- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Don't get too excited, Gee (better yet)

Posted by: Barry Stoller on January 17, 19100 at 17:27:31:

In Reply to: You're getting to vital points posted by Gee on January 17, 19100 at 11:52:21:

: Accepted that Russia was 'communis't without proper job rotation and with an elite statist class...

Let's be real cautious when we call the U.S.S.R. communist. Sure, property relations were absent, which is VERY important, but the lack of worker's control of the state and the (subsequent) formation of bureaucratic hierarchy led to a 'socialist' state that was SEVERELY deformed. So deformed that Gorbachev, in his new book, denies expressly that the U.S.S.R. was EVER socialist (and wouldn't he know?). Lenin, lest we forget, NEVER called the U.S.S.R. socialist , either... So, slow down, Gee!

: The problem is universal though - unmotivated people, or those only motivated by fear of punishment, are not productive.

Two points.

One: The capitalist ideology (you imply here) which seperates people into lazy and promethean is quite flawed. A hundred unmotivated people can accomplish MUCH MORE than one motivated person can. Collective labor-power is not to be gainsaid.

Two: I have never denied that incentive might assume the form of indirect coercion. In this post I said:

Force is also an option in the case of any individual's arrant refusal to perform an unskilled work quota.

Perhaps the suspension of skilled work for those who refuse to satisfactorily complete their quota of unskilled work would be implemented. Perhaps, in extreme cases, socialist society, taking a page out of the capitalist song book, may refuse to feed and house those perverse few who refuse to do such work. (To suggest that such a measure would abrogate human liberty is to admit that capitalist society does so on a DAILY basis.)

Which leads us to...

: RD argues, I believe, in part from the above - that job rotation reduces motivation in a similar way to the assigned job scheme any statist quasi stalinist regime may entertain.

: I have always based any argument with RD on the basis that his socialism would work out fine if virtually everyone were happy and motivated to make the effort not only to work but to organise work to be effective.

Yet capitalism is NOT voluntary. If someone doesn't want to work---on capitalism's terms and at capitalism's wages---that person will go homeless and starve. That's indirect coercion.

Why is it you want communism to be voluntary yet, at the same time, you don't expect the same of capitalism (which you defend)? One standard for me, another for you? That's not very honest.

I suspect that you get behind RD's utopian 'socialism' only because, knowing that NO SYSTEM can ever be completely voluntary, you endorse his knowing that it's impossible (thus no threat to the capialist order you support). Eh?

Moving on...

: What about those who are more able - who are uniquely skilled in a way that is not going to be emulated. Lest not pretend that such inequality is quashed by an egalitarian education system - people are different. Will such (rare) people not be exclusively skilled by the fact of their exceptional ability?

Socialism does not deny that different people have differing abilities.


When we say that experience and reason prove that men are not equal, we mean by equality, equality in abilities or similarity in physical strength and mental ability.

It goes without saying that in this respect men are not equal.(1)


The abolition of classes means placing all citizens on an equal footing with regard to the means of production belonging to society as a whole.(2)

Which means: sure, people are not intrinsically equal---but that's no reason to allow some (a minority) to usurp all the means of production (the predicate of wage-slavery). Let each person work to their ability WHILE OWNING AN ALIQUOT SHARE OF THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION. That's socialism (properly defined): From each according to their ability, to each according to their work.*

Your insinuation that EXCEPTIONALLY talented individuals should be EXEMPT from job rotation (sharing a portion of unskilled work) is tacit approval of the social division of labor that MUST lead to hierarchy.

I mean, that was Stalin's reasoning in his 1924 article 'Foundations of Leninism,' the whole General / army metaphor (which perverted Leninism). Go back to Plato's defense of the social division of labor in the Republic and there is is: some are fit to lead, others to follow. Is this what you are defending?

Stoller: The free rider problem [under 'liberty in the workplace,' NOT to be confused with communism as I describe it] occurs, does it not?

: Bingo!

: : Some people deal with the sewage work---while others continue to play guitar. Fine.

: Bingo doubles!

: : But do the guitar players get to enjoy the benefits of the sewage work? Those who did the cleaning might, logically enough, resent the guitar players who didn't contribute.

: Triple Bingo prizes!

: : Thus, those who did the sewage work might declare their sewage work private property.

: Yippee! you've got it...

: : Taking our example further, sewage work as private property begets the primary conditions for commodity exchange. Some people do sewage work, now turned into private property, for others---but only to trade for other services or goods. Division of labor would then be accelerated. A universal equivalant (money) would develop...

: Nice potted history of the development of trading man!

I'd like to think any Marxist worth his / her salt understands the preconditions of capitalism...

: : Such as natural exchange in feudal times...

Now, I'd like to bring your attention to the fact that I have been describing simple exchange (natural economy) under special conditions: while labor becomes private property, the means of production are still accessible to all (the history of feudalism counters this possibility).

My point was not to 'disprove' communism's viability (as you may have thought I did unintentionally), but to demonstrate that the utopian, anarchist childishness that is 'liberty in the workplace' MUST evolve into individual private property AKA petty-bourgeois proprietorship. Hence anarchism IS petty-bourgeois 'socialism.'

So put the drool back in your mouth, Gee. I haven't been deconstructing communism (or socialism): I always manitain that ALL private ownership of the means of production should be abolished (even services). What I've deconstructed is petty-bourgeois 'socialism,' anarchism, whatever it's called...

: Good analogy though, except that it lacks a vital ingredient of capitalism - the keeping of private property.

Exactly! We all know that private ownership of one's individual services MUST lead to private property of the means of production---because labor = use-value (as Marx said).


* My argument against socialism is that wages remain as arbitrary as they are under capitalism (see this post). Hence the need for equal wages immediately, communism properly defined as: From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs. I believe that, under communist centralization and rationalization, material productivity can sustain this goal.


1. Lenin, 'A Liberal Professor on Equality,' Collected Works, Progress 1964, p. 144.

2. Ibid., p. 146.

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