Is Socialism Feasible? Would it be better than the current system? What does the evidence say?

October 2021 Forums General discussion Is Socialism Feasible? Would it be better than the current system? What does the evidence say?

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  • #92119
    Young Master Smeet
    Participant
    Alaric wrote:
    By my definition if you have 6 billlion people having 12 billion 1:1 market based interactions then the market system is operating at a different scale to 600 people having 1200 1:1 market based interactions. My concern about examples of very small proto-socialist societies is that the kind of 1:x relations used in these small societies will not be sufficient (or very useful) to run a society of a much larger scale and complexity. Just as I think market relations tend to be very inefficient for a very small society with simple production processes.

    Let's take, by way of analogy, an armed band.  10 guys with sticks.  If you have 10,000 instances of ten guys with sticks, you don't have any qualitative difference in scale, merely a greater number of instances of the same scale.  If you meld that 100,000 men into a coherent fighting force with a command/control structure, you have a fighting force on a much greater capacity and scale.

    #92120
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    When I use scale as a noun I mean size. Let the organisational process of a gang be an independent group decision. 10, 000 instances of 10 guys with sticks is a larger scale for independent group decision making to operate thanone gang of guys with sticks. When I use the phrase "how does it scale" I mean how does the effectiveness of some process change when you change the scale at which it is operating.In your analogy you suggest replication of the smaller units and say that they would be 10, 000 times more effective at … let's say "sticking" people i.e. there are constant returns to scale. This is reasonable if the 10,000 bands of ten men never have to interact with each other. Suppose that one gang is sufficient to stick a single village and suppose that there are 10, 000 villages. In the past, when there was only a few bands, it would make its own decisions as to which village to stick of the 10, 000 villages in existence. However, now their are 10, 000 bands and each band chooses a village without communicating with each other (as is their tradition) then sometimes you would have many gangs arriving at a village and other villages that received no gangs. In this situation we would have decreasing stickings to the number of gangs (decreasing returns to scale). The gangs need to develop some form of between gang decision making process to try and mantain the effectiveness of sticking at this larger scale. Independent gang decision making is no longer effective, it has become very inefficient, and they need a new way of organising because the scale of the gangs is larger. Nor is it the case that the within gang decision making process is the best thing to use for the between gang decision making process. I suspect that debate about which village to stick are easy between 10 people and not so easy between 10, 000. If it is not then the fundemental mechanism for governing the decisions of stick weilding men everywhere will be transformed by the growth of the stick weilding population.Now tying this analogy back to these small proto-socialist societies. They all function fine, purportedly, as small independent societies. However, we do not know what happens when they have to coordinate with one another due to being in close proximity and sharing the same set of resources. And this is only one problem of increasing the scale of society.  It is also the case that people might want to move between groups. This implies the nature of interactions and relationships within groups will change. So there are at least two problems with increasing the size of the population using these proto-socialist methods of organisation: we do not know if the small groups can coordinate with one another (effectively) using the same methods as they use within the group; and we do not know what happens to within group dynamics when it is easy for people to move in and out of such groups.Now, recall, I am not saying that it is not possible that socialism works. I am just saying there are many reasons to doubt that it would. I can't support socialism if I do not have strong reasons to think that it would work. Currently, proto-socialist societies do not inspire me with a lot of confidence for the aforementioned reasons of scale and complexity.

    #92121
    Young Master Smeet
    Participant

    Right, I think we're on the same page with scalability.So, the thing to crack is the autonomous agency, and then relations between autonomous agencies.  Now, in any large scale firm, departments (or teams, in the usual modern terminology) operate independently, within their structural remit: the director of a firm does not micromanage teams a long way from the management level.  So, we do have the modern means of marrying the relations between a close knit team and a larger organisation.My larger point is that socialism lies in what we do now: we run capitalism from top to bottom through collaborative means'; and it won't be some thoroughly worked out model of socialism that will convince people its possible, but folk's capacity to run their own teams and lives now.In firms, we don't charge each otehr for our time, we don't haggle with our managers for the cost of every instruction and we don't pay for stationery or the use of resources during the day.

    #92122
    twc
    Participant

    Unconvinced and UnconvincableYou are a person not inspired by much social confidence or social drive. Capitalism has turned you, as it has turned so many people, into a social drone, unwilling to help, unwilling to solve problems, and ever ready to obstruct those who are. So you pose social problems and demand social solutions at the adequate level of a dispirited wrecker, unwilling to be roused to help their fellows.SocietyIn human society, everything without exception depends on our common sociability — our language, our goals, our institutions, our relationships. We are in this together. Together we must produce and reproduce society in order to produce and reproduce ourselves.Antagonistic capitalist society, where for you "life under capitalism is not hell", can only survive and reproduce by milking our common sociability. It does so within a class division that arises naturally out of class ownership of the means whereby society must survive and reproduce itself.Your dismissal of our sociability is based upon the perverted form it necessarily assumes under capitalism, where our sociability is split at the most fundamental level of social reproduction. There is nothing more fundamental for us than the necessity for society to reproduce itself.Society and our sociability are split because capital demands it. They are split to serve capital, and they must continue to be split as long as capital controls our social being because capitalist social reproduction is a necessarily self-replicating process.Our social existence is thus reproduced as split, so long as we allow capitalism to exist — so long as we allow it wreck our lives.Capital's socially necessary perversion of our sociability — the consciousness of our split social being — creates a social hell for most of us. A hell, whose hellishness increases as capital finds it harder to expand at our expense.Capitalism may yet stoke its hell fires sufficient to convince even you — let alone the four billion social beings already frying in them. Your acquiescence in capitalism — for all its faults — succeeds in transforming you into a socially callous drone without your even trying.Once humanity at large sees capitalism for the social hell it actually is, and must continually reproduce itself to be, it will throw off its capitalist yoke. It will no longer let a class own and control the means of life for all. It will ensure that its social being reproduces undivided sociability.With common ownership and democratic control of the means of social living, there will be no fundamental division of our sociability that constantly arises directly out of the absolutely necessary conditions of our social being. On the contrary, the commonality of these necessary conditions of life becomes itself the necessary condition for the survival and reproduction of our common humanity — our sociability.Our Party Object is the sought-for self-perpetuating social unity. It is the socialist analogue of capitalist self-perpetuating social division.We will then be free to embrace our common sociability as something natural, something not sundered by class control over the very foundation of our existence.Your Capitalist Economics For you, economics is "the study of the allocation of scarce resources, and that's how the Nobel Committee understands it too"!As such, your economics is an artificial non-science. Its problem domain does not apply to actual human society [this is acknowledged by its domain founder, Nobel laureate Debreu]. Its "scientific" principles have been demonstrated to be false [this is openly acknowledged by its guru, Nobel laureate Samuelson] (see Keen "Debunking Economics").Your economic "science" cannot be and never will be used by actual practitioners in commerce [this is commonly acknowledged in the trade]. Take cunning Merton and Scholes, whose spectacular losses stampeded the Federal Reserve into saving Wall Street from the havoc wreaked by their Nobel Prize winning scheme awarded for its "infallibility".You might consider applying your "reluctance to be convinced by the evidence" to the misconceptions of bourgeois economics Nobel laureates.Much Nobel work is "phenomenological" science — practical "science" that is acknowledged to be disconnected from the stupefying theoretical "science" taught by the universities, and tacitly ignored by the market.You might also consider applying your reluctance to be convinced to bourgeois economic "theory" itself. Andrew Kliman ["Reclaiming Marx"] has conclusively demonstrated that bourgeois economic "theory" is irredeemably flawed in both its conservative Walrasian neo-Classical General Equilibrium formulation and in its radical Sraffian neo-Ricardian formulation:The theory describes physical relationships [not social ones], and so inevitably has no choice but to identify profit with surplus physical product [like the physiocrats]; whereas even a five-year old knows that over-abundance of physical product lowers prices;Its determinism is simultaneous [either an instantaneous Walrasian auction or Sraffian simultaneous linear equations]; whereas capital's determinism is essentially temporal, with production, where capital is expanded, separated by distribution from exchange, where capital is realized [at least in intent] within the market — the only state of capitalist "production as a whole" that the bourgeois economist considers.[In passing, Keen's rabid Sraffian reservations on Marx are revealed as pure drivel after Kliman].Your willing embrace of bourgeois economics leaves you bereft of science, of consistency, of reality. Only economic theology remains — a self-affirming apologetics — and even here its priesthood prefer 18th century free-market delusionism.This then is the apologetic economic platform from which "you" confidently launch "your" skeptical assault on those of the Party working to expose the capitalist economic deception and to overthrow a system of society that needs to rely on such dishonest support to continue robbing us of our common sociability. And you confidently embrace it.Fancy you, who "tries to support things based on expected outcomes", falling hook, line and sinker for something whose only expected outcome is to bind us in deeper bondage. [As an aside, that bourgeois term you parade as your gold-standard criterion, "expected outcomes", strikes me with terror as the language of capitalist coercive control over labour in the workplace.]Your economics is their economics, not ours. Your thought is their thought, not ours. Yours is an instance of Marxian "social being determining consciousness" — your own. We have established where you are coming from.

    #92123
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    twc wrote:
     You are a person not inspired by much social confidence or social drive ……Your economics is their economics, not ours. Your thought is their thought, not ours. Yours is an instance of Marxian "social being determining consciousness" — your own. We have established where you are coming from.

     You have not attempted to engage in discussion but have attempted to close it down. Rather than dealing with particular issues that I raise and explaining why they are invalid or misguided you instead claim that I am some kind of brain washed drone. It is worse, however, that you persistently attribute views to me that I don't hold and have never expressed. You have not bothered to understand my issues or reply to them. Your responses and the views to which you are responding are so disconnected from my own that I could not even say that you have built a strawman.  Instead you have constructed a fairy tale to help you avoid engaging in meaningful debate with those who disagree with your deeply held beliefs. It was like reading a scientology pamphlet.Your post displays a contempt for questions, careful thought and evidence; instead it embraces ideology and ad hominem attacks. This is not the behaviour we need if we are to build a compassionate and democratic society founded on scientific and rational thought. I have no desire to engage in further discussion with you (twc).I hope your view is not representative of all the other people on this thread as then I would be wasting my time here.  

    #92124
    twc
    Participant
    Quote:
    Rather than dealing with particular issues that I raise and explaining why they are invalid or misguided….

    I'm working through your contributions from their start in the Comments forum.I owe you the courtesy of first comprehending your political standpoint — the context within which you formulate your political ideas about socialism.

    Quote:
    … you instead claim that I am some kind of brain washed drone.

    Not "brain washed". Materialists recognize that everyone succumbs to capitalist ideology to various extents.Here's the evidence for your own declaration that capitalism has turned you into an anti-social "drone":"… still requires people to choose to spend a couple of days working rather than not; people can be selfish arseholes, maybe socialism will change people but I don't want to bank on it.""… many jobs require people [to] spend years of their lives training: doctors; or engineers; or well anything..""… mechanism for solving the 'I don't want to do that shitty job!' problem""How do you get people to work hard on boring/unglamorous/hard jobs of which there will still be many?"… As someone who has done hard labour I am fairly sure that many people's short answer is "Someone else can do it ."How then do you plan to spend your social time on Earth — lazing away anti-socially in category 1?

    Quote:
    It is worse, however, that you persistently attribute views to me that I don't hold and have never expressed.

    Not necessarily expressed explicitly. You reveal much implicitly. "Hard work" for you is a "work ethic". How capitalism maims us!Work should be the joy of life — but is so now only for a lucky few. Your explicit horror of "hard work" helps us comprehend your inability to support socialism. But we'll examine that anon.

    Quote:
    You have not bothered to understand my issues or reply to them.

    Don't worry.

    #92125
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    twc wrote:
    I owe you the courtesy of first comprehending your political standpoint

    Courtesy! I think you shot that out of your window in the last post. Don't bother with courtesy. It would be great if you tried to comprehend my political standpoint. You certainly don't comprehend it, nor have you tried to.You have tried to impose one of your stock political characatures on to myself. You seem offended by the fact that economic thought might have something to offer people in thinking about socialism — even though this is exactly what the post to which I was responding accepts about Roth — and so rail about the failures of neo-classical economics as if I must accept that all economic theory and practice is correct. 

    twc wrote:
    Not "brain washed". Materialists recognize that everyone succumbs to capitalist ideology to various extents.

    It essentially reads as brainwashed. I am well aware of the idea that people's attitudes and beliefs are formed by the lives which they live, and thus the soceity they live in. You however use the phrase "drone" which, in conjuntion with everything else, implies an inability to think or reason for one's self. So don't try and back pedal on your earlier insult. It is clear what you meant.

    twc wrote:
    Here's the evidence for your own declaration that capitalism has turned you into an anti-social "drone":"… still requires people to choose to spend a couple of days working rather than not; people can be selfish arseholes, maybe socialism will change people but I don't want to bank on it.""… many jobs require people [to] spend years of their lives training: doctors; or engineers; or well anything..""… mechanism for solving the 'I don't want to do that shitty job!' problem""How do you get people to work hard on boring/unglamorous/hard jobs of which there will still be many?"… As someone who has done hard labour I am fairly sure that many people's short answer is "Someone else can do it ."

    I believe it is possible some jobs are innately unpleasant to do. I believe it is possible some jobs or activities that are innately more enjoyable than others. I also believe it is possible that there will be activities, such as sex, drugs and proximity wing-suit flying, that will for many compete quite aggressively with the jobs that they have to do that day.You might believe such attitudes towards work are the result of capitalism (I suppose we must also attribute it to feudal societies and every other culture of which we have a written history). It is certainly possible that such attitudes are purely socially contingent and that in a socialist society there would be no jobs intrinsically more enjoyable than others; and that all work would be "the joy of life". However, I don't think we can bank on this (Ooooh! I used a money related idiomatic phrasal verb, must be a drone.).I personally enjoy the work that I do. I know that there are parts of my work that I enjoy less. I would probably do less, or not do at all, those bits of my work that I enjoy less in favour of other parts of my work. I would probably work a lot less if I could go scuba-diving for free, if I could learn to paraglide for free, if I could do all the fun, new and exciting things that are out there to try and to experience in the world.

    twc wrote:
    How then do you plan to spend your social time on Earth — lazing away anti-socially in category 1?

    I don't know. I don't know what kind of human being such a society will make of me. Nor what other human beings will become in a socialist society. Neither do you. You may be  a reasonable and empirically minded man. You may be capable of understanding that people might disagree with his position for valid reasons. You might not attribute some kind of moral/social character flaw to people as the explanation for their disagreement. Instead in a socialist society you might answer their actual points rather than slinging slurs. If I had to guess though, within socialism you will spend a lot of time wondering why people don't take you seriously even though their consciousness is no longer determined by capitalism.

    twc wrote:
    Not necessarily expressed explicitly. You reveal much implicitly. "Hard work" for you is a "work ethic". How capitalism maims us!

    No. There were many points to which you responded that I did not make implicily or explicitly. Just because you wish to infer something about my character and beliefs does not mean that it was implicit in what I wrote. But as you think it is ok to use such thin evidence to make so many claims about myself I think you have provided more than sufficient evidence to infer that:You do not have a belief that socialism will make the world better based on evidence and reason. You do not think that you require any such evidence. Your belief cannot be tested or disproved. You do not think people may validly question your orthodoxy. You have faith that your mission is noble and good. You would rather insult people and close down debate rather than question your mission's value. You bear all the hallmarks of a deeply religious person whose faith I have offended. I thought the party didn't let in religious people. Whatever, it is a happy surprise that I accidentally managed to offend a clergy man while having a debate on the SPGB forum.Now, we have traded ad hominem for ad hominem. If you want to engage in further discussion with me then keep it to issues relating to ideas, evidence and socialism and not my character, I will do likewise. In order to avoid digression into abuse and presumption please begin by quoting the point to which you want to respond. I will not reply to any post of yours that attempts to rephrase my position as I do not trust you to do this adequately. However, I might not reply to any of your posts as I currently have a very low opinion of your powers of reason and modus operandi (and you seem to have the same opinion of me). So I put a fairly high probability on your next post being similar to the last two — my work is far more satisfying than it has been reading or responding to your last two posts. I will treat arguments based upon their merits and will ignore them only if they lack merit, not because they are from you.

    #92126
    twc
    Participant

    OffenceThe term "drone" describes someone who takes a stance against working for society — nothing more; nothing less. It was originally coined to refer to the Roman proletariat by analogy with the non-working caste of the beehive.You repeatedly argue against socialist cooperation by claiming that our "drone mentality" makes us fit only for capitalist exploitation. "Drone consciousness" is your trump card against socialism — your apology for class rule; your license for capitalist drones to exploit proletarian ones; your justification for suspending working-class liberty; your rationalization of one man's social superiority over another in order to extract socially necessary labour out of him.You will retract this calumny against all mankind only after you are satisfied of its untruth. Then will you lift your veto and grant us permission to proceed towards socialism — an unlikely concession "on the available evidence".Your Religious SarcasmAn idle bread-and-circuses Roman proletarian — the profanum volgus [Horace] — could take moral comfort from your account of why unfree slaves needed to be whipped because every last Roman was, like him, an unregenerate drone.This proletarian drone belonged to the mob with the leisure to spread Christianity. Socially useless, they desired to be eternally so — saecula saeculorum.The "necessary exploitation of drones" took its sanctimonious form over that most-unfortunately un-Christian commercial need for Christians to rape, pillage and colonize the world. It helped the Southern slaveholder salve his conscience in the new nation founded on the self-evident truth that all men are created equal. There are clear affinities between selective dronism and racism. You have illustrious predecessors.Dronism is always the universal justification for reactionary coercive powers over people — bringing back the barbarity of times considered long since past. People are just plain lazy! Employers and politicians use our low rates of productivity to curtail our benefits. There are numerous unspeakable instances of social barbarity on the grounds of dronism.If you now take offence at my use of the term drone, I can only conclude that you intended to offend us all. No-one resents his own considered pronouncements, served back to him, unless he's shocked by the picture of himself they reveal for everyone to see.You think this a caricature of you. No. It is the image you repeatedly paint of yourself. Tis your arrogant misfortune to have offered yourself up as exemplar of this anti-socialist category.RefusalI gave you every opportunity to distance yourself from the drone claim, but you stuck to it like a limpet. You re-affirmed that the insipid Roman proletarian's prejudice-against-work was your adopted capitalist proletarian mentality.Recall, I carefully asked you what social stance you'd take, not now under capitalism, but as you would under socialism. And you contemptuously shrugged your shoulders at me, snorting "I don't know."Since you choose to equivocate on this absolutely central point for socialism [as you well understand, since you consider this central point to be socialism's achilles heel, and therefore refuse point blank to commit yourself], I have no choice but to break your artificial deadlock, and decode your equivocation as a "non" on Roman patrician Cicero's sound advice about interpreting equivocations of your political variety — take pretence as rejection ["mihi simulatio pro repudiatione fuerit" Atticus XII, 51].You never intend to work under socialism. That leaves you with two alternative strategies for your personal survival:react against it — sabotage socialism. Not practically, of course, since that involves "hard work", but intellectually, as suits your Marat mind.sponge upon it — parasitize socialism. That seems more you. Less Roman proletarian; more English aristocrat!What are you going to be: a socialist saboteur or a socialist parasite?Saboteur — then our political swords are well drawn.Parasite — then you depend crucially for your survival on the survival of your host. [Beware, socialism swallows its parasites whole. For their benefit, as it turns out.]Socialist reproduction is easily understood by humans [unlike the mystifying capitalist process, which thrives as long as it veils its purpose of exploitation]. Socialist reproduction is able to serve the possibilities of human needs, free of privileged sectional class control. Its scope exceeds our present socially-limited imagination.[An open cooperative technical process, such as socialist reproduction, unlike the closed antagonistic process of capitalism, performs the open-collaboration miracle. Its clarity of vision and humanity of purpose turn reluctant drones into workers, automatically attracting them to participate.]In socialism, we are developing an adaptive system in which the dominating emergent phenomenon will no longer be socially oppressive like value and surplus value, but will be a finer, not yet properly understood, expression of our collective sociability after its curtailed possibilities have been cut loose from private greed and authoritarian control.IncommensurabilityThere can never be a suitable yardstick for comparing successive social formations like capitalism and socialism along the limited lines you seek. One social formation succeeds another because it solves a deep social crisis [not just an economic one] that is unsolvable in the former because it arises as an essential condition of the system's reproduction process. Such a social system has outlived its utility.The social transition happens not because the successor [or child process] is better than its predecessor [or parent process], but because the child can pass through its parent's impenetrable barrier to social progress. It does so because the child has its own different [actually more restrictive, because more determinate, but its consequences are more open] social reproductive basis that solves the crisis.Marx's reproductive social bases are social relations of ownership and control of the means of social reproduction. This is what his materialist conception of history is about. Read Marx's famous Preface, which puts it far better than I can. That's also why we read his Capital indirectly for the "evidence" you seek. That's why our Party Object is precisely as it is. Ownership and control of social reproduction is the basis of everything social — the basis of us as individuals.Different social formations are incomparable because their social reproductive bases are different. Social attributes are incommensurable across different social bases, as is the case across all dialectical transitions.Thomas Kuhn pointed out that the same incommensurability occurs in science. Aristotelian, classical, relativistic and quantum world views necessarily deal with similar phenomena [appearances] but interpret them quite differently within differently-based scientific frameworks [paradigms]. These frameworks, like Marxian social formations, smash barriers to progress by solving deep obstructive crises within their parent frameworks.Consequently, comparison along your default bourgeois lines is meaningless, because your terms and connotations are bound to incommensurable systems. This renders your whole enterprise meaningless. It is impossible to cast it in any meaningful form in your terms.There is little further to discuss about the evidence or lack-of-evidence you seek for socialism, or the problems of the actuality of socialism, if it's never going to happen or, if instituted, it will never work because of the prevalence of human drones. But I'm happy to discuss the evidence in another post, even though your stance renders this pointless.ScalabilityDid it ever occur to you that capitalist scaling is hampered all the way up by social [not technical] antagonisms at every conceivable level — political and economic? In hostile capitalist circumstances, scaling is a miracle. It should never work through lack of cooperation.The solution to this apparent impossibility is our underlying social interdependence. Capital, being parasitic upon it, cannot destroy our social interdependence. Its expansion depends crucially upon our sociability.Our social interdependence is the secret to why capitalistic antagonism at every level scales into pseudo cooperation. It is only in times of war that our social interdependence finally ceases to hold the edifice together.It is not difficult to conceive how this pseudo cooperation [or its collapse] is a potent source of the most amazing rationalizing ideology. Before one gets carried away with the cooperative wonders of capitalist scaling, it is sobering to recall that it rests on armed force from the small scale up to the global. Of course capital scales coercion! That's what it's all about. [The technical problem is trivial by comparison.]Socialist interdependence rests not on coercion but on cooperation. It will remove the barriers to sociability thrown up in the interests of private capital. This will happen irrespective of unimaginative toy algorithms preconceived on unrealistic capitalist assumptions.Satis satisque.

    #92127
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    TWC 

    Alaric wrote:
    If you want to engage in further discussion with me then keep it to issues relating to ideas, evidence and socialism and not my character, I will do likewise. In order to avoid digression into abuse and presumption please begin by quoting the point to which you want to respond. I will not reply to any post of yours that attempts to rephrase my position as I do not trust you to do this adequately. 
    #92128
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Ed, Brian, ALB and Master Smeet, Have you all disengaged from the discussion. I am not particularly interested in pursuing the line of discussion that twc seems intent upon as he/she doesn't seem to want to discuss the actual topic of this thread or respond my points. However, eveyone else  seems to have disengaged.It was not my intention for this to be a combatitive discussion. My vision of how the world ought to be has always been a socialist one and this is why I still self describe as a socialist despite not being actively involved with any socialist organisation. I am not actively involved with any socialist organisation because it is not clear to me that an actual socialist society (as opposed to the one I imagine) would be feasible or, if feasible, actually better (in some sense). I presumed that members would be happy to engage in trying to put together a solid case and would have more evidence than the evidence of which I am aware. Or have answers to my concerns about the evidence of which I am aware.I was hoping that something productive might end up coming out of this discussion: a better understanding of the types of evidence we have; the types of evidence we can have; what assumptions the feasibility/desirability of a socialist society rely upon; how these might be tested; and so on. But it seems that there is a hurdle to first overcome before really engaging in this discussion (I know we have discussed it a little). This hurdle is whether such evidence really matters: I have to say I was very surprised to find people saying that having such evidence was not important to creating a socialist movement.When I think of people to whom I have put the party case the two main responses have been variations on "It will never work" and "It will never happen". I believe this post is about responding to the first type of response that people make: "It will never work". Now we can convince people that socialism is a possibility but I suspect that people want more than this — I think they want to know that it will probably work. But Ed, Brian, ALB and Master Smeet have claimed, I think, that people do not need strong evidence that socialism would be feasible or that it would make society better for those people to reasonably support it.  Do you really think this? Or have I got it wrong? If you do think that people do not need strong evidence that socialism would be feasible or that it would make society better to reasonably support socialism then I would like to ask an earlier question to which no-one has answered: "Why should anyone support socialism if they don't have good reason to think that it will make their lives or the world better?" If I have got it wrong and you do think that the evidence is important I would like to discuss the evidence. I know there has been some discussion of evidence already but I feel like the surface has barely been scratched.    

    #92129
    Ed
    Participant

    Well twc pursued the same line that I would have. The question of providing empirical evidence that socialism will work is an impossibility. I feel the reasons for why this is impossible have been stated clearly. There are just too many unknown variables to come up with any concrete plan let alone prove it. Marxism looks at today's problems and looks for the underlying economic and historical conditions which are the cause. We then look to eliminate the cause entirely rather than applying a quick fix.So the only line of discussion I see is the second part of your argument which is why people become socialists. In my experience there are three main types of revolutionaries. (by revolutionaries I mean anyone who sees themselves as such from Maoists to insurrectionary anarchists to primitivists to you name it)Moral revolutionaries – People who see the effects of capitalism on others and around the world and are compelled to seek ways to find a just and better society for everyone.Intellectual revolutionaries – People who usually come across socialism as part of their studies while at university. They read Marx and find his analysis of capitalism to be correct. They then feel it necessary to pursue that line of study.The material revolutionaries – Those whose personal experience of capitalism compels them to act to change it. Often they will be drawn to the conclusion without any prior knowledge of socialist theory.Now I'd say you're in the intellectual revolutionaries group and what you can't figure out is why it will be in your best interests. At the moment the majority of revolutionaries are from the first two groups. Who, while absolutely committed to revolution do not have the same level of needing to end capitalism that the third group does.To use a metaphor it's like being trapped in a burning building. You are either going to be compelled to find your way out or curl up in a ball and accept your fate. While being in the first two groups is like being nearer the door but being compelled rush back in to rescue the people trapped inside. It takes something a little bit special to be able to do that. Not everyone has it. Many people would stand on the outside thinking they should go in but having second second thoughts about whether they really needed to.The fact that you can't understand why anyone would support the end of capitalism without the absolute evidence before hand only shows that the material conditions specific to you are not compelling you to do so. Revolution will happen when the material conditions force enough people to see no other alternative but to seek something new. The question then becomes what next? Well what else is there, that isn't capitalism and isn't a regression? Nothing I've ever come across.

    #92130
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    AlaricLet's have a look at what socialism will be like.   It will be a social system based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth, by and in the interest of the whole community. This definition was composed by the Socialist Party of Great Britain when it was formed in 1904. It has never been altered.What will socialism be like?  It has to be pointed out that it is not possible to go into precise details, because lack of knowledge as to the conditions likely to prevail when socialism is established prevents that.  However, we know that a social system's relationships emerge from its basis.Whatever is produced within socialism will be the best that human beings are capable of.  Homes, for example, will be designed and built with the only motive of housing human beings in the best possible style. The materials of which they are made, their facilities and location will all conform to this. They will be the best homes that society knows how to build.Nobody will be employed by another person – nobody will sell his or her labour-power or work for wages. Everyone, in fact, will work for themselves, which means for the whole of society. Work will be a co-operative effort, freely given because people will realise that wealth can only be produced by working – unless wealth is produced society will die. Yet it will not only be a reluctance to commit social suicide that will keep us working under socialism. Men and women will be free – free from the fetters of wage slavery, free from the fears of unemployment, free from economic servitude and insecurity. Nobody will be found doing a job they hate but tolerate because its pays them well.  Nobody will waste their time learning how to kill scientifically. Everyone will be set free to do useful work, making things which will add to society's welfare, things which will make human life a little better, a little happier. This is an enormous incentive to work. It is the greatest incentive for co-operative effort and that is how socialism will operate.Socialism will be free of the anomalies and stupidities which are now so common. Nobody will starve in one part of the world whilst food is being stockpiled or destroyed in another. Nobody will go cold because they can't afford to heat their homes. These anomalies arise because capitalism produces wealth to sell. Socialism will produce for people's satisfaction; the only barriers to that satisfaction will be physical. Bad weather, a ruined harvest or some other natural calamity may cause a breakdown in supplies. If this happens society will take steps to deal with the situation, unhampered by the commercial and monetary considerations of capitalism. Human interests will be the only consideration.Socialism will be free of war – the cause of war will no longer exist. This means that there will be no armed forces with their dreadfully destructive weapons. It means that the people who are in the armed forces, together with the rest of the enormous social effort which is channelled into them, will be able to serve useful, humane purposes instead of destroying and terrorising.Capitalism has its own laws, built upon its basic property rights. There is an intricate system to administer these laws -the courts with their judges, magistrates, lawyers and so on, supported, by the organisations which train people to take on such tasks. At the end of the process there is the police force to prevent people breaking these laws and, it they do, to hand them over to the penal institutions. None of these things will exist in a socialist world.This is not to say that socialism will be a hotbed of crime. Remember that it will be a social system established by the conscious action of the overwhelming majority who will have set it up because they have decided that it is in their interests to do so. Such people will have appreciated that the interests of every individual are inextricably bound to those of the rest of society. They will realise the importance of social effort and co-operation and will act and work accordingly. This will be the power and the force which will induce people to behave socially and to work co-operatively. Socialism will not have a coercive state machine and a comprehensive legal system to enforce conformity. Order and welfare will depend upon mankind's appreciation of its own interests and will be the stronger for it.When production is only for human use there will be a great development of society's productivity. First of all, an enormous number of jobs which are vital to capitalism will become redundant. Capitalism wastes human effort and has a vast army of bankers, accountants, salesmen, those in the armed forces, and many, many others who produce absolutely nothing. Socialism will have no use for such jobs because its wealth will not be produced for sale.Because socialism will be free of the commercial necessities which hamper production under capitalism, we shall be able to turn our whole attention to satisfying human needs, to making our lives happier, fuller, easier. When that happens society will be able to support itself for the first time in the style to which it is entitled.This will also apply on a world-wide scale. Capitalism has covered the world with frontiers and has fostered patriotism and race hatred, none of which has any scientific basis. Frontiers are purely artificial and are often altered at international conferences. Many workers are proud of their nationality although in logic they cannot take pride in something over which they have no control. Their patriotism leads them to fall in with the racial theories which capitalism's apologists use to excuse the failings of their social system. Socialism will have none of this. No frontiers, no racial barriers or prejudices. The world will be one with only human beings freely working together for their mutual benefit.Socialism will end the wasteful, fearsome, insecure world we know today. Socialism will set men free to live their lives to the full. It will remove poverty and replace it with plenty. It will abolish war and bring a world of peace. It will end fear and hatred and give us security and brotherhood. Socialism will be a world worth living for.  We will all, undoubtedly, be "better off" for it……..

    #92131
    Brian
    Participant
    Alaric wrote:
    Ed, Brian, ALB and Master Smeet, Have you all disengaged from the discussion. I am not particularly interested in pursuing the line of discussion that twc seems intent upon as he/she doesn't seem to want to discuss the actual topic of this thread or respond my points. However, eveyone else  seems to have disengaged.When I think of people to whom I have put the party case the two main responses have been variations on "It will never work" and "It will never happen". I believe this post is about responding to the first type of response that people make: "It will never work". Now we can convince people that socialism is a possibility but I suspect that people want more than this — I think they want to know that it will probably work. But Ed, Brian, ALB and Master Smeet have claimed, I think, that people do not need strong evidence that socialism would be feasible or that it would make society better for those people to reasonably support it.  Do you really think this? Or have I got it wrong? If you do think that people do not need strong evidence that socialism would be feasible or that it would make society better to reasonably support socialism then I would like to ask an earlier question to which no-one has answered:  If I have got it wrong and you do think that the evidence is important I would like to discuss the evidence. I know there has been some discussion of evidence already but I feel like the surface has barely been scratched.

    I've not lost interest in this discussion, but due to my involvement with other party business there's been no time to make any meaningful contribution.  Basically, you are asking for evidence which is impossible to provide without a blueprint or a lab model.   The 'evidence' which is out there and what we use is based on comparing like with like on the production of human need.Thus the alternative we offer is based on reaching the conclusion that the present system is incapable of addressing the problem of meeting these needs.   Mainly because of the fact that when the means of living are owned by a wealthy minority there can never be a democracy!Granted, the case for the socialist alternative is based on theory and needs to be tested but like I have mentioned previously this testing can only take place once capitalism is abolished and a true democratic system is in place.  Once we have arrived at that stage of human development then we are in a position make a start on: self-assessment; reviews; performance; standards; etc.If after all this evidence gathering we then reach the conclusion that things are not working out as envisaged the democratic system is there to ensure other alternatives are on the agenda.Finally in reference to your question; "Why should anyone support socialism if they don't have good reason to think that it will make their lives or the world better?"   The key term is what is meant by, "good reason".   In my case there is good [enough] reason to give socialism a try even though I have not got the conclusive proof that its going to make my life or the world better.  Because I'll at least be in the position to say 'Stop I've had enough of this' and what do you think of this alternative?

    #92132
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    Ed wrote:
    The question of providing empirical evidence that socialism will work is an impossibility. I feel the reasons for why this is impossible have been stated clearly. There are just too many unknown variables to come up with any concrete plan let alone prove it. Marxism looks at today's problems and looks for the underlying economic and historical conditions which are the cause. We then look to eliminate the cause entirely rather than applying a quick fix.Moral revolutionaries – People who see the effects of capitalism on others and around the world and are compelled to seek ways to find a just and better society for everyone.Intellectual revolutionaries – People who usually come across socialism as part of their studies while at university. They read Marx and find his analysis of capitalism to be correct. They then feel it necessary to pursue that line of study.The material revolutionaries – Those whose personal experience of capitalism compels them to act to change it. Often they will be drawn to the conclusion without any prior knowledge of socialist theory.Now I'd say you're in the intellectual revolutionaries group and what you can't figure out is why it will be in your best interests. At the moment the majority of revolutionaries are from the first two groups. Who, while absolutely committed to revolution do not have the same level of needing to end capitalism that the third group does.

     I would say that I am a moral revolutionary, I also happen to be an intellectual. . Marx's analysis of capitalism is of some interest to me but I stopped treating it  as "correct" a long time ago. He was a thinker who provided a model for thinking about capitalist society, there is little reason to take it as definitive.  My interest in socialism flows then not from an intellectual curiosity or from a concern for my "best interests"  but for a moral concern for other human beings. What I can't figure out is if a world socialist revolution is the right response to the failures of capitalism. Removing capitalism might remove the problems caused by capitalism but that is to treat capitalism as a system that only generates problems and does not solve them. Human beings will have some set of social institutions by which they organise their interactions with one another. There is a question as to how/if some particular set of new institutions will work. This question is important then for both moral and material revolutionaries so long as their are choices about how to respond to the failures of capitalism. People may choose to be less revolutionary than you believe they need to be. Their are many feasible alternatives to a full scale abolition of the property system. The kind of popular mobilisation necessary for achieving these alternatives is less than that necessary to achieve socialism. I think people should make this choice about how best to deal with the problems of capitalism based on evidence.  

    #92133
    Anonymous
    Inactive

      

    Brian wrote:
    ….there is good [enough] reason to give socialism a try even though I have not got the conclusive proof that its going to make my life or the world better.  Because I'll at least be in the position to say 'Stop I've had enough of this'

    I like your alternative answer, it speaks to my heart if not my head.  I think terrible things happen all the time in capitalism, and we may see the end of the world caused by its inability to deal with some of its problems (Nukes). I want to scream  'Stop I've had enough of this'  about all of these things. At the same time I don't think capitalism is a hell in which most people have nothing to lose; nearly everyone has a lot to lose (not just those like myself who enjoy their work and have decent material conditions). So consequently I don't think it is enough to just stop capitalism, we need to know what we are trying to do is not going to make things worse.I think that we have reached a resting point. All the discussions are pretty much played out. I want to further my understanding of what kinds of society are feasible and how they will work for the purpose of providing solutions to the problems that capitalism is failing to solve: I do not think that this has happened throughout these discussions.  The discussions have ended up being about whether we need such evidence in order to pursue a socialist agenda. I know that I do need such evidence and am not learning much from these discussions.I am also finding that there is a lot of hostility towards my question from some of your comrades. Some of the responses have felt like the responses of cult members to heretics. I have always held the party in high regard as an organisation of "scientific socialism" and have nearly always pointed other activists towards it as one of the few intellectually honest organisation. Some of the people who I have engaged with on this discussion thread have made me seriously doubt this (not you Brian). I now feel little desire to engage further with the SPGB on this topic. No one is offering up much that satisfies my desire for evidence based decision making and some are offering up offal. I have enjoyed talking with you Brian.Take care and good luck.

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