Reading materials on plan, market and democracy

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Plan, market and democracy:
a balance sheet of the Stalinist centrally ‘planned’ societies, what do we mean by our project for socialist democracy? How much room for the market? What representation of the people? What is socialist ‘governance’?

Reclaim the Commons

What (eco)socialism/communism in the 21st Century ?

Outline Catherine Samary

• There are no recipes or complete models of 21st Century socialism ; an essential part of the answers must be invented through the struggles and in relation to the context which is often new and specific, taking into account the relationship of forces and the experiences (not the same on each continent, in each country …). Socialism is prepared by the fights against the system, not by inventing models. • But we have also to assimilate the “living memory” of the struggles and of past alternative experiences, clarify what has become incomprehensible through defeats, avoid confusion of concepts, learn from failures, develop some central ideas on what we want and can put forward ( starting from real experiences …).

We will discuss these challenges starting from three ways of looking at them.

A) History:
the appropriation of the history of the resistance and of the alternative projects by the dominated people – an essential political question against the organized loss of memory.
B)The concepts:
communism/socialism; market, plan, private/public ownership; self management. Exposing human relations and purposes behind these concepts – against opacity and the obliteration of the real purpose.
C) Relevance of socialism in the current struggles

the ownership by the dominated of the history of resistance and of alternative projects – a fundamental political question against programmed funerals

1°) A new historical period, new generations … but

○ can we change the world without the capacity of interpreting history?
Importance of the understanding of the revolutionary attempts and failures in a radical anti-imperialist and emancipatory perspective;

○ the logic of “a clean sweep of the past” comes mainly from the enemies of any anticapitalist project; the ideology of the ‘end of history’ with the collapse of the Berlin wall and the end of the Soviet-Union

2°)The living memory of the struggle and the alternatives (on each continent and each society)
= a political and democratic issue

a) Universal rise of memory requirements of the history of those without a voice, slaves, peasant revolts, women's struggles, indigenous peoples, colonized, the losers of history Walter Benjamin … a history with ‘holes’, with conflicts and ‘crossroads’
b) After the collapse of the Berlin wall and the end of the Soviet-Union (1989-1991), new ‘official’ history, new censure ship in the so called ex socialist countries

b 1 – historical “revisionism” :
• occultation of the precommunist past and thus of the roots and causes of the 20th Century revolutions – Russia, China, Cuba, Vietnam a hierarchical, imperialist “world system” (see theory of the permanent revolution);
• the countries who made a revolution are reduced to the concept of violence and of single party repression;
•this phase in history is represented as an aberrant historical episode, parenthesis; in Europe, ideology of reunification of the continent and “return into Europe” for the Eastern-European countries who joined the EU;

b 2 – occultation of the real causes of the failure: not enough socialism
difference between popular aspirations and reality (political, economical) of Eastern Europe since 1989

b 3 – occultation of the balance sheet of the restoration of capitalism: who decides? What social balance sheet?

B) THE CONCEPTS: against confusion of words and real issues at stake, what human relations and aims are hidden for us?

Rejection of all dogmatism (excluding the debate on the means)or of all self proclaimed normative definitions, but also rejection of ideological eclecticism which hides the real issues.

I) “Market”, “socialism”
Difference between

• (1) the purpose of communist projects as “concrete utopias”which have not been implemented, but remain at the theoretical and practical level based on large social movements = the substance behind the term

NB: we do not make a difference between socialism and communism in this context.
Discussion on the significance of the ‘classical’ differences, between socialist and communist ‘stages’

○ What ‘communist’ substance, beyond ‘models’ and experiences?

■ rejection of relations of domination ( emancipation of every individual being the condition of the emancipation of all)
■ the explicit aim is the satisfaction of social needs
■ collective appropriation of the 'common goods’; it is humans themselves ( freely associated individuals) who will decide on what and how to fulfil those needs ( forms of ownership, institutions etc.)

NB2: there are communist aspirations and movements long before capitalism see peasants struggles, religious revolts (Ernst Bloch, in Michaël Löwy, sociology des religions)

• (2) The historical reality of parties, ‘models’, experiences who were labelled ‘communist’ and/or ‘socialist’, depending this time on differences in program, in specific contexts… where the words continue to be used even if the initial program is being explicitly repudiated. From there, of confusion on the terms

○ The gap between the proclaimed and promised goals and reality, is the cause of profound criticisms and potentially of struggles, revolts and crises (of regimes, of parties, ex. in Eastern Europe : Yugoslavia 1948, Poland, Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, Poland 1980)
○ The continuing popularity of the aspirations expressed in (1)is confirmed in time and space : that is why labels continue to be used in a demagogical way… those aspirations are attacked and the change in the labels taken on board.

II) market, plan, private and public ownership
• socialism, a society without money or market ? Without private property ?
• Should we plan everything ? Nationalize everything ?
• « Market socialism » ?

Make the differences proposed in I : to judge on the means and their consequences starting from their effects on human relations and the fulfilment of needs. S, look ‘behind’ economic categories, institutions and speeches

a) Market and plan
• a1) essential differences
○ partial use of money and certain market mechanisms in a society in which the dominant choices ( of production, distribution of wealth) are not determined by the market nor by the logic of commercial profit
○and the rule of commodities and of the capitalist system’s market (cf. a pure capitalism, by Michel Husson on the return since the 1980’s to the 19th century!). With the aim (and the fundamental mechanism ruling production) of accumulation of monetary profits, so market mechanisms ( you have to sell on the market in order to make a profit). With the development of several markets:

■ labour market ( wage earning under capitalism)
■ market of capital ( private financing ruled by profit)
■ market of goods and services ( of production and consumption)
NB: Crises reveal more clearly the essence of societies

• a2) In a socialist/communist perspective, what do we reject ?

■ The capitalist wage relation – and beyond, all relations of domination emerging after a revolution ( bureaucratism …) which implies:

• questioning the ‘labour market’ were the labour force is treated as a disposable commodity and the wage is considered as a cost that must been cut

• questioning the property rights under capitalism: the right to lay offs and the organisation of labour based on the exploitation of workers; the right to private appropriation of the produced values

This shows us the central challenge of the status of wage work ( see also self management and social property)

■ The criteria of commercial profit are used to evaluate the needs that are taken into account and the costs to be squeezed:

• analysis of the needs not taken into account in capitalist market ; other needs which are promoted;

• highlight the (social, ecological,…) criteria of squeezed costs in the logic of producing for commercial profit

Hence calling into question the capital markets ( private banks, financial markets, stock exchange …):
But also critical on bureaucratic, state planning ( also from the point of view of non satisfied needs and wastage/costs): a logic of socialisation (critical towards statism) of resources and of social planning based on basic needs at different levels = using criteria and pluralistic public control ( workers, users) cf. the status of human beings and of social ownership.

• a3) This gives the possibility of an open debate and of experiences

○ a certain market of goods and services ( small commodities production which can promote forms of cooperatives in farming);
○ the use of money as a revenue and purchasing power facilitating decentralized individual choices;
○ the status ( and enlargement) of forms of planning of production: it is not possible and not necessary to plan everything ( needs to be satisfied)and even less in a hyper centralized way (local, regional planning; coordination and cooperatives; using ICT); possibility for production in networks without using money, see for instance free association and innovation (Linux)
○ the debate on “prices” in distribution of goods and services, produced through planning or not ( goods, services for free, so subsidies, etc.)

b) private ownership and public ownership

○ necessary distinction between different types of private ownership:

■ individual ownership of means of production (craftsmen, small farmers, small businesses) or small commodity production without relations of exploitation, see Communist Manifesto
• diversity from a point of view of class of agriculture
• mistrust towards farmers … forgetting ‘communist’ traditions
• incorporation in capitalist logic ( sub contractors ) or possible socialist logic (cooperatives)
■ personal ownership of goods with use value

■ capitalist ownership of the means of production allowing a relation of exploitation and private appropriation of the result of labour: this it at the centre of our criticism.

○ b2- and different types of public ownership

■ nationalisations in different capitalist contexts • crisis/war where the State takes temporarily over the role of the private sector to diminish costs and pay for its wars or its economy; or a logic of regulation of markets; • or political and social pressures (enlarging public services and the statute of workers in a public service protected from the logic of the market): • a logic of social conflicts, resolved according to relationships of force : cf. current dismantling with new neoliberal offensive in Europe or, on the contrary, a logic of ‘transition’ by demanding nationalisations under workers control (cf. point C)

■ nationalisations in a global anticapitalist perspective: banning of capital market, socialisation of banks …; explicit limits on the private sector and its rights But experiences show us: ○ a tendency to statism if the situation of the workers does not radically change management methods, maintaining the statute of workers in the public sector. ○ alternative forms of collective ownership ( where workers at the same time the owners) ■ very diverse forms of cooperatives (of production, of consumption,different collective interests) (some born in a strategy of survival or resistance against closures cf. point C) ■ a several forms of self managed companies
III) Self management and economic and political democracy
Returning to the essence of the communist project – against it bureaucratic degeneration, we have to stress the question of rights, of the status of the workers or economic democracy.

1°)In the question of self management, we need the same distinction as with communism,

• (1) “workers self management means in essence: putting into question the status of wage worker. The self managing person is legally responsible for managing his own work.

The logic of self management is anticapitalist in its logic and linked to the principles of communism (1) and social ownership of the means of production It can been integrated in the fight against the capitalist system (see part C)…

• (2) it covers different types of ‘models’ visible in the stages of the Yugoslav experience

■ limits of self management in one company … through the plan who uses the main resources for investment: self organisation of the work and daily management; ■ limits of self management … by the market: increased rights in the framework of “market socialism” with suppression of planning – but a growing role of the banks in repartition of the money according to criteria from competition between self managed companies … ■ self management linked to “social ownership” at different territorial levels (see next point)

2°) Which debates and fundamental problems?

a) Clarifying the debates with anarchist currents: • “direct” democracy and role of the institutions (parties, experts) to clarify the choices made in self management; a logic without the State or a socialisation of the State? • idem: eliminate planning ( replaced by a market link between self managed cooperatives) or socialisation of the plan? Increased inequality and unemployment due to competition on the market – to each according to selling on markets? – and the impasse of management of separate companies: the rights of the self managers must be applicable in the logic of the whole ( priorities in financing, criteria for wages, costs) with stimuli for cooperation not for competition …

b) The conflicts and demands put forward by the self management left movement at the end of the sixties showing clearly forms of alienation in self management ( with the plan or with the market – and the Party-State) demands such as:

• self managed “social ownership”, sometimes a criticism on state public ownership or the limited socialisation at the level of each company • “self managed planning”, opposed to administrative planning as well as to “market socialism” • association of workers and consumers in management rights ( ex. health services, public transport, etc.) • diversity of funding for specific needs (investments, collective consumption) • specific chambers on self management at the level of local authorities, the republics etc.

An essential political issue: which parties and rights to a pluralistic organisation? Cf. repression

Solution: no party? Or a more profound and longer preparation of the challenge of self management with political pluralism in different forms and possibilities to make a balance sheet.

C) Socialism will be prepared in the struggles in/against the capitalist system

1) A dilemma: the risk of quagmire in the system or paralysis while waiting for the revolutionary moment … the difficulties on the next day: the purpose and deep aspirations of “communists” are present in the struggles, but they face the system

A transitional method

2) Resistance in/against the current system and the issue of the current crisis:

○ “workers control”, occupation and self management of factories in struggle, production cooperatives,…ex. Lip in France (1973); companies taken over in Argentina ( years 2000) … cooperatives … the experience of Porto Alegre … difficulties … ○ current difficulties and risks in an environment dominated by the capitalist market and a bourgeois State? ○ The crisis and the possibility of enlarging resistance at the continental level, see debate on Latin-America; European issues? ○ The conquest of ideological hegemony – delegitimize dominant politics, opening of choices and criteria; ○ a fundamental terrain :

• 1 – universal human rights and “common goods” ( world heritage – nature and produced by humans);

• 2 – the global ecological challenge

• 3 – real equality against abstract universalism: a concrete analysis of the gap between official rights and the reality – linked with differences in class, gender, “race” or origins, sexuality etc.

• 4 – democracy, a framework based on individual and collective autonomy (liberties) ; ○ different forms of democracy (representative, participative) to be combined, transformed by social-economic rights ○ possibility of different ‘chambers’ ( national question, social, self management) with the right to veto (majority votes are not necessarily democratic) ○ importance of a political and citizen’s approach broadening the horizon and revealing a ‘common interest’ starting by taking into account the conflicts… ○ democracy, religions and emancipation:

• against any dictatorial state – and state ideologies, atheist or religious • secularism against clerical power, not against believers and not against a free political and philosophical confrontation • no emancipation without individual autonomous choice excluding any violence

○ Forces important for rectification: independent institutions (from the State): trade-unions, associations, observatories of inequality, etc.) and free self organisation with support (financial means, space, media)

= no recipes, enduring conflicts, so possibility to rectify errors in relation to explicit goals.