[OPE-L:2730] Re: socialism and planning

Fri, 26 Jul 1996 15:16:46 -0700 (PDT)

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Allin wrote in [OPE-L:2729]:

> Why should future workers even contemplate building a "new society"
> in the absence of any conception of how it might work, and constitute
> an improvement over the present state of affairs?


I don't think there has been any modern revolution in which the
revolutionaries agreed before the fact on the *details* of how the new
society and economy would be structured and governed. As for workers
rebellions', it certainly wasn't the case with the Paris Commune where
there were major political divides among the Communard leaders. It wasn't
the case among the Bolsheviks either who differed sharply and bitterly on
how Soviets would rule. etc., etc.. What is demanded and required is a
commitment to certain ideals of social and socialist justice.

Everyone other than intellectuals who I have discussed socialism with over
the years has raised *other* objections (mostly related to "democracy" and
"freedom"). They don't know necessarily know what they want, but they
know what they DON'T WANT. They DON'T want to live in a Soviet-style
country. To hell with that! The question of whether a market is a more
efficient vehicle for optimizing social welfare vs. "centralized
planning" (by the way, who came up that term? -- does anybody know?) is a
bugbear of the intelligentsia.

Now ... don't get me wrong. I have NO objection to the Cockshott-Cottrell
effort to develop their "plan." I just don't think, however, that it is
the case that the masses or progressive workers are asking for answers to
THAT question.


> Marx took it for granted that the freely associated producers
> were capable of constructing an efficient, democratic planned economy.
> The details could be worked out in good time. Obviously, today one
> cannot take any such thing for granted. Most people believe that
> this has been shown to be impossible -- both via theoretical
> argument and historical experience. It will take hard intellectual
> effort to "reopen" this idea (in new form) as a conception that
> might motivate people to political action.


If part of what you are saying is that we can't take it for granted that
people will be satisfied with the old answers given by major groups on the
Left (including the social democrats and the Stalinists), then I agree
with you. As for motivating people to political action, I don't believe
in general that those people will be moved to action by "hard
intellectual effort" (of academics?). I do think, though, that there are
many hard and important important questions related to the experience in
the USSR and other "socialist" nations, that need to be more openly
debated and discussed by socialist intellectuals and progressive
political activists.

In OPE-L Solidarity,