- Capitalism and Alternatives -

I'm advocating the freedom to live one's life as one CHOOSES

Posted by: Nikhil Jaikumar ( DSA, MA, USA ) on January 18, 19100 at 16:07:38:

In Reply to: Not my intention (technical term) posted by Barry Stoller on January 18, 19100 at 10:20:14:

: : What about freedom of choice?

: Are you advocating the 'freedom' to retain subsistence production?

Of course I am! I'm advocating the freedom to live one's life as one CHOOSES, in EVERY sense, as long as it doesn't cause deleterious harm to society, e.g. drug dealers. If you want to live your life in a way I think less than optimal, that's your choice. You and I cannot decide what would be a good life for other people, only THEY can and should do that.

: That's very paternalistic of you---and hypocritical considering that you choose to live in the industrialized U.S.

Not at all. I can't believe you don't see this. are you trying not to understand me on purpose? If I choose to live a certain way, that doesn't give me the right to prescribe the same way of life to everyone. tehy need to have the freedom to choose. I choose to be heterosexual, too, but that doesn't give me the right to presribe to otehr people what their lifestyle (gay / straight) should be. Is that 'paternalistic' too? The fact ois that many people, the Pygmies, San and Penan included, see their ytraditional lifestyle as better than anything to 'modern' world has to offer atthis time. (This doesn';t mean they don't accept modern medicines, etc. it only means that they have no wish to adopt, wholesale, an agricultural, idnustrial or service-oriented lifestyle. And they must be able to make that choice, otherwise freedom is meaningless.

:Seriously, if small peasant proprietorship is your idea of panacea, why are you studying science?

It's not my idea of 'poanacea'. I'm not making value judgments here. But if people want to choose it, as a whole lot of them have and do, they need to have that freedom.

: Why should he? Subsistence production---the term says it all: enough produced to simply live on. No surplus---no culture, no science, no development.

As opposed to teh SUB-subsistence lifestyle that characterizes much of the Third World today? And your understanding of hunter-gatherer and other 'primitive' societies needs a lot of work. They certainly diod have culture, a lot of it. Your earlier statement about religion being an agricultural appendage was flat wrong- I wish you'd at least conceded THAT, for the Pygmies are possibly the most religious culture in the world, and every other hunter-gatherert society has had religion playing a strong role. They had art- just look at the rock paintings in the Kalahari Desert, or the sculptures of West African societies. To some extent, they had scientific progress, although due to historical accidents they lacked the comprehensive system of science that developed in Europe. Look at the birth-control chemicals discovered by the San, or the rational zoological knowledge possessed by the Papuans, or the metallurgy and medicine practiced in West African societies.
This is the reason why I have a hard tiem taking your Marxist inetrpretation seriously, because thethings you say about hunter-gatehrer and 'primitive' (i.e. pre-feudal) agricultural societies are so obviously wrong- it makes me think you haven't even been inetrested in finding anything out about them. The whole idea of forcing history into fixed economic stages is, I think, silly; it works ofr some cultures, e.g. teh West, but not for others. Marx realized he couldn't even make them fit for India, and he had to invent some chimerical construct called teh "Asian Mode of Production', which by the way, takes the cake when you're talking about paternalism. Most of Africa NEVER possessed feudalism, for example.

: : When the Penan are forced off their land, it's not individual ownership that's causing their suffering, it's forced industrial development.

: But individual ownership did not create enough surplus in which the material preservation of their way of life could be effectuated. That's one problem with subsistence production: it cannot defend itself.

From whom? When the capitalists are defeated, tehre won't be anyone tryingto steal their land any longer- they won't NEED to 'defend it.

: Just saying 'capitalism is wrong' isn't enough. How do we stop it?---that's the point. I agree with Marx that it can only be stopped once capital reaches the point in its development where (1) a massive class of people, dispossessed of land, become proletarianized (thus having nothing to lose by collectivizing);

Kerala had virtually no industry to speak of in 1957. Neither did Nicaragua, Burkina Faso, or even Viet Nam.

: (2) technological development and organizational centralization occurs in which abundance for all is materially assured;

It's not clear that peasant production can't do that. It's not clear that surplus hasn't characterized societies at all levels of development. Marshall Sahlins wrote a book called the ORIGINAL AFFLUENT SOCIETY arguing this very point. I'll try and find it and bring out some quotes.

:: and (3) when capital's social relations (subjective conditions) and its internal contradictions (objective conditions)---i.e. market anarchy, periodic crises, immiseration of the masses---fuse into revolutionary possibility.

: You seem to think that peasants can band together and defeat capital. Wrong. Because peasant production is predicated upon private property, they will always defend capital's core values.

WRong on both counts. Peasant production was OFTEN collectivistic (e.g. most of Africa) and they were often very uneasy with the tenets of capitalism; they had no desoire to convert their small farms into capitalisticestates. Anyway, we run the government, we can cause the economy to adopt whatever shape we want; if we want a peasant-socialist state, we can easily stop it from sliding into capitalism through laws and regulation.

: Some are bought off by big capital, others are crushed (with the assistance of those spared). That's the nature of private property itself---individual private property always leads to its own negation, capitalistic private property (monopoly).

Doesn't have to happen unlesswe want it to.

: And that's why the landless mass (i.e. the proletariat) has a revolutionary historic role (whereas the peasant does not).

I am not ocnvinced.

: Capital didn't fall out of the sky, Nikhil; it emerged out of individual private property.

Yes, but it doesn't have to do so again; history is not run by inevitable laws.

: That's why I believe your ideal of a petty bourgeois 'socialism' is unsustainable.

: Stoller: Why would ANY 10% not attempt monopolization of the means of production?

: : Don't give them the opportunity! Dissolve them when they get to a certain size. Make it difficult for them to employ people. make the public sector attractive enough that most people will want to work there. Hamstring the petty proprietors with stringent labor laws and profit-sharing requirements. Set price controls. Make them pay a labor tax (corvee). And throw the book at them when they break any legal or moral codes.

: Stoller: Why would your 'good proprietors' be any different from the proprietors of the past?

: : Because they're smaller, weaker, and we would filter out the bad apples through heavy legal punishment. In my socialist future, it would actually be MORE FINANCIALLY SOUND for epopel to work in the public sector than the private one- and igf it isn't we would make it so. Therefore, people would work in the private sector because they WANT to, not because they are COMPELLED to. This would raise freedom to a whole new level. The only people who would work in the private sector would do so out of family loyalty, creativity, or independence- and they would pay a (small) financial price to win these intangible benefits.

: Lenin's N.E.P., in other words.

: Lenin proved (if nothing else) that socialism built upon a peasant economy with undeveloped industry bringing up the rear does NOT work!

: You reject your own call for 'freedom [at] a whole new level' when you mention all the qualifications above: dissolve them when they reach a certain size, make it difficult to employ people, etc., etc.

Not at all. Such constraints STRENGTHEN freedom, properly understood. Because they ensure that anyone who chooses to work in teh porivate sector will be because he really wants to, not because he is coerced by economic necessity. By making the private sector less profitable, we are doing away with the economic compulsion it provides, and making sure that people act on the basis of their innermost inclinations.

:Why do you presuppose this (petty bourgeois) class won't ever gain influence in and, ultimately, control of the very state apparatus you admit is necessary to control them?

Because they only own 10% of the econony? Because laws prevent them from getting too powerful? Because we will expropriate any who become a clear and present threat to scoialism? Because we, the People, ARE the state apparatus, and we won't be orderedaround by the petty propreitors?

: There's not much socialism in your socialism, Nikhil; you seem to want some liberal form of social democracy.

Simply false. Most social democrats, and all liberals, I think would be appaled at my desire to 1) nationalize four-fifths of the economy, 2) force everyone to do SOME unskilled work, and 3) enact a labor tax, which is basically a small requirement fo forced labor for the state. I think they would also object to the leavy laws and restrictions I would place on petty proprietors, and the idea of severely punishing them if they start behaving immorally.

That's not social democracy. Social democracy is about a private economy, with a minority public sector, and socialized consumption. No liberal would ever defend a labor tax, and no liberal wants a mixed economy with the public sector dominant.
So I don't see hwo you can call me a liberal SD. If I support 80% socialism, and 10% petty proprietorship, then doesn''t that make me four-fifths a socialist and only one-fifth a social democrat?

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