Dark Sides of 'Solidarity'? (was cultural politics/"real"politics)

Gar W. Lipow lipowg at sprintmail.com
Fri May 8 21:26:21 PDT 1998

Actually Robin Hahnel and Michael Albert have laid out quite a nice way to use computers to have a participatory planning process in which everybody has an equal say -- so that you don't have a nightmare of central planners running everything. They also use shadow prices and wages to get iterative feedback, so as to preserve the advantages of markets -- without having to have unequal incomes, or uncaptured externalities. Because the process is participatory, rather than a mere choice among pre-determined options, it would be extremely unlikely to to turn out like the initiative process.

Some people have complained that spending the amount of time they have to develop a detailed "third way" between markets and central planning is a waste of time, a playing with tinker toy models. But given the "mind share" intellectual concessions to the markets have gained among even Marxist economists, I think their work is worthwhile -- even though real socialism will probably turn out to be drastically different than their models. If you want to examine it in more detail try the following page : http://www.zmag.org/parecon/aboutparecon.htm

One problem I have with their theory is one I have with most left theory -- and it is really a flaw in my approach. I end up mostly as political dualist. In theory I would like to see a revolution. In practice, I spend my time fighting for "liberal" causes which most "liberals" have abandoned -- universal single payer health, a more progressive income tax, a wealth tax, universal tax funded child care, restoration of benefits cut by U.S. welfare deform, more environmental regulation and more enforcement, a smaller military, any cuts I can win in the U.S. torment of most of the third world, support for affirmative action, living wage bills, support for union struggles. Now all these are good things. To the extent that we win, they lessen the immediate pain; they shift the balance of power slightly in favor of the working class (or prevent further shifts towards the ruling class); they (possibly) delay environmental catastrophe long enough for us to win a sustainable society. I suppose they also educate people about the long term struggle. (Because of the top down way a lot of these battles are fought, I am not as confident as I'd like to be that their educational values goes much beyond the immediate issues.)

Yet as a a socialist, I feel my immediate actions should somehow be more linked to the long term goal. I gather that most of the people on this list have found a synthesis of these two opposites that does NOT involve joining some loony cult (sorry to you cult members -- not an option I care to contemplate). Or do you simply live with the contradiction and hope for better days?

Charles Brown wrote:

> I like to call this the Light Sides of Solidarity.
> Black is beautiful.
> Can we, with computer-telecommunications
> technology get so that people vote as often
> as they shop now,so that there could be
> considerably more direct democracy with
> the planning boards and all planning
> decisions, seeking to making them less
> oppressive and arbitrary. We've got
> to have some whithering away of the
> state in this advanced process.
> C.B.
> >>> "Rosser Jr, John Barkley" <rosserjb at jmu.edu> 05/08 5:04 PM >>>
> Louis,
> I don't wish to revisit old arguments about market
> socialism vs planned socialism, but in this context here is
> what looks reasonable.
> Let there be a planning board that determines the
> infrastructure and the general transportation layout. Let
> there be sufficient redistribution so that nobody is poor.
> Also make sure that there is excellent mass transit
> (determined by the planning board). Then let people have
> non-polluting automobiles and make them pay congestion fees
> by automatic Vickrey-style recording mechanisms.
> The basic problem with your "planning board rations
> car use" scheme is that it implies a horrendous degree of
> oppressiviness and arbitrariness. On what grounds will
> this be decided? Who will be doing the deciding? Who will
> make exceptions and how? How does one avoid corruption in
> such decisionmaking? etc. etc. etc.
> Barkley Rosser
> On Fri, 08 May 1998 11:29:59 -0400 Louis Proyect
> <lnp3 at panix.com> wrote:
> > >Louis Proyect's notion of a global planning board rationing the use of motor
> > >vehicles meanwhile strikes me as utter madness. I understand why socialists
> > >are reluctant to make use of the pricing mechanism. Yet it is far and away
> > >the most efficient method. Correctly pricing motor vehicles, not to mention
> > >electric cars, mass transit, and even bikes decentralizes decision-making.
> > It
> > >allows each and every user to decide what is the most cost-effective way
> > to go
> > >from A to B without having to await instructions from command central. It
> > >encourages "the praxis of everyday life" in which people, individually or
> > >collectively, are free to develop solution to a myriad of mundane problems.
> > >This strikes me as far more democratic and creative.
> > >
> >
> > (clip)
> >
> > >Personally, I want to change everything.
> > >
> > >Dan Lazare.
> >
> > Pricing, ie. market socialism, is the opposite of changing "everything." In
> > some respects, China embodies market socialism and the proliferation of
> > luxury automobiles among the red bourgeoisie shows that something different
> > is needed. Two years ago, at a Socialist Scholars Conference, David
> > Belkin--coauthor of a book on market socialism with Frank
> > Roosevelt--debated Harry Magdoff. Belkin argued that if workers wanted
> > cars, they should have them. This is not socialism, it is adaptation to the
> > current consumerist status quo, which favors the industrialized nations
> > against the third world. Pricing is besides the point as long as artificial
> > blocks to the free market exist, namely death squads and censorship.
> > Indonesia will produce cheap oil because the army and cops and fascists
> > murder trade unionists. The only way that prices will reflect reality is
> > when the bourgeosie is overthrown. A mind-blowing task, but we'd better
> > roll up our sleeves now or it will never get done.
> >
> > Louis Proyect
> >
> > (http://www.panix.com/~lnp3/marxism.html)
> --
> Rosser Jr, John Barkley
> rosserjb at jmu.edu

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list