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Socialism, Anarchism, Communism, the Future of Online Leftism

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24 minutes ago, DMC said:

Yup, on a theoretical basis it's rather absurd to assume any given economic system will inevitably result in a status of political repression described by authoritarianism.  Due to the 20th century it's understandable that many conflated the two due to the fact many "communist" regimes managed to be even more evil and repressive than capitalist regimes, but I would think after years and countless threads discussing this topic - almost always with the same 4-5 posters - the distinction would be clear by now. 

Well, again, I think I said it wasn't inventible, admitting at some point that our knowledge is somewhat limited. But, since this is more your field than mine, is there no link at all? And maybe its not communist states per se, but more a problem of those that have highly centralized economic systems.

Also I'm were aware that how state (and not a US state) organizes its political decision making and its economic arrangements are conceptually different. Yet, within a certain set of communist states, it appears they did become highly authoritarian. And I think its appropriate to ask whether their centralized economic nature played a part. If there were other factors, well established in the literature, I'm willing to listen too them.

Edited by OldGimletEye

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On 10/26/2020 at 6:31 AM, The Great Unwashed said:

The young left has no truck with the Cold War paradigm of capitalism v. socialism, so they're unlikely to be moved by appeals to the "scariness" of socialism. That's a good thing. I think it's safe to say that we're in late-stage capitalism, and we need to construct a glide-path to somewhere.

I've got to think (hope?) that the left is going to string up the billionaire class before the first trillionaire. But either way, the direction of the US? It's almost at the point of no return. If there isn't violence, I don't see how it's possible the world isn't subjugated by like 8 people.

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18 hours ago, Ser Scot A Ellison said:

Oh, people tend to forget there is an anti-Authoritarian left too that resists statism and large government.

I simply wonder how that gels with the idea of a “collective” that encompasses every person on the planet and not smaller competing “sub-collectives”.

Scot--it's not anti-authoritarian. It's anti-state. If the state is currently broken, some believe giving it more money is useless. The collective comes from the working class running things in a more communal way. So, it's not so much authority, but instead ineffective authority. 

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11 minutes ago, OldGimletEye said:

And maybe its not communist states per se, but more a problem of those that have highly centralized economic systems.

The reason I think it's paramount to distinguish between economic and political systems is because the "communist" regimes of the 20th century that normally and almost exclusively are used as a reference were decidedly authoritarianism in constructing their political regime.  While this is admittedly/ultimately derived from Marx's writings, the idea of a vanguard that controlled all decision-making of the state is more properly traced to Leninist thought or Marxist-Leninism.  

At least theoretically, a centralized or even "command" economic system can be completely orthoganal to the facets and dangers of authoritarian regimes.  A state could be comprised of a healthy "democratic" system - i.e. legitimate and fair representation, forceful checks against the centralization of political power under one ruler or small group of decision makers, guarantee of basic liberties - and still have a centralized or command economic system.  And, quite clearly, the amount of people that "control" the economy and/or make decisions on economic policy would be much larger than how capitalism as the dominant world system seems to structurally elicit between the perpetuation of income/wealth inequality and monopolization of markets.  Indeed, the amount of people that truly control or enjoy decision-making power over the entire world economy right now - or, say, in the 1920s - is terrifyingly low.

Finally, this distinction is so important because it enables everyone arguing in good faith to think outside the box.  As Fury noted, many indigenous nations employed both a political and economic system that was far more communal than any 20th century "communist" regime - and the former systems far predate liberalism or the enlightenment.  Not to mention their systems actually inspired Franklin especially with the Iroquois, as well as the Framers in general when constructing the constitution.

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13 minutes ago, DMC said:

The reason I think it's paramount to distinguish between economic and political systems is because the "communist" regimes of the 20th century that normally and almost exclusively are used as a reference were decidedly authoritarianism in constructing their political regime.  While this is admittedly/ultimately derived from Marx's writings, the idea of a vanguard that controlled all decision-making of the state is more properly traced to Leninist thought or Marxist-Leninism.  

At least theoretically, a centralized or even "command" economic system can be completely orthoganal to the facets and dangers of authoritarian regimes.  A state could be comprised of a healthy "democratic" system - i.e. legitimate and fair representation, forceful checks against the centralization of political power under one ruler or small group of decision makers, guarantee of basic liberties - and still have a centralized or command economic system.  And, quite clearly, the amount of people that "control" the economy and/or make decisions on economic policy would be much larger than how capitalism as the dominant world system seems to structurally elicit between the perpetuation of income/wealth inequality and monopolization of markets.  Indeed, the amount of people that truly control or enjoy decision-making power over the entire world economy right now - or, say, in the 1920s - is terrifyingly low.

Finally, this distinction is so important because it enables everyone arguing in good faith to think outside the box.  As Fury noted, many indigenous nations employed both a political and economic system that was far more communal than any 20th century "communist" regime - and the former systems far predate liberalism or the enlightenment.  Not to mention their systems actually inspired Franklin especially with the Iroquois, as well as the Framers in general when constructing the constitution.

1. I get that a state could theoretically have a command economic system and democratic political system. But, other than theory, I'm interested in how it goes down in practice. The fact of the matter is that in a command economic system, particularly in economic system that produce thousands of different commodities and services, the decisions that have to be made are enormous. And the power given to the government to make these decisions have to be enormous. Were not talking here about making decisions for a handful of commodities.

2. And of course, even if the practical link between a command economic system and its authoritarianism is basically nil and is due to other intervening factors, a point I'm not entirely convinced of, I'm still suspicious of command economies on economic grounds. The fact of the matter is that prices do impart important information for decision makers, even if the price system, as developed by markets often fails or acts suboptimal in certain or many cases. I'm more sympathetic to some kind of market based socialism than I'm to command economies.

Edited by OldGimletEye

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2 minutes ago, OldGimletEye said:

But, other than theory, I'm interested in how it goes down in practice. The fact of the matter is that in a command economic system, particularly in economic system that produce thousands of different commodities and services, the decisions that have to be made are enormous. And the power given to the government to make these decisions have to be enormous. Were not talking here about making decisions for a basic handful of commodities.

I'm not here to advocate for a "command" economy - obviously I advocate a mixed system, just a hell of a lot more mixed than the current status of the US economy.  I will say that centralizing most major industries is not as unfathomable as you're presenting.  Health care and energy stand out as glaring examples where this quite obviously could and should be done.  But just in general, regulatory agencies under a centralized government can (and to some extent do) undertake much of the decision making power without reverting to authoritarianism or any type of political repression beyond the whines and cries of plutocrats.  FDR and the New Deal instituted policies to ensure this country to feed itself no matter what.  Truman temporarily took over the steel industry.  Denying a centralized government's capacity to do big things - without reverting to authoritarianism - is a rather ideological as opposed to empirical claim.

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19 minutes ago, DMC said:

I'm not here to advocate for a "command" economy - obviously I advocate a mixed system, just a hell of a lot more mixed than the current status of the US economy.  I will say that centralizing most major industries is not as unfathomable as you're presenting.  Health care and energy stand out as glaring examples where this quite obviously could and should be done.  But just in general, regulatory agencies under a centralized government can (and to some extent do) undertake much of the decision making power without reverting to authoritarianism or any type of political repression beyond the whines and cries of plutocrats.  FDR and the New Deal instituted policies to ensure this country to feed itself no matter what.  Truman temporarily took over the steel industry.  Denying a centralized government's capacity to do big things - without reverting to authoritarianism - is a rather ideological as opposed to empirical claim.

I think by now, as I have written enough on these topics quite a bit, you should know that I'm not Murray Rothbard. I do not have liberterian fever dreams that the slightest bit of government involvement will be the "Road To Serfdom". In fact, I have argued, often that government involvement is often necessary and don't have any principle objection to single payer healthcare. And I think you can have a range of government involvement in a mixed economy that works reasonably well.

But, I think you're underestimating the scope of government involvement in a command economy. That goes well beyond the administrative state set up by FDR during the New Deal and many of the regulatory agencies. Its one thing for FDR to set the SEC so that corporations have to report reliable information or setting up the Social Security, but its quite another for the government to be involved in every production decision.

In so far as FDR's best decision, it probably was cutting us from the gold standard, letting a bit of inflation rip loose, and letting much of the market do its thing.

 

Edited by OldGimletEye

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1 minute ago, OldGimletEye said:

I think by now, as I have written enough on these topics quite a bit, you should know that I'm not Murray Rothbard.

Yes, I assume on policy we probably mostly agree on most everything.  I'm just pushing back on the constant refrain/conflation of a "command" economy, and subsequently "communism, and authoritarianism.

4 minutes ago, OldGimletEye said:

That goes well beyond the administrative state set up by FDR during the New Deal and many of the regulatory agencies. Its one thing for FDR to set the SEC so that corporations have to report reliable information or setting up the Social Security, but its quite another for the government to be involved in every production decision.

That's why I used the farming example.  The AAA did control the means of production to set prices in the interest of consumers.

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1 minute ago, DMC said:

Yes, I assume on policy we probably mostly agree on most everything.  I'm just pushing back on the constant refrain/conflation of a "command" economy, and subsequently "communism, and authoritarianism.

That's why I used the farming example.  The AAA did control the means of production to set prices in the interest of consumers.

FDR intervened in the economy a lot, but his policies were no were near that of Stalin. And while I'm a fan of FDR generally, and think he got a lot right, some his interventions were mistakes. With regard to the AAA, I would have preferred cash transfers instead, than setting prices.

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1 minute ago, OldGimletEye said:

FDR intervened in the economy a lot, but his policies were no were near that of Stalin.

I would certainly hope not!  As for the AAA, they did pay the farmers off through subsidies - and still do.  Anyway, I think my role in this discussion has run its course.

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8 minutes ago, DMC said:

I would certainly hope not!  As for the AAA, they did pay the farmers off through subsidies - and still do.  Anyway, I think my role in this discussion has run its course.

A few things.

1. FDR was absolutely right that price level needed to return to the pre-1929 level. His policies of cutting us from the Gold Standard and restoring confidence in the Banks were spot on. However, he was wrong that the problem was "overproduction". The issue was monetary and lack of aggregate demand not overproduction.

2. I'm not really a fan of subsidies to farmers. By all means expand the hell out of SNAP and TANF,  or even outright cash transfers, we spend too little on that stuff. But, I'm not generally a fan of subsidies to producers.

Edited by OldGimletEye

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1 minute ago, OldGimletEye said:

I'm not really a fan of subsidies to farmers.

Me neither, to be clear.  Especially how the policies are currently implemented.

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2 hours ago, OldGimletEye said:

And maybe its not communist states per se, but more a problem of those that have highly centralized economic systems.

There's no reason a communally owned economy needs to be centrally managed. By all means decentralize decision-making as much as possible wherever that makes sense. Keep using markets anywhere they're useful.

2 hours ago, OldGimletEye said:

Yet, within a certain set of communist states, it appears they did become highly authoritarian. And I think its appropriate to ask whether their centralized economic nature played a part. If there were other factors, well established in the literature, I'm willing to listen too them.

Multiple factors have been raised in this thread - initial poverty, the necessity for violent overthrow of the former regime, and western aggression. If we can achieve a peaceful democratic transition to communism in the US, I'd expect a quite different outcome.

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9 hours ago, OldGimletEye said:

You know, I think its the case that most billionaires are insufferable assholes.

Interestingly enough, however, I'm quite comfortable stating on a public forum that most billionaires are assholes, as I don't have to worry about billionaires or their minions visiting me and busting my skull with a baton.

In a communist country, I'd be extremely nervous about criticizing communist leaders, as most likely I would have to worry about having my skull busted wide open with a baton.

One reason for this is probably that the billionaire today is so sure he has absolutely nothing to fear for his power status from such remarks, so he will not bother. However, I think that in many not quite first world countries, you might end up at the business end of a weapon after a wrong public remark about a powerful billionaire.

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Hey remember that time a billionaire called a guy a pedophile for rejecting said billionaires really stupid idea to rescue people from a cave?

If I'm not worried about billionaires sending people with batons to smash my skull in because of things I say, it's not because I don't think they'd be willing to make that happen.

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Anecdotally, French billionaire Serge Dassault  (who died not long ago) was famous for his goons, who would intimidate his enemies -and sometimes do worse.

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8 hours ago, Fury Resurrected said:

There is no “except for”- there is no reason to exclude them. To insist on excluding them is highly offensive. They are clearly not authoritarian. They count as much as any other nation. I don’t know why you insist on that exclusion, whether it is out of prejudice or refusal to recognize tribal sovereignty or the mere refusal to include that which doesn’t prove your bias- but there is no valid reason to exclude them simply because you want to cherry pick examples.

By “Tribal Nations” do you mean Native-American Tribal Nations?  Or are you refering to some specific Nation-State of which I’m unaware?

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2 hours ago, felice said:

There's no reason a communally owned economy needs to be centrally managed. By all means decentralize decision-making as much as possible wherever that makes sense. Keep using markets anywhere they're useful.

This, so much.

Though it occurs to me maybe we should be talking about anarchism rather than communism here. 

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5 hours ago, Simon Steele said:

Scot--it's not anti-authoritarian. It's anti-state. If the state is currently broken, some believe giving it more money is useless. The collective comes from the working class running things in a more communal way. So, it's not so much authority, but instead ineffective authority. 

I’ve said above that I like employee owned businesses (or Co-ops) but they are still limiting ownership to those who work for the business.  Do you object to that sort of structure as a base unit for a “socialist” economy because it does not allow for general ownership of everything?

In my veiw multiple competing “collectives” makes sense.  It allows for efficiencies of scale and competition to winnow out unworkable systems, products and services.

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Why are we discussing political and economic power as though they are distinct and completely separate from one another?  They overlap and always will.

If they didn’t no one would care about mega-corporations.

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