some 39,000 Berliners, or 1.6 percent of the city's entire population, voted for Hitler's party in the May 1928 election to the Reichstag.

On Feb. 11, 1927, the Nazi Party at the Pharussäle, a meeting hall often used by the KPD for its mass rallies, Goebbels  gave a speech on the subject of "The Collapse of the Bourgeois Class State." This provoked the communists. The  meeting turned into a violent brawl between the two groups. Beer glasses, chairs and tables flew through the hall, and severely injured people were left lying covered with blood on the floor. Despite the injuries, it was a triumph for Goebbels, whose thugs beat up about 200 communists and drove them from the hall.

 Availing himself of the services of the uniformed Sturmabteilung ("Assault Division"), or SA, whose members were known as the "brownshirts." Goebbels used the hatred of younger people for the older elites, and the rage of Berlin's working-class in the east-end of the city against its wealthier west-end districts. For the Nazi Party, the brownshirts -- who included the unemployed, the underemployed, apprentices and high-school students -- were "political soldiers." In Goebbel's view, their task was the "conquest of the street." These primarily young men were supposed to reconcile and embody two previously hostile world-views: nationalism, which Goebbels believed had to be "reshaped in a revolutionary way," and a "true socialism" free of Marxism. Goebbels assigned the Jews the scapegoat role. Goebbels viewed the Jews as simultaneously embodying capitalism, communism, the press and the police. His simplistic slogan "The Jews are to blame!" proved to be a slow-acting poison. Goebbels chose Bernhard Weiss, the Jewish deputy chief of the city's police force, as a target of his anti-Semitic agitation. Goebbels nicknamed him "Isidore" and, after Weiss sued Goebbels for libel and won, he called him "Weiss, whom one isn't allowed to call Isidore." Goebbels derided Weiss's police officers as "Bernhardiner" ("St. Bernard dogs") and "Weiss guardsmen."

Young party members sang satirical songs about "Isidore" and wore "Isidore" masks -- and they often had the laughs on their side. Indeed, the Nazis used coarse humor as a sharp weapon in their struggle with the Weimar Republic. "We scoffed at an entire system and brought it down with resounding laughter," Gunter d'Alquen, the young editor-in-chief of Das Schwarze Korps (The Black Corps) wrote in 1937. Goebbels believed that "horseplay is necessary." At a showing of a film adaptation("All Quiet on the Western Front" members of the SA released white mice into the audience. Screaming women caused the film to be interrupted while SA men and Goebbels roared with laughter. He justified his strategy of provocation by saying that the Nazis could be accused of many things, but certainly not of being dull. Street battles and brawls at political meetings forged a sense of unity and camaraderie among party members in Berlin. It was only on Mayday 1927 that Hitler spoke to them for the first time.

 Five days after Hitler's speech, the police banned the Nazi Party in Berlin. But that didn't stop its ascent. Goebbels had read the memoirs of August Bebel, a Marxist politician and co-founder of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Germany, and had learned a lesson from the Social Democrats' struggle against Bismarck's anti-socialist laws. The Nazis established seemingly harmless groups, such as bowling, savings and swimming clubs. Using the motto "Not dead, despite the ban," Goebbels established the newspaper Der Angriff (The Attack) in July 1927, initially as a weekly. The subheading, "For the Oppressed -- Against the Exploiters," targeted working-class readers.  The strategy of the Berlin branch of the Nazi Party was to serve as an extra-parliamentary opposition, forming cells on the street and in businesses, using the communist approach as a model. In 1929, the Nazis captured 5.8 percent of the vote for city council, securing 13 seats in the city's parliament.

What changed in  October 1929, was that the stock market in New York crashed. Mass unemployment rose sharply, increasing the potential for urban unrest. Berlin's Nazis waged a political war on two fronts. One front was against the Social Democrats and the established parties running the city and the country. The other was against the communists, whose ranks swelled when people uprooted by the crisis were driven into their arms. To differentiate itself from other right wing parties in Der Angriff, Goebbels polemicized against the "black, white and red fat cats," referencing the colors of the flag of the German Empire favored by many right-wing nationalists. "You say 'fatherland,'" he wrote accusatorily, "but what you're talking about are percentages."
Goebbels saw workers disappointed by the stolid SPD as a target group. He called the SPD "Germany's most shameless party" and held it responsible for "poverty, hunger, fat cats and thin workers." The Social Democrats, Goebbels said in August 1930, were "no longer the protagonists of a true, purposeful socialism," but instead had become the "lackeys and beneficiaries of market capitalism." In fact, with its corruptible politicians, the SPD made things easier for the Nazis in Berlin.

The Communist Party of Germany (KPD), headed in Berlin by Walter Ulbricht had its strongholds in Berlin's blue-collar neighborhoods, like Friedrichshain and Wedding, and it had a powerful paramilitary organization in the Roter Frontkämpferbund (Alliance of Red Front-Fighters). Goebbels was familiar with the communists' weak points, namely, the often out-of-touch language of their officials and the control Soviet leaders exerted over them. In Der Angriff, Goebbels wrote that the KPD, as a "Russian foreign legion on German soil" created "with Russian money and German human resources," was alienating many members of the proletariat.

To hope to succeed in Berlin's "red" neighborhoods the Nazis had to speak a language understood there. In a flyer distributed in September 1931 to unemployed workers waiting at a government agency in Berlin, Goebbels wrote that the party was turning to "workers without work and without hope, exposed to the most horrible form of desperation," and he promised "to destroy the system of capitalism and replace it with a new, socialist order." In their appeal "to all of the unemployed," the Nazis cleverly called into question the strength of the leftist parties, the SPD and the KPD. Goebbels courted the proletarians by treating them like cheated brides, addressing them as "you who have been left forsaken by your seducers." The Nazis adhered to the third of the "Ten Commandments for National Socialists" penned by Goebbels: "Every national comrade, even the poorest, is part of Germany. Love him as you love yourself."

Horst Wessel saw himself as a socialist who had been shaken by the "great social impoverishment and servitude of the working classes in all professions." Next to Goebbels, there was no one who spoke more often than Wessel for the Nazi Party in greater Berlin. Wessel sought to establish contact with proletarians in dark back courtyards and noisy taverns, on street corners and at unemployment offices. He soon became a hated by the KPD.  On Jan. 14, 1930 he was shot and mortally wounded  by Albrecht Höhler. Wessel became their martyr. Communists attacked the funeral procession and tried to seize the coffin. Before the funeral, they had painted the words "A final Heil Hitler to the pimp Horst Wessel!" on the wall of the cemetery. In retaliation Communists Party members increasingly became the victims of armed SA members. In one version of their song, "We March Through Greater Berlin," they sang "The red front, break them to pieces.",  the words were changed to "beat them to a pulp."  SA "storm bars" -- which grew fivefold, to 107, between 1928 and 1931 -- SA members in their brown uniforms sang the anthem Wessel had supposedly written.

By Sept 1930, a crowd of more than 100,000 people turned up outside the Sportpalast, trying to gain get in for a rally attended by Hitler. Four days later, the Nazi Party became the second-strongest party in the country, capturing 18.3 percent of the vote. In Berlin, where it became the third most powerful party after the KPD and the SPD, it garnered 396,000 votes, or more than 10 times as many as it had just two years earlier. The Nazis had broken the KPD's monopoly as the only protest party among Berlin's working classes. Now even the communists, who had initially hoped to fight off the Nazis with fists, brass knuckles and revolvers (their motto was: "Beat the fascists wherever you encounter them!"), were now courting Hitler's followers. In an appeal by the district office for Berlin-Brandenburg in November 1931, the KPD praised the "National Socialist workers" and "proletarian supporters of the Nazi Party," calling them "honest fighters against the system of hunger."  In early November 1932, the National Socialist Factory Cell Organization, together with the KPD's Revolutionary Union Opposition, organized a strike against wage cuts at the Berlin Transport Authority. Nazis and communists picketed alongside each other and joined forces to beat up strike breakers.

 The KPD official newspaper Der Parteiarbeiter (The Party Worker) complained that new comrades in KPD were not finding "the spirit of camaraderie that is needed to be able to cooperate with friends." Instead of the KPD's rigid ideological fare, the SA homes offered hot soup and solidarity. In 1932, there were 15,000 SA members in Berlin. During the Christmas holidays, unemployed party members were invited to the homes of the members who still had work in what Goebbels called the "socialism of action." The concept gradually took hold in "red" Wedding, where the number of party members grew from 18 to 250 between 1928 and 1930. In a district where the majority voted communist, the Hitler Youth held "public discussion evenings" with titles such as "The Swastika or the Soviet Star." Workers who had lived in the Soviet Union were popular guests at Nazi agitation evenings. They gave vivid accounts of the miserable lives of workers and the reign of terror of the secret police.

In 1932, when the ranks of the unemployed throughout the Reich swelled to more than 6 million, and to 600,000 in Berlin alone, the Nazi Party achieved its breakthrough to become a major party, counting 40,000 members in its regional organization. In March 1932, the party mobilized about 80,000 people for a rally. On April 4, some 200,000 people congregated at a square to cheer Hitler. The general student body elections in Berlin had demonstrated that university students were also anxious to support Hitler. The Nazis captured 3,794 of the 5,801 votes cast, or almost two-thirds. The Hitler wave had even reached children, who entered the German Youth, a subdivision of the Hitler Youth for younger boys, and the League of German Girls - "Grandma, you must vote for Hitler!"
Goebbels promised the "right to work" and "a socialist Germany that gives bread to its children once again." This awakened the hopes of the 31.3 percent of Berlin voters who voted for the Nazi Party in the last Reichstag election of March 1933.

When Goebbels became a member of the Reichstag, he did so with the challenging words: "We have nothing to do with the parliament. We reject it from within." Only those who paid close attention to what Goebbels was saying could divine where the journey was about to go under Nazi leadership.

Adapted from here

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Manager, Bureuacrats, and the Coordinator Class

The basis of any society is the way its members are organised for the production of wealth. Where a section only of society controls the means of production then we can speak of a class society.
The class that controls the means of production can be said to constitute a stable ruling and privileged class when it:
1. controls the use of the means of production (possession);
2. controls the state (rule);
3. has preferential treatment in the allocation of goods for consumption (privilege).

These three feature — possession, rule and privilege— don't always necessarily or automatically go together. It is possible for a possessing class to be neither the ruling class nor a privileged class. For instance, it might not actually control the state but just have its protection against the excluded majority. Another minority class might control the state and use it to allocate itself, at the expense of the possessing class, a privileged consumption. In this case there is a socially and politically unstable situation in which the possessing class, starting from the finally decisive fact of controlling the means whereby society lives, will strive to capture state power for itself—strive to become the ruling class as well as the possessing class. This done, it can easily end the privileged consumption of the previous ruling class.

 Marx quotes Dr. Ure as saying in 1840, that not the industrial capitalists but the industrial managers "are the soul of our industrial system." (Capital, vol. 3). It is of course true as the managerial theorists say that the unity between owners of capital and the actual direction of production has been ruptured. Joint stock companies (corporations) operate not merely with their own capital but other peoples. Of them Marx says, "Capital ... is here directly endowed with the form of social capital ... as distinguished from private capital and assumes the form of social enterprise as distinguished from private enterprise. It is the abolition of capital as private property within the boundaries of capitalist production itself." Marx adds, that it leads to the "transformation of the actually functioning capitalist into a mere manager, and administrator of other peoples capital and the owners of capital . . . into mere money capitalists." (Capital, vol. 3) Marx did not believe the development of the corporation to be a step towards socialism. Collective capital, he said, although it gave impetus to the social character of wealth production could never overcome, but only intensify the antagonism of socially produced wealth and private appropriation. He also added that the development of the corporation and “the credit system, brings a new set of parasites . . . promoters, speculators …  a whole system of swindling by means of corporation juggling, stock jobbing and stock speculation. It is private production without the control of private property." (Capital, vol. 3,)

Marx dealt with the replacement of the capitalists as industrial entrepreneurs by managers. The early capitalists, while not producing surplus value, supervised the activities of those who did. This appropriation of unpaid labour was called the profits of enterprise. The economic apologists of the day also called it the wages of superintendance. With the vast growth of capitalism the function of the capitalist as a representative of capital became delegated to managers, whose wages of superintendence was fixed at the market price and was but a mere fraction of what the capitalist had appropriated for such work. Managers are then agents for the capitalists and hence agents for capital. Managers constitute the elite of the amorphous mass called by some people the new "middle class." It includes civil servants, professional workers, office staff, salesmen, etc. They are also known as the salariat. The requirement of large scale capitalism has brought about a considerable increase of these types of employees.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pharaoh Mursi

A president gives himself expansive powers under the populist cloak of protecting the revolution. How often have we witnessed that? The wide-ranging powers granted to Mursi by his own hand have been hailed as a "revolutionary decision" necessary to protect the 2011 uprising by his supporters, and described as a coup by his opposition. In scenes reminiscent of the protests which brought down President Hosni Mubarak last year, Egyptians have returned to the streets to protest.

The Vampires

Having been bailed out by after a Wall Street-driven financial crash instead of a thank-you, they are showing their appreciation in the form of a coordinated effort to rob Americans of hard-earned retirements, decent medical care and relief for the poorest. Using the excuse of a phony, manufactured crisis known as the “fiscal cliff” the rich are gearing up to pull the wool over the public’s eyes by cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

 Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO, GoldmanSachs, infamous for describing his financial activities as “God’s work,” recently explained that “You’re going to have to do something, undoubtedly, to lower people’s expectations of what they’re going to get, the entitlements, and what people think they’re going to get, because you’re not going to get it.”

The Greek prime minister Lucas Papademos, Bush's Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen in the United States, the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi,and Mark Carney, the nrw Bank of England governor all have one thing in common. All were former executives of Goldman Sachs. All assumed prominent positions of power, and all played a hand after the global financial meltdown of 2007-08.

In 2001, Goldman Sachs secretly helped Greece hide billions of dollars through the use of complex financial instruments like credit default swaps. This allowed Greece to meet the baseline requirements to enter the Eurozone in the first place. But it also created a debt bubble that would later explode and bring about the current economic crisis.  The man who headed up the Central Bank of Greece while this deal was being arranged with Goldman was Lucas Papademos. GoldmanSachs helps a nation hide a problem and sell its debt until the problem blows up and bursts then Goldman Sachs then puts their ‘man’ into a position of power to direct the bailouts so that Goldman gets all its money back and more, while the nation's economy gets looted.

 Why are the working people of Europe and America suffering under austerity and being asked to sacrifice their pensions, their wages, and their jobs? It’s because Goldman Sachs is sucking the last remaining wealth out of those nations to recoup whatever failed investments they made before the Crash. Why have thousands of homeowners in the United States  faced home foreclosure?  It’s because re-writing mortgages would force banks like Goldman Sachs to take a loss. Why have the banksters at Goldman Sachs not been thrown in jail for defrauding customers, manipulating LIBOR interest rates. Goldman Sachs executives, get a slap on the wrist when they steal $50 billion.

Trader Alessio Rastani told the BBC “We don't really care about having a fixed economy, having a fixed situation, our job is to make money from it…Personally, I've been dreaming of this moment for three years. I go to bed every night and I dream of another recession.” Rastani continued, “When the market crashes... if you know what to do, if you have the right plan set up, you can make a lot of money from this.” Rastani bluntly told the BBC, “This is not a time right now for wishful thinking that governments are going to sort things out. The governments don't rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Utopian Socialism

Is it possible to mobilise people to fight oppression without fashioning models for a socialist economy for people to fasten on to? The capitalist slogan ‘There is No Alternative’ was answered by ‘Another World is Possible’. We need to know and say much more about this other world.

Socialist thought has to deal in prediction, but only in broad terms. We live in dark days.  One often has to aim at objectives which one can only very dimly see. Socialism is a vision of the future, while its advocates are actively at work in the present. Socialists have typically avoided the tactic of the utopian blueprint. One reason for this was that no matter what your utopian vision is, you won’t be able to achieve it under capitalism. The other reason was that after capitalism is overthrown, it will be up to the people to determine how to run their society. Some people may prefer a return to Nature. Others may want robots tending to their every need.Why should one person’s utopian preference determine how society should be run for everybody else?

Marx and Engels avoided "the politics of dreaming," yet scattered throughout their works are numerous references to life in communist society. Marx and Engels differed from the utopian socialists not in terms of their visionary goals, but on the basis of how such goals might be achieved. The "utopian socialists" were "utopian"  in the way that they believed socialism might come about. For Marx capitalism does not collapse thereby necessarily bringing about socialism. Marx's breakthrough was to wed such utopian visions to a concrete, scientific analysis of the dynamics of capitalism and class struggle. As Marx observed, no society has imagined itself into existence, which is to say, women and men do not set out to build their society according to some pre-conceived blueprint. The social relations resulting from human action appear to us in later times as the pre-conceived ideas of the creators of those social relations when, in fact, the ideas never existed until the social relations had already come into being.

In their critique of Utopian Socialism, Marx and Engels made two charges. First, that the method was wrong: a socialism imposed from above, reliant on altruistic benefactors. Second, that it was not sweeping enough, that it failed to recognise the need to replace the system as a whole.  They disagreed with Fourier that a new society could be broadly realized without class struggle, and that ideal projections could come real in capitalist society. In Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, Engels points out that early socialists were Enlightenment rationalists who sought not "to emancipate a particular class, but all humanity at once." Thus, the revolutionary theory of Charles Fourier is largely without a concrete revolutionary agent to carry out the revolution! Claude Henri Saint-Simon  was explicitly counter-revolutionary. He did not want to "excite the poor to acts of violence against the rich and government." Most utopian philosophers differed greatly in their ideals, but they all strove to create a world that is utopian in its nature, a paradise for people to live in. For Marx and Engels, as worthy as such communal experiments might be, projections like Owen's New Lanark were doomed to eventual failure. They were propagators of  political and economic fantasies. of the "wouldn't it be nice if..." type. 

Robert Owen wanted compassionate capitalism with some collectivity. He built a neighbourhood in and around New Lanark Mill, which had schools to train the young and a place where the older generation could retire.  Owen tried to set up small communities of workers’ co-operatives. Unfortunately, these co-operatives were not economically self-sufficient and were dependent on the rest of the world economy, which was still based on capitalism. The result was that the co-operatives either collapsed or abandoned their ideals. This same problem has his such movements as the kibbutz movement in Israel and the various hippie communes in the 60s. Marx socialism is very much a science, and he gives many guidelines to achieve the ultimate goal that he writes about. He teaches not only of the happy ending, but the work to be done in between. Socialism comes about through revolutionary struggles, not as the result of action inspired by flawless plans. The main difference between Marxism and Utopian Socialism is the 'getting there'. The utopians do not think of the long term, or how difficult it will be to create the worlds that they envision.

 The reason for the upsurge in utopian thought is in some ways similar to that of the early 19th century. There was a lot of change, and a lot of societal growth. The utopian thinkers, for the most part, were responding to a social disconnect, and a society that no longer held traditional values. The industrial working-class were not a powerful actor in politics. Engels observed when Saint-Simon’s Geneva letters appeared in 1802 “the capitalist mode of production, and with it the antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, was still very incompletely developed.” The revolutionary capacity is not there to execute ideals which have been represented abstractly. Isn’t this in a way similar to the problem we face today? Even though the working-class makes up a larger percentage of the world’s population than ever before, we have not seen a radicalized working-class in the advanced capitalist countries. In the absence of a revolutionary working-class, utopian schemas are bound to surface. In the absence of genuine struggles, modern re-hashed utopian fantasies such as Parecon are seductive. They have to construct the outlines of a brave new world out of their own hearts and heads rather in the real world of real struggles.

While there are dangers in utopian thinking, there exists a danger is their absence. The truth is that we on the Left don’t "talk utopia" nearly enough. We need the attraction of a possible future as well as being repulsed by the actual present. If people are to make the sacrifices required by any struggle for social justice, then they need a compelling idea of the world they’re fighting for. Utopias provide a perspective from which the assumed limitations of the present can be scrutinised, from which familiar social arrangements are exposed as unjust and irrational . We need utopian thinking if we are to engage successfully in the critical battlefield of ides over what is or is not possible, if we are to challenge what are presented as immutable economic realities. Without a clear alternative – the outlines of a sustainable society – we are we cede the definition of the possible to those with a vested interest in shutting our eyes to a better future.

Utopias tend to be the target of derision. And yet, despite being subject to dismissals, utopia never goes away, partly because the criticism of the present draws on the notion of a future which has eliminated the conditions of the present that make life so difficult, sometimes impossible, and unfulfilling for so many. Here utopia operates in disguise, not going by its own name but providing a resource against which to measure a present that fails to match up, either to its own ideal expression of itself or to the inspiring visions of the future for which people have struggled throughout history.

You cannot simply interpret people's consciousness from their material conditions, or  really understand people unless you understand their particular utopian projections -- because such projections, while they are not material, are a real component of people's lives, part of the "now" in which they live. The materialist philospher Josef Dietzgen frequently stated ideas are concrete. The "utopian" tendency provides us with an understanding of those visions of a better world that people have been fighting for and will continue to fight for. We can draw on a rich tradition of history going back to the Diggers and Gerald Winstanley, William Morris and even John Lennon.

Utopian visions of communism are presented as powerful critiques of actually existing capitalism. Projecting the communist future from existing patterns and trends is an integral part of Marx's analysis of capitalism. Marx knew that something would come after capitalism and he made some projections about what it could be like, and those are very famous pieces but they're very small compared to the majority of his work, which is just about understanding capitalism. Marx constructed his vision of communism out of the human and technological possibilities already visible in his time

Marx never actually provided a blue print for how a communist community was supposed to look like. He did not even impose some necessary model of the unfolding class struggle on the class struggle. He decried sects and sectarianism within the working class movement, which he described as those who, “demanded that the class movement subordinate itself to a particular sect movement.” By not leaving a blue print, Marx thought that people would be able to create a communist community free from the prescriptions of an antiquated era, that people would eventually evolve away from capitalism once it had reached its peak and instead search for a better way of living.

At this point in human history, (for the most part) communism cannot work -- people are greedy, desiring capital. Save for those various pockets of communalism around the world (such as traditional Inuit communalism), communism cannot efficiently and effectively be put into place as a viable economic system. For now, capitalism reigns, but a collective consciousness change things. In the past some ideas seem far-fetcheded. The idea that civilization would reach a point where slavery was not commonplace may have seemed unlikely. The thought of having civil liberties and not living under a monarch was once far-fetched, but humanity evolved. The idea of basic civil rights for women and minorities was also unimaginable. But a gradual, historical shift in consciousness changed things. One of our last hopes for a better planet in the future may very well rest in a maturing, developing human consciousness. In light of changes in class consciousness, we may one day find a socialist society on the immediate agenda. What is important to see is that the fact that many of us prefer capitalism does not give capitalism any greater credibility.

"We make our history ourselves, but, in the first place, under very definite assumptions and conditions. Among these the economic ones are ultimately decisive." As Marx once wrote, "History is nothing but the activity of man pursuing his aims." The question then remains: After capitalism what will be the aims of humanity? Only time will tell. Marx intended to present his views on communism in a systematic manner in the final volume. The plan changed, in part because Marx never concluded his work on political economy proper, and what Engels in a letter to Marx refers to as "the famous 'positive,' what you 'really' want" was never written.

A socialist is of necessity social – hence the name. We wish to be social – that is, to live in a society formed of social beings like ourselves. Socialism means a reconstruction of society. It is a product of social evolution. We have slavery, feudalism, capitalism and – socialism is the next stage. Marx and Engels did not see revolution as the inevitable triumph of a would-be ascendent class. Sometimes revolutions issue in "the common ruin of the contending classes" whether it be by nuclear annihilation, ecological suicide or barbarism. Socialism, for Marx and Engels, was not inevitable but very possible. It's never over until it's over.

What would the genuinely socialist society of tomorrow look like? The utopia that any group of people project depends to some extent upon the exact material conditions in which they exist. Trying to predict what socialism would be like in the future to that of a serf on his Lord's manor in feudalistic times trying to think of what capitalism would be like. If we want to play the role of the serf on his lord's manor predicting what the next stage of history would be like, socialism could very well end up looking a lot like capitalism. We might see skyscrapers, helicopters, and mass-transit systems as we do today. This would be like how a late-feudal society might look a bit like an early-capitalist society. Later on, a socialist economy may look completely different with very different other structures, just like how our contemporary society looks very different from the 1600s in Great Britain. Just as the serf would have probably been unable to see highways, automobiles, and computers, there are, of course, probably other elements to the next epoch that we are missing.

 We lack a meaningful sense of the future, and as a result we lack hope, because hope demands a future envisioned as an achievable immediate possibility on which may be realized. Utopia is not the "no-place" of the word's Greek origins, but rather something present in the here and now, although available only in glimpses. The power of utopian images radiate. Urban industrial or office workers may be attracted by the escapist fantasy generated by peasant modes of life, even though they themselves certainly cannot simply take up a peasant life. The oft-derided pleasures as window-shopping provide people with a fragmentary access to those greater pleasures and fulfillments only to be realized in a post-capitalist, post-scarcity world. In so far as these pleasures are enmeshed within capitalism, they are irrational. We need to find ways to connect to the utopian yearnings that move millions of people, and which the advertising industry know too well how to exploit. We have to offer something more participatory, that will be a process and a journey. By describing how people would live if everyone, utopian socialism does two things: it inspires the oppressed to struggle and sacrifice for a better life and it gives a clear meaning to the aim of socialism. However, the main difference between socialists and utopians is the getting there. The utopian socialists do not think of the long term, or how difficult it will be to create the worlds that they envision. The SPGB take a maximalist position accepting and understanding where the majority consciousness is now and try to, as a magnet attracts iron filings, slowly attempt to draw the masses in our direction. It refuses to outline exactly how the revolutionary transformation would take place, or what the new society would be like, because it was the workers who were the revolutionaries. They would create the socialist society themselves.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Parecon - old wine in new skin

Its human nature, ain't it ? Smoke and mirrors

Albert does appear to have this habit of associating any criticism of him from the Marxists ( or platformist anarchists it now seems )as Trotskyist .
Examples of this is from his response to the SPGB (again it required cutting and pasting of Alberts article from the restricted Z-Net )
"...(The editors want to reject the Soviet system I hope for good reasons rather than only because Trotsky did, in the end.)...." and again here "...And all this is so, note,just by decree, by definition, by the authority of humpty dumpty, in my view, and I guess Trotsky, or whoever, in the editors' view..." .

Albert is unaware that the World Socialist Movement was perhaps the earliest critics of Bolshevism, very much alone and against popular feeling when they questioned the validity of the Bolshevik claims. They have offered numerous critiques of Trotsky over the years. Michael Albert, nevertheless , unintentionally reveals that his attitude is that all criticism of Russia begins and ends with Trotsky or Trotskyists, (which explains the obssession with bureaucracy of the deformed workers state or bureaucratic collective state or whatever neo- or ex--Trotskyist of Russia view Albert adheres to in his co-ordinator class thesis.)

The SPGB roots are in what was called "The Impossiblists Revolt", accused of impossiblism by the reformists and gradualists. They failed with their remedies. What's Occams Razor Theory say - the simplest explanations and the simplest solutions are more likely to be true. Little need to create such an intricate and elaborate construct as Parecon when all that is required is the understanding and co-operation of the majority of the people to establish socialism - a moneyless, state-less world. Critics of fee access often claim that there are no other alternatives for allocation other than central planning, participatory planning, and markets.

Planning in socialism is essentially a question of industrial organisation, (By industrial organisation we mean the structure for organising the actual production and distribution of wealth) 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.

I certainly would have no quibble about the description that we were proposing participatory economics but since that phrase appears to be another way of describing Parecon ideas i was loathe to use it .
Rather than "participatory economics" we have always expressed it as we have in our Object in Declaration of Principles - "democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth and by and in the interest of the whole community " and from our 3rd Principle -"democratic control by the whole people " ( ) for the active involvement of all in the administration of society . The wording was not accidental but was deliberate to differentiate ourselves from the syndicalism and industrial unionism of the turn of the century . Indeed from the early days of the SPGB formation we have been critical of those currents which would have placed the actual producers in control of their individual industries which would have lead to sectional interests and competition and conflict with other workers , rather than social ownership by everyone . Our demand is that control should be by ALL of society .

The SPGB is accused of proposing to use "cost/benefit analysis." This presupposes a way to measure social cost and social benefit .

This can be answered that in socialism a points system for attributing relative importance to the various relevant considerations could be used instead. The points attributed to these considerations would be subjective, in the sense that this would depend on a deliberate social decision rather than on some objective standard. All rather simple when it comes to practical application. What needs to be done will be done through discussion and agreement of priorities and needs. The advantages /disadvantages and even the points attributed to them can, and normally would, differ from case to case. So what we are talking about is not a new abstract universal unit of measurement to replace money and economic value for reaching rational decisions. Simple common sense .

We have the mechanism of a self-regulating system of stock control, using calculation in kind, which would enable us to keep track of supply and demand . We have participation to allocate resources and mechanisms to decide priorities and best method .

But lets cut to the real chase and the real bone of contention that usually underlies criticism.

It is what we in the moneyless economy sector call the Lazy Greedy Man Arguement. A proponent of Parecon rejects a system that abolishes the money, prices and exchange economy did so on the grounds that "Under the moneyless scheme, those with the least social consciousness or least sense of social responsibility will win out because they will be more aggressive in taking "free" items from the distribution centers. Since there is no requirement of work the "free riders" who do no work will burden the system to the point of collapse...Why, then, burden ourselves with the risky system of moneyless "free access," with its huge dangers of being dragged down by parasitical free riders?"

The "free riders", the "shirkers", the "social parasites", the "socially irresponsible " as theuy been described in the past by proponents of Parecon. Come common ownership and we have all the lazy and greedy, all the able-bodied idle, as the Victorians classified them in the Poor Law legislation, all rushing in to empty the shelves and selfishly hoard, just because its free. Or the lesser crime of taking what they don't require. Or they will refuse to pull their weight at work and live off the fruits of other's labours. Parecon argues that people are inherently anti-social and would seize selfish advantage in a world of free access, which is, when you come down to it, the reason that Parecon insist on prices and wages and money. Yup, don't trust the plebs. The greedy lazy human nature rebuttal is usually found in the arguments of pro-capitalist apologists. Parconists are not psychologically able to continue with the logic to arrive into the only possible solution - world commune of communities in which each person will contribute as one is able and get as one needs They accept the capitalist ideology claim the a person will do no effort if not get remuneration (wage, profit, supply of needs, etc.) They do not accept that social motivation is strong enough for that.

Of course, it is always the other people doing this, not us. We is all very socially responsible aware. Only thing is, others aren't. Yup, free access won't work because of human nature? Socialists don't share this pessimism about the human character. People change when circumstances and situations change. We have always accepted that as anarchists and socialists and left Original Sin to the religiously blinkered. Nor do we believe that we cannot support non-producers. (All you unappreciated and undiscovered poets and artists out there, take a big sigh of relief and don't fret, for socialism won't condemn you to your ramshackle garrets because you concentrate on your art and not in the fields or factories and we won't have some Soviet-style writers union to say whether you are approved or not.)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Socialist Choice

It is frequently claimed, not just by apologists for capitalism but so-called avowedly socialists, that it is impossible to have an economy which excludes such things as wages, prices and money, and that any society’s economy is necessarily going to include those concepts, particularly wages and prices. Sorry to say but it is well documented by anthropologists, that there has been many societies which has not involved a monetary economy – in fact some exist even today in isolated parts of the world. Dollars and cents, salary checks, and price tags on goods are not an intrinsic part of the human essence as such statements imply

According to capitalist economic theory, prices are the means for determining the rational allocation of resources in a money economy. But, in fact, prices are not intended for the purpose of organising production. The function of pricing is to fix costs with a view to making profit. In practice, costing and pricing are ultimately about calculating the exploitation of labour, enabling the capitalist class to live and accumulate capital from the wealth that the working class produces but does not consume. The problem of rationally allocating productive resources in an economy is common to all human societies at least as long as these resources remain relatively limited compared to needs. However, there is no need to assume that this allocation could be effected rationally only through the exchange of resources taking the value -”price”- form. Labour power, your ability to work, is a commodity that is sold on the open market like anything else, the `price’ you get for it is your wage. If you have special natural skills or a training to perform a particular kind of labour which is in high demand then like everything else you can command a higher price for it, as well as good working conditions

A monetary economy gives rise to the illusion that the “cost” of producing something is merely financial. Money is the universal unit of measurement, the “general equivalent” that allows everything to be compared with everything else under all circumstances—but only in terms of their labour-time cost or the total time needed on average to produce them from start to finish.
Such non-monetary calculation of course already happens, on the technical level, under capitalism. Once the choice of productive method has been made (according to expected profitability as revealed by monetary calculation) then the real calculations in kind of what is needed to produce a specific good commence so much raw materials, so much energy, so much labour…
In socialism it is not the case that the choice of productive method will become a technical choice that can be left to engineers, as is sometimes misunderstood by critics, but that this choice too will be made in real terms, in terms of the real advantages and disadvantages of alternative methods and in terms of, on the one hand, the utility of some good or some project in a particular circumstance at a particular time and, on the other hand, of the real “costs” in the same circumstances and at the same time of the required materials, energy and productive effort.

Production- for- use would operate in direct response to need. These would arise in local communities expressed as required quantities such as grammes, kilos, tonne, litres , metres, cubic metres, etc, of various materials and quantities of goods. These would then be communicated as required elements of productive activity , as a technical sequence, to different scales of social production, according to necessity.
Each particular part of production would be responding to the material requirements communicated to it through the connected ideas of social production. It would be self -regulating , because each element of production would be self-adjusting to the communication of these material requirements . Each part of of production would know its position. If requirements are low in relation to a build-up of stock , then this would an automatic indication to a production unit that its production should be reduced . If The register of needs and the communication of every necessary element of those needs to the structure of production would be clear and readily known . The supply of some needs will take place within the local community and in these cases production would not extent beyond this , as for example with local food production for local consumption.

Other needs could be communicated as required things to the regional organisation of production. Local food production would require glass, but not every local community could have its own glass works. The requirements for glass could be communicated to a regional glass works. These would be definite quantities of required glass . The glass works has its own suppliers of materials , and the amounts they require for the production of 1 tonne of glass are known in definite quantities. The required quantities of these materials could be passed by the glass works to the regional suppliers of the materials for glass manufacture . This would be a sequence of communication of local needs to the regional organisation of production, and thus contained within a region .
Local food production would also require tractors, and here the communication of required quantities of things could extend further to the world organisation of production . Regional manufacture could produce and assemble he component parts of tractors for distribution to local communities .These would be required in a definite number and , on the basis of this definite number of final products, the definite number of component parts for tractors would also be known . The regional production unit producing tractor would communicate these definite quantities to their own suppliers, and eventually this would extend to worl production units extracting and processing the necessary materials.

This would be the self-regulating system of production for need , operating on the basis of the communication of need as definite quantities of things throughout the structure of production . Each production unit would convert the requirements communicated to it into its own material requirements and pass these on to its suppliers . This would be the sequence by which every element of labour required for the production of a final product would be known.
This system of self-regulating production for use is achieved through communications . Socialism would make full use of the means communications which have developed These include not only transport such as roads, railways, shipping etc. They also include the existing system of electronic communications which provide for instant world-wide contact as well as facilities for storing and processing millions of pieces of information. Modern information technology could be used by socialism to integrate any required combination of different parts of its world structure of production.

Simpler is Better

Socialists desire to abolish economics. No exchange, no economy.

Socialism, being based on the common ownership of the means of production by all members of society, is not an exchange economy. Production would no longer be carried on for sale with a view to profit as under capitalism. In fact, production would not be carried on for sale at all. Production for sale would be a nonsense since common ownership of the means of production means that what is produced is commonly owned by society as soon as it is produced. The question of selling just cannot arise because, as an act of exchange, this could only take place between separate owners. Yet separate owners of parts of the social product are precisely what would not, and could not exist in a society where the means of production were owned in common.

However, socialism is more than just not an exchange economy; it is not an economy at all, not even a planned economy. Economics, or political economy as it was originally called, grew up as the study of the forces which came into operation when capitalism, as a system of generalised commodity production, began to become the predominant mode of producing and distributing wealth. The production of wealth under capitalism, instead of being a direct interaction between human beings and nature, in which humans change nature to provide themselves with the useful things they need to live, becomes a process of production of wealth in the form of exchange value. Under this system, production is governed by forces which operate independently of human will and which impose themselves as external, coercive laws when men and women make decisions about the production and distribution of wealth. In other words, the social process of the production and the distribution of wealth becomes under capitalism an economy governed by economic laws and studied by a special discipline, economics.

Socialism is not an economy, because, in re-establishing conscious human control over production, it would restore to the social process of wealth production its original character of simply being a direct interaction between human beings and nature. Wealth in socialism would be produced directly as such, i. e. as useful articles needed for human survival and enjoyment; resources and labour would be allocated for this purpose by conscious decisions, not through the operation of economic laws acting with the same coercive force as laws of nature. Although their effect is similar, the economic laws which come into operation in an exchange economy such as capitalism are not natural laws, since they arise out of a specific set of social relationships existing between human beings. By changing these social relationships through bringing production under conscious human control, socialism would abolish these laws and so also the economy as the field of human activity governed by their operation. Hence socialism would make economics redundant.

What we are saying, in effect, is that the term exchange economy is a tautology in that an economy only comes into existence when wealth is produced for exchange. It is now clear why the term planned economy is unacceptable as a definition of socialism. Socialism is not the planned production of wealth as exchange value, nor the planned production of commodities, nor the planned accumulation of capital. That is what state capitalism aims to be. Planning is indeed central to the idea of socialism, but socialism is the planned (consciously coordinated) 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 (which would be different under different conditions and for different individuals and groups of individuals) but it would not have any exchange, or economic, value.

In socialist society productive activity would take the form of freely chosen activity undertaken by human beings with a view to producing the things they needed to live and enjoy life. The necessary productive work of society would not be done by a class of hired wage workers but by all members of society, each according to their particular skills and abilities, cooperating to produce the things required to satisfy their needs both as individuals and as communities. 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.

Socialist production would be production solely for use. The products would be freely available to people, who would take them and use them to satisfy their needs. In socialism people would obtain the food, clothes and other articles they needed for their personal consumption by going into a distribution centre and taking what they needed without having to hand over either money or consumption vouchers. Houses and flats would be rent-free, with heating, lighting and water supplied free of charge. Transport, communications, health care, education, restaurants and laundries would be organised as free public services. There would be no admission charge to theatres, cinemas, museums, parks, libraries and other places of entertainment and recreation. The best term to describe this key social relationship of socialist society is free access, as it emphasises the fact that in socialism it would be the individual who would decide what his or her individual needs were. As to collective needs (schools, hospitals, theatres, libraries and the like), these could be decided by the groups of individuals concerned, using the various democratic representative bodies which they would create at different levels in socialist society. Thus production in socialism would be the production of free goods to meet self-defined needs, both individual and collective

To advocate monetary calculation, is to advocate that only one consideration—the total average production time needed to produce goods—should be taken into account when making decisions about which productive methods to employ. This is patently absurd but it is what is imposed by capitalism. Naturally, it leads to all sorts of aberrations from the point of view of human interests. In particular it rules out a rational, long-term attitude towards conserving resources and it imposes intolerable conditions on the actual producers (speed-up, pain, stress, boredom, long hours, night work, shiftwork, accidents).

Socialism, because it will calculate directly it kind, will be able to take these other, more important, factors than production time into account. This will naturally lead to different, in many cases quite different, productive methods being adopted than now under capitalism. If the health, comfort and enjoyment of those who actually manipulate the materials, or who supervise the machines which do this, to transform them into useful objects is to be paramount, certain methods are going to be ruled out altogether. The fast moving production lines associated with the manufacture of cars would be stopped for ever ; night work would be reduced to the strict minimum; particularly dangerous or unhealthy jobs would be automated (or completely abandoned). Work can, in fact must, become enjoyable. But to the extent that work becomes enjoyable, measurement by minimum average working time would be completely meaningless, since people would not be seeking to minimize or rush such work.

The supply of some needs will take place within the local community and in these cases production would not extent beyond this .Other needs could be communicated as required things to the regional organisation of production. Local food production would require glass, but not every local community could have its own glass works . The requirements for glass could be communicated to a regional glass works . Some organisation for such as mining for raw material sources would require world co-ordination . When socialism is established it will be necessary to set up councils at local , regional and global levels for the administration of social affairs in every aspect of productive activity . Also there will have to be councils whose functions will be to co-ordinate the work of the various specific councils . The majority of the people in a local area will make decisions affecting that area specifically , the people in a certain region will make decisions for that region and everyone will make global decisions .

The problem with a centrally-planned model of socialism is amongst other things its inability to cope with change. It lacks any kind of feedback mechanism which allows for mutual adjustments between the different actors in such an economy. It is completely inflexible in this regard. A decentralised or polycentric version of socialism, on the other hand, overcomes these difficulties. It facilitates the generation of information concerning the supply and demand for production and consumption goods through the economy via a distributed information .Stock or inventory control systems employing calculation in kind are absolutely indispensable to any kind of modern production system.

In a “free access” socialist economy income or purchasing power would, of course, be devoid of meaning. So too would the notion of status based upon the conspicuous consumption of wealth. Because individuals would stand in equal relation to the means of production and have free access to the resultant goods and services

Marx saw the communist administration as a federation of self-governing groups largely concerned with their internal affairs and collaborating for the comparatively few purposes that concern all the groups. The association of free producers , not a centrally planned State whose roots go back to “Bismarckian State-Socialism” and Lassalle , so readily endorsed by Lenin and his Bolsheviks yet so rarely acknowledged by his pupils .

How are these needs communicated? What allocation mechanism do you use? Certainly they won’t be by getting those individuals needs allotted to them .

Decisions involving choices of a general nature, such as what forms of energy to use, which of two or more materials to employ to produce a particular good, whether and where to build a new factory, there is a technique already in use under capitalism that could be adapted for use in socialism: so-called cost-benefit analysis and its variants. Naturally, under capitalism the balance sheet of the relevant benefits and costs advantages and disadvantagesof a particular scheme or rival schemes is drawn up in money terms, but in socialism a points system for attributing relative importance to the various relevant considerations could be used instead. The points attributed to these considerations would be subjective, in the sense that this would depend on a deliberate social decision rather than on some objective standard. In the sense that one of the aims of socialism is precisely to rescue humankind from the capitalist fixation with production time/money, cost-benefit type analyses, as a means of taking into account other factors, could therefore be said to be more appropriate for use in socialism than under capitalism. Using points systems to attribute relative importance in this way would not be to recreate some universal unit of evaluation and calculation, but simply to employ a technique to facilitate decision-making in particular concrete cases. The advantages /disadvantages and even the points attributed to them can, and normally would, differ from case to case. So what we are talking about is not a new abstract universal unit of measurement to replace money and economic value but one technique among othersfor reaching rational decisions in a society where the criterion of rationality is human welfare.

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. There is no point in drawing up in advance the sort of detailed blueprint of industrial organisation that the old IWW and the Syndicalists used to , but it is still reasonable to assume that productive activity would be divided into branches and that production in these branches would be organised by a delegate body. 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.

Since the needs of consumers are always needs for a specific product at a specific time in a specific locality, we will assume that socialist society would leave the initial assessment of likely needs to a delegate body under the control of the local community (although, other arrangements are possible if that were what the members of socialist society wanted). 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 (for want of a better name) 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.

The individual would have free access to the goods on the shelves of the local distribution centres; the local distribution centres free access to the goods they required to be always adequately stocked with what people needed; their suppliers free access to the goods they required from the factories which supplied them; industries and factories free access to the materials, equipment and energy they needed to produce their products; and so on. Production and distribution in socialism would thus 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.

To ensure the smooth functioning of the system, a central statistical office would be needed to provide estimates of what would have to be produced to meet peoples likely individual and collective needs. These could be calculated in the light of consumer wants as indicated by returns from local distribution committees and of technical data (productive capacity, production methods, productivity, etc) incorporated in input-output tables. For, at any given level of technology (reflected in the input-output tables), a given mix of final goods (consumer wants) requires for its production a given mix of intermediate goods and raw materials; it is this latter mix that the central statistical office would be calculating in broad terms. Such calculations would also indicate whether or not productive capacity would need to be expanded and in what branches. The centre (or rather centres for each world-region) would thus be essentially an information clearing house, processing information communicated to it about production and distribution and passing on the results to industries for them to draw up their production plans so as to be in a position to meet the requests for their products coming from other industries and from local communities. The only calculations that would be necessary in socialism would be calculations in kind. On the one side would be recorded the resources (materials, energy, equipment, labour) used up in production and on the other side the amount of the good produced, together with any by-products.

Stock or inventory control systems employing calculation in kind are, as was suggested earlier, absolutely indispensable to any kind of modern production system. While it is true that they operate within a price environment today, that is not the same thing as saying they need such an environment in order to operate. The key to good stock management is the stock turnover rate – how rapidly stock is removed from the shelves – and the point at which it may need to be re-ordered. This will also be affected by considerations such as lead times – how long it takes for fresh stock to arrive – and the need to anticipate possible changes in demand.

A typical sequence of information flows in a socialist economy might be as follows. Assume a distribution point (shop) stocks a certain consumer good – say, tins of baked beans. From past experience it knows that it will need to re-order approximately 1000 tins from its suppliers at the start of every month or, by the end of the month, supplies will be low. Assume that, for whatever reason, the rate of stock turnover increases sharply to say 2000 tins per month. This will require either more frequent deliveries or, alternatively, larger deliveries. Possibly the capacity of the distribution point may not be large enough to accommodate the extra quantity of tins required in which case it will have to opt for more frequent deliveries. It could also add to its storage capacity but this would probably take a bit more time. In any event, this information will be communicated to its suppliers. These suppliers, in turn, may require additional tin plate (steel sheet coated with tin), to make cans or beans to be processed and this information can similarly be communicated in the form of new orders to suppliers of those items further down the production chain. And so on and so forth. The whole process is, to a large extent, automatic – or self regulating – being driven by dispersed information signals from producers and consumers concerning the supply and demand for goods and, as such, is far removed from the gross caricature of a centrally planned economy.
It may be argued that this overlooks the problem of opportunity costs .For example, if the supplier of baked beans orders more tin plate from the manufacturers of tin plate then that will mean other uses for this material being deprived by that amount. However, it must be born in mind in the first place that the systematic overproduction of goods that Marx talked of – i.e. buffer stock – applies to all goods, consumption goods as well as production goods. So increased demand from one consumer/producer, need not necessarily entail a cut in supply to another – or at least, not immediately. The existence of buffer stocks provides for a period of re-adjustment.

Liebig’s Law of the Minimum – states is that plant growth is controlled not by the total amount of resources available to a plant but by the particular factor that is scarcest. This factor is called the limiting factor. It is only by increasing the supply of the limiting factor in question – eg nitrogen fertiliser – that you promote plant growth.
Liebig’s Law can be applied equally to the problem of resource allocation in any economy.It makes sense from an economic point of view to economise most on those things that are scarcest and to make greatest use of those things that are abundant.To claim that all factors are scarce (because the use of any factor entails an opportunity cost) and, consequently, need to be economised is actually not a very sensible approach to adopt.You cannot treat every factor equally – that is, as equally scarce – or, if you do, this will result in gross misallocation of resources and economic inefficiency.The most sensible basis on which to make such a discrimination is the relative availability of different factors and this is precisely what the law of the minimum is all about.When a particular factor is limited in relation to the multifarious demands placed on it, the only way in which it can be “inefficiently allocated” (although this is ultimately a value judgement) is in choosing “incorrectly” to which particular end use it should be allocated . Beyond that, you cannot misuse or misallocate a resource if it simply isn’t available to misallocate (that is, where there are inadequate or no buffer stocks on the shelf, so to speak). Of necessity, one is compelled to seek out a more abundant alternative or substitute .

To determine priorities Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” would be a guide to action. It would seem reasonable to suppose that needs that were most pressing and upon which the satisfaction of others needs were contingent, would take priority over those other needs. We are talking here about our basic physiological needs for food, water, adequate sanitation and housing and so on. This would be reflected in the allocation of resources: high priority end goals would take precedence over low priority end goals where resources common to both are revealed using the earlier discussed “points” system of cost benefit analysis.

To sum up , a communist steady-state equilibrium, will have been reached. Gradual change, growth, will be simple and painless. The task of planning becomes one of simple routine; the role of economics is virtually eliminated.

 Marx said in communism it is now society’s free (disposable) time and no longer labor time that becomes the true measure of society’s wealth.

When Michael Albert of Parecon  state that “from each according to abilities, to each according to needs” is an unachievable utopian and unpractical demand, it proves just how non-radical he is. In Parecon webpages Paul Mattick and Anton Pannekoek feature as influences yet it should be remembered that when they were being ostracised by the orthodox left and the libertarian left, it was the small World Socialist Movement that were still offering them an outlet to express their views when they had little opportunity to do so. They shared the real socialist demand for free access and the end to wage slavery an one the problems with participatory economics (parecon) is that it continues with prices and wages and money, instead of abolishing them all. It is NOT impossible that such a society offered by free-access socialiststo be feasiblebut is in fact more desirable than the alternative  present within the Parecon model.

Unlike Parecon, many socialists caution against the creation of blueprints (“recipes for the cook-shops of tomorrow” as Marx called them ). There is no point in drawing up in advance the sort of detailed blueprint of industrial organisation that the old IWW and the Syndicalists or the Guild Socialists used to do and what Parecon now does . For a small group of socialists , as we are now , to do so would be undemocratic. It would also be dumb. Socialists don’t have crystal balls to determine what the conditions will be when socialism is established. As the socialist majority grows, when socialism is within the grasp of the working class, then will be the proper time for making such important decisions. It is imprudent for today’s socialist minority to be telling people how to administer a socialist society. When a majority of people understand what socialism means, the suggestions for socialist administration will solidify into an appropriate plan. It will be based upon the conditions existing at that time, not today.

We also recognise that there may not be one single way of doing things, and precise details and ways of doing things might vary from one part of the world to another, even between neighbouring communities. Of course, we can reach some generalised conclusions based on basic premises – that socialism will be necessarily democratic, for example – and can outline broad principles or options that could be applied. That is, we do not have to draw up a plan for socialism, but simply and broadly demonstrate that it is possible and therefore refute the label of “utopianism”.

We look to the real world to see how it is, and how it could be. Socialist society is not starting from a blank sheet and we are inheriting an already existing economic system. Workers with all their skills and experience of co-operating to run capitalism in the interests of the capitalists could begin to run society in their own interest. We do not need to build the new society in the womb of the old, that is here already.

 Marx cautioned – “Instead of the conservative motto, A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work! they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, Abolition of the wages system!”


scarcity or abundance and allocation of resources

Abundance is not a situation where an infinite amount of every good could be produced . Similarly, scarcity is not the situation which exists in the absence of this impossible abundance. Abundance is a situation where productive resources are sufficient to produce enough wealth to satisfy human needs, while scarcity is a situation where productive resources are insufficient for this purpose. "Unlimited wants " is an abstraction of Capitalism . Needs are indeed finite .

Not all resources are available in sufficient supply to meet all uses for them. Land is an obvious case in point: a piece of land cannot be used at the same time for housing and for farming . Some criteria will indeed have to be developed for deciding what use to put them to .Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” , perhaps . Needs that were most pressing and upon which the satisfaction of others needs were contingent, would take priority over those other needs, high priority end goals would take precedence over low priority end goals where resources common to both are revealed to be in short supply .
Cost benefit analysis is an elaborate skill in capitalism and could be a neutral tool based on a “points system” to evaluate a range of different projects facing society.

Allocation calculations in socialism will not be economic but technical . In socialism calculations will be done directly in physical quantities of real things [calculation in kind ] , in use-values , without any general equivalent unit of calculation ie money and prices

Friday, November 23, 2012


Individualism, libertarianism, mutiualism
Capitalism’s problems are often isolated as single issues to obscure the flaws of the entire system. Capitalism is identified with private control of markets organized on  profit and loss economics.

Right Libertarians, or more accurately, Propertarians, espouse not liberty but wage slavery. Capitalism is capital accumulation. Capitalism breeds inequality

“From what source did profit originate?" Knowing this would certainly give us a better understanding of how our existing capital economy works and maybe how the economy might work under conditions of greater freedom.

Profit at its most basic is the difference between the money a business obtains from the sale of its products and the money it has to spend on producing them. Profit arises from capitalist firms employing wage labour selling goods but only having to pay their employees the value of their labour-power, which is less. The need to accumulate capital out of surplus value is the driving force of capitalism. It stems from the economic competition between enterprises which compels each enterprise to increase their market competitiveness or succumb to superior competition and go bankrupt. So, increasing the amount of capital at their disposal to invest in more productive technologies means increasing the amount of surplus value extracted from their workforce which in turn means, among other things, holding down their costs, including their labour costs i.e. our wages!

One of Marx’s crucial discoveries in the field of political economy was that the working class of wage and salary earners gets paid less than the value of the goods it creates, the difference being a surplus value which accrues to the owning class in the form of ground rent, interest and profit. Capitalism turned human labour power into a commodity – something bought and sold. When capitalists buy a worker’s labour they buy the worker’s capacity to work for a full day. Wages are set, however, like every other commodity, by the value of labour-power needed to reproduce them, which in the case of labour is the value of food, clothing, etc. needed to keep the worker in a fit condition to work. But the value of ‘labour power’ is different from the value created by the worker’s labour and this difference, called surplus value, belongs to the capitalist. The working day under capitalism therefore divides into two parts; ‘necessary labour’ when the workers actually earns what they are paid in wages, and ‘surplus labour’ which is the time spent producing ‘surplus value’ for the capitalist employer. The aim of capitalist production is the production of surplus value. The new value added by labour in the process of production to the previously existing value of the raw and other materials is divided into wages and surplus value, which goes to the capitalist employer and is the source of profit. Profits are made in the sphere of production but only “realised” in the market. What is so vital about profit that makes this necessary? It is the source of the capitalist’s capital. The more capital they can accumulate out of the profits accruing to them the more effectively can they compete–by investing in more productive technologies to undercut their competitors–and thus claim a larger share of the market for themselves. If they did not do this then their competitors would, and could knock them out of business. Economic competition between enterprises fuels the drive towards capital accumulation. This in turn necessitates profit maximisation which expresses itself as a continuous downward pressure on wages (reinforced by competition between workers on the labour market)

We’re the ones who build things, make things, provide services, make things work, provide the ideas. But though we build the world around us, it does not belong to us. Everything that has been built around us is the result of our work and yet we don’t work for ourselves. We produce not for ourselves, but at the behest’s and whims of others. The worker is compelled to labour for the purpose of producing something to satisfy the wants of others who, holding the things necessary for his life, thereby control him. He is, therefore, still a slave.We are the ones who are told what to produce, how to produce it, how much, and how fast.We are the ones who receive a paycheque, be it high or low, not for selling what we produce but for selling our power to work. With that paycheque we try to buy back what we make. The source of someone else’s profits comes from our work. Capitalism is based on wage-labour and if a theoretical non-capitalist market economy was a reality it would have to be based on self-employed farmers and artisans. It would also have to be an economy based on handicraft rather than industrial production.(The reason for this is that where there is industrial production the work involved in turning the raw materials into a finished product is no longer individual, but collective.)

This would bring some inevitable consequences.

Industrial production can produce goods at a lower cost per unit than handicraft production, with complete laissez-faire, competition would eliminate most of the independent, self-employed artisans. In other words, industry would begin to be concentrated into the hands of the firms employing industrial methods of production. With complete laissez-faire, competition would result in those firms which employed the most productive machinery winning out against those employing out of date and so less productive machinery. So, there would be a tendency towards a yet greater concentration of industry into the hands of the big firms. What about the displaced independent artisans and the members of bankrupt workers’ co-operatives, some may ask? How would they get a living? Would they not in fact be obliged to sell their skills to the firms that had won out in the battle of competition? But if wage labour appeared then so would profits and exploitation. If these profits were to be shared but the continuing competitive pressures would oblige them to give priority to investing them in new, more productive machinery so as to be able to stay in business and not go bankrupt themselves. So even if it were possible to go back to the sort of multi “free” market economy, the tendency would be for capitalism to develop again. Examples being the kibbutzim and the Mennonites communities which have begun to employ wage labour and orient their production towards making profits and accumulating these as new capital.

Private ownership originally meant the ownership of industry by private individuals. But, while this may have been the case in the days of Adam Smith, this hasn’t been the predominant form of ownership since the introduction and rapid spread in the second half of the 19th century of what in England was called a “limited company” and in America a “corporation”. A limited company is a separate legal entity in its own right. It is the company, the corporation, that owns the assets, the shareholders owning as a collective group not as individuals. This means that they are only personally liable, if the company goes bankrupt, for the amount of their shareholding, not their total wealth. Hence the name “limited liability company”. In the late 1860s, the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution recognised the slave as having human rights, the nascent corporate elite of the time had their lawyers stake a claim to the same rights with the Supreme Court. They fought and won, and the state henceforth recognised the corporation as a human being, a person in law, with the same right to life, liberty and property.

So, as well as private ownership it would be more accurate to speak of capitalism as nowadays involving company or corporate ownership. And, indeed, some in the anti-capitalist movement take this into account by talking of “corporate capitalism”. Which is OK as far as it goes. Only it doesn’t go far enough. The key features of capitalism is production for profit. The motive for producing things under capitalism is to make a profit. The “Profit System” is another very good name for capitalism But from another angle, capitalism could also be called the “Wages System”. The key market in capitalism is the labour market, where workers are forced to earn their living by selling their labour power to an employer.

Capitalism is an economic system where, under pressure from the market, profits are accumulated as further capital, i.e. as money invested in production with a view to making further profits. This is not a matter of the individual choice of those in control of capitalist production – it’s not due to their personal greed or inhumanity – it’s something forced on them by the operation of the system. And which operates irrespective of whether a particular economic unit is the property of an individual, a limited company, the state or even of a workers’ cooperative. The capitalist system is left unscathed. Nowhere is the market-driven profit system as such challenged. Nowhere is the “can’t pay, can’t have” society we have that consigns the greater portion of the population of the planet to lives of abject misery condemned. Capitalism is taken for granted and all that is being asked in the end is the end of corporations. It is just the demand for wider democracy and fairer trading conditions while allowing capitalism to carry on perpetrating every social ill that plagues us.

Let’s clarify what is meant by markets.

It was with the emergence of the capitalist system that society lost its direct control of its productive resources. In previous societies, it was often the case that production was at near maximum capacity given the technology and resources available and this determined what could be distributed. In times of good harvests the whole community could benefit in some shape or form. But with the development of the capitalist system this was eroded as what is produced depends crucially on what can be sold. This means that distribution through sale in the markets determines production and this is always less than what could be produced.

Capitalism is a market economy, but not a simple market economy. A key difference of course is that under capitalism production is not carried out by self-employed producers but wage and salary workers employed by business enterprises. In other words, by profits we mean income that flows to the owner of a workplace or land who hires others to do the work. In other words, under capitalism, the producers have become separated from the means of production. This makes all the difference.

Marx explained the difference when he said that what happens in a simple market economy is that the producers brought to market a product of a certain value which they sell for money in order to buy another product or products of equal value. The economic circuit is commodity-money-commodity (C-M-C), the aim being to end up with a basket of useful things. Under capitalism the economic circuit is different. A capitalist sets out with a sum of money which they use to buy commodities (factory buildings, raw materials, working skills) that can be used to produce other commodities with the aim of ending up, after these other commodities have been sold, with more money than they started off with. So the circuit is now money-commodities-more money (M-C-M+).

Capitalist exploitation occurs as a result of the normal operation of market forces. Capitalism is an economic system of capital accumulation out of profits. This is its dynamic. Profits are made by competing firms which, in order to remain competitive, have to re-invest most of them in new, more productive machinery and equipment. The result is the accumulation of a greater and greater stock of productive equipment used to make profits, or capital. Capitalism is the system of capital accumulation and is derived from the surplus value produced by the class of wage workers. It is the workers who produce the wealth, and the capitalists who make their profits from our unpaid labour.

Market capacity is inherently unpredictable. If too many goods are produced for a market and they remain unsold, a crisis and recession may occur with reduced production, increased unemployment, bankruptcies, and large scale writing-off of capital values. Despite the many attempts that have been made, no theory of economic management has ever been able to predict or control the anarchic conditions of the market system. This is rule by market forces which serve minority interests and which generate the insecurities, crises and conflicts that shape the way we live. The fact that we have great powers of production that cannot be organised and fully used for the benefit of all people has devastating consequences and is at the root of most social problems. In this way, the capitalist system places the production of goods and services, on which the quality of all our lives depends, outside the direct control of society. Capitalism cannot produce primarily to satisfy human needs as production is always geared to meeting market demand at a profit. This means that production is restricted to what people can pay for. But what people can pay for and what they want are two different things, so the profit system acts as a fetter on production and a barrier to a society of abundance. Wherever wealth is produced for sale on a market—wherever, that is, there is commodity-production—economic forces are unleashed which come to dominate production and orient it away from satisfying people’s needs. The operation of these laws means that production is not subject to human control, with the result that it is not human values that are paramount in society, but market values, commercial values, the cash nexus.

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 and consume? It is possible to envisage such an economy on paper. Marx did, and 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 (all of M+ less M) would be used to maintain a privileged, exploiting class in luxury . As a result the M in M-C-M+ would always remain the same and the circuit keep on repeating itself unchanged. This of course is not how capitalism operates. 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 . The economic circuit is thus money-commodities-more money-more commodities, even more money (M-C-M+-C+-M++). In order to make more money, money must be transformed into capital.

This is not the conscious choice of the capitalists. 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. They cannot act contrary to the inner nature of capitalism which requires the constant accumulation of capital and the opening of new markets throughout the world. And it cannot avoid that increasing productivity of labor which means more production for less expenditure of labour.

Libertarians claim we as workers enter a fee contract and “no one is forced to do anything.” – But what planet are they on. The working class is forced each and every day into wage slavery or does money in capitalism grow on trees and all people need to do it pluck it from the branches to pay for food clothing and shelter. No, we are, collectively, compelled under the threat of poverty to sell our capacity to work – our labour power – in order to get access to those things

In 1855, Frederick Douglas, a former slave, wrote:- “The difference between the white slave, and the black slave, is this: the latter belongs to ONE slave-holder, and the former belongs to ALL the slave-holders, collectively. The white slave has taken from his, by indirection, what the black slave had taken from him, directly, and without ceremony. Both are plundered, and by the same plunderers”.
He understood , why can’t others?

The modern slave-owner has no such interest in his slaves. He neither purchases nor owns them. He merely buys so much labor-power – physical energy – just as he buys electric power for his plant. The worker represents to him merely a machine capable of developing a given quantity of labor-power. When he does not need labor-power he simply refrains from buying any. Wage slavery is the most satisfactory form of slavery that has ever come into existence, from the point of view of the masters. It gives them all the slaves they require, and relieves them of all responsibility in the matter of their housing, feeding and clothing.

 Instead of the pressures that force people to sell their working skills to an employer, people in socialism will work as a voluntary expression of their relationship with others. Needs will replace the drive for profits and the dictates of the market in deciding what must be done. Instead of the authoritarian control imposed by boards of directors and their corporate managers, production units will be run democratically by the people working in them. Instead of the state and its government of people, in socialism, people will contribute to the decisions made democratically by the community. Wage slavery will be overthrown and labour power cease to be a commodity. The workers, being the owners of the means of production, will also be the owners of the wealth produced, each individually enjoying what they have collectively produced.

Wage slavery has become the only option for the majority to sustain itself. The capitalist system was created through acts of theft and murder. This reality is continually defended by theories of the ideal capitalist model claiming as you do to be a return to “economic justice”, which actually only seeks to legitimise the capitalist’s source of wealth and power – the exploitation of labour for the extraction of profit. It is hypocrisy.

Many libertarians and mutualists argue that ” wage isn’t slavery when free and just conditions exist.” Ah, if only that were the case. Workers sell their labour power to capitalist enterprises for a wage as stated above in earlier post . As a commodity, labour power has an exchange value and a use value, like all other commodities. Its exchange value is equal to the sum total of the exchange values of all those commodities necessary to produce and reproduce the labour power of the worker and his or her family. The use value of labour power is its value creating capacity which capitalist enterprises buy and put to work as labour. However, labour power is unlike other commodities in that it creates value. During a given period it can produce more than is needed to maintain the worker during the same period. The surplus value produced is the difference between the exchange value of labour power and the use value of the labour extracted by the capitalists. In capitalism, however,the wage-worker is a “free” agent. No master holds him as a chattel, nor feudal lord as serf. This modern worker is free and independent: he has choices. He can dispose of his services to this or that capitalist owner, or he can withhold them. But this freedom is ephemeral. He must sell his working ability to some one or other employer or face starvation. In a capitalist society workers have the option of finding a job or facing abject poverty and/or starvation. Little wonder, then, that people “voluntarily” sell their labour and “consent” to authoritarian structures! They have little option to do otherwise. So, within the labour market workers can and do seek out the best working conditions possible, but that does not mean that the final contract agreed is “freely” accepted and not due to the force of circumstances, that both parties have equal bargaining power when drawing up the contract or that the freedom of both parties is ensured. His slavery is cloaked under the guise of wage-labour.

When the worker has found an employer he receives in return for his labour a price known as wages which represents on the average what is necessary for his sustenance so that he can reproduce the energy to go on working, and also produce progeny to replace him when his working days are over. During the working-day the worker produces wealth equivalent to that for which he is paid wages, but this does not require all the time of the working day. In providing for his own keep he has also produced a surplus and this surplus belongs to the employer. This may eventually be split into profit to the manufacturer, rent to the landlord, and interest on capital invested by a financier. As capitalism develops the time in which the worker produces his own keep decreases while the surplus accruing to the capitalist increases. During this development the productivity of labor increases at an accelerating tempo: The worker continually produces more with less.

So when a man sells his labour power a number of hours for a certain wage, the amount of necessaries to produce his wages is always smaller than the amount of labour which the employer receives from him, the difference between what the worker receives as wages and what his labour power produces during his working time, constitutes the sole source of unearned income, i.e., capitalist profits. So profits exist because the worker sells themselves to the capitalist, who then owns their activity and, therefore, tries to control them like a machine.

Wage levels will vary with “the respective power of the combatants” as Marx puts it and in the long run this will determine the value of labour-power and the necessaries of life. From the point of view of wage-labour , wage levels and the value of labour-power depends on the balance of class forces, on what workers can actually get from their employers. As wages are also regulated by the relation of supply and demand, a surplus of labour power (the unemployed) is necessary to prevent wages swallowing up all profit. Therefore the unemployed army is a vital necessity to capitalist production, and there can be no solution under capitalism.

It would be wrong to confuse exploitation with low wages. It does not matter if real wages do go up or not. The absolute level of those wages is irrelevant to the creation and appropriation of value and surplus-value. Labour is exploited because labour produces the whole of the value created in any process of production but gets only part of it back. On average workers sell their labour-power at a “fair” market price and still exploitation occurs. As sellers of a commodity (labour-power) they do not receive its full worth i.e. what they actually produce. Nor do they have a say in how the surplus value produced by their labour gets used.

The worker goes into the labour market as an article of merchandise, and his wages, that is, his price, is determined like that of any other article of merchandise, by the cost of production (i.e. the social labour necessary), and this in the case of the worker is represented by the cost of subsistence. The price of labour power fluctuates by the operation of supply and demand. There are generally more workers in the market than are actually required by the employers, and this fact serves to keep wages from rising for any length of time above the cost of subsistence. Moreover, machinery and scientific applications are ever tending to render labourers superfluous, with a consequent overstocking of the labour market, decrease of wages, and an increase in the number of the unemployed. Under these conditions reelative poverty is necessarily the lot of the working-class.

We have the worker entirely dispossessed of the means of getting a living except by selling himself as an article of merchandise to the owners of the means of living. This is wage-slavery. While capitalists are as a class against the workers as regards the ownership of the wealth produced by the working-class, they, the capitalists, are also antagonistic to one another in the endeavour to get the larger share of the markets. It wasn’t just Marx but also Fourier who pointed long ago that this competition could only end in monopoly, and we do see concentration an going on in every branch of industry.

Many seek a capitalism with the rough corners smoothed out, the utopian aspiration of a tamed capitalism. What is really required is a fundamental change of the economic basis of society. Many seek an idealised world and call for governments not to interfere in the operation of the market, to let market forces operate unhindered – laissez faire – and that the detrimental effects of the capitalist system can be eliminated by taming global corporations. For as long as capitalism has existed state “interference” or state “intervention”, in the economy has always existed. A corporation-dominated government is really the logical outcome of a class-divided society where the state must serve the owning minority. Individualists attack socialism because they fear the whole of the wealth of society shall be owned by a number of persons incorporated into a State or a bureaucracy, instead of being, as at present, owned by private individuals. They maintain that the right of the individual is supreme, and condemn any action on the part of a State or collection of individuals, that interferes with their desires. But socialists are not statists, that if the working class was compelled to work for a State instead of for individual employers then wage-slavery is not abolished, but is intensified.The worker to-day, while compelled to work for an employer, still has some sort of a choice among those masters, but with the State as the only employer he is compelled to work for that employer and under all of that employer’s conditions, or take the only other alternative – starvation. State-capitalism or as some like to call it State Socialism) would intensify slavery, but state-capitalism is not socialism.

People completely misunderstand Marx if you believe that his solution was to have GOVERNMENT-OWNERSHIP of the means of production and his object was to simply just to REDUCE the power of the capitalist because he wished a mere re-distribution of wealth between capitalists and the working class. He stood for the the ABOLITION OF THE STATE and he stood for the ABOLITION OF CAPITALISM [not its replacement by capitalism in another form]. Critics of Marx should go to the source and forget what the state-capitalist Leninists or Trotskyists say and understand that Marx was in favour of the abolition of the state and its replacement by an “association of associations”, i.e. by a co-ordinated network of neighbourhood councils and producer-controlled production units. Marx  made quite clear when he says “The existence of the state is inseparable from the existence of slavery…”

What is called for is 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. The Earth can no longer be owned; it must be shared. Its fruits can no longer be expropriated by the few, they must be rendered available to all on the basis of need. Power must be freed from the control of the elites and be redistributed in a form that renders its use participatory. That is “free economics”, that is “economic justice”. Production will be to meet human need, each person or group determining their own reasonable needs in a social context. There will be no buying or selling, but instead, plenty of giving and taking. Capitalism operates irrespective of whether a particular economic unit is the property of an individual, a limited company, the state or even of a workers’ cooperative”

Many have consistently failed to acknowledge or have dismissed as irrelevant the fact that the right of private property leads to control by property owners over those who use, but do not own, property (such as workers ). Free-market capitalist system leads to a very selective and class-based protection of “rights” and “freedoms.” For example, under capitalism, the “freedom” of employers inevitably conflicts with the “freedom” of employees. When stockholders or their managers exercise their “freedom of enterprise” to decide how their company will operate, they violate their employee’s right to decide how their labouring capacities will be utilised and so under capitalism the “property rights” of employers will conflict with and restrict the “human right” of employees to manage themselves. Capitalism allows the right of self-management only to the few, not to all. Bosses have the power, workers are paid to obey. Workers are subject to control from above which restricts the activities they are allowed to do and so they are not free to act, make decisions, participate in the plans of the organisation, to create the future and so forth. Thus we have “free” workers within a relationship lacking freedom. Representing employment relations as voluntary agreement simply mystifies the existence and exercise of power within the organisation so created. Libertarians are ignoring the vast number of authoritarian and co-ercive social relationships that exist in capitalist society.In the labour market it is clear that the “buyers” and “sellers” of labour power are not on an equal footing . Under capitalism competition in labour markets is skewed in favour of employers. Thus the ability to refuse an exchange weighs most heavily on one class than another and so ensures that “free exchange” works to ensure the domination and so exploitation of one by the other. Inequality in the market ensures that the decisions of the majority of people within it are shaped in accordance with that needs of the powerful, not the needs of all.

Kropotkin argued that “The modern Individualism initiated by Herbert Spencer is, like the critical theory of Proudhon, a powerful indictment against the dangers and wrongs of government, but its practical solution of the social problem is miserable — so miserable as to lead us to inquire if the talk of ‘No force’ be merely an excuse for supporting landlord and capitalist domination.”

To defend the “freedom” of property owners is to defend authority and privilege. Free exchange is NOT a revolutionary concept. Free access is revolutionary.

But just to make sure it is clearly understood that for socialists, the means and ends cannot be separated. The establishment of socialism can only be established by the working class when the immense majority have come to want and understand it. The machinery of coercion which is the State has to be taken out of the hands of the capitalist class by political action. Industrial democracy is a possibility only when the capitalist class have ceased to rule the State. The struggle for democracy is the struggle for socialism. It is not a struggle for reforms, for this or that political system, for this or that leader, for some rule change or other—it is the struggle for an idea, for a belief, a belief that we can run our own lives, that we have a right to a say in how society is run, for a belief that the responsibility for democracy lies not upon the politicians or their bureaucrats, but upon ourselves. At the moment a small group of people control all the wealth and property, and it is upon their interests that everything hinges. It is only by removing such people, and not by tinkering with the form that true democracy can be reached .

Until you support and work towards the society that is based upon the principle ”from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs”, then you remain fixated upon the status quo of a society constrained by artificial rationing through the market and money system, a “can’t pay - can’t have” society that is inherently co-ercive, that has police and courts and jails to ensure its continued existence. As oft quoted "The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. ”

If libertarians seek real liberty then it is free access to goods and services which will deny to any group or individuals the political leverage with which to dominate others which has been 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. Free access to the common treasury and no monopoly of ownership , not even by the producers who call for ownership of their own product, (such as promoted by mutualists and syndicalists) can deprive individuals in society of common ownership of the means of production and distribution .

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 obligations and the realisation of universal interdependency arising from this would profoundly colour people’s perceptions and influence their behaviour in such a society.

Building a society that is based upon such a system of generalised reciprocity, that is truly a revolutionary concept .

According to von Mises, rational economic calculation is only possible on the basis of prices fixed by the free play of market forces. In other words, the only form of rational calculation that can be applied to the production of wealth is monetary calculation. Von Mises claimed that a socialist society was impossible because it would be unable to calculate rationally which productive methods to adopt. This argument merely amounts to the tautology that only a market economy is able to perform economic calculations couched in market prices’and that it is‘reading into socialism the functional requirements of capitalism.

In reality it is the wasteful, destructive and exploitative capitalist system that is incapable of rationally allocating resources.

Although, monetary calculation, will disappear in socialism this does not mean that there will no longer be any need to make choices, evaluations and calculations. In socialism it will be the use value of goods not be their selling price (nor even the time needed to produce them) but their usefulness. It is for this that they will be appreciated, evaluated, wanted and produced. So estimates of what is likely to be needed over a given period will be expressed as physical quantities of definite types and sorts of objects. The operational basis for this system would be calculation in kind (e.g. tonnes, kilos, litres) instead of monetary calculation.

Goods will be voluntarily produced, and services voluntarily supplied to meet people’s needs. People will freely take the things they need. Socialism will be concerned solely with the production , distribution and consumption of useful goods and services in response to definite needs . It will integrate social needs with the material means of meeting those needs .

Common ownership means that society as a whole owns the means and instruments for distributing wealth. It also implies the democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, for if everyone owns, then everyone must have equal right to control the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth.

Socialism will be a self-adjusting decentralised inter-linked system. A socialist economy would be polycentric , not centrally planned. It is not a command economy but a responsive one to provide for a self -sustaining steady- state society.

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. Competitive pressures to minimise costs and maximise sales, profit-seeking and blind economic growth, with all the destructive effects on the rest of nature, are built-in to capitalism. These make capitalism inherently environmentally unfriendly. 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

We know that 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, the 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 problem, isn’t it? Competition for the appropriation of world profits is one of the bases of the present system. So it is 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. Some future apologists of capitalism are promising us !

 In a stable society such as socialism, needs would most likely change relatively slowly. Hence it is reasonable to assume that an efficient system of stock control, registering 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 that would be required over a similar future period.

If people want too much? In a socialist society “too much” can only mean “more than is sustainably produced” . If people decide that they (individually and as a society) need to over-consume then i concede socialism cannot possibly work. But, as you say Max , 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.

Another side of the consumerist argument is that 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 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 within workers . 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 an alienated capitalism.

Human behaviour reflects society. In a society such as capitalism, people’s needs are not met and 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.

In socialism, 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.

By the replacement of exchange economy (the market 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. 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. What is meant by needs should not be understood as mere personal consumption. It should not suggest a rampant consumerist culture. Production for needs would include a wide range of considerations such as the need to protect and conserve the environment. In defining socialism we should emphasise that it will provide for one vital need in a way that is impossible under the capitalist system. This is the need of peoples throughout the world to bring the organisation of their community affairs under their own democratic control and to develop them in the interests of the whole community.

The case that money IS essential if you value individual freedom couldn’t be further from the truth. It is only in a society where all people enjoy FREE ACCESS to goods and services which denies to any group or individuals the political leverage by which to dominate others. It has been a feature of all private-property or class based systems that through the control of and restrictions to the means of life, that people are controlled.

Böhm-Bawerk in “Marx and the Close of his System”, that the labour theory of value is wrong because Marx failed to take into account scarcity as a factor in fixing value which simply exposes his poor knowledge of what Marx has writtern. What he and Hayek want most to instil into the minds of the working class is that capitalist production and distribution of life’s necessities and wants is a natural and, above all, moral system. It is their “wet dream”.

Hayek may well criticise central planning basing his argument upon the Soviet Union but socialism ( real socialism and not state capitalism) is a decentralised society that is self correcting , from below and not from the top . Socialist determination of needs begins with consumer needs and then flows throughout distribution and on to each required part of the structure of production. 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, but not Central Planning. The problem with a centrally-planned model of socialism was its inability to cope with change. It lacks any kind of feedback mechanism which allows for mutual adjustments between the different actors in such an economy. It is completely inflexible. We witnessed in Russia how it was unable to determine prices by central planning. Prices were set , re-set , fixed then re-fixed , plans were made then re-appraised , re-defined , changed and dropped. Free-Access Socialism however is a decentralised or polycentric society that is self regulating , self adjusting and self correcting. Marx saw communist administration as a federation of self-governing groups largely concerned with their internal affairs and collaborating for the comparatively few purposes that concern all the groups. Again, beyond those professors of economics to comprehend in their supposed critiques of Marx. Marx was not writing as a simple economist but was putting forward a “critique of political economy” , his main argument being that, whereas writers like Adam Smith and Ricardo regarded economic categories such as capital, wages, value, price, money, as eternal entities, natural features of human social existence, these were, in fact, categories of capitalism that will disappear when capitalism does.


Work in socialist society would only be voluntary since there would be no group or organ in a position to force people to work against their will. Nor would there exist barter. Goods and services would be made freely available for individuals to take without requiring these individuals to offer something in direct exchange.

An effective anti-capitalist movement will have to be one that works for ending the impersonal economic mechanism that is capitalism by restoring control of production to society; which can only be done on the basis of the Earth’s natural and industrial resources having become the common property of all the people.

Marx does not by a single word claim for the workers “the full value of their labour.” Why not? Because, as he shows, “value,” in an economic sense, is a quality belonging to commodities only, and which, therefore, can only occur in a society where products are exchanged as commodities, the value of a commodity being measured by the socially necessary labour embodied in it. Labour being, therefore, the measure of value, can have no value of its own. But it is quite different with the labour-power of the workers. This labour-power in our society is a commodity has a value. And this value is determined by the quantity of socially necessary labour required for its production, maintenance, and reproduction, that is to say, required for the production, maintenance, and reproduction of the actually living labourer.

Take a wooden table, says Marx. It is just wood that human labour has turned into a table and taken to market. Wood + Labor = Table. Where is the mystery? When it gets to the market the table finds itself in the company of the stool and the chair. All three have use values, are made of the same wood, and may be in equal supply and equal demand - yet each has its own different price.

Why these different prices? Same wood, same demand, same supply. They are all the products of human labour. What is the difference between them that justifies different prices? The prices are reflections of the underlying values of the products. Could the values be different? What does Marx say determines value? It is the different quantities of socially necessary labour time embodied in the commodities.

The table, the stool, and the chair three "things" that are related to each other as the embodiment of the social relations and necessary labour of human beings that created them. Human social relations have been objectified as the relations between non human things. The chair is more valuable than the table but the reason is now hidden away from the perception of people.

"A commodity is therefore a mysterious thing,"
Marx writes, "simply because in it the social character of men's labour appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour; because the relations of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour."