Tag: Marx

Democratic Socialism: An Impossible Dream? II

An Article in Two Parts, by Craig Collins 
Read Part One Here 

Part Two: Energy & Economics Shapes Politics

The first part of this article asserted that, contrary to the prevailing mythology on both sides of the Cold War, socialist revolutions never succeeded in creating genuine democratic socialism. Then, several insufficient explanations for why socialist revolutions failed to produce socialism were critiqued. Finally, a more comprehensive hypothesis was offered: Perhaps a rapidly expanding, multi-state, globalized industrial economy—powered by an energy base of fossil fuels—is incompatible with nationally restricted efforts to bring it under genuine democratic control. Part Two will explore this hypothesis in more detail and consider its implications for building genuinely egalitarian, democratic societies in a post industrial future powered by renewable energy.

In hindsight, it appears that the physical constraints and social requirements imposed by globalized industrialism foster undemocratic, hierarchical economic relations resembling either corporatist or statist political economies that resist bottom-up, democratic governance. This is the most feasible, comprehensive explanation for the failure of democratic socialism in both emerging and mature industrial societies. The other piecemeal theories discussed in part one are partially accurate, yet limited, derivatives of this pervasive, underlying restriction on genuine economic democracy.

The problem solving theoretical principle known as Occam’s razor (or the law of parsimony) considers the strongest theory to be the one that provides the simplest, most comprehensive explanation in line with the evidence.[1] The conclusion that economic democracy is incompatible with the hierarchical, vertically organized structure of industrial production meets these criteria.

By its very nature, fossil-fueled industrialism promotes extensive, highly integrated economies of scale that require top-down managerial direction. Complicated, highly mechanized, global chains of industrial production frustrate nationally confined, workplace-centered economic democracy. They require an managerial elite to oversee the planning, administration, and supervision these technologically elaborate, vertically integrated operations. Therefore, it becomes virtually impossible to govern these political economies in a decentralized, democratic manner—especially when chains of production override and transcend national borders.

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Democratic Socialism: An Impossible Dream?

An Article in Two Parts, by Craig Collins

Part One: Socialist Mythology vs. Statist Reality

The founders of “scientific socialism,” Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, assumed it was quite possible, even historically inevitable, for working people to democratically govern an industrial society. However, they never went into detail about how this would work. Even today, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, many orthodox Marxists persist in believing that vast, complex, globalized, industrial economies can be run by and for the workers who operate the machinery of production. In fact, doctrinaire Marxists still cling to the fantasy that worker-run industrial socialism is not only possible, it is the historically destined, superior replacement for industrial capitalism.

This Marxist conviction is dubious for two reasons. First, history has demonstrated that after many attempts, and despite their best intentions, the leaders of “socialist” revolutions have never succeeded in building an industrial society run by and for working people. Second, the primary underlying reason for this failure flows from the structural requirements of industrial society. Fossil-fueled industrial economies exert a powerful influence over their social and political structures. The extensive, intricate, hierarchical configuration of carbon-powered industrialism appears structurally unsuited and deeply resistant to bottom-up, democratic management.

Socialist Revolutions Without Socialism

As originally intended by Marx and Engels, a socialist society would be run democratically, by the vast majority of working people, on the basis of human need, not profit. In other words, socialism meant economic, social, and political democracy. They believed worker-run socialism would eventually become classless communism, as industry produced enough wealth to satisfy everyone’s basic needs and people became accustomed to contributing their abilities to a commonwealth that encouraged their talents and potentials in return.

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