Workers Councils and the Economics of a Self-Managed society

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sam sanchez
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Nov 13 2007 16:07
Workers Councils and the Economics of a Self-Managed society

For anyone whose interested, I've found a markup of the Solidarity pamphlet, "Workers Councils and the Economics of a Self-Managed Society" on the web. I know its basically the same as "On the Content of Socialism II" by Cornelius Castoriadis, but this one has cool pictures and diagrams:

http://www.lust-for-life.org/Lust-For-Life/WorkersCouncilsAndEconomics/WorkersCouncilsAndEconomics.htm

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pingtiao
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Nov 13 2007 16:21

So the pamphlet I scanned in and got half way through transcribing was never needed!
that's a relief- I didn't fancy getting back to it.

Sam- please submit it to the library!

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Nov 13 2007 16:32

I agree with a lot in those old Solidarity pamphlets, but one thing I can't stand about them is all those goofy bloody hedgehog pictures

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Nov 13 2007 16:40
sam sanchez wrote:
For anyone whose interested, I've found a markup of the Solidarity pamphlet, "Workers Councils and the Economics of a Self-Managed Society" on the web. I know its basically the same as "On the Content of Socialism II" by Cornelius Castoriadis, but this one has cool pictures and diagrams:

http://www.lust-for-life.org/Lust-For-Life/WorkersCouncilsAndEconomics/WorkersCouncilsAndEconomics.htm

i printed that very one off about 6 months and being a nerd got it bound in the bounding machine at work with a nice shiny plastic cover thing on it

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pingtiao
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Nov 13 2007 16:47

How did you guys find it? I searched pretty thoroughly for that text a couple of years ago...

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oisleep
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Nov 13 2007 17:04

just by googling i think, as i said was about 6 months ago so maybe it was only put up in the last year or so

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Nov 13 2007 17:11

Adam Buick of the SPGB wrote a very interesting article in the 1980s about the systematic mis-translation of Castoriadis/SoB's publications by Solidarity (UK). I'll try and scan it.

knightrose
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Nov 13 2007 18:28

actually, I thought the hedgehogs were one of the best parts of it ... Drawn by a guy who soon afterwards led the split from Solidarity that created World revolution, the group that went on to join the ICC.
The worst bit is his idea of equal wages as a basis of a socialist economy.

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Nov 14 2007 02:01

Yeah, I love the hedgehogs. The diagrams are really usefull too, and make it accessible to the uninitiated.

Is there a way I can post this to the library, pictures and all, or post a link up? Otherwise there's not much point, since On the Content of Socialism II is already up.

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Nov 14 2007 06:38
knightrose wrote:
actually, I thought the hedgehogs were one of the best parts of it ... Drawn by a guy who soon afterwards led the split from Solidarity that created World revolution, the group that went on to join the ICC.

Was that "Ivan" who wrote the mega-pamphlet on his split with the ICC?

knightrose
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Nov 14 2007 15:26

I don't know what pseudonym he went by, just his real name. Sorry.

blackstone
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Nov 20 2007 14:40

I think the diagrams were excellent and really gave me a grasp of how flow of information and democracy could be achieved.

capricorn
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Nov 20 2007 16:18

That old pamphlet was no good as it was a utopian scheme for a self-managed market economy. "Market anarchism" might not be a contradiction in terms (there are plenty of them about from Proudhon himself to the anarcho-capitalists of today) but "market communism" is.
I think the pamphlet went off the rails by misidentifying the main division in society as being between the "order givers" and the "order takers" whereas in reality it is between those who own and control productive resources and those, excluded from such ownership and control, who have to work for them for a wage or a salary.
Abolishing the distinction between order-givers and order-takers while retaining the basic mechanisms of the market, as the pamphlet proposed, wouldn't really put right what's wrong with society since under any market economy the order-givers have in the end to do what the market dictates. So, if we all had a say in what orders are given, we'd still have to order ourselves to do what the market dictates,ie work harder and harder to keep costs down so as to beat the competition. And we'd be back where we started.
No wonder the pamphlet has been described as a scheme for "workers self-exploitation".
Castoriadis of course later moved on to higher things, becoming a Left Bank French Intellectual and accepting the market system in its openly capitalist form, ie abandoning the utopian aspects of his earlier pamphlet.

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Nov 20 2007 17:29

Castoriadis' pamphlet didn't advocate "market socialism." It advocated a form of central planning. read the section on the "plan factory".

capricorn
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Nov 20 2007 18:18
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Castoriadis' pamphlet didn't advocate "market socialism." It advocated a form of central planning. read the section on the "plan factory".

Yes, but central planning of the market as they tried and failed in the old USSR. The pamphlet still retains prices, wages, money, etc but wants their levels to be planned centrally, by a group of planners working in "plan factory" responsible to a central council of workers councils rather than by a state bureaucracy.
It's as bad as "parecom"! Though at least it proposed to try to break the link between consumption entitlement and the amount of work done by proposing "equal wages", not that that was a good idea anyway as Knightrose has pointed out.

Carousel
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Nov 20 2007 18:36
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whereas in reality it is between those who own and control productive resources and those, excluded from such ownership and control, who have to work for them for a wage or a salary.

That's everyone though. What "productive resources" would this be? I wonder. Our benevolent hard working bureaucracy no doubt.

Spikymike
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Nov 20 2007 18:49

I hope fnbrill can scan that copy of AB's criticism of Cardan which shows him clearly as in the tradition of the contradictory 'market socialist' brigade.

Solidarity however were obviously aware of, and embarassed by this, so chose to tone down the references to money, the market, wages, value, profit, interest etc in their version of some of his works. At the time Cardan wrote these ideas up of course he had not made a full break with his Leninist past, despite his rejection of the vanguard party and his comitment to class struggle through the medium of Workers Councils.

The Workers Council pamplet has some interesting ideas about organisation and planning, but but it's whole approach is based on the mistaken Leninist assumption of a transitional society between capitalism and communism, in which the main features of a capitalist economy would remain, but somehow under the control of the working class (a truely utopian notion).

In fact the economic basis of this 'society' appears to be an idealised version of how Marx represented the capitalist economy itself functioning (on a simple level), made possible through the medium of the plan. Very weird!

Many members of Solidarity ( and not just those who subsequently left) were aware of Cardans weaknesses in this fundamental area and it was as a result of their efforts and those of us in the old Social Revolution Group that this was eventually reflected to some extent in a rewording of their basic statements 'As We see It' and 'As We Don't see It'. (both available on the AF North Web Site). This also reflected at least a subtle shift in the emphasis on the importance of the distinction between 'order givers' and 'order takers'.

Of course there has to be a 'transition' from capitalism to a communist society but not a whole 'new' society inbetween the two.

Carousel
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Nov 20 2007 20:49
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I hope fnbrill can scan that copy of AB's criticism of Cardan which shows him clearly as in the tradition of the contradictory 'market socialist' brigade.

Castoriadis follows from Pannokeok, and the Workers’ Opposition for that matter. Market socialism a la Schweickart is strangely oblivious to prior art. The Marxist-humanists that found a home in Solidarity can’t palm Market socialism off on Cornelius, it’s their monster not SoB’s.

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central planning of the market as they tried and failed in the old USSR

Not quite, although it’s just as specious. A planned economy in the “means of production” and a genuine market in consumer goods. More like the one that failed in Yugoslavia. Ha ha. Or the one that’s failing here right now, as it happens.

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Nov 21 2007 11:36
capricorn wrote:
I think the pamphlet went off the rails by misidentifying the main division in society as being between the "order givers" and the "order takers" whereas in reality it is between those who own and control productive resources and those, excluded from such ownership and control, who have to work for them for a wage or a salary.

I don't really see the contradiction here. The "order givers" gets to give the orders because they "own and control productive resources" and the "order takers" have to take orders because they are "excluded from such ownership and control". I would think this would be pretty basic.

capricorn wrote:
Abolishing the distinction between order-givers and order-takers while retaining the basic mechanisms of the market, as the pamphlet proposed, wouldn't really put right what's wrong with society since under any market economy the order-givers have in the end to do what the market dictates. So, if we all had a say in what orders are given, we'd still have to order ourselves to do what the market dictates,ie work harder and harder to keep costs down so as to beat the competition. And we'd be back where we started.

Well yes, but you could the same thing about "owning and controlling productive resources". You could (theoretically) give everyone equal control of the means of production, and still continue with alienated commodity production.

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Nov 21 2007 11:58
Spikymike wrote:
The Workers Council pamplet has some interesting ideas about organisation and planning, but but it's whole approach is based on the mistaken Leninist assumption of a transitional society between capitalism and communism, in which the main features of a capitalist economy would remain, but somehow under the control of the working class (a truely utopian notion).

In fact the economic basis of this 'society' appears to be an idealised version of how Marx represented the capitalist economy itself functioning (on a simple level), made possible through the medium of the plan. Very weird!

I don't think you can blame Lenin for this. Lenin didn't invent the idea of a transitory society between capitalism and communism, and SoB took most of these ideas from the council communists, not Lenin. You can also find support for these ideas from the few things Marx wrote about the transition to communism, so I wouldn't call it very weird.

If we are to talk about Leninist innovations, it would rather be seeing state capitalism as a new stage in between capitalism and socialism, but this was pretty much just the logical conclusion of (2. International) theories that saw "the anarchy of the market" as the central problem of capitalism, and "central planning" as the solution.

Carousel
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Nov 21 2007 12:33
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work harder and harder to keep costs down so as to beat the competition

Yeah beating people in competitions is wrong. It's against God's law. Better to let the bureaucrats take a free ride. Anything less will make the baby Jesus cry.

Sorry, that was flippant. The problem isn’t people being mean to each other due to the moral turpitude inflicted by the operations of markets, but their inclination to hand the bourgeoisie responsibility for designing social institutions’ programmes.

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Nov 21 2007 18:45

Hey, no one cares about beating someone in a game of football or something, but people fighting over the things you need to live. Anyone's got to see that if that can be avoided without incurring a greater evil in the process then we should do it.

Carousel
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Nov 21 2007 19:18
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no one cares about beating someone in a game of football or something

Not even when there's money at stake?

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Nov 26 2007 06:39

SOLIDARITY, THE MARKET AND MARX

In 1960 a group of ex-trotskyists calling themselves 'Socialism Re-affirmed' began to publish a journal called Agitator, changed after a few issues to Solidarity. Solidarity modelled itself on another group of ex-trotskyists in France running a journal Socialisme ou Barbarie. In 1961 Solidarity, Socialisme ou Barbarie and similar groups in Belgium and Italy published a joint manifesto entitled 'Socialism or Barbarism’.

This represented a considerable advance beyond orthodox Trotskyism. The concept of 'socialism’ being established by a vanguard party mobilising the masses during an economic crisis was abandoned. Instead, declared the manifesto, it "will only be achieved through the autonomous and self-conscious activity of the working masses". Capitalism was said to have acquired the ability to iron out slumps and booms and to ensure a slow but steady rise in living standards. So, in this view, the basic contradiction of capitalism was no longer economic, but was between order-givers and order-takers. The bureaucrats who managed capitalism were always trying to reduce the workers to cogs, to treat them as objects, but the workers were always resisting this. Out of this struggle, said the manifesto, 'socialist* consciousness would arise in the form of a demand for "workers' management of production".

In fact this was how Solidarity (and the others) defined 'socialism’. In one sense they had gone beyond Trotskyism which saw 'socialism' as the management of production by a 'workers state’, i.e. a State controlled by a vanguard party purporting to represent the working class. But in another sense they had not. For 'socialism' was still considered as an era of "workers power' between capitalism and communism, as a ‘transitional society' in which money, wages, prices, etc would continue to exist:

"All revenue derived from the exploitation of labour will be abolished. There will be equality of wages and pensions until it proves feasible to abolish money" (para 27).

This idea of 'equal wages' can be found in Lenin's State and Revolution and in fact Solidarity's concept of 'socialism' is taken from this pamphlet of Lenin's. The main difference being that 'workers power' was defined in terms of the government being controlled by a central assembly of factory-based Workers Councils rather than by a vanguard party.

At one time Solidarity never hesitated to say that by 'workers power' (which is still the subtitle of their journal) they meant "a Workers' Council Government", the phrase used in the 1961 introduction to the 'Socialism or Barbarism' manifesto. In the 1969 introduction, however, this was changed to "the rule of the Workers' Councils", reflecting the anarchist influence which Solidarity had in the meantime come under. Dropping the claim to stand for some kind of government did represent an advance in Solidarity's thinking. 'Workers Power' was now re-defined to mean, in the words of a basic policy statement As We See It issued in 1967, the "democratisation of society down to its very roots". Not that this made its conception of 'socialism' any clearer. When in 1972 this statement was amplified in a pamphlet As We Don't See It readers were referred for more details of Solidarity's idea of 'socialism’ to another Solidarity pamphlet issued earlier that year called The Workers Councils.

This pamphlet is an edited translation of an article which originally appeared in issue No.22 of Socialisme ou Barbarie in 1957 under the title "Sur le Contenu du Socialisme" (On the content of Socialism). It is in fact a blue-print for 'workers self-management' of a market economy. Cardan (alias Chaulieu) who wrote the article is clearly in the same tradition of so-called 'market socialism' as Tito, Liberman, Ota Sik, etc, in East Europe, the main difference being that he wants such an economy to be controlled by Workers Councils while they want it controlled by a bureaucratic State (maybe in conjunction with 'workers councils').

Nobody who has read the original article can deny that Cardan was an advocate of so-called 'market socialism'. Solidarity themselves clearly found this embarrassing because they have edited out its more crude manifestations. In their introduction they apologises :

"Some will see the text as a major contribution to the perpetuation of wage slavery - because it still talks of 'wages' and doesn't call for the immediate abolition of 'money' (although clearly defining the radically different meanings these terms will acquire in the early stages of a self-managed society)" (p.4)

and, again, in a footnotes :

"All the preceding talk of ‘wages', 'prices' and 'the market' will, for instance, undoubtedly have startled a certain group of readers. We would ask them momentarily to curb their emotional responses and to try to think . rationally with us on the matter" (p. 36).

But Cardan did not speak only of 'wages', 'prices' and 'the market'. He also spoke of 'profitability' (rentabilité) and 'rate of interest’ ('taux d'intérêt'). This was evidently too much even for Solidarity's curbed emotion since these words nowhere appear in the edited translation.

It is very revealing to give some examples of the way Solidarity has toned down the 'market socialism' aspects of Cardan's original articles :

Original: shops selling to consumers (magasins de vente aux consomateurs) .

Solidarity’s Version : stores distributing to consumers (p. 24).

Original: The market for consumer goods (le marché des biens de consommation).

Solidarity’s Version : consumer goods (heading p. 35).

Original: This implies the existence of a real market for consumer goods (ce qui implique 1'existence d'un marché réel pour les biens de consommation).

Solidarity’s Version: This implies the existence of some mechanism whereby consumer demand can genuinely make itself felt (p.35)

Original: Money, prices, Wages and value

Solidarity’s version: 'money', 'wages', 'value' (heading p. 36)..

In fact Cardan envisaged a market economy in which everybody would be paid in circulating money an equal wage with which to buy goods which would be on sale at a price equal to their value (amount of socially necessary labour embodied in them). And he as the cheek to claim that Marx also held that under Socialism goods would exchange at their values. Before going on to refute this we must draw attention to two other phrases which occur frequently in the original, namely 'gouvernement' and 'parti ouvrier socialiste' (socialist workers party), which are nowhere to be found in Solidarity's version. 'Government' becomes "Council (of the Central Assembly of Workers Councils)", while 'socialist workers party' becomes "libertarian socialist organisation" !

But - and this brings us on to a discussion of whether or not Marx thought socialism would be a market economy - the best change is towards the end. The original article says (of 'socialism'' as a transitional society between capitalism and communism) :

"In their essence these views absolutely coincide with the ideas of Marx and Lenin on the subject. Marx only considered one kind of transitional society between capitalism and communism, which he called indifferently 'dictatorship of the proletariat' or 'lower stage of communism’ ... Lenin's view, in State and Revolution, were only, in this regard, an explanation and a defence of Marx's view against the reformists of his time" (translated from the French).

In the Solidarity pamphlet this becomes :

"In their essence these views closely co-incide with Marx's ideas on the subject. Marx only considered one kind of transitional society between capitalism and communism, which lie called indifferently 'dictatorship of the proletariat' or lower stage of communism1..." (p.57)

No mention of Lenin! Which is unfair to Marx since it is with Lenin's views on this point and not with Marx's that Solidarity's position coincides ("absolutely1 or 'closely’, take your pick!).

For Marx never spoke of socialism as a 'transitional society’ between capitalism and communism (indeed he never spoke of a 'transitional society' at all); and he did not use the phrases 'dictatorship of the proletariat' and 'lower stage of communism' indifferently. What he did do was to speak of a ''political transition period' between capitalism and 'the lower stage of communism’; it was the words 'socialism' and 'communism' that he used indifferently. 'Socialism' as a transitional society between capitalism and communism (or socialism) characterised by 'workers power’ and equal wages, which Solidarity has inherited from its trotskyist past, was one of Lenin’s distortions of Marxism.

Marx himself always made it clear that socialism/communism, even in its lower , meant the abolition of the market ('commodity production') and, in the Poverty of Philosophy and Value, Price and Profit he specifically singled out the idea of a society of 'equal wages' for derision. For him socialism/communism was a society in which production would be democratically planned by the community (the State as a coercive instrument having disappeared immediately socialism/communism was established) solely arid directly to satisfy their needs. Writing in 1875 Marx had to concede that, in the early stages, consumption would have to be rationed (he suggested this be done by means of labour-time vouchers, but specifically said that these would no more be money than a theatre ticket was), but eventually all goods and services would be free for everybody to take according to need. Today, nearly a hundred years later, this stage could be reached very rapidly once socialism/communism had bean established.

Solidarity, in advocating a self-managed market economy, is not advocating socialism at all, but some unrealistic blueprint which would never work - either because if the working class had reached the degree of consciousness needed to establish it then they would establish real socialism instead or, if they hadn't, then it would degenerate into some kind of state capitalism. However, it is significant that, as we have shown, Solidarity should feel guilty about advocating a self-managed market economy rather than a moneyless socialist society. In time maybe they'll have the intellectual honesty to repudiate their previous views on this, as they have done on the concept of a 'workers council government'.

Some members and ex-members of Solidarity have already come to do this and, faced with the dogmatism (or rather Cardan-worship) of the others on this and other issues have left. Fur instance, a document issued by four ex-Solidarity members in Aberdeen entitled Revolutionary Politics and the Present Situation refers to workers' self -management of production as involving “the abolition of the production of exchange values and the production of use values" (instead) . Another breakaway group The Oppositionist in its October 1972 issue, calls for the abolition of the wages system :

"The Socialist Revolution is a complex and many sided struggle to eliminate the wages system itself. We do not advocate workers control of production whilst striving to retain the market economy of capitalist production. Without the destruction of the market the ramifications of capitalism would grow stronger not weaker . . . Workers cannot control production and retain the wages system” (their emphasis).

Another document, issued in London, entitled a Critique of Cardan calls for the abolition of commodity production and wage labour and describes socialism as "a system where men can have full control over social wealth in common, for use, and so control their own natures” and says "it is also about a completely different kind of production; for the sake of useful consumption of the society as a whole, not for the creation of commodities”.

Unlike Solidarity these groups are coming to adopt real socialism as their aim, though in fact it was Solidarity's rejection of Marxism rather than its 'market socialism' that caused them to split off.

Solidarity has published a number of texts by Cardan critical of Marxian economics. theory of history etc, and would now no longer claim to be Marxist, Actually these weren't criticisms of Marxism but rather of the crude economic determinism that passed for Marxism in the Trotskyist and ex-trotskyist movement. As such they were Cardan's repudiation of his own past.

At the same time Solidarity tended to move away from the view that the struggle for 'socialism' was primarily industrial and came to see it as a many-sided struggle to change all aspects - education, sex, as well as work - of social life. Apart from the fact that their aim wasn't socialism, this represented an advance on their former views which had tended to idealise the factory worker and to see the experience of factory life as the generator of 'socialist' consciousness. This was mistaken because socialism is not just an economic change; it is a total revolution in social relationships. So that movements outside the factory (such as protests against sex discrimination, war or pollution) have just as much chance, with socialist intervention, of generating socialist consciousness as the factory struggle.

Unfortunately, Solidarity's internal critics have not realised this and, regarding this change of emphasis as part of Solidarity's rejection of Marxism, have reverted to idealising the factory struggle and relegating the other struggles to a secondary status. In fact the Liverpool-based Workers Voice (though in fact not a Solidarity breakaway), with its detailed descriptions of particular factory struggles, reads like Solidarity did ten years ago - including talk of the need for a workers party and for workers to have their own state power. The Aberdeen group’s document quoted earlier states that in its view the main area of struggle remains the factory, with the implication that it is from this struggle rather than that of "movements outside the factory” (such as those against pollution or for sexual liberation) that socialist consciousness will arise. The supporters of the American journal Internationalism (now World Revolution) in this country take a similar view.

Internationalism also reverts to economic determinism in making the rise of socialist consciousness depend on an economic crisis, though they are reasonably clear on what socialism/communism is (even though they do unnecessarily distinguish the two) :

"While under capitalism use values are only the material form of exchange values, and commodities are produced for sale, under socialism production cannot be limited by the requirements of profit, of capital accumulation, but must be determined by the needs of the human community. The consumption of the working class cannot be limited by its wages or the value of its labour power, but will be determined by its needs and technical capacity of the productive apparatus which it sets in motion. The elimination of wage labor, of production based on the law of value, is not a task for some future or higher stage of socialism, but the immediate task and content of the proletarian dictatorship. It is only on this foundation that the movement towards that higher stage of communism of which Marx speaks, the stage characterised by the formulation 'to each according to his needs' can begin" (Internationalism, Political Perspectives, pp.9-10)

But all these groups still have a hazy conception of who the working class are, tending to confine it, or at least to make the most important part of it, the industrial proletariat, whereas in fact it is composed of all who depend for living on selling their ability to work, irrespective of where they work or of work they do.

The basic contradiction of capitalism is that between socialised production and class monopoly of the means of production, which manifests itself as working class discontent with its general conditions of life, not just its work experiences under capitalism, A failure to recognise this is the one great weakness of these ex-Solidarity groups. If they did, they would also realise that socialism is not just concerned with emancipating workers as workers (i.e. wealth-producers) but as human beings (i.e. as men and women). It would also give them a clearer conception of socialist society. Socialism aims not to establish "workers power” but the abolition of all classes including the working class. It is thus misleading to speak of socialism as workers ownership and control of production. In socialist society there would simply be people, free and equal men and women forming a classless community. So it would be more accurate to define socialism/communism in terms of the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production by and in the interest of the whole people.

Nevertheless; the emergence of these groups calling for the abolition of wage labour and commodity production once again confirms that capitalism continually throws up socialist ideas.

Adam Buick.

April 1973

jeremytrewindixon
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Nov 28 2007 04:03

Nice to see it again. I hated the hedgehogs originally but learned to love them.

In 1992 I "owned" (borrowed from a comrade who forgot about it) what I thought was the last extant copy in Australia. I was involved in a mass occupation at the time and I lent it to a trotskyist friend. Then the police raided and everyones effects went topsy turvy and it apaprently ended up in the hands of the police. So Australia's Last Extant Copy is probably now sitting in the personal library of some unusally curious member of Victoria's Police Security Intelligence.

Its a good pamphlet, far from perfect and obviously outdated but as a beginning for practical discussion it has not so far been replaced.

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Anna
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Nov 28 2007 09:22

fnbrill, thanks for posting that article, it was interesting

on the interchangeability of the terminologies 'socialism' and 'communism', I am under the impression Marx favoured the word 'socialism' in his writings, but set up the 'communist league' because Louis Blanc had already set up a 'socialist party'. By the end of the 19th c a distinction between the two words had come into play such that 'socialism' remunerated workers according to work done, while 'communism' implied the abolition of exchange relations. Which is ironic, seeing as the phrase 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his need' is originally attributed to Blanc ("à chacun selon ses besoins, de chacun selon ses facultés" - 1839, 'the Organisation of Work').

mikus
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Nov 28 2007 19:30
Anna wrote:
By the end of the 19th c a distinction between the two words had come into play such that 'socialism' remunerated workers according to work done, while 'communism' implied the abolition of exchange relations. Which is ironic, seeing as the phrase 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his need' is originally attributed to Blanc ("à chacun selon ses besoins, de chacun selon ses facultés" - 1839, 'the Organisation of Work').

Where did you hear this? I always hear different things, but my impression is that as far as the type of society was concerned, there was no distinction between socialism and communism, but that communist generally referred to people advocating revolutionary measures to achieve that society. And I thought that was why Marx began calling himself a communist.

I forget what my source on this was so I may well be wrong. And I don't trust most Marxist "scholarship" very much so the source could have been wrong as well.

(Or better put, there was no special distinction. Different socialist and communist groups of course envisioned different types of societies but there was no extra distinction between socialism and communism in addition to distinctions between different groups.)

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Anna
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Nov 28 2007 22:47
mikus wrote:
Where did you hear this? I always hear different things, but my impression is that as far as the type of society was concerned, there was no distinction between socialism and communism, but that communist generally referred to people advocating revolutionary measures to achieve that society. And I thought that was why Marx began calling himself a communist.

I forget what my source on this was so I may well be wrong. And I don't trust most Marxist "scholarship" very much so the source could have been wrong as well.

(Or better put, there was no special distinction. Different socialist and communist groups of course envisioned different types of societies but there was no extra distinction between socialism and communism in addition to distinctions between different groups.)

Well I believe the terms originated in the early 19th century in a work by Robert Owen, in which he writes 'we socialists, or communists' thus the two terms are clearly synonymous. Marx also made no distinction between the two, preferring the word socialist in his writings, but favouring communist for his political organisations, seeing as Blanc already had grabbed the word socialist for his party. (The Communist League had all of...17? members, and I think Marx purged most of them anyway.)

But what I meant in my post above was that by about 1890 or so, a distinction in meaning arose between them in common parlance in that 'socialism' did not imply the abolition of exchange relations. This probably had something to do with the reformism associated with social democrat parties. And if, as you said, the word communism was associated with more revolutionary parties than the word socialism, it is no surprise the concept of communism in common parlance took on a more revolutionary character. I have no idea where I read all this though, so I may be wrong.