Labor vouchers/notes

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Libertarian Ths
Joined: 14-03-18
Mar 14 2018 00:46
Labor vouchers/notes

How are labor vouchers supposed to be given out?
Will they be printed out by a machine when a worker clicks out for the day?
Or on a card like a gift card?
Or will a worker’s boss hand the vouchers to the workers,
or what?

Joined: 25-11-16
Mar 14 2018 01:13

Labor vouchers wouldn't be a feature of a fully developed communist/socialist society (if that's what you're talking about), where people have their needs satisfied regardless of how much they can contribute. As far as I've read, the labor vouchers Marx wrote about were a temporary measure for conditions back then, and not a feature of a fully developed communist society, which shouldn't be necessary nowadays. I don't think there'd be any bosses or "workers" under communism either.

Joined: 20-04-08
Mar 14 2018 02:44

For a quick summary of the debate

Mike Harman
Joined: 7-02-06
Mar 14 2018 12:46

The closest to current arguments for labour vouchers is probably parecon. Ten years ago now we did this exchange with them:

Joined: 6-01-07
Mar 14 2018 13:42

And for a longer theoretical discussion of all this check out David Adam's library text on this site on 'Marx's critique of Socialist labour-money schemes....' and more especially the useful follow-up discussion that it prompted. Maybe 'printing' in the age of computers and the internet etc wouldn't be necessary but then maybe the whole idea is out of date anyway!

Joined: 22-10-06
Mar 24 2018 09:48

I read Adam on "Labour-money:"

It is true that Marx was extremely critical of the idea of “labour-money,” which he associated with the Ricardian socialists and the Proudhonists.

Proudhon did not advocate "labour-notes" -- see my “Proudhon’s Constituted Value and the Myth of Labour Notes,” Anarchist Studies 25: 1 (Summer 2017)

Indeed, of the two it was Marx who did that (in his critique of the Gotha Programme). So I'm not sure how he had a "critique" of labour-notes, when he actually advocated them (at least for the "transition" period). His "critique" of the Ricardian Socialists basically amounted to arguing that using "labour-notes" implied central planning -- but then, Bray and Gray did advocate central planning rather than the markets Marx asserts they did.

So, all in all, Marx's "critique" of Proudhon and the Ricardian socialists seems just to show he either did not understand what they argued or he deliberately misrepresented their viewpoints. In the case of Proudhon, I would say it is the latter.

Joined: 20-04-08
Mar 28 2018 04:45

Isn't this discussion somewhat redundant.

Weren't labour-time vouchers proposed as an interim measure such as Marx in the Gotha Programme when there was not sufficient to go around for all.

Are those who still advocate them suggesting socialism will continue to be a society of scarcity where consumption will remained rationed by some form of labor vouchers?

Mike Harman
Joined: 7-02-06
Mar 28 2018 09:48

Whether people thought there might be or might not be labour vouchers as a transitional measure 150 years ago is also not that interesting to me in isolation. Where it gets more interesting is where that productivist tendency continued way beyond the material limitations that gave rise to it - even when the original people talking about labour vouchers also contributed to an idea of communism as the abolition of the commodity form and the wages system.

So I'm more interested in exactly why people still continue to advocate for some kind of work compulsion now - if we can then trace that back to tendencies in earlier movements and thinkers the earlier discussions become more useful. There's an old forum thread about labour notes here as well for what it's worth:

You can see Kropotkin arguing against labour vouchers a bit later on for example:

One of the most prominent advocates for some kind of alternative currency at the moment is David Harvey:

David Harvey wrote:
Or on the monetary question – we need money to circulate commodities, no question about it. But the problem with money is that it can be appropriated by private persons. It becomes a form of personal power and then a fetish desire. People mobilise their lives around searching for this money even when nobody knows that it is. So we’ve got to change the monetary system – either tax away any surpluses people are beginning to get or come up with a monetary system which dissolves and cannot be stored, like air miles.

Critisticuffs are good on what Harvey gets wrong about Capital: