First, I want to thank Michael Albert and ZNet for hosting this exchange of views. I do not know about anyone else, but it has been educational for me.
Much of our difference is that Michael Albert is a model-builder and I am not. This causes us to talk past each other, despite the wide range of things on which we do agree. Michael and other Pareconers keep on trying to interpret my comments as though I am proposing an alternate model of post-capitalist society. So they ask how a decentralized socialist society would work, how goods would be exchanged among regions, how libertarian communism would value goods, and so on? Frankly, I do not know the answers and am not worried about that.
It is important to have a vision, a utopian set of values, of a different, more human, unalienated, way for people to live and work and to relate to each other. This is opposed to the Marxist tendency to let the Goddess of the Historical Process take care of everything. That is a dangerous approach because it leads to accepting whatever the historical process turns up, such as totalitarianism, and calling it socialism. A workers’ revolution must be conscious, with a true analysis of how society works and with a deliberate goal. This is different from the capitalist revolutions, whose main task was to remove barriers to the market and then let it automatically perform; therefore it was possible to have all sorts of illusions and false consciousness. However this does not mean that a revolution of the workers and oppressed must have a worked-out model, as opposed to a set of values. The working people can deliberately set about to develop a new society, consciously trying out various approaches.
It can be useful for someone to develop a more-or-less detailed model of how a vision could be concretized, how it might actually work. Besides Parecon, I can think of Bookchin’s Libertarian Municipalism, Takis Fotopoulis’ Inclusive Democracy, Paul Goodman’s Scheme II in Communitas, Pat Devine’s ideas, Kirkpatrick Sale’s bioregionalism, Guild Socialism, Castoriadis’ plan factory, and so on. Not to mention the ideas Marx raised in passing in the Critique of the Gotha Program and elsewhere. (There are also models of decentralized market socialisms, which I reject but I would be against other regions invading an area which had adopted such a model, unless exploitation was reintroduced.)
It is important to study all these and other models, but I have no need to endorse any one (aside from rejecting market socialism or state planning). I am willing to be in the same revolutionary organization with people who are committed to any of them. No one knows how a free people would reorganize production and politics after a revolution.
I am an experimentalist. Under socialist anarchism, people will try out different plans at different times in different regions. There will be constant reorganizing. To quote Kropotkin again, from his encyclopedia article on “Anarchism,” “Such a society would represent nothng immutable….Harmony would (…) result from an ever-changing adjustment and readjustment of equilibrium between the multitude of forces and influences, and this adjustment would be easier to obtain as none of the forces would enjoy a special protection from the State.”
Michael agrees with an experimental approach, but only within the framework of Parecon. That is, there has to be iterative exchanges between workplace councils and consumer councils, not kibbutz-like communes as advocated by Bookchin or Fotopoulis. He is for a concrete determination of what industries should be centralized and what decentralized, as I am, but he still aims for a primary national plan (why not a continental or international plan?). He rejects my advocacy of as much decentralization as possible (direct democracy functions best when people have direct control over their economy and it tends to be more ecologically viable). There is a whole literature on decentralism and regionalism, which I will not attempt to summarize here.
Once we agree on a general vision, then what matters most is our program for the here-and-now, what we are going to do, what we say to advanced workers who are listening to us (even if it is mostly propaganda for the future). Which is why I could be in the same organization as Pareconists, anarchist-communists, libertarian Marxists, anarchist-syndicalists, and so on, if we agree on our program for the next period.
This is why I keep on raising the issue of voting for Obama and other Democrats, even though this is a peripheral question for Michael and even though there are other Pareconists who disagree with him. Is there something in the Parecon program which leads Michael as well as Robin Hahnel (the co-founders of Parecon) to be willing to vote for an imperialist war monger? If so, this is a problem. Or is there no connection between the model of Parecon and one’s position on voting in capitalist elections? If so, this may be even worse. What good is Parecon if it gives no guidance to current political action?
(Michael’s comparison of voting for—and working for—Obama with getting a job in the capitalist economy is pretty weak. I have to work in order to feed myself and my family. I can live perfectly well without voting for my class enemy. I work because I have to; it does not imply support for capitalism. Voting for Obama, and urging others to do so, means giving political support to a politician and his capitalist program. Also, respecting other people’s motives does not require that we agree with them.)
Tom Wetzel has associated Parecon with the idea that mass movements of opposition should be participatory and directly democratic. I agree with this. And I agree with Michael’s belief that movements should be militant and threatening to the ruling class, so that it will make concessions. This approach would seem to contradict support for the Democrats and the passivity of reliance on capitalist elections. However, it is not necessarily connected to the specific program of Parecon as distinct from a general revolutionary libertarian socialism.
There have been several topics which we might have gone into but have not, due to limitations of space and time. In our initial exchange on www.Anarkismo.net, we argued about Michael’s concept of revolution, but I have not raised it here. There is also Michael’s theory of “coordinatorism” versus my belief in “state capitalism.” While we agree that there are a range of potentially rebellious forces, I would put an emphasis on the working class that Michael may not agree with. We have not discussed our views on specific anarchist organization—although this is directly relevant to my earlier point, that a revolutionary anarchist organization should not be primarily formed around a specific model of post-capitalist society. Instead it should be in general agreement on a vision, open to specific ways that vision may be eventually embodied, and in general agreement on a program for the coming period.
Right now we are at a major turning political turning point. A large part of the