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(en) NEA #9 - Debating Economic Vision for a Society without Classes - By Tom Wetzel

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 31 Jan 2005 22:56:59 +0100 (CET)


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Two Classes or Three?
The working class is a subjugated and exploited group within capitalism. As
class struggle anti-authoritarians, we believe that the working class has the
potential to emancipate itself from class oppression, and in doing so it creates
a new social structure without a division into classes. But how is this possible
exactly? As I see it, participatory economics (often abbreviated as parecon) is
an attempt to specify the institutions of a new economic system in
which class oppression no longer exists.
A vision of a society beyond capitalism is important both to motivate struggle today
as well as to provide guidance on the strategy for social change that we pursue.

But what creates the division of society into classes? A class is a
group differentiated by power relations in the production of goods for
each other in society. There can be different structures in society that
can provide power that is the basis of a class.

First, there is ownership of land, buildings, and other means of
production by a minority investor class. The rest of us are thus forced
to sell our time to the owners in order to live. Marx held that
ownership is the basis of class division within capitalism. From this
he inferred that capitalism has two main classes, workers and
capitalists. Odessa Steps belongs to the Anarchist Federation (in the
U.K.), which also has a two-class theory:

"We see today's society as being divided into two main
opposing classes: the ruling class which controls all the power and
wealth, and the working class which the rulers exploit to maintain
this" (from the AF web site).

But there is not just one class that has "all the power" to
which the working class is subordinate. In addition to the capitalist
and working classes, capitalism generated a third main class* -
the techno-managerial or coordinator class. The coordinator class
includes managers, and top experts who advise managers and
owners, such as finance officers, lawyers, architects, engineers and
so on. These are the people who make up the chain-of-command
hierarchies in the corporations and the state. The bosses who
working people deal with day to day are mostly the coordinators.

The members of this class may have some small capital holdings but
mostly they live by their work**. The basis of their prospects in society
are things like university educations, connections, and accumulated
expertise.

The capitalist and coordinator classes together are about a fourth of
the population in the U.S. According to Michael Zweig's recent
book The Working Class Majority, the working class proper is about
60 percent of the population. In a grey area in between are the
lower-echelon of professional workers - teachers, writers,
application programmers, etc. These groups are not a part of the
coordinator class - they're subordinate to the
management hierarchy and often form unions to struggle against the
bosses. But they may share some features in common with
coordinators, such as university degrees, professional elitism, or
more autonomy in their work.

An important feature of the coordinator class is that it has the
potential to become a ruling class. This is the historical meaning of
the various Marxist-Leninist revolutions. Those revolutions
eliminated the capitalist class, created economies based on public
ownership, but, nonetheless, the working class continued to be
subjugated and exploited. Each of the Marxist-Leninist revolutions
consolidated a coordinator ruling class.

If we don't want a coordinator class to consolidate power in a future
revolution, we need a program to prevent it.

To understand the parecon solution, we need to look, first, at the
institutional building blocks proposed for empowering workers. The
basic building blocks are worker councils in the workplaces and
community councils in the towns and neighborhoods, and
federations of these throughout society. Through directly democratic
processes in these councils, the working class gains an institutional
foothold for its emancipation. The Anarchist Federation also seems
to accept worker and community councils as building blocks of a
"free society." Thus far, we seem to be in agreement.

But council self-management is not sufficient. If one person is
confined to sweeping the floors and cleaning toilets throughout the
year, and another person spends their days on in-depth analysis of the
industry's problems, how can they have equal power in
decision-making?

The power of the coordinator class is based on the relative
monopolization of expertise and decision-making. To dissolve the
power of this class, we need to systematically redesign the jobs in the
economy so that the work of conceptualization and decision-making
is not concentrated into the hands of an elite. The tasks of physically
doing the work, and the tasks of design and making decisions, are to
be re-integrated into the heads of the same people, so that the
working class can attain mastery over the process of production.

Parecon proposes to do this through a process that ensures that each
job is balanced for the impact it has on the power a person wields in
the running of industry. Everybody is to do skilled work and everyone
is to participate in the manual work of production. Of course, this
presupposes a big change in the educational system, widespread
democratization of knowledge, and maybe some of the simplification
of technology that Odessa Steps mentions. (Anton Pannekoek came
close to this vision in his book Workers Councils.

The parecon name for this proposal is balanced jobs. Odessa Steps
comments as follows: "In order to create some basic level of
fairness, each person would have 'balanced' jobs, with
some shit work, some mental work, some manual work and so on,
with varying rates of pay."

But the point to balanced jobs is mainly not "fairness,"
but creating a situation of balanced empowerment effects from each
person's job so that there can be real - not fake -
self-management. In other words, without balanced jobs, we can't
dissolve the class distinction between the coordinators and the
working class. The working class will remain a subjugated and
exploited class.

A weakness of traditional anarchism is that it had no clear program
for dissolving the power of the coordinator class, perhaps because it
failed to develop a theory of this class.

Odessa Steps mentions job rotation as a solution. But job rotation, by
itself, is inadequate. If the boss condescends to do the janitor's work
once a month, he is still a boss. That's just tokenistic slumming.

Political Power

Participatory economics is a vision of an economic structure. But any
viable society will also have a means of setting basic rules and of
enforcing those rules. This means the society will have a way to
govern itself. Any such structure I call a polity.

The state is a form of polity but it is not the only possible form of
polity. States under capitalism have tended to greatly expand their
scope of operation, taking on many economic tasks, such as public
transit, water and sewage, health care, environmental regulation and
so on. This expansion comes about partly due to market failures,
partly due to popular pressure. The state sometimes acts contrary to
what the capitalists want because it must maintain social peace if it is
to govern.

The state is organized as a chain-of-command hierarchy analogous to
private corporations. The state has at its disposal hierarchically
controlled bodies of armed people to enforce its rules. This
hierarchical structure separates the state from effective control by the
mass of the population. This separation is needed for the state to
perform its role in defending and promoting the interests of the
dominant classes. The state's performance of this role explains
why the state has been continually re-created through many changes
in class society.

A participatory economy needs an appropriate sort of polity to protect
it; this couldn't be a state if its role is to protect a
self-managing, classless society. It would have to embody direct,
grassroots control by the mass of the population.

The features of a classless society must begin to be embodied in the
practices of the movement, or set of movements, that creates it.
Features such as self-management and balanced jobs would need to
be prefigured in the practices of a mass movement so that the
participatory economy is an extension of that movement. I think it
unlikely that a participatory economy could come into existence
except through the emergence of a mass, self-managing workers
movement that takes over the running of the economy and
dismantles the state.

The liberation of the working class requires not only a new economic
structure but also a new political structure through which we are
empowered to defend our social order. Anarchists have not always
been consistent in recognizing that the emancipation of the working
class requires a structure of political power. This confusion
contributed directly to the defeat of the Spanish revolution.

In July of 1936 the workers of the anarcho-syndicalist CNT union
defeated the Spanish army in the streets of Barcelona. In the weeks
following that victory they built their own self-managing union militia
and seized the means of production. They were thus in a position to
consolidate the revolution by overthrowing the regional government
in Catalonia.

Some anarcho-syndicalists within the CNT at that time proposed to
replace the regional government with a Defense Council, answerable
to all the unions of the region, to defend the new social order and
coordinate a unified militia. Clearly, they were proposing to create the
beginnings of a new polity, controlled by the working class.

A national CNT conference in September 1936 pursued this idea
further, proposing that the Popular Front government be replaced by
a National Defense Council, and regional defense councils,
answerable to grassroots congresses. The socialist UGT union was to
elect half the delegates to the National Defense Council. The head of
the UGT was Largo Caballero, prime minister of the Popular Front
government. Caballero vetoed the CNT proposal. The CNT's
ability to get the UGT to go along was weakened by their failure to
replace the government in Catalonia. (Later on in the Spanish civil
war the CNT's proposal for a National Defense Council was
revived by the Friends of Durruti Group.)

The Defense Council advocates believed that the moment had arrived
for the CNT to carry out its libertarian communist program. As
articulated at the CNT's Zaragosa Congress in May of 1936,
this would have required industrial federations for self-management
of industry, and a structure of community assemblies and federations
of these, with regional and national grassroots congresses as the
society's ultimate decision-making authority. The community
assemblies were also intended as the means of popular input for
consumption planning. A framework that provides for the making of
society-wide rules, imposes a particular economic structure, and
provides an armed militia to defend that social order is clearly a polity.

However, in the debates in Barcelona in July 1936, anarchists like
Federica Montseny objected that taking power would create an
"anarchist dictatorship," and, unfortunately, they won
that debate. This was not the only argument that influenced the CNT
decision to not overthrow the government of Catalonia, but it
illustrates my point about anarchist confusions. The CNT enrolled a
majority of the workers in Catalonia and a Defense Council would
have also given representation to the other unions. It would have
been accountable to a mass congress of rank-and-file delegates, and
ultimately to the assemblies at the base. How could this be a
"dictatorship"?

No doubt it would be necessary to "dictate" to the bosses
what their fate would be. That's what a proletarian revolution
does. The working class cannot emancipate itself from oppression if
it doesn't take over the running of the society - and that means
"taking power." By failing to create a grassroots structure
to unite the working class apart from the state in the heavily industrial
region of Catalonia where they had the most power, the anarchists
made their capitulation to the Republican state inevitable.

The membership of the CNT unions would insist on unity with the
UGT in a life and death struggle against the fascist army. Was that
going to be a unity of leaders through the Republican state as the
Popular Front parties advocated, or worker unity through new
grassroots institutions of self-governance?

By failing to replace the government with new institutions of worker
political power in Catalonia, the anarchists would find themselves
with no way to counter the tremendous pressure to go along with the
Popular Front strategy. Capitulation to the Popular Front led to the
gradual evisceration of the workers' gains as the civil war
dragged on. On the other hand, replacing the government of
Catalonia with a workers council could have pushed the UGT union
to go along with a similar strategy for the whole of Spain.

My aim here is not to embrace the particulars of the CNT program of
1936 but to make a point about political power. It's true that
Marxists talk of "taking power." The Marxist concept
usually means the hoisting of political party leaders into control of a
state. Just because we reject that idea, this should not blind us to the
alternative of the people en masse gaining political power through
their own mass institutions of grassroots democracy.

Allocation by Market or Plan?

Resources are finite. There are only 24 hours in the day. If a group of
carpenters spend the day building houses, the laws of physics tell us
they cannot also be across town building a neighborhood health
clinic.

Any possible economy must have some way to allocate scarce
resources. An economy is effective if it avoids waste of these
resources. We want to make sure that, if we spend our precious time
making something, that is the best use of our time for satisfying the
needs and desires of people.

No revolutionary program is complete unless it tells us what
principles and institutions for allocation it is proposing. Two
allocation institutions that have been promoted and used are central
planning and markets.

A system of central planning, as in the old Soviet Union, presupposes
a separate group, an elite of planners, who collect information from
distribution centers and factories. Then they send down orders to the
factories, telling them what to produce. This presupposes a
relationship between the planning apparatus and the workforce that is
irredeemably authoritarian.

The instructions that flow outward from the planners presuppose that
the planning group have some way to enforce their decisions -
hence the emergence of a hierarchical chain of command. Thus
central planning presupposes the domination of the coordinator class
over the working class.

Some libertarian socialists have advocated central planning. Although
the proposals by Abad Diego de Santillan in After the Revolution and
by Cornelius Castoriadis in Workers Councils and the Economics of a
Self-managed Society are far more democratic than Stalinist practice
in the Soviet Union, they are still forms of central planning.

Perhaps the most innovative feature of parecon is that it proposes a
form of allocation that is neither based on markets nor central
planning. This is called participatory planning.

Participatory planning is a horizontal, interactive and participatory
process through which the entire society creates a comprehensive
agenda for social production. Workers and consumers craft the plan
directly by making manifest their own desires for products, for their
work environment, and so on. There is no control by a planning elite.
That's why it is not a system of central planning.

The initial proposals are not likely to lead spontaneously to a match
of worker proposals for production and consumer requests for
products. This means that a back and forth process of amending
proposals in response to others then ensues. Consumers and workers
make use of both qualitative information about potential ecological
effects and workplace conditions and so on as well as prices to
gradually alter their proposals until agreement is reached on a plan.
Prices emerge as a reflection of how strongly people prefer certain
possible productive outcomes over others.

Prices are used to encapsulate the value to everyone of the resources
that are consumed in making things. It is necessary to track this if we
are to allocate resources in a way that effectively meets
people's needs and desires. It would be tyrannical to force
everyone to consume the same thing. Even if Tyrone and Winona do
the same amount of work, and have earned the same consumption
share, they may wish to take this in the form of a very different mix of
goods.

Winona may wish to spend more of her income for living space and
skimp on other things - maybe she wants room for painting or a
large garden. Tryone, on the other hand, may be willing to live in a
one-room shack if he can use a part of his income to acquire a boat
for sailing on the open sea. We need an economic vision that allows
people to take their share of consumption in a variety of products as
determined by them but which does so in a way that prevents the
re-emergence of a market system. Sometimes anarchist-communists
have proposed that people simply "arrange among
themselves" about production beyond some level of free goods
provided for "needs." But doesn't that leave room
for a market system emerging in the personal consumption goods
sector?

Parecon, says Odessa Steps, "is an incredibly complex market
system that would require many millions of people to operate."

Actually, the aim of participatory economics is to abolish the market
system; there are no markets in parecon.

It's true that participatory planning requires millions of people -
in fact, the entire populace - to operate. Actually, it is true right
now that the economy involves decisions made by everyone.
Right-wing, capitalist economists like Friedrich von Hayek tell us
that the planning that is now balkanized into thousands of companies
and all the decisions by consumers in the market is "too
complex" to be integrated into a social plan. The
"invisible hand" of the market simplifies everything, they
say. Does Steps agree with them?

If not, how does Steps propose that the population is to attain a
comprehensive agenda for what to produce? How does Steps propose
to avoid markets to mediate the relation between producers and
consumers? How do we ensure that our work time and resources are
not wasted? Odessa Steps uses vague rhetoric to evade these
questions.

For Steps, a "market" is apparently any dynamic by which
supply comes into accord with demand. But that is what any system
of allocation tries to do.

Whatever is produced in an anarcho-communist economy, that is the
supply. When people go to distribution centers in search of shoes or
show up at meetings to demand shoe production, then you have
demand for shoes. And if anarchist-communism is to be an effective
economy, it must have some institutional mechanism to ensure that
supply and demand match. Thus according to Steps' concept
of a "market," anarchist-communism would also be a
market economy.

In reality, a market system is only a very special type of allocation
system. In a market, production is "on spec" -
firms, acting autonomously, produce on the expectation that the
revenue from sale to buyers will enable them to profit. The
consumers don't actually get together with the producers to
decide ahead of time what is to be produced, as is the case with
parecon.

Allocation of resources to actors in a market is attained
autonomously. The market clout of owners of means of production
enables them to force wages down to extract profits. Entrants in the
labor market use any special advantages, such as credentials or
connections, to seek privileged positions in the production hierarchy.
This class monopolization over means of production and
decision-making is eliminated in parecon. Nor is the income of the
workers in a production group based on revenue from market clout in
parecon.

Market competition drives firms to cut costs - keeping wages
down, polluting the environment. No such competitive arrangement
exists in parecon.

Odessa also writes: "Work and consumption is self-managed.
Production is managed by factories and workplaces organized in
producer federations. These decide what they will produce, at what
input cost (price), and in what quantity."

But worker councils and federations of these in a participatory
economy do not decide autonomously on what to produce or what
prices will be.

An economy is an integrated affair. What is done in one place will
have a ripple effect throughout the economy. If a factory produces
some volume of bicycles, say, the materials used for the bikes weren't
used for other products, such as wheelchairs. This impacts the people
who might have consumed the other things that could have been
produced.

The impact from decisions ripples outward across the economy
- some are impacted more, others less. This means that
virtually the entire populace must have some impact even on the
decision as to the number of bicycles produced at the local bike
factory. In a participatory economy, self-management means having
a say in decisions to the degree that you are impacted. Workers in a
workplace do not unilaterally decide what they will produce, but
instead they have a large say over the things that impact them most,
especially what happens where they work, but they do not make
decisions unilaterally because decisions about inputs and products
impact others in the economy and the decision-making system must
take those others into account.

At another point Odessa says:

"Coordinating and mediating federations called Iterative
Facilitation Boards (IFBs), would set prices based on the social cost
to produce things and wages based on the 'disutility' of
particular kinds of work and the effort involved in our jobs."

Prices in parecon are a product of the entire participatory planning
process; they aren't "set" by anyone. IFBs may
communicate the prices that emerge in the planning negotiations, but
they don't set the prices.

Suppose that, at the outset of the planning process, the building
materials councils have not proposed to increase production of
concrete. But there is a big increase in requests for concrete from the
construction councils, due to proposals by community councils for
various construction projects.

A rule of a participatory economy might then mandate, at this stage
in the negotiations, an appropriate increase in the projected price of
concrete this year (starting from the current actual price). This higher
price reflects the greater scarcity of concrete and the need to
economize on its use, unless the worker groups are able to suggest
ways to increase supply.

Worker councils in the building materials industry might respond by
proposing an increase in resources to their industry to increase
output. This sort of back and forth process continues until the overall
agenda for social production is finalized. (The planning process is not
"endless," as Steps says; it eventuates in a plan.)

Prices thus fall out of the preferences of workers and consumers as
manifested in the planning negotiations. Facilitators have impact on
prices only in the same way as everyone else.

Another issue that Odessa wades into is dissent:

"Under parecon, dissent can be stifled by being denied the
physical means to express itself unless you have the means of
persuasion to hand. Individuals and groups with money (and
that's what consumption shares are), can influence society into
believing particular things and taking decisions based on that
belief."

First, consumption shares are not money in the sense of cash. They
are an entitlement to have resources allocated, via participatory
planning, to produce things you want.

Second, let's look at the fate of dissidents. Suppose you are part
of a group producing a magazine - how do you get paper and
printer time? Parecon makes a distinction between collective
consumption and private consumption. Proposals for collective
consumption (such as pollution reduction or child care) are made by
community councils and federations of them. But individuals can
make proposals for private consumption that cannot be vetoed by the
collectivity (so long as they aren't proposing some prohibited
activity like building an atomic bomb). Each consumer can request
products whose total value (including their share of collective goods)
isn't greater than their remuneration (limited by work effort or
sacrifice). These requests impact the plan that assigns the resources
to the worker councils making the products.

So long as a sufficient number of readers value your magazine
enough (as an item of private consumption) in the planning process
that your magazine group can approximate to the socially average
cost/benefit ratio (as revealed by social valuations of inputs and
outputs in the planning process), your magazine is entitled to its
allocation of resources...even if a majority of the population detest it.

Yet, Steps objects to individual members of society assigning part of
their consumption share to means of social persuasion. But their
ability to do so is necessary to avoid precisely the objection about
minority dissent being stifled. In order for minority cultural tastes and
viewpoints to be respected, the libertarian economy needs to have a
means for individuals to express preferences for products without the
majority having a right to veto it. If anarchist-communism means
that the collective social organization must decide what I get to
consume, how is this consistent with personal freedom?

Income

Steps says, "How many consumption shares we earn is decided
collectively with each job graded according to the social cost of
production and the effort required; basically the less socially-costly
the job but the more effort required, the higher the wages, sorry,
'share'."

This is incorrect. Steps confuses the value (social opportunity cost) of
your labor with your remuneration. The value of your labor depends
upon how highly people desire the things it produces. The ability of
your labor to produce these outcomes depends upon things that you
are not individually responsible for - educational opportunities,
who you are working with, the equipment you have available, your
genetic endowment. That's why pareconistas oppose
remunerating people for the value of their labor.

Instead, parecon proposes that, for those able to work, their share of
social consumption should be determined by their effort or sacrifice
in socially useful work. For those not able to work, the "to each
according to need" principle would apply.

Steps says: "This is the classic argument of capitalists if you
think about it. Pareconomists say this: 'In parecon, everyone
gets a share of income based on the effort and sacrifice they expend
in work' (Yes, Boss)."

Even if capitalists say that, we don't understand capitalism from
capitalist propaganda. The remuneration that capitalists get is based
on their ownership of the means of production. They don't
have to do any work at all. Non-owners are remunerated according to
their bargaining power in the labor market. People are not paid more
for working harder, for having more boring or dangerous or risky
jobs, or for enduring more intense supervision and subordination.

In addition, why does it follow that my getting an income based on
my effort and sacrifice means that I am subordinate to some boss
- and who is that boss, in a participatory economy?

Suppose Steps, myself, and two hundred others are stranded on an
island. It looks like we're going to be there for a long time. We
need to find food, cook it, build shelter, entertain ourselves, create
schools for kids, and so on.

A pareconista would favor our all getting together and figuring out
how to apportion tasks so that we all have a balanced job with our
share rights in the social product deriving from effort and sacrifice
(except for those unable to work or too young). If we all agree to this,
where is there a boss?

What would Steps favor as an alternative? Perhaps Steps would
rather spend his or her days swimming and day dreaming, and maybe
enjoying music and stories that others create - but doing none
of the onerous and demanding work of the island - and eating
well, and having a nice, dry hut. Of course we can't all do that, or we
would all die, as there would be no food. So why does Steps get the
privilege? If we all say, "No, if you don't work, you don't get to
share in the product of our labors," are we Steps' boss? To look
at it that way would be to adopt a form of anti-social individualism.

In anarchist-communism, everyone would have an income, of course
- the income is simply whatever it is that they consume. How is
this determined? The communist principle says: "From each
according to ability, to each according to need."

This makes sense sometimes. If someone is injured in an accident, I
would want them to get medical care irrespective of whatever work
they have done or not done. Even now there are things that society
provides on this basis, at least approximately, such as sidewalks and
firefighter services.

In the parecon structure, the community and worker councils, and
the federations of them, would have the power to decide how far they
want this principle to extend.

But it isn't clear how an entire economy would be feasible if
run on the communist principle. How is "need" to be
determined? How is this different from each person simply taking
from the social product whatever they want? So, a person walks into
a distribution center and simply takes the clothes and food they want
and so on? Wouldn't that mean that those who are more aggressively
self-centered in taking things would have an advantage? People have
desires, not just "needs." If individuals make their own
decision about what they "need," then "to each
according to need" becomes, "to each as they
desire."

Steps talks about workers refusing to produce for people who are
"greedy." But how are workers hundreds of miles away,
or in a metropolitan area of millions, going to find out about the
"greedy" behavior of someone? Moreover, what is the
criterion for being "greedy"? This presupposes a limit to
how much a person is warranted in consuming - but Odessa
doesn't reveal how this limit is determined. (Repeating the
word "need" doesn't answer the question.)

Let's suppose that you want to be socially responsible in your
consumption. If there are no prices for products, how do you know
how much of society's scarce resources are embodied in different
products?

Prices in a parecon tell us the relative importance to people of the
various resources used to produce the products we may wish to
consume. Without these relative valuations to inform our decisions,
we can't be socially responsible even if we wanted to be, nor can our
society know how to make the best use of its vast and rich array of
capacities. To have an effective use of scarce resources, we need to
know the preferences of everyone for possible productive outcomes.

How is an anarchist-communist economy going to retrieve and make
use of that information? Within parecon, this information is available
because consumers express their preferences for productive
outcomes in the planning process, up to the limit of their share of
total consumption.

Steps says: "Parecon has within it the scope for large
inequalities since it allows people to accumulate wealth over
time."

Steps never explains how these large inequalities are supposed to
emerge. The job balancing system would tend to equalize the amount
of effort or sacrifice that each job requires. Differences in income
would arise mainly from differences in the number of hours people
choose to work. People can save but this is just delayed consumption.

It may take some skimping before Tyrone has saved enough
consumption credits to be entitled to the resources needed to build
that ocean-going boat he always wanted. But this doesn't imply
that Tyrone is getting a larger than average total share of life-time
consumption.

Maybe what Steps is worried about is a scenario like the following.
Suppose that Jones saves and then buys lawn-cutting equipment.
And then Jones offers lawn-cutting services. Due to the great
popularity of this service, Jones then hires people and a major
capitalist enterprise has emerged. But how are people going to pay
Jones if there is no cash? And how are Jones' employees going
to gain entitlement to their consumption? And why would anyone
work for a boss when meaningful, balanced jobs are available in
self-managing industry? And how is Jones going to get all the
lawn-mowers and gasoline allocated if this is going to be a significant
venture? Resources for social production are only available through
the social allocation process in a participatory economy. And
resources are not available to production entities that violate the basic
norms of self-management, balanced jobs, and remuneration for
effort or sacrifice.

Steps says, "Parecon is a system in which you are compelled to
work in the regulated system of the parecon."

Yes, if you live in a society with an economy, you participate in that
economy. Or maybe you find some escape hatch. But this is not
unique to parecon - it is a feature of any possible social system.
Steps says that anarchist-communism is "voluntary" but
doesn't explain how this can be. Would a child born into an
anarchist-communist society not be compelled to live in ways
structured by anarchist-communism? If someone wants to employ
wage slaves, can they do so?

"Anything goes" is not a workable guide for social
organization. We are social beings, with social benefits and
responsibilities. Liberty for me is good up to the point that my liberty
prevents you from having an equal liberty. "Anything
goes" for me would be incompatible with "anything
goes" for you and everyone else.

Libertarian communism stands for a non-market, classless society
based on social ownership of the means of production and direct
empowerment of people, a cooperative venture for the common
benefit rather than a competitive struggle for narrow advantage.
There is no disagreement between libertarian communism and
parecon on that aim. Starting from that aim, and keeping in mind the
kinds of allocational and structural issues that I've raised, I
think libertarian communists might arrive at something like parecon
for the reasons that I have.

For a clear statement of the parecon program that directly addresses
many of the issues that Odessa steps on, I recommend Parecon: Life
After Capitalism, by Michael Albert.

Tom Wetzel is a founding member of Workers Solidarity Alliance
(www.workersolidarity.org); he is active in housing politics in San
Francisco. This article expresses a person opinion and is not
necessarily endorsed by WSA.
====================================
[This is a reply to "The Sad Conceit of Participatory Economics" by Odessa
Steps, which appeared in The Northeastern Anarchist #8.
Non of the models is a comprehensive libertarian communist one...]


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