newbie on Participatory Economics

John Woodford johnwood at
Mon Jul 20 07:44:25 PDT 1998

It takes as little predictive power to predict modern Black nationalism as it would have to predict Irish nationalism, Argentine nationalism or Jewish nationalism. In fact, there was already Black nationalism when CLR James "predicted" it. But the many forms of this nationalism, as well as its political force and direction, are something much harder to predict. There are progressive, reactionary, mystical, accommodationist and cultural varieties. Given the development of petit bourgeois stratum in a colonized or otherwise similarly oppressed ethnic group, your going to get nationalism. It's not much to foresee in and of itself. ------------- Original Text
>From Louis Proyect <lnp3 at>, on 7/19/98 8:18 AM:
>Your explanation of utopianism seems very well formulated. My only
question is:
>if marxism is a science, why can't it predict the fall of the USSR? The
turn of
>the Chinese to a semi-market economy? with the same kind of certainty that
I can
>predict that a hydrogen bomb will blow up if I build it in a certain way?
>chuck miller

Good questions. It turns out that Marxism as "science" has been very much on my mind lately as I am reading Michael Perelman's manuscript dealing with "punctuated equilibrium," an attempt to understand economics from the perspective of Stephen Jay Gould's evolutionist theories.

In one of his early chapters, Michael makes a point that is absolutely essential. He says that economists have tended to look at things like depressions as if they were natural disasters, like tornadoes. There is a science which can predict tornadoes. It is called meterology. But there is no science that can predict depressions.

The main reason for this, in my view, is that human agency can not be predicted as cloud movements or the temperature can. Mass psychology is unpredictable. If in the East Asian crisis there is no militancy and workers struggles to recapture the economic gains of recent years, then capital will continue to accumulate at workers' expense. If the Russian workers in 1917 had not taken matters into their own hands, then the capital accumulation cycle would have continued.

All that Marxism can do is highlight tendencies. CLR James, one of my favorite Marxists, anticipated the emergence of modern black nationalism. He did this by studying the class composition of northern black populations and examining the Garvey movement without prejudice. This is what Marxists should be involved with, not looking into a crystal ball trying to predict political or economic collapses.

Louis Proyect (

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