newbie on Participatory Economics

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Jul 20 06:53:30 PDT 1998

Gar Lipow:
>How do the hell do you get a revolutionary upheaval without offering
>some hope that something better than current reality is possible?

You get such upheavals because the capitalist system drives people to them. The Russian people desired peace, land and bread in 1917. Although they had a vague idea of what socialism would mean--getting rid of the industrialists and the landlords--they didn't study blueprints in advance. Socialism can only be built through a combination of principle and experimentation. Do you remember how they used to call the Sandinistas "pragmatic"? Well, every socialist government needs to be pragmatic in order to succeed. Lenin was a pragmatist. So is Castro. By the way, the latest Harpers Magazine has as one of its monthly statistics the very interesting fact that the Cuban economy grew at 12 times the rate of the Russian economy last year.

>So the irrational is where we should spend the bulk of our energies?

The bulk of our energies should be spent in uniting all the various sectors of the oppressed against their common enemy, breaking them from capitalist politics and deepening the anticapitalist thrust of their struggles. Discussion of how an American socialist economy should be run is of very little importance to black women working in the poultry processing plants of Mississippi. They need to find out how to get a decent wage and stop being trapped in burning sheds. It will take a revolutionary trade union movement to get such shops organized.

>If what has been tried in the past has failed, should we simply rule
>trying something new out of consideration?
>The idea behind model building is not that socialism will come through
>rational persuasion -- but that working people are not stupid; given
>the failures of societies which called themselves socialist, they
>(quite rationally) need convincing that an alternative to both
>capitalism and past and present actually existing socialist states is

I argue that socialists should provide compelling class-struggle alternatives to the capitalist status quo. In a period of deep crisis--what is called a prerevolutionary situation--the question of state power will be raised. This is the crucial role for the revolutionary party, effectuating a transition from bourgeois power to people's power. Furthermore, armed defense of the people's movement will be necessary. Model building is an extraneous but harmless diversion from the nasty business of conquering power.

>That's the most productive thing you can imagine for activists and
>revolutionaries to do? "further analysis of the historical reasons
>underlying the collapse of the USSR"?

If you are going to study the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is preferable to read Marxists like Moshe Lewin rather than Mike Albert who thinks the problem is in "managerial" usurpation. The sad truth is that management was lacking in almost all phases of the former Soviet Union's economy. This is the central point of Lewin's analysis. Most of what Hahnel and Albert have written about Soviet history is banal and impressionistic.

>I have to think that there is plenty for us to do without waiting for
>a new Paris Commune to come along.

Of course. They include the following:

--strengthen the labor movement

--defend indigenous land claims

--abolish the death penalty

--fight for socialised medicine

--reestablish truly progressive taxation, 100% tax on all incomes over one million dollars.


Louis Proyect


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