Frank Girard, reply to Socialism and the Market


Frank Girard
Comment on the article ""Socialism and the Market"
by De Leonist Society of Canada
Reprinted from the Discussion Bulletin
May-Jun 2000 #101, page 19

Comment on "Socialism and the Market"

Somehow the De Leonist Society of Canada and I seem fated to disagree. Part of the problem is the loosening of the theoretical restraints over the past few years. All DeLeonists, including those in the Socialist Labor Party and the DLS have departed from the orthodoxy the prevailed -- at least on the surface -- before about 1975. Unfortunately we didn't all depart at the same time nor did we all forsake the same articles of DeLeonist faith.

I'll admit to having been a firm believer in the idea of labor vouchers up to quite recently. For one thing the idea has impeccable antecedents, based as it is on the thinking of both Marx and De Leon. And there is another reason that resonates with anyone who bas tried to convert newcomers to the idea of non-market socialism: Vouchers provide a mechanism to prevent lazy people from avoiding their share of the work in a socialist society. If you don't work, you don't eat. And there is an even better refinement possible: Since the amount of labor time embodied in any good or service can be determined to the second, each of us can decide for him/her self the standard of living we want to enjoy and put in just the number of hours necessary to produce the material things we feel we need And best of all, the real slackers in capitalist society, the capitalists and their business and political bureaucracy, who do no useful labor at all, will have to do some heavy lifting.

But there are problems with the voucher idea. For one thing, as described in SLP literature vouchers are remarkably like money, and the new system sounds like the old market system with a new medium of exchange. Next there are the problems involved in quantifying goods and services in terms of time. This in itself requires labor time by people working outside the areas we usually think of as useful production. In fact their activity would be remarkably like that of banking or business accounting and might well develop the aspect of control associated with accounting.

I won't even go into the DLS's ideas about the two-stage transition to socialism and the "destructive element" in the new society, both of which seem to be borrowed from Leninism.

-- Frank Girard