Synthesis of German-Dutch communist ideas (Pannekoek, Rühle, Gorter) and communization ideas
In my opinion, the future emancipation of humanity and the proletariat passes through a synthesis of German-Dutch communist ideas (Pannekoek, Rühle, Gorter) and communization ideas. And I think there is a certain social truth in both currents.
I do not mean to say that theory is anything more important than the self-organization of the proletariat. Nevertheless, to the extent that theory is needed at all, we can discuss it.
Social revolution requires solid organization in the form of autonomous regular (or frequent) proletarian assemblies/councils in factories and territories. The denial or underestimation of this idea by some proponents of communization is a mistake. The destruction of exploitation and alienation means that decisions are made by the people with their active participation. Yes, all people will not always participate in every decision, yes, they can make mistakes, yes, the assemblies/councils can make reformist decisions, and so supporters of the new society must criticize mistakes (without substituting themselves for the power of the assemblies of producers). But nevertheless, the vast majority of workers must participate in making key decisions. If basic decisions about what, how, and for what to produce, as well as decisions about peace and war, or about the quality of development directions, are made by a small minority, this would mean that the minority controls the product produced by all, and this is exploitation.
In addition, the management of modern society is a complex process. Any modern technology requires a concentrated and organized effort. Even if you don’t like nuclear power plants, you can’t cancel energy production, solar panels and wind turbines, hydroelectric power plants and metal casting, and you can’t just turn off a city’s water supply. In order to manage complex processes, people need to get together, think about it and make complex decisions. That kind of work requires a solid organization.
There is another important point I would like to draw your attention to. As far as I could understand, proponents of communization say that if commodity production is destroyed, this will ensure the transition to a communist humanity, to a world without exploitation or state, and that’s why the form of the new organization of society is not so important and will not necessarily take the form of assemblies\councils. This assertion is unproven. Does the destruction of commodity production automatically lead to communism? Where does it follow from?
There have been systems of exploitation in human history that were not based on commodity production, not only medieval Europe, but also the ancient systems of Mycenae or the Indian castes, or the Chinese Tai-ping system based on state redistribution of material and other things. These systems were exploitative but not a capitalist. In contrast to capitalism, commodity production played a secondary role there.
However, the ideas of Pannekoek and Gorter’s supporters, (council communism), can also be criticized. Here is a typical idea of many of them:
“For this workers’ self-government, the measure of the social average working hour is an indispensable means that replaces money and capital and puts an end to wage labor by establishing a direct link between labor and consumption transparent to all.”
Why do people need any kind of certification saying they have worked n-hours? To do what? To exchange that piece of paper for food and clothing? Seriously? That’s what the communization advocates are attacking.
The idea of preserving private consumption under communism is harmful. Private consumption itself is a product of class-exploitative societies. In the early communist community in which mankind lived for thousands of years, people not only hunted and gathered fruits and herbs together, but cooked food together, raised children together, and if someone needed help, the whole helped him. I see no reason at all to speak of private consumption.
But I also want to point out something else. The fact is that there is no such thing as “average labor time”. This concept is a mistake from the point of view of economic science. Yes, Marx once put forward the notion that there is some sort of average working time. Not everything Marx said is correct. This hypothesis was refuted by Mises. The working hours of a mechanical engineer, a turner, a nuclear power plant operator, and a cook are not identical. They are qualitatively different processes, requiring different expenditures of mental and physical energy, not to mention different expenditures of social resources. These things cannot be equated in any way, it is like comparing black and wood.
But what if we try to organize production based on some kind of indicator like the average working time, common to all types of labor? Well… production based on a delusional fiction would turn into chaos. It would produce too few things useful to society (there would be shortages) and too many useless things that would take up space in warehouses, because no one would know how many hamburgers we really need for Dining Hall 8 or how much metal and energy we need to produce for Machine Plant 9. First there will be lines a mile long for everything we need, and then later the economy will collapse.
Even under early communism there would be no universal average working time. Because even then there will be turners, power plant operators, metal casting specialists, and artist-designers who will design all these objects. In principle, one person can master several complex professions in the course of his life. My friend a very talented woman is a philosopher by her university education, at the same time she was trained as a psychoanalyst and is doing this work today, but at the same time she is an excellent cook (so much so that she could work as a cook in a restaurant), and in addition she now wants to learn some kind of worker’s profession. Maybe in the future she will be able to work several hours at two or even three places.
Maybe some professions will merge together over time and jump to more intellectual jobs.
However, this does not invalidate Mizer’s idea in any way. Even if these things are realized, nothing changes; qualitatively different jobs mean different quality of working time. And this means that even under these conditions there would be no average working time.
(Being different does not mean being good and bad. The idea that labor is qualitatively different does not mean that one is worse than the other.)
So Pannekoek and Gorter’s ideas are good for many things, but they just used an idea that has been rejected by science (I’m talking about average working hours).
Even modern capitalism in some countries offers people such a thing as a basic income. This means that everyone can get a fairly high standard of living by the standards of the modern world, enough for comfortable housing, quality clothing, medicine and good food. Even the small Israeli cooperatives, the kibbutz, do this. A communist society would have to do this too. And if it is not even capable of what individual cooperatives or capitalism in some countries can do, then communist society in general is crap not capable of giving what capitalism in several developed countries gives. But I don’t think communism is crap.
Of course, I’m talking about communist production aimed at meeting broad basic needs, not cash payments. And of course under communism, even early communism, the distance between production and consumption must be erased. For example, as suggested by some Russian socialist currents, which said that the Soviets would plan the economy by means of arrangements between producer and consumer associations.
Producer associations and consumer associations send their delegates to the local council. There they jointly plan a relatively small local production designed to meet the needs of the local population. At the same time, large enterprises created by the joint efforts of local councils produce the necessary amount of metal and provide the function of public transport etc. for all. Something similar was proposed, for example, by the left SR.