New Republic on ‘socialism’: a response

The New Republic comes full circle with a fourth article on socialism, the last evidently undermining the whole series:

The Socialist Moment :Reclaiming the Future
Socialism The Democracy Deficit
Socialism in No Country

This blog attempts to carry the idea of neo-communism (the term socialism has entered a phase of chaotic semantics as ‘social democracy’, so we retreat to the term (neo-)communism). We have been far more critical of marxism without ending up in liberal fudge.

The problem with this now standard ‘liberal’ balk at the threshold of socialism is that socialism’s ‘democracy deficit’ is now (perhaps always was) accompanied by the ‘democracy’ deficit of ‘democracy’ itself, noting the tricky-duck ambiguity of quotation marks //democracy??//.
So the realm of liberal democracy must ironically undergo the very debriefing that haunted the ‘socialist’ legacy. Without a socialist correction, democracy remains unrealized.
In the end the dilemma of socialism versus democracy is false: the two are variants that stand against neo-barbarism and autocracy.

We have acknowledged the failure of leninism/bolshevism, and have moved further to a critical stance on the legacy of marxism with a critique of Marx’s theories of history, leaving much of his empirical study of economics as still viable, possibly dated, research. We have thus shelved ‘historical materialism’ and ‘stages of production’ theory.
The study of class, exploitation, labor in context, and capitalist processes has often proved robust, and the pot calling the kettle black accompanies defenders of liberalism thence capitalism: economic theories of the neo-classical brand are as flawed as anything on the left, amounting to mathematical finesse, if not fraud. So the crisis of theory seems to haunt all parties. The defense of markets using phony theories is as Marx noted: the issue of theory and ideology.Look at any economics text and find a supply and demand curve: that in a nutshell is the key idea that works well enough. But the grand over-evaluation into equilibrium economics somehow fails. The reason is that social theories don’t really exist as sciences. Marxist, or bourgeois…

The point is that we have no science of market economies to justify the functionality of markets.  We see in practice the dangers of markets taken without restriction.

As we examine their legacies we see that we must stand back to ask all over again: what is the status of market capitalism? Its liberal defenses must now reckon with a the disequalization in practice of their action, and the delusive ideology buttressed as noted with a mathematical pseudo-science and in reality producing climate catastrophe unforseen by the idiocy of supply and demand curve graphs,  an obsessive fixation on the efficacy of market dynamics to the point that the crisis of climate change poses an insuperable problem in the US where the whole regime of regulation is being dismantled as the delusive character of capitalist ideology threatens planetary collapse.
It is thus not so hard at all to rescue the ‘socialist imperative’ at a moment of crisis. At the worst a regime of totalitarian ecological socialism might prove a rescue operation at the moment of the capitalist endgame.
We can do much better than that if we examine the legacies and disown them, starting over with new formulations. Here the ‘left’ is often its own worst enemy as it obsessively fixates on bolshevism and the Marx canon taken uncritically. Beside that our economics texts are a strangely delusive brand.

As long as we consider the need for a discontinuity with a legacy of mechanized thought, we can move to renew the whole question with clear, simple, reformulations that don’t inflict ponderous theories of history along with the remarkable ignorance of economic theory that has accompanied all eras of socialist action.

Taking socialism in isolation has as noted tended to show a democracy deficit, a muddle over markets, and a tendency toward state capitalism, bureaucracy and the wild goose chase of planned economies in an era when noone could really understand the planning/market duality.

Any group, as capitalism nosedives, that can resolve those failures will resurrect in short order the socialist phenomenon from the dead.
We have suggested using Marx/Engels historically in an heroic saga, but moving on toward a refoundation of all questions in a way that doesn’t even use the term ‘marxism’.

We can see the successes of capitalism in some respects prior to its current cancerated endgame. The issue that haunts the left is the so-called calculation debate, starting with Mises at the moment of the russian bolshevik moment…The debate on that question has probably found a close victory on the left, in the long delayed study of computational economics, and artificial intelligence but the many (often failed) attempts to create socialist markets has its own suggestions for the future: there is no inherent reason why we can’t have ‘communist markets’ designed to function after the stage of expropriation.

Based on an idea of a Commons, quite distinct from state capitalism, agents with licensed resources could operate a partial economy of markets in a socialist context. The many failures of earlier attempts are transparent casualties of an older leninist/bolshevik era.
We can move to a new set of ideas in our DMNC model:
Our idea of democratic market neo-communism defies the liberal critique because it is a variant of a liberal system. The reverse is true: a liberal system on examination turns out to be proto-communist, because planning already exists, regulation exists, state ownership (e.g. some utilities) already exists marginally, etc…

Let us consider our problem to be one of producing a variant of remorphed liberalism that moves past the threshold of social democracy into a form of ‘liberal’ neo-communism( declare high level capital into a Commons, and what happens then, leaving the rest intact, at least for discussion: it works fine, short of a civil war with capitalists): the system is much as before save that ownership of capital reverts to a Commons, to be defined legally as a shared resource in principle allowing and enforcing a share for all. This is different from state socialism where control belongs to a bureaucracy in a one-party state. Marx and the early socialists had a strong case re: the artificial nature of ‘private property’.
Basically this would be system with a varied set of foundations: an ecological socialist ideology and praxis, a presidential system, a parliamentary system with a politics failesafed against commercial domination, a legal foundation with ecological and economic courts. A labor organization, e.g. unions can legally enforce the issue of ‘fair shares’ even as the status of ‘nature’ as an entity with rights can enforce the framework ecological sanity as an ecological socialism. This system remorphs a liberal system: the question of working class organization is thus sidelined: but it would be easy to further morph this system toward working class focus with the creation of, say, working cooperatives. But noone has made any of that work: a liberal system remorphed as communism we know can work as it achieves relative equality with a robust economic populism that guarantees economic rights: jobs, medical care, housing, etc…
And so: the gist of this is to define in advance the outcome desired where the marxist tradition using ‘stages of production’ theory tragically ended in an ad hoc set of constructs that vitiated the whole experiment. that theory confused the early bolsheviks and led to statist tyranny.
We can see that our construct would work since liberal systems work: they are remorphed variants of each other. The dilemma capitalism/communism disappears because the two are blended in a new system.
The point here is that we can’t expect ‘communism’ to automatically replace capitalism in a dynamic of epochs, feudalism, capitalism, communism: the inherent causal economic fundamentalism must yield to a view of history where free agents construct a new system based on the values entailed by a just neo-communism based on equality and shared resources.

Suddenly much of the failure of the older left falls away as practical futures take the place of the dead hand of the older era.
The Anthropocene and the Coming of Postcapitalism
Two Manifestos:
Toward a New Communist Manifesto
Democratic Market Neo-communism…

The idea of ‘democratic market neo-communism’ attempts to resolve the political and economic issues, and needs a immediate extension to an ecological socialist brand as
ecological democratic market neo-communism, etc..

The point here is that all previous attempts at socialism were paralyzed confusions of theory, confusions not difficult to clarify. The puzzle of marxist confusion has been endemic and needless. There is something incredibly obtuse about marxist endeavors: a series of corrections can easily correct this tendency, however hard in practice it might be to realize the foundation of a Commons. But what choice does man have? As Marx noted well the whole outcome of ‘primitive accumulation’ turned social culture into a system based on rapacity and the illusion of artificial ‘private property’ (at the level of capital, not small scale versions).
Despite all their confusions the original socialists/communism understood that the regime of property based on plunder was not sustainable.

DMNC: notes toward a manifesto

Democratic Market Neo-communism

At a time of developing climate catastrophe it is important to bring to the fore the challenge of revolutionary change. There is no reason why this can’t be followed with an electoral path, but the implications are revolutionary and remain that of constitutional renewal. This approach, even as it can and should inform mainstream activist logic working on issue initiatives and electoral options, is a discipline of thinking on problems holistically, involving social, economic, constitutional and political perspectives in the context of a totalitarian capitalist regime, with global domination as its keynote. Our perspective is thus both nationalistic and internationalist. The times require the dangerous passage of revolutionary regime change, even if this provokes an apparently unrealistic goal, and this must at least be contemplated as a potential option.

The current election of Trump suggests the american system has entered the kind of reactionary deadlock that has too often cursed its history, witness the period leading up to the american civil war. The reign of climate deniers coming the fore simply amplifies an already disastrous situation, created by the american ‘rogue state’ with its imperialist wars fueled by the military-industrial complex, its deep state and uncontrolled covert agencies showing strong evidence of false-flag dark ops, next to a corrupt political system beholden to capital interests. The developing crisis of climate change confronting a political system unable to respond shows a system entering the critical zone. The current system is not stable and we need to consider the dangers in the situation we face. If nothing else the revolutionary option is failsafe logic, the ready fire-extinguisher. But ‘if nothing else’ is not enough as the failure of the powers of be calls for intervention. It is also possible the imputation of revolutionary change can lead to preemptive change on the part of the established regime.
Continue reading “DMNC: notes toward a manifesto”

why not the full problem? : democracy, economy: planning/markets, expropriation: a Commons….//Why Socialism? With Bhaskar Sunkara

The discussion of socialism in isolation is doomed to failure, as history shows: as our DMNC makes clear we must solve four or more problems in advance. The term ‘socialism’ devolves to postdemocracy, planning no markets, and state capitalism…as the last century shows all too well…
…or else, course ‘social democracy’ as pseudo-socialism…To this we must add an ecological perspective…

Most people know capitalism is unjust. Jacobin founder Bhaskar Sunkara says he wrote The Socialist Manifesto to lay out an alternative

Source: Why Socialism? With Bhaskar Sunkara

Trump’s ironic seeding of revolutionary action??

The reckoning of the DSA is tricky for an outsider and we should opt for a studied ambivalence along the fault line of our evolutionary/revolutionary duality. To propose a revolutionary option is to make that the dominant theme with a nod to the remote possibility of evolving to postcapitalism. But one suspects that the overall system, if we examine the now bizarre state of the dysfunctional US, is moving toward breakdown and the kind of chaos that will make an evolutionary trajectory into a revolutionary one.

In a strange irony, a figure like Trump with a fascist Halloween mask, is brilliantly dismantling the american system in stages, to what final end is not clear. The left, DSA included, must be ready to fight a takeover by real fascists in a crystallization of actual tyranny.

Given the facts of the case with respect to climate change turning into climate calamity and the Trump refusal to even acknowledge the problem the american system has produced both the right and soon the duty of revolutionary action, DSA’ers please note.

Here we offer our simple model, like a lego kit, of ecological socialism as ‘democratic market neo-communism’. This modeling system requires the solution of at least four difficult issues in tandem, all at once: the question of politics as democracy versus authority, the question of economy as markets versus planning, with a novelty in the question of ‘socialist markets’, and the key question for DSA, thinking of a Commons, that is the outcome of ‘expropriation’ as a path bypassing state capitalism and creating a genuinely shared set of resources once the reign of ‘Capital’. Overall the issue of authority and democracy requires careful thinking.

If British labor once nationalized key industries there is no inherent impossibility to an electoral version of our proposed emanation from our toolkit. In any case our revolutionary assumptions must also speak to the evolutionaries. They just might inherit the ‘revolution’ wrought by the immense blunder in motion of the increasingly fascist transmogrification of the US: at some point, as with 1917 Russia, the revolution emerges in anarchic spontaneity. So we need not sermonize the DSA, or for that matter Jacobin (whose chosen name reflects violent revolution in a non-paradox): sit tight and revolution will be the last option, perhaps coming sooner than we think, just be sure to have a contingency plan, and a good one: our model of DMNC as ecological socialism (neo-communism) reminds us that the leninists stumbled into the greatest opportunity possible for a postcapitalist experiment and dropped the chance because they had no real plan of action. Amazingly marxism under Marx’s view produced no real blueprint for the future, and was in a state of confusion over the issues of how to create a new economy.

So we can absolve the DSA for the nonce of evolutionary fictions, but warn of the need to be ready in reserve for a revolutionary opportunity…

DMNC: ‘what is to be done’…and ecological socialism in practice

We have changed our logo again and will keep it up for a short review of the question of ‘realizable socialism’.

The idea emerged in the vacuum of marxist/leftist views of what an evolutionary/revolutionary socialism should actually look like. The refusal to plan ahead for the need to construct a socialist system led to disastrous results…

This is a selection from the Kindle/public domain PDF of Democratic Market Neo-communism transferred back from PDF format to microsoft Word with possibly quirky results.The point here is to abandon classic communism as the nightmare it is for a version as here that will produce a robust economy, satisfy ecological constraints, and still appeal to a new public, the universal class and its core sector the working class.  The way to do that is to create a communism with the look of liberalism, and a liberalism with the look of communism. A difficult task, at first, but with a new set of mental habits the job almost does itself.

The original document needs more work, some amplification and a closer focus on ecological socialism. Start thinking, how construct a neo-communism that will not provoke a fury of refusal in a general public? Our version has three sectors and allows markets run by socialist entrepreneurs/managers to license resources from the Commons to engage in a new form of socialist market. Issues of ‘clearing’ and the hastles of such as Ludwig Mises don’t even arise, in theory. But new forms of planning are visible on the horizon we have a system with immense potential light years from the stolid idiocy of marxist type pseudo-communism with its state capitalism, etc…

American ‘democracy’ was initiated by an elite who created a republic, prior to a populist partial democratization…//To Save Democracy, We Need Class Struggle

Actually this analysis seems incomplete. American ‘democracy’ was the result of an elite creation of a republic and a populist trend toward democratization. Thomas Jefferson was no working class revolutionary.  That elite included slave owners who rigged the result but the potential for democracy, after a fashion, prevailed with limited suffrage. This process showed signs of class action but it was not the classic marxist process of class struggle, as such. One may stand correction here, but the rosy picture of the essay misses the point and blends two things, republican semi-democracy and class struggle. What is democracy? As Rousseau understood electoral democracy was only one variant, and as Marx understood that variant was limited and subject to control by the ‘bourgeois’.

The picture is murky however, and the basic point of this article is on the mark until it derails. But we forget the struggle entered and lost in the English Civil War where all the elements were present in a spectrum. But all of that failed. Then the Restoration produced the kind of rigged system of Parliament that was to influence the American system. Marx was very critical of such ‘democracies’. But then the Leninist era simply extruded the basic hidden hatred of liberal systems with a confusing mix that ended in dictatorship. Marxists keep proclaiming the democratic side of Lenin. But it is an obscure point. The Soviets seem to show a democratic trend but they disappeared. And democrat or not Lenin was rather careful to assume control with a secret police. The Civil War didn’t help.

So in fact we have a series of incoherent definitions of  ‘democracy’ each with examples of their failure. Marx almost got it right but was still not quite there.
In any case we need elite vanguards with democratic/liberal assumptions who will work in relation to a popular trend toward full democracy. Marxists want workers to take total control of some revolutionary outcome. But while workers can create worker institutions can they full resolve the state question? The working class inexorably falls under the spell of a vanguard: we should be wary of that vanguard and make its assumptions democratic. That was the whole point, unstated, of  marxism: an elite that could interact with a working class to produce revolutionary transformation. The whole point of marxism is to at least train that ‘elite’, and to cleverly insist it energize a working class. But a dictatorship of the proletariat? The phrase is a misleading catastrophe (granted the original meaning was different).  What about the other classes? Marxism left the lurking strategy to simply liquidate the bourgeoisie. The bolshevik and chinese revolutions killed huge numbers, but the elites returned and took control, marxist elites, soon a new bourgeoisie. We must take into account the action of vanguards and stop pretending the working class is fully virtuous or able to create a viable communism. The actual construction is tricky and almost obscure.  Worker communes would be terrific, but still the question of the state, inexorably turning into a vanguard controlled entity, needs further analysis.

All this blah blah about democracy: the real thing has never been accomplished. For reasons Marx well understood even though he failed to produce a correct resolution of the dilemma. The system of electoral democracy based on capitalism and private property has failed. we must therefor be careful about our use of the term ‘democracy’.
We must in the sense of our (ecological) DMNC  do four things at once: found a democracy, create an economy that is communist but which may contain markets, and the creation of a Commons where equality stretches to the question of property, not the ordinary small scale property but the larger sphere of the industrial level, etc… When we take these elements in isolation we get false results. And we must solve the problem of state power: our model allows a strong presidential system but one that has limited powers and no full control of the economy or any tendency to state capitalism. A Commons is something rather different.
We need to define ‘democracy, and recall the larger analysis of Rousseau who wrote before the emergence of the definition of ‘democracy’ as electoral democracy. The latter may be necessary but not sufficient to create democracy.
Marx and his legacy marxists had the right idea at some point but then the later followers got misled by the useless muddle of bolshevism.

This contains our DMNC model, which is itself incomplete perhaps…

The historical record is clear: democracy was only won when poor people waged disruptive class struggle against the rich. We’ll need more of it to save democracy today.

Source: To Save Democracy, We Need Class Struggle