50 years of radical political economy

The 50th anniversary conference of the Union of Radical Political Economy (URPE) finished last weekend.  URPE has played an important role in developing and enhancing alternative economic theory and analysis to the dominant mainstream theories in modern economics.  It has survived despite the long reaction in economics during the ‘neo-liberal’ era that we have been subjected to since the 1980s – where even the so-called ‘progressive’ economics of Keynesians was submerged under the general equilibrium, ‘free market’ economics of the neoclassical mainstream.

I was unable to attend to conference held at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, so my comments on proceedings will be solely based on some of the papers presented that I have obtained and also from some of the comments on the sessions by participants. This is obviously inadequate but I think it is still worth doing if only to publicise the role of URPE and to let readers of my blog know the sort of issues being debated.

There were many themes at the conference: social reproduction theory; labor economics; crisis theory; environmental economics; alternative economic systems post-capitalism; international economics; broad issues in Marxist political economy and of course, China.  But as is my wont, I shall concentrate on the themes that interest me most.

There was the usual heterodox mixture of the Marxist approach, alongside post-Keynesian/’financialisation’ schema, as well as some support for the contribution of the neo-Ricardian views of Piero Sraffa.  URPE is radical political economy, not just Marxist.

In political economy, this means there was some discussion about whether Keynesian theory had anything to offer to Marxist economics.  Readers of this blog know well that I do not consider Keynesian theory as a complement to Marxist economics – indeed, on the contrary I view it as part of mainstream bourgeois economics being applied to macro-managing slumps in capitalist production.

Deekpankar Basu (UMass) presented a paper entitled “Does Marxist Economics need Keynesian Insight?” and his short answer was apparently: no. Simply put, Keynesian theory looks to the failure of aggregate demand for the explanation of crises; neoclassical theory looks to ‘shocks’ to the smooth running of production (supply); but Marx looks to the profitability of capital for the faultlines in capitalist production.   Basu’s analysis was backed up by a panel on Marxist political economy which one participant reckoned showed that “the key advantage of Marxist analysis is it theorises profit, which mainstream economic models pretend doesn’t exist – despite overwhelming evidence (from the mainstream) that it does.”

Nevertheless, Peter Skott, also at Amherst, did present a post-Keynesian analysis on the relationship between capitalist accumulation and employment in his paper “Post-Keynesian growth theory and the reserve army of labor”.  I cannot comment on this paper, but I refer you another of Skott’s which deals with the challenges facing post-Keynesian analysis of modern economies.

On the Marxist front, there were several papers on recent developments in theory.  Hyun Woon Park (Denison University) took what he considers are puzzling inconsistencies in use of MELT (the monetary equivalent of labour time, a tool used to analyse trends in capitalism with Marxist categories)(Park and Rieu. 2018). Park was concerned that if Marxist theory says that unproductive sectors like finance, real estate, merchanting etc do not produce value but merely redistribute value created in productive sectors, does it have any role in capitalism?  If it plays the role of helping to make the productive sector more efficient, can we talk about an ‘optimal’ size for the sector?  He concludes (as far as I can tell from his paper) that there is no ‘optimal’ size where the unproductive sector helps rather than detracts from capital accumulation in the productive sector in modern economies.  I’m not sure what we should conclude from this.

Sraffian economics was also discussed at URPE.  This school is based on the approach of Piero Sraffa, who also argued that the real contradiction in capitalism was not the tendency for profitability to fall, but the class battle between profits and wages.  At least this is what I think we can conclude from the Sraffa’s theoretical model, based on the classical political economy of David Ricardo.  Bill McColloch of Keene State college, presented a paper “On Sraffa and the History of Economic Thought;”, which was kindly posted on the Naked Keynesianism website.

According to McColloch, “In Sraffa’s mind Marx’s great victory was to have rediscovered the essential meaning of the classical system in an era in which it was increasingly lost to all observers” namely “that capitalism rest upon exploitation, an exploitation of human beings and of nature, and that is remains the task of economics today to speak to this reality and its consequences. Whether Marx’s own proof of exploitation can be shown to be true is perhaps of negligible importance.”.. McCulloch asks “if Sraffa was ‘really’ a Marxist? I would suggest not”.  But apparently that does not matter because both Sraffa and Marx saw economic theory as both ‘sociological and institutional’ and not bound by ‘technique’ as in the neoclassical.  Well, I find it hardly “negligible” whether Marx’s theory of exploitation is true or not.  There is now a whole literature backing up Marx’s theory why profit only comes from exploitation of labour and nowhere else – while Sraffa’s theory is full of holes on that point, among others.  For a more thorough critique of Sraffian economics, see Fred Moseley’s book, Money and Totality

Marx’s theory of exploitation is important because, at URPE, the arguments of post-Keynesian and financialisation theorists were presented again.  Fletcher Baragar of the University of Manitoba has argued that the financial crash and Great Recession were the result of increased ‘financialisation’, as expressed through rising household debt that eventually led to the housing bust.  Financialisation had created ‘two forms of profit’, one the traditional exploitation of labour in production and the other, the exploitation of households by the financial sector. (Baragar, Fletcher. 2015. “Crises of Disproportionality and the Crisis of 2007.- 2009.”).

I have disputed the argument before that there are two sources of profit (profit of exploitation and profit of alienation) under modern capitalism (see my book, Marx 200).  And I have also extensively rejected the view  that it was ‘excessive’ household debt that caused the crisis of 2008.  The first is a distortion of Marx’s value theory and the second is no more than a mainstream explanation based on debt alone.

On my blog, I have posted several times on the financialisation theme.  Recently, Mavroudeas & Papadatos have criticised the whole financialisation hypothesis on five counts.  The Financialisation Hypothesis and Marxism: a positive contribution or a Trojan Horse?’ – S.Mavroudeas, 2nd World Congress on Marxism, Peking University, 5-6 May 2018.

The most important questions for me are these: 1) if financialisation was the cause of the Great Recession, what about crises even as late as 1980 when finance was not such a large part of the economy or non-financial companies had not become financial?;  2) has finance completely separated from what happens in the productive sectors where value is created?; 3) so is finance the class enemy while ‘productive’ capitalism and workers are allies?; 4) are all crises are the result of ‘financial instability’, subject to Minsky moments and the underlying profitability of capital is irrelevant?  If they are, does this mean we just need to control the financial institutions and can leave the non-financial sector of capitalism alone?  Do we control the investment decisions of JP Morgan but not those of Amazon of Boeing?

Imperialism has become a hot topic among Marxists in the recent period with ‘globalisation’, the rise of multi-nationals operating in the so-called emerging economies; and the centralisation of finance in the US and Europe.  There is a running debate on how imperialism operates and who is exploiting whom (Harvey versus Smith) that URPE has followed.  And there were some very incisive papers on this at the conference that show light on the debate from Marx’s value theory.  I can only refer to Depankur Basu’s superb and precise account of Marx’s theory of ground rent and Hao Qi (Renmin University) on Marx’s theory of absolute rent, both of which can be applied to the issue of imperialism.  Ramaa Vasudevan (Colorado State university) also moved into this territory.  Marx_s Analysis of Ground-Rent_ Theory Examples and ApplicationsA Model of the Marxist Rent Theory

Finally, there is what happens if and when capitalism is overthrown globally.  What are the economic outlines and categories for a communist society?  Can we go beyond the prescriptions that Marx offered in the Critique of the Gotha Programme?  A panel composed of Seongjin Jeong (Gyeongsang National University, Korea), Richard Westra, Al Campbell and Ann Davis took this up at a session on an ‘alternative economic system for the 21st century’.

Al Campbell (emeritus professor at Utah) has offered some pioneering work in this area. And Seongjin Jeong’s paper on the faultlines of Soviet planning was revealing.  Two things here: first that the most important development under an economy moving towards communism is raising the productive forces to levels that quickly enable goods and services to be provided free at the point of consumption (ie transport, education, health, energy, basic foodstuffs etc).  But that could not be applied for some time for all goods and services, so there would have to be planned production and distribution.

Jeong argues that such planning should be based on labour time calculation.  But the Soviet economy of 1917–91 was not a labour-time planned economy. Although input-output tables are essential to the calculation of the total labour time needed to produce goods and services and were available to Soviet planners, they never seriously considered using them and instead depended on material balances.  However, with the development of AI, algorithms, big data and quantum power, such planning by labour time calculation is clearly feasible.  Communism will work. SovietPlanningLTC_Seongjin_URPE20180928. 

27 thoughts on “50 years of radical political economy

  1. ” Two things here: first that the most important development under an economy moving towards communism is raising the productive forces to levels that quickly enable goods and services to be provided free at the point of consumption (ie transport, education, health, energy, basic foodstuffs ”

    But in previous existing socialism these goods were provided free or at very low and subsidised prices. For example rents were very low as were transport costs. Perhaps this was part of the problem: since labour costs were so low, managers hoarded labour rather than increasing productivity.

  2. ”where the “economy of time” is still crucial. With the transition to the developed phase of communism, where abundance will become a reality, labor will also be transformed into activities. Considering that the essence of Marxian communism is not the domination of labor but its abolition”

    Such is Seongjin Jeong’s vision.Well, we’ve been here before! So why have societies that have taken the socialist road failed to produce such abundance and to abolish labour? Enter Stalin as the ‘diabolos ex machina’ of socialist myth making.

    For a more balanced view cf ”Farm to Factory” (Allen, 2003). Clearly of course under Stalin no scientific debate was possible, but let us recall that the great Marxist Bogdanov was imprisoned under Lenin for fomenting workers’ strikes and Kollontai of the Workers’ Opposition was personally threatened by Trotsky.

    For a critique of Lenin and co’s views, cf ”The New Value Controversy” ( Freeman, Kliman and Wells 2004) Ch.13.

    1. “the most important development under an economy moving towards communism is raising the productive forces to levels that quickly enable goods and services to be provided free at the point of consumption.” How to reconcile that with finte resources?

      1. ” How to reconcile that with finte resources?’ Exactly. And what counts as abundance, anyway? outproducing capitalism? How many planets required?

      2. What you raise is a mere philosphical question, because the fact that we live in a finite world, therefore with finite resources, is a tautology.

        Humans are animals. They are natural beings. Therefore, they are as susceptible to the law of natural selection (and, in the macro sphere, ecology) as any other species.

        Put it another way, we’re also a “resource” as much as oil, wheat etc.

      3. ‘What you raise is a mere philosphical question,” I wish it were; but it is rather the more urgent question of geophysics!

    2. No.

      The USSR used a system of a table of fixed prices based on annual estimations of productive output. In practice they were almost never revised (if memory doesn’t fail me, it only happened once or twice in its post-war, pre-Perestroika period).

      That generated two problems for the USSR:

      1) excess of purchasing power, which generated the famous giant lines so finer consumer goods stores that the West so much propagandized during the Cold War and

      2) there was no incentive for the development of the productive forces; the USSR (the exceptional case of the military industry) basically stopped in the 1960s in terms of technology (which can be measured by energy consumption over efficiency).

      In a true socialist economy, “reward” for the individual would be measured by a declining quantity of compulsory labor he/she have to do to the welfare of society. In capitalism, the reverse is true: you receive more goods for more work (abstracting from class divisions and exploitation).

      In socialism, you would be rewarded by receiving more free time as productivity of labor increased (e.g. now, weekends are three days instead of two; if the next productivity growth is reached, “weekends” will be increased to four days; or a labor journey will decrease to four hours instead of eight etc. etc.). Communism is the theoretical state where compulsory labor = 0.

      The difference between socialism and hunter-gatherism (i.e. “primitive communism”) is that the decreasing working hours would mean a rise of labor productivity, not a decrease (as is the case with hunter-gatherism). People would work less, but still consume more, instead of proportionally less.

  3. I am glad Mike devoted a blog to the conference. I am particularly happy that he provided links to a number of the papers for sessions I did not attend.

    For many who attended, the most impressive thing about the conference is that it attracted 300 participants — 80 of which were STUDENTS. (The organizers made the brilliant decision to make the conference FREE to students!). Some of the presenters were graduate students as well. Since many of us URPE old timers are getting long in the tooth (if you’ve been in an organization for 40 or 50 years — well, you can do the math!)

    The breadth of presentations presented a tough challenge to many attendees — what do you do when there are three equally enticing panels at the same time —

    Here are some of my highlights —

    William (“Sandy”) Darity presented a talk which introduced “stratification economics”. It was entitled “The Subaltern Middle Class” and presented lots of food for thought. Hopefully it will be published somewhere soon. There was a first day plenary featuring six presenters on what “radical political economy” actually is — the session began with 8 minute introductions by the six followed by over TWENTY 3 minute interventions from the floor ending with 3 minute “replies” from the presenters — an excellent example of breaking down the distance between presenters and “audience.”

    I attended two extremely valuable panels on teaching radical political economy — It was clear from both that the new generation of radical political economists are fighting the good fight at numerous schools all over the country — None of these are occurring at the elite institutions where the ideological gate-keepers are totally in control. But because our side won fights at U. Mass-Amherst, Utah, UMKC, the New School and other places as well, there are graduate students getting credentials where they can present radical alternatives wherever they get hired — and sometimes they reach “critical mass” and can therefore actually alter the curriculum.

    [By the way, Samuel Bowles gave a presentation in which he mentioned that there is an international effort to re-make the economics curriculum — it’s available on-line at econ-core.org (or something like that)]

    Two new faculty and one graduate student presented papers at an extremely valuable panel “Can China Save Global Capitalism” — they identified some serious contradictions in China’s model for dynamic capitalist development and noted that by most measurements Chinese LABOR is still being exploited by the global North despite the epi-phenomenon of Chinese financial flows to cover the US trade deficit.

    There were a lot of “non theoretical” panels — histories of the 50 years of URPE from a variety of perspectives — politically oriented panels about the job market, Academics for Peace, the Solidarity Economy Network, the international organization Rethinking Economics, and I probably have left out others —

    It was a great four days — and I’m still digesting my notes.

  4. We should avoid talking about our inevitable priceless future. In the meantime we inherit a legacy system from capitalism where prices are determined by profitability. Step one is to transform the capitalist pricing system in which prices and values diverge into an objective socialist pricing system based on weighted average labour times needed to produce articles in real time. Step 2 we have to homogenise the intensity of labour under workers control, i.e. the producers determine the universal tempo of work. Step 3, we have to determine the coefficients of labour so that higher and lower skills are expressed in units of simple labour. Only once we have done this can we measure labour time and only then will actual costs of production emerge and only then can conscious planning take place and only then can consumers place their orders with the planners with any degree of precision because only now do they know what their contribution is and what products actually cost to produce. I am about to publish part 2 of the article on the British economy which compares the biggest baker to the biggest oil producer, or Warburtons versus BP to show by how much value had to diverge from cost in order to equalise profits.

    Why is an objective pricing so important in a socialist society, because it and it alone provides the reward for collective effort whereas the right to receive in proportion to contribution provides the reward for individual effort. In the USSR when wages were tied to piece rate production, it created sectional interests – cutting corners, using inappropriate materials, misusing equipment and so on – all to beat targets. In the end it raised the labour time of society instead of reducing it. But no matter, because prices were always fictional in the USSR, the link between the labouring and reward was already broken at birth. Trotsky, himself was guilty for encouraging the use of piece rate incentives.

    1. Excellently put. I should appreciate some insight into how you envisage steps 1-3 might be effected.

      ”Trotsky, himself was guilty for encouraging the use of piece rate incentives.”

      Yes, he did, and in fact defended the position against the criticisms of the Mensheviks. Later in ”The Revolution Betrayed” he condemned Stalin for such advocacy. Of course one might argue that he was a moderate in economic policy compared with Stalin, who affirmed ”We shall exchange part of our raw materials for locomotives or for necessary machines, but under no circumstances for clothing, boots or colonial products; our first item is not articles of consumption, but the implements of production.” I trust any indignation felt by Marxists has not in any way been mitigated on learning that this statement is actually by Trotsky!

      1. The Soviets were forced to fend for themselves, not only against political and economic isolation, but, from the beginning, against unremitting violent intervention by the leading capitalist states.

        The determinants of Trotskyist/Stalinist/Leninist economic policy regarding the need for swift industrialization (as mentioned negatively above) has to be situated historically–i.e. in the collapse of the 2nd International, the Western fomented, immensely costly (in lives and social wealth) Russian Civil War (on the heels of WW 1), and the drastic but necessary political and economic measures taken under War Communism–not in the mistakes or “betrayals” of leading Bolsheviks, most of whom were eventually forced by events to support rapid industrialization.

        Marx was a realistic optimist who knew his Shakespeare (and the Greeks) well. Tragedy is part of the dialectic of history. The other face of the vulgar optimist is that of the disillusioned cynic who today jesuitically applauds barbarically “humanitarian” imperial interventions in “failed,” “tyrannical” states, socialist and otherwise.

        It’s good to hear of all those students attending the conference. I find that as I grow old I grow more brittle and fearful than wise and daring.

      2. ucanbe: I think there’s a real conflict in assessing “skill” and basing compensations on “skill.” First “skill” is generally a collectively determined attributed in anything but handicraft production; is a result of collective individual inputs, but not any individual input. For example, railroad crew A consisting of 3 persons, couples up 16 tracks of classified cars and sets them onto departure yard tracks for inspection in 8 hours. The conductor on the job is what we call a “drummer,” fast, efficient, and……20 years younger than the conductor of Railroad crew B which “only” sets out 11 tracks of classified cars in the same 8 hours. Is there any distinction of skill here that should be used as a basis for recompense? I’d say not as there are an infinite number of variables besides the age of the two conductors– there’s the efficiency of the locomotives, the inevitable conflicts between the movements of the two crews in a single yard, the number of cars that didn’t make the automatic coupling on each track and need another “manual” effort, the differences in weather, the schedule times for “closing out” and allowing the crew to “pull” the classified tracks of cars, etc. etc..

        The time is the thing, and the time spent entitles every person to the satisfaction of his/her (ever growing) needs, regardless of variances in quantum output.

        We(communists) are about, I would hope, abolishing the wage system,the making of labor-time the medium of exchange VALUE for the (ever growing) necessities of life. Does this mean a janitor is entitled, during the transition period to the same compensation as the deep sea diver, the petroleum rig worker, the x ray technician, even the surgeon? I would argue yes. I would argue that that requires a radical egalitarianism at the start. I would argue we need to reduce the relevancy of the “individual wage”– first by expanding the quality of and access to those products of the “social wage,” i.e. education, healthcare, more than decent housing, “culture,” public transportation; secondly by radical reductions in the working day; thirdly by overcoming the “division of labor.” Yes, indeed as Lenin said “Every cook can govern,” and more important is it that every governor cooks.

        None of this can be accomplished if scarcity governs production and distribution. This does not mean that we pursue self-destructive, or rather, socially destructive policies of growth for growth’s sake (and waste for value’s sake); but it does mean we truly emancipate the productive powers of labor to satisfy and expand human needs, through the creation of abundance, call it a measured or “metered abundance.”

        Finally, all that I offer amounts only to speculation, and what counts is the working class get to the point of power where it has to grapple with exactly these questions, the answers to which must be consistent with the working class doing away with all class distinctions.

    2. ucanbepolitical: “Step one is to transform the capitalist pricing system in which prices and values diverge into an objective socialist pricing system based on weighted average labour times needed to produce articles in real time. Step 2 we have to homogenise the intensity of labour under workers control, i.e. the producers determine the universal tempo of work. Step 3, we have to determine the coefficients of labour so that higher and lower skills are expressed in units of simple labour. Only once we have done this can we measure labour time and only then will actual costs of production emerge”

      And don’t all of these items require a uniform wage– that in this interim periods all wages, whether it be for petroleum worker on a rig in the Gulf, or for somebody collecting waste in the city, be the same?

      Isn’t that the “impulse” behind Marx’s “labor chits”– that time is the measure, the universal equivalent and the assignment to this or that sector of production, as that production is being made truly social, that time can no longer be expressed in differentials, variants, based on profitability, compositions of capital, or even the relative training and organization of sectors of the working class?

      1. ”And don’t all of these items require a uniform wage– that in this interim periods all wages, whether it be for petroleum worker on a rig in the Gulf, or for somebody collecting waste in the city, be the same?”

        This is to be sure a fundamental question, but I am myself dubious of its application. I think Marx himself is not at all clear. He seems, I think, to envisage individual consumption in the lower stage of communism by analogy with the commodity i.e. an equality of time measured by an equal standard. ‘obviously the same principle prevails as that which regulates the exchange of commodities, as far as this is the exchange of equal values.”
        Thus equal right ”is an unequal right for unequal labour.” ((Critique of the Gotha programme)

        I think society already recognises the iniquity of bourgeois right, but as you affirm what are the implications for socialist planning. I see two problems: how is socially necessary labour time to be identified, and how is labour time to be distributed, if a day seeking fish in a supermarket is to be equated with one catching the fish on the high seas?

      2. “I see two problems: how is socially necessary labour time to be identified, and how is labour time to be distributed, if a day seeking fish in a supermarket is to be equated with one catching the fish on the high seas?”

        These are complex questions. Part of the answer for the determination of what is socially necessary labor time is that indeed society collectively determines the labor through councils, socialist planning. A bigger part of the answer is the removal of constraints on productivity imposed by capital. Certainly, the expansion of surplus products with the coincident reduction in labor-time, approaching and achieving abundance, is critical to the Marx’s notion of communism. I don’t believe such a thing as “scarcity socialism” can exist. That’s one thing, and I’m sure it will produce much disagreement.

        It’s not so much that the issue is if “a day seeking fish in the supermarket is to be equated with one catching fish on the high seas?” as it is one of are days preparing, transporting, unpacking, displaying, and wrapping the fish, all equal to the days on the high seas? Time is time, and time, in capitalism is, according to Marx, “everything. Man is nothing. He is at most time’s carcass.”

        Are different rates of compensation for different efforts, and different levels of effort compatible with socialism? With the transition to socialism?

        There are definitely differences in the intensity, efforts, risks, and demands of different jobs, but the amelioration of those disparities needs to be accomplished through automation, and overcoming wherever possible, divisions of labor. But we can’t use different rates of compensation, different distributions of the total social labor as a tool of reconciliation, as that restores the wage as the determining factor in satisfying human needs.

      3. Anti. Here it is assumed that the intensity of labour is uniform, but skill varies. (By way of an aside, if sport based technicians can measure carbon dioxide output resulting from the exertions of athletes, then it is a simple matter to scientifically measure the intensity of labour if such a measure was called for which I do not believe it will be. A bit of reverse Taylorism.) So if workers are labouring at the same intensity but with different skills, then in a given period of time a more skilled worker will contribute a greater quantum of labour to production than will a less skilled worker and will therefore be able to withdraw more product from production. In other words wages will vary. This will harmonise the quality of labour with its quantity. I would propose that the way we determine the coefficient of labour, that is what each worker contributes qualitatively, would be done by means of quantifying the amount of indirect labour on average (training, education and yes study) needed to raise a worker to a given level of skill.

        I agree that all the other differentials would disappear barring this one because we are dealing with an unequal class which can only be united through an equal right, the right to receive back in proportion to contribution, but where those contributions are unequal. It is also worth adding that quantitatively, contributions can vary without regard to skill, if one worker decides to work longer than another equally skilled worker.

        jlowrie your fisher folk example is apposite. Having a propensity to watch programmes on fishing I would suggest that the intensity and skill of fishing on a boat eclipses that of working in a market with dead fish. If you populated a boat solely with workers used to only pushing fish in a barrow at market, I would hazard a guess that if the boat did not get lost, it certainly would be in danger of being sunk if it managed to get out of the harbour. I think workers instinctively recognise differences in their skills and do not resent it understanding it makes production possible. What they are concerned with is reducing these divisions through the acquisition of training. I have spoken before about the purpose of the social fund.

        You ask a direct question about measurement. After the revolution, it would begin with the national accounts. National income divided by the number of hours producing it adjusted for duplication will provide the hourly price of simple labour (the average). That becomes the unit of measure. When multiplied by the various agreed coefficients of labour that will yield total labour time. Now mark we are still dealing with monetary costs because we need these labour times to convert capitalist prices into socialist prices using weighted average times. Once this is done we are in fact in the realm of labour times. I don’t want to go further because Michael wants us to keep comments brief. But it can be done.

  5. Seongjin Jeong’s paper is very much to the point in terms of a very valid critique what has passed for socialism and has become known as socialism in the minds of contemporary socialists. Very well done, Comrade Seongjin Jeong!

    1. I only wish I could concur.

      ‘ Indeed, Trotsky’s policies in the 1920s were oriented to a democratic socialist economy (Day, 1973). Trotsky’s concept of planning was crucially different from a Stalinist command economy, in that it emphasized control by market and Soviet democracy as well as autonomy from the party. However, it is also true that Trotsky’s concept of planning was substantially different from that of Marx, in that it prioritized the roles of leadership of the party and the state sector. Indeed, Trotsky tended to equate planning with the issue of leadership, reverting to his militaristic approach to planning during War Communism.’

      How can social planning be control by the market? How can democracy be implemented by a militaristic approach? Trotsky had no theory of democracy, as can be readily recognised from his ”Terrorism and Communism” polemic against Kautsky, who criticises Trotsky for just this lack, but who in fact had no theory of democracy himself, reducing it merely to voting.

    1. I think your concept of weighted labour time is a real insight, but I need to study your article more thoroughly.

      We all agree that piece rates have no place under socialism contra Trotsky/Stalin.

      But we still need to clarify, I feel, how the different intensity of labours in different occupations is to be recompensed. One answer is that the workers in more hazardous and demanding occupations enjoy more recovery time or leisure, but the problem is that it is often just in such jobs that demand is highest, either because of the high level of skill or because of emergencies, as you illustrate with a storm at sea. On the other hand using again your own illustration, coffee makers could readily be given more free time as they can more easily be replaced or the times in which the service is provided be more strictly limited. But how about engineers in gas and electrical utilities, especially during extreme weather? Is their recompense to be equal to that of a librarian? In any case, there is no popular support for such equality, and equality is a bourgeois concept in itself, and Marx SEEMS to have introduced it by way of analogy with the commodity( Berki ”Insight and Vision: The Problem of Communism in Marx’s Thought’ 1983 esp Ch 5). Moreover it is surely too facile to claim that overcoming the enslaving division of labour would rectify this?

      Apropos weighted labour time, Jack Chen in his “A Year in Upper Felicity” (!973) remarks that the distribution fund in the Chinese Commune was divided into two parts. One part gave all members an equal distribution of grain. Members drew on the other part according to their work points. Each working day counted as 10 work points, but a heavier work day was evaluated as 13 points and a lighter one at 7.

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