This useful and compelling essay raises more questions than it answers and it is difficult to navigate the choppy waters of definitional socialism. We should note the term arises before the work of Marx and we are not bound by the legacy of marxism as such here. We have claimed that Marx’s theories are flawed and this may well muddle his brilliant classic, Critique of the Gotha Program. We need to construct a superset of the marxist legacy that can avail of its potential but recast the basics where needed.
The article correctly identifies the confused usage, as with ‘social democracy’. The term ‘socialism’ is virtually a semantic orphan at this point, and we have dozens of posts on this including the pros and cons of Bernie Sanders’ either cooptation or in motion valid jargon in a desperation strategy in the american electoral free for all.
We have thus left behind the term ‘socialism’ (in Marx’s terms a transitional phase to communism) save as reference in general discourse to multiple semantic versions (pidgin socialist speak) next to our term ‘neo-communism’, itself always qualified as (ecological) ‘democratic market neo-communism’: this considers the need to do what Marx wouldn’t do, define a system that can be a constructive attempt at postcapitalist social reconstruction. The bolsheviks attempted to carry out a marxist platform without any such plan and the result was a calamity.
Our terminology critiques Marx’s theories of history, his historical materialism and stages of production theory. Marx refuses to define his outcome of ‘communism’ after ‘capitalism’ yet his Gotha piece indirectly imposes severe conditions on the future and this can be unaccountable. For example the statements on rights is ambiguous and we should be wary of dismissing these as bourgeois remnants.
If stages of production theory fails in the wake of the collapse of historical materialism we are left with razzledazzle (a reference to touch football, a kind of simulation of football) but we are also gifted with the opportunity to model a future system. A key issue resurfaces: productive force determinism and the sociological scientism of economic epochs in motion is replaced with what Marx unfairly denounced: a social system constructed by free agents with a set of values based on socialist or communism principles. This is the debate over utopian versus scientific socialism. But what is science here? We are thrown back into the ‘utopian’, that is, the consideration of values in a project of willing agents.
We think in terms of socialist markets, socialist planning, and a liberal system as this is remorphed into a neo-communism based on a Commons. This means that the issue of rights is maintained and the treacherous dangers of manipulating this with Marx’s fuzzy abstractions is cautioned with an equally controversial stance on ‘neo-communism as a liberalism’ and ‘liberalism in search of communism’. This might be critiqued on Marx’s terms but the point is to produce from the start a viable and easy to understand system based on neo-communism with a robust economy and democratic/anarchist/presidential authority thought through.
This approach at the least rescues ‘social democracy’ across the boundary of the expropriation of private property and our DMNC breaks out of classic definitions into new territory. For example, Marx after all that he said so brilliantly was still unclear about markets and the attempt to completely abolish markets did not work out successfully. Marx was unaware of the calculation debate that broke out as counterrevolutionary ideology almost instantly with the appearance of Lenin. This confusing distraction nonetheless predicted correctly the danger of what became the stalinist abolition of markets for bureaucratic planning. Although planning is emerging as a potential technology with new theoretical constructs using computers and AI it is still an unfinished subject and we have suggested there is no reason we can’t have markets in a communist system if these are based on a Commons and with economic corporations based on licensed resources.
This and many other issues caution us to be wary of hard marxist concepts/definitions and to model possible systems in advance: this requires more than just socialist abstractions: we must deal with a hyperdialectic of complex systems that are basically four plus issues connected in simulation: democratic systems, market systems, planning systems, and expropriation as a Commons (not the same as state capitalism). In this context it is not surprising that bolshevism crashed in semantic ruin, not the least of its failures…
Our DMNC is itself incomplete and needs to self-construct around a version of ecological socialism…
Source: What is Socialism?