[OPE-L:8379] socialism

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Thu Jan 23 2003 - 10:37:54 EST

Re Paul C's [8375]:

> This is brought our by the question Gerry asked earlier When citing
> me saying
> > You should not wish for the impossible. You have to be able
> > to formulate a program that will unite a sufficiently broad
> > coalition to be effective, but if you try to accommodate the
> > interests of the financial sector employees you end up with
> > Tony Blair's version of socialism.
> He asked
> "As for the first part of your sentence above: what -- in broad
> outline -- would such a program be from your perspective?"
> Well I think that the broad outlines of a socialist program are
> contained in the late 19th and early 20th century social democratic
> programs. I will give 3 items from these that I take to be
> central, but first I will try to give some justification for them.
> I take the key principle of political strategy to be the need to
> offer the greatest potential gain to the greatest number of people.
> If one is to advocate a radical change in property relations it
> has to be one that the majority can see clear and immediate
> benefits from.

The principle of "the greatest potential gain to the greatest number
of people" has been used historically as a way of rationalizing the
oppression of minorities, e.g. with the "Russification campaign" in
the 1930's in the USSR.   I think that workers will want and expect
guarantees against such abuses in the future and that means that they
will want and expect democratic rights for minorities.

> One can show with very general statistical arguments that in societies
> in which the median income is substantially below the mean income,
> then the more radically egalitarian ones policy, the more people
> will benefit. Similarly with property redistribution. You have to appeal
> to the immediate self interest of people.

Yet, the 'immediate self interest' of people may not be the same as their
long-term self-interest.  One has to keep in mind that while socialism has
its material origins in the womb of capitalism, it aspires to something
greater than immediate self interest.  This may mean, especially in the
context of an international socialist commonwealth, some short-term
sacrifices (e.g. to lower international disparity in terms of  the
distribution of wealth).

> I thus see two old policies that came out of the social democratic debates
> as central
> 1. The adoption of a system of uniform hourly payment for the entire
> working  population. This is essentially what Marx advocates in Critique
> of the Gotha program, but there it is specified in terms of labour tokens
> following Owen. Since the introduction of these would take at a minimum
> 2 to 3 years one would have to have an intermediate period of uniform
> payment in money terms. The advantage of this is that the new pay rate
> can be put forward in socialist propaganda in a clear and simple way. It
> will be understood by people and the overwhelming majority of the
> working population would benefit.

Well, I agree that such a scheme would, most likely, take a _minimum_
of 2 to 3 years.  More likely, 2 to 3 decades or greater, IMO.

>     I have done the calculations a couple of times for the UK and once for
> the  USA, and whilst the figures date rapidly, they consistently show that
> only  the top quartile of male non-manual workers would lose out. Every
> other category of employees would gain.
> 2. One should promise an immediate cancelation of all debts as soon as
>     a socialist government comes to power.
>     Since the majority of the population today are aggregate net debtors
> on  credit cards, home loans etc, the mass of the population will benefit.
>     The key sector to loose out would be pensioners in reciept of funded
>     pension schemes. One would have to couple the cancelation of debts
> with a substantial upgrade of the state pension in countries like the UK.
> It   would be less necessary in countries like Germany.

Even if most workers are debtors, the cancellation of pension schemes
(and nullification of savings accounts?) is not likely to be a popular
demand.It should also be noted that in many capitalist nations, including
the US, retirement is almost totally financed out of private savings and
pension plans rather than state pensions.  If you ask workers to give up
those savings, then you are more likely to have disunity than unity within
the working class.

> 3. As a political offer I think one should promise the replacement of
> parliamentary  government by direct legislation by the people. This was
> advocated by the  rank  and file of the SPD and opposed by Kautsky and
> Engels, but on this  I think the rank and file were right.

Rights to recall elected representatives and ensuring that those
representatives don't have material benefits (e.g. higher wages, special
resorts and perks of power, etc.)  that go along with those positions are
also important considerations.

I think, in this regard, that we have to show to workers that socialism will
be _far more democratic_ than capitalism for socialism to win mass support.
This means building democratic institutions in every community and work site
including workers' control in industry.  Here again, though, there may be
conflicts between the 'general' interest and the interest of individual
groups of workers.

Solidarity, Jerry

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