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Worker coops, mutualism vs. communism

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zarathustra
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Dec 9 2007 03:39
capricorn wrote:
What's wrong with the cash nexus! A lot. Basically it reduces the relations between humans to being just money ones.

But isn't that kind of a moralistic argument? Since time immemorial this moral repugnance towards money has been a mainstay of religious reactionaries, etc. To say that "money reduces relations between people to money ones" is an entirely metaphysical argument. Why? Is money evil? Nay, the root of all evil? No, it is simply a method of accounting, rationalizing inter-personal exchange.

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People become isolated social atoms who merely collide on the market place as buyers and sellers of something, the link between them being money, cold cash.

Or mutual self-interest? Enlightened exchange?

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There is no other social bond between them except this. Human relations and human values come to take second place to monetary and commercial values.

But commerce, exchange, is a fundamental human quality. As primitives we exchanged shells. As kiddies we exchanged conkers. Why not?

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But it doesn't surprise me that an individualist anarchist should see nothing wrong with this because, like the Marxists say, such anarchists are merely another expression of bourgeois possessive individualism. They do see humans as isolated social atoms linked by means of voluntarily entered-into contracts on an exchange of equals basis.

But workers struggle for more wages, a bigger slice of the pie, etc. is an economic struggle, "possessive individualism" if you like. And again, why not? Isn't self-interest the best historical motor?

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As a libertarian communist (not that there's really any other kind) I've nothing in common with such people even if they do want to abolish state. After all, so do the anarcho-capitalists.

But the 'libertarian' bit in 'libertarian communism' implies you wouldn't feel okay trying to suppress a free market? What will the petty-bourgeoisie do? You need them and they need you. I doubt they'll voluntarily collectivize. So force them, or trade with them? Likewise, many workers will not feel okay putting the products of their labor into one big heap and having them shared out. Force them to, or trade with them?

I say - mutualism for the independent producers; communism for the peasantry; and collectivism for the proletariat. Argue all you like, but the future is rooted in the present.

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 9 2007 05:23

Here we go again...

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But the 'libertarian' bit in 'libertarian communism' implies you wouldn't feel okay trying to suppress a free market?

Markets are not free; by nature they are political creations. They have imbalances of power and as such the more powerful elements--who have helped craft the 'free market' (what an Orwellian idea) in the first place--are going to exploit the less powerful elements. Furthermore, markets are themselves coercive. They coerce producers to produce more cheaply to bring a higher profit. Once again, the crux of the matter: markets encourage production for commodity exchange, not for consumption. Thus they are not communist. Furthermore, they remove the distribution of goods from democratic control of the community, and thusly, they are not libertarian either.

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But commerce, exchange, is a fundamental human quality.

Exchange sure, some resources are available in areas that others aren't. As to you notion of commerce being a fundamental human quality, not entirely sure what you mean by that, but I do know solidarity is an inherent human quality. Not only that, but even outside of human nature, the economy is inherently social, and thus it logically follows the fruits of the economy should be socially distributed.

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Isn't self-interest the best historical motor?

No. Solidarity. Human ingenuity. The inherent satisfaction in productive labor. Humans are social creatures, capitalism and markets make us 'rational economic actors'--at least they're supposed to anyway--but human act outside of individual economic interest most of their lives.

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What will the petty-bourgeoisie do? You need them and they need you.

Bullshit. They need us, we don't need them, that's the whole point. It's one of the fundamental reasons for opposing capitalism in the first place.

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I doubt they'll voluntarily collectivize. So force them...

That is the idea. And not only the petty-bourgeoisie, but the entire parasitic 'owning' class.

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 9 2007 05:25

Zara, you're a Wobbly??????????????????

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EdmontonWobbly
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Dec 9 2007 05:31

I know where the hell are all these mutualist IWWs coming from?

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Chilli Sauce
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Dec 9 2007 05:41

A mutualist IWW who supports the employer/employee relationship, no less. To be fair EdWob, i'd rather have them be exposed to our ideas, and hey, we can always use the dues money;)

anyway one last point to our mutualist acquaintance:

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But the 'libertarian' bit in 'libertarian communism'

Libertarian means, my mutualist friend, that one opposes all structures of hierarchy and coercive authority. In a libertarian society one would not be free to exploit labor any more than he/she would be free to rape. Authority, coercion and hierarchy should be challenge and--i'm no pacifist--a time comes when it should be challenged violently.

capricorn
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Dec 9 2007 06:55

Sorry, Sam, I'd forgotten that there are some anarchists who have fallen for "parecom" and took you to be a common or garden parecomist who, like Albert, thinks that law, courts, crime, lawyers, police and, presumably, prisons and prison guards will continue to exist under "parecom". Doesn't sound like the abolition of the state to me. And certainly wouldn't have done to Proudhon.

capricorn
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Dec 9 2007 11:24
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I doubt they'll voluntarily collectivize. So force them...

That is the idea. And not only the petty-bourgeoisie, but the entire parasitic 'owning' class.

Not sure I agree entirely with this. Of course the majority working class will have to force the current owning class to hand the means of production back to the community, but the "petty-bourgeoisie"? Who are they anyway today, but small shopkeepers, self-employed tradesmen, small farmers who often work as hard and earn as little as other producers in paid employment. I see most of them as having just as much an interest in getting rid of capitalism as waged and salaried workers.

On a different point, I can understand why our mutualist friends want to defend the "petty-bourgeoisie" since it was precisely amongst this group in France in the mid-19th century that Proudhon's ideas arose and flourished. It was their idea of how they would have liked the market economy to have developed instead of the way it was developing and inevitably did finally develop. They wanted to stop the clock, even to turn it back. It's rather surprising that these ideas still survive today when the "petty-bourgeoisie" of 150 years ago has long ceased to exist and can never be resurrected. But then there are other anarchists who want us to go back to living in caves and hunting and gathering . . .

Spikymike
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Dec 9 2007 14:25

Perhaps all those mutualist IWWers are the ones who work in various small worker co-ops or are like one organiser know is a self employed artist printmaker??

Out of interest what is the Union make up of the IWW these days? I know it has had some modest growth in the UK, but mostly it seems from a bit of non-sectarian cooperation amongst radical poltico's.

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sam sanchez
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Dec 9 2007 14:48
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But commerce, exchange, is a fundamental human quality. As primitives we exchanged shells.

Not really. Many "primitives" operated on a largely gift economy basis, and many practiced communal agriculture and sharing of the produce. These practises even survive today. I was watching those Brice Parry "Tribe" documentaries, and there was one hunter gatherer group where if you caught an animal or some fish or something, the custom was that it was shared among everyone in the village equally. And everyone is familiar with the potlatch practises of some north american indian groups.

People will probably always swap personal possessions, although even today people often give them away for free to friends or on things like freecycle. Kids will always swap conkers or top trumps or whatever, and there's no harm in that, but that it no reason why there needs to be a market basis for the economy as a whole. (or at least, there might be practical reasons, but not the sort of "human nature" arguments that you give)

Anarcho
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Dec 10 2007 09:55
capricorn wrote:
I can't see how anyone can say Proudhon was a "socialist", a critic of capitalism yes, but a socialist no.

So Bakunin, Kropotkin, Marx and Engels were all wrong? They all called Proudhon a socialist, in fact Kropotkin became a socialist after reading Proudhon. So I have to conclude that none of these people knew what a socialist was?

capricorn wrote:
He stood for a society where workers, whether working on their own or in producer cooperatives, would produce and exchange their products without any state intereference, being mutually bound together solely by money and the market, ie the cash nexus.

Not quite true, as he stood for an agro-industrial federation which would counteract the negative effects of the market. So, no, while supporting market exchange, he did not consider that the only means of bounding co-operatives together.

And what is capitalism? It is a society based on wage labour, where there is a class of property-less workers who sell their liberty to capitalists and landlords. Proudhon mutualism re-united the workers with the means of production and so abolished both capitalists and landlords.

No proletariat, no capital. As Marx constantly reiterated.

capricorn wrote:
This is also the ideal of the so-called "anarcho-capitalists", the difference being that they see contracting to work for wages as acceptable too.

As if -- the amount of times I have seen "anarcho"-capitalists proclaim that property is theft and despotism is, well, never! They happily accept the exploitation of labour and wholely support hierarchy in the workplace. Proudhon, in stark contrast, opposed both.

If quoting Karl Marx is not too out of place:

"Political economy confuses, on principle, two very different kinds of private property, one of which rests on the labour of the producer himself, and the other on the exploitation of the labour of others. It forgets that the latter is not only the direct antithesis of the former, but grows on the former's tomb and nowhere else.

"In Western Europe, the homeland of political economy, the process of primitive accumulation is more of less accomplished . . .

"It is otherwise in the colonies. There the capitalist regime constantly comes up against the obstacle presented by the producer, who, as owner of his own conditions of labour, employs that labour to enrich himself instead of the capitalist. The contradiction of these two diametrically opposed economic systems has its practical manifestation here in the struggle between them." [Capital, vol. 1, p. 931]

It looks like some socialists confuse, on principle, two very different kinds of private property....

capricorn wrote:
Clearly, Proudhon has more in common with them than with socialists and communists like Kropotkin who want to end the cash nexus and the domination of market forces.

Which explains why Kropotkin held Proudhon in such high regard! And, really, "anarcho"-capitalists are at pains to attack Proudhon and his ideas, they seek to defend everything Proudhon attacked in capitalism (wage labour, interest, exploitation, and so on). The only thing they agree on is the importance of market exchange, but even here they would say that Proudhon was wrong as he did not marketise everything nor understand that interest, rent and profits are all essential for "efficient" allocation of resources.

I would go so far as to say, you cannot understand the rise of collectivism and communism within anarchism without understanding their clear links, and differences, with mutualism.

capricorn wrote:
And of course under his mutualist scheme market forces would dominate production...

Which is why I am a communist. I reject mutualism and market socialism, although I recognise it as a form of socialism.

capricorn wrote:
At the time he was writing (mid-19th century in France) when production was still relatively small-scale compared with today, his scheme might have seemed plausible and did seem to have some support amongst artisans and craftsmen in Paris, but today it makes no sense at all (unless, like some Greens, you want to go back to small-scale production).

Except, of course, Proudhon advocated workers' associations (co-operatives) in all but the smallest workplaces. He was well aware of the changes in the economy and advocated solutions which are basic to anarchism -- workers' associations, self-management and federation.

Yes, his ideas reflected French society of his time but that included the rise of workplaces beyond artisan levels. Regardless of what Marx and Engels asserted, Proudhon was at one with his times.

capricorn wrote:
Today, only communism -- common ownership of the already socialised and collectively-operated productive forces and the break with trying to link consumption to productive effort expressed by "from each according to ability, to each according to needs" -- makes sense.

Which, of course, is fundamentally a different issue to whether Proudhon was a socialist or not, which was (after all) the issue at hand.

capricorn wrote:
Only on such a basis can market forces cease to operate, indeed to exist, and person-to-person relations take the place of the cash nexus.

Again, that is your preference in terms of what a socialist society would be like. Other socialists have different ideas. Unless you are going to force everyone to be communists then you will have to recognise the right of those who seek mutualism to do so. As Malatesta argued, free communism is ironic if there are no alternatives!

capricorn wrote:
Sorry, in this, the mutualists and the anarcho-capitalists stand on the same side faced with the communists.

Well, I think you will find that mutualists will be far more likely to become communists than "anarcho"-capitalists and, moreover, have a critique of property and wage labour. In terms of allies, the mutualists are on the same side as the communists against capitalism. It would be silly to excommunicate them from socialism -- particularly as they are socialists!

As I have said, I disagree with mutualism but I recognise it as a form of socialism -- as did Marx, Bakunin and Kropotkin. It was not communism, sure, but unless you think that everyone will become communists overnight and that a perfect communist society will be the immediate result of a social revolution, then alternative forms of socialism will be experimented with.

Anarcho
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Dec 10 2007 10:01
ncwob wrote:
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But the 'libertarian' bit in 'libertarian communism'

Libertarian means, my mutualist friend, that one opposes all structures of hierarchy and coercive authority. In a libertarian society one would not be free to exploit labor any more than he/she would be free to rape. Authority, coercion and hierarchy should be challenge and--i'm no pacifist--a time comes when it should be challenged violently.

Sorry, but have you read any Proudhon? If you had, you would discover that he opposed hierarchy within the workplace and advocated workers' co-operatives to end both that and the exploitation of labour. This is a key aspects of his ideas and to suggest otherwise is simply a joke!

Yes, mutualism has its flaws, but at least understand what it stands for before attacking it!

Have a look here, from "An Anarchist FAQ", which shows that Proudhon was totally against wage labour and the exploitation and oppression of labour it entailed. It contrasts his ideas to those of Tucker:

http://anarchism.ws/faq/secG4.html#secg42

Anarcho
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Dec 10 2007 10:08
ncwob wrote:
Here we go again...
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I doubt they'll voluntarily collectivize. So force them...

That is the idea. And not only the petty-bourgeoisie, but the entire parasitic 'owning' class.

Sorry, but forced collectivisation is totally opposed to anarchist principles. We have always made a distinction between expropriating capitalist property and respected the wishes of those who do not wish to join a commune, to be communists. As long as do not employ workers, then what is the harm?

This has long been recognised by the likes of Bakunin, Kropotkin and Malatesta:

http://anarchism.ws/faq/secG2.html#secg21

How can you force people to be communists? If you try, you will fail. As anarchists have long argued, communism will only work if it is free. Otherwise it will be tyranny of the worse kind.

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Khawaga
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Dec 10 2007 10:16
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But commerce, exchange, is a fundamental human quality.

Exchange is a fundamental cultural quality in all societies, though commerce is hardly that. Exchange is a relatively neutral term and can be used to describe both gift and market economies. Exchange will still happen in a communist society, but it will not be based on commodities that are produced for the purposes of exchange, but for need.

There will probably even be a market in the sense that it is a place where people meet to exchange stuff, not the abstract market of supply/demand and invisible hands of capitalism.

Carousel
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Dec 10 2007 11:04
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but it will not be based on commodities that are produced for the purposes of exchange, but for need.

Sounds awful. The ones made for the purposes of exchange are better. Besides, things are already made “for need”, just a different set of needs than those prescribed by communists’ values.

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Khawaga
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Dec 10 2007 12:02
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Besides, things are already made “for need”, just a different set of needs than those prescribed by communists’ values.

They're produced because they have an exchange value, and could not be exchanged if they did not have a use value (i.e. satisfy some need). That something is produced to satisfy need doesn't mean that they will not be exchanged.

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The ones made for the purposes of exchange are better.

How so?

Carousel
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Dec 10 2007 12:19
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They're produced because they have an exchange value

And they only have an exchange value because someone "needs" them.

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How so?

Brazilian waxes.

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Dec 10 2007 12:25
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And they only have an exchange value because someone "needs" them.

As I said above, though I use use-value rather than need. The point is that the capitalist commodity is produced to make profit first and foremost, needs are secondary. Hence, you get situation where there are homeless people while at the same time there is an abundance of empty housing. Or like Egypt is producing shit loads of cotton as a cash crop, but hardly grows food anymore.

Carousel
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Dec 10 2007 12:47
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The point is that the capitalist commodity is produced to make profit first

Some people "need" to make a profit more than Egyptians "need" to eat.

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Or like Egypt is producing shit loads of cotton as a cash crop, but hardly grows food anymore.

Their values dictate they "need" cotton more than food. You think food is a special right?

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Khawaga
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Dec 10 2007 12:51

Carousel, are you Lazy Riser? You must be. No need to waste pixels on you.

Carousel
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Dec 10 2007 13:27

Of course. It's common knowledge. Address the point.

capricorn
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Dec 10 2007 14:21

Well, anarcho, it all depends on what you think that logically the word "socialism" should mean and on how it was used in the middle of the 19th century. It seems to have been used then to refer to anybody in favour of social reforms aimed at trying to better the condition of the working class, ie any social reformer. The Communist Manifesto (of 1848) discusses all sorts of "socialisms": reactionary, feudal, petty-bourgeois, conservative, or bourgeois, critical-utopian, etc. Even Benjamin Disraeli, a future British Tory Prime Minister, is described as a (feudal) socialist! For the record, Proudhon is classified under "conservative, or bourgeois socialism":

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A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous of redressing social grievances in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society.
To this section belong economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organisers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance fanatics, hole-and-corner reformers of every imaginable kind. This form of socialism has, moreover, been worked out into complete systems.
We may cite Proudhon’s Philosophie de la Misère as an example of this form.

I must say this seems a bit unfair. I'd have classified him under "petty-bourgeois socialism"!
True, he did famously say "property is theft". But what he meant by this is not what you might think. For him, property obtained as a result of your own labour was OK. What he meant was that landed property, extracting a rent merely by virtue of monopolising a piece of the Earth's surface and without contributing anything to production, was theft. This was a position taken up by open supporters of the capitalist factory owners, who also objected to having to pay rent to landowners for doing nothing, such as John Stuart Mill, the radical wing of the British Liberal Party and, later, by Henry George. It doesn't make you a socialist.
True also, he was against wage-labour, but that's because he stood for a society where production would be carried out by independent ("self-employed" we would say today) artisans and groups of artisans who would exchange their products with each other with a view to get ting what they needed -- what might be called (and which Marx did call) "petty commodity production". Under such a system, the producer would get the full product of his (and it would be "his" in Proudhon's mind since he thought a woman's place was in the home) labour, i.e he would get the full value of the product when he exchanged it (unlike the wage-worker who would only get the value of his ability to work, the rest going to his employer as surplus value, or profit). So, yes, in his scheme there would be no exploitation and no profit.
But what we need to ask is: how practical was this scheme at the time, let alone today? Not very, I would have thought. I don't know if such a free market economy of small-scale producers ever existed. Something near to it might have done in the American colonies in the 18th century perhaps, but it never did in Europe (partly due to the existence of landed property and the theft of the labour of the producers this involved) and couldn't have been transplanted or revived there. It certainly doesn't make sense today.
In any event, even if it could be implemented, the market would dictate what happened and would generate forces which lead to the evolution or re-introduction of wage-labour and capitalist profit.
I'm afraid that Proudhon's mutualism can only be described as a reactionary attempt to return to an economy of small-scale producers. And I can't see how anyone standing for any type of market economy can logically be called a socialist. In fact, one reason why don't call myself an anarchist is because Proudhon is billed as "the father of anarchism". If that's anarchism, then no thanks, I don't want it.

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Paraiba
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Dec 10 2007 14:26

Very many of the businesses here (Lucena Paraiba NE Brazil) are Co-ops and many rely on each other and support each other.
A good example of this are the Buggy tours, without these many other businesses would not have a market as it is the buggy’s that bring the customers, from just buggy tours we have a ferry service that takes the buggy’s across the river, then as you take the tour you’ll find you stop at various small enterprises that have sprung up directly as a result of the buggy tours, there are skibundsa’s (where you get on a sledge at the top of a very large sand dune and ski down ending up in a manmade lake), there are aerial-slides, adrenalin buggy rides (where the sand dunes are used like a roller-coaster and very scary it is too) small bars and souvenir shops, camel & horse rides plus kids with monkeys and other animals for tourist to have their pictures taken with.
While all these could be described as business (people are buying and selling services) they really only provide subsistence living for the people involved. But without the buggy tourism none of the other business would exist, as there are only a limited number of tourist and income into the area it was decided many years ago to make them all co-ops so that every family in the area would be able to derive some sort of income, it is the only way to do things in a remote area with little or no other way for people to make money to live other than having to leave the community and work away in some big city where there is no support network.
As the buggy's are owned by the community they are also used to take people out of the village to hospital and to the local City to provide supplies and to ferry the people who work on the services I describe above.

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Dec 10 2007 15:15
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Besides, things are already made “for need”, just a different set of needs than those prescribed by communists’ values.

What are you on about? have you ever heard anyone on here saying "you know, after the revolution, I really don't think we should produce digestive biscuits"? No one ever makes any specific prescription of which needs to produce for.

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sam sanchez
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Dec 10 2007 15:18
capricorn wrote:
Sorry, Sam, I'd forgotten that there are some anarchists who have fallen for "parecom" and took you to be a common or garden parecomist who, like Albert, thinks that law, courts, crime, lawyers, police and, presumably, prisons and prison guards will continue to exist under "parecom". Doesn't sound like the abolition of the state to me. And certainly wouldn't have done to Proudhon.

Well, parecon as a model is neutral as to what sort if polity there would be. Just cos I like parecon (in the broad outlines at least) does not mean I have to agree with everything Michael Albert says, does it?

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sam sanchez
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Dec 10 2007 15:20
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And they only have an exchange value because someone "needs" them.

No. Need is irrelevant unless you have some cash. You can need something like your life depends on it (literally) but not get it unless you have money. Only needs backed by effective demand (i.e. cash) get satisfied in a market economy.

petey
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Dec 10 2007 15:32

are you going to send me those links?

Mike Harman
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Dec 10 2007 15:39
Sam Sanchez wrote:
Quote:
And they only have an exchange value because someone "needs" them.

No. Need is irrelevant unless you have some cash. You can need something like your life depends on it (literally) but not get it unless you have money. Only needs backed by effective demand (i.e. cash) get satisfied in a market economy.

I think you've misunderstood capricorn's point here - I assume that copy of Capital is still sitting on your shelf untouched?

When commodities are produced, the only way that capitalists can convert them into money is if someone buys them, hence why "needs" was put in scare quotes. In other words commodities that aren't bought have no exchange value. Profit is based on the total aggregate of goods sold - so if I produce 5 million copies of Victoria Beckham's autobiography, at a cost of £2 each, sell 100 copies at £10 each, then pulp the rest, I didn't make £800. Whether people need food more than shit books is irrelevant in this example.

Capricorn is talking about the actual process by which goods are produced, bought and sold, you're talking about the 'invisible hand of the market' which ignores the productive process entirely. The idea that parecon could exist independently of any particular 'polity' is a symptom of this as well. Seriously, Capital - even Chapter 1 of Volume 1 would be a start.

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sam sanchez
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Dec 10 2007 15:56

I believe I was replying to Carousel in that last one.

Carousel
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Dec 10 2007 15:57
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What are you on about?

That we already have “production for need”, and that communism and its various collectivist offshoots are really advocating a set of values rather than a theory of history.

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have you ever heard anyone on here saying "you know, after the revolution, I really don't think we should produce digestive biscuits"?

Yes. Monsieur Dupoint, for instance, know full well that digestive biscuits as we know them are necessarily the products of capitalist exploitation. There is no way of producing iPods, say, as anything other than products of capital.

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No one ever makes any specific prescription of which needs to produce for.

What nonsense. Does the phrase “Made to order” feature in your lexicon?

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Only needs backed by effective demand (i.e. cash) get satisfied in a market economy.

And this is a problem because, what? Life is sacred? What? For the love of Christ, someone tell me.

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sam sanchez
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Dec 10 2007 16:10

Because everybody should have what they need to live. Nobody should be starving. Everyone from soppy liberals to extreme lefties agrees on that one. Its a bad thing for people not to have food, or clothes, or housing and entertainment, and if you disagree then you are so far from the ethical viewpoint of the rest of the human race as to not be worth replying to.

And yes, you can always ask "why?" like an annoying little child, but if your intent on acting like all ethical judgements are stupid then you can't object to communists planning to put their ideas into action if they can. After all, to say that there is something wrong with communism would be to make an ethical judgement, wouldn't it?