Tuesday, February 28, 2012

fighting for food

This is not a problem we can solve by going vegetarian or vegan, or buying organic and fair trade. We cannot separate "food issues" from economics.

It is no longer news that a few powerful corporations have literally dominate what the vast majority eat and drink. Nearly all of human food production, seeds, food processing and sales, is run by a handful of for-profit firms which, like any capitalist enterprise, function to maximize profit and gain ever-greater market share and control. Industrial agribusiness corporations like Cargill, Monsanto, ADM and Dupont have gained control of our food systems

“Every stage of the food system involves some sort of destructive or exploitive practice, and we really need to change that,” said Alec Higgins with Occupy Wall Street Food Justice

This Big Food system produces an astounding 1.3 billion tons of animal waste every year. It sprays half a million tons of toxic pesticides on our food each year. We are literally eating oil, as author Rick Manning has put it: annually 400 gallons of fossil fuel per person, 100 billion gallons a year as a nation. Rivers and streams across America are polluted by this industrial agriculture. The connection between deforestation-related emissions and agricultural expansion is well documented. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), agriculture and deforestation account for roughly one third of global greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Global demand for cheap beef has pushed the Brazilian cattle sector deeper into the Amazon where rainforest is burned to make further room for a herd that has grown to 75 million cows. Industrial cattle expansion into the Amazon is the largest driver of deforestation there. This, in turn, is the largest single source of Brazil’s massive carbon emissions, helping to make Brazil the fourth largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting country in the world. The third largest emitter of global GHG emissions is Indonesia--another country seeing tremendous forest loss and carbon emissions at the hands of agricultural expansion - in this case for palm oil. The rapid expansion of palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia is a direct result of our food decisions.

We all deserve a future where what we eat feeds community and land, instead of eroding soils, polluting water and air.

But at least these corporations feed the world, right? Wrong! Worldwide, more than 850 million people go hungry every day. In the U.S., 48 million people, including 16 million children, do not have a reliable, secure food supply. Twenty percent of families with children are food-insecure. Why all this hunger amid a global food bounty in which UN Food and Agriculture Organization data show we have far more than enough to feed everyone? Poverty. Unemployment. Underemployment.

But at least McDonald's, Walmart, Safeway, et al. offer us "cheap" food, right? Wrong! We pay more than $100 billion a year in medical costs due to diet-related diseases from Big Food's relentless production and marketing of junk "food" and highly processed foods. We pay countless more dollars for injured and maimed workers who risk life and limb daily on the fast-food assembly line; for environmental cleanups from factory farms' rivers of toxic waste; and we pay roughly $15 billion a year, sometimes more, to subsidize corporate agribusiness commodities like corn and soy.

Then there is the brutal sweatshop-style labor we eat. All our food today relies on terribly exploited workers, both in the U.S. and abroad. Our daily meals rest on underpaid, impoverished immigrants, tens of thousands of whom are injured each year. We cannot continue to ignore the abuse of people, land and animals by the corporations that claim to feed the world.

We need to understand that this isn't just a few bad corporations -- this is capitalism doing what it naturally does, exploiting people and land for profit. Capitalism's endless need for new markets, new products and new lands and people to exploit is putting our entire planet and future in peril. We must re-socialize food and other life essentials.


Monday, February 27, 2012

The Tender of Union

Scotland’s under-developed urban infrastructure and fragile agricultural system were particularly vulnerable to the strains and pressures of prolonged warfare. The arable lands and crude transport system of Perthshire and Fife, for example, were so exploited and abused by the marauding armies in central Scotland that by the early 1650s the region, one of the most fertile in all Scotland, could hardly sustain its own population. The rural countryside and the great estates of the nobles were likewise exposed to the violence and degradation of roving armies and bandits throughout the period. Friend and foe alike laid waste to the lands of Inverness, Argyll, and Perthshire even after the so-called pacification and union. Offensive operations designed primarily to terrorize and plunder, reprisals for the killing or troops or the destruction of military stores, defensive scorched-earth campaigns, and the maintenance of armies literally destroyed the agricultural stability of many regions. The actions of the country folk fleeing en masse before Cromwell’s advance into Berwickshire and the Lothians shocked even the hardened English veterans of the southern wars. Despite the prospect of an exceptionally heavy crop yield that summer, the entire countryside along Cromwell’s line of march was laid waste by the rural population in order to deprive the invaders of any sustenance on Scottish soil. While some regions of Scotland, therefore, enjoyed the fruits of a much-needed plentiful harvest in 1650, Berwickshire and the Lothians endured a particularly lean year, and, ironically enough, were forced to depend upon the importation of food from England for sustenance.

The human cost of the wars also robbed local economies of vitality, sapping the strength of even tiny market burghs. Few if any towns escaped the war years without deep and often crippling wounds to their economies, property, or populations.

During the debates and discussions about Scottish Independence, much focus is placed upon the 1707 Act of Union and the earlier union of 1654 by the republican Oliver Cromwell is often overlooked. After the English invasion of 1650, and the defeat of the Scottish armies at the Battle of Dunbar , Scotland was placed under English military occupation with General Monck as military governor of the county.

Initial plans for England simply to annex Scotland, crudely asserting the right to control the territory, its people and resources, were dropped in favour of a more moderate and thoughtful political and constitutional settlement, involving a degree of Scottish involvement, and based upon the idea of a union of England and Scotland as a single ‘Commonwealth’. These proposals were set forth by the Rump in a Declaration of Parliament ‘concerning the settlement of Scotland’, drawn up in October 1651, debated by parliament during the autumn and issued in its final form in December. The Declaration made clear parliament’s intention, on grounds of ‘freedom’ and ‘security’, that Scotland should be ‘incorporated’ with England into a single ‘Commonwealth’, and also implied that English style toleration of various Protestant faiths would be extended to Scotland. All crown lands in Scotland were to be appropriated and all Scots who had supported the royalist cause and royalist operations against England and the English would also lose their lands; thus all those who had been involved in the Scottish-royalist invasion of 1648 as well as in the renewed war of 1650-51 would lose their estates. Finally, the Declaration promised peace, protection and the enjoyment of their ‘Liberties and Estates’ to all other Scots, in the process pledging to abolish all feudal duties still attached to the holding of land in Scotland, freeing people from their former ‘dependencies and bondage-service’ and so creating ‘free people’ who held land on ‘easie rents’ and ‘reasonable conditions’ – not only creating a more free and modern system of landholding in Scotland but also in the process undermining the influence which the Scottish landed elite could exercise over the people. The Declaration of autumn 1651 became the basis for the attempted English settlement of Scotland over the ensuing two years. In some ways, much progress was made. Thus from January to April 1652 commissioners sent by the English parliament met elected representatives of the towns and counties of Scotland in Dalkeith, to present and explain the Declaration and to obtain from the Scottish representatives pledges that they would accept those terms. The commissioners did secure such acceptance from an overwhelming majority of the Scottish representatives.

Between October 1652 and April 1653 a select group of Scots, chosen by elected representatives of Scottish towns and counties, held further discussions in London with the Rump parliament and its agents. The English parliament drew up and debated a Bill for the Union of Scotland, which would also give Scotland the right to send MPs to sit in future in single Anglo-Scottish parliament. The new Protectoral government which took power in England in mid December 1653 moved quickly to advance new or existing policies. The written constitution itself, the Instrument of Government, paved the way for union, for it implied and stated that the political and constitutional union was a fact, repeatedly stressed that it was a British not an English constitution, speaking of England, Scotland and Ireland, too, comprising a single Commonwealth, and allocated Scotland a small number of seats in the new, elected, single-chambered parliaments which were to meet from time to time. The ordinance uniting Scotland with England as a single Commonwealthconfirmed the arrangements enunciated in the Instrument of Government, declaring Scotland to be a single Commonwealth with England and confirming that Scotland would receive 30 seats in the Protectorate parliaments. It formally abolished both the separate Scottish parliament and monarchy in Scotland and discharged the people from any allegiance to the Stuart line and family. This political union was to be matched by an economic union, for goods were to travel freely between England and Scotland and Scotland would be encompassed within the single, Commonwealth-wide tax system. The ordinance went on to abolish almost all the remaining elements of the feudal tenurial system in Scotland and with it all feudal obligations imposed upon land and land tenure, including ‘servitude’, ‘vassallage’, military service and the separate judicial powers of landowners. The ordinance uniting Scotland with England had effectively abolished the judicial powers, jurisdiction and ‘private’ courts of Scottish landowners. In part in a move to replace them, Protector and Council extended to Scotland courts baron, small, local, manorial courts which dealt with minor issues such as debt, trespass, contractual wrangles and so on. The courts, which were to meet regularly, had power only to determine by jury small issues, of limited financial value and where the ownership of the property was not in doubt or question.

Glencairn’s Rising brought home to the English military leaders on the ground and, through them, to the English regime in London, that a policy of simply oppressing, undermining and excluding the Scottish landed elite would alienate them, give them no reason to remain loyal to the English occupiers and instead drive them into the arms of any movement – Scottish, royalist or whatever – which might offer a more palatable alternative. A number of carrots were dangled in front of selected Scottish landowners. While debt and the fear of its consequences might drive men into rebellion, if conversely the English regime could offer some help in alleviating elite debt and in preventing great estates from falling prey to creditors and their agents, then the Scottish landed elite might be won over and see real benefits from English rule. Several measures were put in place to alleviate the overall burden and impact of debt on Scottish landed estates.

Free trade was established

The other important elite group to be affected was the Scottish church. Following negotiations and debate in Council, Protector and Council issued in early August a settlement of the Scottish church, nicknamed ‘Gillespie’s Charter’, was agreed. The financial position of the universities Glasgow and Aberdeen was boosted by granting to them lands and incomes formerly vested in certain, now defunct bishoprics and religious houses in Scotland. The money was to be used to support the universities in general, some senior academics and administrators and students studying particular subjects. Commissioners were set up for various Scottish regions with power to examine the qualifications of candidates to vacant livings; only those judged and certified by them to be ‘of a holy and unblameable conversation, disposed to live peaceably under the present government, and who for the Grace of God in him, and for his knowledge and utterance is able and fit to preach the Gospel’, were to be appointed and granted stipends.

Although it had been stripped of most of its feudal rights and powers, the Scottish landed elite largely survived, pardoned by the Protectoral regime and with its somewhat precarious material position and landed status actually protected and in some ways underpinned by the English regime. Equally, in the end the Scottish Presbyterian church also endured and although it had been required of necessity to recognise and to reach a compromise with the secular power of the English regime, that regime in turn had largely accepted and compromised with the established religious position of the Presbyterian church.

Despite the continuing military presence, the Protectorate established or re-established elements of more traditional, civilian government and administration in Scotland, which performed at least adequately and which provided a level of stability, security and peace at least comparable with the monarchical regimes of the seventeenth century. A few Scots actively supported the Protectoral regime; the vast majority acquiesced with it and lived peacefully under it, making the most of any advantages which the new order might bring while also retaining what they could of their old ways or seeking to modify the new regime to bring it closer to the Scottish way of doing things. Compromises were made on both sides and to some extent the Protectoral regime achieved a fair degree of peace and stability in Scotland.

Orders were issued that the filth and sewerage in the streets were to be cleaned up within 30 days and the practice of throwing water and night soil from windows was prohibited. In October 1655 a local tax or cess (assessment), was levied to pay for horse and carts to carry away the filth and muck.

A general feeling existed even among Scottish people that the English rule of law was more merciful to the Scottish than the Scots had previously been to one another. This was perhaps no more apparent than in the Highlands. The clan system, often viewed through a haze of romanticism, was patriarchal and authoritarian. Through bonds of kinship and mutual obligation, it allowed a large lower class to be controlled and exploited by a small aristocracy. One of the first acts of the new government of union was to offer an amnesty to all vassals and tenants who had followed their clan leaders or lords in opposing the English. Mercurius Scoticus advised: ‘Free the poor commoners, and make as little use as can be of either the great men or clergy.’ many measures proposed by the Declaration of the settlement had a double consequence: those that were aimed at destabilizing the social and political leadership of Scotland often favoured the common folk

The Anglo-Scottish union of 1654 proved a false dawn and was swiftly rendered null and void by the returning Stuart regime. The restoration of Charles II dissipated all the measures Cromwell had inaugurated.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Socialism and Socialists

Why the Socialist Party of Great Britain is opposed to all other Political Parties

Many political organisations professed to exist only for the purpose of assisting the working class. They have drawn up hosts of programmes of social reforms which they guarantee would, if the workers would only trust them and vote for them; solve all the ills which afflict the working class. The Socialist Party of Great Britain had no wish list of reforms and is opposed to all parties who ask the workers to support a reformist policy. Reform of Capitalism would still leave workers in their slave position. The ever-changing lists of reforms should be an example to the workers of the futility of wasting valuable time and energy attempting to reform a system which can not be reformed in the interests of the working class. Social reform being no solution to the ills suffered by the workers the Socialist Party pointed out that all the evils could be traced to the one cause and to this one cause only – private property. Look around and see the notices such as “This is Private Property” and “Trespassers will be Prosecuted”. To the socialist these were advertisements of the cause of poverty, slums, disease, crime, prostitution, war and all the other curses of the human race. Having found the one cause for all our troubles we find the remedy almost automatically - Socialism. Abolish private property with production for profit and establish a new system of society based on common ownership with production for use. This is what socialism means. Socialism is the only hope of the working class. The Socialist Party had been advocating nothing else since 1904 and since socialism is our object, all our activities are directed towards getting it established as soon as possible. Therefore, we are opposed to all other political parties.

Are socialists supposed to unite with those who want to reform and administer capitalism? Do we unite with those who claim socialism can be established by a well-meaning leadership without a class-conscious working class? Do we unite with those who see socialism as a system based on state control and state ownership of industry: and lastly, do we unite with those who refuse to recognise the possibility of a peaceful parliamentary road to socialism? Revolutionaries must reject this appeal if they are to remain revolutionaries. If there is no common ground upon which agreement can be reached then there can be no unity. Our analysis of the Left is not based upon some narrow sectarianism — it's based upon principle. We do not, nor have we ever, supported capitalist parties, especially those that dress up in revolutionary garb in order to hoodwink the workers. The Left is an expression of all the political mistakes made by the working class last century — from the Labour Party to the Soviet Union. We do not doubt that well-meaning individuals get caught up in such chicanery for no other reason than a desire to see a better world. However, sentiment can never be a substitute. “Unity" has no meaning unless based on the common realisation that its sole object is to introduce socialism. A socialist organisation will get nowhere without a firm grasp of democracy, a disdain to conceal its socialist objective, and a membership in full possession of the facts about current society and the revolutionary alternative. Unlike the Left we openly advocate common ownership and democratic control. It is not the wish of the Socialist Party to be separate for the sake of being so. It is ridiculous to think of a rivalry between socialist parties competing to emancipate the workers. If another socialist organisation appeared on the scene, then the only possible action that we could take would be to make immediate overtures for a merger. We would offer them the open arms of comradely greetings and unity. But the position is that we cannot be a popular reform party attempting to mop up immediate problems, and revolutionary at the same time. We cannot have a half-way house; nor can we accommodate the more timid members of our class who abhor what they describe as "impractical" or "impossible" policies, and spend their time looking for compromises. We do oppose all the so-called working-class parties which compromise with capitalism and do not uphold the socialist case. The socialist case is so fundamentally different, involving as it does the literal transformation of society, that we must expect mental resistance before socialist ideas have finally become consolidated in the mind.

We have seen a century of cruelly extinguished hopes of those who heaped praise upon the state-capitalist hell-holes which posed as "socialist states" which pseudo-socialists promoted. We have witnessed a system which has persistently spat the hope of humane capitalism back in the face of its advocates. The progressive enthusiasm of millions has been stamped out in this way. How different it could have been if all that work which has gone into trying to reform capitalism had gone into struggling to abolish it ? Historically, reform activities have dissipated the earnest energies of so-called socialists from doing any socialist work, whatsoever. The need for reforms is an all-time job. The Socialist Party is not going to do anything for the working class except to arouse their fervor, determination and enthusiasm for socialist objectives. Working-class understanding is at a very low ebb, therefore the membership in the Socialist Party's strength in numbers is puny. Apart from the feeble voices of the Socialist Party, the great mass of the workers are not exposed to socialist fundamentals. Nevertheless, the greatest teacher of all is experience. Eventually, all the groping and mistaken diversions into futile efforts of reforming and administering capitalism will run their course. People learn from their mistakes. Necessity is the latent strength of socialism. Truth and science are on the side of socialism. Socialism is no fanciful utopia, but the crying need of the times; and that we, as socialists, are catalytic agents, acting on our fellow workers and all others to do something about it as speedily as possible, the triggering agent that transforms majority ideas from bourgeois into revolutionary ones. The seeming failures, the disappointments and discouragements, the slow growth, only indicate that socialist work is not an easy task. What makes socialist work stirring and inspiring is not that there are short cuts , but that there is nothing else worth a tinker’s damn.

Some members of other organisations have the best of intentions, but good intentions do not change the nature of those organisations. Those “socialist" activists have claimed impressive “successes” and “victories” in every field except one. History have proven beyond any shadow of doubt that they have not remotely convinced the workers of the need for socialism. From their activities carried on in the name of socialism, the one thing conspicuous by its absence has been any mention of the socialist case. The efforts of these “socialist" activists has been geared to an attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable contradictions of capitalism.

There are two kinds of reformism. One has no intention of bringing about revolutionary change. That indeed reforms are the antidote to revolution. The welfare state - most particularly its health service component - originally represented an advance for many workers, though it was certainly not introduced with benevolence in mind. We have never said that all reforms are doomed to failure and do not really make a difference to workers' lives? There are many examples of 'successful' reforms in such fields as education, housing, child employment, conditions of work and social security. The Socialist Party does not oppose all reforms as such, only the futile and dangerous attempt to seek power to administer capitalism on the basis of a reform programme - reformism. The other being the one cherishes the mistaken belief that successful reforms will somehow prepare the ground for revolution are to be seen as necessary first steps on the long road to eventual revolution. That socialist consciousness will develop out of the struggle for reforms within capitalism: when workers realise that they can’t get the reforms they have been campaigning for they will turn to the "cadres" of the Fourth International for leadership. Quite apart from the fact that this has never happened, this argument is more of a rationalisation by shamefaced reformists who imagine that they are revolutionaries. “The movement is everything, the goal nothing” sums it up. The 'Left' may claim that it enjoys the best of both worlds by both supporting reforms and advocating revolution. But in fact its revolutionary posturing. Left reformists always claim how much better everything would be if only they were in power. Everything would be better: the NHS, the environment, the economy, education. And how is all this to be achieved? By two old Leftist illusions; taxing the rich and nationalisation disguised as public or social ownership. The aim of the Left has always been to establish state capitalism, the profit system planned centrally by a miracle-performing state. Yet the source of the wealth would still be the surplus value wrung from the working class. Lacking an honest revolutionary stance for a new society, the Left becomes caught in a pointless circular battle with an economic system that is based on exploitation. As long as the accumulation of capital takes precedence, either in the hands of the individual capitalist or state institutions, the primary concern of exploitation of labour and making profit will take precedence over the concerns of human need. The Left downplays the idea of directly challenging the system and organising an alternative political economy and is working instead on the terrain of capitalism.

As revolutionaries, we do not advocate reforms, that is, changes in the way capitalism runs, such as alterations to immigration policy or the health service or the tax system. Reforms, no matte how "radical", can never make capitalism run in the interests of the workers. Nor should supporting reforms be some kind of tactic pursued by socialists to gain support from workers, for workers who joined a Socialist Party because they admired its reformist tactics would turn it into a reformist organisation pure and simple. To attract support on the basis of reformist policies but really aim at revolution would be quite dishonest to get workers’ support on the basis of saying one thing while really wanting something quite different.

History showed us the fate of the social democratic parties , which despite a formal commitment to socialism as an "ultimate goal", admitted the non-socialist to their ranks and sought non-socialist support for a reform programme of capitalism rather than a socialist programme. In order to maintain their non-socialist support , they were themselves forced to drop all talk of socialism and become even more openly reformist. Today the social democratic parties are firmly committed to capitalism in theory and in practice. We say that this was the inevitable result of the admission of non-socialists and advocating reforms of capitalism. That is why we have always advocated socialism and never called for the reform of capitalism. We are not saying that all reforms are anti - working class, but as a socialist party advocating reforms , it would be its first step towards its transformation into a reformist party. Regardless of why or how the reforms are advocated, the result is the same: confusion in the minds of the working class instead of growth of socialist consciousness.

The institution of government does not feel threatened by appeals to it to act on single issues - even if those appeals take the form of mass public protests. On the contrary, government only feels a sense of power and security in the knowledge that the protesters recognise it as the supreme authority to which all appeals must be made. As long as people are only protesting over single issues they are remaining committed to supporting the system as a whole. But government will take quite a different view when large numbers of people confront it not to plead from a position of weakness for this or that change or addition to the statute book, but to challenge the whole basis of the way we live - in other words to question the inevitability of buying and selling and production for profit, and to actively work from a position of political strength for its replacement by the socialist alternative. In such circumstances, the governments aim will be to buy off the growing socialist consciousness of workers. In other words, reforms will be much more readily granted to a large and growing socialist movement than to reformers campaigning over individual issues within the present system. Not of course that the growing movement will be content with the reforms the old system hands out.

We have no objection to workers and socialists gettting involved in fights for partial demands but don't believe the PARTY should do that. We regard the strategy of transitional demands as elitist and manipulative, as well as just downright silly. The party's task is NOT to "lead the workers in struggle" or even to instruct its members on what to do in trade unions, tenants' associations or whatever, because we believe that socialists and class-conscious workers are quite capable of making decisions for themselves.

To those who still say that, while they ultimately want socialism, it is a long way off and we must have reforms in the meantime, we would reply that socialism need not be a long way off and there need not be a meantime. If all the immense dedication and energy that have been channelled into reform activity over the past 200 years had been directed towards achieving socialism, then socialism would have been established long ago and the problems the reformists are still grappling with (income inequality, unemployment, health, housing, education, war. etc.) would all be history. It is only when people leave reformism behind altogether that socialism will begin to appear to them not as a vague distant prospect, something for others to achieve, but as a clear, immediate alternative which they themselves can - and must - help to bring about.

The Left-winger behaves as if he was Moses, laying down the commandments in stone for ignorant followers to obey. Left -wing propaganda offering leadership portrays the worker as an inferior incapable of thinking, organising and acting and imbues further the master-and-servant mentality of the worker. Left organisations start from the premise that workers are too stupid to understand or want socialism by their own volition. Therefore, revolutionary ideas have to be introduced from outside the working class by all-knowing "professional revolutionaries" who will lead workers to the promised land. The Socialist Party is not on "The Left". There is no such manipulation or dishonesty. We have always been opponents of nationalisation. We do not advocate that the working class should experience the disillusionment of yet another Labour government to realise that it would be once again anti-working class. As an aside, it is interesting how small the memberships of the other so-called revolutionary parties are. It makes a shambles of the misconception that the Socialist Party is small because of our procedures or lack of participation in "the struggle", or our "unsound" or that favourite criticism for being “dogmatic and sectarian” that we lost members and influence. This is a historic and social phenomenon. The myriad parties of the Left all have serious declines in membership. It can be ascribed to a public's apathy that arises when high hopes raised by social reform programs only lead to disillusionment. Many of the Left persist in claiming that the masses require "revolutionary" leadership , yet we can see from the present spontaneous struggles of the Arab Spring , The Occupy Movement and the Spanish indignados that protest and resistance does not require political party leadership. In fact, in most revolutions - 1905, February 1917, the fall of the Soviet bloc, political parties were never initially in the forefront.

Most on the Left believes class struggle militancy can be used as a lever to push the workers along a political road, towards their "emancipation." How is this possible if the workers do not understand the political road, and are only engaging in economic struggles? The answer is the Leninist "leaders in-the-know" who will direct the workers. But these leaders lead the workers in the wrong direction, toward the wrong goals (nationalisation and state capitalism), as the workers find out to their sorrow.

Instead of standing clearly for socialism, the Left have aped official Labourism, seeking to influence non-socialist workers through tactical manipulation rather than convince them to change their minds. They argue that the ‘united front’, provides an opportunity for ‘revolutionaries’ to discuss and convert reformists and that the immediate aim of the ‘unity’ is to provide the most effective fighting organisation for both reformists and revolutionaries. Vanguardists accept the notion that the workers are incapable of developing socialist consciousness, and so the "revolutionaries" have to work with reformists in order to influence them and draw off the most active workers into their own ranks. That there is an "uneven consciousness" among workers that necessitates the need for leaders and for an organisation that can bring it together with non-socialist workers in the name of immediate given ends, be those organisations trade unions or anti-cuts alliances. The reality is that any sort of success involves hiding the disagreements between their constituent organisations, specifically about means and motives. They succeed by making demands that are supported by significant numbers of workers, meaning that any ‘revolutionary’ content will be buried into the need for immediate victory. As such, it is small ‘c’ conservative, taking political consciousness as it is found and seeking to manipulate rather than change it. Such a tactic affords the ‘Left’ an opportunity to extend their influence. As a tiny minority, they get to work with organisations which can more easily attract members and can thus be part of campaigns and struggles that reach out well beyond the tiny numbers of political activists in any given situation. But the relevant fact remains that, despite providing all this assistance, the "revolutionaries" are incapable of taking these campaigns further than the bulk of the members are willing to accept.

The Socialist Party, however, argue that minorities cannot simply take control of movements and mould and wield them to their own ends. Without agreement about what it is and where it is going, leaders and led will invariably split off in different directions. We say that since we are capable, as workers, of understanding and wanting socialism, we cannot see any reason why our fellow workers cannot do likewise. The job of socialists in the here and now is to openly and honestly state the case rather than trying to wheedle and manoeuvre to win a supposed "influence" that is more illusory than real.

The Left's formula can be summed up in the following:
1) The working class has a reformist consciousness.
2) It is the duty of the "Revolutionary Party" to be where the masses are.
3) Therefore, to be with the mass of the working class, we must advocate reforms.
4) Further, the working class is only reformist minded.
5) Winning reformist battles will give the working class confidence.
6) So that, therefore, they will go on to have a socialist revolution.
7) Thus the working class will learn from its struggles, and will eventually come to realise that assuming power is the only way to meet its ends.
8) That the working class will realise, through the failure of reforms to meet its needs, the futility of reformism and capitalism, and will overthrow it.
9) That the working class will come to trust the Party that leads them to victory, and come a social crisis they will follow it to revolution.

No other possibilities for worker to take as a perceived solution such as fascism, or nationalism or religion? The Socialist Party would argue that it is about engaging people with the idea of socialism. There is nothing automatic about social change, it has to be struggled for. The Left relies upon a notion of the inherently revolutionary nature of the working class and that through the class struggle this inherently revolutionary character will show itself. Although, it hasn't.

Its also flawed because it shows no reason why, due to the failure of reform, the workers should turn to socialism. Why, since it was people calling themselves socialists who advocated that reform, don't they turn against it, or even to fascism? Under the model of revolution presented by the Trotskyists the only way the working class could come to socialist consciousness is through a revolution is made by the minority with themselves as its leaders.This, then, explains their dubious point about needing to "be" where the mass of the working class is. It is the reason why a supposedly revolutionary party should change its mind to be with the masses, rather than trying to get the masses to change their minds and be with it. They do not want workers to change their minds, merely to become followers. Their efforts are not geared towards changing minds, or raising revolutionary class consciousness.

We see little wrong with people campaigning for reforms that bring essential improvements and enhance the quality of their lives, and some reforms do indeed make a difference to the lives of millions and can be viewed as "successful". There are examples of this in such fields as education, housing, child employment, work conditions and social security. Socialists have to acknowledge that the "welfare" state, the NHS and so on, made living standards for some sections of the working class better than they had been under rampant capitalism and its early ideology of laissez faire, although these ends should never be confused with socialism.However, in this regard we also recognise that such "successes" have in reality done little more than to keep workers and their families in efficient working order and, while it has taken the edge of the problem, it has rarely managed to remove the problem completely. Socialists do not oppose reformism because it is against improvements in workers' lives lest they dampen their revolutionary ardour; nor, because it thinks that decadent capitalism simply cannot deliver on any reforms; but because our continued existence as propertyless wage slaves undermines whatever attempts we make to control and better our lives through reforms. Our objection to reformism is that by ignoring the essence of class, it throws blood, sweat and tears into battles that will be undermined by the workings of the wages system. All that effort, skill, energy, all those tools could be turned against class society, to create a society of common interest where we can make changes for our common mutual benefit. So long as class exists, any gains will be partial and fleeting, subject to the ongoing struggle. What we are opposed to is the whole culture of reformism, the idea that capitalism can be tamed and made palatable with the right reforms.

If the view remains that the struggle for reforms is worthwhile then imagine just how many palliatives and ameliorations will be offered and conceded by a besieged capitalist class in a desperate attempt to retain ownership rights if the working class were demanding the maximum socialist programme of full and complete appropriation and nothing less. Reforms now derided as utopian will become two-a-penny in an attempt to fob off the workers. Perhaps, even, capitalism will provide a batch of free services, on the understanding that this is "the beginning" of a free society, but,of course real socialists will not be taken in.

On the question of a united class we hold that within trade unions for practical reasons for unions, in order to be effective, must recruit all workers in a particular industry or trade regardless of political or philosophical views. A union, regardless of type, to be effective today must depend primarily on numbers rather than understanding. We dismissed the chances of large numbers of workers, pragmatic proletarians, resigning from established unions for small radical organisations that can show no evidence of power, which is an immediate question for them. We were castigated for such a position by the so-called radicals of the syndicalist movement who liked to call us the sectarians.

As the current recession within capitalism continues, squeezing and stamping down upon the working class ever more relentlessly, alongside the growing realisation of the failure of all forms of running the system; then there is definitely a growing POTENTIAL for the escalation of struggle towards the overthrow of the system. However, how many times has the potential been there in past moments of escalated struggle and capitalist crisis only to disappear or to be channelled into reformist, pro-capitalist directions? Discontent over wages or conditions can be a catalyst for socialist understanding but so can many other things such as concern about the environment or war or the threat of war or bad housing or the just the general culture of capitalism . The Socialist Party does not minimise the necessity or importance of the workers keeping up the struggle to maintain wage-levels and resisting cuts, etc. If they always yielded to the demands of their exploiters without resistance they would not be worth their salt, nor be fit for waging the class struggle to put an end to exploitation.

Successes through such actions as striking and protests may well encourage other workers to stand up for their rights more but the reality remains that the workers' strength is determined by their position within the capitalist economy, and their victories will always be partial ones within the market system. Only by looking to the political situation, the reality of class ownership and power within capitalism, and organising to make themselves a party to the political battle in the name of common ownership for their mutual needs, will a general gain come to workers, and an end to these sectional battles. Otherwise, the ultimate result of the strikes will be the need to strike or demonstrate again in the future.The never-ending treadmill of the class struggle. Workers can never win the class struggle while it is confined simply to the level of trade union militancy. It requires to be transformed into socialist consciousness.

Indeed we are critical of trade unions but we are also supportive of them. The Socialist Party has always insisted that the structures and tactics of organisations that the working class create to combat the class war will be there own decision and will necessarily be dependent on particular situations. Again a read of our actual history would reveal that unlike other organisations such as the SLP or Comunist Party we have never promoted the idea of forming separate trade unions. The Socialist Party avoided the mistake of the SLP - and of the CPGB during the "Third Period" after 1929 - of "dual unionism", i.e. of trying to form "revolutionary" unions to rival the existing "reformist" unions (though some SPGBers have been involved, as individuals, in breakaway unions. The working class get the unions, and the leadership, it deserves. Just as a king is only a king because he is obeyed, so too are union leaders only union leaders because they are followed. To imagine they lead is to imbue them with mystical powers within themselves, and set up a phantasm of leadership that exactly mirror images the same phantasm as our masters believe. So long as the workers themselves are content to deal with such a union system, and its leaders, then such a union system and its leaders will remain, and will have to react to the expectations of the members. The way to industrial unions, or socialist unions, or whatever, is not through the leadership of the unions. The unions will always reflect the nature of their memberships, and until their membership change, they will not change. Unions are neither inherently reactionary, nor inherently revolutionary. The only way to change unions is not through seizing or pressurising the leadership, but through making sure that they have a committed membership, a socialist membership. We countered the syndicalist case “The Mines to the Miners!” or “The Railways to the Railwaymen!” by pointing out the socialists want to abolish the sectional ownership of the means of life, no matter who compose the sections , and not reinforce it.

To repeat, The Socialist Party is not antagonistic to the trade unions under present conditions, even though they have not a revolutionary basis but we are most hostile to the misleading by the trade union leaders and against the ignorance of the rank and file which make such misleading possible. Workers must come to see through the illusion that all that is needed in the class war are good generals. Sloganising leaders making militant noises are powerless in the face of a system which still has majority support – or at least the acquiescence – of the working class. It would be wrong to write off the unions as anti-working-class organisations. The union has indeed tended to become an institution apart from its members; but the policy of a union is still influenced by the views of its members. It may be a truism but a union is only as strong as its members. Most unions have formal democratic constitutions which provide for a wide degree of membership participation and democratic control. In practice however, these provisions are sometimes ineffective and actual control of many unions is in the hands of a well-entrenched full-time leadership. It is these leaders who frequently collaborate with the State and employers in the administration of capitalism; who get involved in supporting political parties and governments which act against the interest of the working class.

Socialists take part in every struggle in the economic field to improve conditions. We are as militant as anybody else. The socialist is involved in the economic struggle by the fact that we are members of the working class which naturally resists capital. But this is not the same thing as stating that the socialist party engages in activity for higher wages and better conditions. This is not the function of the socialist party. We recognise the necessity of workers' solidarity in the class struggle against the capitalist class, and rejoice in every victory for the workers to assert their economic power. But to struggle for higher wages and better conditions is not revolutionary in any true sense of the word; and the essential weapons in this struggle are not inherently revolutionary either. It demands the revolutionising of the workers themselves. If there were more revolutionary workers in the unions—and in society generally—then the unions and the host of other community organisations would have a more revolutionary outlook. This does not mean that we say workers should sit back and do nothing, the struggle over wages and conditions must go on. But it becomes clear that this is a secondary, defensive activity. Participation in the class struggle does not automatically make workers class conscious. Militancy on the industrial field is just that and does not necessarily lead to political militancy, but ebbs and flows as labour market conditions change. The real struggle is to take the means of wealth production and distribution into the common ownership.

Marx believed that, as the workers gained more experience of the class struggle and the workings of capitalism, it would become more consciously socialist and democratically organised by the workers themselves. The emergence of socialist understanding out of the experience of the workers could thus be said to be ‘spontaneous’ in the sense that it would require no intervention by people outside the working class to bring it about. Socialist propaganda and agitation would indeed be necessary, but would come to be carried out by workers themselves, whose socialist ideas would have been derived from an interpretation of their class experience of capitalism. The end result would be an independent movement of the socialist-minded and democratically organised working class aimed at winning control of political power in order to abolish capitalism. As Marx and Engels put it in the Communist manifesto, “The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.” Like it or not, this is not the same analysis made by Lenin or Trotsky.

The Left put forward a whole raft of reformist demands that on paper might seem to be appealing. The only problem is that there is no plan to actually achieve these demands - they are "pretend" demands. Trotsky himself called these kind of demands "transitional demands" - the idea being to look at everybody else's demands and make bigger demands so they sound great. Occasionally they might achieve a demand which will make them seem sincere, however the idea isn't to achieve these demands - it is to not achieve them! This is the Troskyists' grand master plan to make workers dissatisfied, so the latter will become revolutionary and flock behind their political leadership. In other words the workers are to be the infantry led by the Trotskyist generals. The Left have real aims quite different to the reform programme they peddle. In this, they are being as dishonest as any other politician, from the left or right. The ultimate result of this is disillusionment with the possibility of radical change. Genuine socialists get tarred with the same brush.

When someone comes across the Socialist Party for the first time, a common reaction is to consider us as just another left-wing political organisation. The Left use similar terminology to us, talking of socialism, class struggle, exploitation, etc, and invoking Karl Marx. But digging a little deeper will show that our political position is very different from that of the Left. The Socialist Party is not on The Left. There is so much manipulation, dishonesty, and downright erroneous thinking connected with the Left that we would not wish to be associated with them in any way.

One of the great strengths of the Socialist Party is our opposition to leadership and our commitment to democratic practices, so, whatever weaknesses or mistaken views we hold or get accused of , they cannot be imposed upon others with possible worse consequences. The history of Leninism/Trotskyism blames all on the lack of leadership or the wrong leadership or a traitorous leadership. The Socialist Party are not going to take the workers to where they neither know where they are going, nor, most likely, want to go. This contrasts with those who seek to substitute the party for the class or who see the party as a vanguard which must undertake alone the task of leading the masses forward. The crucial part of the Socialist Party case is that understanding is a necessary condition for socialism.

The Socialist Party’s job is to make a socialist society an immediancy for the working class, not an ultimate far-off ideal. Something of importance and value to people’s lives now, rather than a singular "end"

It was Marx who said we should not write recipes for the cook-shops of the future. The issue is often discussed within our organisation. Many caution against the creation of blueprints. There is no point in drawing up in advance the sort of detailed blueprint of industrial and social organisation. For a small group of socialists , as we are now , to do so would be undemocratic. We also recognise that there may not be one single way of doing things, and precise details and ways of doing things more than likely vary from one part of the world to another, even between neighbouring communities. Nor can we 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, that will then 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. At this point some will no doubt saying "cop-out" but no. We can reach some generalised conclusions based on basic premises and can outline broad principles or options that could be applied. We do not have to draw up a detailed plan for socialism, but simply and broadly demonstrate that it is possible and therefore refute the label of “utopian”. Never forget that socialist society is not starting from a blank sheet and we are inheriting an already existing production 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.

Writers or speakers are NOT leaders. Their function is to spread knowledge and understanding, as teachers. Quite different from that we must have leaders (great men) to direct their followers (blind supporters) into a socialist society. Socialism is not the result of blind faith, followers, or, by the same token, vanguard parties. Despite some very charismatic writers and speakers in the past, no personality has held undue influence over the Socialist Party. Simply check the two published histories of the Party to see on just how many occasions and on how many issues those so-called leaders have not gained a majority at conferences or in referendums.

We actually have a test for membership. This does not mean that the Socialist Party has set itself up as an intellectual elite into which only those well versed in Marxist scholarship may enter. One purpose of it is to place all members on an even basis. The Socialist Party's reason is to ensure that only conscious socialists enter its ranks, for, once admitted, all members are equal and it would clearly not be in the interest of the Party to offer equality of power to those who are not able to demonstrate equality of basic socialist understanding. Once a member, s/he have the same rights as the oldest member to sit on any committee, vote, speak, and have access to all information. Thanks to this test all members are conscious socialists and there is genuine internal democracy, and of that we are fiercely proud. Consider what happens when people join other groups which don't have this test. The new applicant has to be approved as being "all right". The individual is therefore judged by the group according to a range of what might be called "credential indicators". Hard work (often, paper selling) and obedience by new members is the main criterion of trustworthiness in the organisation. In these hierarchical, "top-down" groups the leaders strive at all costs to remain as the leadership , and reward only those with proven commitment to the "party line" with preferential treatment, more responsibility and more say. New members who present the wrong indicators remain peripheral to the party structure, and finding themselves unable to influence decision-making at any level, eventually give up and leave, often embittered by the hard work they put in and the hollowness of the party's claims of equality and democracy.

The Socialist Party is a leader-less political party where its executive committee is solely for housekeeping admin duties and cannot determine policy. An EC that is not even permitted to submit resolutions to conference. All conference decisions have to be ratified by a referendum of the whole membership. The General Secretary has no position of power or authority over any other member being simply a dogsbody. Mandating delegates, voting on resolutions and membership referendums are democratic practices for ensuring that the members of an organisation control that organisation – and as such key procedures in any organisation genuinely seeking socialism. Socialism can only be a fully democratic society in which everybody will have an equal say in the ways things are run. This means that it can only come about democratically, both in the sense of being the expressed will of the working class and in the sense of the working class being organised democratically – without leaders, but with mandated delegates – to achieve it. In rejecting these procedures what is being declared is that the working class should not organise itself democratically.

Only by the propaganda of socialism will people be made capable of understanding their position as wage slaves, and the consequent necessity for the abolition of capitalism, and not of patching it up, as advocated with monotonous persistence by the generations of mis-leaders. Socialists point out to our fellow workers that they possess, as a class, all the needed energy and intelligence to erect a new social system based upon the common ownership of the means of life, in which system they will no longer need to sell themselves piecemeal as articles of merchandise. They will be free to enjoy to the full the results of their collective labour. Having arrived at this understanding, the workers will recognise that their political power must be put to an infinitely better use than that of providing fat jobs for nimble-tongued tricksters and seek the achievement of their own emancipation. The vote is not useless if backed by a class-conscious understanding.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Socialist Blueprint - Part 2

The Buddha said: “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared”


It is the main job of socialists not to theorise about the exact workings of a future economy, but to educate people on the main principles that might underpin a future communist society in its lower and higher phases, and then give them the tools - in the form of socialist democracy - to do the work themselves. Unless we say more about the goal we are striving for, we relinquish the future to those who insist that all there is an eternity of capitalism. If you dont have an alternative to capitalism you are stuck with capitalism. It is all very well to criticise capitalism - thats easy! - but the really hard thing is to put forward a viable alternative to put in its place. Its only through speculatiing about alternative in more and more details that we can begin to put more flesh on the bare bones on the idea, that we can invest with more credibility. It is important not to confuse two quite different things: 1) A basic statement of the core features of a future communist/socialist society 2) Speculative commentrary about the finer details of life inside such a society. Free access socialism is the shortest and most effective route to meeting human needs. It immediately cuts out all the kind of work that performs no socially useful fiunction whatsoever but only keeps capitalism ticking over. If anything , given current levels of productivity, We can even envisage there being a shortage of socially useful work for people to do in free access communism. It will be able to produce so much more with so much less

Free access socialism, or higher phase communism as Marx called it is not some futuristic science fiction scenario bit has existed as a potentiality within capitalism itself from at least since the beginning of the 20th century. It is not predicated on some "super-abundance" of wealth being made available to people but rather on the very real possibilty of being able to meet our basic needs. We dont say free access communism (socialism) will be a world without scarcities. Free access communism is not based on the assumption that we stand on the threshold of some kind of comsumerist paradise in which we can all gratify our every whim.We refer to the very real possiblity of society being able to satisfy the basic needs of individuals today, to enable us all to have a decent life. The elimination of capitalism's massive strucutural waste is the prime source of productive potential; it will make huge amounts of resources available for socially useful production in a society in which the only considertation is meeting human needs, not selling commodities on a market with a view to profit. In higher communism there is no exchange. None whatsoever. Consequently there is no "bartering" of each other's abilities or needs. You freely give according to your abilities and you freely take according to your needs. Its as a simple as that.

Scarcity in the technical sense, in the notion of opportunity costs, will of course always be with us, by definition. If you decide to use a particular resource for a particular end that means you fore-go the opportunity to use it for some other end. You cannot satisfy both ends and you have to chose which end you will satisfy. But opportunity costs would be incorporated in the very process of resource allocation in a communist society.

Despite what the bourgeois economists and sociologists assert, our demands are not insatiable. They are conditioned by the society we live in and in a free access communist society much of what we falslely consider to be essential to our well-being - the pursuit of status via conspicuous consumption - will be rendered totally meaningless. Scarcity (or abundance for that matter) are a function of both supply and demand and these are both influenced by the kind of society we live in. In capitalism the logic of competition and the self expansion of capital without limit is reflected in the bourgeois notion that as individual consumers our demands are "infinite". This notion serves as an apology for capitalism, in other words. In free access communism the only way logically you can gain the respect and esteem of your fellows is through your contribution to society and not what you take out of it. Nobody should ever underestimate the potency of this particular motive. It is astonishing that some on the Left seem to have discarded altogether the idea of free access communism and what is even more astonishing is the grounds on which they do so. They have bought lock stock and barrel into the bourgeois myth of "human nature" to defend their anti-communist position.

Marx and Engels, used the terms socialism and communism to mean the same thing - a moneyless wageless stateless society - as did numerous others, including the early Social Democrats. People have seem to have fogetten about this in their ill-informed attempt to dismiss free access communism. They have failed to see just how much their own perspective is imprisoned within narrrow horizon of bourgeois rights and bourgeois behaviour patterns It is perhaps difficult now to appreciate but, in the late 19th century/early 20th century, when people talked about a socialist society they meant basically a communist society. In fact, earlier on, when Marx and Engels drew up their "Communist Manifesto", they explained why, at the time, they did not call it the Socialist Manifesto - because of the association of the term socialism with certain political currents they did not favour - but increasingly over time they shifted over to using the term socialism rather than communism - particularly Engels. Large numbers of writers in the late 19th century-early 20th adopted this practice. One thinks of people like William Morris, Hyndman, Kropotkin, Kautsky and many others. Even the Russian Social Democrats before they split into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks used the term "socialism" in this way and Stalin wrote a pamphlet in 1906 in which he defined socialism as a moneyless wageless society. In fact, this is how these terms were generally understood up until the early 20th century - as synonym. The distinction between socialism and communism primarily emerged with Lenin - it was never found in Marx identifying the former with what we would call "state capitalism" but even Lenin was not consistent in this and in an interview with Arthur Ransome in 1922 reverted to the old usage.

In the Critique of the Gotha Programme it is clear that Marx was equating the higher stage of communism with free access communism (No, we do not forget that the Critique of the Gotha programme is a primary source of theoretical support for the advocates of labour vouchers). In the Critique he talks of the right of producers being proportional to the labor they supply; and how these defects are inevitable in the first phase of communist society as it is when it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society. Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby.

“In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly -- only then then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”

That last phrase did indeed originate with Louis Blanc but as a revision of Saint Simon's argument that individuals should be rewarded according to their labour input. In other words it specifically repudiates the notion of payment for work - whether in cash or labour vouchers or whatever

People who argue against the "Impossibilist" perspective on the grounds that we cannot really know what a socialist society will be like until we live in it are taking up a rather absurd and extreme position which incidentally traps them in Catch 22 situation - how are we ever going to get to live in a socialist society if we dont know what it is in advance of creating it? Indeed, how would we even know that what we created was socialism at all! Socialism is obviously impossible without workers having some idea of what socialism is beforehand but all that is needed is a basic idea, a rudimentary mental model of a classless wageless stateless society. It does not require a theoretical grasp of the organic composition of capital or the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.

Lenin talking quite explicitly of a communist society without labour vouchers:

"Communist labour in the narrower and stricter sense of the term is labour performed gratis for the benefit of society, labour performed not as a definite duty, not for the purpose of obtaining a right to certain products, not according to previously established and legally fixed quotas, but voluntary labour, irrespective of quotas; it is labour performed without expectation of reward, without reward as a condition, labour performed because it has become a habit to work for the common good, and because of a conscious realisation (that has become a habit) of the necessity of working for the common good—labour as the requirement of a healthy organism.
It must be clear to everybody that we, i.e., our society, our social system, are still a very long way from the application of this form of labour on a broad, really mass scale.
But the very fact that this question has been raised, and raised both by the whole of the advanced proletariat (the Communist Party and the trade unions) and by the state authorities, is a step in this direction." From the Destruction of the Old Social System, To the Creation of the New

We have the evidence of ABC of Communism by the Bolshevik Bukharin that he was not alone.

"Distribution in the communist system:
The communist method of production presupposes in addition that production is not for the market, but for use. Under communism, it is no longer the individual manufacturer or the individual peasant who produces; the work of production is effected by the gigantic cooperative as a whole. In consequence of this change, we no longer have commodities, but only products. These products are not exchanged one for another; they are neither bought nor sold. They are simply stored in the communal warehouses, and are subsequently delivered to those who need them. In such conditions, money will no longer be required. 'How can that be?' some of you will ask. 'In that case one person will get too much and another too little. What sense is there in such a method of distribution?' The answer is as follows. At first, doubtless, and perhaps for twenty or thirty years, it will be necessary to have various regulations. Maybe certain products will only be supplied to those persons who have a special entry in their work-book or on their work-card. Subsequently, when communist society has been consolidated and fully developed, no such regulations will be needed. There will be an ample quantity of all products, our present wounds will long since have been healed, and everyone will be able to get just as much as he needs. 'But will not people find it to their interest to take more than they need?' Certainly not. Today, for example, no one thinks it worth while when he wants one seat in a tram, to take three tickets and keep two places empty. It will be just the same in the case of all products. A person will take from the communal storehouse precisely as much as he needs, no more. No one will have any interest in taking more than he wants in order to sell the surplus to others, since all these others can satisfy their needs whenever they please. Money will then have no value. Our meaning is that at the outset, in the first days of communist society, products will probably be distributed in accordance with the amount of work done by the applicant; at a later stage, however, they will simply be supplied according to the needs of the comrades. It has often been contended that in the future society everyone will have the right to the full product of his labour. 'What you have made by your labour, that you will receive.' This is false. It would never be possible to realize it fully. Why not? For this reason, that if everyone were to receive the full product of his labour, there would never be any possibility of developing, expanding, and improving production. Part of the work done must always be devoted to the development and improvement of production.
If we had to consume and to use up everything we have produced, then we could never produce machines, for these cannot be eaten or worn. But it is obvious that the bettering of life will go hand in hand with the extension and improvement of machinery. It is plain that more and more machines must continually be produced. Now this implies that part of the labour which has been incorporated in the machines will not be returned to the person who has done the work. It implies that no one can ever receive the full product of his labour.But nothing of the kind is necessary. With the aid of good machinery, production will be so arranged that all needs will be satisfied.

To sum up, at the outset products will be distributed in proportion to the work done (which does not mean that the worker will receive 'the full product of his labour'); subsequently, products will be distributed according to need, for there will be an abundance of everything. In a communist society there will be no classes. But if there will be no classes, this implies that in communist society there will likewise be no State. We have previously seen that the State is a class organization of the rulers. The State is always directed by one class against the other. A bourgeois State is directed against the proletariat, whereas a proletarian State is directed against the bourgeoisie. In the communist social order there are neither landlords, nor capitalists, nor wage workers; there are simply people - comrades. If there are no classes, then there is no class war, and there are no class organizations. Consequently the State has ceased to exist. Since there is no class war, the State has become superfluous. There is no one to be held in restraint, and there is no one to impose restraint.

But how, they will ask us, can this vast organization be set in motion without any administration? Who is going to work out the plans for social production? Who will distribute labour power? Who is going to keep account of social income and expenditure? In a word, who is going to supervise the whole affair? It is not difficult to answer these questions. The main direction will be entrusted to various kinds of book-keeping offices or statistical bureaux. There, from day to day, account will be kept of production and all its needs; there also it will be decided whither workers must be sent, whence they must be taken, and how much work there is to be done. And inasmuch as, from childhood onwards, all will have been accustomed to social labour, and since all will understand that this work is necessary and that life goes easier when everything is done according to a prearranged plan and when the social order is like a well-oiled machine, all will work in accordance with the indications of these statistical bureaux. There will be no need for special ministers of State, for police and prisons, for laws and decrees - nothing of the sort. Just as in an orchestra all the performers watch the conductor's baton and act accordingly, so here all will consult the statistical reports and will direct their work accordingly. The State, therefore, has ceased to exist. There are no groups and there is no class standing above all other classes. Moreover, in these statistical bureaux one person will work today, another tomorrow. The bureaucracy, the permanent officialdom, will disappear. The State will die out. Manifestly this will only happen in the fully developed and strongly established communist system, after the complete and definitive victory of the proletariat; nor will it follow immediately upon that victory. For a long time yet, the working class will have to fight against, all its enemies, and in especial against the relics of the past, such as sloth, slackness, criminality, pride. All these will have to be stamped out. Two or three generations of persons will have to grow up under the new conditions before the need will pass for laws and punishments and for the use of repressive measures by the workers' State. Not until then will all the vestiges of the capitalist past disappear.

Though in the intervening period the existence of the workers' State is indispensable, subsequently, in the fully developed communist system, when the vestiges of capitalism are extinct, the proletarian State authority will also pass away. The proletariat itself will become mingled with all the other strata of the population, for everyone will by degrees come to participate in the common labour. Within a few decades there will be quite a new world, with new people and new customs."

Then there was Trotsky in The Revolution Betrayed, Chapter 3, Socialism and the State that says it all:

“The material premise of communism should be so high a development of the economic powers of man that productive labor, having ceased to be a burden, will not require any goad, and the distribution of life’s goods, existing in continual abundance, will not demand – as it does not now in any well-off family or "decent" boarding-house – any control except that of education, habit and social opinion. Speaking frankly, I think it would be pretty dull-witted to consider such a really modest perspective "utopian."

What Trotsky is advocating here is the abandonment of the idea of material rewards or remuneration as a so-called incentive to produce. And if that is not enough we also have Trotsky saying:

"True, Abramovich demonstrated to us most learnedly that under Socialism there will be no compulsion, that the principle of compulsion contradicts Socialism, that
under Socialism we shall be moved by the feeling of duty, the habit of working, the attractiveness of labor, etc., etc. This is unquestionable.
Only this unquestionable truth must be a little extended. In point of fact, under Socialism there will not exist the apparatus of compulsion itself, namely, the State: for it will have melted away entirely into a producing and consuming commune. None the less, the road to Socialism lies through a period of the highest possible intensification of the principle of the State. And you and I are just passing through that period. Just as a lamp, before going out, shoots up in a brilliant flame, so the State, before disappearing, assumes the form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e., the most ruthless form of State, which embraces the life of the citizens authoritatively in every direction. Now just that insignificant little fact – that historical step of the State dictatorship – Abramovich, and in his person the whole of Menshevism, did not notice; and consequently, he has fallen over it."

And Kautsky too:

"Besides this rigid allocation of an equal measure of the necessaries and enjoyments of life to each individual, another form of Socialism without money is conceivable, the Leninite interpretation of what Marx described as the second phase of communism: each to produce of his own accord as much as he can, the productivity of labour being so high and the quantity and variety of products so immense that everyone may be trusted to take what he needs. For this purpose money would not be needed.
We have not yet progressed so far as this. At present we are unable to divine whether we shall ever reach this state. But that Socialism with which we are alone concerned to-day, whose features we can discern with some precision from the indications that already exist, will unfortunately not have this enviable freedom and abundance at its disposal, and will therefore not be able to do without money."
The Labour Revolution III. The Economic Revolution X. MONEY

Finally, the Anglo-Marxist HM Hyndman
"A much more serious objection to Kropotkin and other Anarchists is their wholly unscrupulous habit of reiterating statements that have been repeatedly proved to be incorrect, and even outrageous, by the men and women to whom they are attributed. Time after time I have told Kropotkin, time after time has he read it in print, that Social-Democrats work for the complete overthrow of the wages system. He has admitted this to be so. But a month or so afterwards the same old oft-refuted misrepresentation appears in the same old authoritative fashion, as if no refutation of the calumny, that we wish to maintain wage-slavery, had ever been made."

The Left Apologists

So perverse are the arguments presented by critics of free access communism that they uncritically project into communism the same kind of atomistic self- interested outlook that prevails in capitalism forgetting that we are talking about quite a different kind of society altogther. In fact, free access communism is the most complete example of what is called a “gift economy" in anthropological terms. It is based on the principle of “generalised reciprocity” and the clear recognition of our mutual inter-dependence. It is not economic restrictions in the form of some kind of rationing that we should be focussing on but, rather a radical reconfiguration of the relationship between the individual and society and the realisation of human beings as truly social individuals ( a social individualn is an individual who realises his or her needs are part of a collective process of development and stimulation and thus has no need to hoard, monopolise, accumulate objects, articles for purposes other than that of use.). Critics of free access communism need now to fundamentally question and reassess the assumptions upon which they base their criticisms. The time is long overdue to restore and reassert the vision of higher communism as the explicit goal of revolutionaries everywhere. Anything short of that has either failed dismally or been found wanting. Revolutionaries today, 150 years after Marx, should NOT be advocating questionable stop-gap measures that have long been rendered obsolete by technological development. We should be hell-bent on getting the real thing - a society based on the principle "from each according to ability to each according to need"!

Of course, we cannot have socialism right now because the conscious majoritarian support for such a system simply does not yet exist. You can't have socialism without a large majority wanting and understanding it. The ends and the means have to be in harmony. There is absolutely no way you can force communism on a reluctant population that doesnt want or understand it. They are required to understand what it entails. They will realise very well that with a system of voluntary labour we will each depend upon one another for a communist society to function properly. The point is that in communism, unlike in capitalism, we shall have a genuine vested interest in promoting the well-being of others - if for no other than reason than that our own welfare is bound up with theirs. Socialist writer Keith Graham has written:
"...the very nature of the future society is such that it must be sustained by people clearly aware of what they are doing, actively and voluntarily cooperating in social production. It is literally unthinkable that a population should organise its affairs according to such principles without being aware that this is what they are doing. People can be coerced or duped into doing what what they themselves do not comprehend or desire but they cannot be coerced or duped into doing what they voluntarily choose to do"

When we meet these preconditions then people will fully appreciate, their mutual interdependence and the need to pull together for the common good.

You cannot just simply project into a communist society the same kind of behavioural assumptions that underlie this dog-eat-dog capitalist society. Human behaviour and human thinking is at least in part a product of the kind of society we live in. Critics illegitimately project into communism, the behaviour patterns and modes of thinking that pertain to capitalism - including, its atomised individualistic way of looking at things. Capitalist competition fosters egoism. This is why narrow economically-focussed criticisms of a communist society fail miserably every time because they take no account of the fundamentally different sociological framework within which a communist society will operate. Free-access communism eliminates the need for greed and removes the rationale for acquiring status through the accumulation of material wealth. The only way in which one can acquire status and the respect of one's fellows - a hugely powerful motivator in any society - would be through one's contribution to society, not what one takes out of it. Critics of free access or higher communism have fallen into the same erroneous way of looking at the matter as the bourgeois economists with their taken-for-granted assumptions about human nature being inherently lazy or greedy. Remember the myth about The Commons? How The Commons were destroyed by the ignorance, the democracy of the commoners, ruining the land through over-grazing; without taking proper steps to conserve fertility; through, according to our mythologists, that combination of greed, stupidity, and laziness that the bourgeoisie project unto everybody else when in fact it describes them to a T? But it was a myth. The Commons were not destroyed by either ignorance, abuse, or laziness of the commoners-- they were managed quite well, and democratically by the commoners, who willingly worked out the terms of shared use, and proper conservation. The argument that says "Oh, if human beings can just have free access to things, they'll act like locusts" has at its base, a version of that same myth

The goal of social ownership and democratic control of production and distribution has to be articulated directly.To seek political improvements to the capitalist system is a distraction from what needs to be done. When we insist that the working class has to be educated before it can make progress, some people on the left who have good intentions say that they "don't want to wait that long." But this isn't an option. A "revolution" carried out by people who are angry at the injustices of the old social system, but unclear about what to replace it with, or not sufficiently dedicated to the democratic structure of the new system, is the road to a new dictatorship. The working class who will create a socialist society must also know how to operate it. They need to understand what the basic rules of the game are, so to speak. There needs to be a widespread consensus about what to expect of people if a socialist society is to properly function. "Anti-capitalism" in itself can never succeed in overthrowing capitalism. To bring capitalism to an an end we need to have a viable alternative to put in its place. And this is an alternative that we need to be conscious and desirous of before it can ever be put in place. A class imbued with socialist consciousness will be far more militant and empowered than any amount of mere "anti-capitalism". Socialist consciousness is class consciousness in its most developed sense. The idea that such an alternative could somehow materialise out of thin air without a majority of workers actually wanting it or knowing about it is simply not realistic. Such an alternative can function if people know what it entails. In itself, engaging a workplace struggles within capitalism - important though this is - doesnt take us much forward since capitalism can only ever be run in the interest of capital. The capitalist system isn't a failure due to bad leaders or bad policies, but because of the kind of system that it is.

Socialism in other words meant a moneyless wageless stateless commonwealth. This was the general understanding of what socialism meant. Marx didn't talk about a "transitional society". he talked about the lower phase of communism. It was still communism...that is, a classless society. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”

Who decides what your ability or need is? It would take some sort of position of power to determine who is in need and who has ability. Power naturally corrupts and tends to find ways to increase and consolidate power. After time, you are left with those who have consolidated power to abuse, and those who don't. Therefore who decides? The answer, you do! This is the whole point of the communist slogan "from each according to ability to each according to need". The autonomy of the individual is maximised and as a result, we all benefit. As the Communist Manifesto put it:

"In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all"

Specifically a communist (aka socialist) society - or at least what Marx called the "higher stage" of communism - exhibits two key features:

1) Free access to goods and services - no buying and selling. No barter. You simply go to the distribution point and take what you require according to your self determined needs. This depends on there being a relatively advanced technological infrastructure to produce enough to satisfy our basic needs. Such a possibility already exists. Capitalism, however, increasingly thwarts this potential. In fact, most of the work we do today in the formal sector will be completely unnecessary in a communist society - it serves only to prop up capitalism. What possible use would there be for a banking system under communism, for example? We could effectively more than double the quantities of resources and human labour power available for socially useful production by scrapping capitalism. Communism will destroy the need for greed and conspicuous consumption

2) Volunteer labour. Your contribution to society is completely voluntary. There is no wage labour or other forms of co-erced labour. You can do as little or as much work as you choose. And you can do as many different kinds of jobs as you want, too. The presumption is that people would freely choose to work under communism for all sorts of reasons:

- the conditions under which we work will be radically different, without an employing class dictating terms work will become fulfilling and pleasant
- we need to work, to express ourselves creatively
- with free access to goods, conspicuous consumption will be rendered meaningless as a way of gaining respect and social esteem. Which leaves only what we give to society as a way of gaining the respect of our peers. This should not be underestimated; it is one of the most important motivational drives in human beings as numerous studies in industrial psychology have confimed
- Communism depends on people recognising our mutual interdependence. There is, in other words, a sense of moral obligation that goes with the territory
- Communism will permit a far greater degree of technological adaptation without the constraints of the profit system. Intrinsically backbreaking or unpleasannt work can be automated. Conversely some work may be deliberately made more labour intensive and craft based.
- Even under capitalism today most work is unpaid or unremunerated - the household economy, the volunteer sector and so on. So it is not as if this is something we are unaccustomed to. Volunteers moreover tend to be the most highly motivated as studies have confirmed; they dont require so called external incentives
- We will get rid of an awful lot of crappy and pointless jobs that serve as a disincentive to work
- since we would be free to do any job we chose to what this means in effect is that for any particular job there would be a massive back-up supply of labour to cover it consisting of most people in society. In capitalism this cannot happen since labour mobility is severely restricted since if you have a job you cannot just choose to abandon it for the sake of another more urgent job from the standpoint of society

With these two core characteristics of a communist society - free access to goods and services plus volunteer labour - there can be no political leverage that anyone or any group could exercise over anyone else. The material basis of class power would have completely dissolved. What we would be left with is simply human beings being free to express their fundamentally social and coooperative nature

Free access communism is not going to be brought to the point of collapse by the fact that we cannot all have a Porshe or Ferrari parked outside our front door. Imagine what it could be like without a boss class on our backs? Imagine what our workplaces could become without the cost cutting constraints of capitalism and having the freedom to decide on these matters ourselves. Imagine not being tied tdown to one single kind of job all the time but being given the opportunity to experiment with different jobs, to travel abroad to work in new places, to taste new experiences. Imagine a moneyeless wageless communist world in which most of the occupations that we do today - from bankers to pay departments to arms producers to sales-people - will simply disappear at a stroke releasing vast amounts of resources and, yes, human labour power as well for socially useful production. Kropotkin was quite right. We dont need the whiplash of the wages system to compel us to work. The mere fact that we recognise our mutual interdependence in a society in which we will fully realise our social nature will suffice to impose upon us a sense of moral obligation to contribute to the common good of our own free will. Indeed we already, to some extent, do this today even under capitalism, given that fully half of all the work that we do today is completely unremunerated. How much more conducive will a communist moral economy be to the perforance of unremunerated work is not hard to see.

The Left-wing tend to be nothing more than the reformist advocates of some kind of state-administered capitalism, paying lip service to authentic socialism but in practice obstructing any real movement towards socialism. The Left-wing by and large does not stand for socialism and persistently misrepresents what socialism is all about by identifying it with some kind of state involvement in the economy. To suggest that free access communism would be less efficient than capitalism ignores among other things that at least half the work done under capitalism serves no socially useful purpose whatsoever and contributes nothing to human wellbeing in any meanihgful way - it is merely done to keep the capitalist monetary system ticking over. For instance, most of the work carried out today in the formal sector of the capitalist economy will no longer be needed in communism. What useful work does a banker or pay-roll official do today, for instance? Absolutely nothing. When production for sale on market ceases to exist and we produce simply and and solely for need, a huge and growing chunk of the work we do today will no longer be required. Conservatively speaking, we can at least double the available manpower and material resources for socially useful production. If that is not a huge advance in efficiency then what is? In free access communism we will be able to do more with far less becuase we will producing directly for use and not for sale. The capitalist monetary system is the most extraordinary wasteful form of economic organisation but we are sure the capitalists will be gratified to learn that someon the left should spring to the defence of their system against the communist alternative.

The notion that capitalism can only be defined as a system where capital is owned privately for a profit is absurd. Doesn't capital owned by the state for example count as capitalism? Doesn't the very fact that means of production take the form of capital, irrespective of who owns it, make the system capitalist ? The theory of state capitalism does not require there to be a class of private owners of capital, for there to be capitalism. This is a legalistic de jure approach to capitalism whereas a historical materialist approach looks instead at the de facto relations of production. It argues that there was a capitalist class in the Soviet Union that collectively owned the means of production as a class by virtue of their complete control of the state - the nomenklatura. Ownership and control are in fact inseparable. Ultimate control IS ownership. We are not saying there were no differences between the state capitalism and the private or mixed-economy capitalism but in their essentials they were the same. In Socialism Utopian and Scientific Engels noted how capitalism was rapidly evolving away from private ownership of capital for profit by individual capitalist to joint stock companies and on to ownership by the state. Here is what he said concerning the latter

"The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine, the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of the productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage workers - proletarians. The capitalist relationship is not done away with. It is rather brought to a head." Socialism Utopian and Scientific"

This does not seem to be compatible with the notion of "private profit" or ownership by private individuals but, clearly, what Engels is saying here is that state ownership is still very much capitalism. Of course you can chose to define it in whatever way you want but in the Marxian tradition the relation between "capital" and "wage labour" is absolutely pivotal to any real understanding capitalism. Hence statements like these.

“Capital therefore presupposes wage-labour; wage-labour presupposes capital. They condition each other; each brings the other into existence.” (Wage Labour and Capital)


“To say that the interests of capital and the interests of the workers are identical, signifies only this: that capital and wage-labour are two sides of one and the same relation. The one conditions the other in the same way that the usurer and the borrower condition each other."

So, no, its not essentially to do with "private" ownership and profit. This is misleading. This idea that capitalism rests on de jure legal ownership of capital by private individuals is essentially an idealist notion which defines a mode of production in terms of its legal superstructure. With state ownership your have in effect collective ownership by the capitalist class via their control of the state apparatus itself. From the point of the view of the worker it makes absolutely no difference whether their employers is the state or a "private" business. From the point of view of the consumer too state property is private property and for which reason a payment is required.

"The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is, rather, brought to a head. But, brought to a head, it topples over. State-ownership of the productive forces is not the solution of the conflict, but concealed within it are the technical conditions that form the elements of that solution."

Engels is saying is that by bringing the scattered means of production under state ownership this will facilitate the transformation of these means into common property. So instead of having to deal with many separate individual capitalists we would have only to deal with the "national capitalist" as it were. This is what is meant by the "technical conditions" Engels speaks of - the centralised structure of decisionmaking that socialism would inherit from (state) capitalism

As opponents of central planning we would disagree strongly with Engels on this particular point. Neverthless, Engels is clearly NOT suggesting that state ownership of the means of production , even though it faciilitates centralised decisionmaking (which he seems to have thought would be important and useful for a socialist society) is anything other than a form of capitalist ownership.

It was Kropotkin who said:
"No hard and fast line can be drawn between the work of one and the work of another. To measure them by results leads to absurdity. To divide them into fractions and measured them by hours of labour leads to absurdity also. One course remains: not to measure them at all, but to recognise the right of all who take part in productive labour first of all to live – and then to enjoy the comforts of life" (The Wage System)

Communism is not about "setting prices at zero". It is about doing away with the whole notion of price and exchange value so that the very concept of "setting prices at zero" is a meaningless one as far as communism is concerned. To talk of setting prices at any level presupposes still a capitalist framework If the supermarkets tomorrow said 'All cans of beans are free' the shelves would be cleared in hours. But if they said the same the next day, and the next, it would become pointless to go and fill your arms with cans of beans, and easier to just go and take a reasonable stock to keep close to hand. That is, money (likewise price) is not abolished, but the need for money is rendered redundant. Just because individuals in a free access economy are not restricted by money lor labour vouchers from taking what they want does not mean they will want to take everything they can possibly lay their hands on. As for labour vouchers. Similiarly just because these same individuals will not be externally compelled to work by the fact that their consumption is explicitly linked to their work contribution does not mean they will not contribute to the work. The point about a communist society proper - or higher communism - is that there is no objective or external econonomic mechanism - like money or labour vouchers - mediating beween the individual and his or her needs or wants. This includes the desire to work which would become as Marx put it in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, "life´s prime want". A means by which we express ourselves, our individuality. Kautsky has the right take on that, why bother mimicking the pricing mechanism when there is already a perfectly good way of doing that?

Money is a social relationship. It links buyers and sellers in a market and therefore presupposes these things. But communism implies common ownership of the means of production. Where everybody owns the means of production it is not logically possible to have economic exchange. Exchange implies owners and non owners. When I exchange something with you I am exchanging property title to this thing for some other thing. If you own a factory producing widgets you can sell these widgets on because you own them by virtue of owning the factory that produced them. It follows that if everyone in society owned the factory there would be no one to whom these widgets could be sold or exchanged. If there is no economic exchange then there is no reason to have a means of exchange - money. Money is a mean of exchange amongst other things and what it implies is the existence of an exchange economy which is completely incompatible with the idea of your "public" owning the means of production. Exchange denotes a transfer of ownership rights of the things being exchanged. This cannot happen where everyone owns the means of production, common ownership rules out the exchange of products and hence money. Logically then if you advocate the use of money and hence exchange, this means you advocate a system based on sectional or private ownership of the means of production - not common ownership. Money is not some kind of neutral tool of administration; it is fundamentally a social relationship between people. Of course, money existed before capitalism but, in its generalised usage, it corresponds to , and demonstrates, the existence of capitalist relations of production as a monetised economy par excellance. Since there will be no economic exchange transactions in socialism - socialism being based on common ownership of the means of production - this reason falls away along with the need for money.

This is why socialists totally reject the idea of using money not only - obviously - in a communist society but in any supposed transition to such a society. A transitional stage that continiued to use money would not be a transition at all. It would still be a capitalist society based on generalised commodity production. That is why Marx advocated labour vouchers - which we reject as too as both unnecessary and far too cumbersome - precisely because it was not money.

Many leftists have aligned themselves with the argument of the arch pro-capitalist Ludwig von Mises in asserting the need for a common universal unit of accounting. According to this argument, only by means of such a unit can we directly compare different bundles of inputs and thus supposedly select the "least cost "combination. For Mises this unit is money; for some so-called leftists labour values. The purpose of a common unit of account is to expedite economic exchange - what communism will lack - rather than the actual efficient deployment of resources as such. Having a common unit of account has nothing to do with the technical organisation of production itself and everything to do with capitalism's own priorities such as the need to determine profitability and the rate of exploitation.

Free access communism is a form of "generalised reciprocity" par excellance, a “gift economy”, which as the term itself suggests denotes the absence of any kind of quid pro quo set up.

1) The amount of work that needs to be done by comparison with today will be much less because of the elimination of all that socially uselsss labour that only serves to prop up the capitalist money economy - from bankers , pay to tax collectors and a thousand and one other occupations. Less work means a much reduced per capita workload on average which, in turn, means less resistance to working since our attitutde to work is partly conditioned by how much time we are required to do it. If you only have to do 2 hours per week on a boring job you are going to regard it differently than if you have to do it for 20 hours

2) A volunteer economy means that we are not stuck with just one job but can try a variety so there is a labour reservoir in depth for any particular job - even the most onerous or boring - and to an extent that is simply not possible under capitalist employment.

3) With free acess to goods and services there is only one way in which you can acquire status and the respect and esteem of your fellows - through your contribution to society. Conspicuous consumption and the accumulation of private wealth would be rendered meaningless by the simple fact that all wealth is freely available for direct appropriation

4) The terms and conditions of work will be radically different without the institution of capitalist employment. It is often these terms and conditions - in particular the authoritarian structure of the capitalist workplace - that are the real problem rather than the work itself

5) Without the profit motive there will be far greater scope to adapt technology to suit our inclinations. Some work might be subject to greater automation; other work might be made more artisan or skilled-based

6) In a communist society our mutual interdependence will be much more transparent and the sense of moral obligation to give according to one's ability in return for taking according to one's need will correspondingly be much more sharply defined and enhanced as a motivating factor

7) A communist society cannot be introduced except when the great majority understand and want it. Having struggled to achieve it can it seriously be maintained that they would willingly allow it to be jeopardised? The reductio as absurdum argument

8) Work, loosely defined as meaningful productive activity is actually a fundamental human need, not simply an economic requirement. Try sitting around on your ass for week doing nothing and you will soon find yourself climbing up the wall out of sheer boredom. Prison riots have been known to break out on occasions when frustrated prisoners are denied work opportunities and even under the severe conditions they have to contend with.

9) Even under capitalism just over half of the work that we do is completely unpaid and outside of the money economy. This is by no means just confined to the household sector - think for example of international volunteers such as the VSO - and it gives the lie to the capitalist argument that the only way you can induce people to work is paying them to do it

Since you dont have a quid pro quo set up with free access communism, individuals are free to do whatever work they chose. What work needs to be done as explained can be readily communicated through the appropriate channels such as job centres, online facilities and so on. You dont have the same kind of dichotomous view induced by a quid pro quo set up which pits your self interest against the interests of others. So social opinion become becomes a much more powerful force in society. Work that needs to be done most urgently and is not perhaps being done to the extent required - e.g. garbage collection - gains in status to the extent that it remains undone. People work for all sorts of reasons not just becuase they "like it". This is why we find the usual objections to free access communism being trotted out to be simplistic and reductionist. Labour at this higher stage is no longer co-erced labour in the sense that an individual's access to goods (via their "income") is made dependent upon his or her contribution. On the contrary, the labour of freely associated individuals becomes life's "prime want". It becomes entirely voluntary labour, freely offered. The compulsion to produce without which human life could not continue will then operate exclusively on the social plane and not directly upon individuals who, neverthless, will have realised their fully social nature in a communist society and respond accordingly to the requirements of society to produce and reproduce its own means of existence. This is what constitutes the essence of communism - the realisation of our true social nature and of the need to contribute to society's maintenance and wellbeing - and it is why I have long argued that communism needs to be conceived as what is technically called a "moral economy"

The problem for the notion of apportioning labour time according some single vast society wide plan. Because production is a socialised process, because everything is interconnected - you need to ensure a certain amount of input X is produced in order to ensure that a certain amount of consumer good Y is produced - the ratios of millions upon millions of inputs and outputs have to be worked out in advance and the relative proportions or amounts have to be produced precisely in accordance with the Plan because the knock on consequences of any shortfall, say, will ramify thorugh the whole economy and upset the carefully worked out calculations of the central planners. So finally on to the question of labour time allocation within the context of a definite social plan. It seems to me that if you are going to allocate labour in this predetermined a priori fashion then, in order for the definite social plan to be effectively implemented to the letter, you would need some way of ensuring that labour in its multiple forms is suppled in precisely the quantities needed in order to ensure that the technical ratios of inputs and outputs embodied in the plan are complied with. How can this can this be done without the most resolute and coerceive central direction of labour and the conception cannot possibly accommodated to the principle "from each according to ability to each according to need". It cannot be done and the fact that it cannot be done points to the need for a radically different perspective on the nature of a communist society to the one he is proposing. Actually even Marx's speculations on the nature of work and the abolition of the division of labour in communism directly contradict this notion in the famous quote from the German Ideology:

“For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a hunter, a fisherman, a herdsman, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic. This fixation of social activity, this consolidation of what we ourselves produce into an objective power above us, growing out of our control, thwarting our expectations, bringing to naught our calculations, is one of the chief factors in historical development up till now.”

Allocation and rationing and planning

“We can produce enough to satisfy everyones need but not their greed” - Gandhi

The technological capacity to satisfy the basic needs of everyone on this planet for food, shelter, sanitation and so on exists today. However, it is capitalism that is increasingly thwarting and dissipating this potential. There is, for example, absolutely no reason why anyone today should starve. Do you realise just how monumentally wasteful is the whole food prpduction system we have today? Do you realise just how much scope there is for increased output per hectare and we are not talking here of capital intensive inputs (such as terminator seed technology which is all about what benefits agribusiness) rather than the peasant farmer in the Third World?

Mostly, but not entirely, the productive possiblities at our disposal are not being realised , and are increasingly failing to be realised, because of the huge and ever growing proportion of work undertaken today that is entirely socially useless (and in fact diverts human labour and resoruces away enhancing human well-being) but is nevertheless indispensable to the operation of the capitalist system itself. It has been conservatively estimated that, with the abolition of the capitalist money system and the introduction of a system based on direct production for use, we could probably double the productive capacity to satisfy our basic needs globally by freeing up all that labour and material resoruces currently tied up in socially useless , but systemicallly necessary, activities of all kinds. Think of a world without arms producers, bankers, insurance companies, salespeople, tax collectors, wage departments and a thousand and one other such occupations and you will begin to see what wemean.

Critics of socialism often seem wedded to this strange strawman notion of socialism as some kind of cornucopian society of absolute superabundance - all the more easy to knock it down. But this is not what is being proposed. What is being proposed is something rather more modest and reasonable - that we can today adequately meet our human needs (which are not infinite but finite) but increasingly capitalism gets in the way of this happening. Thus, a vast and steadily growing proportion of the work carried out today does not in any meaningful sense enhance human wellbeing and welfare but merely exists to serve the functional needs of the system itself. We dont actually need socialism to develop the technology of abundance in this reasonable sense. We already have the capacity to produce enough to satisfy our reasonable needs and this is, among other things, why your system of labour vouchers is now completely irrelevant. The irony is that the potential of modern computer technology which yourself have attached such importance to, is one of the things that now make "real socialism" eminently practical.

Every economy involves planning. Even the most ultra extreme free market capitalist economy you can think of is full of plans at the level of business enterprises. These millions of separate plans relate and adjust to each spontaneously. Central planning in its classic sense is the proposal to coordinate and plan the relationships between these separate plans rather than permit them to spontaneously adjust to each other. In effect, that means the disappearance or dissolution of all these separate plans and their replacement by one single "society wide" plan . That is the only meaningful way I can think of in which you can talk about a planned economy because there is no such thing as an economy that does not entail planning or "plans". In theory yes but in the real world deviations from the plan by the bucketload will always happen and all the time. The Plan will never get the opportunity to be implemented ; it will constantly need reconfiguring and updating. Instead of the single society wide plan moulding economic reality according to the intentions of the planners, the opposite will be the case. The plan will end up being hardly being worth with the paper it is written on. We are not the ones who are advocating some mega society-wide plan that seeks to coordinate all the inputs and outputs of the economy. The problem really lies with those who, inadvertently or not, advocate such a crazy idea. They simply haven't thought it through.

It is a bit of myth to suppose that state capitalist regimes like the Soviet Union were organised in quite the top-down, authoritarian fashion that is sometimes suggested. There was a very considerable degree of decentralised decisionmaking in the Soviet Union at the state enterprise level - far more than is sometimes realised. People often make the mistake of confusing the political rhetoric of central planning, and the fanfare accompaning GOSPLAN's latest 5 year plan or whatever, with what actually happened on the ground. No plans were ever actually really fulfilled. What happened is that the targets were routinely modified and revised to make it look like they were fulfilled. Instead of the Plan moulding economic reality, economic reality moulded the Plan. Often the plans were not even made available into well into the implementation period. The Soviet Union was very far from being a centrally planned economy in the classic sense of society wide planning and competition was rife at every level of the decisionmaking structure. Heads of industries were encourage to over-fulfil their part of the Plan (which goes against the idea of having a rational planned economy if people are constantly trying to change it), so they'd be competing with each other for resources (including labourers). There'd be competition between these heads for privileged access to materials and resources. Usually because there'd be a bonus involved. Within each ministry, enterprises competed fiercely for a privileged status, for reasonable quotas, and for easy orders. The same sort of competition existed on a lower level within each enterprise and on a higher level among ministries. The jungle of liberal capitalism of the past looks like a fencing tournament in comparison with this sordid infighting for influence interspersed with negotiations, shady deals and blackmail.

As for money not being a universal equivalent, at the end of the day, state enterprises had to keep profit and loss accounts expressed obviously in monetary terms. Though the state nominally owned the means of production, the legal posession and operation of these was in the hands of the state enterrprises and trusts that existed as legal entitites in their own right with responsibility for production. Crucially, their relationship with each other took the form of legally binding contracts for raw materials and productive machinery which were paid for by credits (money) in the central banks. State agencies like GOSSNAP (State Commission for Materials and Equipment Supply) operated essentially to facilitate horizontal links between these state enterprises. In its essentials, the Soviet Union was a capitalist economy albeit of a particular kind. However it is not quite correct to characterise the relationship between the state and the economic system as a whole as being analogous to the relationship between capitalists and the particular enterprises they own as in the West - the notion of "Soviet Union Inc". This is becuase of the role of the state enterprises outlined above which makes the situation a lot more complicated than the simpliustic idea of everyone working for one big firm called the state. While the system did have a rather more slack in it and greater scope for overriding the imperative of profit compared with western capitalism, ultuimately it had to fall in line with the law of value. Losses incurred by state enterrpises might revert to the state itself but there was a limit to how much these losses incurred by some enterprises could be sustained or compensated for by the profits creamed off by the state from other enterprises. Much of the subsequent reforms were really about devising better indicators of economic performancee and as such confimed the fundamental, if not immediately apparent, importance of the law of value in the Soviet economy and of course the need to accumulate capital out of surplus value. There was a labour market in the Soviet Union. A regulated one admittedly but a market all the same. Labour power was as commodity that was bought and sold at a price which was the wages which Russian workers received. If you argue that there was no laboutr market you might as well argue there were no wages which is absurd. Ditto profits. In fact state enterprises were obliged to keep profit and loss accounts and there was certainly pressure exerted on managers fron on high to ensure profitability without which the the funding of the state apparatus itself would have been problematic. Nevertheless it is a myth to suppose that wage levels were not influenced by supply and demand. State enterprises did retain a not inconsiderable degree of flexibility particularly in the area of adjusting wage levels (so called central planning notwithstanding)and there was often fierce competition between enterprises over supplies of labour especially skiiled labour with vacancies frequently being advertised at factory gates. The attempt to reduce labour mobility - for a while during the Stalin years it was illegal to change jobs with official permission - proved futile in the end and caused rising resentments "socialist" economy labour was not a commodity. It certainly was! You had employers and employees. The relationship between them was a commodified one, a quid pro quo market transaction. The fact that the price of this commodity is not established via the normal market interplay of supply and demand is neither here nor there. As I said before, even in overtly capitalist countries, there are regulatiory factors that come into play such as minimum wage laws. In state capitalist countries, this regulatory approach is taken somewhat further. However a regulated market is still a market and a fixed price is still a price. There is still the fundamental buying and selling relationship at the bottom of it all. Despite the fact national wage rates might be established centrally, enterprises could and did exercise a considerable degree of discretion in the hiring of wage labour and in offering employment benefits. Competition between enterrpises was particularly fierce in relation to skilled labour and various ruses might be used to attract and hold onto such labour. We need to distinguish between the abstract theoretical model of the so-called socialist economy and the empirical reality of what actually went on.

There is not, and never can be, some single vast plan devised a priori fashion which is then handed over to the producers to implement. It does not matter whatever refinements you introduce - like the notion of "material balances". It cannot possibly work. And the reason why it cannot work has nothing really to do with whether or not modern computers have the number crunching capacity to make it work.

It cannot work, quite simply, because for this vast single plan to work, all the millions upon millions of inputs and outputs that comprise the raw data upon which the plan is constructed , need to be held constant, need to remain linked together in the ratios exactly intended by the plannners themselves. Any all alteration to any part of the plan has ripple consequences for every other part of the plan which will undermine the coherency of the plan itself. But change happens all the time. It is unavoidable. Thus central planning in this classic sense of apriori society-wide planning must iinevitably founder. The plan devised by the planners will never ever get a chance to be implemented - even assuming it could be put togther in the first place. There is , in fact, no alternative but to incorporate some kind of feedback mechanism into the economy. This means acknowleging once and for all that the overall pattern of production is not, and never can be, something that can be consciously planned but rather is something to be arrived at through the interaction of many plans.

It is not the lack of computing power that is the problem; it is the inherently problematic relation between the real world out there and the Plan itself. This is not simply a matter of natural calamities or logistical bottlenecks happening . It is also a matter of having to enforce targets to ensure delivery of inputs or consumer goods in the quantitites required as well as impose the strictest rationing

If that is the case - if a planned economy means a single society-wide plan in which every conceivable input and output is coordinated and predetermined in advance - then it is obviously a non starter. Becuase everything is intercoonected all it takes is for the supply of even one input to fall short of what was planned and you would have to recalculate all the inputs and outputs once again. In the real world the one thing you can predict is that life will be unpredictable.

So you are left with the only other option on table - an economy that has many plans instead of just one. The question is - do you allow these many plans to adjust spontaneously through the market or do you allow then to adjust spontaneously through mechanisms established by a non-market and non-statist communist economy? The basic infrastructure of a commmunist system of resource allocation already exists today under our very noses.

Free access entails - amongst other things , a self regulating system of stock control which of its very nature is capable of responding very rapidly to shifts in demand. If people come to reduce their demand for a particular product this will manifest itself in a build up of surpluses, prompting distribution points to cut back their orders from suppliers who, in turn, will reduce their inputs for said good from their own suppliers and so on further back along the production chain. The opposite would happen if people increased their demand for a good. This would automatically trigger a signal for more of such a good and hence the inputs for such a good. The point is all this is perfectly possible today and more so now with the development of computerised system of stock control. A self regulating system of stock control which responds directly and promptly to changes in the pattern of demand from both production units and consumers provides the necessary data we need relating to stocks of inputs. It then becomes a matter of economising most on what is scarcest. The "relative scarcity" of any input is a function of the demand for the end product of which it is a component and of the technical ratio of input to output (or product itself). In this way it is quite possible to rank the relevant inputs in terms of their relative scarcity. So selection of the least cost combination is entirely practicable in a communist society. Only the method of doing it is quite different to what happens with a common unit of accounting. It is what I call a "lateral" approach to cost accounting rather than a "vertical" approach. We select technical combinations of inputs that minimise as far as possible our reliance upon scarce inputs in favour of more abundant alternatives. This is not an exact science but its the orientation of decisionmaking that counts - the fact that we are operatiing within a systemic constraint that pushes us always in the direction of economising most on what is most scarce - which makes it an eminently sensible and reasonable principle to apply.

We never claim we will have totally free access to everything. Hypothetically it may be possible but we should not assert that it will be the case. However, we now have the technological capacity to ensure the production of most things in sufficient quantities to enable them to be made available on a completely free access basis, As for the other things that cannot be produced in sufficient quantities, we can have a form of rationing but a form of rationing totally different from Marx's labour voucher scheme. Those goods that need to be rationed will tend to be those goods deemed to be of low prority within some form of socially agreed hierarchy of production goals. The effect of such a scheme will be to systematically skew the allocation of resources in favour of high priority end uses wherever and whenever bottlenecks arise. That does not mean the discontinuation of production of low priority goods , it just means that it might requre casting around for other more abundant alternative inputs. In the meantime shortages and delays will likely result. So some goods will be in short supply and others not. It is the former that need to be rationed in some way and the question then arises - what criterion are you going to use to ration goods with? A rationing system (perhaps,for instance, required for air travel tickets) that would be straightforward and simple to operate is required. A first-come-first-served arrangement may be appropriate in some situations but maybe unacceptable for all sorts of reasons in others. What might be the criteria that such a system of rationing could use to distribute those goods in short supply? Firstly, let us remind ourselves again that we are talking only of some goods - most likely, non necessities - and only insofar as they are in short supply which may or may not turn out to be the case. So, clearly, this in itself would rule out the idea of labour vouchers as a mean of rationing which would have to be a generalised approach applying to all goods, or not at all, and which we have already rejected, in any case, on other grounds. Secondly, it is important to note that the transformation of society from capitalist to communism will not immediately transform the material legacy that the former will leave to the latter. In other words, from the point of view of individuals themselves, the immediate material circumstances they find themselves in will still differ strikingly from one person to the next.
If there is one thing that encapsulates such a difference it has to be the quality and nature of housing stock. This is a hugely important material consideration for anyone - one's accomodation. The houses that we live in are a massively important component of our quality of life. In capitalism, we see an enormous variation in housing stock - from the tin shacks of some shanty town Favela, clinging perilously to a hill's steep slopes, to the luxurious splendour and spacious comfort of some stately home. Clearly, there are some things we can do more or less immediately about remedying such material inequality. For instance, individuals do not have to live in run down shoddy accommodation if they do not wish to when there is already an abundance of empty but reasonably sound housing stock lying around and waiting for someone to move into. But it is not just empty housing stock that we are talking about either - there are many offices, shops warehouses and so on that could be more or less easily converted into suitable accommodation. This is quite apart from taking steps to immediately improve and upgrade what one's existing home. That stately mansion, for example, with it twenty bedrooms could provide accommodation for several people who could then help to maintain and revitalise it . Far better that than allow it to gradually go to seed in the hands of its two aging incumbents who can no longer afford the servants to do the cleaining or the repairs to prevent the dry rot from spreading.

Because the housing stock we will inherit from capitalism will be highly variable in quality and while no doubt every effort will be made to improve the quality of the houses that people live it will take a while before everyone can expect to be housed decently. Hence the notion of "compensation". Of necessity, some people will continue to live in substandard for some unspecified time - we cannot just magic decent homes out of thin air (although it needs to be said in capitalism there are millions and millions of empty and perfectly habitable homes.) Huge variations in the quality of housing stock could prove a source of much social friction. This needs to be recognised and dealt with and the most apprpriate way of doing that is by compensating individuals who have to put up with poor quality housiing in the meantime by giving them priority - perhaps time-limited - access to rationed goods.

So there is certainly much that can be done immediately to ameliorate the housing situation but equally, it has to be said, there is much that cannot be done immeidately . It will take time - perhaps many years - to overcome capitalism's huge structural legacy of material inequality in respect of housing. And it is precisely housing that could furnish the criterion upon which a system of rationing might operate which can be dubbed the "compensation model of rationing", using the term "compensation" advisedly because this is indeed what it would entail. Since it is not logistically possible for everyone in a full blown communist society to take possession of good quality accommodation all at once, and from the word go, then it would seem only right and proper that those who cannot should, in some sense, be "compensated" for having to put with less than satisfactory accommodation in the meantime. This would accord with egalitarian ethos of a communist society and with a sense of natural justice. It would serve to heal and to bring harmony rather than sow dissent and social friction.

How such individuals could be compensated could? It could take the form of granting them priority accesss to those goods that are subject to rationing. This could conceviably be a graduated scheme with different levels of priority access corresponding to the assessed ranking of the housing stock in which people are living. The beauty of such a scheme is that it is flexible, straightforward and relatively simple to implement. Certainly, it would not require some vast sprawling bureaucracy to administer. For instance, distribution stores stocking goods that are often difficult to get hold of and thus need to be rationed, could reserve such items for a specified period of time during which time only those with priority access rights and able to present the appropriate documentation to prove it, would be entitled to take them. Upon expiry of that time period any remaining goods could then be made available to the general public at large to take as they see fit on the basis of free access.

The technical or administrative process of mapping out this inequality and calibrating a system of rationing to match, is eminently achievable. In the UK, for instance, there is a system whereby every property is placed in one of several bands for local taxation purposes. Of course in communism there won't be council taxes to be raised but there is no reason why properties could not be similarly banded according to a number of objective criteria. A rough points system which assessed properties on the basis of objective criteria such as size, facilities, overall condition and so on could be applied to facilitate the banding process and the occupants of the property in question could then be issued a certificate indicating the band it fell under. This information which would also be useful to local communities in their efforts to upgrade housing stock could then be utilised for the purpoise of implementing a system of priority access to rationed goods which would tend by the very nature of things to be low prority goods such as luxury items.
This is merely a suggestion - to illustrate one possible practical way in which the scheme might be operated. No doubt there are any number of other ways in which it might be operated and far be it from us to specify and set in concrete the precise details of any arrangement to be adopted. Rather, it is the underlying principle or rationale of such a proposed scheme that we wish here to elucidate. Its purpose is to signal or make transparent society's recognition of the fact of material inequality and its intention to do something about it and, most importantly, in accordance with its egalitarian values. The basic mechanism of such a rationing system is certainly something that is open to discussion but administratively speaking , however it is organised, it would be far simpler and more straightforwad than, say a labour voucher system whiich is itself would be dependent upon a generalised and massively complicated system of labour time accounting

The proposal to institute some form of rationing for some goods - non-rationed goods would, by definition, be distributed on the basis of free access so that you would have, in effect, have two parallel distribution systems operating side by side - presupposes some way of prioritising the goals of production and the allocation of inputs generally. This is an integral part of a larger system of production whose different components are will be functionally interconnedted. In exploring the nature of these connections we shall at last bring to the light and systematically explicate the inner workings of a post capitalist alternative to contemporary capitalism

Vertical cost accounting in terms of a common unit of accounting is itself inherently more costly because it is predicated on a complex bureaucratic apparatus that seeks to cost factors of production in these terms. This has opportunity costs: the more bureaucracy you require, the more effort and resources you draw away from direct production for human need. Labour time accounting will require a massive bureaucratic apparatus to be fully effective on its own trerms. Laibman has distinguished between two forms of planning - "project planning" and "systemic planning", the latter being an attempt to bring the different sectors of the economy within a single centralised planning framework. I have no real problem with labour time accounting in the first sense. Accouting for, or factoring in, labour requirements alongside a communist system of calculation in kind makes sense. It is however an entirely different proposition to seek to centrally direct anbd allocate social labour according to imputed labour values. This is where labour time accounting becomes central planning in the classic sense of a single society wide planning and that is a complete non starter.

Critics say labour is finite but so too is the demand side of the equation effectively limited and will be particularly so in free access communism since many goods serve today as status goods which will no longer be needed. Free access makes it pointless wanting such goods when everyone can freely avail themselves of them. The only way logically that you can gain status in free access communism is through your contribution to society and not what you take out of it. Indeed, there will simply be no point in taking more than you need. Its like taking water from a public fountain. You dont take more than you need just becuase its free and available in abundance, do you? That would be silly

On the question of priorities - X or Y. If it is obvious to you that grain is more important than flat screens then why will others not see this as well? Wedo not think we need a particularly detailed or elaborate schema regarding social priorities. For the most part we think it can be left to commonsense and an intuitive feel for what is more important. Such prorities would come into the play in the allocation of resources only where there are material constrains in the sense of a shortage of a particular input to meet the multiple demands for such an imput. Then it would make sense to allocate said in put according to some notion of society's priorities. But that does not prevent lower priority goods from being produced by resorting to technological substitition and the like.

Supply and demand can be pretty easily matched up through what is called a self regulating system of stock control using "calculation in kind" ("in kind" or "volumetric" calculation, is where actual human needs are quantified concretely by use and need without the mediation of value is essential to communism) which is in fact what happens today - except that alongside calculation in kind (counting physical stock and the rate at which they are removed from the shelves), what we have today also is a system of monetary accounting. In fact the computer technology that we have today makes this all eminently feasible

In capitalism there is a need to compare different bundles of factors with a view to arriving at the least cost combination. This implies commensrability and hence a single unit of account to which all factors can be reduced - price. This reasoning will not form a part of a socialist economy. In socialism, commensurability will actually no longer be an issue. What you would be looking at instead is relative availabity or scarcity of any particular input. This is a function of 1) the technical ratio or make up of the product of which that factor is an input and 2) the total demand for that product. Seen from this ppoint of view, the relative scarcity of any factor within any given bundle or combination of factors can be compared to the relative scarcity of any other compoment factor, that factor being the most scarce in these terms being called the limiting factor. It is called the llmiting factor becuase it determines the limits of how much of a given product you can produce. In agricultural science where the term was originally introduced (by Justius von Liebig) the traditional limiting factor inhibiting agricultural output was nitrogen fertiliser. The development of alternative artifical sources of fertiliser tended to mean some other factor (e.g. water supply) becoming the limiting factor.

This briefly hints at the way in which a socialist society will approach the question of economising on resources - by economising most on what is most" relatively scarce" within any combination of factors- and not by approaching the matter via some form of aggregate decision making with a view to arriving at some overall least cost combination between different combinations. The latter is in fact a very blunt approach which conceals more information than it reveals. . Think of how the use of money as a single unit of account - the same would appliy to labour values - overlooks external costs( or "externalities") for example.

There will be some role for labour time accounting in a communist society but it would be a much more modest and restricted role than that envisaged in the centrallised apportionment of social labour in accordance with a definite social plan . It would be more along the lines of indicative planning with rough estimates of the amount and types of labour required for specific projects. And above all, it would supplement, rather than replace, communism's primary mode of calculation - calculation in kind .

Labour Time Vouchers

Labour vouchers were advocated by Marx as a form of rationing in lower communism. They are not at all based on the wages system because, as Marx explained in The Critique of the Gotha Programme, the workers do not exchange their products. There is no commodity production. Wage labour implies the separation of the producers from the means of production whereas in lower communism, the means of production are owned by everyone.

We don't favour labour vouchers - it is far too cumbersome as a mechanism for rationing. If you are going to have rationing, at least for some goods, there are far more effective and straightforward mechanisms than this. There is now no reason why most goods could not be distributed as free goods as would be the case generally in Marx's higher stage of communism. Marx put forward this proposal somewhat half heartedly merely as a way of getting to grips with, and responding to, what he called the "unavoidable defects" of the first phase of a communist society where the means of prpduction were not yet fully developed to permit full blown communism. In other words, labour vouchers were a form of rationing. It is pretty clear that he envisaged them being abandoned as society moved into the higher phase of communism - free access communism - as goods and service became more and more abundantly available. In the Critique of the Gotha Programme he talked of the principle " from each according to ability to each according to need " coming to apply in higher communism . This expression, which I think was first coined by Louis Blanc, was deliberately framed in opposition to the doctrine of the followers of Saint-Simon, "Let each be placed according to his capacity and rewarded according to his work" with the clear implication that work should be unremunerated and voluntarily undertaken.

There are numerous problems associated with LTVs and the allied proposal of pricing goods in labour time units. To cite just one, Marx talked of the producer getting back from society "exactly" what he put into it (after variuous deductions had been made) but how exactly do you determine what someone has contributed? How do you compare the productivity of a dentist and a steel worker for example. Do you treat each skill exactly the same and what does that mean in terms of incentives (for which reason advocates of labour vouchers propose such a scheme in the first place - on the grounds that workers need to be "compelled" to work by linking consumption to pay). Not all workers of a given skill level accomplish the same work in an hour

This is just one of many problems. The labour voucher scheme would, in the end, prove to be hugely bureaucratic and wasteful of human labour, nothwithsanding all that computer power at our finger tips will quite likely create conditions that will enable the restoration of petty commodity production and eventually capitalism itself.

Engel's remarks to Schmidt in 1890 reinforces Marx that when the springs of cooperative wealth flow more abundantly, the principle "from each according to ability to each according to need" can the be implemented. Meaning none other than free access communism where wealth no longer needs to be rationed and where labour is freely and voluntarily undertaken - the one thing logically implying the other and vice versa. The quote is interesting also in view of the discussion on what was meant by a future "socialist society" i.e. communism:

"There has also been a discussion in the Volks-Tribune about the distribution of products in future society, whether this will take place according to the amount of work done or otherwise. The question has been approached very "materialistically" in opposition to certain idealistic phraseology about justice. But strangely enough it has not struck anyone that, after all, the method of distribution essentially depends on how much there is to distribute, and that this must surely change with the progress of production and social organization, so that the method of distribution may also change. But everyone who took part in the discussion, "socialist society" appeared not as something undergoing continuous change and progress but as a stable affair fixed once for all, which must, therefore, have a method of distribution fixed once for all. All one can reasonably do, however, is 1) to try and discover the method of distribution to be used at the beginning, and 2) to try and find the general tendency of the further development. But about this I do not find a single word in the whole debate." http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx...s/90_08_05.htm

Against Labour-Time Vouchers

To summarise our opposition to Labour Time Vouchers:

1) Many advocates of labour vouchers support the idea of differential payments according to labour contribution. This raises the problem of how you measure one person's contribution in relation another's.

2) Any kind of quid pro quo or exchange set up raises motivational issues and fosters egoism. If you pay people differently people will disagree with the pay rate assigned to them. If you pay them the same, a nuclear scientist will contend that her work is of far greater import than a garbage collector and she should be paid much more. Friction and discontent are almost guaranteed. Not only that, you have no way of ensuring that people will not gravitate towards the most congenial work if all work attracts the same rate. This is because quid pro quo set ups enocourage one to think in terms of what is in one's own interest and not the interests of the larger society. It promotes an atomised individualistic perspective. Garbage will remain uncollected. You can of course restrict labour mobility and centrally allocate labour but then you are back to the capitalist state and that in itself creates more problems than it solves. Any kind of quid pro quo set - "I give you something in return for you giving me something else" - has a built in conflict of interests that orientates individuals to adopt an egoistic or self interested approach vis-a-vis others. You are advocating an exchange economy of some type - though I still fail to see any substantive difference between your system and capitalism other than the fact that you want to wave a magic wand and make every one get paid the same, despite economic competitition. You have already admitted that managers would be held accountable and that there would be incentives for firms to become more efficient. That can only mean they would be differentially remunerated according to their performance. Managers will want to reduce labour costs for example presumably by reducing hours worked or even laying off workers. How else, after all, is "efficiency" to be measured in your system other than by net income - the difference between revenue and costs. In pursuit of net income, managers incentivised by the competitve desire for higher remuneration will soon enough pit themselves against the workers.

3) A labour voucher scheme will require a huge bureaucracy to administer - on the one hand to administer, police and record labour inputs and on the other to administer police and record purchases. Labour vouchers will require labour time accounting across the board which is massively complicated. You might pay people the same but for planning/allocative purposes you certainly cannot treat labour inputs as equal. The stock argument that we can do all this with the super duper computer technology we have is no argument at all. Computerisation certainly helps with calculation but this is much more than a problem of calculation. Its also one of evaluation and enforcement. Whats to stop people abusing the system. Who is going to monitor the monitors? And so on.

4) To ensure that goods are cleared at the stores at an efficient rate you have to ensure that the sum total of the face value of vouchers issued equals the sum total of labour inputs in the sphere of priduction. Otherwise you risk incurring huge structural shortages or surpluses. This applies not only at the macro level but for specific goods too. One proponect, Cockshott, in his book suggested selling goods at above or below their labour content in order to influence consumer spending habits but already this is a significant departure from the strict labour voucher scheme. Equally significantly it opens up the path for speculative buying and selling of goods and hence corruption. what happens to goods after they have been purchased from the public stores. It is in this respect that a role for speculative buying and selling of goods on the black market exists as a very real possibility

5) People under a labour voucher scheme are reputedly paid according to their labour contribution but what about those who cannot work. The very old, the very young, the infirm and the disabled. This was the point made by Marx in the Critique of the Gotha Programme - that it is absurd talking about workers getting the full value of their contribution. Necessarily the working population would have to get less than the value of what they produce and the value of their labour vouchers would have to be adjusted according. All this incidentally would add yet another of unproductive bureaucracy to administer this social welfare scheme

6) There is nothing to prevent a black market emerging alongside and undermining a system of labour vouchers ex post facto Informal commodity transactions can arise making use of goods purchased with vouchers - particularly if , as is the case with most advocates of labour vouchers it is suggested that vouchers are for specific goods. But even if they were not and with your voucher you could buy any good that still does not stop a black market coming into being. Whats to stop you for example growing stuff in you backyard and bartering it for other goods. Whats to stop you combing with others to form an agricultural collective to do the same on a much large scale? Eventually as we know bater will give way to money and in due course this could quite conceivably lead back to capitalism

From the point of view of administration, free access communism would be immeasurably more efficient and streamlined - bureaucracy will be reduced to a bare minimum. The motivational issues will not arise either. People would not be compelled to do just one particular job but would be free to diversify meaning that for any particular job there would be a massive reservoir of labour provided by almost everyone. Social opinion would also play a decisive role in all this. You would no longer acquire status through conspicuous consumption which would be meaningless in a free acess society. The respect and esteem of others - a hugely important motivational factor in any society - would derive from your actual contribution to society and social opinion would directly influence one's choice of work in a dynamic way. Thus, work that was considered most pressing and urgent would, other things being equal, be precisely the kind of work that would attract most prestige and in a dynamic responsive fashion. If people neglected garbage collection the prestige of garbage collecting would rise accordingly as the piles of riubbish mounted. Supply and demand of social prestige in other words would step in to resolve the problem. Lastly of course there would be no reason for a black market to emerge. There is no way a distribution system of paid for goods can outcompete a system of free goods. There is much more to the sociology and economics of free access communism - Marx's higher communism - than some people seem to realise and is betrayed by their knee-jerk responses. Quite simply they havent really given the idea the serious consideration it merits.

Deciding Choice

The whole point of a feedback mechanism is precisely to inform producers of the need to produce and deliver more stock when specific stock levels start running low at the distribution centres/stores. How in those circumstances do you decide which ones to put the labour resources into replenishing? About which end uses to direct labour, or indeed, material resources into, that rather depends on whether or not there is a sufficient supply of the resource in question to meet the multifarious quantified demands placed on it. If there is then this is not really a problem to deal with. If there is not, then I suggest what is needed is some rule of thumb to guide the allocation of resources under these constrained conditions of scarcity and according to some notional idea of society's priorities - something like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, for example. What it means is that high priority goods take precedence over low priority goods. That does not mean the discontinuation of low priority goods, it just means that the production of such goods may requre turning to other perhaps more plentiful substitute inputs - technological substitution - as revealed through a computerised feedback mechanism. This is not an exact science but nor does it need to be. Providing the tendency is to allocate resources firstly to socially determined high priority end uses as opposed to low priority end uses then that is a tendency working in the right direction. Its outcome is rational allocation. A production system needs to know which things to produce more urgently, or as a matter of priority, vis a vis others. This is something that must logically arise at the point at which resources or inputs are allocated. In other words, it has to do with intermediate goods not final goods. It is at this stage, should overall demand for what they produce exceed supply, that production units need to be able to operate wth some kind of sorting procedure when it comes to having to deal with the multifarious requests for the inputs they supply to the producers of final goods and upon which the latter are dependent. This is precisely where the idea of some kind of hierarchy of production priorities comes into play. It provides a rough and ready rule of thumb in a communist society about who gets what first and how much. It doesnt need to be perfectly precise - perfection is unobtainable under any system - but a guideline of some sort is still needed even if subject to constant negotiation.

No system whatsoever can register strength of desire because "strength of desire" is a subjective matter. You dont need to know the "strength of desire" (an idea is rooted in a capitalist "willingness-to-pay" perspective) for items expressed by individuals as far as the communist production system is concerned. A production system does not need to know this nor, indeed, can it know this. "Strength of desire" is, in fact, irrelevant but preferences are not. It is the aggregate pattern of appropriation/consumption that you are interested in from a systems point of view and this is something that will be expressed through a self regulating system of stock control. The feedback mechanism within such a system will reveal consumer preferences automatically and relay or transmit this information to the pruduction units themselves. The "strength of desire” for X will vary from person to person. That means you have to look at the aggregate patten of demand and as far as this aggregate pattern is concerned, it is quite untrue to claim under free distribution there is no way for the system of production to be calibrated by measures of strength of desire or preferences. Shifts in demand from away from cans of beans to meatballs in tomato sauce can very readly be picked up by the stock control system so that the pattern of output can be modified to take into account this shift in demand. Production units are not set up to cater to the needs of you or I as a particular individuals with your own idiosyncratic needs and preferences and cannot be an individual matter in the sense that the production system has to consult you or I as individuals on a one-by-one basis on what needs to be produced. The production system is simply an impersonal construct , a machine like arrangement, that responds to signals that represent aggregate patterns of demand that are constantly shifting and changing It is the self regulating stock control system that mediates the desires wants and whims of consumers and transmit the necessary information to producers in the form of specific orders/requests for fresh stock and so on. "Preferences" so to speak reveal themselves indirectly in the rate and volume in which at different kinds of stock are thus ordered. The production systems are set up to cater to aggregate demand by masses of individuals. All it needs to know is what it has to produce and this iinformation is something that is transmitted to it via a self regulating system of stock control that links production units with each other and with distribution centres to which final goods are destined. So individuals will reveal their preferences via their consumption choices and it is completely iirrelevant from the point of view of producers how strongly these individuals consumers feel about their own preferences. What matters only is a that a preference is expressed as part of an aggregate pattern of demand. No modern production system can ever be calibrated to what particular individuals may want or desire or the intensity with which they want or desire something. That is a myth. Production today is a social process and therefore it follows so must what guides or directs it be social. The question of preferences, the distribution of products and resources must align with the distribution of preferences within a heterogenous population since this was precisely the point - that what the production system has to deal with is an aggregate pattern of demand or preferences - not the “strength of desire” for a product which is a subjective and therefore a personal individual matter.

The opportunity costs of people's consumption choices to some extent this would be taken care of via the social hierarchy of production priorties which would tend to ensure that high priority end uses are catered for first and foremost. Otto Neurath, an advocate of calculation in kind and opponent of any form of common unit of account, made the telling point that with calculation-in- kind you have a much more direct and immediate sense of, and sensitvity towards, the opportunity costs of your decisions. He was particularly concerned about environmental issues and the way in which capitalist cost asccounting tended to externalise environmental costs. In a free access socialist economy people are likely to be more, not less, sensitive to opportunity costs of their actions when these are no longer mediated through the distorting prism of some common universal unit of account - be it market prices or, for that matter, labour time values

Free access communism is all about individuals expressing their individuality. More than any other arrangement, it makes this possible. It is not a question of the community formally appoving or disapproving of your consumption habits but rather of it asserting its own priorities in which you as an individual have a say. It is not a question of some committee formally sanctioning or vetoing a request for some product Rather it is a case of a community setting its priorities in terms of how resources get to be allocated. If a community regards the construction of a health clinic as being a higher priority than a pizza outlet that does not have to mean the latter will not be built. It simply means that in the event that some of the material inputs each have in common (e,g,. certain building materials) are scarce then priority allocation will be to health clinic, That in turn might mean delays in building the pizza poutlet or perhaps switching to alternative building materials, There are many possibilities. But the point is that the construction of the health clinic is quite rightly secured. This is rational allocation

That may or may not have a bearing on what you as an individual might wish to consume insofar as it would influence the allocation of resources. For instance your desire for a luxury yacht may simply not be realisable because other things are deemed much more important. That doesnt mean luxury yachts wont be built; it just means they will have to wait at the back of the queue resource-wise and it does not preclude producing a boat for fishing or indeed recreational purposes, the debate is not about whether or not to build a fishing boat - there might well be ample resources to build it anyway - but rather about the commnity’s priorities in the first place. A free association of producers will make available what people are willing to work to produce. A vote to determine what an individual can have is totalitarian, yes, but a vote to determine what goes into the common store is hardly so. That goods should be provided, on an on demand basis and if everyone wanted to have a high-performance sports car, collectively, everyone would have to understand what was given up in terms of lost activity to achieve this - and, it would be observable, as stocks and production of other goods were run down. It would also be totalitarian to demand you work to produce a sports car, it would only be something that could be achieved by the free consent of labour.
"I want to have a sports car."
"We can do it, but my baby won't get a kidney machine."
"Oh well, i won't have a sports car, then."

How are new products introduced? Through the equivalent of what is today called "market research". Once a demand for a new product is estabished it then becomes a question of sourcing the inputs. Thats where the system of stock control comes in! the only way preferences can be expressed is in demand over the counter - if someone wants a newspaper, they want a newspaper - there is no way if they would be more or less disappointed than another person if they didn't get it. What we could measure, would be people prepared to demand scarce articles (i.e. those with a high demand:supply ratio), since we could infer that if they are prepared to wait/deny it to others, etc., then they must want it quite a lot. But that really is simple measuring supply/demand, and prioritising items with high demand ratios. Labour time is just a useful rough stick, a resource we could measure also in supply demand terms - if a branch of activity were taking a huge amount of the total undifferentiated social effort, we might want to look at it and make some collective decisions about it. You don't have to start out producing millions of units. You make a few thousand prototypes and measure how rapidly consumers take them from the store. Whether the individuals whose job is to develop new products (chemical engineers, mechanical engineers, etc.) can decide on their own to submit the requision to the manufacturing line, or whether some degree of management signoff is also needed, will be society's policy choice. From that point on, it shouldn't be the workers' choice whether or not they want to make them. It should be part of their job requirements to make the quantity needed to keep the orders filled. You can choose your career, but, within each career, you have to do the job that was socially planned. If you don't, you get no credit for showing up at work and you have no income. You can't have the problem of investing in a new product. If all socially owned industries are subdepartments of one organization, resources would come from interdepartment transfers, not investment. The number of people needed in each department would fluctuate when something new is invented, but then the problem becomes one of how to attract more people to work in the sectors where they are needed most, not a problem of investments.

Getting There

Capitalism is not going to collapse. It is not going to implode. There is no internal mechanism that would make this happen. Capitalism may be "catastrophic" in its consequences but the existence of a such consequences does not in itself signify that capitalism is about to "collapse". It is important to keep this distinction in mind. Some have tried demonstrate that there is a falling rate of profit and this will cause the system to grind to a halt. But this prediction has been thwarted, time and time again, by the action of Marx's famous counteracting tendencies. Since the early 19th century people have been confidently predicting capitalism would collapse. It hasnt happened and it wont happen.By not regarding the "proletariat" as something to be manipulated and socially engineered into agreeing with us and by recognising that we ourselves are simply workers and not some vanguard which has to take it upon itself to emancipate the rest of our class. it is our role to put across the case for socialism openly and honestly and not try to engineer our fellow workers into joining with through the advocacy of so called "transitional demands" and the like. The only way capitalism will come to an end is if a majority of workers decide to consciously replace with it non market-non statist-alternative. That, or the system is brought to an end by some external factor - a visiting comet from outer space, perhaps, or some catastophic world war

The first thing to be said here is that working class consciousness and socialist consciousness are not two separate things. It is a totally false dichotomy to suppose that they are. Marx differentiates between a class-in-itself and a class-for-itself. The consciousness of a class-for-itself corresponds, in my view, to a socialist consciousness. To put it differently, socialist consciousness is the awareness of a class of its own wage-slave status. It is important to understand that there is a kind of unresolved tension between the need to develop class unity within capitalism and the revolutionary desire to escape our status as wage slaves. The worker-ist attitude which celebrates the working class for its own sake, which sees socialism as being nothing more than working class empowerment, can be a reactionary belief which ironically keeps workers chained to capitalism. Instead of calling on workers to unite to abolish ourselves as a class, it remains simply at the level of calling on workers to unite for its own sake.

The question of primitive communist societies in relation to a future moneyless socialist society is not unimportant. Specifically it ties in with the bourgeois claims about "human nature" that has often been raised against the possibility of socialism/communism. If 95% of our existence on this planet was without money it cannot reasonably be asserted that our human nature forbids us to abandon money.

The other point specifically about primitive communism is the claim, for example that it " ensured absolutely atrocious living standards because it was so unbelievably ill-equipped to deal with scarcity" This Hobbesian myth, effectively demolished by the likes of Marshall Sahlins, serves as an ideological prop for capitalism because the sub-text is that only by organising into class society and especially capitalism can we ensure an improving standard of living Empirically this is highly questionable. For one thing, Hunter-gatherer societies did not readily relinquish their way of life to embrace settled agriculture. Many Hunter-gatherer societies co-existed and interacted with settled agriculturalist or pastoralist societies over long stretches of time (for example, the San & Bantu-speaking tribes in Southern Africa, like the Xhosa, whose language interestingly enough showed the influence of the San by incorporating the distinctive "click" sound of the latter). So it was a matter of choice and preference as far as Hunter-gatherer societies were concerned. Insofar as their standard of living dropped or became precarious this was often as not as a result ofthem being marginalisied and forced out of their hunting territories onto more ecologically fragile land.

We have to be wary of the underlying assumptions of this whole modernist paradigm that what is the most "modern" and advanced - meaning capitalism - is the best and most productive and can ensure the highest possible standard of living and that what socialism has got to do is just go one better than capitalism in that respect. With regard to agriculture for example there has been a lot of recent literature reassessing the importance and productivity of traditional techniques and stressing the point that there is a lot we can learn from such techniques. We should not just assume modern equals better. In some cases, it is not. There are many example in the literature where traditional agriculture not only produces more per hectare than moder capitalist farming but is also a lot more sustainable Obviously we accept there is no way we can return to a hunter gathering society of primitive communism in a world of 7 billion + and rising. However we need to put the question of primitive communism in its proper context and not allow it to be usurped by the bourgeois mythmakers for their own ideological purposes

The above is a re-edited collection of posts on the discussion website RevLeft from Robin Cox of the World In Common group.