De Leonist Society of Canada, Socialism and the Market

Socialism and the Market
The De Leonist Society of Canada
Letter to the Discussion Bulletin
in response to the excerpt from (the introduction
to) the book 'Non-Market Socialism in the
Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries'
that was printed in the DB issue
Jan-Feb 2000 #99, pages 3-7
This letter was reprinted from the DB
issue May-Jun 2000 #101, pages 17-19


Concerning John Crump's introduction to Non-Market Socialism in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (DB99):

At the outset Crump has it that the qualifier Non-Market is not intended to indicate that there is also a true market Socialism but, rather, that there is not. Quoting as follows:

"If we use words accurately, it is unnecessary to qualify 'socialism' with 'non-market because socialism is, by definition, a marketless society. The market cannot coexist with socialism because socialism means that society owns and controls both the means of production and the goods which result from productive activity. For the market to exist, some sectional interest (an individual, a joint-stock company, a nationalised concern, a workers' cooperative and so on) has to be in control of part of the social product, which it then disposes of by entering into exchange relations with others. Exchange cannot take place when society, and none other, controls the means of production and the social product. Far from socialism being compatible with exchange and the market, the generalised production of goods for exchange on the market is the hallmark of an entirely different type of society-capitalism."

We cannot agree that "socialism is, by definition, a raarketless society." For as we maintained in our article SOCIALISM'S MARKET ECONOMY (DB97):

"Anyone who has given [enough] thought to the matter will know that whereas market economy is descriptive of a capitalist economy, it will also correctly describe any other economy wherein, directly or indirectly, an EXCHANGE OF PRODUCTS PREVAILS."

The underpinning for our affirmation that Socialism, too, will feature a market economy is to be found in Marx's The Gotha Program. In what he terms "the first phase of Communist [i.e., socialist] society," Marx details in easily understood language the exchange relations that he believes will prevail there, thus:

"The social labor day consists of the sum of the individual labor hours; the individual labor time of the single producer is the fraction of the social labor day supplied by him, his share of it. He receives from the community a check showing that he has done so much labor (after deducting his labor due to the common fund), and with this check he draws from the common store as much of the means of consumption as costs an equal amount of labor. The same quantity of labor that he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another form.

"Evidently, there prevails here the same principle that today regulates the exchange of commodities, in so far as it is an exchange of equivalents. Substance and form have changed, because under the changed conditions no one can give anything except his labor, and because, on the other hand, nothing can go over into the possession of individuals, except individual means of consumption."

We now have (1): According to Crump, exchange cannot take place in a socialist society and (2): According to Marx, exchange can and will take place therein. It should hardly be necessary for us to add that we continue to stand by the Marxian position, not because it was Marx who spelled it out but because what Marx spelled out makes sense!

But all is not said when that is said! Thus while Crump's unqualified assertion that Socialism is a marketless society cannot stand the light of Marxism, there is nevertheless an ideal or ultimate condition under which the assertion might pass muster. This condition is described by Marx thus:

"In the higher phase of Communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual under the division of labor has disappeared, and therewith also the opposition between manual and intellectual labor; after labor has become not only a means of life, but also the highest want in life; when, with the development of all the faculties of the individual, the productive forces have correspondingly increased, and all the springs of social wealth flow more abundantly-only then may...society inscribe on its banners: 'From everyone according to his faculties, to everyone according to his needs!" (Ibid.)

It but remains for Crump et al. to explain why they leapfrogged over oarket Socialise (the first phase" of socialist society) without so much as a nod in its direction! Why? Did they perhaps conclude that it had become an anachronism due to the unprecedented increase of "the productive forces" under Capitalism itself? In any case, and as Marx makes clear, there is a lot more than adequate productive forces required to warrant society's transition from aarket Socialism to non-market Socialism!

"What we are dealing with here [in the first phase] is a Communist society, not as it has developed on its own basis, but, on the contrary, as it is just issuing out of capitalist society; hence, a society that still retains, in every respect, economic, moral and intellectual, the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it is issuing." (Ibid.)

Not the least moral hangover from capitalist society that could be expected to plague a newborn socialist society would doubtless be a continuing belief, shared by the dethroned capitalist class and its supporters, that the wages system had been too rewarding a system to be scrapped. It should go without saying that this element, a rapacious element, would stop at nothing in order to abort a socialist revolution. And how does Marxism prepare to meet such eventuality? Marxism safeguards the "first phase" of Socialism with a market economy that revolves around the labor voucher. On the other hand, Crump etc. "safeguard" the new social order by rejecting the labor voucher and moving directly to non-aarket Socialism-that is to say, by providing free access to consumer goods for one and all including the aforesaid destructive element bent on the restoration of wage exploitation!

Socialism does not build for disaster; on the contrary, it builds moneyless'market'economies designed to keep anti-social reaction at bay!

The De Leonist Society of Canada