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This essay will attempt to do two things:
(a) Suggest what actions could be implemented before and after a majority of the
population within a given area had consented to the establishment
(b) Present a model of how free access might work.
I realise that this might be a somewhat contentious project: The ‘Party line’ within the WSM has always been that it is premature to speculate about the details of a future socialist society, and furthermore, that no mandate currently exists for prescribing specific policies or making specific plans. However, that would be to misconstrue what this is all about: I am most certainly not trying to ‘prescribe’ anything - i.e. assert that this is what we must do- but merely suggest actions that might possibly be implemented and how society might operate. Moreover, I would like to identify a range of possible alternative options in any given situation, and ‘think through’ what exactly it is we are proposing when we call for the establishment of a world-wide free access society in which the means of production are held in common and people contribute voluntarily towards the good of society. To my mind, it seems short-sighted, and in fact counter-productive, to avoid scrutiny of such matters. Some of the reasons for thinking so were outlined in my Discussion Paper. But it is worth enlarging on these:
Before looking in some detail at the possible actions socialists might want to contemplate before and after the establishment of socialism, I should like to consider a particular class of actions that would be necessitated by the near certainty that socialism will not literally be embraced by majorities all over the world simultaneously, or even within a limited time frame of, say, five years. Realistically, it ought to take at least a decade for socialism to be universally established, if not two or more. This I would have thought is a reasonable working assumption. My grounds for thinking this are various: The suppression of socialist ideas in some countries could delay their uptake. The hold of various counter-revolutionary ideologies, such as nationalism or established religions in certain parts of the world is so tight that it might take years for socialist ideas to make inroads in such places. Linguistic factors might have a bearing: Many regions might not have access to socialist literature in a native tongue. Literacy rates could have a bearing. An inadequate informational structure might also affect the uptake of socialism: Poor internet ‘penetration’, for example, is hardly going to be conducive to the growth of socialism. Taken together, these factors (and there are bound to be many others) suggest that the ‘rolling out’ of socialism is likely to be a rather uneven and protracted process.
Thus prior to the universal establishment of socialism (UES), during what one might term the ‘accession period’ (AP) – lasting from whenever it is that socialism is established in the first country to embrace it until it is universally established, a number of interim or transient arrangements will need to be set up. The nature of these will depend upon events, local factors, and the extent of progress already made towards UES, as well as any number of other factors. Short of UES, countries opting for socialism will need to consider how they might engage with those remaining within the diminishing capitalist bloc. Obviously, the mere existence of the latter will put a strain upon the integrity of the former, and this capitalist bloc could even pose various threats, not least a military one. Therefore it behoves the WSM to consider how such challenges might be met, and, at the same time hasten UES. To this end, I should like to propose a ‘synchronisation strategy’ to be included within the repertoire of proposed actions discussed under (a). This would have the following objectives:
(a) In the pre-accession period, the objective would be to ensure that socialism was promoted and supported, both as an idea and organisationally, in literally every country around the world, so that once the AP had begun, those countries that had acceded received as much support as possible from socialists in countries yet to do so.
(b) In the accession period, the objectives would be (1) to safeguard socialism wherever it had been established, and (2) hasten UES as far as possible.
In other words, the overall aim would be to synchronise and make as near simultaneous as possible the establishment of socialism around the world
What would this ‘synchronisation strategy’ entail? Here are a few proposals. Needless to say, all of these would need to be democratically considered by the WSM as a whole before being adopted.
Intuitively, it would seem reasonable to conclude that the more countries to have embraced socialism, the easier it would be for those remaining in the grip of capitalism to join the socialist fold. However, this needs to be qualified by the recognition that the impact, or consequence, of particular countries coming over to socialism is likely to vary depending upon a number of factors, inter alia:
One might similarly speculate about the factors relating to the ease with which a country acceded to socialism:
Although I will not be broaching the subject of reforming the WSM Parties here - something I did at length in my Discussion Paper (2010) - I should point out that many of suggestions mooted in that document sit well with this ‘synchronisation strategy’. For example, I argued that we ought to make full use of state of the art videostreaming technologies to enable far more comprehensive interaction between the various constituent Parties within the WSM. This could even extend to decision-making.
One final thought on this notion of a synchronisation strategy: To dismiss it out of hand would imply that one had given the matter of how socialism might unfold some thought and concluded that an almost simultaneous world wide transition to socialism is bound to occur. However, there are no real grounds, empirical or otherwise, for making this assumption, but - as I’ve already indicated - plenty of commonsensical reasons for thinking that the process might be more protracted than we would like it to be. Allowing for the latter possibility and preparing for it accordingly would seem a more prudent approach than airily dismissing it
Returning to the first of the objectives of this essay, I would now like to tabulate the sort of proposed actions that could be implemented before and after a majority of the population within a given area had consented to the establishment of socialism. The various actions that might be undertaken as part of a synchronisation strategy would obviously fall under this rubric, but won’t be considered here as they have already been extensively discussed. Obviously, the table below is far from being complete or comprehensive. I would welcome suggestions from readers as to what other actions might be included
(these may be early, i.e. well before the revolution (Code A), in the intermediate period prior to the revolution (Code B), or just before the revolution (Code C)
Actions to be taken ‘nationally’
1. Develop and extend ‘models’ or guidelines for the running of socialist society. This would include a detailed account of how society would be democratically governed, and how the ‘Hubs’ would operate (See my Free Access model below).(A,B)
2. Develop detailed guidelines on what will become of each major sector of the capitalist economy. Various committees could be tasked with looking at specific sectors (See Actions 11 – 23 below). These committees, though democratically constituted, could co-opt socialists and even non-socialists, with expertise in the field, as advisors. I have suggested quite a number of committees. However, their creation would become feasible once the Party had grown to a significant size.(B,C)
3. Develop guidelines on the ‘rights’ of individuals after the revolution, and how ‘The Law’ will change under socialism. To give a specific instance, it will be necessary to considers what to do about currently illicit drugs consumption. Also it will be necessary to establish what to do with the current prison population. (A,B,C)
4. Develop a ‘strategy for victory’, a detailed plan on how a socialist majority will be achieved. (A,B,C)
5. Place the aforementioned guidelines (1,2,3,4) before Conference for approval by the Party membership.(B,C)
6. Draft an election manifesto, after the aforementioned plans have been democratically sanctioned by Party members, which would clearly and unambiguously spell out the actions to be taken at every level after a majority had opted for socialism. (B,C)
7. Intensively publicise the case for socialism through whatever means might be available. Create an ad hoc committee to look at ways of promoting socialism.(A,B,C)
8. Initiate a fund-raising campaign.(A,B,C)
9. Liaise with Companion Parties and sympathetic groups around the world to elicit whatever assistance they can offer: Propaganda, publicity, finance etc.(A,B,C)
10. Renew the mandate for the manifesto as necessary.(C)
11. Create a ‘Legal Committee’ to look at how a socialist society would deal with unacceptable behaviour, and maximise individual liberties within reasonable and rational parameters.(B,C)
12. Create a ‘Housing and Commercial Buildings Committee’ to consider, amongst other things, what to do with surplus houses and commercial premises no longer required (e.g. banks) after the revolution. This committee would also look at how houses were allocated, planning issues, and other related matters. Any proposals arising would need to be considered and voted upon by the Party membership.(B,C)
13. Create a ‘Health Service Committee’ to look at how an integrated ‘state of the art’ health service could be developed. Various aspects of this provision; such as training and professional development, research, preventative strategies, supplies, and so on, could be taken into consideration.(B,C)
14. Create an ‘Agriculture and Fisheries Committee’ to look at how food might be sustainably, adequately, and ecologically produced. Consideration would need to be given to the rapid introduction of cutting edge technologies and automotive systems.(B,C)
15. Create a ‘Mining Committee’ again looking at how metals and other earth resources (such as aggregate) might be sustainably, adequately, and ecologically extracted. In view of the inherent dangers in this field, the highest priority would need to be given to safety measures and to the creation of automotive systems.(B,C)
16. Create an ‘Energy Committee’ to look at a range of technological options for providing an abundant supply of energy that are safe, sustainable and non-impacting on the environment. This committee could also draw up plans for the immediate phasing out of potentially dangerous or environmentally damaging forms of energy, such as nuclear energy and fossil fuel energy respectively.(B,C)
17. Create a ‘Waste Management Committee’ to look at how waste might be ecologically processed under socialism, with consideration being given to recycling, minimising packaging etc.(B,C)
18. Create a ‘Goods and Services’ committee to look all aspects of their provision. One goal of this provision should be that local sourcing must occur as far as possible.(B,C)
19. Create a ‘Transport Committee’ to look at creating an integrated and completely adequate system embracing all modes of transport (land, sea and air) with the highest priority being given to ecological considerations. This committee could also consider various other ideas; for example, neighbourhood vehicle pools.(B,C)
20. Create a ‘Consumer Card Committee’ to look at how ‘consumer cards’ might be introduced immediately after socialism is established. It might even be conceivable to begin the practical work of setting up the requisite database and the facilities for producing the cards prior to establishment of socialism.(B,C)
21. Create a ‘Technology Committee’ to look at research into, and the rapid application of, beneficial technology in all sectors of life. This committee could also be charged with looking at issues to do with ‘intellectual property rights’ emanating from capitalist bloc countries.(B,C)
22. Create a ‘Migration Committee’ to look at what interim measures might be needed in regard to the outflow/inflow of people, specifically to/from capitalist bloc countries once socialism is established.(B,C)
23. Create an ‘Education Committee’ to look at the provision of education after the revolution. This would obviously be free and non-obligatory at all levels. Imaginative ideas on how to engage individuals of all ages in educational activity and to encourage the highest of standards will need to be considered. The applicability of assessment will also need to be considered.(B,C)
24. Initiate discussions with the Ministry of Defence about re-configuring military assets in line with defence needs during AP.(C)
25. Initiate discussions with the police re ‘policing’ after the establishment of socialism.(C)
26. Review the entire raft of international treaties to consider what stance would be taken in regard to each specific treaty once socialism was established.(B,C)
27. Draft the ‘Establishment of Socialism Act’ in readiness for an electoral victory.(C)
28. Negotiate for the holding of local elections at the same time as the national election.(C)
29. In the event that other countries had already opted for socialism, many of the above actions would also need to involve a degree of integration with the institutions created in these countries.(C)
Actions to be taken locally
1. Form democratically–constituted local Party groups to liaise with local district/council/borough authorities re post-revolutionary arrangements. (B,C)
2. These groups would need to consider how guidelines as to how socialist society might operate agreed upon nationally might be implemented locally.(B,C)
3. Discuss with local businesses and trades unions how companies and firms will be re-configured under socialism. Amongst other things, this will entail asking those companies and firms whose ‘product’ relates to real needs to look at how they may be rationalised (If there are currently 2 large supermarkets in town, and a handful of grocery shops, could these not be rationalised into one enlarged distribution centre and a couple of outlying centres?) and to ensure that supply lines will hold up immediately after the establishment of socialism.(C)
4. Create voluntary re-deployment bureaux to advise individuals, particularly those currently engaged in occupations that will no longer have exist under socialism; such as those in the financial sector; on what their options may be.(C)
5. Survey the local population in regard to what they would like see come about in their local community after the revolution.(B,C)
6. Keep the local press informed about developments.(B,C)
7. Hold regular meetings with the public to explain the Party’s case and elicit ideas on how their local area might be transformed.(B,C)
8. Create a local committee to look at contingency planning. This committee would liaise with other local socialist contingency planning committees.(B,C)
9. Discuss with local job centres how these establishments would be transformed under socialism, and ascertaining that job centre staff will remain in post after the revolution.(C)
10. Acquire detailed information on current land use and ownership, and identifying priority actions to be undertaken in respect of land use after the revolution. Plan for the creation of a Local Property Agency to manage all properties.(B,C)
11. Acquire detailed information on all local businesses and enterprises.(C)
12. Draw up a plan to create a District Co-ordinating Hub (See the ‘Free Access model’ below).(B,C)
13. Draft a local strategy for contesting the General election.(B,C)
Post revolutionary period
(these may taken immediately after the revolution (Code D), in the intermediate period after the revolution (Code E), or in the longer term after the revolution (Code F)
Actions to be taken ‘nationally’ and inter-
1. Rapidly pass ‘The Establishment of Socialism’ Act through parliament to enable the creation of a free access society and the abolition of money.(D)
2. Implement the manifesto undertakings in regard to the various sectors of society: Education , Industry, Agriculture etc.(D,E)
3. Immediately abolish the monarchy and the House of Lords. Consider replacing the Union flag with one befitting the worldwide socialist commonwealth. All of this could be incorporated into the above Act.(D)
4. Liaise with international bodies and relevant capitalist countries regarding the settling of all outstanding financial matters, such as investment and property ownership within these countries by
5. Withdraw immediately from all military alliances, such as NATO.(D)
6. Withdraw troops and military materiel from bases in any capitalist country.(D)
7. Withdraw immediately from any capitalistic economic blocs, such as the EU.(D)
8. Abolish the ‘Bank of England’, the Inland Revenue, Benefits Agencies, the Royal Mint and all other governmental structures involved in finances.(D)
9. Introduce ‘consumer cards’ as soon as is practicable.(D)
10. Transform all remaining governmental departments to take account of the new socioeconomic dispensation.(D)
11. Abolish all quangos whose existence had been premised on a capitalistic mode of production.(D)
12. Review all ongoing infrastructure projects in the light of the radical transformation of society.(D)
13. Give notice to the UN that the country, along with any others that opted for socialism, would henceforth constitute a single bloc, and would require a permanent seat on its Security Council.(D)
14. Abolish all property titles whilst guaranteeing entitlement to continue residing at one’s main address. Set criteria for case by case adjudication of requests for entitlement to more than residence. Sensible criteria could be set as to what was one was permitted to do with a property - more or less as exists today with planning consent, building regulations and heritage stipulations. But outside of these parameters, people could do as they pleased, and enlist the assistance of specialist building providers (See the Free Access model) to ensure high standards are attained.(D,E)
15. Re-configure military assets in line with defence needs during AP.(D,E)
16. Re-structure the police service in line with the new socioeconomic dispensation.(D)
17. Allow the immediate release of prisoners convicted of theft and other property crimes, after case reviews by parole boards.(D)
18. Set up a department dealing with requests to acquire the wherewithal to travel to capitalist bloc countries.(D)
19. Once UES had been established, many of the aforementioned actions would no longer be necessary (e.g. Action 18), and could be rescinded.(F)
Actions to be taken locally
As I’ve said, all of the foregoing items, whilst expressed in an imperative tone, are nevertheless, no more than suggestions. However I would have thought that a large percentage of them would have to be considered in one form or another. There may also be different ways of achieving the goals of particular actions, and some of the actions listed above might be deemed unnecessary. Additionally, there are probably scores of other actions not mentioned in this table that would need to be undertaken at some point in the revolutionary process. I would welcome the input of anyone able to help in this respect.
In the second part of this essay, I should like to present a fairly detailed model of how I see the socialist economy operating. In diagrammatic form, here it is:
What purpose is served by this model? Well, for one thing, it may serve to stimulate ideas about the nature of the free access society we as socialists are promoting. I am presenting it as a detailed concept. However, there is nothing prescriptive in this: People might prefer to discard bits of the model, or add bits to it. Or reject it altogether. It’s no more than a suggestion. But the point is that some blue-sky thinking about the issue will have been engendered. And through a process of argument and counterargument – a dialectic, no less – it is to be hoped that something quite sophisticated and nuanced could emerge
Also, this model ought to enable socialists to more cogently address the Economic Calculation Argument propounded by Mises, Hayek et al by providing a deeper grasp as to how an economy could operate without a pricing mechanism.
Let’s consider how this model works:
As can be seen, the model identifies 6 levels of operation, level 0 relating to individuals, level 1 to the activity of specific productive and distributive units within a local area or district, level 2 to the integrative activity of a District Co-ordinating Hub covering an entire district, level 3 to the integrative activity of a Regional Co-ordinating Hub, level 4 to the integrative activity of what I have called a Super-Regional Co-ordinating Hub – one that integrates the economic activity of, say, an entire continent – and level 5 to the integrative activity of a World Economic Strategy Body /Hub. It is important to realise that, whilst, reference to ‘levels’ might give the impression that we are talking about some sort of hierarchical power structure, that is not really the case. How could it be, given the voluntaristic nature of a socialist society? The structure has more to do with networking, with managing the complex flow of economic requests and responses occurring ‘on the ground’, in every locality (an ‘economic request’ in this context being a demand made by one organisation to another for certain goods or service, and an ‘economic response’ being the provision of said goods or services by the latter). Incidentally, I should point out that many of the economic requests need not even be mediated by human beings but originate rather from robotic stock sensors that might automatically relay shortages directly to designated providers, completely bypassing any DCH .
This is not to say that ‘control issues’ will not occur: A local district located on an isthmus may, for example, object to a road being built through it in order to connect two regions that have expressed a desire to be connected. How might this issue be resolved? Are there obvious criteria for determining in such cases at which societal level sovereignty resides, given that ‘nation-states’ will no longer exist? I’m not sure that there are. However, under socialism, the use of referenda might help to resolve such situation, whether district-wide, or region-wide (or indeed super-regional - or world-wide) Thus, in this example, referenda on the issue might be held in the two regions and in the district itself in order to determine exactly what people felt in each area. A second consideration to be borne in mind is that socialist society will not be constrained by budgetary considerations and hence might be able to conceive of all sorts of imaginative ways around situations like this. For example, in this instance, a mutually agreeable decision might be taken to construct an undersea tunnel connecting the two regions, or to set up a ferry service. Finally, it has also to be remembered that a socialist society, because of its voluntaristic, democratic nature, and because it will have been established by majorities around the world knowing full well how socialism could and should work, will be a consensual society, and not an adversarial one. This I think would greatly help to inhibit disputes from arising, and facilitate the speedy resolution of those that do arise.
Returning to the model, it should be obvious that the business of producing and distributing occurs at level 1. The various ‘hubs’ would serve to mediate economic requests and responses over ‘catchment’ areas that are differentially situated in terms of how the world will be divided up into regions and districts. However, it is the District Co-ordinating Hub that would be most intimately involved. This could be split into 4 departments: Production (which, among other things, would mediate between the Consumption Department and producers - advising the latter to step up or reduce particular items for example, liaise with/run ‘job centres’ to which individuals wishing to offer their services can go, advertise specific labour shortages, and monitor and quality assesses output), Consumption (which would relay requests from distribution outlets and service agencies to the Production Department, monitor the quantity/quality of distributed goods and services, issue consumer cards and operates the system, liaise with ‘customers’ generally via surveys, call centres etc to ensure that needs are being met, and deliberate on appropriateness of certain requests deferring to the guidelines set down by the local democratically elected council), A Planning /Development Department (which would be involved in the planning of new construction or infrastructure development, liaise with Production and Consumption in regards to the efficiency with which economic requests were being met, process cascaded requests from other DCHs or from the RCH to address shortfalls in other areas, and so on), and finally, an Administrative Department (which would be involved with the internal operational matters, processing communications with higher level hubs and so on)
Turning to the elements operating at level 1, it will be noticed that there is a dichotomy between production and consumption. This obviously applies to level 0 as well, the level of the individual, who is both a producer and a consumer. In capitalism, there is a tendency to compartmentalise these two functions because it’s prevailing ‘each to his own and the devil take the hindmost’ ethos discourages the individual capitalist from perceiving his workers as consumers, as to do so would entail acknowledging that increasing their spending power– though it might boost spending - would necessarily would eat into him profits, and in any case, might not encourage the workers to purchase the very products they had produced for him. In other words, other capitalists would benefit from his ‘benevolence’ and at a cost to him. Under socialism, no such distorted thinking would exist, and people would clearly see the linkage between production and consumption.
The model identifies a number of ‘production providers’. Broadly speaking, a distinction may be drawn between ‘goods providers’ and ‘service providers’. These two entities would interact respectively with ‘distribution outlets’ and ‘service booking agencies’, what one might describe as ‘consumption outlets’. (Please bear with me in regards to these neologisms. If anyone can think of a more apt terminology, please let me know). The model utilises a simple schema with which to identify specific production providers and consumption outlets; L being a location reference; say a postcode, and U being the name or number of the unit in question. What one would envisage is that long term ‘contracts’ would be come into being, in order to create stable ‘request-response’ patterns
Let’s take an example: A ‘goods provider’ identified by the number 1 located in area A might be used as a regular supplier by a ‘distribution outlet’ identified by the number 1 located in area A. Schematically, this might be represented thus:
GP/LA/1 <--> DO/LA/1
A more concrete expression of this would be reflected in the sentence:
‘Shepton Mallet furniture makers (unit 1) have an agreement with Distribution Outlet 1 (the Old ‘Haskins’ store), to keep them supplied with specified items of furniture’
Of course, the situation is bound to be more complex than this: Some units may incorporate both a ‘provider’ and an ‘outlet’ function; bakeries, for example. And it also needs to be recognised that some distribution outlets may themselves provide items to goods providers. The furniture making concern, for example, may need to obtain a computer from a local distribution outlet stocking computers. Or it might go directly to a goods provider making computers, or indeed, a different distribution outlet within the DCH catchment area (Incidentally, whilst I think of it, there may be a case for all economic units, whether ‘providers’ or ‘outlets’ having to use a ‘company card’ equivalent of the ‘consumer card’ I discussed earlier; in other words, being compelled to operate within parameters decided upon by the local community as a whole, the community served by its DCH). This operational flexibility will help to ensure that shortages and bottlenecks don’t occur. It could be within the remit of the Planning/Development Department of the DCH to ensure that optimal and stable linkages are set up between the local economic units and to troubleshoot on behalf of units that got into problems.
Of course, problems could occur if particular products or services could not be sourced locally. In this instance it would be necessary for requests to be made ‘out of area’. Such requests might be mediated by the Production or Consumption Departments within the DCH, who would in turn liaise with the RCH, or other DCHs within its RCH catchment area. In rare cases, these requests might even have to be escalated to other RCHs. But it is conceivable that if it’s a regular and ongoing issue that requires a stable linkage between a local production provider or consumption outlet and an ‘out of area’ production provider or consumption outlet that direct liaison may be made without involving the DCH. For example, tropical fruit is difficult to grow in the
Turning to the production side of level 1 operations, it will have been noticed that there are a couple of other entities identified in the diagram. ‘Capital goods providers’ are obviously those that would manufacture the equipment or tools with which end use items are produced, although the distinction isn’t always clear-cut. ‘Material goods providers’ are those that would be involved in extracting raw materials wherever these are sited, and conveying them to goods providers to be transformed into items of use. Again, pigeon holing can be difficult: Consider ‘National Parks’ or hydro electric dams for example. The two other entities together demonstrate that socialism could be flexible and multifarious in how it operates. The idea here is that facilities/equipment could be made available to individuals or groups of individuals who might want to produce things/do things for themselves or others on an ad hoc basis. The possibilities are endless; from someone requiring a concrete mixer, to a local amateur group needing a space to perform. This provision would allow for more quirky and individualistic interests to be pursued, and would thus add to the rich tapestry of life. It possible too that many of things that might be ‘loaned’ - from books, DVDs, and CDs to various modes of transport – might be the concern of the facilities/equipment providers.
Careful consideration of the model will reveal that it entails a number of interconnected principles:
Since this free access model is focused largely on the operation of the ‘economy’, consideration of how a socialist economy would interface with local democratic structures, let alone how these democratic structures might themselves operate, lies slightly outside its scope. However, there is much to discuss on, as it were, the political or constitutional aspects of socialism. For my own part, I feel that at the more ‘local’ end of the local-universal spectrum, democracy should definitely be more ‘direct’ as opposed to ‘representative’. But that, as they say, is another story.
The reader may find much to quibble with in this essay. That’s no problem at all. Constructive criticism can be extremely useful, helping to modify and nuance ideas. All I would plead for is that, as socialists, we try to understand exactly what it is we are fighting for, try to portray in some detail what life under socialism might look like. The world, in turn, may then begin to take notice.