Reply to Organise/NorthEastern Anarchist Parecon article

17 posts / 0 new
Last post
pingtiao's picture
pingtiao
Offline
Joined: 9-10-03
Aug 18 2004 15:02
Reply to Organise/NorthEastern Anarchist Parecon article

Found it on ZNET: Debating Economic Vision for a Society without Classes

admin edit: jesus fuck ping - that was the worst formatted post i have ever seen!

888's picture
888
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Dec 8 2004 01:33

Shame it's a meandering and poorly written reply. Could have been said more clearly in fewer words. His idea of a coordinator class sounds rather confused and his ideas of why anarchism failed in the past are wrong.

Parecon sounds like a con to me. It sounds very legalistic and prescriptive and not very communist*. I still don't quite understand it, mainly my fault for never having got round to read through a detailed decription of it. The idea of keeping markets is total shite though, and probably its biggest flaw. Kropotkin describes a workable communist system much better in the Conquest of Bread, even though it's 100 years old.

However, possible ways a communist system would work need to be studied in detail and for this reason Parecon is to be praised (even though it's not communist)... Excuses that we cannot provide the blueprints for a future society are not good enough - what is feasible and what is not needs to be explored. People do (including me) not have a good enough grasp of what a communist system entails.

* Please note that by communist I mean the abolition of private property, the government, and the market and the system of distribution from each according to their ability to each according to their needs. Not anything to do with Communists, Lenin, or the USSR.

PS the alternative political system described by Albert and friends - ParPolity - is absolutely awful. Shows them up as confused, legally-minded liberal academics.

odessa steps
Offline
Joined: 5-01-05
Jan 5 2005 19:58

I think Northeastern Anarchist will be publishing my reply to Tom Mezler of the WSA soon. Parecon is a market-based system with people being required to work and sell their labour, with that labour being assigned arbitrary values by a bureacracy nominally under 'our' control but actually not. It requires a lot of what we think of as the state - laws, contracts, regulations etc - to operate and has invested quite a lot of intellectual effort to thwarting the designs of 'subversive' entrepreneurs or groups aiming to challenge the system; which means it could work but we still won't be free. I wrote my original critique because anarchists really have to challenge such liberal, reformist ideas. its not enough just to campaign against injustice, we really also need to work out viable alternatives. or we'll win a revolution only for the liberals, socialists and anarcho-capitalists to steal it from us by bringing 'order' to the 'chaos'.

Odessa

wink

pingtiao's picture
pingtiao
Offline
Joined: 9-10-03
Jan 6 2005 11:35

Hello odessa.

I'm not entirely sure that you "got" parecon to be honest- I remember seeing simplicities in your analysis that didn't entirely correspond to my understanding of it at the time. I think that it would be a good idea to enagge directly with Albert on thsi one- you can do it on the Zmag forums- I think that way any misunderstandings you might have would be ironed out.

You may, or course, be totally right, but the system to me seemed highly complex and thought out, and I was unsure whether you had properly grasped it. I haven't, so targetting your critique at those with less understanding is less useful than engaging with those who do get what it is about.

odessa steps
Offline
Joined: 5-01-05
Jan 6 2005 20:04

I think what's most useful is to go to the sites dedicated to Parecon where there are plenty of FAQs answering key questions. Here its clear that those activists who are interpreting parecon and would be establishing parecon systems if capitalism began to break down are pretty clear about the requirement to work, the fact that work would not be freely chosen but limited (to enable work-balancing to occur) and that the IFBs would control all production decisions (for instance allocating inputs (resources) to new enterprises). Its an elegant economic system based on a democratic model which ends up leaving everybody totally unfree. I don't see what interest anarchist and libertarians would have in such a system.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Nov 21 2006 18:50

http://libcom.org/forums/thought/parecon-0

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
Nov 21 2006 18:53

is all I can find atm.

Anarcho
Offline
Joined: 22-10-06
Nov 21 2006 22:32

Parecon has some okay ideas within it (usually taken from old anarchists and other libertarians). But taken as a whole, it will not work. The amount of information it needs to work makes it impossible. See this debate between Albert and a market socialist:

http://www.zmag.org/debateschw.html

It is pretty clear that the Parecon people cannot understand the (pretty obvious) points being made. I think that problem is that they think that building an economic model which, in theory, works means that it will. However, like neo-classical economics all you have is a model -- reality is something else...

little_brother's picture
little_brother
Offline
Joined: 30-01-06
Nov 22 2006 15:38

I heard Michael Albert talk about Parecon recently. I understand Albert's starting point - Ask 'what are our Left (sic) values?'. Answer- solidarity, equity [but note this is not equality], diversity etc., and then construct an ideal economic model from that. Based on these values Parecon is in dual opposition to market capitalism and state socialism. It's a formulation of a 'social welfare function' which aims to reconcile those Left values (take a look at Hahnel and Albert 1990 book 'Quiet Revolution in Welfare Economics' if you want to see the maths!). Also through its critique of the 'coordinator class', it makes you think about middle class and especially managerial roles in present day society.

Certainly it's not communism, so as an organisation of anarchist communists the AF is obviously going to have a problem with it. It's a kind of collectivism that anarchist communists have rejected. It keeps money (in exchange for effort) so it's not an exchange-free economy. You are encouraged to do the most productive kinds of work you are capable of doing, although it is your effort that is rewarded rather than your output. In this way society has a large effect on what work you do, although it is intended not to discriminate as a result of differing abilities. So it has implications for individual freedom.

Parecon maintains the idea of a workplace (or set of workplaces), but your job is balanced in such a way that there are no individual managerial (coordinator) roles in that workplace, plus the wider society decides what your job is worth and what should be produced. It even envisages policing as part of the 'balanced job complex' (balanced in such a way that there can be no minority coordinator class). Again this has implications for individual freedom.

Whilst anarchist communists are not going to agree with Parecon, within the anarchist movement I think it might be a good starting point for discussions between anarchist communists and anarcho-syndicalists about visions of the post-revolutionary future society.

little_brother's picture
little_brother
Offline
Joined: 30-01-06
Nov 22 2006 21:47

If you go to the original organise! article you will see from the links provided that the debate is continued after this reply with a second exchange:
http://flag.blackened.net/af/org/issue62/parecon.html

Tacks's picture
Tacks
Offline
Joined: 8-11-05
Nov 29 2006 01:55

pingtiao - zmag boards?

syndicalistcat's picture
syndicalistcat
Offline
Joined: 2-11-06
Nov 29 2006 02:57

Parecon is designed to be a non-market economy. A traditional weakness of Left-libertarian economic visions was a failure to answer a very basic and essential question when proposing a mode of production or economic system: What is the system for allocation of labor time and other resources to produce things we want? Mainstream and Marxists economists have traditionally agree there are only two alternative: market governance or central planning. Various libertarian communist or other Left-libertarians of the past vaguely hinted there was some third alternative but never really said what it was. In the '70s a number of radical economics began to work out a legitimate third alternative: participatory planning. The basic idea is that a social plan to govern production is created, not by a planning elite (the "plan factory" in Castoriadis' proposal for example) but by the direct proposals of the entire population. Participatory planning means that social planning as a whole is self-managed.

I don't believe an economic system where work is not required is workable. Moreover, it is not the case that all libertarian communists in the past rejected the requirement that able bodied people work. For example, Makhno and Isaac Puente both agreed with the work requirement.

If you follow the definition of a "communist mode of production" provided by Reznick and Wolf in their book "Class Theory and History", parecon would be a commnist mode of production. That's because communism, for them, is a classless society, that is, any society where the social surplus is "appropriated" by those who produce it.

If you want to see the entire debate, go to the WSA debate page at:

http://www.workersolidarity.org/debates.html

My reply to Odessa's reply to me deals with issues like the use of social accounting money, the requirement to work, the role of "iteration facilitation boards", and political functions like legislation, enforcement of a society's basic rules, and so on.

t.

888's picture
888
Offline
Joined: 30-09-03
Dec 21 2006 20:09

Communism is a society without exchange value.

syndicalistcat's picture
syndicalistcat
Offline
Joined: 2-11-06
Dec 21 2006 22:43

What do you mean by "exchange value"? If you mean price as generated by market governance of allocation, there is no "exchange value", in that sense, in parecon. And what do you mean by "communism"? If we define communism the way "Class Theory and History" does -- a society where the people who produce the social surplus appropriate it -- parecon is a form of communism.

Even in communism, however you define it, there will be exchange. You produce things for others because they want those things, and you do that because you want others to produce things for you, that you want. That is exchange. Even in a "gift economy," exchange is taking place. Exchange doesn't have to be governed by the market.

And what do you mean by "value"? People value things in the sense that there are things they desire, that is part of being a living human. And they prefer certain things over others. Desire is always in relation to alternatives, a matter of preferences, stronger or weaker. So things have a relative value to people depending on how much they desire them, and how much they prefer them over alternatives.

To be effective, we need an economic arrangement that doesn't waste the time we spend in making things others want. To be sure we're not wasting our time, we need a way of measuring the value to others of different possible things we could spend our time making for them. Our time, and the natural resources we use, are all things of value to us, and an effective economic arrangement needs to economize on our use of these things. In doing this it is helpful -- necessary -- to have a scale of value, a measure of how much people want things or don't want things. The basis of this can include things like impacts on the ecosystem our lives depend on, use of our time, importance to us of the things produced, and so on. But it is helpful to measure this on a scale, a scale that has numeric units. This is the reason that social accounting "money" makes sense, even under communism.

t.

little_brother's picture
little_brother
Offline
Joined: 30-01-06
Jan 5 2007 11:24

This is a useful debate. I think that what t. is describing is more what we would more commonly understand as collectivism, whereas the AF's 'communism' is more libertarian communist influenced - we are wary of having a society that is built on formalised exchange of any kind. This is not to say that there is no concept of value in an anarchist communist society, rather that an all-encompassing measure of value (e.g. based on individual effort - work - as it is in Parecon) does not seem very attractive in terms of personal freedom. So I would say this means we in the AF are both more individualist than anarcho-syndicalists about economic relations, and more individualist than platformists about political organisation. What do other members think?

revol68's picture
revol68
Offline
Joined: 23-02-04
Jan 5 2007 11:35

don't even think and pin that Parecon nonsense on anarcho syndicalists. Anarcho syndicalism has always had a very devirse approach to economic organisation and distribution.