Chattopadhyay's new book, calculation in kind, the SPGB …

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  • #176838

    ZJW
    Participant
    1) I was disappointed that Chattopadhyay’s new book (reviewed by LEW in the current SS) makes no mention of the SBGB’s ideas about calculation in kind with a self-regulating system of stock control rather than centralised planning as such.
           
    If I remember correctly from what I once read on the Forum, Robbo was/had been/has been in correspondence with him. I would think that this would familiarise Chattopadhyay with the matter.
       
    2) Unrelated to all that, I have been puzzled for years by what Chattopadhyay could be proposing in the quotes below (With attention to the part I’ve marked with asterisks.) How? And *what* exactly? Socialism/communism in a single country?
           
    His numerous writing have no doubt said it more than the two times I quote below.
           
    Paresh Chattopadhyay  in Lenin’s reads Marx on Socialism (2011) (https://bataillesocialiste.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/lenin_reads_marx_on_socialism.pdf):

               
    ‘Through the substitution of a whole class by a single party, power was seized – under the slogan “all power to the soviets” – not from the provisional government but really from the soviets themselves, the authentic organs of labouring people’s self-rule created by the self-emancipatory countrywide spontaneous popular uprising in February. Content-wise a bourgeois democratic revolution in process, the February uprising, given its spontaneous mass character, *had, it seems, the potential to go over, at a later phase – given appropriate material conditions – to an authentic socialist revolution, in Marx’s sense, if the labouring masses had been allowed unfettered freedom to continue, through their self administering organs, their march forward*. The Bolsheviks, putting a brake on the process, destroyed this great possibility, the greatest in the 20th century.
           
    This pre-emptive strike was perpetrated independently of and behind the back of the Congress of Soviets depriving, by this singular operation, the Congress of the right of maternity regarding the founding act of the new order. […]’
           
    Paresh Chattopadhyay in ‘Socialism and Commodity Production – Essay in Marx Revival’ (2018):

    ‘Let us emphasise that Russia’s February 1917 movement, content-wise a bourgeois democratic revolution in process, given its spontaneous mass character with its open-ended plurality, *had, it appears, the potential of passing over, at a later date – given appropriate material conditions – into an authentic socialist revolution, if the labouring masses who participated had been allowed unfettered freedom – through their (own) self-governing organs – to continue their march forward*. The Bolshevik seizure of power by a pre-emptive strike destroyed the democratic part of the revolution, and accelerated the bourgeois part.’

    #176906

    robbo203
    Participant

    Hi ZJW

     

    Just to correct something you wrote – no, I haven’t been in touch with Chattopadhyay about the nature and workings of a post capitalist society but I have widely recommended his book – “The Marxian Concept of Capital and the Soviet Experience” –  in my various interventions on internet forums.  But yes,  perhaps he ought to be contacted on the subject you refer to  (I am writing something about that at the moment as it happens which makes a reference to him)

     

    Is he not based in Canada?

    #176907

    ZJW
    Participant

    Robbo,

    Yes, Canada. Université du Québec à Montréal.

    #176954

    ALB
    Participant

    I have not read his new book but he did sent me a copy of one of the chapters in 2013 after I sent him a link to Robbo’s article in Common Voice. I’d be surprised if he didn’t mention at least calculation in kind (rather than labour-time accounting). Just checked with what he sent me and he does, though only in relation to Otto Neurath’s version (central planning) not what was in Robbo’s article (calculation in kind plus self-regulating stock control).

    He favours some form of labour-time accounting, though in terms of actual labour rather than in terms of an attempt to mirror the “socially necessary labour” brought about by the market under capitalism. At least this is what he replied when I asked him “was I right in concluding that, when it comes to measuring labour in a socialist/communist society, it would have to be in terms of actual labour rather than in terms of some estimated ‘socially necessary’ labour?”:

    You are right. The actual labour of the individual in a system of collective production is social labour from the start, it does not need any mediation to prove its socially necessary character. The social necessity of the actual labour is pre-determined due to the collective character of production.

    I think that on this issue, and the one ZJW raised, he is being  “Marxologist”, i.e. expressing (and presumably agreeing with) what Marx himself wrote.

     

    #176959

    shenfield
    Participant

    We often argue that administration of the money system wastes an enormous amount of labor that would be freed in socialism for useful work. But the amount of labor required to administer a voucher system would be of comparable magnitude.

    Actual labor time in socialism would exceed socially necessary labor time for several reasons. They would be equal only if the organizers of the labor process aimed to minimize actual labor time and succeeded in doing so. Even if they tried they could never succeed as that would require elimination of all error. Planning of production requires projections of the future and such projections will never be completely reliable. For instance, account must be taken of loss of crops due to bad weather. Planning could compensate for this by allowing for reserves, but in that case actual labor time is likely to exceed what turns out to be socially necessary labor time. However, I do not think that a socialist society will even try to minimize labor time. To make work more pleasant and healthier the pace will be reduced and jobs will be rotated at frequent intervals to reduce the mental and physical harm of repetitive body motions, even though that will increase labor time. Greater reliance may also be placed on forms of work that increase labor time but are more enjoyable and satisfying, like handicraft production.

     

     

    #177116

    robbo203
    Participant

    He favours some form of labour-time accounting, though in terms of actual labour rather than in terms of an attempt to mirror the “socially necessary labour” brought about by the market under capitalism. At least this is what he replied when I asked him “was I right in concluding that, when it comes to measuring labour in a socialist/communist society, it would have to be in terms of actual labour rather than in terms of some estimated ‘socially necessary’ labour?”:

    You are right. The actual labour of the individual in a system of collective production is social labour from the start, it does not need any mediation to prove its socially necessary character. The social necessity of the actual labour is pre-determined due to the collective character of production.

     

    I wonder how Paresh deals with the problem of the “heterogeneity of labour” which is commonly invoked in critiques of labour time accounting.  Saying that complex labour can be treated as multiples of simple labour is no answer because we cant really know by how much one can be reduced to the other.  This is a quantitative matter.  For labour time accounting to work on its own terms, accuracy is essential otherwise this would result in a gross misallocation of resources.

     

    As for “socially necessary labour time”, Marx’s view was that this could only be (indirectly) revealed through the market process itself which is obviously precluded in socialism so yes, there is only “actual” or past labour (the kind that you can measure with a stopwatch) that the proponents of labour time accounting are let to play with, with all the attendant problems this entails including the enormous bureaucratic costs that Stephen referred to.

     

    I dont see any problem with treating labour power as an input, just like any other input, within the framework of  a decentralised or polycentric self regulating system of stock control and based on the assessment of the (ever changing)  labour requirements of particular production units.   (It is quite easy to imagine something equivalent to todays’ job centres, or an online version of them, operating in a socialist society).

     

    To me this is the only viable form of “labour time accounting” on offer.   What is usually meant by this term is both impractical as a procedure (particularly when it comes to guesstimating the labour content of intermediate goods such as machinery)  and quite unnecessary anyway.  What purpose does it serve that cannot be served  by the much more straightforward procedure involved in a  self regulating system of stock control which no large scale, technologically advanced society – including capitalism – could do without?

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