Re: [OPE] the market and a classless society

From: Paul Cockshott <>
Date: Wed May 06 2009 - 04:52:51 EDT

>> Please cite sources here. When was this said, by which authors in the USSR?
> Hi Paul C:
> Well, for a start there's Stalin's _Economic Problems of the USSR_.
Well this certainly does not say that what was operating in the USSR in
the early 50s was resource allocation according to the labour theory of
value. It actually says very little that it is explicit about the labour
theory of value -- using the ambiguous code phrase law of value instead
-- but insofar as it addressed this point it said that the price system
in the USSR was wrong because it was insufficiently guided by value.
>> Why is there exchange?
> There's exchange because there's a division of labor.
That surely is an insufficient condition. You need both a division of
labour and labour carried out by multiple private producers to require
exchange. If goods are produced in establishments under a single owner
there is no need for them to be exchanged. In Henry Ford's factories,
the engine casting works did not exchange engine blocks with the main
production line. Nor need the electricity supply industry in a socialist
economy exchange its product with the aluminium industry.

Stalin attributed the continuation of monetary prices in the USSR to
there being a combination of modes of production:

   1. Socialist planned economy
   2. Peasant farm economy
   3. Private peasant economy

The latter two were forms of private production and thus required the
continuation of monetary exchange. This leaves open the issue as to
whether in an economy in which agriculture has been converted to state
farms as in Bulgaria in the 80s, there was still any need for exchange.
>> Yes and the result of keeping prices below values was that in Poland
>> the shops were empty when I visited there in the mid 80s. This was
>> unlike the situation in CSSR at the same time or in Bulgaria.
> Had the Polish government wanted to they could have increased the
> supply of food even at prices below market value.
How ? By a sheer act of will?

Poland had private peasant agriculture. How was such small scale private
agriculture, still largely using horses in the 80s, to greatly increase

The fact that there were such problems with food supply in Poland and
not in Bulgaria was not an accident.
>>> Building a socialist society isn't about using a theory of value
>>> for allegedly progressive purposes; it's about workers' control of
>>> decision-making and society on all levels.
>> Yes, but how do you calculate?
> Any way that working people decide to. Economic calculation under
> socialism is often (miss-)conceived as an attempt to find an optimal
> allocation of resources. Socialism, though, is more about "learning
> by doing" than establishing precise mathematical formulas.
This solution is all very well if you are a work team on a Peoples
Commune in China in 1970, where it is a matter of improvising with
limited resources. One reads similar praise of learning by doing in the
contemporary Korean press as being the essence of the Juche spirit. And
when talking to organisers of coops in the a poor area of Caracas last
year I was struck by the similarities between what they were saying and
what had come out of east Asian commune reports. But this learning by
doing is not going to be an adequate answer to the problem of socialist
calculation at a national level, especially in a developed industrial

You really need to engage more seriously with the debate that Neurath
started than just saying it is a matter of learning by doing.

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Received on Wed May 6 04:54:56 2009

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