Episode 91: Economics of Socialism (with Nick Rogers)
Brendan and Andrew welcome Nick Rogers, author of “Reflections on the Economics of Socialism” and editor of a recent special issue of the Journal of Global Faultlines on envisioning a socialism for the 21 st century. Nick explains what he hoped to achieve with a special issue on this topic, and he evaluates the success of the endeavor. He and the co-hosts then discuss the system of decentralized socialist economic coordination he advocates as well as his criticisms of alternative views, such as so-called market socialism and perspectives that Nick characterizes as utopian and “sci-fi.” Also, Nick explains why he thinks that Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Program continues to be important, and he and the co-hosts discuss Andrew’s paper in the special issue, on the Critique’s conception of the transformation of capitalism into socialism.
Reference is made during the segment to the March 25 Zoom panel discussion on “Envisaging Socialism” that most contributors to the special issue (and others) participated in.
Plus current-events segment: You’re Indicted!—on the significance of the (first?) indictment of Trump. Dahlia Lithwick’s “Blue America Finally Caught Donald Trump” is cited.
Radio Free Humanity is a podcast covering news, politics and philosophy from a Marxist-Humanist perspective. It is co-hosted by Brendan Cooney and Andrew Kliman. We intend to release new episodes every two weeks. Radio Free Humanity is sponsored by MHI, but the views expressed by the co-hosts and guests of Radio Free Humanity are their own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and positions of MHI.
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I have listened with interest to the discussion but I feel that there two important aspects that are missing: capitalism’s evolution and the role of trade unions. Taking the second first, I’m surprised that trade unions did not get any mention. Trade unions are the basic and essential organisation of the working class. They have a major role in the transition from capitalism to socialism. I think we are stuck with Lenin’s formulation: without a revolutionary party there can be no revolution’. But he was writing about a country which is mainly rural with a small proletariat and not very widespread trade union organisation. Hence the need for a party of the working class. The same cannot be said in countries like the UK or the USA.
On the second point, capitalism has evolved and changed since the Industrial revolution. The embryo of socialism is born and its foundation is built within the capitalist system as the latter develops. The crisis of capitalism can only be solved by adopting socialist measures and capitalist governments have been forced to do so. hence the increasing role of the state. Marx was aware of this. Remarking on the Factory Acts of the 1830s, he wrote:
These acts curb the passion of capital for a limitless draining of labour-power, by forcibly limiting the working day by state regulations, made by a state that is ruled by capitalist-and landlord. Apart from the working-class movement that daily grew more threatening, the limiting of factory labour was dictated by the same necessity which spread guano over the English fields. The same blind eagerness for plunder that in the one case exhausted the soil, had, in the other, torn up by the roots the living force of the nation’ (Capital Vol 1). The discussion gave the impression that moving to a socialist or a communist economy is a matter of flipping a switch; everything has to take place at once. It is not. It an evolutionary process within which revolutionary processes, actions may have to be taken.
Author, Capitalism versus Planet Earth, an irreconcilable conflict (2012)