Frank Girard, reply to Utopian Socialism - 'Non-Market' Variety

Frank Girard
Reply to the letter from the
De Leonist Society of Canada
Utopian Socialism -- 'Non-Market' Variety
Reprinted from the Discussion Bulletin
Sept-Oct 2000 #103, page 20

Reply to the De Leonist Society of Canada

Let me begin by explaining that for over half a century I have understood labor vouchers to be a system of accounting, a device to measure one's contribution in labor time to the store of goods and services produced in a socialist society, not a means of exchange. Now if s true that a person can easily be wrong for fifty years. But please consider this "micro" example of how I understand the voucher system as Marx describes it in The Gotha Program.

If my neighbors and I decide to make a garden together and to share the produce in proportion to the amount of work each of us contributed, we would keep an account of the number of hours each of us contributed to the collective effort Then at harvest time each of us would take his or her share of vegetables in proportion to the amount of time we had put into the project In this case there has been no buying nor selling. Keeping track of time was just a device used in this cooperative venture to ensure that we shared the fruits of our labor equitably.

Over the years in discussions about socialism, opponents would argue that labor vouchers would be just the same as money - we'd get our wages in the form of vouchers instead of dollars. I would men cite the same arguments the DLSC advances.

I knew there were passages in our literature mat suggested that vouchers would indeed be used like money as in the SLP pamphlet Socialism: Questions Most Frequently Asked and Their Answers where the answer to the question "How will people be compensated. ..Will there be money?" begins by saying, There will be no money under socialism." and then goes on to speak of "labor time vouchers which a worker may "exchange" for goods and services, will take the place of money, (p. 20) When this was called to my attention, I explained it as an unfortunate mistake in the pamphlet It's worth noting also that the pamphlet also quotes the passage in The Gotha Program where Marx explains the use of labor time vouchers without comparing them to money or using the word "exchange."

Now to the DLSC's charge mat I unjustly implied that they shared the "two stage transition fiction advanced by Lenin and his followers." Here I am at a loss. Did I misread your article "Socialism and the Market", on pages 17-19 in which you quote approvingly from Marx's The Gotha Program on the need for a two-phase transition to communism and reproach John Crump because he "leapfrogged over" market socialism, (the first phase of a socialist society)..." (p.18 of DB101.) You argue further that Marx spoke of a voucher system as characteristic of the first phase of socialism, again avoiding the word stage. How does a first "stage" of socialism differ from a first "phase"? And why can't our class simply use the means of production we built up to produce goods and services needed by a socialist society and make mem available to everyone including the old parasite class without recourse to exchange or the forced labor we find in capitalism?

-- Frank Girard