Money and its abolition

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Mike Harman
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Oct 2 2007 08:25
Money and its abolition

Been reading Dolgoff's "The Anarchist Collectives", and he quotes the textile branch of the CNT thus:

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In a viable social order, money only as a symbol to facilitate exchange of goods and services will have to be adapted to the revolutionary economy, preserving all its invaluable advantages (the product of the economic experience of generations). It is to be used solely as the most efficient means of conducting transactions yet developed

*

Dolgoff in the footnotes wrote:
Incidentally, this opinion is in harmony with Malatesta's statement that after the abolition of the state and capitalism, with the coming of abundance, and pending the full realization of an anarchist society, money will still remain "the only means (apart from the most tyrannical dictatorship or the most idyllic accord) so far devised by human intelligence to regulate production and distribution automatically." (Life and Ideas, p. 101).

Now I've read Life and Ideas but don't remember that bit, will have to see if I can find the context. Looks like a holdover from Proudhon (and Bakunin's collectivism) to me, and not a good one. fwiw Dolgoff in the rest of the book tends to make a virtue out of the preservation of money in the collectives as well.

Now I think we can all understand why money would remain during periods of massive upheaval - it's very central to people's lives and it's a symbol which denotes a whole series of social relations not yet thrown off. In the same way the formal abolition of a particular currency and it's replacement with labour notes or whatever wouldn't necessarily mean the end of capitalist social relations either. However this defence of money by Malatesta and Dolgoff as some kind of neutral 'measure of stuff' (Dolgoff later goes on to liken the revolutionary transformation of money to the rise of the metric system), divorced from the social relations that created it, seems very, very poor to me and almost a denial of communism's potential.

Mark.
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Oct 2 2007 10:22

Malatesta's statement in context...

Malatesta wrote:
It is customary in [anarchist] circles to offer a simplicist solution to the problem [of money] by saying that it must be abolished. And this would be the solution if it were a question of an anarchist society, or of a hypothetical revolution to take place in the next hundred years, always assuming that the masses could become anarchist and communist before the conditions under which we live had been radically changed by a revolution.

But today the problem is complicated in quite a different way. Money is a powerful means of exploitation and oppression; but it is also the only means (apart from the most tyrannical dictatorship or the most idyllic accord) so far devised by human intelligence to regulate production and distribution automatically.

For the moment, rather than concerning oneself with the abolition of money one should seek a way to ensure that money truly represents the useful work performed by its possessors [ ... ]

Let us assume that a successful insurrection takes place tomorrow. Anarchy or no anarchy, the people must go on eating and providing for all their basic needs. The large cities must be supplied with necessities more or less as usual.

If the peasants and carriers, etc. refuse to supply goods and services for nothing, and demand payment in money which they are accustomed to considering as real wealth, what does one do? Oblige them by force? In which case we might as well wave goodbye to anarchism and to any possible change for the better. Let the Russian experience serve as a lesson.

And so?

The comrades generally reply: But the peasants will understand the advantages of communism or at least of the direct exchange of goods for goods.

This is all very well; but certainly not in a day, and the people cannot stay without eating for even a day. I did not mean to propose solutions [at the Bienne meeting]. What I do want to do is to draw the comrades' attention to the most important questions which we shall be faced with in the reality of a revolutionary morrow.

Umanità Nova, October 7, 1922

Malatesta also wrote:
What seems essential to me is that all money actually in circulation, industrial shares, title deeds, government securities and all other securities which represent the right and the means for living on the labour of others should immediately be considered valueless and also, in so far as it is possible to do so, destroyed.

Umanità Nova, April 18, 1922

Mike Harman
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Oct 2 2007 11:13

In that case it looks to me like Dolgoff was selectively quoting Malatesta to find some kind of precedent for that CNT statement - which explains why I had no memory of this from Life and Ideas. Yet another example of necessities being made into virtues.

Deezer
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Oct 2 2007 12:13

Well, to be fair for all of Dolgoff's better qualities he never really was a great writer or hot on critical analysis but perhaps you'll find that despite this Malatesta's position in full (as quoted above) actually does apply pretty well to the situation in Spain during the revolution. That is it appears that he would most likely have agreed with the use of money "as a symbol to facilitate exchange" in the period and context in which the CNT texile branch made their statement.

As opposed, of course, to what may have been possible in a post-revolutionary situation but how people gauge what is actually possible changes as their power and confidence changes and if the CNT, the broader libertarian communist movement and the working class had advanced the revolution further then I'd suggest that the debate (because despite this one extract there were a number of experimental approaches to methods of exchange during the revolution and civil war) and practice regarding exchange would more probably have developed in a direction you would have been more happy with. Either way your criticism is one that cannot be advanced with much legitimacy due to the fact that the revolution was not actually successful despite some early and extremely significant revolutionary transformations.

Generalisations and lack of context to attack the CNT, on the basis of a statement from one section, quoted by Dolgoff who you have already made clear is an unreliable source, seems to be yet another example of your need to produce cack handed attacks on anarcho-syndicalism in general. I really don't see the relevance of "Yet another example of necesities made into virtues" on the basis of this extract from Dolgoff's book or the CNT textile branch statement.

Mike Harman
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Oct 2 2007 13:20
Quote:
Well, to be fair for all of Dolgoff's better qualities he never really was a great writer or hot on critical analysis but perhaps you'll find that despite this Malatesta's position in full (as quoted above) actually does apply pretty well to the situation in Spain during the revolution.

The spirit in which Malatesta's full statement is made, yeah. If we're to condemn workers in Spain for not abolishing money in it's totality (despite plenty of attempts to do so in one form or another), then you'd have to condemn workers for any period of heightened class struggle where it's got to the point of occupations/self-management. However, that's clearly not the way that SD is using it in that extract - especially given he then goes on to quote de Santillan's "after the revolution" positively on the same subject. If I get time I'll type more out if necessary.

Quote:
As opposed, of course, to what may have been possible in a post-revolutionary situation but how people gauge what is actually possible changes as their power and confidence changes and if the CNT, the broader libertarian communist movement and the working class had advanced the revolution further then I'd suggest that the debate (because despite this one extract there were a number of experimental approaches to methods of exchange during the revolution and civil war) and practice regarding exchange would more probably have developed in a direction you would have been more happy with.

I criticised the out-of-context meaning of Malatesta's statement, and Dolgoff's use of it. The textile union statement is crap, but I'm well aware there were far better theoretical and practical approaches to this question within the CNT during that period and wouldn't put it forward as representative (although neither is it isolated by any means). I didn't say anything about the CNT in general or the textile union in particular apart from those quotes, and that you'd characterise this as a generalisation and 'attack' by me, rather than something repeated from an oft-cited work on the collectives is either a very poor misreading or knee-jerk defensiveness.

Quote:
Either way your criticism is one that cannot be advanced with much legitimacy due to the fact that the revolution was not actually successful despite some early and extremely significant revolutionary transformations.

What criticism is this in particular? Where did I say the revolution was successful? I made no criticism of either the CNT or the textile union in particular in my original post and I'd appreciate you not attributing stuff to me I've not said.

Quote:
Generalisations and lack of context to attack the CNT, on the basis of a statement from one section, quoted by Dolgoff who you have already made clear is an unreliable source, seems to be yet another example of your need to produce cack handed attacks on anarcho-syndicalism in general.

Now you're just being silly. I've made no attempt to 'attack the CNT' here, just found some very questionable historical method in a book I'd hoped would be rather better.

If anything I'd say Dolgoff's misrepresentation of Malatesta's attitude to money in these passages (and his own celebration of money as neutral measure of goods) constitutes far more of an attack (a word you found it necessary to use twice in one sentence) than my highlighting of it. And yes his willingness to bend the historical record to make excuses for every dodgy statement by a CNT branch would be an example of "Yet another example of necessities made into virtues"

Deezer
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Oct 2 2007 20:38

So, Dolgoff's "willingness to bend historical record to make excuses for every dodgy statement by a CNT branch" is "yet another example of necessities made into virtues" on the part of who exactly? Sorry if I'm wrong but I read that as a criticism being leveled at more than just Dolgoff or Malatesta. Also while in your original post you specifically refer to the quote coming from the "textile branch of the CNT" in your second post it becomes a CNT statement, not one made by a particular "branch".

Your original problem was the defence of keeping money even as a symbol of exchange (and on this we agree), you later dropped the criticism of Malatesta given the full passage the quote was taken from so forgive me if this still read as a more general attack on (criticism of if you prefer) the CNT as opposed to simply a criticism of Dolgoff. And I know I really must check what I've typed before hitting "post comment" to avoid unnecessary repetition of the same word in the one sentence - it seems to cause needless offence.

And sorry also not having realised that you expected Dolgoff to be a particularly good writer, and that that was the main source of your gripe as opposed you being put out by a defence of the CNT textile branch quote about keeping money. "Collectives" is certainly interesting but its not what I'd call particularly robust or 'professional'.

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Oct 2 2007 20:49

If we actually get rid of capital and the state, are you really going to sit around whinging about how people shouldn't be trading stuff for chits?

Mike Harman
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Oct 2 2007 23:33
Boulcolonialboy wrote:
So, Dolgoff's "willingness to bend historical record to make excuses for every dodgy statement by a CNT branch" is "yet another example of necessities made into virtues" on the part of who exactly?

Post '36 formalist anarcho-syndicalists (and the many others who do the same thing with other traditions - see the Russia 1917 thread).

Quote:
Sorry if I'm wrong but I read that as a criticism being leveled at more than just Dolgoff or Malatesta. Also while in your original post you specifically refer to the quote coming from the "textile branch of the CNT" in your second post it becomes a CNT statement, not one made by a particular "branch".

Dolgoff quotes other CNT writers saying similar things (although more selectively than the textile branch, so given his treatment of Malatesta I'll treat those with some caution) - again it's him trying to present it as a general CNT position, not me.

Quote:
Your original problem was the defence of keeping money even as a symbol of exchange (and on this we agree), you later dropped the criticism of Malatesta given the full passage the quote was taken from so forgive me if this still read as a more general attack on (criticism of if you prefer) the CNT as opposed to simply a criticism of Dolgoff.

Well I'd say it's a criticism of those who defend the CNT along similar lines, rather than of the CNT itself, within the limits of a less than 200 word post of course. I think we both have some criticisms of the CNT in one way or another, to accept the totality of what that organisation did including joining the Republican government and sending strikers back to work in July 1937 would be stupidity - but differ on the extent to which this was a crisis of leadership or a structural issue.

Quote:
And sorry also not having realised that you expected Dolgoff to be a particularly good writer, and that that was the main source of your gripe as opposed you being put out by a defence of the CNT textile branch quote about keeping money.

Again, I have a less of a criticism of the CNT branch itself than people defending it after the fact. Same as I think modern day Leninists are worse than Lenin ideologically since they at least have the benefit of hindsight.

Quote:
"Collectives" is certainly interesting but its not what I'd call particularly robust or 'professional'.

So it seems. I may try Bolloten next along that particular trajectory.

Mike Harman
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Oct 2 2007 23:34
MJ wrote:
If we actually get rid of capital and the state, are you really going to sit around whinging about how people shouldn't be trading stuff for chits?

What do you think capital is?

Deezer
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Oct 3 2007 00:57
Mike Harman wrote:
MJ wrote:
If we actually get rid of capital and the state, are you really going to sit around whinging about how people shouldn't be trading stuff for chits?

What do you think capital is?

No MJ, hopefully once we've got rid of capital and the state we'll be abandoning money and developing a system of production and distribution on the basis of "from each according to ability to each according to need". What with being Libertarian Communists and all like.

Why would such a system require chits for 'trading stuff', and what do you mean by trading anyway? Can people accumulate chits in your trade system? How do you work out the relative values for exchange of traded items? Is it going to be fine for certain industries to set higher prices than others for the commodities they produce or services they provide? For instance workers at electrical power plants raise the price of our electricity with threats of cutting everyone else off - hence re-introducing income stratification? This is probably related to catch's question.

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Oct 3 2007 03:49
Mike Harman wrote:
MJ wrote:
If we actually get rid of capital and the state, are you really going to sit around whinging about how people shouldn't be trading stuff for chits?

What do you think capital is?

A mode of production in which people have to sell their labor-power to survive.

Mike Harman
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Oct 3 2007 07:23
MJ wrote:
Mike Harman wrote:
MJ wrote:
If we actually get rid of capital and the state, are you really going to sit around whinging about how people shouldn't be trading stuff for chits?

What do you think capital is?

A mode of production in which people have to sell their labor-power to survive.

I think "trading stuff for chits" is close enough, in the same way the existence of massive benefits systems in Europe during the 20th Century didn't stop it from being capitalism.

afraser
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Oct 3 2007 11:34

We can all agree that abolishing money would be good if it could be done - but a defence of how that would work in practice is needed first. And I'm sceptical such a defence could be written.

This was the subject of a good Anarkismo article and discussion last year with posts by Tom Wetzel and others who are also on this forum.

Part of the problem in discussions like this may be with definitions:

Ilan Shalif wrote:
The concept of "money" in class society, developed from the exchange of comodities can be streched to lot of directions... When a person is alocated a sum of work invested products and services, the process is so different from the function of money in the modern capitalist system that is better not to use it in this context.

But some people (probably most of the others posting on this thread) would say that it is is better to call that kind of thing "money".

And Parecon has "accounting money" and "indicative prices" which some (most) people would say is money. Peter Staudenmeir's Libertarian Municipalism borrows that too for large scale economic decisions. Even the SPGB would retain accounting information, although with more numerous and complex measures than simple price.

So we get people talking at cross purposes - some talking of abolishing money when they are only intending to abolish some of the present uses of money (interest, exchange), others talking about really abolishing money altogether (but they tend not to give practical details unfortunately).

Randy
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Oct 3 2007 12:17

I am favorably disposed towards the abolition of money (in part cause it sounds so super dooper radical). But yeah, if we could manage a libertarian scheme for social ownership of everything bigger than a house--like, say, the means of production--I wouldn't care if folks traded smaller items for tokens.

capricorn
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Oct 3 2007 14:29

Surely the point is that we're no calling for the abolition of money as such, ie while leaving everything else unchanged, even the isolated slogan "abolition of money" could misleadingly suggest this. That wouldn't work and would lead to chaos. To be clear we should say that what we want is to see set up a system for producing and distributing wealth which doesn't require money. Which would be one based on the means of life being owned in common -- communism in its proper sense. If the means for producing what we need are owned in common so would be the product and the "problem" would then be not to sell it but how to share it ought: giving and taking would replace buying and selling and so money would simply become redundant and disappear (into the museum of antiquities, as William Morris or somebody once put it).
As to Spain, perhaps what happened there briefly in 1936 is not a model for revolution today but what happens when capitalist ownership and control of land and industries collapses. Obviously, the workers don't just sit there and starve but organise to keep production going even if this involves (as it did) production for sale.
As to Parecom, it's always struck me as a load of bollox: a utopian scheme for the self-management of a market economy, for the self-exploitation of workers. If workers get that far they'd surely go the whole hog and set up communism.

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Oct 3 2007 19:49

If capital is abolished, money-capital will be abolished too -- it's like saying we have to kill the animal, and also its lungs.

If the means of production/distribution of everything needed to sustain life and civilization are not owned, they can't be sold.

I find it likely that here or there, groups will develop currencies or chits or tokens or trophies or Chuck E Cheese , and use them to internally allocate personal luxury possessions. Having this kind of accounting system might even help provide a firewall to ensure that people aren't producing and hoarding luxury/hobby/art/game etc goods at the expense of social production for needs. Would these pseudo currencies pose a threat to communism? Not unless communism sucks. Would they be "capital"? Probably not, though there'd be a grey area if masochists and other fetishists wanted to alienate their labor in exchange for them.

RedHughs
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Oct 3 2007 21:35

Well,

An Anarchist collect connected to the CNT had to use money to manage production because Spain as a whole still had a market economy during the civil war. The problem is naturally that this put the CNT (or at least folks like Dolgoff) in the role of defending the existence of money.

The thing that makes this apologism untenable is that money is not a particularly effective way to manage an economy unless you have a working class - unless you have a group which is actually disciplined by the need to go out and earn money. Medieval European and Chinese Society had and contemporary African society has well developed market economies but these don't create efficiency since a laborer can go back to their land if there's a good harvest or if the enterprise works them too hard.

The alternative to the market is some kind of central distribution system. Modern computer systems make this much more practical currently than such a thing would be in the 1930's (I've mentioned a wiki-spreadsheet model but many other schemes could be done).

Red

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Oct 4 2007 07:42

I think that during the chaos that is a prolonged insurrection all sorts of practices will spring forth: looting, common kitschens, token-exchange markets.
Since there will be neither state nor an organised democratic decision-making mechanism, the abolition of money-capital will be a matter of enough people - a critical mass - taking whatever they need: hotels, houses, cars etc etc, AND producing for "free", producing directly for the community of struggle. Workers in revolt shouldn't have the "right" to possess what they produce, only the "right"- in this context, the concrete (armed) ability - to satisfy their needs and wishes.
An example: if the state forces cut the power in the city (black out), it would be absolutely necessary for hospitals and other places of importance (food storages etc) to continue operating. Which means 1)looting large quantities of petroleum and the necessary equipment 2) setting up whatever structure is necessary to bring back power to hospitals.

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Oct 4 2007 08:16

The thing is, you can't abolish exchange. Exchange is not the same thing as market exchange. Even in a planned non-market economy there is exchange. Exchange occurs if a person doesn't make everything they consume. Assuming the elimination of the class system, this means workers aren't subordinated to bosses and self-manage the industries where they do work to produce what is socially useful to others.

Let's say Jack works driving a bus and doing transportation planning and Maria designs and makes shirts. Jack wears shirts Maria makes. Maria rides the bus Jack drives. There is an exchange going on here. It's inherent to a social economy where people do things for the benefit of others.

How do we know that the things we are all working to produce are the best use of our time and resources? For anything that we spend our time producing, we could have spent our time producing something else. If Raul builds houses, he can't work building hospitals at the same time. The materials and worker time we use building houses could have been used to do other things. This is the idea of a social opportunity cost. The social opportunity cost of building the houses is that we give up every other thing that could have been made by those workers and using those resources.

This suggests we need some way to measure the social costs, and the benefits that are provided so that we can evaluate our options as far as what we are going to put our resources into producing. To do this requires some scale of benefit and of cost for the various alternatives. This presupposes some sort of social accounting unit in terms of which we can measure the benefits provided and the costs of doing so.

The relative importance to people of the various things we might produce, the desires that they have for these things, provides a basis of value of these things...that is, of use-value or utility. The social accounting unit that we use to measure social opportunity costs should correspond to, should in face be a measure of, the desires of the people for the various possible things we could produce. When we measure benefits or costs in terms of a social accounting unit that is a measure of desire or utility or importance to people, this is a price.

To not have prices would be to not be measuring the costs and benefits of the various possible things we could produce. How then do we ensure that the economy operates in a way that is socially accountable, effective in doing what people want?

To start talking about getting everybody into some meeting to decide what to produce is a non-solution to this problem. When we talk about production, we're talking about production for millions of people in a complex industrial society.

Having prices and thus a social accounting unit to measure value or importance to people of the various possible uses of our labor and resources does not require a market economy. Because it doesn't require a market economy, the mere fact that prices exist, and thus social accounting money exists, does not show that capital exists. That's because money-capital doesn't exist if the capital/wage-labor relationship doesn't exist. This requires that there be factor markets where a possessor of money-capital can hire the various factors -- labor power, equipment, land, etc. -- and markets where the commodities produced can be sold for a profit.

Since the liberation of the working class from class oppression doesn't require the "abolition of money", why should we be advocating it?

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Oct 4 2007 09:35
syndicalistcat wrote:
The thing is, you can't abolish exchange.

Here speaks Parcon.

Devrim

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Oct 4 2007 11:22

Syndicalistcat brings up a lot of interesting points, why don't you argue against them Dev?

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Oct 4 2007 11:31
Volin wrote:
Syndicalistcat brings up a lot of interesting points, why don't you argue against them Dev?

Because I don't think they are at all interesting. It is wrong in its basic premise, "Exchange occurs if a person doesn't make everything they consume". Most importantly though, I don't think that anybody takes these ideas at all seriously except him, and a few American leftist intellectuals.

He would produce long post backing up his arguments, and I would be obliged to respond.

Basically, then it is because I have got better things to do with my time, and energy, and energy than to respond to Parecon nonsense that virtually nobody believes anyway.

Devrim

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Oct 4 2007 12:11

Good thing everyone believes in left communism!

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Oct 4 2007 12:28
MJ wrote:
Good thing everyone believes in left communism!

No, I don't think that they do. I am aware that the ideas that we hold in general are confined to tiny minorities. The point is that the Parcon ideas are held by even tinier minorities.

I don't think that they convince many people, we have had the arguments on here before about and lots of things in the analysis were shown to be quite ridiculous, and I also don't have the time to argue with people who care about it passionately.

Most importantly though, I don't think it is worth taking these ideas seriously as it gives them a credibility they don't deserve.

Devrim

Randy
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Oct 4 2007 13:40

Hurry, hurry hurry! Step right up! Parecon vs left communism in the political slugfest of the century(s)! Wait, no, come back, this will be fun... where are you all going?...

Platformism, now that's gripping stuff the masses are begging to hear about. wink

Being serious for a moment, I am okay with what MJ describes (assuming i understand correctly), folks trading personal items for tokens. But the parecon plan uses markets to control social production, and I find the argument that this incredibly complex plan removes the worst aspects of markets, unconvincing. It might well be an improvement on capitalism, I'm not sure (did i mention the plan is incredibly complex?). But I think it falls short of libertarian communist ideals.

Edit: rather than dismissing cat out of hand, I should have said i disagree that exchange cannot be abolished, and that i think this is the fundamental difference between social production under communism and parecon.

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Oct 4 2007 15:37

What i don't get is how ParEcon is supposed to be a check on the "coordinator class". If anything belief in the "coordinator class" should logically carry through to the idea of communism and the abolition of exchange.

a "coordinator class" could manipulate their way through parecon and its "checks and balances" like politicians do with democracy. In fact it would be their nature to do so.

redtwister
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Oct 4 2007 16:21

I agree with Devrim in general in his reticence, as well as his disagreement, but I will take a slightly different tack. Here's my reply, but don't expect some interest on my part in taking up any objections by syndicalistcat or afraser. They have stated their positions, I will attempt to articulate mine and our arguing over it will be little more than a cock fight (take that as you will.)

A society based on exchange is one in which relations between individuals are indirect. Exchange and money go hand-in-hand because you need a medium that represents the abstract form of the worth of those goods, which can persist between exchanges between private producers, is universally recognized as nothing other than the bearer of value. Exchange is nothing if not the ability of A to sell to F to get money to then buy something from B, who sold something to E to get something from D, who bought something from F and sold something to A, etc. Exchange is the negation of A having to have what B wants in order to trade one use-value for another. Where this process becomes the dominant social form, where labor and the means of production themselves take the form of commodities, i.e. items produced to be exchanged, money must also be omnipresent and developed to its final form, as universal medium, as pure representation of value. Only at this point do we see the development of the highest form of value: capital.

To abolish capital is to abolish exchange and money because it is to abolish the ability to buy and sell human labor, the product of human labor, and to abolish human labor as private labor, asserting directly and consciously social labor as the new form of labor, hence freely associated producers. Exactly the "automatic" nature of money indicates its dominance over us, the dominance of a thing, a social product of human activity, over human beings.

that's the best I can do from work in a very condensed manner.

To propose some positive conception of communism abstractly is nonsense. The abolition of these relations will be a practical task because it will require understanding the concrete struggles and material capacities on which an alternative will be built. In the absence of revolutionary struggles, to pose today's material and social basis as the foundation of some vision of the future is nonsense.

This is why Malatesta as I understand him is not worrying himself overmuch about the future, though he is certainly looking at Russia. His question is, practically faced with the possibility of smashing the state and taking social power, do we really expect money to disappear all of a sudden? On this, he is not saying anything explicitly different from Marx in the Critique of the Gotha Program, frankly.

There may be other issues in the conception of the tasks of the revolution, but Malatesta neither argues that money is going away like magic nor that its abolition is not essential. Rather, the revolution against capital is both practical, i.e. dealing with real people in real circumstances, and at the same time has certain concrete tasks which cannot wait lest capital re-grown on that foundation.

Its good stuff, but then I have always like Malatesta so I am not surprised.

However, I think that claiming that this is an argument between left communism and parecon misses the point. In fact, it wrongly diminishes its centrality to communist politics.

It is an argument between communists and and non-communist radicals (under whatever latest fashion: Proudhonism, Social Democracy, Market Socialism, Parecon, etc. etc. etc.) I think it is what differentiates Malatesta from Dolgoff on this, as Dolgoff is not simply a 'bad writer' but on politically opposite sides of the fence from Malatesta, at least here (I am only vaguely familiar with Dolgoff, so I cannot extend my comment beyond this one point).

Chris

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Oct 4 2007 16:46

Pretty much agree with redtwister's post here. Just to add that, as Devrim alludes to, syndicalistcat's post starts from the wrong premises:

Quote:
Exchange occurs if a person doesn't make everything they consume.

Production is already highly social and interdependent - it's impossible for someone to make everything they consume, or to measure their contribution to production. While I think there will have to be some accounting of production and natural resources, especially at first (a starting point would be Kropotkin's work in Conquest of Bread and Fields Factories and Workshops and given only lip-service to in capitalist society), this has nothing to do with a market or any form of currency. I also found the idea of effort ratings (and etc.) abhorrent when I read a bit of parecon stuff.

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Oct 4 2007 21:43
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Because I don't think they are at all interesting. It is wrong in its basic premise, "Exchange occurs if a person doesn't make everything they consume". Most importantly though, I don't think that anybody takes these ideas at all seriously except him, and a few American leftist intellectuals.

He would produce long post backing up his arguments, and I would be obliged to respond.

Basically, then it is because I have got better things to do with my time, and energy, and energy than to respond to Parecon nonsense that virtually nobody believes anyway.

I find ultra-leftism or so-called "left communism" completely irrelevant, and sectarian in practice.

In my experience I find that ordinary people i discuss these ideas with tend to agree with the idea of the coordinator class, that the managers and elite professionals, both at work and elsewhere, they perceive as bosses, as people with power over them. I also find that most people i discuss with find it absurd to suppose that the old Soviet Union was capitalist. That idea is an concoction of certain leftist intellectuals with a dogmatic attachment to the 19th century Marxist labor/capital two class model.

oliver:

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What i don't get is how ParEcon is supposed to be a check on the "coordinator class". If anything belief in the "coordinator class" should logically carry through to the idea of communism and the abolition of exchange.

The program for the elimination of the power of the coordinator class lies in the dissolution of the hierarchical detail division of labor that creates a relative monopolization of the design and conceptualization work and decision-making into the hands of a few. This requires redesigning the jobs and work organization so as to create jobs where design/conceptualization/decision-making tasks are re-integrated with the doing of the work.

In the pre-capitalist artisan these things were integrated together. the planning of production, of the product and methods and tools, had historically been the work of the artisans who possessed the technology of production (know how) in their heads, and passed this on thru craft tradition.

My view is that "abolition of exchange" isn't possible, and that abolition of *market* exchange, and market governance of social production, can't happen without a system of social planning....something that anarchists often fail to consider. Often anarchists come up with ideas of unilateral decision-making of production groups and social units that would in fact regenerate market relations. and your reply depends on being able to define clearly what a communist mode of production would be and how it would be viable.

In case you didn't notice, I didn't use the word "parecon". So your comment is not actually replying to what I said. And I have no idea what you mean by "checks and balances." I don't actually advocate "checks and balances," as this term is understood in reference to governace, since i would advocate that the local neighborhood assemblies, and citywide and regional congresses of delegates unify "legislative and executive" functions together.

What participatory planning does advocate is that there is a separate role in the economy, separate channels for self-management, for people as workers and as consumers. It's not so clear why "communism" would not need such a distinction. In fact the CNT's libertarian communist program of May 1936 did in fact provide for such a distinction. The "free municipalities" were to be the channels for consumer input. In fact one of De Santillan's disagreements with the program that they didn't adopt his proposal that the worker self-management organizations -- industrial federations and worker congresses -- would not have exclusive authority to make the social plan. In reality De Santillan's proposal was a form of central planning.

The idea that there should be this separate role was thus not invented for the first time by Hahnel and Albert and the other advocates of participatory planning. It was advocated for the first time actually by the British guild socialists before World War I, who were a group of British radical intellectuals influenced by the British syndicalism of that era.

Randy:

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Being serious for a moment, I am okay with what MJ describes (assuming i understand correctly), folks trading personal items for tokens. But the parecon plan uses markets to control social production, and I find the argument that this incredibly complex plan removes the worst aspects of markets,

Nope. There are no markets in participatory economics. It proposes a planned economy.

redtwiser:

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A society based on exchange is one in which relations between individuals are indirect. Exchange and money go hand-in-hand because you need a medium that represents the abstract form of the worth of those goods, which can persist between exchanges between private producers, is universally recognized as nothing other than the bearer of value. Exchange is nothing if not the ability of A to sell to F to get money to then buy something from B, who sold something to E to get something from D, who bought something from F and sold something to A, etc.

Here chris confuses exchange with market exchange. Let us assume a classless, stateless society. The means of production are not private property but are owned in common by everyone, which means that their use has to be accountable to the society as a whole.

We're talking about a complex industrial society with tens, indeed hundreds, of millions of people. the bicycle Jack rides may be made by people a thousand miles away, or on the other side of an urban region of millions of people. how is this relation anything but indirect?
it is an exchange of labor. Jack does certain things that benefit other people. Other people do things that benefit Jack, such as make the bicycle he rides.

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To abolish capital is to abolish exchange and money because it is to abolish the ability to buy and sell human labor, the product of human labor, and to abolish human labor as private labor, asserting directly and consciously social labor as the new form of labor, hence freely associated producers. Exactly the "automatic" nature of money indicates its dominance over us, the dominance of a thing, a social product of human activity, over human beings.

Money as a social accounting unit used to measure social opportunity costs doesn't presuppose markets. Your assertion -- for which you provide no argument -- is mistaken.

To abolish capital, as i pointed out, is to abolish factor markets, where possessors of money-capital can rent or buy the things needed to produce, and presupposes commodity markets where the products are sold, to expand the capital. But neither money nor exchange presuppose markets as the means to allocate factors in production (labor power, machinery, land etc).

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To propose some positive conception of communism abstractly is nonsense. The abolition of these relations will be a practical task because it will require understanding the concrete struggles and material capacities on which an alternative will be built. In the absence of revolutionary struggles, to pose today's material and social basis as the foundation of some vision of the future is nonsense.

To suppose that the working class will spontaneously come up with a solution to how to abolish the class system without a history of discussion of the conditions that need to be accomplished to do this is utter nonsense.

But the understanding of these conditions for class liberation is not an "abstract" exercise in the sense that it is based on the develop of hypotheses that are tested in the context of the class struggle. It is thru the examination of the experience of the class that we can develop an understanding of what has to happen for the class system to be eliminated.

The emphasis on the coordinator class hierarchy, and the theory of this in terms of the logic of capitalism in breaking down the old unity of conception and execution in artisanal labor, is based on the experience of the past century of both capitalist development and the emergence of "communist" regimes where the capitalists were expropriated but a new ruling class emerged on the top.

catch:

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this has nothing to do with a market or any form of currency. I also found the idea of effort ratings (and etc.) abhorrent when I read a bit of parecon stuff.

When replying to ME it's best if you actually respond to what I say, not what someone else says. in any event, neither I nor the advocates of "parecon" advocate markets, so this comment is simply irrelevant to the reasons I gave for the continued need for money as a social accounting unit.

the fact is, a society managed by the working class that emerges from capitalism will in fact need to require work effort as a condition of consumption entitlement, if only to avoid free riders. A variety of libertarian communists in the past, such as Makhno, Isaac Puente, the CNT program of the '30s, have agreed with this.

Experience of actual situations where workers have taken over collective management of industries, in Spain in the '30s or Argentina today, always show that in cases where some worker steals from the collective or slacks off, this creates resentment and the workers deal with this in some way. Now, this suggests that workers in general are unlikely to share your unconcern with major variations from the level of effort of colleagues. I personally did not advocate "effort ratings" above, so again you're not responding to me, but someone else. But I think that, as I say, it is unlikely that workers would be completely indifferent, as you suppose, to significant lack of the effort that people believe someone is capable of. This doesn't mean that workers have to continuously engage in "effort ratings" but it does suggest that rules, or some system, would be evolved for dealing with the sort of situation i refer to.

lem
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Joined: 25-07-05
Oct 4 2007 21:54

if exchange is products that are alienated from us, then isn't the end result going to turn on what a hegelian identity in difference is?

Devrim's picture
Devrim
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Joined: 15-07-06
Oct 4 2007 22:11
syndicalistcat wrote:
I find ultra-leftism or so-called "left communism" completely irrelevant, and sectarian in practice.

I don't think that you really have any idea what left communism is, or even what the word sectarianism means.

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In my experience I find that ordinary people i discuss these ideas with tend to agree with the idea of the coordinator class, that the managers and elite professionals, both at work and elsewhere, they perceive as bosses, as people with power over them. I also find that most people i discuss with find it absurd to suppose that the old Soviet Union was capitalist. That idea is an concoction of certain leftist intellectuals with a dogmatic attachment to the 19th century Marxist labor/capital two class model.

So you are a little of a persuasive speaker, who speaks to people who believed the general line of the bourgeoisie in the US that the USSR was communist, and they agreed with you. I don't know if you have noticed, but you are posting somewhere where most people think that your nonsense about the coordinator class is not only nonsense, but also reactionary. If that makes everyone who posts here who believes that the USSR was capitalist a 'leftist intellectual', that is your judgement.

I didn't bother to read the rest of your post as I know you can rant on about nonsense endlessly.

Devrim