From Ben's vision of future society

that's "like a war"

(CV #4, September 1995)

. Below are some brief excerpts from Seattle #76, Ben's article of Feb. 3, 1995. They are some of the passages referred to in the article Left-Wing Neo-conservatives, part 2: The Mailed Fist Behind the Anti-Authoritarian Phrase,. Excerpts from Ben's Seattle #72, relevant to part 1, can be found in the Chicago Workers' Voice Theoretical Journal, #6, pp. 39-44. Also see the appendix to The Mailed Fist Behind the Anti-Authoritarian Phrase.

The Confabulator Has No Clothes:
How Joseph Revises Marxism to
Equate the Consciousness and Initiative of the Masses
with the Action of the Capitalist Marketplace
and thus Attempts to Bar the Door Forward
to the Theoretical Development of Communism
for the Sake of the Organizational Stability
of the Detroit-Chicago Sectarian Grouping

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Joseph's Questions:

-53- However one thing that stands out in considering Joseph's questions is that they really are most excellent questions. It is only Joseph's demogogical and opportunist methods of presenting them for sectarian purposes that is a problem. This shows that Joseph actually has theoretical abilities that could serve the proletariat should we help him to wake up and take a stand against his own internal corruption and decay.

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5) What happens when different ways of making economic decisions clash ?

a) What if public opinion wants a factory run one way but the workers at the factory insist on another way ?

b) Suppose workers at two different factories disagree.

Who decides what happens ?

c) Who decides when planning bodies disagree ?

d) If a planning body is divided or in a state of civil war, which side wins ?

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Ben's Answers (preface):

-55- Because Joseph's questions may provoke some interest in the subject, I will touch on some of them. It would, of course, be foolish for me to attempt to answer everything in detail. Rather, I will simply try to sketch out some ideas. I have opted for speed rather than thoroughness because by striking while Joseph is still in the midst of his neo-conservative series, there is a better chance that some of this may actually be read. Should any readers be curious about my opinions or would like me to sketch out my ideas in more detail, they should write to me and I will try to respond. In this regard I should note, however, that my time is not "mine" to waste. I am quite busy and want to make my time, which belongs to the peoples of the world, productive.

-56- What this means in practice as far as my answering letters is that EVERYONE gets priority over Joseph and Mark, who, until they publicly renounce their ugly and corrupt practices, are convicted charlatans and spam slingers in my book. They have zero interest in sorting out any of these questions and look at every exchange in terms of shoring up their sectarian grouping and their wallowing in the mud of denial.

-57- Furthermore, I reserve the right to only reply to letters that are serious and show respect for the scientific process. This more or less excludes LA [Los Angeles Workers Voice], since the comrades there are confused on the distinction between political discussion and mutual masturbation. Finally, I would hope that anyone who writes might show at least a tinge of firmness against spam slinging, which undermines the unity of our "information community" and degrades the quality of the scientific process by which we sort out questions that are of vital interest to the proletariat. It is hoped that comrades who consider themselves communists might show a flicker of recognition of the necessity to fight the corruption that is eating at the soul of the Detroit-Chicago sectarian axis.

-58- And finally, I will note that I deal with a number of these questions in somewhat greater depth in both TCE and DIPR and comrades who would genuinely like to see these documents distributed are most welcome to assist me in getting a campaign underway to get at least two comrades from each city to send in a reply to a poll. .  .  .  

[Ben has repeatedly boasted about his articles TCE and DIPR, but has prudently kept them secret.--JG]

Ben's Answers (content):

-59- I should start by pointing out that several of Joseph's questions are based on mistaken assumptions. Maybe I can clear some of these up.

-60- Joseph assumes that social planning requires a centralized and formal administrative apparatus. Let's explore some of the differences. These definitions are approximate but comrades can probably get a sense of the basic ideas here.

-61- Central planning, involves decisions being made by a small group of people who act, in a formal sense, as representatives of the masses. Hence on complex questions, under Joseph's world-view, there is little need for the masses to actually have their pretty little heads bothered with knowing too much of the details of the complex issues involved. There is little actual need for the information that is involved in sorting out the issues to travel into the masses' consciousness.

-62- Formal planning involves a group which makes a set of rules that are binding on all. There is inherently little room for deviation, much less defiance, of these rules by groups or parties which may believe they may know better.

-63- Social Planning involves methods by which the masses affect and control the overall direction and thrust of economic development. This may include approximate (sometimes fuzzy) agreements negotiated by various involved parties or groups. Such groups may be acting out of their differing (and sometimes distorted) conceptions of the general interest.

-64- Only to Joseph and those with similar prejudices does social planning require central or formal planning. Let's consider a hypothetical situation:

The Real Respect Accorded a Tribal Elder

-67- There are a number of theoretical issues that might be related to this but the one that most strikes me involves a passage from Engels (probably in Origin of the Family) relating how the most lowly cop, in a modern society, possessed more formal authority than the respected elder in the primitive communal society -- while at the same time the wise elder in such a primitive society might command far more real respect than the most fearsome dictator in a modern society. I only remember this quote approximately but I have always found it very thought-provoking.

-68- The issue, as I see it, as we consider, theorize and speculate about forms and relations of production in a communist society, is to grasp that there would be no formal authority, no binding laws, no regulations that could not be disregarded by anyone who felt it was better and "made more sense" to disagree with such regulations.

-69- Such formal authority corresponds, more or less, with what I described in Seattle # 69 as "top down" organizational methods. I said that while top-down methods are sometimes necessary, that we should consider ways of accomplishing as much as possible without resort to top-down methods. Where possible, we should place greater reliance, I said, on "bottom-up" methods. Bottom-up methods are inherently more democratic and involve the masses to a greater degree than top-down methods in a wide variety of situations. Bottom-up methods are inherently "more parallel". By this I mean that greater brainpower is applied to a problem, more knowledge and experience are gained, etc.

-71- Communist society will be based on bottom-up methods. Hence how bottom-up methods come into the world and function must be taken seriously.

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1) How can society ever hope to run production as a whole without any formal authority or central administrative apparatus ?

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-74- By relying on conscious social planning, consensus, persuasion and the kind of respect attained by a tribal elder in primitive communal society. By relying on the individual and group decisions of the masses who would be highly educated and informed and would figure out "the right thing to do" without need for a special class of administrators.

2) If central planning bodies are compatible with mass initiative and to some extent promote it, then why not use them to run the economy as a whole ?

-76- Actually centralized planning bodies may play a useful role. How much they are used might depend on their track record and competence. There is no reason to rule out the possibility that a central planning body might emerge to play a powerful and useful role in the direction of the overall economy. In fact there are reasons to expect this. But even then, its authority would not need to be formal. . . . 

[ Of course, Ben defined "central planning" as formal and oppressive in paragraph 61 above. --JG]

-112- And this brings us to Joseph's fifth question: What happens when there is a clash ?

-113- Actually the answer is kind of simple: the various sides fight it out. This would kind of be like a war except that, generally speaking, there is little real destruction, no real causalities and, in the long run, everybody wins. Everybody wins because all sides are fighting for the general interest, not their own private interests. Everybody wins because the main weapons in this war are public support and the support, consciousness and passion of workers and consumers -- and this creates an environment and a dynamic where the side which has positions most closely corresponding to the general interest has the ultimate advantage.

Let's see if we can get a clearer picture:

a) What if public opinion wants a factory run one way but the workers at the factory insist on another way?

There are many possibilities, many scenarios. Let's consider:

-117- Another factory could be set up to do things the way that the majority public opinion wants. If there is enough support it might not be difficult to set up a competing factory that better serves the public interest. In a communist economy a factory would NOT be set up on the basis of capital from the capital markets which would then be used to purchase means of production. Rather, the means of production would simply be supplied from production units sympathetic to the cause. Similarly a labor force might simply volunteer to help out. Maybe the workers would work a little less at their other job (or jobs) in order to have the time to support the new factory.

-118- Another possibility is that long-term work could be done to win over the workers at the iconoclast factory. Or -- to persuade some portion of the workers to stage a labor action (possibly similar to a strike or a slowdown or at the least a dampening of enthusiasm) in order to put pressure on the rest of the workers to rethink their positions. Naturally this might involve mobilizing other workers, not in the factory, to refrain from supporting the iconoclast factory.

-119- Now suppose the iconoclast factory were producing in a way that was harmful to the public ? Suppose, for example, the factory was a polluter, either polluting the natural environment with chemical poisons or the social-mental environment with bad culture ? Then stronger action could be taken. A boycott of the factory's products could be organized. This would certainly tend to demoralize the factory's workers and make them think twice about their position. After all, they are only working there in the first place because they get satisfaction from serving the general interest.

-120- Or, more severely, the factory's suppliers could refuse to supply the factory with the goods it needs to produce. It should be kept in mind that in a communist economy there are no commodities nor money to buy them with. Hence the renegade factory would have to find other production units that would freely supply it with what it needs. If it can't -- the renegade factory loses the struggle. Game over. It is shut down. But what if the renegade factory does find a supplier ? Then the factory's opponents could initiate action against the factory ally that is supplying it with goods -- attempt to target it via the organization of producer or consumer actions (strikes, slowdowns, boycotts). And on and on it goes. Most struggles might be minor and end in simple compromise. More important issues would tend to escalate and on occasion the most important issues might quickly convulse the whole of society.

-121- It can be seen that all these action are highly dependent on the consciousness of the public -- who are all producers and consumers and who all will interact with the struggle based on the strength of their consciousness, convictions and passion about the rightness of the cause and their confidence in the various combatants.

b) Suppose workers at two different factories disagree. Who decides what happens ?

c) Who decides when planning bodies disagree ?

d) If a planning body is divided or in a state of civil war, which side wins ?

-123- Similar to the case of the renegade factory, the answer, most esteemed Joseph, is that the various sides may fight it out. Or they may negotiate a compromise. Or, as in other kinds of war, they may do a little of both, engaging in skirmishes of various kinds in order to gauge their own strength and support and the strength and support of their adversaries. The outcome would depend on the strength of the convictions of the combatants, the correlation of forces and their ability to mobilize "troops" (ie: producers, consumers and the mass consciousness) for their "war".

-125- So what do we have ? Producers and consumers organizing work actions and boycotts, for and against various types of production and consumption units, targeting or aiding their allies and enemies. Meanwhile all sides endeavoring to raise the public consciousness as part of an effort to mobilize larger and larger numbers of people into the support of their cause. And all of this taking place in a world without money, without wages, without capital and without a market. Yes this can be confusing.

-133- Actually, however, the media will not be controlled by anyone. Whatever cyberspace equivalent of newspapers, magazines or BBS's will evolve -- these outlets will be production units. Media workers (writers, movie makers, programmers) will write what they want, make films about what they think is important, and report on public opinion as they see fit. Similarly consumers of media will read, listen to and participate in whatever they want. There will be no "intellectual property" in information protected by law but restrictions on the use of information might be negotiated among production units and there will be protection of personal privacy.

-148- I will argue that the need for coercion of any sort, the need for a special body with powers above that of ordinary individuals, a special body that makes rules, laws and regulations that others must obey, even when they disagree, will eventually become superfluous in one sphere after another.

-149- Joseph raises the question of what is to be done with recalcitrant individuals. Here, for purposes of discussion, I use the term "recalcitrant" to indicate those people who can not be persuaded not to take actions that would result in the poisoning of others. Hence we are talking about those who may have various problems in their thinking and who as a result are selfish, self-centered, ignorant and don't give a shit about others. Such people are typically suckers for every trend that holds society back and their actions will need to be fought constantly.

-160- I believe the tendency would be for the toxic residue to tend toward zero -- and the need for coercion would tend toward zero with it.

-161- Another point must be made here also. The "recalcitrants" are in principle no different than the rest of us. They are only a little further along the bell-shaped curve of social dysfunction than everyone else. When we examine, understand and treat their dysfunction so that they gain something beautiful in their consciousness for each thing ugly that they give up -- we also advance the solutions to the dysfunctions that trouble us all and we work to, so to speak, raise the mass consciousness.

The Mother of the Mother of All Poisons

-179- So let's talk of more typical kinds of poison. Let's talk about a kind of poison that does far more damage than chemical poisons or narcotics. Let's talk about poison in our culture. The pollution of the the mental-emotional environment -- the poisoning of the mass consciousness via toxic culture and ideology -- is an immense assault on the interests of the masses. The amount of damage done is difficult to calculate. Many people are left ignorant of their most basic nature or the nature of those that they love. The most crippling and debilitating anti-people ideas and concepts are promoted on a mass basis and with ferocious intensity. But at the same time the nature of the problem is intractably complex. Should "Married with Children" be banned ? There are certainly lots of anti-people outlooks promoted on that show. Then again some might say it was satire. Or should "The Simpsons" be banned? You know that it teaches children to be disrespectful of their parents?

-180- Joseph's logic would have us set up a "Ministry of Culture" which would decide which items of culture were wholesome enough for mass consumption. Joseph's Ministry of Culture would doubtlessly coordinate its activities with the "Ministry of Truth" which would insure that no one could be deceived about politics or history. . . .  

-181- When we deal with truly complex questions -- like how to raise the general level of culture -- we can see that there is no substitute for the active participation of the masses themselves. They can organize boycotts or labor actions against units that manufacture toxic culture. Whether the boycott or labor action would be successful is in direct proportion to the actual offensiveness and harmfulness of the cultural product. The masses might even organize to make a particular cultural product better via altering aspects of it, even something as minor as altering the ending of a soap opera or intervening to affect the selection of an actor or actress if for some reason they believe that important (although I refuse to speculate on whether soap operas will still exist under communism). What stands out -- is that the involvement of the masses in these kinds of questions, the debate that ensues in the process of sorting matters out -- might not infrequently play as large or larger a role in raising the public consciousness as the outcome of a particular struggle itself.

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May 16, 2006.