De Leonist Society of Canada, Utopian Socialism - 'Non-Market' Variety

Utopian Socialism -- 'Non-Market' Variety
The De Leonist Society of Canada
Letter to the Discussion Bulletin
in response to Frank Girard's comments
in the DB May-Jun 2000 #101, page 19
Reprinted from the Discussion Bulletin
Sept-Oct 2000 #103, pages 17-19

Dear DB:


In your "Comment on 'Socialists and the Market'"(DB101), you say that "somehow the De Leonist Society of Canada and I seem fated to disagree." So it would seem -- especially so now that you have in our opinion allowed yourself to be lured away from Marxism-De Leonism by the siren song of what we can best describe as Utopian Socialism -- "Non-Market" Variety.

to begin with we find the "logic" of your explanation concerning your recent drift away from "the idea of labor vouchers" hard to accept. For not only do the problems which you mount against vouchers appear trivial and easily rectified but you have high praise for their role as a socialist "mechanism" with which to transform "the real slackers in capitalist society, the capitalists and their business and political bureaucracy, who do no useful labor at all," into useful producers. If you throw labor vouchers overboard, how then will you prevent the aforesaid slackers from continuing to take what they want from society untroubled by the necessity of having to work for it?

We are even more bewildered by the thrust of your concluding comment! Whatever possessed you to dress us in Leninist garb? For since when (as you imply) has the De Leonist Society been a party to the "two-stage transition" fiction? Let's be absolutely clear on this point. We have NEVER, repeat NEVER, subscribed to this monstrous distortion of Marxism which, as shown by Arnold Petersen in his work "MARXISM versus SOVIET DESPOTISM," was inexplicably set on foot by Lenin himself. Recognizing that clarity is more than ever the need of the hour, we cannot abide this "two-stage" mare's nest -- especially not today when circumstances are thundering a warning to workers that they should begin preparations for a swift and direct transition from Capitalism to Socialism!

No, Lenin to the contrary, Marx does NOT lead down the garden path of a "two-stage" transition from Capitalism to Socialism. In his Critique of the Gotha Program, wherein he discusses the "mechanism" of labor vouchers, Marx makes it perfectly clear that his context is simply the "first phase" of a Communist" (i.e., socialist) society that is newborn from Capitalism. Imagine our dismay, therefore, to discover that Crump has inadvertently or otherwise linked Marx with "the notion of a supposed 'transitional society' between capitalism and socialism." Quoting from "Non-Market Socialism in the Twentieth Century" by John Crump, as follows:

"In 1930 the Group of International Communists of Holland (GIG) borrowed some of Marx's speculations in the Critique of the Gotha Prograane and envisaged a 'transitional society' based on exchange and labour-time calculation."

What a mess is thus brewed! In our opinion, Crump's failure to challenge GIC's apparent perfidy in transplanting "exchange and labour-time calculation" from Marx's Gotha Program context to a Leninist 'transitional society" context is a failure he should not be proud of. For he should know that Marx would not have detailed the labor voucher "idea" as he did if he had not considered such vouchers (and exchange) to be essential ingredients of what he termed Socialism's "first phase"!

Incidentally, important as is the foregoing to the task of setting the record straight, there is nevertheless a vital point concerning the question of transition that has yet to be made. It is brought to the surface by Crump, in his above treatise, wherein he reminds us that because a capitalist economy and a socialist economy cannot "coexist" (or rather, we would say, cannot coexist within the same national polity) it follows that a transition from the former to the latter must needs be accomplished within the briefest possible time or not at all!-our only difference with the "Non-Market" school on this point being that we do not agree that such transition must necessarily entail a synchronized, supranational transition by the whole industrialized world. In any case, so much for the two-stage "transitional society" theories and their obviously extended transition periods!

Where then is the Work Force to find a transition model that would enable it to switch economies virtually overnight? Two such presently vie for workers' attention. One is the Non-Market Socialism prescription described by Crump in his above treatise. Rejecting labor vouchers, it institutes free access to consumers' goods in the belief that "the revolutionary enthusiasm of millions of socialist men and women" will alone be sufficient to carry the day. despite temporary shortfalls. Naive to the core, it turns a blind eye to the probability that these millions will be opposed by millions of anti-socialist men and women. The other model is the Market Socialism plan described by the De Leonist Society in our OB101 contribution, "Socialism and the Market" -- a projection that combines "revolutionary enthusiasm" with labor vouchers in order to minimize anti-socialist predations.

But to return to your final paragraph and your curious imputation that our ideas about "the 'destructive element' in the new society" are also "borrowed from Leninism." It should be obvious to you that we do not need to go to Lenin to learn that there is a destructive element, a rapacious element that, carrying over within a dispossessed capitalist class, would if given the chance be only too happy to destroy a fledgling socialist society! Nor do we have to look beyond our own shores to conclude that "millions" of workers, still harbouring anti-socialist sentiment, would themselves contain a destructive element -- an element eager to aid any capitalist reactive attempt to destroy "the new society." The dangers appear real!

Or are you dismissing the labor-voucher safeguard on the ground that the dangers posed by the above "destructive elements" have been greatly exaggerated? Here's an enigma!


In conclusion, Frank, there is a further comment of yours in DB101 which lends additional credence to your observation that "somehow the De Leonist Society of Canada and I seem fated to disagree." It appears in your blurb, as follows:

"I believe that the exchange between Richard Lloyd and the De Leonist Society of Canada raises more questions than it answers. A question for both Lloyd and the DLSC: Are we to believe that a working class suffering in the midst of a collapsing capitalist system will stand around until election day before taking over the means of production and organizing to satisfy human needs?"

Your inference is that the DLSC, for one, believes that the Working Class should thus "stand around." How utterly wide of the mark you position yourself! A presumed revolutionary agitator on behalf of a "suffering working class," how can you end this suffering by means of incendiary talk inciting workers to jump the political gun? Presumably acquainted with De Leon, a master tactician, how can you ignore his warning that the socialist movement must "give a chance to the peaceful solution of the great question at issue" because "the Socialist ballot is the emblem of right."? Has it not occurred to you that were the Work Force to attempt control of industry without an "election day" mandate to do so, their impetuous action could well be expected to precipitate social disaster!?

We hardly need add that it would be an entirely different matter if the capitalist class, anticipating a socialist political victory, were to put "election day" on indefinite hold or otherwise wage overt war against the franchise! In such case the Socialist Industrial Union would of course not "stand around" but would instead act in accordance with the polls of its members as to their readiness to take over the means of production. But this is obviously not the context of the ill-considered question that you put to us. As we said before, anent "Non-Market" Socialism, so we repeat here as regards your apparent contempt for the political ballot: SOCIALISM DOES HOT BUILD FOR DISASTER!