Review: Non-market socialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries - The Red Menace

The Red Menace reviews Maximilien Rubel and John Crump's book, Non-Market Socialism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.

Submitted by Spassmaschine on August 9, 2009

Communism has got nothing to do with state control of the economy (as leninists suggest) nor for that matter with workers owning their own factories and exchanging products with other workers (as advocated by some anarchists). Communism, as the authors of this book make clear, is the abolition of all forms of the state, exchange (buying and selling) and property- including "collective property". In short it is a ‘moneyless. classless, stateless world community".

In a communist society all the world’s resources will be for the free and common use of everybody to satisfy their needs- like air today. This is incompatlble with the existence of any form of money, because for things to be bought, sold or bartered, they have to belong to one part of society alone (individual, company, workers collective, state, etc.). Naturally this existence of property presuppose non-owners being denied free access, "for how is property to be defined if not by the exclusion of the other from the use and enjoyment of the object of property?" (Bordiga). So even If the bosses were kicked out and workplaces run along collective lines, the continued existence of exchange would act as a barrier to satisfying human needs.

Non-market socialism describes the contribution of various currents to the real communist movement, including anarcho-communism, council communism, the sltuationists and bordigism. Perhaps most interestingly it presents the ideas of a number of people whose writings are mostly unavailable in English, such as Joseph Dejacque (1822-1864) and the Italian-born Amadeo Bordiga (1899-1970). Dejacque, a French house painter, looked forward to a "state of affairs where each would be free to produce and consume at will" and "the abolition of any sign of agricultural, individual, artistic or scientific property". Despite his many faults (adequately criticised in the book), Bordiga too understood the importance of doing away with all types of property and money.

One problem with some of the contributions to this book is that they treat communism as an idea about the future rather than something which relates to our activity in the present. Thus a chapter is Included on the Socialist Party of Great Britain who, whatever their ideas about socialism, believe that parliament can be used In the transformation of society, and are not therefore part of the revolutionary movement.

Non-market socialism is a useful book in outlining a vision of communism; It Is less useful in outlining how we might get there from here.

The Red Menace, Number Two, March 1989. Taken from the Practical History website.