Statisation: a possible flaw in world socialism
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January 13, 2018 at 5:19 pm #85980
Socialist production will be based on democratic decision-making, as all resources will (at least in principle) be held in common. It is not proposed that production will take place entirely at the individual or communal level, there will instead be a 'socialist society', so it must be assumed there will be some mass production: of food, transport and energy requirements, and so on.
That being the case, and given the principle that all resources are held in common, there will need to be a democratic decision-making structure that, in effect, governs this 'society', telling people what they can and cannot produce within the context of mass production needs. This would have to take the form of assemblies and committees, rather like the SPGB itself is governed (I assume that the SPGB's political structure was meant to serve as an exemplar for how socialism might be run in practice, embodying both its upsides and downsides).
These assemblies and committees would be made up of socialist delegations and would agglomorate and confederate to ensure that production and resource decisions are taken at the most appropriate level.
In theory, this 'political superstructure' would not and cannot assume the characteristics of statehood given that the socialists involved are merely delegates, speaking for the people-at-large either directly having been elected (or selected by some other democratic means) by a section of the population, or speaking for a democratic body that has in turn been selected by another democratic body or the people-at-large. It is therefore assumed that the political superstructure does not and cannot adopt any moral privileges of its own, its views and actions resting entirely and deriving from, community directives. So when for instance a committee orders an individual to leave his property because the concept of 'property' is not recognised and his farm is needed for a banana co-operative, the political superstructure is expressing the view of the people-at-large that the individual's property rights are not recognised and any assertion of such will not be acknowledged or respected, thus he has no 'enforceable property rights' as such.
My issue with this is that, as a practical matter, I think the assumption is incomplete. If the political superstructure can order people out of possession of property, and if this is supported by force (which I understand it will be, if necessary), that means the committee is exercising a moral privilege over the individual. The committee is usurping the individual's right to defend his own land or space.
Furthermore, I think it is the case that the more agglomorated a political superstructure is, the more its decisions start to take on the characteristics of representation rather than delegation, replacing community directives with what it conceives of as a community standard. This changes the politics of the political superstructure, from a strictly delegative body into something more akin to a parliament.
What I am describing is a process of statisation that I believe could be inexorable within world socialism, and may represent either a flaw in the case or the seeds of the system's eventual destruction and replacement with something else.January 14, 2018 at 12:07 pm #131406alanjjohnstoneKeymaster
Indeed there will be forcible dispossession of property-owners by the State. That is the purpose the SPGB engages in the electoral activity as described openly in our D of P.Quote:That as the machinery of government, including the armed forces of the nation, exists only to conserve the monopoly by the capitalist class of the wealth taken from the w]orkers, the working class must organize consciously and politically for the conquest of the powers of government, national and local, in order that this machinery, including these forces, may be converted from an instrument of oppression into the agent of emancipation and the overthrow of privilege, aristocratic and plutocratic.
As we also explain on our websiteQuote:It would be foolish to expect the capitalist class to voluntarily give up its privileged position in society. Governments exist solely to administer the society as it exists, in the interests of the ruling (capitalist) class, so governments will not end the privilege. Capitalism will continue as long as the working class accepts it. The working class will have to force the capitalist class to give up its position of privilege.
However, i don't think you are meaning this situation but have created a hypothetical case in existing socialism where some small-holder, a banana grower, is evicted for the greater good of the community.TBH, i can think of a great number of conflicts of interests that may arise inside a socialist society. I am sure the NIMBYism will persist to an extent even in socialism.But, nevertheless, you expect us to speculate on how differences and disagreements are resolved without resorting to a coercive state.Long ago i was told socialism is the science of generalisation. So it is by making a general observation we get to the answer. It is the actual essence of free access to goods and services that it denies to any one particular group the political leverage with which to dominate or control others. So where will this statist power come from, if it cannot withhold the means of life or restrict access to society's wealth from those it wishes to subjugate or exploit or take advantage of. One of the fundamental preconditions for socialism to work presupposes the existence of a mass socialist movement and a profound change in social outlook. It is simply not reasonable to suppose that the desire for socialism on such a large scale, and the conscious understanding of what it entails on the part of all concerned, would not influence the way people behaved in socialism and towards each other. If people cannot change their behaviour and take control and responsibility for their decisions, not only will socialism fail but itself will not succeed then either.Socialism is not a society without laws and rules. I believe the worse punishment ever applied to individuals by a variety of communities is ostracisation – being sent to Coventry. If someone chooses to defy the will of his or her community and place her or his well-being before all others, then sanctions a lot less stringent than violence or force would be applied. Crime and anti-social behaviour won't disappear overnight and communities will come up with various means of applying agreed rules of conduct.None of this means that a new State or class arises. A residents association that takes action against fly-tippers is not the State returning.January 14, 2018 at 12:25 pm #131407
I will give this some thought. I am not entirely convinced by your response, and this is one of my main objections to socialism. Another way to put it would be that socialism itself embodies just another form of statehood in that moral privilege is exercised by a majority against a minority, a social condition that does not (or need not) exist in a comparable society that allows property-based sovereignty.January 14, 2018 at 1:07 pm #131408robbo203Participant
Ike Once again I think you are making quite unwarranted claims about the nature of socialism – in this instance, concerning the nature and extent of democratic decison-making in a socialist society – based on idealised projections stemming from, in my view – an uncritical application of a few basic dogmas. What I mean by this is that you seem to be thinking that since socialism means common ownership of the productive resources of society by everyone, and since common ownership is inseparable from democratic control, this means that everyone will be involved in all decisions pertaining the production of social wealth. That is clearly nonsensical and impractical Not only is democratic decisionmakiing likely to be far more nuanced, multilayered and polycientric than you seem to imply but there will also be a large area of decionmaking where there is simply no need to go through some democratic process of voting on the decision in question. I refer to individual decisionmaking in the spheres of both consumption and production You talked in the other thread of there being a tendency on the part of SPGBers to "give canned responses or regurgitate rigid dogmas" but this is yet another example where your impressions are based on a complete caricature. There has indeed been , at least since the 1980s, a lot of discussion on precisely the kinds of issues you raise which has resulted in a much more nuanced , thoughtful amd throught-out positions being reached. I dont know when exactly you were a member but did you perchance have the opportunity to read some of the SPGB's internal documents such as the "Production for Use" Committee's report? Pamphlets have been produced such as "Socialism as a Practical Alternative" which reflect current Party thinking (see pamphlets section) I dont wish to rehash old arguments but I did start up a thread over a year ago which more or less deal with the arguments you raise here. Check this out:http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/forum/general-discussion/socialism-and-democracyJanuary 14, 2018 at 4:43 pm #131409ALBKeymaster
Good point, Robbo. It is a common mistake to imagine that socialism will substitute democratic, and therefore collective, decision-making for all decisions concerning the production and distribution of wealth. Obviously this will be he way that major decisions will be taken, but decisions as to what to take from the distribution centres can be left to the individual and an efficient system of stock control can ensure that these centres are always stocked with what people want based on what they have taken over a given period. In fact with this information being passed on from suppliers to their suppliers and ultimately to the producers, the production and distribution of consumer goods can be more or less self-regulating, a bit like the market system is supposed to be and to a large extent is, except that the suppliers and producers will be responding to what people have indicated they want by what they take rather than to what they buy out of their restricted income.January 14, 2018 at 5:44 pm #131410
@ robbo and ALB,That's not actually an assumption I am making. Indeed, if you look again at what I said at the outset, I think I actually make (or at least infer) the important distinction in the post between individual/communal decisions and mass production decisions. I completely understand that much of production within socialism will be at the individual and community level, and be essentially self-directed – in fact, I think I have stated this explicitly somewhere.However I do appreciate the replies, even if I think there may be a slight misunderstanding about what I am getting at. Unfortunately I lack the time to respond more fully.We will have to leave this for now.January 14, 2018 at 11:29 pm #131413AnonymousInactive
We can not argue against something that has never existed. I have almost read the whole index and pamphlets written by the SPGB and have not seen such claim, on the contrary, we have widely discussed themJanuary 15, 2018 at 12:47 am #131414Marcos wrote:We can not argue against something that has never existed. I have almost read the whole index and pamphlets written by the SPGB and have not seen such claim, on the contrary, we have widely discussed them
I am not "arguing against something that has never existed", I am critiquing the socialist case as it exists today. Your objection, in any case, makes no sense. If it's wrong or redundant to critique the socialist case, then why does this forum exist? Why don't the public just accept socialism and get on with it?We can either examine the socialist case or we cannot. It's not a religion. It is open to criticism. Just because nobody else has come up with the same criticism does not invalidate it.But again, my concern here is with something that is rarely examined: how socialism would likely operate in practice, something we can reasonably speculate about (to a degree) based on extrapolations of the relevant principles. It is one thing to have ideas, it is another thing to implement them.January 15, 2018 at 6:16 am #131415ALBKeymaster
You've missed the point. The objection is not to you (or anyone else) criticising what we do stand for, but to you asking us to defend something you attribute to us but that we don't stand for (i.e.to defend something that doesn't exist). You can of course criticise that idea too but don't attribute it to us and don't expect us to defend it.January 15, 2018 at 8:10 am #131416Young Master SmeetParticipant
One thing that we can look at is the 'creative commons': admittedly, this is based on property, but essentially releases it into the wild. The idea is that the originator asserts their copyright, but then allows other people to use their work, as long as they pass on the terms and conditions (usually to acknowledge the originator, and to foorbid commercial exploitation).There's no reason creative copmmons type arrangements couldn't apply to the use of housing, fields, factories, etc. So, not exactly usufruct, but near: more like a factory, field or house is held in trust by a group where society at large is the beneficiary.No need, then, for a worldwide committee planning everything, but instead nested self organised associations in continuous conversation.January 15, 2018 at 10:31 am #131412ALB wrote:You've missed the point. The objection is not to you (or anyone else) criticising what we do stand for, but to you asking us to defend something you attribute to us but that we don't stand for (i.e.to defend something that doesn't exist). You can of course criticise that idea too but don't attribute it to us and don't expect us to defend it.
I think you misunderstand me, but I'm not interested in discussing it anymore.I'm sick of internet discussions in which people like you with a sense of entitlement and imagined grievance go round in circles with:"But you're asking us to defend X, Y and Z", etc. and similar.I'm not asking you to defend anything.I wish you would grow up and either just add a constructive comment in the thread OR fuck off.January 15, 2018 at 10:36 am #131417Young Master Smeet wrote:One thing that we can look at is the 'creative commons': admittedly, this is based on property, but essentially releases it into the wild. The idea is that the originator asserts their copyright, but then allows other people to use their work, as long as they pass on the terms and conditions (usually to acknowledge the originator, and to foorbid commercial exploitation).There's no reason creative copmmons type arrangements couldn't apply to the use of housing, fields, factories, etc. So, not exactly usufruct, but near: more like a factory, field or house is held in trust by a group where society at large is the beneficiary.No need, then, for a worldwide committee planning everything, but instead nested self organised associations in continuous conversation.
I HAVE NOT SUGGESTED THAT SOCIALISM WILL INVOLVE A WORLDWIDE COMMITTEE PLANNING EVERYTHING. In fact, if you look again at the opening post, and at least one of my posts elsewhere, I explicitly state the exact opposite.That being said, your post is useful. It goes some way to address my concerns, but it seems to me that what you outline is not how the system has to work. It could work in the way I outlined, indeed how I outline it is what would normally be expected – but your post seems to imply that you appreciate the dangers of such a system.January 15, 2018 at 11:09 am #131418
I've thought about this further. While YMS and Alan Johnstone's posts do address the concern to some extent, they don't address it completely or satisfy the objection.Socialism would abolish property-based sovereignty, with the result that 'minority rights' would be vulnerable when in conflict with majority rights. This can apply not just to mass production decisions, but as mentioned above, also to land use decisions and in all sorts of other areas where a committee of some sort would have to make decisions.Socialism would not necessarily abolish the concept of 'morally-privileged authority', because a decision has to be taken by somebody somewhere. I would argue that authority cannot be abolished, it can only be counteracted. Your method is democratic consent, but this relies on an assumption that democratic consent can practically apply legitimacy to all decisions, when in reality there cannot be consultation about everything. In reality, I think you are just sticking a label on sovereignty and calling it 'democracy'.Even a networked decision-making process for mass production would, to an extent, rely on delegation of authority to decision-makers within the network (whatever form it takes, whether virtual or real-life), and group interests would develop (as I would hold that that is human nature).January 15, 2018 at 11:59 am #131420Young Master SmeetParticipant
Ike,the point is that without a separate interest, all we have is a diffference of opinion, that can ultimately be resolved through discussion. Democracy is the quick and easy way to deal with this: uncontentious issues might go through on the nod, but vocal minborities could well carry the day through their strength of feeling. The point of creating a global commons means that administration loses its character of deriving a special interest.This is why we are not anarachists, we recognise democratic authority is necessary, but point to the ill as being class and property before social administrative functions.January 15, 2018 at 12:15 pm #131421alanjjohnstoneKeymaster
I always have held that the SPGB did accept the concept of authority as opposed to the idea of authoritarianism. We stand for the abolition of political authority but not necessarily all social relationships involving authority.Engels used the example of a captain of a ship.https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1872/10/authority.htmMarx used the conductor of an orchestra as his analogy. Soloists are their own conductor, but an orchestra requires a conductor to create harmony.Bakunin used a boot-maker to explain his position. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/bakunin/works/various/authrty.htmI also believe that the SPGB have never subscribed to the theory that one size fits all but have accepted that administration and organisation of socialist communities will be influenced by history and tradition and existing local practice. All societies have or had their own ways of running things smoothly and without divisiveness. Capitalism came and distorted those cooperative relations but was quite unable to destroy them entirely so they persist often as parallel systems of authority or "government" if you wish to use that term. Would there be differences of opinion especially on practical matters. Indeed, most likely. They exist within our own Party and as you mentioned before the structure and organisation of the SPGB is reflected in our vision for social democracy. I'm less sure if those could be called conflicts of interest. But they may arise in some way and your comment that safeguards would be in place to counteract such occurrences. The most basic is the vote and the will of the majority as expressed by it. The right of the minority is not the right to thwart the decisions of the majority. But grey areas will manifest itself – the proverbial split vote of 49-51, for instance. Whereas we are not willing to compromise and make concessions with pro-capitalists, i think in socialism itself, there will be more readiness to meet half-way and reach agreements…and since cost is not a factor…few situations will be irreversible at a later time. Trial and error will be an accepted manner of trying out new ideas.You talk about some "group interest" arising as if this might be a new class, a new ruling class or informal or formal elite that will be able to exercise their "authority" to impose their will. What you don't say, is where they get their legitimacy from? I pointed out that free access deprives any group of holding others to ransom. Despite the contradictions, capitalists get their legitimacy from elections and the consent of the people. Voters give their consent at the ballot box. When that consent is no longer given we have peoples revolts, and the biggest example of that was in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union…but we have seen many other examples of dictatorships being overthrown when people no longer had faith in their rulers to provide for them.Certainly, some leaders and parties impose their despotism by force but i think a look at history see this as usually a temporary affair that cannot be maintained indefinitely without softening. Again, we have to wonder where this coercive military force appears from in socalism. How can a police state arise when the police won't exist in anywhere near the same form as today and how the nation-state and the State itself no longer resembles anything we have today.For sure, the SPGB hasn't got all the answers, but as i said, we can generalise. Those who will have the task of implementing socialism will be the generation who have successfully made the revolution, have learned valuable lessons from the process and now are building and putting socialist ideas into practice.Some people will do it differently from others, some will make mistakes, some learn from others…But the goal is the same. "from each according to ability, to each according to need" All for All. Everything to Everybody
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