[OPE-L:8389] Re: socialism

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Sat Jan 25 2003 - 21:52:21 EST

Re Paul C's [8387]:

> 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
> minority.
> 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
> democracy.

I was thinking of  the rights of national minorities and the right
to dissent within a socialist commonwealth.  Does this mean that
the actions of any 'minority'  will be legally tolerated?  Of course
not.  'Murderers', for instance, are a minority.  As for the former
ruling class,  a  workers' state would presumably make certain
forms of economic behavior illegal.  For instance, economic
exploitation of  workers by individuals could be defined legally and
made a crime.

> > 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.

The Cuban government in  the early years appealed to workers for
short-term sacrifices (e.g. volunteering their free time to take part in the
sugar cane harvest) in the name of socialism.  One might argue whether
"moral incentives" are workable in the long-term, but I think it is clear
that Castro and Guevara were concerned about practical politics and
were not engaged in Christian moralizing.

As I recall,  Mao Tse-Tung also periodically called upon workers and
peasants to make sacrifices in the name of socialism.  Whatever one thinks
of Mao and his policies, I think one would have to agree that he was
concerned with practical politics and was not engaging in Christian

Lenin also asked workers and peasants to make short-term sacrifices
during, for example, the Civil War.  And the peasantry, in particular,
did make short-term sacrifices in the name of socialism during the
period of War Communism.  Yet, Lenin and the Bolshevik leadership
were knowledgeable about practical politics (indeed, the signing of the
Brest-Litovsk Treaty and the introduction of the NEP are evidence
of that).  And despite opposition to some of these policies, no one
accused Lenin, Trotsky or the rest of the Bolshevik leadership of
Christian moralizing.

> > 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.

Socialism and the continued existence of a stock market (and generalized
commodity exchange that the stock market represents) are inconsistent.
This doesn't mean, though, that workers who have pension plans will
have them ended without compensation.   I also note that you didn't deal
with the question of workers' savings accounts (rather than stock market
holdings) in your response.  Do you think that working-class families who
have savings  will just agree "for the greater good"  to have those savings
erased without compensation?

Solidarity, Jerry

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