Paul Mason: a proper thread on his book

July 2024 Forums General discussion Paul Mason: a proper thread on his book

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  • #113175

    I'm not sure the party agrees with those goals, and they are tied intimately to his methods, to promote the trends within capitalism towards its own supercession.  Our method is to elminate the character of value altogether, by elminating the wages system.  his goals are to take he wages system to its own breaking point: in that light his policy suggestions are eminently sensible, from what I can see.  Our objectins are strategic, in considering the conscious abolition of capitalism as the best route, rather than working with the flow of it.  That doesn't invalidate his analysis, nor mean that somethign of what he proposes may come about as 'natural solutions to problems'.

    #113176
    twc
    Participant

    Stuart, I have been naively scientifically open about Paul Mason’s case.  One could hardly present it more clearly in limited space.Perhaps you take offense at my sheeting home the blame for world-wide social confusion about world socialism onto the Bolsheviks and especially their unscrupulous Western politico followers.Or perhaps, oh dear, oh dear, you do maliciously agree with Paul Mason that Walmart should be forced to tell its workers how to increase their wages, etc., etc., along with the other 43 different varieties and flavours of Paul Mason’s wish list.Or perhaps you might explain why his market reform agenda is not at all foolish and utterly impossible, but is actually brilliant and totally implementable.I cannot help it if the appropriate epithet that involuntarily springs to mind is the one that Marx applied to the declarations of Henry George—they reveal the unmistakable sign of the ass’s hoof.If you, instead, perceive in them the lion’s paw (as Bernoulli detected in Newton’s unsigned proof of the brachistochrone problem) then tell me so.So, please tell me what you are really desperate to say against me in your veiled criticism?

    #113177
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    Socialism is not about "setting prices at zero" as singularityists and some like Paul Mason has been inferring.It is about doing away with the whole notion of price and exchange value so that the very concept of "setting prices at zero" is a meaningless one as far as socialism is concerned. To talk of setting prices at any level presupposes still a capitalist framework.If the supermarkets tomorrow said 'All cans of beans are free' the shelves would be cleared in hours. But if they said the same the next day, and the next, it would become pointless to go and fill your arms with cans of beans, and easier to just go and take a reasonable stock to keep close to hand. And, of course, there is not a limitless demand for beans…we will  opt for a can of spaghetti (or whatever) some days.   When it comes to disagreeing with like-minded folk, i prefer comradely disagreement. But not to defend your point of view with full candour makes debate pointless. Political discussion should inspire us to new insight. There is no need to exaggerate every slight divergence of opinion but we shouldn’t shy away from challenging evidence. Easier said than done. of course.  

    #113179
    twc
    Participant

    Alan, that is rich coming from someone who periodically goes out of his way to foment on this forum the bloodsport of opposition to the party platform for its own salutary sake.

    #113178
    twc
    Participant
    YMS wrote:
    his goals are to take he wages system to its own breaking point: in that light his policy suggestions are eminently sensible, from what I can see.

    If so, then his policy derives from all past communist-inspired attempts to trash the existing system—which system he acknowledges to be a nonlinear complex adaptive system.He must realise that, if he takes the complex system's nonlinear adaptability seriously, the system will react against destabilisation to break its assailant in unexpected ways.Sabotage directed against such a system that is not directed against its foundation—the social base of class ownership and control of the social means of life—will prove ultimately powerless to achieve its goals.In practice, the system responds by forcing upon its assailant the awful recognition that society must, and will, continue to find a way to function.To save his political skin, the failed system assailant is forced to backtrack—like the social democrats and the leninists have been forced to backtrack over the past century—repudiating the very tactics they hitherto trumpeted to the world, and shamefacedly falling back on hitherto despised Plan B.Such is the archetypal road to political annihilation and continued working class defeat.  This  “cunning plan” has nothing rational to recommend it.So, you claim that Paul Mason is apparently recommending people should actively seek to reduce their wages to zero—perhaps going on hunger strikes—in order to undermine the wages system, but never ever recommending them to directly abolish it.  And this undermining is fondly supposed to take place under a protected market system where profit taking is recognised as the legally sanctioned “motivator of entrepreneurship”.What, if anything, is socially sensible or implementable about that?  What, if anything,  is socialist about it?  Such a duplicitous hair-brained enterprise merits our total condemnation.

    #113180

    Short of time, but Mason has published an interest supplementary essay:https://medium.com/@paulmasonnews/neoliberalism-system-first-ideology-changeable-2f0ade2aabcf

    #113181
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster
    Quote:
    The neoliberal elite is the first in the history of capitalism to believe capitalism cannot survive alongside an organised workforce.

    I wonder how historically accurate he is here. From the talk By Steve C. at Summer School he mentions the crackdown on unions in 1926 after the Gen Strike and of course the US used Red Scares and criminal syndicalist laws to defang unions during the teens and 20s and they had to recover their strength by re-organising as the CIO. 

    Quote:
    This implementation phase is substantially complete by 1992…Because the unions were already smashed, they did not have to focus so relentlessly on destructive tasks

    I think it can be argued that if this was the intent then neo-liberalism has failed. Unions are still around, still influencial and capitalism has had to go on the run by re-locating the auto industry to the mostly non-unionised southern states. They avoided a full frontal attack on the unions. One thing we learned from Piketty is to look at the long term ebbs and flows of capitalism. Is Mason making the mistake of taking the last few decades and not looking at the entire history?Is the battle over? Mason appears to say it is.  We can look around the world and see unions still possess some power and in fact in the developing world are growing more combative in many cases.I've never really been comfortable with the term neo-liberalism to describe  features of capitalism that i consider inherent within the system. Toothless unions have always been the objective.   

    Quote:
    All versions of capitalist ideology … rely on the deeper assumption that private property, wages, and consumption according to market worth, not need, are “natural”, timeless and unchallengeable features of human life.

    To touch on another speaker at the Summer School, Brian . Big ideas have disappeared from the agenda. There was a time "abolition of the wages sytsem" appeared on union branch banners, perhaps as only a distant aspiration but the idea still was there. Can we re-capture that vision that once existed?  So is Mason opening the door for us to bring the message back? I hope so. 

    #113182
    ALB
    Keymaster
    Young Master Smeet wrote:
    Short of time, but Mason has published an interest supplementary essay:https://medium.com/@paulmasonnews/neoliberalism-system-first-ideology-changeable-2f0ade2aabcf

    I think he's wrong and he puts up a pretty weak defence of using the term.. "Neoliberalism" is meaningless concept or insofar as it can be said to mean anything it's wrong. What it is criticising is not capitalism as such but a policy pursued by some governments, suggesting that if this policy is abandoned and a different one adopted capitalism would be ok. The alternative policy generally proposed is a return to the Keynesian policies previously in vogue or the sort of state intervention that Corbyn is trying to revive. Owen Jones does the same in his book on the Establishment where anybody who advocates "neoliberalism" is automatically a member of the Establishment even though are plenty of members of the ruling class who don't support it.Anyway, as a description of capitalism the word d is banned in the Socialist Standard (though I see it sometimes slips through on to our blog).

    #113183
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    As one of the bloggers i have already expressed my own discomfort with the term neo-liberalism in the previous post.Usually on the blog 'neo-liberalism' is used when we make use of other writers' articles. The frequency of the word's usage does make disclaimers rather cumbersome to always add to a post. But we will endeavour to use apostrophes or some other qualifier in future when we come across it as the Socialist Standard does.   We have made clear that the term is an inaccurate description on at least three occasions from a very brief google search of the blog. 

    Quote:
    “The supporters of the old form of mixed private/state capitalism were appalled. They denounced the new form taken by capitalism as "neo-liberalism", using the term "liberal" in its 19th century sense when the Manchester cotton lords who wanted free trade were supporters of the old Liberal Party….What also keeps capitalism going is of course, politically, the support or acquiescence of the vast majority of the population who see no alternative to the money-wages-profit system that is capitalism. Livingstone, Galloway, Benn, the SWP and the Greens, in only criticising "neo-liberalism" and advocating instead what might be called a "neo-statism", are not helping to dissipate this acceptance of some form of capitalism as the only possible way of organising the production and distribution of wealth.”“Those arguing for a return to the laissez-faire policies describe it as "neo-liberalism". In the anti-capitalist movement this word “neo-liberalism” occurs again and again. In fact, so often that it gives a very strong hint that this is what the movement is really opposed to, that this is what it means by “anti-capitalism”. Not opposition to capitalism as such but opposition only to certain economic policies. The alternative they offer to neo-liberalism is not anti-capitalism. It is basically a return to state interventionism. The argument is that the state should abandon neo-liberal, laissez-faire policies and again adopt interventionist ones (finance regulations, import and currency controls, the Welfare State, re-nationalisation).”“Neo-liberalism is a term coined by opponents of the policies pursued by many governments since the 80s of privatisation and deregulation, of allowing market forces to operate with less state interference. "Neo" because it was seen as a revival of the anti-state, laissez-faire philosophy of 19th century liberalism. As supporters of these policies often call them simply "capitalism", some opponents also presented themselves as "anti-capitalist". But this is a false distinction. Capitalism is not just private enterprise, free market capitalism. That is just one of the forms it has taken historically.”
    #113184
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Got a copy of his book. Will start reading it when I've finished Daniel Dennett's Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (not everyone in the US is religious, fortunately).

    #113185
    james19
    Participant

    Just found this in one the  sites that i  visit. I haven't a clue what it all means to be honest. Should I know?Is there a shift happening? Can we say goodbye to capitalism as we know it?http://www.theguardian.com/technology/audio/2015/aug/06/paul-mason-capitalism-economics-tech-podcast
    http://www.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/videoAndAudio/channels/publicLecturesAndEvents/player.aspx?id=1483

    #113186
    ALB
    Keymaster
    ALB wrote:
    Be interesting to see too what he says about where the Bolshevik revolution went wrong.

    Here's what he writes on p. 223:

    Quote:
    One lesson — spelled out in advance by anarchists, agrarian socialists such as Kondratieff and dissident Marxists like Bogdanov — was 'do not take power in a backward country'.

    What about us and the Mensheviks ! I can guess why he leaves the Mensheviks out but I can see now (I could write) what the reviews of his book in the Trotskyist press are going to say on this. On the other hand, I don't think the anarchists did say this at least not in the sense of 'don't try a revolution in a backward country'.

    #113187
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I've now finished reading the book. Actually, it's quite interesting and worth reading. What he sees as the final goal is a non-market, non-hierarchical world of abundance in which goods and services will be free, recognisably what we mean by socialism though he doesn't call it that (though he might call it communism if pressed). He sees this as being made possible by present and future developments in information technology.One of his aims is to get people who are discontented with capitalism to think in terms of the bigger picture of a postcapitalist society rather than concentrate only on trying to protect or restore past social reforms. Something we try to get them to do of course, only to be pooh-poohed even by some people here as utopian dreamers. Well, we're not the only ones.Reading the book clears up one point. Although he sees a transition to this society as having started spontaneously he doesn't think it will come into being spontaneously, but through the actions of "a government that embraced postcapitalism". So he does stand for political action. The trouble is that it's gradualist, reformist action within the present capitalist economic and social structure. TWC has already listed the reforms Mason envisages such a government introducing. And we know that the capitalist economy will not be able to digest anti-profit reforms and will reject and undermine them, whatever the intention of a government that wanted to introduce them.Also, he sees the development of postcapitalism out of capitalism as being like that of capitalism out of feudalism — and lasting just as long, maybe centuries rather than decades before money finally dies out. In the meantime what we have is an imagined transitional society which is a hybrid between capitalism and postcapitalism. Which is clearly a leftover from his days as a Trotskyist, even though he decisively rejects the rest of the Trotskyist legacy (including the vanguard party, Bolshevik rule in Russia, the idea of the economic collapse of capitalism triggering the revolution, and of the factory proletariat as the agent of this revolution).

    #113188
    ALB
    Keymaster
    ALB wrote:
    I can see now (I could write) what the reviews of his book in the Trotskyist press are going to say on this.

    Here's what the SWP do say:

    Quote:
    Mason is one of the last fans of Nikolai Kondratieff—a Menshevik minister in the government the Bolsheviks overthrew—and his theory of long cycles. Kondratieff used arbitrary statistics to force the history of capitalism into “waves” of 25 good years followed by 25 bad ones.

    (Actually, they probably have a point about Kondratieff's wave theory.)Anyway, here's the full review:http://socialistworker.co.uk/art/41027/Postcapitalism+-+Will+the+system+die+a+natural+death?They seem to contradict themselves:

    Quote:
    And while Kondratieff aimed to show capitalism was stable in the long run, Mason thinks the waves spontaneously decay into “regime change”.Both take history out of human hands to fix it into a rigid pattern of dodgy maths.

    versus

    Quote:
    Mason accuses revolutionaries of wanting to use the state to impose socialism from above, while he lets “post-capitalism” flourish from below.He says this is already taking shape, from online peer-to-peer networks and “grassroots” food banks to traditional cooperatives and credit unions.But these keep being crushed or co-opted. So “we have to promote them with regulation just as vigorous as that which capitalism used to drive the peasants off the land”.Coercive state power is to be the midwife of Mason’s fluffy new world.

    So Mason can plead not guilty to the charge of economic developments spontaneously taking history out of human hands but not to the other charge of gradualism and reformism.

    #113189
    imposs1904
    Participant

    Link: He has a book to sell.

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