File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-01-21.060, message 21

Date: Mon, 20 Jan 1997 08:49:52 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: M-I: Michael Leibowitz on Market Socialism

On Mon, 20 Jan 1997, Justin Schwartz wrote:

> > 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.

Louis: My understanding of capitalism is not based on the lying boosterism
of Business Week or the Wall Street Journal. It comes from nearly 3
decades of employment at places like Salomon Bros., Goldman-Sachs, Mobil
Oil, Metropolitan Life Insurance, etc. The whole nature of these firms is
to reduce risk and maximize profit through collaboration with the state. 
Your model of the market-place is naive and reminds me of the gee-whiz
gushiness of people who don't know corporations from the inside.

We are in the age of monopoly. Nearly every investment decision by big
Wall Street firms is conditioned by the amount of influence they have
within the capitalist state. Robert Rubin, my old boss, is Secretary of
Treasury now. This helps Goldman-Sachs and the sector of finance capital
it represents to stay close to the action and influence it.

What you share with the people who vote for the Libertarian Party is a
silly overestimation of the degree of competition that exists in the real
world. This notion is shaped by the petty-bourgeois consciousness of small
proprietors who yearn for the days when the government didn't interfere
with their efforts as small-scale enterpreneurs. In their case it is a
romanticized notion of what it used to mean to start your own business in
the 1800s, while in your case it is a basically utopian notion of workers
running their own businesses in the 1990s. Monopoly capitalism ran
rough-shod over the small proprietor in the late 1800s, hence the rise of
the Populist and Progressive Parties. 

In Eastern Europe, experiments in market socialism were muscled out of the
way by monopoly capitalism as well. If there will be socialism in the
future, it will be the result of a sustained struggle against monopoly
capitalism. The economic forms that arise from a victorious workers state
in places like the United States, England or Germany will be dictated by
the relationship of class forces and not by the brilliant ideas of people
like David Schweickart. 

>  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.

Louis: This reminds me a lot of the "on the one hand, but on the other
hand" thumb-sucking you hear on the McNeill-Lehrer hour.

>  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.

Louis: My experience is one of an entire generation that rejected
competition. In my life, it expressed itself through involvement with
Trotskyist politics. In the lives of other of the 60s generation, it
expressed itself through rejection of corporate values through the
counter-culture. This is the reason the Gap clothing store pays Allen
Ginsburg and William S. Burroughs to be seen in their ads. Millions of
people in their forties and fifties, while enslaved by corporate society,
like to have the illusion that there is some act of rebellion in buying a
pair of chinos. You, an ex-Maoist university professor who has never known
what it is like to work in a cubicle from 9 to 5 each day, preaches
competition to us. You remind me of the character in "The Graduate" who
reveals to Dustin Hoffman that the magic word is "plastics". You are the
person who needs to read Marcuse more than anybody.

> 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.

Louis: Justin, this is a revealing paragraph. When Marx said, "From each
according to their need, from each according to their ability", he was
using words that correspond to my beliefs. Your quarrel is not with me, it
is with Karl Marx.

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