1990s >> 1999 >> no-1136-april-1999



    * That ‘S’ word again
    * Democracy

That ‘S’ word again

Dear Editors,
Re Aki Orr’s letter which you entitled “Should we drop the word ‘Socialism’?” in the February edition of the Socialist Standard.

Orr’s letter was an excellent analysis of what many Socialists believe is a primary impediment to universal acceptance of our philosophy, and your reply was off-target to a point of irrelevance.

Orr’s hypothesis is that the word “socialism” intrinsically alienates understanding of our object. I can confirm from my experience in Bermuda.

A couple of years ago I was able to get published in the Bermuda Times’s open editorial pages two very lengthy articles on Socialism. These articles were over 1,500 words in length and took up two half-pages over two editions each.

In these articles I defined capitalism, Socialism and state capitalism and other crucial areas. Using the leaflet Some Questions and Answers about Socialism I covered all the salient points that I could in the space I had available. I especially emphasised the meaning of Socialism and how it will solve the problems of society.

However, in spite of my efforts, the only letters to the editor regarding the articles kept harping on about how Socialism has failed etc, etc. I replied to these criticisms pointing out their misinterpretations, briefly reiterated our position and finished by urging them to carefully re-read the articles. However it was totally futile as back came another letter once more chastising me about my definition of Socialism, for example “What was the Allende government in Chile if it wasn’t Socialist”, etc, etc. a complete communications breakdown . . .

Even when discussing the subject face-to-face with so-called intelligent people I find that it is almost impossible to break through the barrier of preconception that the word “Socialism” evokes. It is almost a Pavlovian reaction: ring the bell and the dog salivates.

What I am suggesting is, I know, nothing new yet in my heart of hearts I know that if Socialism is to survive, we must change our name.

At the moment we are banging our heads against the wall. Some people seem to believe that if we are only able to get our message out to the masses that they will come flocking to the cause. My controlled experiment here in Bermuda suggests that nothing like that will happen. The name confuses people and they switch off before you are able to explain who we are and what we stand for. A change of name (perhaps patented/copyrighted?) will focus our identity and possibly act as a catalyst to a faster revolution.


Reply: The people you couldn’t convince of the real meaning of Socialism would seem to have been opponents of the whole idea. Would those who are sympathetic to the idea be put off from investigating further by a mere word? – Editors.  



Dear Editors,
Thank you for printing my reply to your review of my pamphlet Beyond Capitalism/Socialism/Anarchism—AUTONARCHY, the ultimate democracy (February, Socialist Standard).

I expected you would reject my ideas—as you did—in a fraternal manner. I did not expect your misunderstanding of my main points. Allow me one short comment to your reply.

Auto-narchy (nothing to do with “Anarchy”) is based on two principles:

   1. One citizen—one vote, on every political decision.
   2. One employee—one vote, on every decision at work.

I argued that Autobank technology, used daily in every bank in the world for more than a decade, could easily be adapted to political decision-making by millions people. It handles millions of decisions daily, summing them up into a single decision in seconds. Whether decisions are on financial issues or political issues is irrelevant to the technology. When people grasp this the struggle to implement the two principles will begin. This will challenge capitalism—irrespective of economic issues—far more than Socialism.

Your reply made two points:

“Direct democracy . . . would also have to involve ‘indirect’ democracy via elected Delegates” (last paragraph on p.15). NO, it would not! Autobank technology enables millions of decisions to be summed up into a single decision in seconds thereby making political delegates obsolete. If you do not understand this you do not understand my argument.

You say I am wrong in stating that the struggle today is over decision-making authority “rather than over the ownership and control of the productive resources by which society lives” (top of second column on page 16).

Have you ever asked yourself what “Ownership” and “Control” mean? “Ownership” is simply “authority to make all decisions concerning what is owned”.

Authority to make all decisions concerning X—is “ownership” of X. “Control” is decision-making on that which is controlled”. Both “ownership” and “control” boil down to “authority for decision-making”.

If you have other definitions of these two terms I shall be delighted to hear them.

AKI ORR, Kfar-Shanaryah, Israel

Reply: We still say that direct democracy, whether by mass meeting or autobank technology, need not be the only form of democratic control in socialism. For many, perhaps most decisions, decision-making by a committee or council of elected delegates (subject of course to public scrutiny and recall) will be more appropriate.

We can go along with your definitions. That’s why we said that in the end “common ownership” and “democratic control” of productive resources are the same. However our views are not identical as you write in your pamphlet that “equality of authority at work means that all employees have the right to vote on every decision related to their work. This includes all decisions on profits, investment, hiring and firing.” We say that “equality of authority at work” will mean the end of the employee/employer relationship. How can there still be profits and hiring and firing when there’s common ownership?—Editors.  

Sackcloth and Ashes. In the letter from Bryan J. Fair, last month, in the second paragraph it said “At present these are taught by the majority of teachers in a politically biased way.” This of course should have read unbiased.


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