[OPE] Heinz Dieterich's General Program for Transition Towards XXICentury Socialism in Latin America

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@tiscali.nl>
Date: Thu Oct 23 2008 - 14:30:11 EDT


I am aware of all that, in fact I once spent a month as a Phd student on New Zealand wages statistics comparing base data to aggregate estimates, real and nominal, before and after tax, and real disposable income, because it was very difficult to get any trustworthy data on what real take home pay actually was.

I was talking about something else, I was talking about Dieterich and Venezuela. In the Dutch Socialist Party, we are "critically sympathetic" of Chavez's experiments. Simply put, we are sympathetic in the sense that we think it is a good idea if oil profits are used for the benefit of Venezuelans with an egalitarian concience, and that we oppose foreign military intervention. But we can be also critical insofar as civil rights are concerned, and powerbrokers pushing halfbaked ideologies from overseas which have not stood the test of time. The polity of a nation should never attempt to do something which its own people are not (yet) capable of, you have to be realistic about what you can achieve within the given time frame, no more, no less.

I haven't talked to Venezuelan economists, but if they are saying: we need a system of accounts which enables us to relate labour hours, the prices of inputs and outputs, and the actual physical type of inputs and outputs (use-values), I am certainly in favour of that. Much of the great confusion and idiocy in modern Western economic thought is due to the fact that we do not actually know quantitatively what tangible things are produced, and how that relates to the value of those things, and to actual labour input. That is also why many businessmen regard economists as fairly useless; they are talking about something that does not apply in practice. You can fart about it in economics faculties, but the real world is different.

We do not know these things because we have not bothered to collect the data, and we face the business secrets of competing interests. We are unable to say e.g. the country uses X number of toilet rolls AND this is the value of these toilet rolls AND these are the firms producing them AND X number of toilet rolls are imported and exported AND to produce these toilet rolls takes x number of hours AND these are the labour costs AND these are the materials costs. All we can do is hire a consultant to "estimate" these things to some extent, bringing together various sources of evidence. With the aid of a system of standard product matrices and standard classifications, you can design a central input-output system with barcodes where you simply fill in the data form which goes to a data warehouse, and then you can do more intelligent economic analyses as required.

But if what they are saying is that trade should occur according to labour-time chits, I do not think it is going to work. Why? Because if it is not in the interests of people to trade that way, they are just going to trade in another way, then you get a "formal economy" and an "informal economy" happening, and then you get an economy which is even less transparent than it was before. This was proved in the Soviet Union. The bureaucrats had all sorts of data, but the data was shit, in reality people were relating in a different way.

The Bolsheviks propagated the idea the markets and prices were all bad, we had to get rid of them once and for all. This is at the intellectual level of Engels's critique of 1843, but that was the 1920s but this is 2008. Markets and prices are not all bad, real point is that they are an allocation device among other allocation methods.

Point of a socialist economy is that you have the choice of a variety of allocation methods to promote egalitarianism and optimise human development, and you can flexibly experiment with what works best, given the resource constraints you have and the world economy you must operate within. One type of market allocation is not the same as another type of market allocation, a lot depends on property rights etc. Ideologists will talk about "the market" but we know this is crap, because there are all sorts of different kinds of markets, some beneficial and others not.

Fine and good, but if a particular market allocation is vastly better and more efficient than non-market allocation, then you are better off with market allocation, and if you try to impose a different principle, what will happen is that informally people are going to buck the rules, and allocate things differently anyhow. You can "plan" what you like, but insofar as people take a different view, and make different allocative decisions, the plan comes to nought. You might get data, but the data are shit.

You might dream up a wonderful scheme, but it does not correspond to reality. Any real economic system has carrots and sticks, but if you use the carrots and sticks in the wrong way, you just get economic havoc. The political issue is whether you use the carrots and sticks wisely, and whether you can integrate where people are really at in their lives into economic decisionmaking, and for this you need to use the most advanced, suitable technology and communicative methods available to process the information. You need good political judgement, so that you get the people with you, and you have to prove the benefits.

>From a socialist point of view, the economy should serve the people, not the people serve the economy. That is paramount. It is the basis for what we do. Any allocation technique you use is only a means, not an end in itself, and we should not be dogmatic about this, but use techniques which optimise egalitarian justice and human development. If market principles work better, we should use market principles. If they do not, we should drop them. That is a matter of practical proof, not dogma, and in the context of a socialist economy, that is perfectly feasible within the limits as I said of the resource base and foreign relations. You also have to prove things within a reasonable amount of time, if not, people are off.

But of course if I say that "the economy should serve the people" then this is a bit wet. It's a slogan, not yet a policy. A society has obligations to the individual (rights), but the individual also has obligations to society (duties). This is the dialectic of the individual and the social. People can freely choose, they can volunteer or they can be coerced. The objective of the allocative techniques that we have available is to create "socially responsible individuals capable of decisionmaking", i.e. individuals who maximise their freedom for development but morally so, and not to the detriment of others, strong individuals who assert themselves but with a social conscience, who are very aware of the social consequences of their actions, who make a constructive contribution to society according to who they really are. This is a problem-fraught process, it is an imperfect process, there is trial and error and contradictions, this requires humanistic insight, but provided we can really prove that we are making real progress in that direction, we are on the way. If we cannot prove it, we should step back, and let others have a go.

A socialist society is a society in which people are able to test out and prove practically which forms of organisation work best for the individual and the group, and are able to debate and learn about this, to establish what margins for progressive change there really are, in an ethical way, rather than a corrupt or criminal way. This is not simply the prerogative of managers or directors, but of everybody. What I am wary of, is totalitarian schemes whether leftist or rightist, which proceed to impose an ideological system on the people that is really alien to them. You do what you do in a healthy "dialogue" with people, not with a monologue or monomania, and you change the things you can change, you do not try to change things that you cannot change without wreaking havoc. If you create havoc, you are responsible for helping to clear it up.

Democracy cuts both ways: it provides for a free discussion of opinion, but once a decision has been made based on majority rule, all participants are obliged to adhere to the decision until the next round. Thus, democracy contains both freedom and self-discipline. That is to say, you cannot in the end have it both ways, you have to be consistent, and it demands integrity. Arbitrary behaviour provides no orientation. Otherwise you have a sham democracy where people are just trying to serve themselves. Most modern democratic theory is a bit wet however. There is the leftist and rightist slogan of "democracy", but little understanding of what democratic methods exactly are appropriate to the situation.

Democracy in itself solves nothing, it can indeed be a pain in the ass, it can indeed oppress the minority, it is not the be all and end all of organisation. For a socialist, democracy is not a supreme virtue in itself, but a means to an end (see above). Some decisions cannot be made democratically, others are. What is a supreme virtue however is the freedom for dissent, and whether people are really better off or not. You have the right to disagree, but you must also take the consequences of your disagreement; the majority could be right or wrong, or you could be right or wrong, the point of democracy is that this can be proved in practice by the people for all to see. The alternative is an authoritarian system where the proof is simply that the authority says so, but I generally am not in favour of that, especially if I have no way of telling whether the authority is really an an authority, and how he or she came by that authority. Authority there must be, that's clear, but authority must be proven with competence, not assumed or bestowed as of right or because God says so.


hey Matt..
Yeah Tim?
TIm: Hey you talked to Mark lately?
Matt: Uh..haven't really talked to him but..he looks pretty uh..down.
Tim: He looks pretty uh..down? (while laughing)
Matt: Yeah well maybe we should cheer him up then
Tim: What do you uh..suppose we should do?
Matt: Well does he like butter tarts?

I was lying on the grass on Sunday morning of last week
Indulging in my self-defeat
My mind was thugged all laced and bugged all twisted wrong and beat
A comfortable three feet deep
Now the fuzzy stare from not being there on a confusing morning weak
Impaired my tribal lunar-speak
And of course you can't become if you only say what you would have done
So I missed a million miles of fun

I know it's up for me
Making sure I'm not in too deep
Keeping versed and on my feet

Tim: Chad..come here come here come here
Chad: Wow look at her
Tim: I know
Chad: Wow..I've never seen Sharon look so bad.
Tim: I did once before..but this is pretty bad
Chad: Yeah..what do you think she got up to last night?
(Tim and Chad laugh)
Tim: Well..I..Jared.I love you!

I was lying on the bench slide in the park across the street l-a-t-e-r that
My sticky paws were in to making straws out of big fat slurpy treats
An incredible eight foot heap
Now the funny glare to pay a gleaming tare in a staring under heat
Involved an under usual feet
And I'm not only among but I invite who I want to come
So I missed a million miles of fun

I know it's up for me
Making sure I'm not in too deep
Keeping versed and on my feet

I know it's done for me
Not as some and hard to see
Keeping dumb and built to beat

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Received on Thu Oct 23 14:42:09 2008

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