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Successor to the Workers' Advocate
Volume 4, Number 1
Jan. 20, 1998
What crash means for the working class
Dirty war in Chiapas
Cracks in PRI unionism
Why did the Soviet Union fall?
Reviewing the book ‘Revolution from Above’
CANADA: What happened to the big strikes?
Debating planning in revolutionary society
Dependency theory — where did it go wrong?
In this issue
EAST ASIA: what crash means for the working class by Pete Brown
On the Acteal massacre: Down with the dirty war in Chiapas!
The founding of the National Union of Workers: Cracks in PRI's corporative unionism by Joseph Green
WHY DID THE SOVIET UNION FALL?
Kotz and Weir close their eyes to the obvious: ‘Revolution from Above' denies the economic collapse of Soviet state-capitalism by Joseph Green
CANADA: What happened to the big strikes?
Canadian postal workers go on strike from Detroit Workers’ Voice #17
Government ban and union bureaucrats end Canadian postal workers’ strike by Mark, Detroit
Massive two-week teachers’ strike in Ontario, Canada from DWV#17
POST OFFICE: Management intimidation campaign at Highland Park post office, from DWV #17
Debating planning in the revolutionary society
Dependency theory — where did it go wrong?
Management intimidation campaign at Highland Park post office
Since the following article appeared in the Nov 23, 1997 issue (#17) of Detroit Workers’ Voice, the letter carrier involved defeated the unjust disciplinary charges. However, the overall intimidation campaign at the post office continues.
All across the country, postal management is piling up the workload on letter carriers. DPS automation has been ruining carriers with huge workload increases on their own routes and requirements to carry parts of other routes (splits) most every day. It’s no exaggeration to say that a carrier’s workload has doubled in the last couple of years. In order to increase workloads, management invents new “standards’ every day In so doing, they constantly violate any rules and regulations. When carriers try to work at a pace that will preserve their health and safety, management "writes them up" with disciplinary charges and threatens to fire them. With these threats, and with no effective union protection, a number of carriers are working through their breaks and lunch period to avoid being disciplined.
Recently, Detroit Workers’ Voice has received some news from Highland Park station that illustrates management's rampage against letter carriers. Management recently issued a disciplinary measure equivalent to a two-week suspension (NTOL 3) because a letter carrier, Rick Broza, could not carry a route plus an hour's work off another route within the normal 8-hour day. Management has declared that the next time this happens, the letter carrier will be fired.
Making these charges especially outrageous is the fact that the full route that the carrier worked that day was not his own route, but one he was completely unfamiliar with. It is virtually impossible for a carrier to make standard time on a route they are unfamiliar with. Indeed, when a carrier is permanently assigned to a new route, management allows up to 30 days for the carrier to meet the standards of the route. In this case, the carrier was only substituting on a new route for that day. Yet, he was “written up" for “failure to follow instructions.”
Actually at no time did the carrier disobey instructions. In fact in the charges filed against the carrier, management admits that the carrier obeyed every directive given by management. When the supervisor (C. Matthews) who issued the disciplinary measure was questioned about this, all she could reply was that she was upset that the carrier was not able to perform as well on a route he never carried as on the route he normally carries. In other words, the problem was not really disobeying orders, but unreasonable management expectations about what a letter carrier’s work load should be.
Management’s unfair attack on letter carrier Broza is aimed at intimidating all letter carriers at the station. Very often, workloads or poor weather conditions force letter carriers to phone back to the station and ask for permission to go into overtime. If the disciplinary measure against Broza is upheld, any carrier requesting extra time would face the threat of being punished. Likewise any carrier assigned to a new route would be threatened.
The disciplinary charges against Broza are just a small part of the management reign of terror Letter carriers must band together to resist. Other who receive this leaflet should find ways to express their disgust with postal management’s harassment of letter carriers. 
Debating planning in a revolutionary society
Below we carry excerpts from the e-mail correspondence between Joao Paulo Monteiro, a frequent contributor to the Portuguese journal Politica Operaria, and Joseph Green, editor of Communist Voice. This exchange has touched on many important issues of interest to those who seek to achieve a classless, communist society.
The excerpts we have chosen here revolve around the question of whether having the entire population plan and direct production requires having an administrative apparatus to direct production. Joseph Green holds that it does and that this position was also the view of Marx, Engels and Lenin. On the other hand, J.P Monteiro holds that any administrative body is necessarily repressive and leads to the development of class divisions, capitalism, and a state. Thus, in theory at least, he thinks that communism involve not merely the end of class-based structures, but all formal economic organization and authority In regard to these matters, J.P Monteiro’s views, in our opinion, tend to reflect certain semi-anarchist influences.
Among the other points covered in this exchange on the future society, but mentioned only in passing or not at all in the excerpts below, are the following issues:
—what is the economic basis of the future revolutionary society?
—what are the lessons of the bankruptcy of the revisionist societies such as the former Soviet Union, China and Cuba?
—what distinguishes a society which is in transition towards socialism from one building bureaucratic state-capitalism?
—what does Marxism have to say about the issue of authority and revolution?
We hope to carry more of this discussion in the future. Although we don’t agree with comrade Monteiro on some important issues, we feel the exchange has been valuable and hope to see it continue. For those who wish to see more of J.P.'s views, he has established his own web site a http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/6446/
In accordance with Internet form, the participants in the e-mail correspondence indicate that they are quoting each other by putting a "greater than" sign (>) in the left-hand margin.
"In my view (and this is where our views diverge) no separate administrative apparatus will be needed to regulate the economy."
(Monteiro to Green, Aug. 30, 1997)
I don’t think you have fully understood my picture of the transitional society. First. I must stress that this is a purely conjectural sketch. It has happened nowhere, as yet. And it is dependent on high levels of productivity and a certain amount of affluence.
In my view, the dictatorship of the proletariat imposes a work week FOR ALL. Let’s say, a 20 hour week. Nobody works 40 hours anymore. Everybody works 20 hours, for a wage. With that wage, people can purchase goods that are still produced and distributed through mercantile mechanisms. However, since people have lots of free time they start (under the guidance and control of the workers' power) engaging in free communitary work. The product of this work is distributed freely.
Let’s suppose I work on a computer factory On my free time. I cultivate oranges just for fun. You will have to spent part of your wage to purchase my computers but you can have my oranges for free. Or you will have the choice of buying oranges still produced on a mercantile basis, if they look better The dictatorship of the proletariat will supervise all this process. It will direct the resources from one sector to another.
It will repress efforts of the capitalist class to enlarge the reach of the mercantile relations or recover political power A certain amount of competition exists then, between a capitalist and a communist sector. The dictatorship of the proletariat will see to it that it develops on the right direction. Private capitalism is only tolerated where and as long as it is necessary to provide certain goods.
As productivity levels rise, work for wages begins to shrink. Say, after 50 years, we can impose a 15 hour week FOR ALL. Maybe we can now put a end to all private capitalists, placing all means of production under social ownership. Maybe we can reinforce social control of all units of production. We are all proletarians now, as wage workers, and SIMULTANEOUSLY, we are all communist producers. Since we have still more free time, more goods can now be produced and distributed entirely free of the circuits of capital. At the end of the process, say in 100 years, ALL PRODUCTION is communist. No distinction of classes subsists. The state withers away In my view (and this is where our views diverge) no separate administrative apparatus will be needed to regulate the economy. There is no economy. This is the part where instant electronic communication enters, balancing the offer and demand of goods. The allocation of productive resources is automatically channeled to where people freely place their demands most. In this sense, it is kind of ‘‘anarchic”. However, remember, this is not capitalist offer and demand. There is no market and the law of value was abolished. This is entirely free production and distribution. It just means that society will self-regulate itself. It will produce and consume according to its free will.
Planning is an indispensable tool during the transitional period. Market mechanisms will function in it too, in the progressively shrinking interstices left to it. But I have problems accepting a separate body of planners in a full communist society. For as much democratic control is exercised over it, a tendency will always be present for it to continue itself into a new oligarchy. And the danger exists that this body of planners will build pressure for de facto appropriation of the means of production.
I know you mean to say that ALL OF SOCIETY will do this planning, so there is no separate body of planners at all. But I see no way this can be done, unless through (electronic) instant democracy mechanisms. Since we are talking of the allocation of resources (or the mere ‘administration of things”) can I assume that your view is not that distant from mine after all?
“Marxism says that it isn’t the existence of the administrative apparatus itself that creates oppression, but the division of society into classes.”
(Green to Monteiro, Sept. 11, 1997)
The question of planning in the future, fully communist society seems to be one of these issues in which we are trying to figure out what each other means. You have certain questions about what I mean by planning by all of society, while I don’t understand how planning can be done simply through instant electronic communication.
To begin with, you say ‘I know you mean to say that ALL OF SOCIETY will do this planning, so there is no separate body of planners at all. But I see no way this can be done, unless through (electronic) instant democracy mechanisms."
Actually, I think there will be some type of administrative apparatus. Will they be "separate bodies"? Yes and no. They will NOT be separate bodies in the sense that they are not alienated from society as a whole; they are not separate from and above society; there will not be a separate class of people that serves on them and rules over the excluded people; and they will be linked to actual practice. But they ARE separate bodies in the sense that they actually exist as an administrative apparatus, as actual bodies.
Marx and Engels held that large-scale production requires a certain labor of supervision; and it also requires a certain direct authority. They weren’t shy to point out that whether it is factory production or sailing a ship, there has to be such an authority They distinguished in principle between the repressive nature of such authority in today’s society, and the supervision necessitated by large-scale production.
Individual production appears to do away with all authority; the individual works alone and no one tells him/her directly what to do. The individual does what he/she wants: offers his/her product to others; and buys consumer goods and means of production as needed. But the result is that the individual producer is a slave to the market in capitalist society, which orders about and exploits the individual producer as surely as any factory boss or political tyrant. Historically, small producers that are self-sufficient might not care about the market, but they are still slaves to natural forces that cannot be vanquished by individual effort alone or to feudalists and other reactionaries who can overpower people working on their own. Only large-scale production creates the possibility that workers can be freed from such slavery; but large-scale production is inevitably coordinated production, coordinated effort.
The key question of communism, on which it rises or falls, is whether such coordination can be achieved without oppression. The capitalists say no, and thus communism is unrealistic and utopian. Marx and Engels said yes — if the means of production are social property, if the class division in society is eliminated, the coordination and administration of production can lose their political character and become an administration ‘of things” and not an oppression of people. Marxism says that it isn’t the existence of the administrative apparatus itself that creates oppression, but the division of society into classes. The anarchists say no—anything but direct democracy is oppressive, and they don’t realize that they are thereby enchaining the masses to the marketplace.
Your conception is that coordination can be accomplished instead by instant democracy through electronic mechanisms. I don’t understand how this can be done, or how you picture this.
For example, in the material appended to your earlier letter, you had talked of “offer and demand” being placed into contact. I can understand how this takes place in a marketplace between buyers and sellers. This method is suitable to establishing a marketplace connection between a multitude of small producers. But I don’t understand how “offer and demand" can actually run the entire production of a classless society or provide conscious planning. Electronic communication can allow a rapid counting of people’s preferences in consumer goods, for different colors and style of their clothes, for different foods, etc. It will thus continue to have a certain use in future society But how it can plan what type of water conservation programs to use? Whether certain methods of production are relatively harmful and should be replaced? What the patterns of land use should be? What global action should be taken to prevent global warming or the destruction of the ozone layer or the overfishing of the world’s oceans? These are tasks that are not only necessary but also excite many people and arouse their enthusiasm. Can you give me a more concrete picture of how these things might be accomplished by the methods you envision? I know I am asking you to do a lot of work, even if thinking about future society is a labor of love. But could you imagine such a typical economic problem in the future society and describe to me how it might be settled in your conception?
Let me try to describe the problem in another way Suppose one is dealing with a network of railroads and other public transportation. Instant electronic communication helps in seeing which trains will be crowded or need extra sleeping cars. But how can one decide by balancing offer and demand whether the rail network should be set up, or a road network, or air links instead? The capitalists decide this by offer and demand, because a picture of the changing tides of offer and demand allow them to guess what will be profitable. This is the marketplace solution. But when there is no money, and no stock, how do offer and demand determine these things?
It seems to me that the issue of separate bodies is related to the issue of direct democracy vs. representative democracy Once the number of people involved becomes big enough, direct democracy becomes all but impossible. However, when I talk about planning being done by society as a whole, I don’t just mean that planning bodies are selected by society. And I don’t agree with Ben that central planning means a single planning body decides every detail, which is then enforced by appointed agents that go to every enterprise and say ‘do it exactly this way”. At every level, the people involved must have their own consciousness and initiative (as well as having their share in contributing to the overall decisions); they will take a myriad of decisions on their own; but the local decisions will be within the overall plans.
This is not just rhetoric. Examples of the connection of central planning to local initiative can seen in modem society In a socialist revolution, the workers seize factories, military strongholds, etc. from the bourgeoisie. They must display the maximum initiative to do this. They can’t accomplish this if they are waiting for orders on every single detail. But if the revolution is to be successful, the workers’ committees at each factory and in each military stronghold must direct their efforts according to a common plan. The revolutionary maturity of the working class is shown by whether it can develop such a centralism, which doesn’t suppress the working class but allows it to release so much mass initiative that the bourgeoisie is astonished.
Thus I don't believe the problem of linking planning to the whole society (or preventing an oligarchy) is solved simply by the formal fact that the representatives are chosen democratically The heart of the question of the transition period centers, in essence, on how to increase the ability of the working class to actually carry out this planning. Thus in the articles on the Leninist theory of transition, I have pointed to Lenin’s emphasis on the need to establish nationwide accounting and control, and on the need to actually check and verify whether the masses really have accomplished this. In his view, this could not be established simply by a decree or a formal method, but required a whole class struggle to accomplish.
"And how will this 'administrative apparatus' restrict itself to the ‘administration of things'?... .Isn’t this a State?"
(Monteiro to Green, Sept. 21, 1997)
> Actually, I think there will be some type of
> administrative apparatus. Will they be "separate bodies "?
> Yes and no. They mil NOT be separate bodies in the
> sense that they are not alienated from society as a whole;
> they are not separate from and above society;
> there will not be a separate class of people that
> serves on them and rules over the excluded people;
> and they will be linked to actual practice. But
> they ARE separate bodies in the sense that they
> actually exist as an administrative apparatus,
> as actual bodies.
I have many problems with this. It breaks the perfect symmetry of our vision, and so far this is the best guaranty we have. It also runs against some of the most established features of communist society; the abolition of social division of labor and of the distinction between mental and manual labor A separate administrative body will create its own ‘separate* science and methods of direction. There will be ‘separate*' academies for it. This means common people will be alienated from important aspects of the decision of their lives. It’s a matter of time and we will end up falling back into a class society.
> Only large-scale production creates the possibility
> that workers can be freed from such slavery; but
> large-scale production is inevitably coordinated
> production, coordinated effort. The key question of
> communism, on which it rises or falls, is whether
> such coordination can be achieved without oppression.
> The capitalists say no, and thus communism is
> unrealistic and utopian. Marx and Engels said yes
> — if the means of production are social property,
> if the class division in society is eliminated.
> the coordination and administration of production
> can lose their political character and become
> an administration “of things * and not an oppression
> of people. Marxism says that it isn 7 the existence
> of the administrative apparatus itself that creates
> oppression, but the division of society into classes.
The anarchists say no — anything but direct democracy -> .is oppressive, and they don't realize that they are thereby enchaining the masses to the marketplace.
After reading this, 1 have the impression that your anti-revisionism hasn’t gone quite deep enough yet. With this, we could easily find ourselves in the same old revisionist shit-hole again. You go from the social ‘property' of the means of production to the elimination of class division. This is exactly the Stalinist approach.
But the class division of society is not a function of the property of the means of production. It’s rather the other way around. A certain class division in society (product of certain RELATIONS OF PRODUCTION) creates this form of appropriation of the means of production. Property is a mere juridical (bourgeois) concept. If we are to move away from capitalism, we cannot just proceed by expropriating the bourgeoisie and keep an eye on the enemy within (two line struggle). We must transform the relations of production. And this can only come about when the forces of production are mature enough for it.
Sure enough, large-scale production is coordinated effort. But how will this effort be coordinated? If we coordinated it by traditional bossing methods (through a separate body of planners), we haven’t moved away an inch from the capitalist relations of production. The correspondent appropriation patterns will follow soon enough. You can scream and shout and make a thousand and one ‘cultural revolutions” This will come about inevitably.
And how will this ‘administrative apparatus’ restrict itself to the ‘administration of things”? What do you (or rather Engels) mean by that? Will ‘things’ just start moving around upon hearing the voice of the administrative apparatus? Doesn’t it need to command people to do this and that work, after all? It’s decisions (however democratic and participatory), aren’t they enforceable? Doesn’t it need a repressive apparatus to ensure obedience then? Isn’t this a State? So there you have it: a State in your “classless” society. This paradox stems from a flawed approach to the transition, that is. we are still stuck on the revisionist marshes.
> For example, in the material appended to your earlier
> letter, you had talked of “offer and demand "being
> placed into contact. I can understand how this takes
> place in a marketplace between buyers and sellers.
> This method is suitable to establishing a
> marketplace connection between a multitude of
> small producers. But I don't understand how
> “offer and demand "can actually run the entire
> production of a classless society or provide
> conscious planning.
The general idea (don’t ask me for too many details) is: available at home, on your monitor (integrated TV, net, videophone. etc.) you'll have a detailed report of all of society's needs and demands, as expressed by all comrade citizens. You can input your own demands on the system through your own home terminal. The system will then analyze the available resources and tell people where .does society have excess capacity for the demands registered, and where it is running short of them. As people are nurtured with cooperative values, they will tend to shift their occupations away from where they are not wanted anymore to where they are most needed. As people are highly educated and productive activity is simple (it constitutes mostly on supervising and improving automated chains of production), changing occupation is free, simple and easy to do. There are no material rewards for it. People will just tend to act that way out of desire to be useful. A new equilibrium is thus reached. It’s the invisible hand, communist style. “Conscious planning" is the result of all this.
The system will tell you, where and why we are beginning to have problems and how to solve them. This ’system” is. of course, not just a communication medium like today's Internet. It is a highly complex and powerful information treatment device. The data from all observation posts (on earth, submarine, satellite, etc.) is fed to the system, like in today's “intelligent houses”. It will be instantly available to everyone. The experts, or any informed people, will read this data and make their analysis. The arguments will be fought over and over again.
Conclusions will be easier to reach than today, not only because the instruments will be more precise but (above all) because the experts won’t be corrupted by capitalist interests. When we have a fairly clear picture of the alternatives at play, the subject is posed to a universal vote.
> It seems to me that the issue of separate bodies is
> related to the issue of direct democracy vs.
> representative democracy. Once the number of
> people involved becomes big enough, direct
> democracy becomes all but impossible.
I think you’re wrong here. We will have soon enough the technical means to make direct democracy an everyday habit for all. Of course, to put them to use, we will first have to chase the bourgeoisie from power After that, the problem I see is another one. Will everybody have the time and the patience to study and vote in conscience all the problems that are constantly requiring decision? This is the real problem. Even with very limited and free work schedules, people's attention span and capacity for treating information are limited. I can imagine a kind of democratic stress. People are interested and motivated, but there is simply no way they can participate in all the important decisions.
They’ll want to have some fun too. Many of the smaller problems will probably have to be decided by the minority of those who took interest on it at the time. The problem is then to find a way of filtering the information and the problems that are indeed essential for people's lives. This will, of course, be done by the individuals themselves. 1 may choose to be aware of all local problems, or of all global environmental questions, and so on. A good level of education will ensure that people WILL BE INTERESTED in the really essential problems. There will be nothing like present day mass alienation. Everybody will have a fair chance to participate in every decisions who-may have some impact on their lives. However, since they cannot possibly participate in absolutely all of them, their lives are likely to be somehow affected by decisions made without their participation. This is not a perfect world after all.
> However, when I talk about planning being done
> by society as a whole, I don't just mean that planning
> bodies are selected by society. And I don't agree with
> Ben that central planning means a single planning
> body decides every detail, which is then enforced
> by appointed agents that go to every enterprise and
> say "do it exactly this way". At every level, the
> people involved must have their own consciousness
> and initiative (as well as having their share in
> contributing to the overall decisions), they mil take
> a myriad of decisions on their own; but the local
> decisions will be within the overall plans.
Look Joseph, you’re just stating a big mountain full of your best intentions here. Nobody doubts them. But this road has been tried before and it never worked. There’s nothing new here. We have had some of the best and most gifted communists leaders of this century following this track, followed by a wave of tremendous popular enthusiasm and emulation. And they all failed. What makes you think it will work now? Because now we have studied revisionism and we are prepared to face it when it comes? Because we’re going to try harder? The fact, however, is that when you embark on this road, you are already defeated. You’re assuming that there will always be directors and directed. The first will decide the allocation the productive resources (including human labor), and the seconds will obey and cooperate all the way, filling the little details (like the workers on Toyotist “quality circles”). But this is the essence of class society, on its nucleus. This is the essence of the capitalist relations of production. As long as we follow this road, THE CAPITALIST PRIVATE APPROPRIATION OF THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION WILL ALWAYS STRIVE TO REAPPEAR AT THE SURFACE. The capitalist relations of production will be enveloped in a institutional overcoat that doesn't suits them. That’s why state-capitalism is unstable. It works, somehow, but it doesn’t work as good as plain capitalism. When they realize it, all “communist" leaders (however heroic and honest) become revisionists pure and simple. They will typically start taking measures such as: freedom of action for enterprises, then a little market, then privatization pure and simple.
"You try in theory to avoid organization But each time you consider a concrete problem, you seem to add another layer of organization to your future society in order to deal with it."
(Green to Monteiro, Sept. 30, 1997)
On one issue at least, we are perhaps not quite so far apart as you might think. I wrote that Marx and Engels said that if the means of production are social property, if the class division in society is eliminated, the coordination and administration of production can lose their political character You replied that
> “After reading this, I have the impression that your
> anti-revisionism hasn’t gone quite deep enough yet.
> You go from the social ‘property’ of the means of
> production to the elimination of the class division.
> This is exactly the Stalinist approach.”
I was at first mystified when I read this as to why you thought I had the Stalinist approach on this issue. But after pondering the passage in context, I think you believe that what I meant was that state ownership eliminates the class divisions in society But I distinguish sharply in the various articles I have written on the transition to socialism between social ownership and control of the means of production on one hand, and state ownership on the other
Marx and Engels held that, after the working class seizes power, it at first transforms the means of production into state property It does this as a step towards having the society as a whole run production. Thus nationalization of the economy is an inevitable part of the transitional period, but this doesn’t mean that any nationalization is therefore a step towards socialism. It is only such a step when it is carried out by a proletarian government and moreover, only when it serves to increase the actual ability of the working class to take control of production. This is one of the major themes of my series of articles entitled “State capitalism, Leninism, and the transition to socialism" in CV
For example, the second article in this series (in vol. 3, #1 of CV) address the distinction between nationalization and social control of production with respect to the experience of the Stalinist economy It raises the issue of whether the revisionist Soviet Union had achieved social control of production. Certainly it had nationalized industry, but did this mean that it had social control of production? If the Soviet Union achieved the social control of production and yet there wasn't socialism but a repressive state capitalist order, this would mean that Marxism is wrong.
My article, however, shows that no such social control was achieved in the Soviet economy It is not just that the Stalinist state-capitalist system was run by a new bourgeois class instead of by society as a whole, although that is a very important issue. But more than that, it was not simply run according to the general interests of the new bourgeoisie as a class. Instead the various private or sectoral interests of the new bourgeoisie competed. The fractured nature of the Soviet control of production could be seen in the way the enterprises and ministries worked. i think this article dealt with a key theoretical issue with regard to the structure of revisionist economies, which helps explain why they are unstable, and whether
Marxism is verified or refuted by their experience.
* * * * *
Another issue of interest is that of direct democracy You disagree in theory with my views on this question, but when you try to sketch out the future society in practice, we get a bit closer together Some of the practical problems you consider are similar to those which I have also been thinking about over the years
In your description, you take note of the fact that the “system” or “information treatment device” can’t alone solve problems. There must be “experts, or any informed people’ who ‘read this data and make their analysis* This is the administrative apparatus, or organizational structure, or whatever It doesn't matter what name you give to it, you have in fact given a structure to this society The computers don't really make much difference except to allow faster collection of data and faster discussion of it. If the computers could replace the panel of experts, they would make a big difference to the issue. But the computers can’t replace the need for human intervention and human judgment. Only if you could eliminate the need for the experts or for the intervention of informed people (i.e. people having more information about the subject or more interest in it, than the mass of people), could you get closer to direct democracy.
Perhaps your idea is that these panels of experts or informed people differ from an administrative apparatus in that there could be both formal and informal panels, there can be competing panels, anyone who is especially informed can enter the panel, etc. etc. But all this is similar to my idea of an administrative apparatus. Anything you can describe for your panels can be duplicated in my idea of an administrative apparatus, because it is simply a question of a different name for the same concept. .
The point is that you recognize that, while people can switch from one occupation to another, at any one time there are some people who are informed on electrical generation, others who are informed about chemicals, and still others who are doctors, etc. The fact that there are no class barriers to switching occupations doesn’t mean that everyone does everything at the same time. Hence your talk of ‘informed people".
You assume in your description that the ‘experts won’t be corrupted by capitalist interests” This is true, but it is an issue which you inadvertently pass over too quickly. Why can’t they be corrupted? The computers don’t ensure this. Nor does direct democracy.
Well, in classless society, when there is no money; no differences in standard of living; no private property in the means of production; there can be no corruption by specifically capitalist interests, since there are no capitalist interests left in society This does not require ‘cultural revolutions” in the classless society but follows from the economic structure of classless society. This doesn’t mean that the experts can’t make mistakes, be pig-headed, become arrogant, try to build cliques with other experts, disparage new-comers who challenge them, or even be corrupted in some other way, but it removes the overriding source of corruption and the overriding source of oppression that prevent any system of safeguards from having a chance of being effective. But this is just as true in my picture of society as yours; moreover, I lay stress on the economic factors that underlie whether the panel of experts can be corrupted and whether there will be countervailing forces that help keep them in line. .(That.is, I lay stress on the social control of production.)
But back to direct democracy You take up a number of other concrete problems that the "system” will face. It seems to me that the more you take up these problems, the more direct democracy vanishes.
The issue you raise of ‘democratic stress' is indeed very important. But filtering the information, deciding what is major and what is minor, and so forth, is not a mere technical function. It is not automatic. Whoever does this is really making major decisions. So long as this isn’t done by everyone (which would go against the whole idea of filtering and which is impossible if you consider the millions and millions of economic decisions that have to be made each year), it is being done by some form of organization. People might vote on what kind of organization would do the filtering or whether mistakes had been made in the filtering, but then they are voting on the type of organization to be used and on its performance, rather than deciding all the issues by direct democracy
Another problem arises with the issue of environmental poisoning. You write:
> This is a very unfortunate example. I would say that
> people who have the exclusive or a disproportionate
> share of the burden on any decision being made must
> have veto power over it. In this example, the
> Bangladeshis would have to vote for their own poisoning.
Actually, I think this is a typical problem which will confront future society. And it is likely to be the type of decision that is discussed widely. In order to deal with it, you introduce the idea that certain decisions should be made particularly by those concerned. This introduces a lot more complexity into your picture of future society.
For one thing, who decides that the Bangladeshis have veto power on this? First there has to be an analysis that this problem of poisoning exists, and that it is a special concern of the Bangladeshis. Somehow it has to be decided that the Bangladeshis should have a veto power. So it turns out that your future society has a system of voting on various levels. This requires a way of deciding between the claims of the different levels (the entire world versus regional voting), and between different regions and areas. Indeed, in practice a chemical that is poisonous in one area may have some benefit in another. For example, DDT poisons the environment but eradicates mosquitoes. Moreover, DDT sprayed in one area can affect the food chain in very distant areas. Are the people concerned simply the poisoned Bangladeshis or the people in other areas who might benefit from the poison, at least temporarily?
One ends up with a complex system to decide the claims of different areas. And yet, this system of deciding issues is irrelevant, unless it is assumed that the decisions will have some binding effect. If every binding decision requires a state and a repressive apparatus to enforce it (which I don’t agree will be the case in classless society), then so does the decision to enforce the Bangladeshi veto on all relevant factories and - enterprises. Moreover, such decisions as those to ban DDT because it is poisoning various areas, have to be enforced on health organizations and pesticide producers hundreds or even thousands of miles away
The point I am raising is this. You try in theory to avoid organization and simply have each individual relating to an almost invisible information network which functions automatically without human intervention. But each time you consider a concrete problem, you seem to add another layer of organization to your future society in order to deal with it. In theory, you want to have an "invisible hand”. In practice, you end up with the need for conscious human intervention (and this requires organization) to solve one serious problem after another.
The need for coordination and an administrative apparatus in the future society is something referred to by Marx and Engels; it springs from the very nature of large-scale production. They did distinguish between the state and repressive authority on one hand and that type of authority that would exist in a future society on the other This means, by the way, that they differed from the anarchists not just in their way of getting to the future society, but in their picture of it as well. The anarchists tend towards the view of a glorified society of individual producers; the Marxists, to a giant co-operative society based on large-scale production but liberated from its capitalist chains.