[OPE-L:2770] Re: socialism and planning

Paul Cockshott (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 02:01:51 -0700 (PDT)

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>Paul C: "People are not going to struggle to overthrow it if they are
>convinced that there is no alternative."
>Andrew: I agree. But I think "alternative" and "plan," which Paul conflates,
>are different things. Neither Jerry nor I have gotten anything that I
>consider to be responses to the point that optimization requires a goal; there
>is no "rationality" that is not relative to the goal being pursued. And if
>the goal is imposed externally on people, how much of an "alternative" is this
>really to the present-system, in which value self-expansion dominates
>independently of our wills? If instead of "plan," we were talking about
>methods and concepts by which people can work out their own destiny, that
>would be different. That is what is really not at all developed, and which is
>cowardice to avoid.

One has to distinguish between allocation of necessary labour time
between different ends in a democratic fashion, and the allocation
and scale of surplus labour time which is a different issue.

Under the socialist mode of production the specific form of extraction
of surplus labour is consituted by the way the plan pre-allocates labour
to the production of surplus goods and to necessary goods. In this it differs
from capitalism in that under socialism the division of the social working
day between necessary and surplus labour is essentially determined at the
political level. Under capitalism it is determined at the economic level
by a multitude of private bargains, and the actual proportion appear to arise
post-hoc in the realised level of profits/wages.

Because the surplus extraction mode operates at the political level
the crucial question is how the decisions are taken at this level.
In order to make the decision making democratic I would advocate the

1. The surplus should appear as an explicit tax deducted from peoples
allocation of tokens for work done. This is the opposite of what has
normally occured under socialism where the surplus has been hidden
by either the absence of income taxes, or very low levels of income
taxes. Instead it has taken the financial form of a turnover tax
on public enterprises.

2. The level of the tax should be determined by annual plebiscite with
power to make small incremental or decremental changes.

3. The 0istribution of the surplus between certain broad ends should
also be determined by plebiscite. One could for example give each
voter 100 votes to allocate to different budget categories in the
ratio that they wanted the tax revenue to be distributed.

The planning agency should then be obliged to draw up the plan in conformance
with these general guidelines.

When it comes to determining the detailed contents of output of necessary
labour time, I think that some variant on Lange's solution is correct. A
state marketing agency should sell goods to consumers in return for labour
tokens. Output should then be adjusted either in response to stock levels.
In the event of the adjustment not being fast enough, the marketing agency
should sell the goods at a discount or premium to prevent queues or surpluses
Paul Cockshott