“socialism in one country”

September 2021 Forums General discussion “socialism in one country”

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  • #81566
    SocialistPunk
    Participant
    robbo203 wrote:
     
    SocialistPunk wrote:

    I get you now. Makes sense.

    But I can see a problem, for us.

    If large sections of the working class live in impoverished nations, that have never had decent conditions, how are we going to bring them around to wanting socialism? Forgive me if I am wrong, but I was under the impression that the SPGB and socialist movement  as a whole think that world socialism must come about at the same time?

                                                          


    That is an interesting point – albeit it slightly off topic.

     

    I was arguing with a left communist on Revleft some weeks ago and put forward what I thought was the SPGB view that,  as a socialist  majority captured political power in each country it would immediately abolish capitalism.  However since this has to start somewhere  you would effectively have what the Stalinists call “socialism in one country” – except of course that it would be real socialism and not state capitalism and,  more to the point, would presuppose the existence of mass socialist parties elsewhere who were on the brink of capturing political power as well (which needless to say was not the case when the Soviet Union was around).

     

    My left communist opponent contended that the first country in the world  where a socialist majority came to power would have to install a dictatorship of the proletariat and continue  operating capitalism until such time as socialist parties came to power everywhere in which case they could collectively and simultaneously  institute world socialism

     

    So what is the SPGB’s official position on this matter or does it have one?  A link would be appreciated

    #89957
    SocialistPunk
    Participant
    ALB wrote:
     [quote-robbo203]So what is the SPGB’s official position on this matter or does it have one?  A link would be appreciated

    Here’s what we say in the chapter on “Socialism and the Less DevelopedCountries” in the 1978 edition of Questions of the Day, here on this site:http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/pamphlets/questions-dayQuote:Socialists are sometimes asked about another aspect of uneven development. This relates to the possibility that the socialist movement could be larger in one country than in another and at the stage of being able to gain control of the machinery of government before the socialist movements elsewhere were as far advanced.Leaving aside for the moment the question as to whether such a situation is likely to arise, we can say that it presents no problems when viewed against the world-wide character of the socialist movement. Because capitalist governments are organised on a territorial basis each socialist organisation has the task of seeking democratically to gain political control in the country where it operates. This however is merely an organisational convenience; there is only one socialist movement, of which the separate socialist organisations are constituent parts. When the socialist movement grows larger its activities will be fully co-ordinated through its world-wide organisation. Given a situation in which the organised socialists of only a part of the world were in a position to gain control of the machinery of government, the decision about the action to be taken would be one for the whole of the socialist movement in the light of all the circumstances at the time.There remains the question whether in fact there will be material differences in the rate of growth of the sections of the world socialist movement. At present, throughout the advanced capitalist countries, the vast majority, because they are not yet socialist, share certain basic ideas about how society can and should be run. They accept that goods must be produced for sale with a view to profit; some men must work for wages while others must be employers; there must be armed forces and frontiers; and it is impossible to do without money and buying and selling. These ideas are held by people all over the world and it is this which accounts for the basic stability of capitalism at the present time.It was Engels who remarked that a revolutionary period exists when people begin to realise that what they once thought was impossible can in fact be done. When people realise that it is possible to have a world without frontiers, without wages and profits, without employers and armed forces, then the socialist revolution will not be far away. But this advance in political understanding will be achieved by the same people who now think that capitalism is the only possible system. Because workers all over the world live under basically similar conditions and because of modern systems of communication, when they begin to see through capitalism this will apply everywhere. There is no reason at all why workers in one country should see this while those in others do not.The very idea of Socialism, a new world society, is clearly and unequivocally a rejection of all nationalism. Those who become socialists will realise this and also the importance of uniting with workers in all countries. The socialist idea is not one that could spread unevenly.Thus the socialist parties will be in a position to gain political control in the industrially advanced countries within a short period of each other. It is conceivable that in some less developed countries, where the working class is weak in numbers, the privileged rulers may be able to retain their class position for a little longer. But as soon as the workers had won in the advanced countries they would give all the help needed to their brothers elsewhere. To sum up, we can say that the less developed countries might present Socialism with a problem, but they do not constitute a barrier to the immediate establishment of Socialism as a world system.Actually the whole chapter is interesting and relevant.Agree there could be a separate thread on this subject.[/quote] New topic anybody?

    #89958
    robbo203
    Participant

    The quote from Questions of the Day gives good reasons why we can expect the growth of the socialist movement to be reasonably spatially even or balanced on a global basis,  Specifically,  it also hints at the pro-active potential of an organised global socialist movement to ensure such balanced growth occurs – presumably by such means as the  prioritisation of funding and propaganda in favour of those parts of the world that are lagging in that respect. What the quote does NOT address,  however,  is what happens when a socialist majority first democratically captures power somewhere in the world (as would have to be the case since it is inconceivable that this could happen everywhere at exactly the same time).  We have no way of knowing for sure but let us assume the time period between this happening  and the last residual capitalist state  turning socialist is a matter of,  say,  a decade or two (although  it is conceivable this process could speed up in the end due to the domino effect) . What happens then? There are two main questions to be answered in relation to the Initial  Socialist Region (ISR) hypothesis 1) What are the likely internal relations of the ISR? .  Can a socialist mode of production be truly instituted under these circumstances and what, if any, compromises would have to be made?  Do the arguments made against the Stalinist theory of socialism in one country apply in this case too?  Some  Left communists I have debated with contend that all that one could do in those circumstances is for the socialist working class to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat and continue with capitalism in the guise of state capitalism until such time  as the working class everywhere has captured state power . Then  and only then, they contend,  can real socialism be introduced.  I think their argument is ridiculous and is a surefire recipe for substititionism and the emergence of a new ruling class since capitalism can only be run in the interests of capital. But still  – what is the SPGB response to this?  Would something like Marx’s lower phase of communism be necessary in this period 2) What are the likely relations between the ISR and the residual capitalist states?  The globalised nature of  much  modern production necessitates the continuance of material flows between these two areas at least for the a while. On what basis would these  material flows be coordinated and effected?.  Logically,  the only way I can see that happening is on the basis of barter deals since you could not organise trading relations on the basis of  monetary transactions when one partner in the trading transaction has abolished money as a means of exchange! However,  what consequences does the existence of barter deals have for the internal organisation the ISR?  .  Also, since one assumes that the borders between the ISR and the residual capitalist states would be relatively porous in the absence of a “socialist state” to defend them,   what consequences does this hold for the ISR and the residual capitalist states respectively?   Is it conceivable that this might encourage an inflow of parasitic free riders from the residual capitalist states to take advantage of the free access system operating in the ISR (if indeed such a system were to be operating there) without making a reciprocal  contribution. This cuts both ways though since the presence of an easily accessible ISR across the border would undermine markets within the residual capitalist state I do not believe these questions have ever really been effectively addressed by the SPGB . Or at least I’ve not come across any attempt to do so.   They need to be addressed because they present a truly formidable  array of  thorny problem  which cannot simply be brushed under the carpet.  I might add that the very fact that this is the case strengthens my belief – that on the “Road to Socialism” (and some here will know what Im alluding to), socialism itself has to be prefigured in some sense by the growth of socialistic type institutions such as intentional communities that strive to transcend the capitalist market relation as far as possible., Without the growth of such institutions,   informed by the growth of socialist consciousness  itself and commencing well before the democratic capture of state power as suchm  I cannot see how at least some of these problems that I have referred to above  can be effectively addressed,.  We need to develop within the womb capitalism the necessary practical institutions and practical orinentations  that anticipate and preempt the possibility of future failure that such problems could arguably bring about 

    #89959
    Young Master Smeet
    Participant

    I always supposed the answer is the same as what would happen when (as is much more likely) socialists gain control of local authorities: we democratise administration, use resources available to make concrete plans for how production for use could be administered, and promote socialism generally.  Such local adminuistration to go on (under a sort of capitalist basis) until the worldwide movement is ready to make to global change.

    #89960
    robbo203
    Participant
    Young Master Smeet wrote:
    I always supposed the answer is the same aswhat would happen when (as is much more likely) socialists gain control of local authorities: we democratise administration, use resources available to make concrete plans for how production for use could be administered, and promote socialism generally.  Such local administration to go on (under a sort of capitalist basis) until the worldwide movement is ready to make to global change.

     So just to be clear – you are saying in effect that a socialist administration  would take over the running of capitalism until such time as the socialist movement everywhere had captured political power and socialism could be introduced simultaneously on a worldwide basis.  Is that right? This is of course precisely the argument that was put forward by the left communist i was debating with who contended that a dictatorship of the proletariat had to be set up in whichever part of the world a socialist movement came to power first which would  effectively have  to wait till all other parts of the world had similarly seen socialist movements likewise come to power.  By default and of necessity such a DOTP would have to operate capitalism I argue to the contrary that this would be a disastrous error.  It would result inevitably in substitutionism as the socialist administration sought to grapple with the contradictions of trying to run capitalism  (which can only be run in the interests of capital ) while at the same time  claiming to represent the interests of the workers A far better approach in my view would be to introduce a circumscribed or modified version of genuine socialism with a mix of  free access and rationing but scrap capitalism and class ownership completely The template to be used in this instance is not what would happen if socialists were to capture local authorities,   as opposed to state power,  but rather the kind of model set out in the old Guildford branch circular “The Road to Socialism”. (1987) That circular proposed that the stronger the movement for socialism the greater the elbow room available to socialists and  the greater the possibility of circumventing and replacing the market completely.  The capture of state power at the national level represents a watershed possibility of moving over to full socialism with the only difference being that external relations with residual capitalist states would still have to take done in  some non socialist form  such as barter deals as I suggested above Gaining control of local authorities is of a quite different order to  capturing power at the state level precisely for the reason that the former is subservient to and derivative from, power exercised ar the latter level.  The nation state on the other hand excepting of course  where it falls under the limited domain of international treaties, is the ultimate source of political power and the means by which the capitalist system is politically entrenched via electoral choice and the expression of the so called will of the people.  So i it makes sense to talk of socialism only being introduced when power at the national level has been democratically captured and not at the level of mere local authorities The problem is you seem to want to continue with capitalism until all national state have been politically captured by socialists so that socialism  can be introduced simultaneously throughout the world. I say that is not possible

    #89961
    Young Master Smeet
    Participant
    robbo203 wrote:
    So just to be clear – you are saying in effect that a socialist administration  would take over the running of capitalism until such time as the socialist movement everywhere had captured political power and socialism could be introduced simultaneously on a worldwide basis.  Is that right?

    Actually, my preferred option would be to allow a minority Capitalist Party to govern, with the socialist majority wielding a veto: but I think that would be a hard sell.  The lesser option would be to introduce radical democracy: annual elections, abolition of posts of prime minister, cabinet, etc. (the full Pennsylvania 1776 shebang) to precisely avoid substitution but without trying to tinker with capitalism but instead drawing up plans to introduce production for use.  That way we could not return to the previous status quo, and can hang on until the world movement has sufficient strength to make the decisive change.

    #89962
    robbo203
    Participant
    Young Master Smeet wrote:
    robbo203 wrote:
    So just to be clear – you are saying in effect that a socialist administration  would take over the running of capitalism until such time as the socialist movement everywhere had captured political power and socialism could be introduced simultaneously on a worldwide basis.  Is that right?

    Actually, my preferred option would be to allow a minority Capitalist Party to govern, with the socialist majority wielding a veto: but I think that would be a hard sell.  The lesser option would be to introduce radical democracy: annual elections, abolition of posts of prime minister, cabinet, etc. (the full Pennsylvania 1776 shebang) to precisely avoid substitution but without trying to tinker with capitalism but instead drawing up plans to introduce production for use.  That way we could not return to the previous status quo, and can hang on until the world movement has sufficient strength to make the decisive change.

     Its an inventive solution but I really can’t see it working.  Wielding a veto while allowing a capitalist minority party to govern means going along with some of the decisions that such a government  would inevitably have to make –  otherwise you would not be allowing them anything.  If you don’t allow them anything they cant govern in which case they might  very well turn round and simply say ” well sod it  – you are not letting us do our job so the buck stops with you – you do the job  instead!”. And of course  if they refuse to govern you’re basically stuffed!Besides I cant see this going down well with the socialist majority.  Some of the things involved in running capitalism means for example cutting costs and ensuring fiscal responsibility.  “Excessive” state expenditures may need to be trimmed back sharply at a time of economic downturn.  If the minority capitalist government attempts to do this and you veto this what then?   Ultimately you will pay for it in other ways as investor confidence plummets and investment falls  and you will be blamed accordinglyThe lesser option you refer is no good either and how introducing “radical democracy” can be squared with the decision to allow a minority to govern – when the point about democracy is that the will of the majority prevails – is problematic to say the least.  All the legalistic innovations in the world wont save you even if there is no prime minister to blame. It will still be a socialist party organisation that will introduce these innovations and it is the very existence of this organisation that provides the very real potential for substititionism in these circumstances.  It will be seen to be calling the shots and thus be the power behind the throne.  Over time a split will develop between the rank and file working class and the organisation which will result in a new ruling class emerging from the latter in true Bolshevik style.The competent capitalist minority will be replaced by the hardline socialists who will know how to deal with their ownDrawing up plans to introduce socialism is something that we can do now but we are million miles away from socialism as things stand at the moment

    #89963
    alanjjohnstone
    Participant

    Probably there would be a move towards to temporary autarky, minimalising international barter. Regardless of our sympathies and the limitations we can appreciate how Cuba has managed against the USA and still managed some degree of social progress. Likewise even North Korea can go it alone and just imagine if their resources had not ben marshalled for the military and devoted to the populace instead. Surely, a willing population would consent and endure certain hardships and deprivation for a greater good, particularly if as said the democratic features of socialist decision making have been initiated and need not mirror those regimes’ totalitarianism.In a scenario where one region has acquired socialist consciousness and could assume political power, the question really is a matter of what the substantial (and it would be substantial, wouldnt it if one region had already achieved a majority) socialist minorities do in other regions. The question ignores this aspect. They would not be passive actors.From history we witnessed the Hands Off Russia movement and docker embargos when there was a possibility of military intervention. I believe we would witness a similar movement of solidarity form from the worlds working class which would be even more effective and that would thwart actual physical liquidation of a socialist region and intensify their own class challenge for political supremacy.But it is all speculation and we should not base our current policies upon futures that cannot be determined except by crystal ball gazing. Surely we concentrate our ideas on the realities we experience right now and build from the concrete foundations of the present.In a personal view, i actually do not imagine the UK to face this issue of being a ISR since i expect it to be one of the regions to be lagging behind and playing catch-up!! Socialist parties other than the SPGB will be drumming their fingers and rolling their thumbs , wondering whats keeping many of us in Britain from making the transformation and staying in servitude to capitalism!! “Britons will forever ever be slaves” or whatever the songs words are!!!    

    #89964
    Ed
    Participant

    I think in such a situation a form of councilism could be used while simultaneously dismantling the state apparatus. Currency could be abolished pretty quickly throwing the international bourgeois into chaos giving workers in other countries a greater chance to seize their states. And then depending on whether it’s necessary another medium of exchange could be implemented. If after 10 years only one country had managed to seize that state I think we would have to admit defeat.But as Alan says it is crystal ball speculation and hopefully we’re right in saying that class consciousness is internationally linked.

    #89965
    robbo203
    Participant
    alanjjohnstone wrote:
    Probably there would be a move towards to temporary autarky, minimalising international barter.  

     Yes I think this is correct  and it is precisely why I would want to link this whole problematique of what  might happen to our hypothetical ISR  with the strategy of building up from the ground level now  a network of socialist inspired intentional communities that seek as far as possible to break with the capitalist  cash nexus.  The bigger the political movement for socialism,  the greater the elbow room there would be for such institutions to take root and flourish.  Who knows – we can only speculate – these institutions may well serve as as the essential link between the residual capitalists within which they would still operate and the newly liberated zone of socialist production outside in the shape of the ISR

    #89966
    SocialistPunk
    Participant

    I was inspired to start this thread by something Ed posted.

    Ed wrote:
    I’m saying people are more angry by what they’ve lost than what they’ve never had. It’s always been the case that higher material conditions resulting from the most industrialized societies are more likely to produce class conscious workers.Past movements have failed mainly due to lacking a class conscious majority and were led by a minority of class conscious people. So they didn’t know what they were fighting for. But there’s no one reason for me there’s loads of reasons reformism being one. But if there had been a class conscious majority reformism would have been unnecessary. (after the means of production had reached a level which could sustain socialism)

    It is why I asked, if a large proportion of the worlds workers have not had decent material conditions how would we persuade them that socialism was in their best interests?Ed never did reply.So, alanjjohnstone, thinks that the UK despite its history of working class struggle would be a late comer to socialism, yet Ed thinks that industrialized nations (presumably like the UK) will likely be the first, but only if they suffer a decline in material conditions.If I have misunderstood any body I apologize and please put me right. I just think it important these issues are explored fully every now and again.As a point of relevant interest, does any body know which country has the largest socialist party?

    #89967
    alanjjohnstone
    Participant

    “So, alanjjohnstone, thinks that the UK despite its history of working class struggle would be a late comer to socialism” (my emphasis)All societies have a history of class struggle. “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle” – Communist Manifesto so what you say is a bit of a truism. But what we desire is a conscious class struggle with the aim of achieving socialism, not simply a reflex reaction to social conditions. That is slightly different concept. My comment was simply an aside and a purely personal view and i would be very happy to be proved wrong. Perhaps due to living recently abroad and in another culture i take a more jaded view of my compatriots, both Scottish and British, view of themselves. For example, the jingoism of the Olympics and sport in general.”does any body know which country has the largest socialist party?”That under our own definition would be presently ourselves – so it would be the UK but  perhaps in the past the Socialist Party of Canada in its heydays surpassed the SPGB in numbers and percentage of population.Relax our definition of what a socialist party is and the question leads to a number of different answers.   

    #89968
    Ed
    Participant
    SocialistPunk wrote:
    I was inspired to start this thread by something Ed posted.

    Ed wrote:
    I’m saying people are more angry by what they’ve lost than what they’ve never had. It’s always been the case that higher material conditions resulting from the most industrialized societies are more likely to produce class conscious workers.Past movements have failed mainly due to lacking a class conscious majority and were led by a minority of class conscious people. So they didn’t know what they were fighting for. But there’s no one reason for me there’s loads of reasons reformism being one. But if there had been a class conscious majority reformism would have been unnecessary. (after the means of production had reached a level which could sustain socialism)

    It is why I asked, if a large proportion of the worlds workers have not had decent material conditions how would we persuade them that socialism was in their best interests?Ed never did reply.So, alanjjohnstone, thinks that the UK despite its history of working class struggle would be a late comer to socialism, yet Ed thinks that industrialized nations (presumably like the UK) will likely be the first, but only if they suffer a decline in material conditions.If I have misunderstood any body I apologize and please put me right. I just think it important these issues are explored fully every now and again.As a point of relevant interest, does any body know which country has the largest socialist party?

    Sorry mate I thought Robbo had answered it quite well that’s why I didn’t reply. I’m not sure I would say the UK would defintely be first but I think it would probably be one of the first. It could just as easily be any large advanced economy. I mean the prime example should actually be the USA, but they have a lot of other things holding them back. But then again it would take a massive change in social opinion which doesn’t exist anywhere at the moment. Massive changes in in social norms can happen really quickly. If we look at the 20th centuary and changes regarding race, gender, sexuality and religion attitudes have shifted greatly over a relatively short period of time because of material conditions people had to face namely two wworld wars. So it is possible to see a huge shift in popular opinion over a short period of time, I see no reason why class conciousness would not spread in the same way except it would be even quicker given that the world is far more connected due to technological advances.

    #89969
    ALB
    Keymaster
    SocialistPunk wrote:
    As a point of relevant interest, does any body know which country has the largest socialist party?

    The “largest” in terms of numbers is the party here in the British Isles. In terms of members per head of population it will be the World Socialist Party (New Zealand).But of course the spread of socialist ideas and the growth of the socialist movement doesn’t depend on our puny efforts. If we are right then it is capitalism that will, as it were, sponpontaneously keep generating these ideas. The “technological determinist” element in Marxism (yes, I don’t deny it!) suggests that this should happen in the most developed part of the world, i.e the USA and in particular California. And we do find some (slight) confirmation of this in two examples of a “spontaneous” generation of the idea of a moneyless world based on the world’s resources becoming the common heritage of all humanity (spontaneous in the sense that it had nothing to do with us). Here’s an extract from 1983 from a publication called Commie Rag:

    Quote:
    Socialism is a word whose root is society. It originally referred to a way of living in which all the means of producing our needs would be controlled by society as a whole. This would entail the free association of the world’s people, with every associate a co-owner of the entire world’s vast array of resources, natural and human made. The global community would collectively make decisions on matching their needs with available resources. This would mean the end of wage labor, i.e. the selling of one’s ability to work in order to gain access to social wealth, an end to separate nations and enterprises, an end to money and all forms of exchange. Once such social relations were to mature, becoming an unconscious element of daily activity, earth would become a big commune, and its way of living would be known as communism.

    The other would be the Zeitgeist Movement with their aim of a world “resource-based economy” which they define as “a global system in which the planet’s resources are declared the common heritage of all the world’s people” and “in which all goods and services are available to everyone without the use of money, barter, or any other form of debt or servitude”:

    Quote:
    Earth is abundant with plentiful resources; today our practice of rationing resources through monetary methods is irrelevant and counter productive to our survival. Modern society has access to highly advanced technologies and can make available food, clothing, housing, medical care, a relevant educational system, and develop a limitless supply of renewable, non-contaminating energy such as geothermal, solar, wind, tidal, etc. It is now possible to have everyone enjoy a very high standard of living with all of the amenities that a prosperous civilization can provide. This can be accomplished through the intelligent and humane application of science and technology.To better understand the meaning of a resource-based economy consider this: if all the money in the world were destroyed, as long as topsoil, factories, and other resources were left intact, we could build anything we choose to build and fulfill any human need. It is not money that people need; rather, it is free access to the necessities of life. In a resource-based economy , money would be irrelevant. All that would be required are the resources and the manufacturing and distribution of the products.

    We can expect such ideas to keep cropping up as long as capitalism lasts since, objectively (not as a mere matter of opinion), they represent the only framework in which the problems humanity faces can be solved.On the other hand, there is the remark one of our comrades in Belfast is always making: people in the West will “want” socialism, but people in the rest of the world “need” socialism. In which case Socialist Punk’s “large proportion of the worlds workers [who] have not had decent material conditions” might need less convincing and persuasion than workers in the more developed parts of the world. So the movement might start to take off there.Who knows or can know at present? 

    #89970
    SocialistPunk
    Participant

    Thanks lads,I’ve got a couple more points to raise, but they will have to wait till later.

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