Re: [OPE] Advice to a postgrad (Thomas More Relies to market socialism)

From: Dave Zachariah (
Date: Mon Jun 30 2008 - 11:18:24 EDT

on 2008-06-29 18:51 Ian Wright wrote:
> I think the litmus test of a socialist economy is democratic control,
> including such things as control in the workplace, and control over the
> allocation of surplus-labour to either new production or a reduction in
> the length of the working day. In a one-party state there is no
> democratic control of this kind. The internal constitution of the single
> party becomes the de facto constitution of the whole social organism.
> You at least need multiple competing parties.

I agree with this characterization of a socialist economy, at least 
ideally. However, one of the great failures of the socialist movement is 
that it never found an adequate political form to run the economy in 
this way.

If one tries to distill what 'socialism' meant as a political project 
before the establishment of the Soviet Union or Social-democratic 

Broadly speaking it had a goal:

    To organize society in such a manner that every individual should at
    birth find approximately equal means for the full development of her
    diverse faculties and their utilization in her work.

and a moral:

    For those able to work, labour is the only legitimate source of
    income. Every individual should enjoy the social wealth to the
    extent she contributes to the creation of that wealth. Thereby
    exploitation of anyone's labour must be rendered impossible.

But in the light of the 20th century we know that by these principles 
alone the door is open to not only a radical-democratic socialism but 
also an 'aristocratic' or authoritarian socialism. In this way, I think 
one has to accept that, say, the GDR and Sweden under a Meidner plan 
would have been two radically different socialist projects since, unlike 
capitalism, socialism is a political project characterized by a goal and 

But if one tries to characterize a socialist *economy* using the 
framework of historical materialism, it involves political or collective 
control over a fraction of the surplus product.

//Dave Z
ope mailing list

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