[OPE-L:8387] Re: socialism

From: Paul Cockshott (paul@cockshott.com)
Date: Fri Jan 24 2003 - 16:02:43 EST

gerald_a_levy wrote:

> > 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.

It is a feature of any radical democracy that it is inherently an
instrument for the oppression of minorities - in particular wealthy
minorities. You can not at one and the same time advocate socialism
and constitutional provisions for the protection of minorities.
Any such provision would be usable to protect the propertied

The landowning class in scotland - all 1284 families of it, are
aghast that the new Scottish Parliament has just passed a land
reform bill. They characterise this mild measure as the tyranny
of the majority and intend to appeal to the European court.

One should be very chary of accepting liberal constraints on

> > 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).

That has a bit of Christian moralising tone to my ears. I doubt it is
practical politics.

> > 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.

Yes in that case you are effectively saying that you can write off
the working class in the US for socialism because they are too tied
into the capitalist system through their pension schemes.

You can not both have socialism and keep pension schemes based
on the stock market. This just illustrates what I was saying about
there being real contradictions within the category of employees
vis a vis socialism.

> 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.

I agree.

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