- Capitalism and Alternatives -

A Reply

Posted by: Stoller on December 21, 1999 at 23:03:12:

In Reply to: My responses are threefold. posted by Nikhil Jaikumar on December 21, 1999 at 11:07:48:

: If I understand you correctly, you say that in the perfect society, charity will be unnecessary, because if everyone works for themselves, given a societal structure that preserves equality, everyone will have an adequate standar of livving anyway.

More or less---yes.

: My responses are threefold. First of all, I don't know if that system is desirable. A world in which everyone acts out of self interest, frankly, is not one in which I would like to live. Without charity, what becomes of friendship and love? If there is no room for helping each other, what does friendship mean? It's not for nothing that the same Third Theological Virtue is sometimes called 'charity' and sometimes 'love'.

As a behaviorist as well as a Marxist, I believe that 'charity' FOR THE MOST PART only occurs in settings conducive to giving freely. Charity---even amongst the most caring of individuals---is sharply curtailed by, say, unemployment. IN THE CAPITALIST REGIME, I believe people act primarily out of self-interest. I do not suggest to the proletariat socialism through sacrifice; the average working person has NO ABILITY to sacrifice ANYTHING. What I propose instead is that socialism is a GOOD DEAL for working people, to IMPROVE their lives.

: Secondly, even if desirable, is your self-iinterested utopia acheivable? There will ALWAYS be people who suffer (temporarily if not permanently, victimized by circumstances if not by economic injustice. Even in the wealth (United Sttaes, people die from disease, natural disasters, etc.) There weill always be a need for charity, and self interest is not going to cut it.

Marx made it clear that some of socialist society's produce will need to go into a 'reserve or insurance fund to provide against misadventure, disturbances through natural events, etc.'(1) Lenin, going over those same words, added 'from the means of consumption must be deducted a fund for administrative expensives, for schools, hospitals, old people's homes, and so on.'(2) For example, the Bolsheviks---once in power---permitted paid maternity leaves OVER FOUR MONTHS LONG, something no 'advanced' capitalist is willing to do 70 years later.(3)

: I'm sorry, Barry, but I am not convinced that the ethic of altruism can or should eb given up. Self interest would lead to a very, very bad world indeed.

And to that I say that 'altruism' can only be encouraged by SOCIALISM.

: Not everyone must be either a fan of laissez-faire capitalist tyranny or Stollerist socialism (mandatory job rotation, fully scoilaized labor, and the like). You have said in thr past, when peopel disagreed with you, "Well, then, I suppose you like X" and proceed to launch a very accurate and devastating critique of capitalsim.But that';s not the point. There is all the world of difference between right-wing capiatlism and yoru mdoel, and as such there is a whole world of space for soemone who agrees with neitehr to put down his bucket. I disagree with many features of your utopia, though of course I dislike capitalism more. That doesn't make me a capitalist. Many people might disagree with you, Barry, including communists and socialists. But that doesn't make them capitalists, any mroe than your disagreeing with me gives me the right to call you a stalinist.

I strongly believe that reformist and centrist tendencies ultimately support capitalism.

Although I would enter into specified coalitions with such groups to struggle against capital, I reserve the right to criticise them as I see fit. That way the record is straight when such reformists and centrist later BETRAY the workers---and communists such as I remain willing to further the proletarian revolution without such groups.*



1. Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme, International 1938, p. 7.

2. Lenin, 'The State and Revolution,' Selected Works volume two, International 1975, p. 304.

3. Bukharin & Preobrazhensky, The A B C of Communism, University if Michigan Press 1967, p. 354.

* See Trotsky's 'On the United Front,' The First Five Years of the Communist International volume two, Pioneer Press 1953, pp. 91-109 for more details.

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