Anarchism / Marxism debates

Brett Knowlton brettk at
Mon Aug 16 15:31:56 PDT 1999

Hey Max,

>I dig Chomsky and agree w/most of the rest of what
>you say, but as soon as we're in the bag of decentralization,
>or "workers control" on a sub-national basis, we're talking
>about markets and non-public ownership of capital. I don't
>dispute this is probably inevitable, but it should be
>recognized for what it is. If workers own their own
>enterprises, the only way they would have to deal with
>other enterprises and with consumers is with market
>arrangements. This does not preclude welfare-state
>institutions to promote equality, among other purposes,
>but at bottom with no plan there must be a market. If
>a plan is concocted either by the center or democratically
>a la Hahnel, there is no real control by workers. If there
>is control, there can be no plan.

There should be worker control of the workplace, but not dictatorial control, which private or group ownership of capital normally represents. If the community is damaged by how a particular enterprise is being run, it is justified in asserting its rights and intervening. The principle here is self-management. Everyone should have a say in decisions which will affect their lives, and their opinions should be weighted by the degree to which they are affected. There shouldn't be any trump cards, like private property ("I own the company so you'll do as I say or else").

Currently I'd support a democratic plan a la Albert and Hahnel. Although there are market-like aspects to their plan also. The plan does not result from the pronouncements of some economic guru akin to Alan Greenspan, but results from the tension between what people want to consume and what people are willing to produce. This is the problem the market claims to solve, after all. The idea is to come up with something which solves this problem in a just and fair way. Markets coupled with private property solve the problem, but not in a fair or just manner. I'm open to other suggestions, of course, but these guys have the best ideas by far that I've seen on what kind of economic institutions will lead to good outcomes.

Regardless of what you think of their particular system, I believe they have correctly identified the _process_ by which you can arrive at an acceptable system. First you identify your goals and values. Then you come up with institutions which best yield these results. If you like income inequality and think its a social strength, then the US system might be your ideal society. But if you believe in self-management and solidarity and lots of other progressive ideals, then US-style capitalism doesn't look so good, and you try other ideas.


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