Replying to Price’s Response

You remain troubled that parecon doesn’t aim for self-sufficiency.


But wouldn’t you agree that if in some case we want self-sufficiency, it is because in that case it would facilitate relations we want? If so, then if we had to lean between self-sufficiency and mutual aid, shouldn’t we lean toward mutual aid? Isn’t that anarchistic and Green?


Of course I expect that in a better future we will continue to have urban and rural areas each highly dependent on diverse "imports" and generating diverse "exports." Think about hospitals, food, construction equipment, computers, guitars, pharmaceuticals, etc.


But more important, wouldn’t you agree that what matters about a vision is that it allows workers and consumers to settle on the scales of operation and the extent of mutual interdependence they themselves want – and that provides the information and means for them to self manage that choice? And doesn’t parecon do just this? If you think it doesn’t, why do you think that?


You say planning for a country "leads to ecological disaster, and makes it difficult to have truly democratic economic planning."


If you think one can’t plan for a country democratically, then please show me how participatory planning is undemocratic.


More, what do you want to do instead of participatory planning, that will be democratic and will also allow the oranges produced in Florida to meet needs all over the country, or sensibly allot resources and time and labor to building a new bridge, dam, airport, or whatever?


You say, anarchism advocates "people work for social reasons" sharing "social wealth according to their needs."


If that means we can have whatever we say we need, what if we all want a whole lot? And if it means we can work as little as we choose, what if we work very little and only at tasks we enjoy? I assume you don’t mean this, it is dysfunctional.


If the formulation means that we can only have subsistence income and must work until we drop, that would be horrible and surely you don’t mean that.


If, the formulation means, as I am guessing you intend, we should responsibly pick a viable and just amount for our work and our consumption in light of our and society’s needs, how will we do that unless w have a way to judge what is responsible and what isn’t? How will workers know how much to produce, or what to invest in, unless they can evaluate the relative benefits that will accrue and costs endured? This is why we can’t do without valuations and weight of preferences. Do you disagree?


When you say that parecon’s remuneration "is still a form of inequality" since "people’s abilities and needs are unequal," I don’t know what you have in mind. In parecon I get income for working longer or harder but not for being more productive due to ability.


You say parecon’s norm will clash with labor saving technology. Why do you think this?


First, labor saving innovation is a natural outcome of parecon, though it is not imposed without assessment and self managed choice.


Second, if a parecon produces high product with low labor, its members may well opt for a very short workweek, even as they remunerate in accord with effort and sacrifice.


You seem to be concerned about how parecon was developed.


The model arose a bit at a time, largely in practice (South End Press) and in reaction both to capitalism and to 20th century socialism, or coordinatorism. Mostly, the aim was to eliminate class division. Once we had the model, we checked it against diverse worthy values and took up arguing for it in light of those values.


You disparagingly say parecon "is almost completely divorced from an analysis of capitalism and its dynamics and from a program to abolish capitalism (which is presented only in the broadest of strokes, as opposed to the details of the Parecon model)."


I wonder where you get these impressions.


First, shouldn’t one generate vision before strategy and transitional ideas that are based in part on that vision?


Second, of course strategy is far more context sensitive than vision and will vary far more over time.


Third, I have actually written quite a lot about strategy, though more needs to be done. Try the book Moving Forward, for example.


Fourth, parecon was conceived to replace the core defining features of capitalism, which is quite different than paying no attention to them.


You don’t like that "there is no discussion of how a post-capitalist society might arise out of a revolutionary upheaval."


Well, I think there is no single answer to that investigation, which I admit largely still needs doing. But there is quite a lot of relevant discussion by me and parecon advocates, in many places, including some you ignored even in the article you are replying to.


You say, "the basic ideas of a councilist economy are based not on abstract models but on the real experiences of past revolutions, in which councils were created by working people without the benefit of theorists!"


First, pareconists have relevant practice with creating these type social relations, though if we didn’t it wouldn’t be reason for rejection.


Second, we have studied and reacted to the revolutions you have in mind, including writing extensively about them and sometimes seeing them. Again, however, if we didn’t it would not be reason for rejection.


Third, while some ideas like forming councils are often spontaneous, regrettably, replacing markets and incorporating balanced job complexes are not spontaneous. Right now in Venezuela, for example, contentious debates over these two issues are at the heart of prospects there.


You say you "reject any insistence on making one model the official program." But do I do that? If so, how about quoting me doing it? Does anyone do it? Where?


Suppose, over time, some model proves itself highly worthy and viable. A movement seeks that model. Might you join that movement? Might you argue the merits of the model? If you did, should I accuse you with words that imply you think the model is the only one that ought to be discussed?


You say, I want Parecon to become a "widely shared vision held by a large part of the left."


That is true. You instead want the widely shared vision to be "libertarian socialism." So the difference isn’t that I want a vision widely shared and you don’t – it is that we favor different vision.


You say, I don’t advocate just the broad "general commitment to a councilist, anti-authoritarian, socialist view-such as the paragraph of things anarchists and Pareconists agree on which I [Wayne] presented earlier. No, it has to be the specific Parecon model."


Is advocating something going beyond one paragraph to try to institutionally actualize the classlessness you and I both favor, in itself somehow improper? Why?


I believe a worthy economic vision needs to be a picture of a few key features that provide a compelling description of how desirable values can be made real in a working economy, not least because a whole movement can sincerely aspire to your paragraph of general commitments and nonetheless wind up with something quite different – as happened, say, in the Soviet Union, largely due to adopting contrary structures.


You say, "this goes along with his rejection of the label of socialism … as meaning the same as state socialism…"


Why not react to what I actually say about socialism?


I tend to not use the word because popular and technical usage, even on the left, has freighted it with incredible baggage.


Every formulation of socialist economics that has been substantive enough to institutionally evaluate, and certainly every practical instance called socialism, has been ruled by the coordinator class due to containing core features that I – and you – reject.


And here I am talking not about its "state" but about economy.


You say, "similarly he makes no mention of ‘anarchism’."


But I routinely say parecon is an anarchist economic vision including writing at length about anarchism, and also about parecon as anarchist. Where did you get your impression?


You say, "to try to make the left committed specifically to Parecon instead of, in general, libertarian socialism (socialist anarchism and anti-statist Marxism) is inflexible, unexperimental, and, frankly, sectarian."


To advocate what you favor, Wayne, which I happen to think has a dysfunctional remunerative norm and insufficient institutional scope, is good? But to be for what I advocate, which tries to deal with those problems, is sectarian? I wonder why you think that? Put differently, what am I doing other than disagreeing with you, that merits that label?


Maybe I am missing the point, but you seem to be saying that parecon goes way too far, is over specified, but…


The vision that you think is intrinsically over specified, in fact has only four features:


First, self managed workers and consumers councils, which I believe you favor too.


Second, remuneration for effort and sacrifice. You hold a different remunerative norm – but if my holding my view is sectarian, wouldn’t your holding your view and rejecting mine be sectarian too?


Third, I favor balanced job complexes as an actual structural way to accomplish what you also favor, eliminating class rule. It might have been useful to comment on my formulations of the importance of this commitment right now, strategically, in the U.S.


And fourth, I favor participatory planning. You instead favor democratic planning but my guess is if you made that allocation aim clear enough so one could judge it, it would morph into participatory planning.


So why, again, I wonder, does it make sense for you to call me sectarian?


And as to instead confining ourselves to advocating only fine values – well, after a few hundred years of anti capitalist activism and struggle, is it really true that when someone asks what we want, the best we can do is list a paragraph of general values and aspirations, but not describe institutions that make them real?


You say I "do not warn about … political capitulation to capitalism."




You say, "Michael … has written that if he were in a swing state, he would vote for Obama."


Correct, I have.


You say that you instead advocate "that labor and oppressed communities break with the Democrats and all electoralism, in favor of non-electoral mass action, particularly the general strike."


But isn’t this advocacy a non sequitor to the issue whether you might, or might not, vote, in a few weeks – there not being a general strike on the horizon such that not spending twenty minutes voting could be better put to advocating general strikes?


You say Obama "has the support of liberals and most of the left!"


Why is this relevant to our discussion? You say you watched. For myself, I don’t bother with election watching, feeling it overly unproductive. But I wouldn’t castigate you for watching, much less call you opportunist. 

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