De Leonist Society of Canada, Labor Time Vouchers or Chaos

Labor Time Vouchers or Chaos
The De Leonist Society of Canada
Reply to Dr. Who and Charmian Skelton
From the Discussion Bulletin
Sept.-Oct. 2001 #109, pages 14-17

Dear DB:

Labor Time Vouchers or Chaos

It is clear to us that the opponents of Labor Time Vouchers (LTVs) are at their wits' end in their burning desire to discredit this priceless contribution to Socialism so painstakingly developed by Marx in his treatise, Criticism of the Gotha Program. Failing to refute Marx, these nay sayers have by and large fallen back on equivocation in an effort to win credibility. Just how credible are the anti-voucher crew may be judged from examples taken from recent issues of the Discussion Bulletin.

For instance take a look at the performance of Dr. Who in DB107. Having presented his "doctoral" thesis that opposing views can eventually coalesce, he further displays his scientific acumen in his "objective" approach to the LTV issue, to wit:

"I find this lifting of Marx to Biblical dimensions ... highly alienating. When reading these endless interpretations as we have read in prior issues of what was meant here in the Gotha Program or there in some other text, I can't help but feel like shouting 'so what!' If it turns out that Marx really did feel that labor vouchers were to play a part in socialism ... this merely reflects Marx's thinking with the data available to him at the time he analyzed them." In short, Dr. Who, who by his own admission has not read the Gotha Program, presumes to pass judgement on its current relevance!


No less reprehensible in our opinion is Frank Girard's anti-LTV comment in DB 107's blurb wherein he poses the question: "Wouldn't you [the reader] think that far more dangerous to socialism than a few ex-capitalists getting more than their share of the vast bounty of this planet would be the possibility of the rise of a new and powerful bureaucracy with the special skills needed to work out deductions and pay rates and prices in the socialist market economy."

Here, surely, Girard is completely off base on two counts, arguing in essence: (l) -- That altho LTVs are intended to facilitate a transition from Capitalism to Socialism, they should nevertheless not be employed due to a danger that their bureaucratic administrators might conspire to undermine social control, and (2) -- That in any case LTVs will not be needed to help quell a possible capitalist-inspired reaction because ex-capitalists, being relatively few in number, can be expected to pose no serious threat to the triumph of Socialism.

As to (1): We readily admit the possibility that bureaucratic elites may be smitten with a desire to rule the roost! The possibility is implicit, also, in The Gotha Program wherein Marx states: "What we are dealing with here is a Communist [i.e., a Socialist] society ... 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." Apropos, we repeat here what we said on a previous occasion:

"We must ... conclude with an admission and an admonition. The point is, that while we have advanced social control of both the political and industrial government forms as the best protection against corruption of socialist democracy, what guarantee is there that such control, once won by society, might not one day slip out of society's grasp? Obviously there can be no such guarantee, only the counsel that survival of a Socialist Republic must ultimately hinge upon vigilance, eternal social vigilance!" (See the July-August, 1996 issue of the then DE LEONIST REVIEW featuring material captioned Einstein, The Socialist Labor Party, and Socialism.)

The bearing of the foregoing upon the question of LTVs should now be obvious. If danger of a powerful bureaucracy lurks in a transition from Capitalism to Socialism (and it does), how much greater must be this danger were a transition to be launched without a classwide LTV structure in place, integrated as it would be into an encompassing Socialist Industrial Union!

As to (2): There are times for jesting but we think this is not one of them. We think Girard's cavalier suggestion that Socialism shouldn't bother its head over "a few ex-capitalists" is just that -- a cavalier suggestion! Skipping far too lightly over the tangible depths of the class struggle, it , ignores both the vulnerability of a newborn socialist society and the social chaos demon which these same "few ex-capitalists" might possibly invoke in a criminal attempt to destroy it. Labor Time Vouchers are obviously needed in order to help society protect itself against lingering capitalist depravity!


Having proceeded thus far it remains for us to wind down our thoughts on the matter.

First let us say how greatly encouraged we were to learn that there has been at least one voice in addition to ours that has been speaking out in favor of the Marxist Labor Time Voucher (LTV) idea. We look forward eagerly to SLP Carl Miller's promised critique of "free access."

For the rest, it seems that we are for the most part being bombarded with a fantastic litany of anti-Voucher arguments that cannot pass muster as sensible and that in some cases appear downright devious. For example:

* Much indignation has been expressed by LTV opponents at the no-nonsense stance which their adoption would project on the matter of erstwhile Capitalists and work. Apparently horrified that Socialism will no doubt consider these former exploiters of Labor as potential additions to the Work Force, be it noted that the objectors have raised howls of protest to the effect that the idea smacks of slavery! Thus in DB106 Ronald Young alleges that by promoting the LTV concept, "Marx has merely substituted one form of worker slavery for another..." (Incidentally, the DLSC did NOT, repeat NOT, as claimed by Young, "attempt to make the case that there is not a two phase transition enunciated by Marx in The Gotha Program.")

* As to the technical difficulties which are widely seized upon by LTV opponents as arguments against their adoption: While we ourselves are not technicians, we nevertheless hazard a guess that, given a desire to resolve these problems, Socialism will do so.

* As regards Charmian Skelton's DB107 letter, there are several points that we should take up at this time --

(1) Although Skelton is correct in gathering that the DLSC stands by the principle of "he who does not work, neither shall he eat," she is wrong in believing that the principle must therefore reject the needs of those who will be unable to work. The DLSC is a Marxist organization. Among the various deductions which Marx indicates will have to be made from the total social product are "Funds for those unable to work, etc." (See The Gotha Program.)

(2) We think Skelton is wrong to claim that "The DLSC assume that none [sic!] of the former capitalists would be willing to work at all."

(3) Skelton says that these labor vouchers would function as a medium of exchange. Quite so! But the similarity to money ends there because the voucher, unlike money, will not be convertable into Capital!

(4) What the DLSC finds "purely Utopean" is not the exchange that will motivate what Marx terms the "first phase" of a socialist economy. On the contrary, what we find Utopean is the belief, apparently held by LTV opponents, that the "higher phase," the non-market phase, the "free access" phase, can be reached by simply pole vaulting over a first phase!

* Adam Buick's catalog of objections to the Labor Time Voucher idea is impressive by its length and would challenge our ability to take them up seriatim were we tempted to do so. Nevertheless, while admitting that we do not have an answer for every question he poses, we think that by separating the wheat from the chaff of his essay we can at least win enough elbowroom to suggest that by virtue of its pricing mechanism, built as it is on the statistics of socially necessary labor, Capitalism has already shown Socialism how it can price consumer goods in non-monetary terms to the satisfaction of the said "Human Nature Objector."

Be this as it may, however, there can be no room for doubt it that, contrary to Buick's tortuous effort to equate "labour-money (labor time vouchers) with "conventional money as today" (wages), there is a world of difference between these two methods of payment for labor! Accordingly, we have to instruct Buick in what today should be common knowledge among Socialists, to wit: (l) -- The Wages System fleeces workers at the point of production out of the bulk of the value of their product. Profit represents unpaid labor! (2)-Far otherwise with Socialism! Here, the Labor Time Voucher (after deduction of labor that is due to the common fund for collective services like hospitals, etc.) will permit its bearer to "draw from the common store as much of the means of consumption as cost an equal amount of labor." (Marx. Our emphasis.)

With strong hopes that workers will soon unite on both the Political and Industrial fields for ABOLITION OF THE WAGES SYSTEM!