FEASIBLE SOCIALISM — a concrete programme for the left (part 2)

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One of the problems that will have to be addressed is how the activities of a multitude of autonomous enterprises producing for a market can be reconciled with rational economic planning.

The abolition of capitalist ownership and control and its replacement by social ownership is itself a great step forward. But it will not resolve the anarchy and planlessness associated with market forces. For example, if we have several autonomous enterprises producing the same commodities, that is, competing with each other in the market, just as under capitalism, some will be more successful, others will go to the wall, and we will end up with new monopolies (although these will be cooperatively owned), while the workforces of the failed ones will become unemployed. Some sort of overall regulation of the different sectors of industry would need to be enforced to prevent this, and to regulate the optimum number and sizes of the different enterprises.

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Pat Divine offers a utopia

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Pat Devine’s book Democracy and economic planning (Polity Press, 1988) is a contribution to the Socialist Calculation Debate. The debate was launched by Ludwig von Mises, the iconic right-wing libertarian economist, in 1920 when he declared socialism (by which he meant any society where the principal means of production are owned in common) to be impossible.

Why? Mises asserted that economic calculation involves achieving what we want at least cost. In order to do this we need to compare the relative scarcities of resources available to us. Prices measure these relative scarcities and enable us to make rational choices. The determination of prices requires a market, including a market in the prices of ‘factors of production’ such as land and capital. If these are owned in common, they can have no price and their relative scarcities cannot be compared. But if a market and rent, interest and profit are reintroduced into the economy, what is left of socialism?

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FEASIBLE SOCIALISM — a concrete programme for the left (part 1)

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It is not enough for the left to bemoan social-democrats’ abandonment of any socialist or even specifically meaningful policies. Is neither enough to speak in general terms of the need for radical and socialist policies. The left must elaborate a feasible alternative programme in specific terms.

Introduction

It is the highest time to spell out concretely what should be done by a socialist government, not in the distant future, but in the actual present. To quote Alec Nove 1, it must define a “feasible socialism” conceivable in the lifetime of a child already conceived.

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Notes:

  1. Aleksandr Yakovlevich Novakovsky (24 November 1915 — 15 May 1994), Professor of Economics at the University of Glasgow and a noted authority on Russian and Soviet economic history. More >>>

P2P & Marxism — the death of an old model

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In order to change society it is necessary to understand it. Especially new phenomena that can give a hint as to what is in the making. One important new trend has been peer-to peer production, a new voluntary form of cooperation whose products are shared freely. Based on the previous discussion on this website, here is another contribution to the discussion.

The peer-to-peer movement has been accused of utopianism. While it is true that some pretty far fetched ideas exist in the movement (as in any movement), it is absurd to accuse something which has been developing by leaps and bounds in the past 10-15 years of being utopian.

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Which road for Greece? (part 2)

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Published: 2 April 2013
Author: Pat Byrne

In Part 1 of this two-part assessment we explained some of the factors behind the rise of the left-wing SYRIZA movement in Greece to the point where it is now the most popular party in the country and could lead a future government. Here Pat Byrne highlights some important weaknesses in SYRIZA’s programme and proposes constructive changes that could determine its success or failure.

But what programme are SYRIZA offering and is it capable of solving Greece’s economic crisis?

Certainly, the election manifesto that SYRIZA stood on last year was extremely radical. This was to be warmly welcomed and received mass support among the population. But there are already signs that the majority of the Party leadership are moderating their proposals under the heavy pressure of the mass media and capitalist society. This was evident at last December’s Party Congress debates over the Party’s programme and in various contributions from leading figures since.

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