- Capitalism and Alternatives -

I really do think this assessment is uncharitable and unfair.

Posted by: Lark on November 08, 1999 at 15:32:09:

In Reply to: Nikhil's 'Partial' Socialism, and why it wouldn't work posted by Barry Stoller on November 07, 1999 at 22:31:09:


: An economy cannot be a little bit socialist any more than a woman can be a little bit pregnant.
: ---Ernest Mandel.

That as they say is one way of looking at it.

: Nikhil has put forth the idea of a socialist paradigm that leaves space open to partial private ownership of the means of production. His description of ideal socialism puts public ownership of the means of production at 'about' 80% - 90%---leaving 10% - 20% of the means of production in the hands of artists, scientists, and other (so-called) direct producers who (ostensibly) do not exploit the labors of others.
Is that really IDEAL socialism? I'm not so sure I know that if we where to all engage in idealism we would all be believers in complete communism but since I havent seen first international era insurrections and barracade battles recently I, like NJ, have become more pragmatic and accepted that the world can be bettered if not radically changed (that is in the absence of popular revolts).

Furthermore, Nikhil, in this post, envisions a socialist paradigm in which a person is required to perform (only) 8 hours of socialized work or (only) one hour of 'community' labor per week.

What is wrong with this? If I'm right your siting this as an indictment of NJ's position, I really think it's the opposite altogether.

: Aside from his essentially arbitrary numbers (Fourier anyone?), Nikhil's vision of partial socialism is untenable.

What is wrong with Fourier anyway? Can you say Beveridge Plan Barry a complete success for Partial Socialism, I really can see a militant absolutism in your posts Barry it used to be nothing less than Walden two would work, now it's nothing less than Marxism.

: Here's why.

: Nikhil labors under the mistaken assumption that 'direct producers' actually produce directly. This is to assert that scientists not only develop, say, medicines, but they test, manufacture, and distribute them as well. This is to assert that artists not only create say, Beatles records, but they publicize, manufacture, and distribute them as well. In this mistaken assumption, scientists and Beatles alike man assembly-lines, stock warehouses, drive interstate trucks, and operate cash registers to finalize the realization of their 'independent' products.

: Of course, this is not possible. And neither is Nikhil's assertion that scientists and artists do not employ others.

So? What is this meant to convey? Why are you running NJ's ideas into the ground all of a sudden if it's uniformity of opinion you hanker after Barry perhaps adopt a religion but forget the fight for political confomity.

: Moving on...

: Nikhil also asserts here that, by way of example, science labs should be independent from 'the state'---yet receive their funding from 'the state.' (In a socialist society, of course, 'the state' is but a formal description of 'the proletariat.') This is also untenable.

This appears to be a mix of anti-statism and at once centralism, what exactly is your point?

: Here's why.

: Can science exist outside of the society that it purports to serve? An independent science---or art---could easily detach itself from the interests of society and claim the primacy of its own interests, advocating a privileged income or status or authority. Would one be comfortable allowing scientists---say, Skinnerians who believe that human behavior should be controlled by Skinnerians*---the independent control of all scientific means of production?

: Again, the same threat is possible with the artist. Would not an artistic elite, freed from all social accountability, be tempted to create an ideology that asserted that artists should be granted special exemptions and rewards for creating art? This is not exactly a novel idea: according to Veblen, the 'inchoate priestly class' that usurped surplus in early tribal societies had their basis in the division of labor---beginning with the creation of art.**

: The existence of a separate sect of scientists, artists, etc. presupposes a firm social division of labor which, as I've pointed out here, would invariably lead to hierarchy, privilege, and abuse of power.

: Why advocate a separate sect of scientists and artists---but not separate sect of 'planner/managers' or 'senators'? And what would prevent the former from becoming the latter if their specialized means of production were privatized?

Threats from independent thought you mean. Your never going to prevent that, even in your socialist utopia Barry people would read and wonder about the attraction of capitalism politically, possibly be foolish enough to agree with the conclusions of Hayek and co. because such is freedom.

: The issue is private ownership of the means of production.

It seems like you've made that the issue, like all independent thought is a threat, rather than a benefit, to socialism.

: If any portion of the means of production---especially a specialized section of overall production such as science---is left in private hands, then it is wholly possible that such a monopoly would engender a new caste able to exert undue influence upon the rest of society.

And what would society do then? Rest on it's laurals? A socialist society would not.

: Socialism---let us NOT forget---presupposes a planned economy. Putting 10% - 20% of the means of production into private hands puts that much of the social product outside social planning. An important part of the economy would be permitted to withhold itself from social needs---unless and until its demands were met. This, of course, is monopoly---private monopoly, itself an indication that capitalism continues to flourish (and with it, hierarchy, exemptions, and abuse of power).

: In summation, I trust it is now obvious that the idea of a 'partial' socialism---a 'partial capitalism' is another way of putting it---is NOT socialism. Indeed, Nikhil seems to want to expropriate the land owners and the industrial monopolists only to install in their place scientists and artists (and other 'direct' producers). And that, I am afraid, is merely a petite-bourgeois form of 'socialism.'

I'm very afraid to disappoint you Barry but that's definitely not the impression his posts have given me, this a bit like a sectarian spat between Marx and the "Utopians" with you playing the role of Marx and NJ being portrayed as Saint Simon, learn from history or repeat it.

Follow Ups:

The Debating Room Post a Followup