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A reply by F.C. to “The economy in the transition  to a ‘communist’ society” by R.V.

Translation of a reply to Raoul Victor's text against the GIC and Labour Time Vouchers in the Period of Transition.

The spring issue of Internationalist Perspectives [2016] contains a critique of the theses of the GIC and “labor vouchers" under the title above [Originally in French, 12-10-2011.]. The text is an excerpt from correspondence between Raoul Victor and Kees. Kees is only moderately quoted and it seems that Raoul skillfully uses the ambiguous formulations of the latter to put forward his own idea of the continued existence of exchange and a commodity economy in the face of scarcity during the transitional period.

RV's objections to the use of the social average working hour as a basis for the management of production and distribution by the workers, are not new. They are inspired by years of lack of knowledge and outright distortions on the part of Bordigists (*), especially Dauvé (pseudonym Barrot), which culminate in the 'theory' building of the current ‘Communisators'. It is sad that Victor, in the wake of Internationalist Perspectives, ended up on this course towards modernism. What began as a criticism of the so-called socialist character of planning in the Soviet Union, ended with Bordiga in a reprehensible exaltation of the rationing in War Communism in the 'glory years' of the Communist International.

RV's objections betray how little he understands about the transition period. We call these objections here:

• What about rewarding in the sector of knowledge, science, social organizations?
• What about the unemployed, large families, voluntary work, for which the 'welfare state' has developed solutions?
• The choice for 'pay for work' tends to perpetuate itself.
• It is better to abandon labour coercion in favor of more motivating measures.
• Working hours are difficult to measure.
• 'Labour vouchers' will be exchanged.
• It is better to plan in physical quantities (use value).
• It is better to ration scarce goods.

RV apparently thinks — helped by juggling quotes from the Grundrisse - that the production of knowledge and science is outside the realm of industry. Schools, universities and ateliers for the production of art, theatre groups, etc., which he does not mention, are simply operational units [translation of the german ‘Betrieb’ which isn’t limited to ‘factories’], providing services to other companies and to consumers, just as they do now. As far as social services is concerned, however, this is something that the working class, organized in operational organizations and in territorial councils, will take over to the extent that these functions have hitherto been performed by the state and are still necessary. Certain functions that require specialization can be assigned to operational units. This objection seems so unrealistic to us that we wonder whether we do not see here a petty bourgeois opposition to the inclusion of the 'own' sector in communist economy? The GIC solves this simply by making membership of the 'association of free and equal producers' voluntary. In other words, to whom will RV sell his 'knowledge' during the transition period?

The revolutionary working class will also destroy the patronizing and humiliating part of the state that calls itself the 'welfare state'. The victorious working class will be able to do what the bourgeoisie has never been able to do and has been able to do less and less for more than 100 years: integrate the unemployed into socially organized production and services. This puts an end to the policy of exclusion of ever larger sections of the population due to their ’unsuitability'. Of course, those who are truly 'incapacitated', just like those who are too young or too old or sick, receive in principle the same 'work vouchers' to purchase those foodstuffs that are not yet free of charge. By integrating the hitherto excluded parts of the labour force, it will be possible to gain freedom in working time for:
1) The management of companies and society by the workers, and
2) The reduction of working time.

RV seems to think that the 'compulsion to work' he hates so much will only exist for those who are unemployed now. Has he ever wondered who all those 'volunteers' are who produce goods and services that he can now consume as part of the 'scientific elite'? Where RV sees labour coercion, we see the forming of a common interest of all workers to reduce working time and change the character of the work itself (the reversal of the ‘real subordination’ that is so dear to IP). First of all by abolishing the separation between main and manual labour, starting with the replacement of the hateful capitalist hierarchy in companies by the associate of 'free' and 'equal' producers.

But the workers are not 'free', because 'he who does not work will not eat', and they are not 'equal', because every work is different. That is absolutely right. RV does not understand
a. that it is only the workers who, as a previously exploited and oppressed class, can put an end to it [oppression and exploitation], and
b. that they should also be able to see these contradictions in a form comprehensible to them (not through the Grundrisse), contradictions of a society that still shows all traces of exploitation and oppression.

As Marx and Engels stated, the revolution is necessary not only to defeat the old ruling class, but also to transform all social relations and to enable the working class to free itself from the whole of the old junk, i.e. that in its own thoughts and actions: "The liberation of the working class can only be the work of the workers themselves". Not receiving a basic income as a favor from a state in transition will help the working class, even if this state will try to adorn itself with the designation 'proletarian' or, for my part, ‘Commune-state'. It is his state, which specializes in maintaining the 'social relations' so dear to RV, that is in fact a danger by trying to perpetuate the existing reality, not the workers who have every interest in eliminating their own exploitation.

RV also has enormous confidence in information technology. So do we. With IT, it is indeed much easier to plan physical quantities, something that (RH seems to be missing) also occurs in a system based on working hours. But why shouldn't that same ICT address the problem that RV sees in the registration of hours worked, a problem that capitalism — stingy as it is — has never known, but on the contrary has perfected in Scientific Management (Taylorism) and recently in the development of Enterprise Resource Planning systems that all have a module for the deployment and remuneration of employees. Is RV really that ignorant? Or doesn't he have any thought at all? He points out the possibility of the misuse of work vouchers as money for mutual exchange of consumer goods. Now, such a transaction doesn't always have to be a problem. It's tricky, though; a reason NOT to ration. It is a problem for those who dwell in lofty worlds of theories about the abolition of the commodity form, alienation and real subordination, and preferably of any quantity, as some communists would like (yes, let's forbid mathematics and statistics; I'm bad at it myself). But, suppose this "exchange" is a problem, if RV had wondered what checks are all possible on his own Credit Card, he would know that there is a solution for this as well.

As for his preference for rationing, we suggest that RV thinks again before he submits this proposal as a motion to the workers' councils. For there, if it were up to us, it would be decided how and what of the distribution of the social product, by those who work, and not by those who do not want to work. Is that coercion? Yes, it is the economic form that the dictatorship of the proletariat takes when workers' councils have taken all power.

F.C. (2016)

Translated from Dutch original, published 8-6-2016 in Over het scherm rolden … (juni 2016).

(*) After writing this reply, I found out that Bordiga in the concluding parts of his “Economic and social structure of Russia today” referred positively to Marx’ labor time vouchers.

Posted By

Fredo Corvo
Feb 23 2020 10:03

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  • Where RV sees labour coercion, we see a common interest of all workers to reduce working time and change the work itself by the association of 'free' and 'equal' producers.

    F.C.

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