[OPE-L:8410] Re: Socialism

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Thu Jan 30 2003 - 16:54:38 EST

Cologne 30-Jan-2003

Re: [OPE-L:8387]

 Paul Cockshott <paul@cockshott.com>schrieb   Fri, 24 Jan 2003 21:02:43 +0000:

> 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
> 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.

There can be no acceptance of liberalism at all, which is based on the principle
“Government has no other end but the preservation of Property”, a man’s property
being “his Life, Liberty and Estate”. Dissociated private property is also the
basis of the mode of human being called individualism.

I take it that socialism is not based merely on brute political power play, but
claims a superior notion of (social) justice. A socialist society claims to be
fundamentally in-joint, whereas a capitalist society is claimed to be
_fundamentally_ i.e. in the very essence of its social relations, out-of-joint.

If some sort of socialist government expropriates private property owners in some
more or less radical way, justice being some notion or other that the goods of
social living are allotted fairly so that "each has his own" (Plato, Aristotle),
is this justified on the basis of:

a) The majority wanting to have more (_pleonexia_) and enforcing this with a
majority vote (De Tocqueville's tyranny of the majority)? or

b) The majority wanting to have more and justifying this by demanding quantitative
equality of distribution of wealth throughout society? (levelling principle) or

c) The majority wanting to have more and justifying this by claiming that it is
exploited directly or indirectly by those wealthier through the extraction of
surplus-value? (LTV justification)or

d) The majority wanting to have more and justifying this by claiming that it is
unjust that it has to work under the command of a hierarchy based on private
property rights? (oppression justification) or

e) ?

If socialism is based on an appeal to the (shifting) majority getting more, then
those with more in any respect have to live with the constant danger of being
expropriated at any time, as soon as a majority is mobilized politically against
them. In particular, there cannot be any such thing as markets based on exchange
between free parties, because trading inevitably leads to inequalities in the
distribution of wealth. All forms of individual striving for gain must be
suppressed or, at most, tolerated at the margins. Markets become black markets.

On this view, socialism is based, like capitalism, on the striving for more (the
Gewinnst, the gathering of all opportunities for gain), but with different (and
perhaps constantly shifting, political-power) rules of play. The individual
striving for more is no longer secured and socially sanctioned, but has to go
underground, has to become more or less covert within the socially conscious,
bureacratic apparatuses that organize the production and distribution of social
wealth. Since private property is abolished, no individual can ever be secure in
what he or she owns. Instead, political power itself (instead of money) becomes
the medium through which wealth is acquired and held onto. Doesn*t this sound

> > > 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.

The appeal of the underdog majority getting more is just as Christian in its

> > > 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.

They are too happy? The liberal principle of the protection of "Life, Liberty and
Estate" has been translated in the US into the rights of "Life, Liberty and the
Pursuit of Happiness".

> 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.

Indeed. In fact, all kinds of pension and superannuation schemes are tied to the
stock and bond markets in some way. Only the (socialist) state, with its monopoly
of force, can change those rules of play for saving up wealth for old age.

> > 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.

The question is whether "_far more democratic_" in the end means 'far more
tyrannical', the tyranny residing in the notion of "general interest", which is an
infinitely malleable, fictititious, political variable.

_-_-_-_-_-_-_-  artefact text and translation _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
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_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ Dr Michael Eldred -_-_-

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