Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Telling Lies and Telling the Truth

Arthur Scargill's vanity project the Socialist Labour Party misrepresents itself by describing their reformist organisation as a re-constituted version of the Socialist Labour Party of Great Britain formed in 1903, part of the Impossiblist tradition that along with the Socialist Party broke away from the Social Democratic Federation. 

Any one with a passing knowledge of the history of the Daniel De Leon-influenced  Socialist Labour Party will recognise that it is a claim that cannot be substantiated.

Also noted is that a speaker at their upcoming annual conference is one Takis Fotopulos’s of Inclusive Democracy (ID).

A socialist or anarcho-communist would be immediately struck, not by the differences it has with Michael Albert and Parecon but would note its similarity, in that both challenge our long held view that free access is an achievable and sustainable objective.

The basic unit of decision making in an Inclusive Democracy is the demotic assembly. In its striving for a blue-print of how a future society will be organised, it seems, rather than leave many of the details up to those who will be carrying out the transformation of society and that world-wide, Fotopulos of  ID take great delight in detailed descriptions of the minutia rather than making generalisations and out-lining the blue-print with broad brush-strokes.

ID is critical of Parecon in details of administration of future society but fully accepts Parecon's criticism of free access, from each according to ability , to each according to need. And comes up with its on version of how workers' remuneration will be organised.

Our criticism of ID would be the same as with labour time vouchers (LTV), or Parecon prices, that they are an unnecessary complication and the exchange economy remains intact. Unlike many who see LTV as simply a transitional requirement, ID advocates seem to view their systems as permanent, where their half-way measures pass themselves off as a libertarian model of communism, insisting that the chains of wage-slavery will be made of velvet.

There is an assumption that "free access according to need" is little more than a nice slogan because free access presupposes a post-scarcity society which is really for the birds! and so a mechanism for the allocation of scarce resources is needed and it is naive to believe today that we already live in a post scarcity society bar the problem of distribution of resources, unless of course we believe that renewable resources can meet all our needs in which case we can believe anything! 

Indeed, this is the crux of the question and the crucial difference many will have with ID, which shouldn't go unanswered.

Let us define scarcity and abundance. It is limited supply - versus - boundless demand. Our wants are essentially “infinite” and the resources to meet them "limited" is the usual claim. According to this argument, scarcity is an unavoidable fact of life. It applies to any goods where the decision to use a unit of that good entails giving up some other potential use. In other words, whatever one decides to do has an "opportunity cost" — that is the opportunity to do something else which one thereby forgoes; economics is concerned with the allocation of scarce resources.

However, abundance is not a situation where an infinite amount of every good could be produced. Similarly, scarcity is not the situation which exists in the absence of this impossible total or sheer abundance. Abundance is a situation where productive resources are sufficient to produce enough wealth to satisfy human needs, while scarcity is a situation where productive resources are insufficient for this purpose. Abundance is a relationship between supply and demand, where the former exceeds the latter. In socialism a buffer of surplus stock for any particular item, whether a consumer or a producer good, can be produced, to allow for future fluctuations in the demand for that item, and to provide an adequate response time for any necessary adjustments. Thus achieving abundance can be understood as the maintenance of an adequate buffer of stock in the light of extrapolated trends in demand. The relative abundance or scarcity of a good would be indicated by how easy or difficult it was to maintain such an adequate buffer stock in the face of a demand trend (upward, static, or downward). It will thus be possible to choose how to combine different factors for production, and whether to use one rather than another, on the basis of their relative abundance/scarcity.

How do we tell when something is becoming scarce, and how do you pass this information on to others?" Well, we use the tools and systems that capitalism bequeathes us, which will be suitably modified and adapted and transformed for the new conditions. There is stock or inventory control systems and logistics. The key to good stock management is the stock turnover rate – how rapidly stock is removed from the shelves – and the point at which it may need to be re-ordered. This will also be affected by considerations such as lead times – how long it takes for fresh stock to arrive – and the need to anticipate possible changes in demand. The Just-In-Time systems are another well tried and trusted method of warehousing and lInkIng up supply chains which can be utilised. If requirements are low in relation to a build-up of stock , then this would an automatic indication to a production unit that its production should be reduced . If requirements are high in relation to stock then this would be an automatic indication that its production should be increased. And there will be the existence of buffer stocks to provides for a period of re-adjustment.

The modern world is a society of scarcity, but with a difference. Today’s shortages are unnecessary; today’s scarcity is artificial. More than that: scarcity achieved at the expense of strenuous effort, ingenious organisation and the most sophisticated planning. The world is haunted by a spectre – the spectre of abundance. Socialism means plenty for all. We do not preach a gospel of want and scarcity, but of abundance. If the assumption of abundance is not regarded as far-fetched (which, we say it is not) then there is a "better method of ensuring individual consumer choice than voting with vouchers/money: free access

Of course in socialism we may and probably will have to cope with genuine scarcity...a bad harvest...

It makes sense from an economic point of view to economise most on those things that are less available and to make greatest use of those things that are abundant. Factors lying in between these two poles can be treated accordingly in relative terms. Effective economisation of resources requires discrimination and selection; you cannot treat every factor equally – that is, as equally scarce – or, if you do, this will result in gross misallocation of resources and economic inefficiency.

Part of the case for free access is that such a distribution will influence peoples' behaviour in a future society. Continuing artifical rationing and restricting access and offering privileged groups extra remuneration as in "from each according to ability, to each according to work" is repeating the capitalist mantra of the capitalist work ethic. 

Why project into socialism, capitalism?

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