Two ex-socialists go funny

MAY 2022 Forums General discussion Two ex-socialists go funny

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  • #203950
    ZJW
    Participant
    What a tragic line of development for SW. Something to this effect: Gilles Dauvé-influenced Watkins/Flynn “communist faction” (was that the name?) within the SPGB (That’s when he first came to my attention.) Leaves party. Becomes Chris Knight supporter. Rejoins party (no longer espousing heterodox views). Leaves party a second time very shortly after just having very zealously defended the pamphlet “What’s Wrong with using Parliament?” on the CWO site (here: https://www.leftcom.org/en/articles/2011-04-17/what%E2%80%99s-wrong-with-the-spgb) ! Becomes a supporter of Left Unity. And finally, this!!
           
           
    He did great interviews with Mattick and with Kliman, and as Alan points out was a very good writer.
    #203951
    ZJW
    Participant
    Robbo — Given that you used to write things there (your thread https://libcom.org/forums/thought/economic-calculation-argument which you began in 2007 and seem to have abandoned in 2010 even though others unsatisfactorily continued it in your absence until 2014), is it reasonable to assume that you still look at libcom from time to time, and saw https://libcom.org/library/ll-men-two-texts-defining-communist-programme, and saw my note (second post under it)?
                   
    I would like to ask what you think of LLM’s demolition of the myth of ‘war “communism” ‘ vs that of Binay Sarkar. (I find the latter’s nearly incomprehensible.)
           
    If I am polluting this thread with off-topic content, a moderator will please move this post elsewhere.
    #203952
    ZJW
    Participant
    Robbo —

    Is the version of The “Economic Calculation” Controversy that you recently posted to Dissident Voice ( https://dissidentvoice.org/2020/03/the-economic-calculation-controversy ),

    which the tireless jondwhite has even more recently posted as PDF on libcom (https://libcom.org/files/The_Economic_Calculation_Controversy_Dissident_Voice.pdf ) the same as what you published under the same title in Common Voice in 2005, or is it revised? A lazy question. I have not read the new (?) one but from looking at scattered sentences it seems to be identical. If changes have been made (I mean of content, not phrasing etc),of what nature are they?
    #203953
    robbo203
    Participant

    Hi ZJW

     

    Yes it was the same article basically. the reason being the original home of the article , the Common Voice journal, is defunct,  I think it succumbed to a virus some years ago.

    A central point made in that article and repeated many times elsewhere in our literature,  is our clear repudiation of the concept of society-wide central planning (in the sense of a single planning centre  for the entire production system)  along with our clear need for a system of (non price) feedback to inform production decisions.  I recall coming across articles in the SS going back to the 1930s which talked of the need for a multilevel (global/regional/local) polycentric framework of decision-making in socialism. It was in the 1980s primarily through our  contact with the Libertarian Alliance that these ideas become much more explicit in the Party literature

     

    What irritated me intensely about Dan and Stuart’s article was their droning on about ‘communism’ and ‘central planning’.   You can understand this coming from some fresh-faced naïve Ancap completely unfamiliar with the SPGB.  But these comments came from two ex members.    Fair enough if they wanted to do a ‘Toby Crowe’ and cut all their ties with revolutionary socialism  to embrace the status quo – that’s their choice.  But you would at least expect then to have the integrity not to a present such a caricature of the case for communism/socialism and at least make some nodding reference to the kind of arguments referred to above which  they could surely not have been unaware of having been members of the SPGB.

     

    But no – their article is like a slap in the face of  those  who were once their fellow comrades

     

     

     

     

    #203954
    robbo203
    Participant

    ZJW  – oops sorry I overlooked your post preceding the one I responded to.   No, I haven’t come across this text by LLM before – thanks for pointing it out.  Its very long and will take time to digest but flicking through it, I noticed some comments asserting that Russia in 1917 was ripe for socialism Really?  Lenin himself talked of the subjective and objective preconditions for socialism and very clearly Russia did not meet either.   Indeed Lenin repeatedly acknowledged that the vast majority were not socialists in Russia in 1917.

     

    The text seems to argue that a socialist revolution does not start off with an explicit programme for socialism  but that this grows out of the struggle for reforms.  I think that is a very mechanistic way of looking at things not to mention a case of wishful thinking but I might be misinterpreting the text not having really read it.  Perhaps you can correct me if I am wrong

    #203956
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Just dug out my copy of that 1986 pamphlet by LLM that ZJW mentions. A quick re-look at it confirms my memory of it as advocating the “employment of labour time as the basis of and measure for production calculation and distribution” (p. 69). A proposal we have discussed a number of times here.

    What I had forgotten was that a letter from me figures in it (p. 99) which leads him to write in a footnote:

    “The SPGB is a ‘Marxist’ group which believes that the socialist revolution will occur when one fine day the majority of the workers (who it defines to be anyone, be him an accountant or a bank manager or a government minister or a secretary or a factory worker, who receives a wage – further, there are, according to the SPGB, only two classes in capitalist society: those who earn a wage and those who do not), having first under­stood intellectually, and thus demand, socialism will simply take over the
    existing state machinery and re-organize society on socialist lines. There
    is no space here, nor is there any need, to criticize these feeble-minded
    idealists.”

    and, in the main text:

    “… many people claim that the Russian workers were not struggling for socialism at all, but only for the ‘mundane’ demands for bread and peace… These people do not, of course, deny that there was an extremely high level of working class activity in 1917, but deny that it constituted a socialist struggle. Reason? Simply because the majority of the workers did not demand the communist programme. For them, for the class consciousness of the vast majority of the working class to qualify as communist conscious­ness, it must reach the level of knowledge in Marxist theory… What these people fail to realize is that, at least for the period prior to the revolution and that of the initial phases of the transitional period …, for the vast majority of the working class, their conception of socialism will never be couched in the terms of the communist programme.”

    Nothing new there, then, just the usual caricature of our position (except on the two-class theory). And since he thought that the what happened in Russia in 1917 was a “socialist revolution” his analysis of what happened after starts off on the wrong foot. And of course he is echoing Lenin’s view that under capitalism the working class cannot develop beyond a trade union consciousness (only a select minority like him can).

    ZJW is right that this might not be the place to discuss this, but we could do. Anyway, I’ll put this on Libcom too, so it’s on record there.

    #203991
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    If they are defenders of state intervention they are not a defender of french laissez fair or bourgeoise liberalism, and they are not anarcho-capitalists either. The anti-neoliberals they also advocated for state intervention or state regulations

    #203993
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Even Che Guevara himself wrote that a renegade is the worst individual because they always become great defenders of the capitalist class

    #204004
    ALB
    Keymaster

    I would like to ask what you think of LLM’s demolition of the myth of ‘war “communism” ‘ vs that of Binay Sarkar. (I find the latter’s nearly incomprehensible.)”

    I have re-read both and they are both making the same point that a cashless society is not a moneyless society. This is obvious today but wasn’t so obvious at the time. The Marxian analysis adds that if money exists so does value. A point — in fact the point — both make.

    In fact a comparison of the two texts suggests that Binay Sarkar had a copy of L.L. Men’s pamphlet in front of him when he wrote that chapter. The quotes and descriptions are essentially the same (see pages 178-190 of Men’s pamphlet). The only difference is that Binay is not in favour of labour-time vouchers which Men favours.

    This is not surprising as a large part of Men’s pamphlet is a polemic against the CWO which Binay was associated with before he saw through “left communism” and joined us “feeble-minded idealists” in the WSM.

    #204085
    StuartW2020
    Participant

    Thank you, Robin, for drawing my attention to this discussion, and thank you everyone for your comments. I’m sorry you no longer find any value in my writing, but it is now obviously intended for quite a different audience. Nevertheless, it’s always interesting to get some robust criticism and hear what others are thinking, and it was nice to hear from you all again. I have nothing but the fondest memories of my time as a socialist, a feeling not at all affected by the fact that I can no longer agree with what I thought then. I’ll take this opportunity to apologise most sincerely for the intemperance of polemics past, and to wish you every happiness in your endeavours, even if I cannot, I am afraid, wish you any success in the socialist one.

    With all best wishes,

    Stuart

    #204107
    Matthew Culbert
    Keymaster

    I’m sorry you no longer find any value in my writing, but it is now obviously intended for quite a different audience.

    As Darren McGarvey argues in his book Poverty Safari, the left wastes a great deal of time critiquing “the system”, and believes it is doing good. More good would be done if they could instead help people give up drinking, smoking and eating rubbish and find something meaningful to do, both within and without their bullshit jobs.” (Watkins)

    A different audience. Too true. Followers of Katie Hopkins maybe?

    Do you think women should think about how they are going to feed a child before they decide to have it? I do not want to pay to feed other people’s kids. You are welcome to. (Hopkins)

     

     

    #204109
    DJP
    Participant

    He did great interviews with Mattick and with Kliman, and as Alan points out was a very good writer.

    Not of particular importance, but the Kliman interview was done by myself not Stuart Watkins.

    #204110
    Matthew Culbert
    Keymaster
    #204117
    Bijou Drains
    Participant

    When Barrington got round to the back of the platform, he found the man with the scarred face standing alone and gloomily silent in the shadow. Barrington gave him one of the Socialist leaflets, which he took, and after glancing at it, put it in his coat pocket without making any remark.

    ‘I hope you’ll excuse me for asking, but were you not formerly a Socialist?’ said Barrington.

    Even in the semi-darkness Barrington saw the other man flush deeply and then become very pale, and the unsightly scar upon his forehead showed with ghastly distinctiveness.

    I am still a Socialist: no man who has once been a Socialist can ever cease to be one.’

    ‘You seem to have accomplished that impossibility, to judge by the work you are at present engaged in. You must have changed your opinions since you were here last.’

    ‘No one who has been a Socialist can ever cease to be one. It is impossible for a man who has once acquired knowledge ever to relinquish it. A Socialist is one who understands the causes of the misery and degradation we see all around us; who knows the only remedy, and knows that that remedy–the state of society that will be called Socialism–must eventually be adopted; is the only alternative to the extermination of the majority of the working people; but it does not follow that everyone who has sense enough to acquire that amount of knowledge, must, in addition, be willing to sacrifice himself in order to help to bring that state of society into being.”

    #204182
    robbo203
    Participant

    I have nothing but the fondest memories of my time as a socialist, a feeling not at all affected by the fact that I can no longer agree with what I thought then. I’ll take this opportunity to apologise most sincerely for the intemperance of polemics past, and to wish you every happiness in your endeavours, even if I cannot, I am afraid, wish you any success in the socialist one.”

     

    Fair enough, Stuart,  but I I hope that in your efforts to criticise socialism in the future that your fairly and accurately present what socialism is about, nor  some gross caricature of it. You know, or should know, enough about the case for socialism to be able to do this

    Like others here I am completely dumbfounded by your road-to-Damascus conversion to mainstream capitalist politics.  I could sort of understand , though obviously not endorse, your earlier support for Left Unity but this latest move of yours is utterly baffling

    Clearly the universe is a more mysterious place than we perhaps allow for….

     

     

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