File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-01-21.060, message 17

Date: Mon, 20 Jan 1997 00:38:02 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: M-I: Michael Leibowitz on Market Socialism

On Sun, 19 Jan 1997, Louis N Proyect wrote:

> Getting back to Socialist Register 1991, this was an issue devoted to
> "Communist Regimes: The Aftermath". Our very own Justin Schwartz has an
> article on Gorbachev in there, but it's odd that there's no mention of the
> magic elixir of market socialism in the whole piece. This must have been
> before he found religion. 

No, it wasn't. I have been a market socialist since I was a socialist. If
you look in the footnotes you will find a short reference to the fatal
doctrine. But I don't always write about MS. It's not immediately relevant
to everything I do. In fact I have yet to publish anything dealing with
it. In the article in question I was concerned with the political fate of
Soviet socialism. I took the failures of planning for granted as a

> I always had trouble understanding what the profit motive had to do with
> innovation and productivity myself.

Two things, Louis. It has to do with people being rewarded for their
efforts and it has to do with the system being flexible enough to
accomodate and incorporate change.

 The Internet is an example of
> innovation devoid of the profit motive.

Quite right. And a lot of the most important innovations have been the
product of state planning. That doesn't mean they all can be.

 I also have done my most creative
> work in my non-professional life.

Here you focus on individual incentives and don't address the systemic ones.

> When I presented this evidence to Justin Schwartz, he said no problem. All
> of these efforts represent enterpreneurship just the way that Bill Gates'
> cutthroat drive to kill all competition does. Sigh! I just didn't get this
> at all. What Justin calls enterpreneurship, I call plain old-fashioned
> civic duty. I get my inspiration from Thoreau, Helen Keller and Dr. Spock,
> not John D. Rockefeller. 

Good for you. And you think you can design a whole economy based on the
idea that everyone will so act, and will be willing to disrupt the ideas
and programs they have implemented from a sense of civic duty, no doubt
because such disruption is civic-minded, because you have an idea the
implementation of which will require them to do this. You think you can
just mention this idea at the worker's council meeting and everyone will
jump on it if it's a good one.

> The socialist rebuttal to the Viennese supposedly came from a certain
> Oscar Lange, who I've heard of but never read. Lange was a market
> socialist who tried to convince the world that workers could be just as
> "entrepreneurial" as the capitalist class. 

No, he wasn't. This is a common miconception. He became one, but his most
famous work, the "refutation" of Mises, which in fact didn't work, was an
argument for the possibility of planned socialism. He was a planner in the
Polish economic apparatus after the war. It helped make him a market

> since the idea of worker's running the economy is anathema to them. What
> would have been less prevalent is radicals like Schweickart and Schwartz
> running around urging "enterpreneurship" on the rest of us. 

Right. The less of us, the better.


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