Friday, December 17, 2021
There is a danger that plans produced today describing a socialist society will only bear the hallmark of the author’s own preference rather than how future socialists will democratically organise themselves. While it is of interest to speculate on a future socialist we are not obliged to produce detailed models to show how socialism will work, how it will solve the problems bequeathed by capitalism and the democratic administrative structure to ensure the rapid development of the forces of production once they are released from the constraints currently imposed by commodity production and exchange for profit.
A popular view is that it will involve centralisation, taking as its model the United Nations, a world central administration which will plan everything, everywhere and carry it out irrespective of the views of local people throughout the world. Socialists see this as both impractical and undemocratic.
There are also questions about the relationship between the community and individual industries. The view of the Socialist Party is that the community democratically decides what to produce not self-controlled industries as proposed by syndicalism. This does not mean that workers within these industries will not have a democratic say in how production takes place; the quality of the environment and health and safety, but it does not mean that they will have the sole say of what and how is produced and for whom. There will be disagreements and these will have to be dealt with democratically. The experts will also disagree as they often do now under capitalism such as over the choice of energy, e.g. nuclear power, coal, oil, gas, electricity, tidal, wind power and solar energy and decisions will have to be made committing labour and resources, but it will be for the community to democratically decide on the basis of transparent information, facts and reasonable argument, not the experts. The Socialist Party long ago rejected the technocrat view of administration.
In a socialist society, the community will have to take major decisions about the allocation of labour and finite resources. While production will be much greater than it is now, labour and resources will not be unlimited. There are many people whole would like a return to manned moon missions. The cost of voluntary labour, much of it specialists, and the material resources required would be enormous, and if allocated to that project, it would mean that labour and resources cannot be allocated to other industries that other people favour. The community will have to democratically decide between them.
The advocates of centralisation say that as there will be one world community sharing a common interest, the decision-making about what shall be produced and where and how it shall be produced will be made by a world central administrative organisation, and they will carry it out. They will make the decisions and what they decide will apply all the way down to local levels. This appears unnecessary, undesirable and impracticable.
There is first the factor of size and complexity. As organisations become larger – larger in the number of people covered and larger geographically - their ability to handle centrally all the problems that arise decreases and because they are more remote from local needs their decisions and actions are more likely to be wrong.
We see in the multi-nationals, formed by amalgamations and takeovers, the experience led to the need to give greater autonomy to functional and geographical divisions. Rigid, top-down planning and direction was dismantled and given greater autonomy to their local boards.
But as regards socialist administration of things there is a more important criterion. People will not want their local issues to be settled by the dictates of some world administrative organisation. Such a bureaucracy would result in the destruction of many of local institutions and imitative. It seems likely, therefore, that socialist administration will not be decision making by a central world organisation, with people regionally and locally falling into line. Instead, people at a regional and local level will just get on with the task of ensuring production and distribution meets human needs in what form it takes where they live.
So what use would a world organisation of production and distribution have in a future socialist society?
There are four areas where a world administration would have a useful role; first, a clearing-house of information about production, transport and communications all over the world; second, a repository of expert technical information; third, that it would arrange co-ordination between surplus products in some areas and deficiencies in other areas; and fourth, they would extend some of the functions already existing at a world level, like health, energy, food and agricultural organisations and so on.
As an example, we can turn to the example of the Universal Postal Union. At present they handle three kinds of processes; financial, technical and organisational. The financial question will disappear, i.e. what the different organisations pay each other. Postal authorities in each country meet together and draw up conveyances which, when agreed, they all separately carry out. What the U.P.U does not do is to carry on the postal services themselves. They have no hand in it. But there is now and will continue to be an agreement of all the postal services about weights and sizes of what they send abroad. There is agreement about safety – exclusion of dangerous articles, and so on. There is agreement about forms of addresses, postal codes and evidence of parcels causing difficulties for workers on sorting work.
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