- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Socialism isn't started from scratch; it's predicated upon the capitalist mode of production

Posted by: Stoller on November 15, 1999 at 18:43:19:

In Reply to: OK, so effectively you want to start from scratch posted by Nikhil Jaikumar on November 15, 1999 at 12:05:51:

I hope that you have seen this post, which amplifies our theme...

: 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?

Marxian socialism does NOT 'start from scratch,' it starts out from capitalism, the capitalist (industrialized) mode of production and THEN changes the social relations within that mode of production to 'increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible'(1) for ALL PEOPLE. That is the 'historical example to follow.'

: 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.

Yes, and as Engels stated, the process of winning over the small peasant might be a protracted one. BUT the goal IS complete socialization of the means of production.

: Barry, I don't see how something good (communism) can depend on something bad (capitalism) to sow its seeds.

Not capitalism's social relations (which incidentally includes the private ownership of the means of production that you, under 'some' circumstances advocate), but its mode of production is good. Productivity capable of sustaining EVERYONE never existed before capitalism (and the industrial revolution). To advocate the feudal mode of production (only with a 'socialist' distribution) is to advocate the POVERTY of feudalism's mode of production FOR EVERYONE.

: 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.

Hunting and gathering, which produces negligible surplus, only 'works' in very hospitable climates. To advocate hunting and gathering in say, Siberia, is to advocate crushing poverty. I'm sorry, Nikhil, but you're romanticizing the primitive. Where do the Kung San get their medicines, their books, their etc., etc.? Or is it lovely that 'some cultures' don't have them?

: But there is enough to go around for all right now, without socialized production. If we managed to achieve 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.

Are you referring to the West or to the Third World when you say 'there is enough to go around for all right now'?

If you wish to preserve the primitive conditions of the undeveloped nations WHILE supplying them with various necessities from the industrialized nations, then you're not only perpetuating a global division of labor (a predicate of inequality) but 'accepting' the premise that socialism requires (at least in part) the productivity of capitalism---which is MY point.

: No, plenty of societies have been sustainable and relatively prosperous under a whole gamut of economic structures. Hunting-gathering, peasant communism, and what is derisively called 'revisionist socialism' have spawned PLENTY of successful examples.

Then WHY aren't good socialists like you and me packing up to go hunt and gather in one of these utopias, Nikhil?

: A small number of idlers can be sustained...

This shows the petit-bourgeois strain of your socialism at its baldest...

: Incidentally Red Deathy, a non-utopian, roundly denounces the idea that work should be coerced.

If that's the case, then he won't mind doing all the work while you and I sit back and watch, will he?

: What happened to Russia in 1920?

All the small and middle peasants withheld grain from the cities after the Civil War ended. They buried the grain---which demonstrated that they had more than enough to eat for themselves. They simply wanted to make a profit...

: I mean that whether a man can be on our side depends on his moral worth, not on his class identity.


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

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

: 'Force' means many things to many people...

Ah, you're equivocating. Be honest and admit you were wrong.


1. Marx & Engels, The Communist Manifesto, International 1948, p. 30.

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