Memoirs of an erratic Marxist

Yanis Varoufakis once described himself as an ‘erratic Marxist’.  This heterodox economist became the finance minister in the Syriza-led Greek government during the most intense period of the Greek debt crisis when the Greeks were trying to avoid severe austerity measures being imposed by the Troika of the EU group, the IMF and the ECB back in 2015 and stay in the eurozone.

Varoufakis was sacked by PM Tsipras when Tsipras decided to capitulate to the Troika demands, despite the Greek people voting to oppose Troika austerity in an unprecedented referendum vote called by Tsipras himself.  Since then, the Syriza government has agreed to a succession of further fiscal austerity measures including cuts to wages and jobs in the public sector, pension reductions and privatisations in return for handouts by the EU in loans to repay previous debts – in a never-ending circle.

Now Varoufakis has published his memoirs of his time as finance minister and what happened in the discussions and negotiations with the EU leaders and others over managing Greek public debt.  According to Paul Mason, reviewing the book, “Varoufakis has written one of the greatest political memoirs of all time.”  Well, to me this stands as hyperbole compared Trotsky’s My Life or for that matter, Churchill’s political memoirs.  But no doubt the book is interesting, as Mason puts it, as “the inside story of high politics told by an outsider.”  According to Mason, Varoufakis shows graphically that “Elected politicians have little power; Wall Street and a network of hedge funds, billionaires and media owners have the real power, and the art of being in politics is to recognise this as a fact of life and achieve what you can without disrupting the system.”

Varoufakis makes the point that “not only was Greece bankrupt in 2010 when the EU bailed it out, and that the bailout was designed to save the French and German banks, but that Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy knew this; and they knew it would be a disaster.”  The aim of the Euro leaders back in 2010, when the Greek crisis mushroomed in the wake of the Great Recession and the global financial crash was to ensure that the German and French banks did not suffer severe losses from any default by the Greek.  These banks had bought huge amounts of Greek public debt to make profits and now in the crisis Greek bonds were worth nothing.  The EU leaders came up with a solution: the banks would take a small ‘haircut’ (no more than 10% on their bond holdings) and the rest of the debt would be shifted onto the books of the EU, ECB and the IMF to be paid off over the next decade or so.  The Troika would then squeeze and sweat the money they lent to pay off the banks out of the Greek people.

Eventually, the leftist Syriza won a famous victory in the Greek election on a programme of rejecting the debt burden and refusing austerity measures.  This is what I wrote at that time: “The alternative to grasp the nettle: demand the cancellation of the euro and IMF loans (the original demand of Syriza) or default; impose capital controls, take over the Greek banks and appeal to the Greek people for support and the European labour movement. Let the Euro leaders make the move on Eurozone membership, not Syriza. The problem is that now the Greek people have been led to believe that there is only one way out: a deal with the Eurogroup on increasingly bad terms. The alternative of a socialist plan for investment and a Europe-wide appeal is not before them.”

After months of negotiations with the Euro leaders, Tsipras called a referendum to refuse any austerity deal, expecting to lose the vote (as did Varoufakis apparently).  Losing the vote would have got Tsipras off the hook as he could have agreed to the Troika measures because the Greeks accepted them.  But he and Varoufakis got a shock.  Despite a massive media campaign by the Euro leaders and conservative forces within Greece; despite the Germans and ECB forcing a credit squeeze and a run on and closure of Greek banks for weeks, the Greek people said no.

Nevertheless, Tsipras decided to ignore that vote and opted to capitulate.  Mason says this was the right thing to do.  “I continue to believe Tsipras was right to climb down in the face of the EU’s ultimatum…. For Tsipras – and for the older generation of former detainees and torture victims who rebuilt the Greek left after 1974 – staying in power as a dented shield against austerity was preferable to handing power back to a bunch of political mafiosi backed by a mob of baying rich-kid fashionistas.”  Is Mason serious?  Was the right-wing Mafiosi the only alternative? Instead of building a movement of support for the government and proposing an emergency plan for the Greek people and its economy, the best solution was to give in?

Back in July 2015, I considered the options for Syriza.  There was the neoliberal solution being demanded by the Troika. This was to keep cutting back the public sector and its costs, to keep labour incomes down and to make pensioners and others pay more. This was aimed at raising the profitability of Greek capital and with extra foreign investment, restore the economy. Then maybe the Eurozone economy would eventually start to grow strongly and so help Greece, as a rising tide raises all boats.

The next solution was the Keynesian one, advocated by the left-wing within Syriza (but not by Varoufakis, who remained silent and left for America – apparently because of death threats to his family, according to his memoirs). This meant boosting public spending to increase demand, cancelling part of the government debt and for Greece to leave the euro and introduce a new currency (drachma) to be devalued by as much as was necessary to make Greek industry competitive in world markets.

The trouble with this solution was that it assumed Greek capital could revive with a lower currency rate and that more public spending would increase ‘demand’ without further lowering profitability.  But the profitability of capital is key to recovery under a capitalist economy. Greek exporters may have benefited from a devalued currency, but many Greek companies that earn money at home in drachma would be decimated. And rapidly rising inflation that would have followed devaluation would only raise profitability precisely because it will eat into the real incomes of the majority as wages failed to match inflation. Indeed, that is what is happening since the Brexit vote in the UK.

The third option was a socialist one – something not adopted then by either Tspiras, Varoufakis or the Syriza left (or it seems, could ever be viable, according to Mason). This recognised that Greek capitalism would not recover to restore living standards for the majority, whether inside the euro in a Troika programme or outside with its own currency and with no Eurozone support. The socialist solution would be to replace Greek capitalism with a planned economy where the Greek banks and major companies are publicly owned and controlled and the drive for profit is replaced with the drive for efficiency, investment and growth. The Greek economy is small but it is not without an educated people and many skills and some resources beyond tourism. Using its human capital in a planned and innovative way, it could grow. But being small, it would need, like all small economies, the help and cooperation of the rest of Europe.

This solution would have required Syriza mobilising the latent support of the people through workplace committees to discuss an emergency plan for change.  It would have entailed immediate nationalisation of the major banks to ensure payment of people’s deposits (despite the ECB) and the takeover of the major companies (reversing privatisations) in order to institute a plan for production and investment.  That would have meant approaching the labour movement and progressive forces within the major EU countries to force their governments to stop austerity on Greece or make it leave the euro and instead relieve them of this ‘odious debt’ just as the Germans were in the 1950s relieved of their reparation debt (still not paid to Greece for the destruction and death by the Nazis).

This socialist option was the only one that would have got Greece out of its hell.  But of course, it would be hugely difficult to implement.  Yes, the conservative forces within Greece would mobilise; yes, the Greek military may rear its head; and yes, the Euro leaders would try to strangle a tiny socialist Greece and kick it out of the euro and EU.  But the battle for a socialist transformation always poses these sorts of obstacles; and only the unity of the class across Europe and a determined Greek leadership could have overcome them.  But the Syriza leaders, including Varoufakis (the erratic Marxist), never considered this option as viable, and Marxist Paul Mason agrees with them.  For them, there was no alternative but to accept the Troika impositions – which have continued to this day.  And Mason admits that “Tsipras’s government has proved a not very effective shield for the Greek working class” even if (as he claims) it was “an effective protection for the million-plus Syrian migrants who landed on Greek shores in the weeks following the economic surrender.”

Mason reckons Tsipras’ achievement of building Syriza and getting it into government is greater than that of maverick ‘Marxist’ Varoufakis who kept ‘clean’ from the capitulation in July 2015.  But apparently if the ‘global left’ is recover than it “needs leaders like Tsipras and to find thinkers and doers like Varoufakis, and to nurture them.” Well, Varoufakis’ memoirs and Tsipras’ actions hardly seem to justify Mason’s admiration.  Only this week, the Syriza-led Greek government signed up to another round of severe austerity measures in order to get the next tranche of so-called bailout funds from the EU.  The government agreed to adopt another €3.6bn ($3.8bn) in cuts in 2019 and 2020 and have conceded fresh pension (9%) cuts and corporate tax breaks in return for permission to spend an equivalent sum on poverty relief measures.

The Syriza government has done everything it has been asked of by the Troika in making the Greek people pay for the failure of Greek capitalism. And yet the EU leaders have still not agreed to ‘debt relief’. Indeed, they are talking of only considering it once the austerity measures in the latest bailout have been implemented in full and the programme comes to an end in 2018. In the meantime, the Greek government is supposed to run a budget surplus (before interest payments on loans) of 3.5% of GDP a year for the foreseeable future. That is a level way higher than any other country in the EU and way higher for so long than any other government has achieved ever!

No wonder the IMF considers this approach as unsustainable.  “Even if Greece, through a heroic effort, could temporarily reach a surplus close to 3.5% of GDP, few countries have managed to reach and sustain such high levels of primary balances for a decade or more, and it is highly unlikely that Greece can do so considering its still weak policy making institutions and projections suggesting that unemployment will remain at double digits for several decades.” IMF.

For Greece, there is no escape from the penury of public debt owed to the IMF and Eurogroup.  There is a new and detailed study of the plans of the Troika (EU, ECB and IMF) to force the Greek government to run a primary (excluding interest payments) budget surplus of 3.5% of GDP from 2018 onwards.  It shows that it will be impossible for Greece to deliver this level of austerity and, even if it did, it would not stop the debt burden rising even more.  “Past experience suggests the fiscal policy expected – a budget surplus before interest payments worth 3.5 per cent of GDP, sustained for 16 years — has literally no chance of happening even if Greece were able to start generating a 3.5 per cent primary surplus by 2018, as per the targeted schedule”.  It goes on: “Greece’s debts to the EFSF would more than double to about €278 billion in 2050, when interest deferral is assumed to end, and then begin a slow decline, but the outstanding amount in 2080 would still be higher than it is today.”  That’s 70 years since the crisis began!  The paper says that the EU should offer more bailout money from next year to “tide Greece over”. But the debt would remain and keep on rising, even if yet more austerity measures (already unprecedented in fiscal history) were applied. The only solution is to write the debt off.

So, while Varoufakis publishes his memoirs of his time as finance minister during the debt crisis, exposes the rotten and cruel policies of the Troika, and goes around Europe in seminars to demand a better Europe, the Tsipras-led Syriza government continues trying to meet the demands and targets of the Troika in the vain hope that European capitalism will recover and grow and so allow Greeks to get some crumbs off the table. There may eventually some deal on ‘debt relief’. But it will still mean that Greece has an unsustainable burden of debt on its books for generations to come, while living standards for the average Greek household fall back below where they were before Greece joined the Eurozone. A whole generation of Greeks will be worse off than the last and another global recession is still to come.


20 Responses to “Memoirs of an erratic Marxist”

  1. Stephen Subbom Says:

    Your socialism reads like a nationalist state capitalist programme.

    • Webb Traverse Says:

      “In the second place, Horvat and many other critics of Stalinism seem to have lost sight of a simple truth. There are two forms of centralization: bureaucratic centralization and democratic centralization. The fact that, historically in the Soviet Union, the first has followed upon the second does not imply that this must necessarily happen always and everywhere.

      It is not difficult to visualize a model of economic management and planning which, starting from workers’ councils of the Yugoslav type, combines them into a federal central body which wields supreme authority and can make decisions overriding any of those made by individual workers’ councils, without thereby becoming bureaucratized. It would be sufficient to impose strict conditions on the composition of that central body, following the general rules formulated by Marx in his appreciation of the Paris Commune, or by Lenin in State and Revolution. Provided the discussion of alternative economic plans remains free, and political and civil liberties are guaranteed to the workers, such a model would be vastly superior both to Stalinist over centralization and Yugoslav excessive decentralization.

      Our model would also have a tremendous social advantage. It would strengthen and unify the working class, whereas both the Stalinist and the Yugoslav models tend to fragment and even to atomize it. It would be obviously more ethical, because it would achieve a much larger equalization of income, and because all necessary sacrifices would be consciously accepted sacrifices. And it would in addition avoid most of the waste of resources which both bureaucratic mismanagement and market mechanisms inevitably entail. It would therefore come much nearer to a maximization of output and income than either of these models permits. ”

      Ernest Mandel – Yugoslav Economic Theory

    • VN Gelis Says:

      Whilst yours must be the ‘socialism’ of the Transnational corporations and the internationalism of capital.

  2. S.Artesian Says:

    So what’s the difference between Varoufakis, Mason……and Thatcher? Everything they have to say is summed in “There is No Alternative.” Rat bastards one and all.

    That this self-aggrandizing twit, Varoufakis gets to use the devastation of Greece as a platform for his own celebrity is enough to gag a maggot.

  3. Charles Says:

    Mr. V. campaigns for reform of the European Union and therefore against national sovereignty. The workers of Europe can defend what remains of social welfare reforms and they can break through to socialism in one country or another sooner than Mr. V. can pull off his all-Europe program of repeating the Allende debacle on a larger scale.

    If Mr. V. is for a universal basic income, that is a good reason to presume it is a terrible reform.

  4. Mike Ballard Says:

    The socialism Marx and Engels wrote about would not be brought about by electing socialists to govern the political State under the wage system. Instead, it would come about because workers moved as a class to emancipate themselves from the bondage inherent in the wage system.

    Socialism would be a different mode of producing and distributing wealth. Use-values would no longer saddled with their exchange-value in order to be sold in the market for a price fluctuating with supply and demand around said exchange-value (the socially necessary labour time embodied in goods and services). Instead, use-values would be distributed on the basis of labour time put into creating the social store of goods and services. The medium of exchange would no longer be a commodity–it could not be traded for a price on the market, socially necessary labour time would have no price, it would no longer embody the alienated wealth of the producers. Why? Because the producers would socially own and democratically manage the collective product of their labour.
    De Leon, as well as Marx, did propose a system of labour time vouchers as a way of distributing the use-values within the socialist mode of production.

    I think it’s perfectly appropriate to have a plan ready for implementing a new mode of production, one beyond the wage system. Socially necessary labour time vouchers make the relation between humans producing useful goods and services to fulfill their needs transparent. The wage system and commodity sale do not. How many hours of labour are in that ale or automobile or library service?

    As the SPGB currently suggests, workers would have a mindset ready to distribute the collective product of labour on the basis of need if they established social ownership and democratic control of the collective product of their labour and had done so at the behest of the SPGB : producers would just put in the labour time necessary to fill the social store of goods and services with no fear that some able bodied people would do nothing to contribute their time and effort. If that happened, I would have no objection.
    The point of changing the mode of production or socialism would be to free ourselves from the bondage and mystifications inherent in commodity production and sale via the wage system. Socialists began to lose that vision about the time Engels died and Bernstein became a leading light in the socialist movement. Lenin, only made matters worse.

  5. jlowrie Says:

    Mike says,” producers would just put in the labour time necessary to fill the social store of goods and services with no fear that some able bodied people would do nothing to contribute their time and effort. If that happened, I would have no objection.”

    Note how Mike conjures away all the social contradictions and economic problems hitherto faced by societies on the socialist road by the magic word ”just”! And just how would the necessary labour time be identified and distributed to meet such social needs? It just does not seem so simple to me.

    ” Lenin, only made matters worse.” When one is lacking an in- depth, scientific analysis, have recourse to that well-worn device of the diabolos ex machina, this time in the person of Lenin. Why does Mike not explain his plan IN DETAIL? Visions are all very well, but how about some practicalities?

    • Mike Ballard Says:

      Once more, I shall attempt to clear up some confusion with regard to the conceptual framework within which Marx, Engels and indeed, many communists were working in the 19th century. To accomplish this task, I shall refer the reader to what Engels wrote about their interchangeable use of the terms socialism and communism i.e. why he and Marx sometimes used the term “socialist” and why “communist” in their writings over the years of their lives. Both terms meant the same thing to them, however why they preferred communist identity at the beginning of their studies and organization whilst socialist at the end remains well stated in Engels’s Preface to the English edition of 1888 as well as his Preface to the German edition of 1890 of the Communist Manifesto:
      “Nevertheless, when it appeared, we could not have called it a socialist manifesto. In 1847, two kinds of people were considered socialists. On the one hand were the adherents of the various utopian systems, notably the Owenites in England and the Fourierists in France, both of whom, at that date, had already dwindled to mere sects gradually dying out. On the other, the manifold types of social quacks who wanted to eliminate social abuses through their various universal panaceas and all kinds of patch-work, without hurting capital and profit in the least. In both cases, people who stood outside the labour movement and who looked for support rather to the “educated” classes. The section of the working class, however, which demanded a radical reconstruction of society, convinced that mere political revolutions were not enough, then called itself Communist. It was still a rough-hewn, only instinctive and frequently somewhat crude communism. Yet, it was powerful enough to bring into being two systems of utopian communism — in France, the “Icarian” communists of Cabet, and in Germany that of Weitling. Socialism in 1847 signified a bourgeois movement, communism a working-class movement. Socialism was, on the Continent at least, quite respectable, whereas communism was the very opposite. And since we were very decidedly of the opinion as early as then that “the emancipation of the workers must be the task of the working class itself,” [from the General Rules of the International] we could have no hesitation as to which of the two names we should choose. Nor has it ever occurred to us to repudiate it.”
      Neither Marx nor Engels ever used the term “socialist State”. Socialism yes. But socialism for Marx and Engels meant a classless democracy and the political State was always meant to describe class ruled government. Included in this description would be a workers’ State–the now infamously used term, “dictatorship of the proletariat”. A workers’ State would not be socialism. It would be class rule by the overwhelming majority, in reality, a proletarian democracy. Marx and Engels used the word State to indicate the governing structure of class rule whether the ruling class was the slave owning class, the land owning class of feudalism or the modern day capitalist class. All political States were and would be class ruled. With the establishment of socialism by the working class, the State would die out because the social relation of Capital would no longer exist, common ownership and democratic control over the collective product of labour would necessitate the abolition of the wage system, commodity production and with it Capital as a social relation of political power.
      A political State controlled by workers would include other classes. For instance, if the workers as a class controlled the State, they could get legislation passed which would tax the wealth of the capitalists and landlords in order to use that revenue to benefit people who had to work for wages in order to make a living. An example might be something like free healthcare paid for by the government using the aforementioned revenue. A proletarian democracy would be run by the workers in the class interests of the useful producers. The Paris Commune of 1871 was an example of a proletarian democracy or “dictatorship of the proletariat”.

      A worker controlled democratic republic is what Marx and Engels are proposing in section II of the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO. The reforms listed at the end of this section are general proposals which a workers’ State might implement in 1848:

      “Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionising the mode of production.

      “These measures will, of course, be different in different countries.
      “Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.
      1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
      2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
      3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
      4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
      5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
      6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
      7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
      8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
      9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
      10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.”
      Further, it should be noted that even after the Paris Commune of 1871, Marx and Engels would speak in terms which many think they renounced after that workers’ revolt. On September 8, 1872 more than a year after the Paris Commune was drowned in the blood of the proletariat, Marx said:
      “But we have not asserted that the ways to achieve that goal are everywhere the same.
      “You know that the institutions, mores, and traditions of various countries must be taken into consideration, and we do not deny that there are countries — such as America, England, and if I were more familiar with your institutions, I would perhaps also add Holland — where the workers can attain their goal by peaceful means. This being the case, we must also recognize the fact that in most countries on the Continent the lever of our revolution must be force; it is force to which we must some day appeal in order to erect the rule of labor.”
      As for the so-called “dictatorship of the proletariat”, it was never Marx’s or Engels’ intention that it would be Lenin’s dictatorship of a party. In fact, that’s just what they were arguing with the anarchists about in terms of the interpretation of the concept. If there has been any doubt as to whether the USSR was a dictatorship of the party, as opposed to being a proletarian democracy after the 10th Party Congress of the CPSU (B) in 1921, then I would suggest reading the well documented work by Maurice Brinton titled, The Bolsheviks and Workers’ Control .
      The point of writing all this is to get people who “know” what Marx and Engels actually wrote about the question of communism. Without reading what Marx and Engels actually wrote about socialism or communism, if you will, many, if not most people calling themselves “Marxists” have failed to grasp that they might be taking off from a conceptual base which does not correspond to the conceptual base Marx and Engels were taking off from. So, to reiterate:

      1. A workers’ State is controlled democratically by the workers. It is not common ownership and democratic control of the collective product of labour after the wage system has been abolished i.e. it is not the lower stage of communism/socialism. It is not a classless democracy. It is, like all political States, the dictatorship of a class, in this case, the still existing working class. Commodity production for sale can still exist in a such a proletarian democracy. A wage system can still exist. Under the wage system, labour power is a commodity.

      2. Communism or socialism, if you will, signals a change in the mode of producing wealth from the capitalist mode which depends on wage labour and commodity production to the communist mode in which a free, classless association of producers democratically decide how to distribute the collective product of their labour. Socialism/communism means that commodity production for sale with a view to profit no longer exists, whether in its initial stages or in its more advanced stage. You can begin to see the outlines of this in various writings of Marx and Engels. Wobbly times number 88 contains some quoted examples.

      “The emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves…the struggle for the emancipation of the working classes means not a struggle for class privileges and monopolies, but for equal rights and duties, and the abolition of all class rule.” – Marx, 1864

  6. Steve Says:

    I doubt labour time vouchers would be used. These were envisaged as necessary because of scarcity. Likely the level of development then was unrepentant for socialism. Today we can go straight to full communism in the sense of distribution according to need. Either the revolutionaries have the consciousness to work for society, or they are not ready for revolution. Revolution cannot be made by conscious representatives for an unconscious mass.

    • Mike Ballard Says:

      We could always go to production for use and need without any of the birthmarks of the system based on commodity production, if we decided to. I think Marx was pretty wise to suggest labour time vouchers as a way to de-mystify the commodity the way price mystifies it within societies of mass commodity production and sale do within the wage system.

      I would agree that workers need to be class conscious enough to establish social ownership and democratic control over the collective product of their labour in order to abolish the wage system. Conscious reps leading the unconscious workers is a formula for reproducing the social relations of dominance and submission and Capital. I don’t think the workers are ever going to become class conscious enough to do this as long as their self-appointed leaders keep preaching variations on a theme called TINA.

      • Codesria Says:

        Thank you Mike. Very well put.

        I wonder how you see the Council communists vision fitting into this schema (Pannekoek) and the GIK’s programme in the 1930s.

        I also would like to put out there a message to revisit what democracy really means. In common parlance it is parliamentarianism, but this was not what the ancient Greeks thought. Democracy was sortition (drawing of representatives from the pool of citizens by random lot) with relatively short terms of service. Aristotle said drawing by lots is democratic and election is oligarchic.

        This is one of the fundamental problems to be solved, whether it is to avoid a totalitarian vanguard as representatives of the producers, involved with management of self associated producers, or in our current “democratic” malaise.

        Elections are, and have been, problematic and lurch society consistently toward oligarchy or totalitarianism, which are incompatible with a communist vision.

      • Mike Ballard Says:

        It seems to me that classless, democratic administration of goods and services produced for use and distributed on the basis of need, with perhaps a transitional phase where distribution of the collective product of labour was accomplished via socially necessary labour time vouchers would be sufficient to end class rule forever. Of course, the immense majority would have to actually want to establish communism for it to become a reality, Codesria. From what I know of Pannekoek, I don’t think he and/or most of the council communists would disagree.

  7. ucanbpolitical Says:

    This is the reason I wrote the draft 21st century socialist programme to cut through the confusion about what is socialism and how we distinguish it from its higher stage, communism. Firstly the key demand is for the producers to decide upon and control the deductions from the social product for investment, care for those unable to work, for the young and the old, for administration etc. This is the epitome of workers democracy and the guarantee these deductions are not turned into a surplus and those that administer it into new bureaucrats. Without this, workers control of production is irrelevant as control of these deductions is the commanding heights of the economy. In any case workers control of production is centred on managing the intensity of labour. Then there is “consumer led planning” where the producers decide what is to be produced which is aggregated by the planning bodies by means of the internet. In return for this right to decide goes the obligation to work in accordance with the plan. Then there is the introduction of objective pricing which overtakes the law of value and introduces falling prices as the dynamic of a socialist society in its formative years replacing the profit motive of capitalism. There is much more to read on the (also the 3rd edition of Planning the Future contains new insights into the USSR). We need to move beyond a number of intemperate comments Marx made in a heated critique of the Gotha programme, especially in the light of what transpired in the USSR. This is the 21st century.

  8. Dan lambert Says:

    A great take on this crucial topic.

  9. jlowrie Says:

    Mike asserts “Neither Marx nor Engels ever used the term “socialist State”. Socialism yes. But socialism for Marx and Engels meant a classless democracy and the political State was always meant to describe class ruled government. ” And quotes Marx and Engels “5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
    6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
    7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State.”

    Clearly Marx and Engels envisaged a role for the state, however transitory.
    ”A classless democracy” is a contradiction. Democracy means the rule of the poor or unpropertied over the rich or oligarchs. Where there is rule, it is rule over others; where there is a classless society there cannot be rule.

    Having said this, I agree with the content of most of the posts, but how are the ideas contained in them to be effected? What for example are the details of ‘the plan’? Frankly, I cannot see anything new in what has been asserted above! We have been here before. What is the concrete way forward?

    • Codesria Says:

      Jlowrie: “Democracy means the rule of the poor over the rich or oligarchs”

      This is a common misunderstanding perpetuated by the oligarchy to retain power against the populist masses. Democracy is equal submission of all to a certain order where there is equal opportunity to implement (and change) the rules which apply to all citizens equally. The rules of a civilization, or rules of interacting ( hopefully peacefully) with other civilizations are developed scientifically and democratically.

      • VN Gelis Says:

        Syriza and Papandreous and Soros protege Varoufakis are NWO tools whose sole role is economic genocide and a mass replacement migration agenda. No negotiations occurred with the EU.
        The British fake left like in the era of Churchill. (when the British TUC organised a campaign to villify Greek partisans) promoted and adopted this agenda via the Unite trade union, bankrupt trade union leaders like TSSA union secretary and Corbyn who remains connected with the misnamed Greek solidarity Committee.
        As for Paul Mason he spends time in Greek courts chasing indigenous Greeks who oppose this mass replacement migration agenda.

    • Mike Ballard Says:

      jlowrie, as I thought I indicated, the reform programme laid out by Marx and Engels in the 1848 COMMUNIST MANIFESTO was designed for the establishment of a proletarian democratic republic. Of course, such a republic would still reflect the rule of the workers as a class and thus, be a political State. Such a State would be a step toward socialism and the dying out of the State, but not the classless democracy of socialism.

      How do we get there? How should we proceed?

      My answer is that we should attempt to get our fellow workers to realise that they are the producers of the wealth of nations, outside of the wealth which lies in the natural resources all around us e.g. gold, air, water, soil, timber and so on. Once workers are aware of this and that the wage system is inherently a system which alienates them from owning/controlling the social product of their labour, workers can propose tactics which lead to the strategic goal of a social revolutionary change in the mode of producing and distributing wealth, the abolition of wage labour and commodity production.

      My own preferred route in the bourgeois democracy that I live in is urging political and industrial class unity for tactical wins e.g. shorter work time, free healthcare, free public schooling through uni and so on, paid for through revenue garnered from progressively taxing the upper 10%. As momentum grows from the power of political and industrial class unity, the time will arrive when the immense majority will dispense with the State and establish a free and democratic association of producers.

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