Saturday, October 04, 2008


Continuing the saga

1 . Max says "humans cannot organize properly in groups of people larger than approximately 100 persons without having the need for leaders on top of leaders in a hierarchical chain."

Since Max Price has read about the Socialist Party of Great Britain then he will be aware that we pride ourselves upon being an organisation of equals without a leadership . Nor do we possess an executive committee which can impose its will on policy or even submit motions upon conference . It has a simple housekeeping administrative function . Decisions are made by branches and conferences and referenda . All EC minutes are there to be read at our website , in full keeping with our practice of democracy and openness.
We have existed as an organisation for over 100 years with membership exceeding Max Price's 100 member benchmark .Over these years we have had charismatic orators , skilled writers and knowledgeable theoreticians but never did these members ever form a hierarchy within the organisation .
The longevity of the SPGB as a political organisation based on agreed goals, methods and organisational principles which has produced without interruption a monthly magazine for over a hundred years through two world wars is an achievement that most anarchist ( and Trotskyist and Leftist ) organisations can only aspire towards .

2. Tom "..This idea was first proposed in the World War 1 era by the British guild socialists, like GDH Cole (a libertarian socialist at that time). .."

Tom just for background info , the only union to really take up Cole's idea was my own , the post office union , who went against the current trend of thought of the miners and railwaymen who were arguing for nationalisation because as an already state owned industry which the others weren't the postal workers understood first hand the State as an employer and ruthless exploiter and sought an alternative means of organisation . The Postal union's commitment to some form of guild socialism remained until the 1970s .

3. However , Tom ( and Max too) , i am still awaiting a Parecon critique of the practical workings ( the general mechanics of it ) presented at my blog of the free access model which does claim "to each according to need" is a very feaseable idea and that it is the necessary pre-requisite for human liberation .

So far , all i have heard is that won't work because people just ain't like that ...

Humans behave differently depending upon the conditions that they live in. Human behaviour reflects society.

In a society such as capitalism, people's needs are not met and reasonable people feel insecure. People tend to acquire and hoard goods because possession provides some security. People have a tendency to distrust others because the world is organized in such a dog-eat-dog manner.

If people didn't work society would obviously fall apart. To establish socialism the vast majority must consciously decide that they want socialism and that they are prepared to work in socialist society.
If people want too much? In a socialist society "too much" can only mean "more than is sustainably produced."
If people decide that they (individually and as a society) need to over-consume then socialism cannot possibly work.Under capitalism, there is a very large industry devoted to creating needs.Capitalism requires consumption, whether it improves our lives or not, and drives us to consume up to, and past, our ability to pay for that consumption.In a system of capitalist competition, there is a built-in tendency to stimulate demand to a maximum extent. Firms, for example, need to persuade customers to buy their products or they go out of business. They would not otherwise spend the vast amounts they do spend on advertising.There is also in capitalist society a tendency for individuals to seek to validate their sense of worth through the accumulation of possessions. As Marx contended, the prevailing ideas of society are those of its ruling class then we can understand why, when the wealth of that class so preoccupies the minds of its members, such a notion of status should be so deep-rooted. It is this which helps to underpin the myth of infinite demand. In socialism, status based upon the material wealth at one's command, would be a meaningless concept. Why take more than you need when you can freely take what you need? In socialism the only way in which individuals can command the esteem of others is through their contribution to society, and the more the movement for socialism grows the more will it subvert the prevailing capitalist ethos, in general, and its anachronistic notion of status, in particular.

For socialism to be established, there are two fundamental preconditions that must be met.

Firstly, the productive potential of society must have been developed to the point where, generally speaking, we can produce enough for all. This is not now a problem as we have long since reached this point. However, this does require that we appreciate what is meant by "enough" and that we do not project on to socialism the insatiable consumerism of capitalism.

Secondly, the establishment of socialism presupposes the existence of a mass socialist movement and a profound change in social outlook. It is simply not reasonable to suppose that the desire for socialism on such a large scale, and the conscious understanding of what it entails on the part of all concerned, would not influence the way people behaved in socialism and towards each other. Would they want to jeopardise the new society they had helped create? Of course not.

If people cannot change their behaviour and take control and responsibility for their decisions , not only will socialism fail but Parecon itself will not succeed then either .

4. Tom , you ask "... an industry that has far flung supplier and customer links, such as manufature of steel products. fhow is this to be linked to communities throughout north america for example? presumably there needs to be a way to link decisions about allocation of resources to steel manufacture and power generation to what people actually want....they will have to make tradeoffs and prioritize as they won't be able to obtain every thing they might want because of the limits of productive capactiy relative to possible wants."

The first and most important point is that we are not starting from the beginning . Its not a blank sheet . We are taking over and inheriting an already existing economic system which has in place various means of determining allocations and trade-offs .
There are countless professional and trade associalitions and marketing boards and government departments which have the research and diagnostic tools available , not just the trade union movement of the syndicalists . All those bodies may be at present based on commerce but can be quite easily democratised , socialised and integrated organisationally .
Planning is indeed central to the idea of socialism, but socialism is the planned (consciously coordinated i mean , and not to be confused with central planning concept ) production of useful things to satisfy human needs precisely instead of the production, planned or otherwise, of wealth as exchange value, commodities and capital. In socialism wealth would have simply a specific use value (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.

Socialism does presuppose that productive resources (materials, instruments of production, sources of energy) and technological knowledge are sufficient to allow the population of the world to produce enough food, clothing, shelter and other useful things, to satisfy all their material needs.

Conventional economics and Parecon deny that the potential for such a state of abundance exists.

Another important point not to overlook is that we are seeking a 'steady-state economy' which corresponds to what Marx called 'simple reproduction' - a situation where human needs were in balance with the resources needed to satisfy them. Such a society would already have decided, according to its own criteria and through its own decision-making processes, on the most appropriate way to allocate resources to meet the needs of its members. This having been done, it would only need to go on repeating this continuously from production period to production period. Production would not be ever-increasing but would be stabilized at the level required to satisfy needs. All that would be produced would be products for consumption and the products needed to replace and repair the raw materials and instruments of production used up in producing these consumer goods. The point about such a situation is that there will no longer be any imperative need to develop productivity, i.e. to cut costs in the sense of using less resources; nor will there be the blind pressure to do so that is exerted under capitalism through the market. Of course, technical research would continue and this would no doubt result in costs being able to be saved, but there would be no external pressure to do so or even any need to apply all new productivity enhancing techniquesGiven that socialism will still need to concern itself with the efficient allocation of resources this will be achieved mostly through calculation in kind.Decentralized production entails a self-regulating system of stock control. Stocks of goods held at distribution points would be monitored, their rate of depletion providing vital information about the future demand for such goods, information which will be conveyed to the units producing these goods. The units would in turn draw upon the relevant factors of production and the depletion of these would activate yet other production units further back along the production chain. There would thus be a marked degree of automaticity in the way the system operated. The maintenance of surplus stocks would provide a buffer against unforeseen fluctuations in demand .

As i said , more of the details at the blog
or here
or here


Anonymous said...


Wow I found this by pure accident!

I know exactly that you have existed for over a hundred years, you do have a central commitee though, but most important than this, is the fact than ever since then your party have accomplished absolutely nothing! that's why I don't think your organization qualifies as one that functions properly since none of your objectives have succeded in a hundred years or more.

You couldn't capture the state back then when the socialist ideals were getting popular in Europe and when the size of the government were relatively small, much less now when the government already has exploded hundreds of times.

So, other than critizing other movements around the world that have actually tried to organized themselves to promote their vision, or to produce some good reading material, there is no historical achievement or moment that that can be traced back to you guys.

That's why I insist that in order for an organization to operate effectively it either needs some kind of leadership when their membership grows larger in numbers OR to remain binded by smaller, effectively organized groups.

Max Price.

ajohnstone said...

Actually , Max , there is a root to our ideas , going back centuries and the SPGB emerged from social democracy . You are likely to find that Parecon has no roots whatsoever except for the mental exercise of two academics creating a structure from their own imagination , rather than anything organic such as socialism thus they are more utopian than ourselves .

It is not a malicious attack on Parecon but a defence from its attack on free access.