Planning, Market & Unemployment

Jim heartfield jim at
Sat Aug 28 11:25:02 PDT 1999

In message <v04210105b3eda931c1c9@[]>, Doug Henwood <dhenwood at> writes
>Yoshie Furuhashi wrote:
>>planning plain and simple
>What's plain and simple about planning?

Maybe the way to look at this is the wrong way around.

Rather than trying to think of planning as an addition to creative activity, we ought to ask how it was that the planning element of work is suppressed.

Work after all is conscious application of endeavour. Most work is already a combination of plan and force. Work processes are just as much rational processes as they are physical ones. How is it that planning, an intrinsic element of work, comes to be subverted into the organised stupidity that we call the market is the real question.

Take the London Underground as an example. In point of fact, what is taking place there? The few thousand drivers, clerks, cleaners and supervisors conspire to get several million people from home to work every day, from about 500 pick up points. Theirs' is not in the main an exercise in hard labour, but concentrated foresight and planning.

And then, dropped on top of this intelligent system, like a ton of rubbish is the fare system. What is in the main a system for getting people from one place to another is subverted to a system for slowing them down, stopping them at ticket barriers, funnelling them through turnstiles, and fining them for fulfilling the goal of the underground system, transport.

The fare mechanism - which is itself a ridiculous waste of money - is a great dead weight, a leash around this greyhound's neck. It is in fact a system of organised stupification of what ought to be an intrinsically intelligent process. Whereas simple counters would record what the real demand for transport is, this system frustrates the demand measure, by artificially limiting investment in rolling stock, track and staff.

A planned economy is already all around us in the intelligent systems that we call work. The market is just the daily lobotomy that we make upon that living brain that is the modern metropolis.

In message <37C7F803.74B72FBB at>, Michael Perelman <michael at> writes
>Jim Heartfield noted that Titkin estimates that more than half of the Soviet
>output was waste. I suspect that much more of the U.S. output is waste.
>Remember Doug's recent estimate that 5 million people are involved in
>telemarketing. Include advertising, lobbying .....
>What about the destruction of "surplus" agricultural products?

I don't think that you have to praise capitalism to be up-front about the inner collapse of Stalinism. It failed. It was destructive, stupid and monstrous - more so than capitalism, and that really is tragic.

So yes it is true that capitalism is terribly wasteful. But it is also extraordinarily productive. Stalinism was only ever really the former.

In message <v03130303b3ed7140733c@[]>, Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1 at> writes
>up to people in ex-socialist countries to decide, I think,

Yes, and I rather thing that they have already decided. Marxism and communism have a terrible reputation in the Eastern Bloc. Parties that are too closely identified with the old system have been reduced to a potty rump, like the Russian Communists. Those reform communists that have re-heated their careers have all done so on the condition of a ringing endorsement of the free market.

More to the point, the low unemployment ought not to be treated as a discrete characteristic that can be isolated from those other aspects of so-called communist society that made is so singularly unattractive to its citizens: a life-time of queuing for crappy consumer goods that nine times out of ten did not do the job they were supposed to; endless corrupt skulduggery to secure the most banal items; an aggressively exclusive dictatorship of an elite that was by instinct anti-working class.

Those things were not incidentally related to low unemployment. We are used to thinking of unemployment as a disaster, because incomes are attached to work. But where wages are a mere fiction, there is no advantage in destroying your life in the mindless creation of waste. Workers passed there judgement on socialist employment by sneaking out of work at every opportunity.

Like the Polish joke went, 'You pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work'.

-- Jim heartfield

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