Re: [OPE] workers' management and socialism

From: Alejandro Agafonow <>
Date: Thu Nov 06 2008 - 14:46:50 EST

Jerry we don’t sustain that managers are only motivated by the prospect of personal remuneration, “but not only” by it.   In contrast, you seem to think that managers are only motivated by the prospect of non-pecuniary moral rewards. This is unrealistic.   Our position is very well summarized by the following quotation of Polanyi that I shared with you some time ago:   “Neither the crude egotism, nor the apocryphal propensity to barter, truck, and exchange, nor even the tendency to cater to one’s self was in evidence. But equally discredited was the legend of the communistic psychology of the savage, his supposed lack of appreciation for his own personal interests (Roughly, it appeared that man was very much the same all through the ages. Taking his institutions not in isolation, but in their interrelation, he was mostly found to be behaving in a manner broadly comprehensible to us). What appeared as “communism” was the fact that the productive or economic system was usually arranged in such a fashion as not to threaten any individual with starvation. His place at the camp fire, his share in the common resources, was secure to him, whatever part he happened to have played in hunt, pasture, tillage, or gardening.” (pp. 112) Karl Polanyi, “Our Obsolete Market Mentality: Civilization Must Find a New Thought
 Pattern”, Commentary, 3, 1947.     Besides, your statement: “That's why it's so important that the system be organized in such a way that if workers are unsatisfied with the performance of administrators that they have the *right of recall*”, is extremely problematic. Unsatisfied in what sense? There are other mechanisms but “recalls” to guarantee that an administrator comply with human and advanced standards in her/his administrative relation with workers.   Regards,A. Agafonow ________________________________ De: GERALD LEVY <> Para: Outline on Political Economy mailing list <> Enviado: miércoles, 5 de noviembre, 2008 16:38:21 Asunto: RE: [OPE] workers' management and socialism > “[…] managers of the various economic organs of the community. They must be free to experiment with new products, with alternative methods of production, and with the > substitution of one kind of material, machine, or labour for another. But independence involves responsibility. The manager must be made to realize his responsibility for the > decisions that he makes. Now responsibility means in practice financial responsibility. The manager’s personal remuneration must in some way reflect his success or failure > as a manager. Unless he bears responsibility for losses as well as for profits he will be tempted to embark on all sorts of risky experiments on the bare chance that one of > them will turn out successfully. It will be ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ between himself and the community.” (Dickinson, 1971: 213-214)     Hi Alejandro:   Socialism requires WORKERS control and SELF-management.   Dickinson is assuming that managers are only motivated by the prospect of personal remuneration. In so doing, he assumes that motivation under socialism will be the same as motivation under capitalism. This reflects a lack of vision in the future. It also implicitly reflects an over-estimation of the specialized knowledge required for administration/management. I am of the opinion that it is within the capacity of workers in general to administer/manage their own work sites. Whatever knowledge they lack individually can be gained by enlarging the body of workers who are charged with decision-making: e.g. they can implement a "wisdom of crowds" model. Don't you think that the "crowd" - a group of workers randomly selected and representative of the workers overall - has the capacity for self-governance?   Of course, there must be accountability for administration/management. The accountability must be to other workers. That's why it's so important that the system be organized in such a way that if workers are unsatisfied with the performance of administrators that they have the *right of recall*.     > Efficiency relates very few to the “inheritance of a more efficient array of plant and equipment at the  > time of the revolution” as Jerry seems to sustain. Once inherited an array of plant and equipment, > how long can we attribute to it the efficiency of a productive unit? In a dynamic economy not so long.     It depends on what you mean by "not so long".  In any dynamic economy, there are an array of ages and 'vintages' of plant and equipment. It's the case, for instance, that newer factories tend to be more efficient than older ones.  By that I mean not simply the particular technologies within the factories but the physical structure of the factories themselves (although, obviously, the two are related). Do you think that it will be "not so long" before  all of the older factories are closed?    To think that all factories which don't employ the current best technologies will either be shut-down or have the technologies updated "not so long" after a revolution underestimates some practical problems in the transitional period.     > I am against a cult of efficiency since it undermines the bases of a stable and healthy social life. > But Jerry seems to have a “cult of asceticism” that in the current state of development of social > productive forces will certainly lead to waste and productive paralysis.     See above.  I think you are underestimating the degree to which socialism constitutes a new mode of production in which different social relations of production are expressed. As Mike Lebowitz put it recently, "Without workers' management, there can be no socialism".   In solidarity, Jerry

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