Ask A Red V: The Five-Year Plan

Cheezy the Wiz

Socialist In A Hurry
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It is with great pleasure that I introduce the FIFTH serial "so you would like to know more about communism and socialism" thread!

Remember that this is a question and answer thread and not for arguments. Critical response is welcome, tirade and polemic are not.

If you wish to engage in discussions about these topics as many surely do, I highly encourage you to check out our companion thread, The Offtopicgrad Soviet, where the rules are far more relaxed and a passionate give and take is encouraged. Civilly, of course.


That said, we are ready to field your questions!

Ask A Red

Ask A Red, Second Edition

Ask A Red III

Ask A Red: The IV International

1. What is the purpose of this thread?
To inform about what socialism and communism, both their ideological tenets, their approach to concrete political issues and history. Judging from several threads, there is quite a few misconception regarding these topics, and they do not always stem from ideological malevolence. It can then serve as a reference thread for every time somebody makes a wild claim about any of said ideologies. One should also consider the fact that the amount of socialist and communists on this board is quite small to say the least, and it is sometimes difficult to participate in debates which typically are dominated by diverging opinions held by different segments of the societal elite.

2. I asked a question, but it was never answered!
There might be different reasons for this:
- You might be a fascist or a fascistoid. I have very low tolerance for your kind, and I also don't want to give you any attention.
- Your question might be irrelevant, or impossible to answer.
- You might be a troll. Trolls must and will be ignored. I ask this both of participants as well as questioneers.
- I might have overlooked your question. After all, believe it or not, I am only human.
- I might be temporarily indisposed. I do have to work for a living, you know.

3. This is such a great thread! I am pretty radical myself and I want to assist you in answering some of those questions!
-That is highly appreciated, but only after my permission. It goes without saying that I approve of collective efforts,indeed what can be said to be the right-wing equivalent of this thread seems to operate on these lines with good results. I also know that some of you would be a most welcome addition to my team, but I think it is just as evident that some structure has to be kept. To quote one of the classics of socialism; "Confidence is good, but control is better". So in case you want to contribute, PM me and just wait for my approval. Most of you will get it.

4. Who are you anyway who think that you can teach me anything about this?
- I am a 25 year old American and member of the working class. My childhood was lower middle class, but hard work and luck have landed me in a postgraduate Russian, Central, and Eastern European Studies program at a leading center for the subject. I am formerly a member of the CPUSA. I have actively worked to educate, agitate, and organize working men and women wherever I go, and spread the aims and goals that communists disdain to conceal. I have cooperated with communist and socialist parties both in my country and around the world. And, as many of you on this board surely know, I have some knowledge about the topics at hand.


List of posters approve to answer questions:

Cheezy the Wiz
Traitorfish
innonimatu
FredLC
RichardCribb
ReindeerThistle
Aelf
Azale
 

ReindeerThistle

Zimmerwald Left
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Brooklyn, USA.
Haha! Back to the Communist Offensive period, are we?

Excellent!

Building socialism for the 21st Century requires 21st Century tactics...

I may actually have some time this weekend to answer questions.
 

Cheezy the Wiz

Socialist In A Hurry
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I'm curious about the thoughts Reds here have about the social division of labor. How are we to escape it? It seems like the common Red response to this problem is nationalization and state planning, but that's no more a guarantee of its eradication than worker ownership by itself is. I suppose it could be as simple as a law against surplus value, and then a regulatory agency to enforce it, but that could become very cumbersome.

Is there a Red answer to this?
 

Cheezy the Wiz

Socialist In A Hurry
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Pretty much.

When a commodity is purchased in the marketplace, an unequal exchange takes place. The object, which has a certain value imbued in it as a consequence of the labor which turned it from a raw material into its finished product, is exchanged for an amount of money. Now the producer has the money, and the buyer the product. But if the producer profits from the exchange, then he has obtained more wealth than he gave to the buyer in the form of his commodity. This formula is expressed as M-C-M' and creates inequality. In order to create an equal society, we must exchange commodities not for profit, which injures another for our benefit, but rather for the use-value itself: its utility to another. In this way there is no winner or loser, merely a net material enrichment of society.
 

Terxpahseyton

Nobody
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But aren't there other motivators to obtain surplus value other than a profit? You can also immediately spend the surplus you received via wages or on-going investments. I believe it was Cutlass who complained that this was something happening in the American health care industry, where an official prohibition of profit doesn't seem to hinder the will of institutional participators to take in as much money as they can. They just find different ways to make use of the money. I suppose one could implement further legislation which would ensure that such money benefits the workers. Still, surplus value would continue to matter I imagine. Or not?
 

Cheezy the Wiz

Socialist In A Hurry
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But aren't there other motivators to obtain surplus value other than a profit?

It doesn't matter what the motivation is, the point is that it enriches the producer at the cost of the consumer.

You can also immediately spend the surplus you received via wages or on-going investments.

Wages are a constitutive part of value. Wages will equal the value of the labor the worker imparted into his/her products. That is, as long as wages As A Thing survive.

Investments are still entirely possible. But investments, and indeed all transactions involving profit-made money, are speculative. They create bubbles, because they are not based upon real value.

I believe it was Cutlass who complained that this was something happening in the American health care industry, where an official prohibition of profit doesn't seem to hinder the will of institutional participators to take in as much money as they can. They just find different ways to make use of the money.

"Take in as much money as you can" is speculation, which necessarily involves creating surplus value, which is profit-making.
 

Cheezy the Wiz

Socialist In A Hurry
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Profit is about surplus value going to the capitalist class. Okay. You put a stop to it by outlawing profit. Okay, but what I am wondering essentially: Couldn't then just workers go on and exploit each other if exploitation by capitalists is no longer possible?

In what way would they do this?

You say

But why will wages do that just because there no longer exist profits?

By themselves they won't. My post wasn't a comprehensive "everything about socialism is contained in this single doctrine" statement. Abolition of private property will help this, though.

A worker is exploited because his labor is extorted from his pay to be collected by the capitalist as part of profit. He is not reimbursed for the total labor he performs, he is only paid for part of it. If profit is eliminated, and the capitalist ceases to exist (meaning that the private property foundations for his existence as a class are removed), then the only remaining value after the transaction is what was originally created by the labor, and the laborers can be rewarded in kind, since there is no where else for their extorted labor value to go. No capitalist pockets to line.

Couldn't a business as a whole demand prices so high that it gets surplus value out of it and then by distributing those higher prices to the workers pay the workers more than the value they created? Say by being a really popular business, or by having some sort of de-facto monopoly or by being part of a de-facto oligopoly because market entry costs are so high. And other less "successful" businesses would in turn be forced to pay their workers lower wages than they actually deserve based on the value they created.

Or in other words: couldn't a business create surplus value by creating surplus value, instead of creating surplus value?

You described exactly how it works, not an alternative.

Alternatively, couldn't a business pay its top workers more than the value they created and lower workers less?

Businesses will not be sovereign.

Why is it speculation?

Because it's "value" that rests on no material foundation. That price is made on the gamble that someone will be daft enough to actually pay it.

Again I don't understand. Every investment is based on the hope that it will repay by finding consumers willing to finance such investment. So every investment, weather resting on profit or say workers willingly giving up part of their wage, is a speculation, no? Regardless of where the money comes from, no? Really I am not sure what to do with this statement :confused:

Investment will not entail the private ownership of capital. The only possible exceptions are one-man operations or family unit businesses, like family farms, provided they don't have to hire anyone.

Groups can come together and invest mutually if they desire something, as can the community organs invest. But again, we are far enough down the road to communism at this point to consider that money will very soon be obsolete, and so raising funds will not be an issue: members of society will, through society, decide they wants something, and will act to create it. If it finds no use, then those efforts will be redirected toward useful, desired things.
 

Terxpahseyton

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Okay thank you for your responses, that was helpful. :)
The whole theory of surplus value (at least as it was conceived my Marx himself) rests on the assumption that monetary value reflects labor time invested.
So for a worker to not be exploited, he needs to be able to buy as much labor time from others with his wage as he sold to a given business. Correct?
For this to work, wouldn't you need to set in stone that a price also actually does reflect invested labor time?
As otherwise, different businesses will still be more successful, right? And will this not mean that some labor time will be rewarded better than other labor time? In effect stealing from those less successful and giving to those with more, aka surplus value (just in a different context)? So outlawing profits itself will not put an end to surplus value, but just will mean that workers will have to earn their surplus value by being more successful on the market. Agreed?
 

Traitorfish

The Tighnahulish Kid
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Moving away from liberty, can you guys recommend any good book on what life was like for people in the early days of the Russian Revolution? Preferably with pictures.
The Russian Revolution, 1917 by Rex Wade is one of the standard undergrad texts, and I'd recommend it. Covers the February Revolution to the dissolution of the constituent assembly. Particularly worthwhile in that it spends a lot of time discussing the attitudes and aspirations of the various social and national groups involved, which more narrowly political histories can miss. Not a great deal of pictures, but the ones that are there are of very good quality and are built into the text very well.

I'll also second Cheezy and RT on Reid's Ten Days, which although not totally reliable factually (it's essentially long-form journalism, which has obvious limitations), does an unrivalled job of catching the mood of the October uprising. (Additionally, the ground-level perspective from which most of it's written means it avoids privileging the big names at the expense of the workers who actually made the revolution.)
 

_random_

Jewel Runner
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So when reading some Wikipedia, I came across the following bit:
Studies appeared that attempted to link Afro-Cuban religions with mental illness.[5] The campaign for the eradication of racial discrimination in Cuba was (and still is) used as grounds to forbid the creation of Afro-Cuban institutions, because doing so was labelled as racially divisive.[5]
Admittedly knowing jack-all about the history of race relations in Cuba, I'll ask the following questions:

Do you think banning Afro-Cuban organizations is or was a good idea?

Do you think that banning racial minority organizations in the US or elsewhere would be a good idea in general, or as part of a broader communist movement?
 

Ghpstage

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Hi,
I'm just starting to read into parts of Communism with some essays and speeches by various authors like Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky (though these are combined in a book about revolutionary writings so may not be the best!) and have a copy of das Kapital ready for the future, and i'm wondering what the Reds here would consider required reading for a decent understanding of socialism and communism, and if there is anything else beyond that which they would particularly recommend.
 

Ghpstage

Deity
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Would this book happen to be To the Finland Station?
Its "The Communist Manifesto and other Revolutionary Writings", the title being more for catching eyes than a real description as while a fair amount is by people who are relevant to Communism there isn't a central theme of Communism with 'others' including things like the American declaration of independance!
 

Ajidica

High Quality Person
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TF said:
The Russian Revolution, 1917 by Rex Wade is one of the standard undergrad texts, and I'd recommend it. Covers the February Revolution to the dissolution of the constituent assembly. Particularly worthwhile in that it spends a lot of time discussing the attitudes and aspirations of the various social and national groups involved, which more narrowly political histories can miss. Not a great deal of pictures, but the ones that are there are of very good quality and are built into the text very well.

I'll also second Cheezy and RT on Reid's Ten Days, which although not totally reliable factually (it's essentially long-form journalism, which has obvious limitations), does an unrivalled job of catching the mood of the October uprising. (Additionally, the ground-level perspective from which most of it's written means it avoids privileging the big names at the expense of the workers who actually made the revolution.)
Thanks, though I'm looking more for books on how the revolution affected the individual people in society rather than a 'macro-history'.

Its "The Communist Manifesto and other Revolutionary Writings", the title being more for catching eyes than a real description as while a fair amount is by people who are relevant to Communism there isn't a central theme of Communism with 'others' including things like the American declaration of independance!
I read that a couple years ago, and the included essays by Kropotkin and Bakunin were excellent.
 

kristopherb

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I'm looking to improve on my very limited theoretical marx/socialist concepts. Now i have the time to fully read up on them, is there any books/essays/other literature that you suggest?

"The Communist Manifesto and other Revolutionary Writings" seems like a good start (i have read the communst manifesto mind you). I'm reading in defence of october and other (old) militant pamphlets.
 
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