Saturday, December 13, 2008

Questions About Cooperative Socialism

The following questions were based on the previous article "The Myth of Socialism as Statism"

Anders writes: It definitely makes sense that a system of local control of the economy and governmental functions is quite different from the statist national socialism the people associate with the word socialism today. I'd be curious to see several things.

1. What prevents workers co-ops?
1a. Most rich people's wealth is primarily tied up in capital goods that give workers jobs and produce goods that ordinary people buy (e.g. cars, flat screen tvs, clothes, books, houses.)
To the degree that capital comes from workers pension funds, don't workers own the means of production?
Doesn't all of this serve the same social function as co-ops?

ANS. 1. Lack of capital. Lack of the sort of privileges that the state granted to capitalists in order to establish the capitalist system.
1a. Ownership without control is meaningless. Think of "owning" a house, but not allowed to live in it our have any say over what happens to it. Workers have no control of their pension funds and those same funds have little direct say over the companies they technically own part of. The thing about coops is that members have a direct say in the direction of the coops, and a share of the profits. In no capitalist corporation do workers have the former, and only a small minority the latter, and even then the vast bulk of the profits go to the top.

2.If all power dissolves to the local level - what is to prevent
a. people from seceding to have single family co-ops and businesses.
b. the local powers that be from oppressing newcomers and the younger generation.
c. the municipalities from being statist and failing just like real states? Similarly wouldn't the local municipalities that are most successful be like little hong kongs with comparatively few rules or municipal control?
d. didn't small scale socialist experiments always fail? similarly municipal socialism was always a drain on the local government. Privatization is important today precisely because the state needs productive private enterprise that it can tax, public enterprise is a drain on state resources.
e. How do co-ops and municipalities and various economic enterprises get created and how do the old ones disappear? In free enterprise firms dissolve and merge and get created from scratch.
f. what kind of violence would be necessary to maintain the system?

ANS. a. Nothing. And in a free society you could not put such restraints. But "all power would not dissolve to the local level." This is not political or economic autarky. As a paleao-libertarian, I am sure you are familiar with federalism and the subsidiary concept. They apply here and in questions b and c. As well.
b. A constitution and direct democracy of the town meeting/neighborhood assembly type combined with worker councils.
c. The municipalities would be situated within county, regional and national federations. Towns taken over by authoritarians would still have to deal with these federations.
d. I presume you are talking about either worker coops or "utopian" colonies.The former did in the 19th and early 20th Century due to severe under-capitalization due to working class poverty, governmental and corporate hostility. Today, there are thousands of worker coops and many of them are successful by any standard. Utopian colonies are not the pervue of this article, the vast majority did fail due to poor conception. The intentional communities of today, such as Georgist land trusts, eco villages, cooperative communities, and so forth have done rather well, all considered. I don't favor government ownership of any kind, so I really can't justify "municipal socialism", other than to say that I don't think that it has always been a drain on a community. Most municipal "nationalizations" were carried out not because of any ideology, but by conservative governments for practical reasons – corporate capitalism could not deliver the goods. I added "municipal ownership" because I am a political realist – Mutualists will not be the only tendency influencing events. (to say the least!)
e. Like any other business – people get together, form an association. They disappear when the members decide that they don't wish to continue with the project.
f As a system, very little. Since everyone would have a say in how their community is governed and the nature of the economy and workplace, since everyone would get a share of the wealth and extreme economic differences would disappear, there would be a restoration of community, and thus a decline in the social problems that create conflict with our present society.

I should add that none of the above is utopian. Coops already exist as do forms of direct democracy, decentralization and genuine federalism. All that is required is that such tendencies be generalized. And the countries that are the most egalitarian and democratic are also the ones with the least internal violence/social problems.


Anonymous Keith Preston said...


Are you familiar with these people"

I think it's interesting to have such a unique model of a working cooperative economy available.

Also, sorry if this is OT, but what's your take on the uprising in Greece at present? Do you know much about the Greek anarchist movement, its ideological orientation, activism, etc.? Do you think they're on the right track or just engaged in adventurism? You seem to follow radical movements around the world fairly closely.

2:42 PM  
Blogger LVTfan said...

Arden, Delaware, one of the communities founded on Georgist principles, has among the highest property values in its area. It doesn't collect a large share of the land rent, which leaves a lot to be capitalized into the price of land there.

But clearly it is a fine place to live; people are willing to pay more to live there, despite not owning the land on which their homes are built.

We ought to be considering placing far more of our tax burden on land value. Not a single square foot will slip out of town in the dark of night, and our towns and cities will be better places to live.

6:36 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

Thanks Keith, Very interesting video. This company has adopted many of the ideas of mutualism and should be praised for doing so. It is one more example of how authoritarian, hierarchical relations are unnecessary. Imagine if such ideas were generalized throughout society.

I am following the rising in Greece. I think it a prelude of what is going to happen fairly generally in the next year or so as the economy goes down. I don't think it is a prelude to revolution. But it is setting the conditions for deeper radicalism. Hopefully the right wing govt. Will be tossed out – as there is also a general strike as well. Check Molly's Blog Saturday Dec 13 for info on the situation. The analysis there is similar to my own as well. See "STATEMENT OF THE E.S.E. ON THE EVENTS IN GREECE" and "GREEK RIOTS-THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME"

7:18 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

Thanks Mfan. Funny enough but I was thinking of Arden when I wrote about Georgist communities. Also School of Living - do you know about them? I have friends in Nelson BC working on creating land trusts...

7:22 PM  
Blogger mollymew said...

Thanks for the plug Larry. I visited Greece a few years back, and wrote of my impressions in Any Time Now magazine issues #21 and 22. The latter is available on the ATN website at .
Liitle has changed since that time regarding the general picture of the Greek movement and its various factions. It should be noted that the present uprising has gone far beyond the confines of the anarchist movement, embracing various left forces and a large number of previously unaffiliated people. Events and public opinion are still quite fluid in that country, and much is uncertain in the days, weeks and months to come.

11:32 AM  
Blogger Renegade Eye said...

From what I can tell, the mainstream Greek parties, are seperating themselves from the teenager movement.

The problem is out of both on one hand the teenagers, and the other the trade unions and left parties, is no demands are made on the government.

My comrades call for each school and workplace establish a committee, and elect a representative to a central body, to write up demands and coordinate actions.

9:11 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

Ren, this is where Molly and I agree, too - the need for program. This seems to be exactly what is missing from this movement. The idea of creating work place committees with delegates to a central body would be a good start. If each work place and school were to do this it would be an embryonic form of a workers and student's council.

For the life of me I don't know why these is not a serious move to topple the govt. It is unpopular and has only a one seat advantage - ripe for the picking I would think...

10:07 PM  
Blogger Renegade Eye said...

OT: See Graeme's blog about the meeting Sunday on immigrants.

12:38 AM  
Blogger Renegade Eye said...

Some of the local anarchists, believe in counter currency. With St.Paul currency, items are priced in work units.

An MD's work unit is equal to the doctor's janitor's in that system. That is not equality or socialism.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

Actually there are local currencies all over North America as a way of keeping wealth circulating within communities rather than being siphoned out by corporations. Time chits such as you mention, far from being unequal could be seen as brutally egalitarian. One hour of your life (which you will never see again) = one hour of someone else's life (that they too, will never see again) Time chits or labour hours are an early form of socialism. Indeed, if memory serves me well, Marx in "Critique of The Gotha Programme", suggests using time chits during the first stage of socialism.

11:10 AM  
Blogger Renegade Eye said...

I think Marx thought it was a creative idea, but didn't propose it. Prodhoun tried itand it failed.

It was creative in its time. It's utopian to propose it today.

3:55 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

Ren, I agree that it is utopian today, though other than popular power through councils and self-management, I do not have a lot of ideas for what the transition period will look like.

We are both wrong and both right. Here are my notes from my reading of Critique of the Gotha Programme (Selected Works of M and E) done in 1979.

p 319 (Paraphrased) In the first stage of communism ( “as it emerges from capitalist society”, KM) labour chits are used , i.e. One hour of labour = one hour of labour-produced product.

So you are wrong here, Marx did favour labour chits.

P. 320 Equal right – a bourgeois right is hence still maintained. People who differ in needs and abilities are equalized. Hence “it is therefore, a right of inequality, in its content, like every other right.” KM Higher communism abolishes “the enslaving subordination to the division of labour” Then “the narrow horizon of bourgeois right” is abolished and “from each according to his needs...” becomes the basis of communism.

I am wrong about labour hours being an inequality and you are right.

7:42 PM  
Blogger Renegade Eye said...

Alan Woods in his Anti-Dieterich book brings up that wage system in Chapter IV.

10:56 PM  
Blogger Renegade Eye said...

Holiday Greetings

9:39 PM  

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