- Capitalism and Alternatives -

OK, so effectively you want to start from scratch

Posted by: Nikhil Jaikumar ( DSA, MA, USA ) on November 15, 1999 at 12:05:51:

In Reply to: Sorry, plumbers---here's some historical materialism (and job rotation) to comfort you posted by Barry Stoller on November 14, 1999 at 14:37:14:

: : So which historical model IS your model, barry? Do you not have one? it's easy to criticize, nothing is going to be perfect.

: My model, I believe, is Marx and Engels' model. An industrialized nation, materially prepared to put the productive forces of man to the benefit of all, is the FIRST condition required for successful socialism. Marx looked to England, France, and Germany; now Russia and other Eastern nations seem more likely---politically speaking.

OK, so effectively you want to start from scratch, designing the Marxist society along the lines set out in the book. Isn't it better to have some kind of actual historical example to follow?

: A nation must be materially prepared for socialism---not merely politically prepared. If there's ANYTHING that the 20th century 'proved,' it is that...

: My inclination to disregard agricultural, peasant Communism owes to the lack of socialized production in those countries.

But plenty of these states COMBINED socialized and individual agricultural production. For example, Nicaragua combined cooperative, state-owned and family landholdings. Presumably, if socialism is made attractive, enough people will socialize their holdings to result in, eventually, a system where socialized farms outnumber individualized ones. What I am saying is that the fraction of socialized farms need not reach 100%, and in fact, I don't think that it would be a good idea. Some farms are too small to be socialized, others are in remote areas, some are run by peaants who may not like their neighbors, others by people who want to do things a little differently than whatthe majority decides, others are run by peasants who simply like to do things on their own (like the extra challenge or whatever). If one of teh goals of socialism is to maximize the happiness of the least well off (a group which includea many peasants) then I think that allowing them the free choice to make their own decsiion, including to decide between socialized and individualized production, is an important component of that happiness.

:The whole Marxian paradigm is a sort of evolution of a society's mode of production---with the important addition of class consciousness resulting from the proletarianization (land expropriation) of the masses.

Barry, I don't see how something good (communism) can depend on something bad (capitalism) to sow its seeds. If communism is good, which it is, then it should be achievable without going through the capitalist stage. This was the line taken most famously by Nyerere in Tanzania.

: Put simply, capitalism first creates an abundant mode of production and THEN socialism adopts productive power---altering the social relations of that productivity to favor the workers instead of the bosses. Historical materialism.

: I disregard the peasant / petty proprietor because THAT mode of production is preindustrial. The whole idea behind 'Scientific Socialism'

Yes, it is 'pre-industrial'. Does that make it wrong? The pre-industrial world had many good dieas, amnd in some ways certain pre-industrial, pre-agricultural societies have advantges over us. The Kung San, for example, or at least those who still practice hunting&gathering, work only about 3 hours a day, eat a diet with adequate calories, plenty of vitamins and more protein than modern Westerners, and live in a pristine environment with population stability. Therefeore your indictment of everything pre-industrial doesn't seem to stand.

: (yes, I use quotes with that term) is that the level of productivity must be abundant (mechanized, divided) BEFORE the social relations can be changed from capitalism to socialism. The idea is that the mode of production becomes developed TO THE POINT where there IS 'enough to go around for all.'

But there is enough to go around for all right now, without socialized production. If we ,managed to acheive population stability, then we could easily provide for everyone in the world just by equalizing things a bit, taking the excess from those who don't deserve it. The problem right now is distribution.

: Continuing with the archaic peasant / petty proprietor (feudal / guild) mode of production would not SUSTAIN a productivity providing abundance for all. It never has---and it's had centuries to make its case...

No, plenty of socienties have been sustainable and relatively proseprous under a whole gamut of economic structures. Hunting-gathering, peasant communism, and what is derisively called 'revisionist socialism' have spawned PLENTY of successful examples. Wherever these examples fell they fell because of external factors, not because of internal inadequacies. The Kung San society was overcome by armed South African capitalists, the Nicaraguan by fascist terrorists, etc. etc.

: (Now, clearly Marx underestimated the problem of pollution, sustainability, etc.---which is outside the scope of this post---and that problem CERTAINLY calls for Green participation in the socialist project...)


: : You're begging the question by assuming that your interpretation of Marxism is correct. The fact that there are many Communists who disagree with you means that your statement is an opinion, not a fact, and therefore you can't use it as evidence.

: That's right. I AM opining.

: And I will continue to opine MOST UNEQUIVOCALLY on the NECESSITY of job rotation to insure that, in the next socialist future, no hierarchal castes ever form.

: : If you go from being forced to work by capitalists to being forced to work by stalinists, I don't see a significant improvement.

: Socialism---contrary to neoliberal propaganda---is no welfare state. People will be required to work. Only utopians like Morris thought a socialism could be sustained by idlers.

I don't agree. A small number of idlers can be sustained-and who the hell are you or me to decide what consitutes idleness, anyway? Do you think that priests who don't 'work' in production are idlers? They perform useful services; I wouldn't consider them idlers at all. The Burmese socialists and Laotian communists have no problem with the Buddhist monks, nor do the Keralite Communists with the Hindu sadhus. The Nicaraguans got along very well with Catholic priests, especailly due to the influence of Ernesto Cardenal. The Burkinabe revolution had no problem with tribal hunter-gatherers and those who saw fit to remain outside the cash economy. The Yugoslav revolution ahd no problem with ;idle' artists. Etcetera.

Incidentally Red Deathy, a non-utopian, roundly denolunces the idea that work shoudl be coerced.

: : So everybody must be propertyless? Is that the idea? Are you merely in favor of expropriating productive property, or personal property as well?

: It should be obvious that I have been talking about socializing the means of production, NOT consumption!

Well, 'property' can mean different things, i was just making sure. Some ';socialist' states have seen fit to socialize consumption. Communal dining halls in China, etc.

: : The peasant in general is not a profiteering class; most of tehse guys are merely trying to survive.

: Most private owners of means of production tend to cartels and monopoly. American the Beautiful started off with 'just small farmers,' you know...

Yes, and would be it had remained that way! Jefferson was no democrat, of course (he always called himself a 'Republican' and was opposed to democracy') but he was an anti-capitalist, and fro that I consider hoim prescient.

: Nikhil:
: There is a qualitative difference bewtyeen a farmer and a senator, stemming from the fact that the senator directly affects far more people in far more significant ways than an individual small farmer does.

: Stoller:
: Again: refer to Russia in 1920.

: : What about it? That didn't answer my question.

: Oh, yes it did!

Did it? How? What happened to Russia in 1920? My knwoledge of European hsitory is very inadequate.

: : Do you not believe that peopel can exist as hermits, or as independent self-sufficient farmers outside the cash economy? Go to any Third World country.

: Third World countries offer POOR examples of socialism.

: Please read my opening statement again...

But they do allow for hermits.

: : [W]e should definitely reach out to the petty proprietor! Exactly! They are not the enemy of teh peopel, unless they CHOOSE to be.

: Agreed in full.

: BUT the petty proprietor should---and must---realize that socialized production is the route to material abundance. 'Peasant,' after all, is a synonym for impoverished!

: : Some capitalists are good people who will want to eb on our isde.

: Here you lose me.

I mean that whether a man can be on our side depends on his moral worth, not on his class identity. Corliss Lamont, Henry Wallace, Castro, Guevara, Jyoti Basu, and many other wealthy or bourgeois individuals made moral and political choices taht ahd NOTHING to do with their class identity.

There was a boss of a mining company in America last year who sent his newly hired mining engiennr to Colombia. The FARC kidnapped the engineer and held him for ransom which his family were unable to pay. The boss went down to Colombia, talked with teh FARC, and offered to be held as a hostage in place of his employee. It was several months before his friends could get together enough money to free him. Now are you going to argue with taht? is that not a moral act? I don't think tehre's any question about it.

: : Certainly it is not an established fact that Marxism requires force...

: Read the last two paragraphs of the Communist Manifesto and say that again!

'Force' means many things to many people. If 'force' means seizing control of teh government and passing rational laws with due process taht declare certain forms of property illegal, and then expropriating those properties through the force of legal authority, then I agree with it (mostly). If it means beginning by assassination, random terrorism, or arbitrary and non-systematic seizures, then I can't. (Arbitrary seizures and assassinations may be justified in very specific circumstances. For his crimes, Somoza deserved everything that the Montonero Bazooka Squad gave him. Terrorism is never acceptable).

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