ISSUES IN SOCIALISM

Planning a future socialist society

The reader may find it easier to copy and paste this essay to a Word document.      By the way, if you have difficulty downloading the Free Access Model (it takes awhile), or can't see it properly, click on

http://www.flickr.com/photos/74182189@N06/6684003723/

 

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 

         socialism, and,

   (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:

  • If there is one overriding reason for considering in some detail the nature of a future socialist society, for putting flesh on the bones as it were, it is that this will help to bridge the credibility gap one usually encounters in those apprised of the case for socialism for the very first time. Setting out the bare abstract principles upon which this society will run simply does not cut it for most people. It is only when one goes into some detail about, for example, how millions of empty dwellings around the world (unbelievably, 64 million in China in 2011) would be put to use housing the homeless, how billions of square metres of office space would be freed up with the disappearance of money, how hundreds of system-specific occupational categories would likewise disappear freeing up literally billions of people around the world to take on productive work, how sophisticated stock control measures would ensure real needs/wants were met, how technological innovation would be accelerated and be pursued in a co-operative, co-ordinated and socially responsible manner, and so on, that the penny begins to drop
  •    I also think that, from a psychological perspective, people on the eve of a socialist revolution would feel easier knowing exactly what was going to happen at every level - international, national, regional and local – once socialism was formally adopted. It is imperative, I would have thought, that a degree of orderliness characterises the changeover because it will need to be ‘up and running’ from Day One: Hospitals will need to operate, the National Grid will need to function, food supplies will need to keep rolling in, and so on and so forth. The more organised and transparent the transition, the greater will be the readiness and confidence with which people will embrace the new system. Knowing that their local Tesco supermarket will be transformed into a distribution centre, or that the Number 273 bus service will continue, or that they could now move into decent housing, will enable people to organise their own lives. But for this to happen,  it is necessary that things work, that the new system slots into place almost immediately after the carousing and revelry have subsided, and this means that pre-determined and detailed local, regional, national, and international plans will need to be implemented in accordance with a tight schedule. All the better then to start the work of sketching out a range of proposals to be put to the electorate sooner rather than later. Leaving this task until the last minute could lead to confusion and uncertainty, and if not adequately undertaken, could result in chaos. In the worst case scenarios, you could end up with panic, hoarding, looting and violence. At present, whilst the Party is frankly miniscule, it would not be appropriate for it to begin making detailed plans in regards to factories, hospitals, power stations, transport networks, housing stock, etc within local areas. That would be too much. However, we could even at this stage be thinking about ‘modelling’ the sort of detailed planning that would be required in due course, considering in general terms what might be done with the health services, transport, food supplies, energy provision, ‘justice’, and so on. This would provide guidance for the more specific and detailed planning that would be needed later on when the establishment of socialism was beginning to look possible.  As support for socialism grew, these hypothetical deliberations could be firmed up, and then used as a basis for drafting specific plans for each local area, as well as for the ‘country’ as a whole ‘country’ as a whole, and democratically sanctioned by the Party membership. And if there was a significant delay in the implementation of socialism and circumstances changed, then, of course, the plans would need to be reviewed accordingly. In other words, once a WSM Party had attained a significant presence within a given country, its entire raft of plans, whether national, regional or local, would require renewed democratic sanction in the run up to a general election, in order to ensure absolute legitimacy
  •   I also feel that, well before socialism is established, detailed studies of potential pitfalls or teething problems should be undertaken, if necessary drawing on the technical expertise of  system analysts, computer analysts, technologists, agriculturists, etc, to look ways of overcoming these. Forewarned is forearmed.
  • As I suggested in my Discussion Paper, all of this focus on planning, far from putting people off socialism, could, in fact spark some interest in the concept. It could, as I’ve said, create its own centripetal force, and open up an alternative ‘Big Conversation’ or ‘Big Society’ debate. The Party might, for example, consider sending surveys out all households, setting out the free access proposition and inviting householders to submit suggestions as to how this might be applied within their city, town or village. Being asked to ‘imagine an ideal world in which money was no object’, people might come up with all sorts of some useful and surprisingly imaginative suggestions, from how to process local rubbish to the provision of adequate recreational facillities for youngsters. And as a spin-off from this, a sort of viral spread of the concept of socialism might ensue as tongues began to wag. Because roots, locale, friends and community are generally closer to hearts of most people than abstract ideas, tapping into these sentiments could dispose people to give socialism some serious thought
  • Another reason for spelling out well in advance  what exactly socialism will entail is that this will enable socialists to effectively draw the teeth of those that might otherwise pose a threat to the system once it was  installed.  Take the forces of ‘law and order’: After a socialist victory, the role of the police would practically disappear or alter out of all recognition, and nothing like the numbers will be required. Nevertheless, in the immediate aftermath, there may well still be some ‘public order’ issues (for example, ‘domestics’, drink driving etc) and the police may be the appropriate agency to deal with these. However, to get them onside, it would help to have series of meetings well in advance and possibly thrash out a joint post-revolutionary ‘policing’ policy. Much the same might be said for the military. Others who might be ideologically opposed to be socialism (fascists, for example) could also be drawn out of the woodwork during the intense process of public consultation leading up to the revolution. One would hope that reasoned engagement, if at all possible, with the likes of these would cause at least some of them to see the writing on the wall. In any case, some intelligence as to what outfits like this intended doing after socialist victory might be garnered.
  •  In my Discussion Paper, I argued the case for adopting an empirical approach to propaganda; focussing more on demonstrable facts about the world we live in than on complex theories. I don’t need to rehash my reasoning for this, but basically this approach entails looking at phenomena like waste, war, hunger and poverty, showing how these arise from capitalism, and then demonstrating that these phenomena would not arise under socialism because of it’s fundamentally different mode of operation. This means looking in detail at the operation of socialism, which is therefore all of a piece with an empirical approach to propaganda. 
  •  At some stage in the growth of support for socialism it might become tenable to conduct serious research into the feasibility, merits and likely outcomes of some of the administrative policies that might be implemented under socialism; for example, those pertaining to distribution and transportation. Lively debate on such topics would flag up the need for research.

 

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.

  1. Firstly, all of the constituent Parties might want to think how they could help one another, as well as nascent socialist groups arising elsewhere in the world. This assistance could take many forms: Direct financial assistance whereby one Party transferred funds to another, the provision of propaganda material (Pamphlets leaflets, books, DVDs etc), equipment, expertise (for example in how to set up web conferences), collaborative research; help with fighting elections to name but a few. The overall aim would be to try ‘equalise’ as far as possible the growth of socialist consciousness around the world prior to the AP as this would mean that socialism is not marginalised through being viewed simply as some peculiar Anglo-Saxon or Western inspired notion.
  2. Although seeming to contradict the above, it might also serve the interests of synchronisation if the WSM as a whole opted to ‘target’ for intense support a number of ‘key’ countries in the run up to the AP, and beyond; the rationale being that countries would differ in terms of the impact of their own accession on the worldwide accession process as a whole. Thus it may pay dividends, to use an unfortunate capitalist metaphor, to focus on some of the larger more powerful countries, or upon regional powers, as with their accession, dependent countries or surrounding quasi-satellite countries might take to socialism more readily.                                                                              It goes without saying that nothing in the foregoing should be construed as suggesting that socialists in, say, the Maldives are any less ‘deserving’ than those in European countries. Absolutely not. It is purely an expedient to ensure that UES happens as quickly and with as little resistance as possible. In any case, it certainly does not mean that the WSM should abandon some Parties in favour of others; only that more effort is dedicated to certain key countries
  3. The creation of a Translation Bureau - run jointly by all of the WSM Parties with the express function of translating socialist literature into as many languages as possible - could prove to be very useful
  4. This may sound a little unpalatable, but it may even make sense for socialists in one country to postpone contesting an election they looked certain to win to allow a cohort of neighbouring countries to catch up in terms of the additional support they attracted. A difficult notion, I accept, but it is one that might possibly need to be considered in certain specific circumstances.
  5. It may also be necessary during the AP period to consider various rationing options for certain product categories, pending the establishment of full free access. A very basic labour voucher scheme might be one option, though I suspect this is not something socialists will favour.  What might be more suitable because it could have application even after UES is some sort of consumer card which one would have to produce in order to acquire an item that was in short supply, or deemed a ‘luxury’.  Like bank cards, these would have embedded integrated circuits, and link to accounts showing previous acquisitions of ‘card’ items. The system would display whether or not acquisition could proceed, and possibly a due date if acquisition was currently not sanctioned; the criteria being established some local body.  A sort of ‘appeal’ system might operate alongside this, so that, for example, if someone’s car was no longer drive-able, he or she would be able to acquire a replacement. As socialism spread, one could envisage a process of ‘de-carding’ taking place, with more and more items being obtainable without having to produce a card. The idea behind this is that during AP, when socialism would be at its most vulnerable, excessive consumption of certain types of products might put an additional strain on the system. However, even after UES, the use of consumer cards might be indicated, (a) in order to have an equitable distribution should a ‘non-card’ product  need to be ‘carded’, and (b) to impose sensible limits on the acquisition of various ‘luxury’ items (Critics often ask what would stop someone from, say, demanding  ten yachts. Well, a card system would address this problem)
  6. Yet another ‘synchronisation strategy’ might be simply to absorb an isolated capitalist country by just opening the borders around it, enabling workers in this country to freely access (non-card) items. This would lead to the collapse of markets within the aforementioned country and serve as a propaganda coup for socialism.
  7. For similar reasons, the socialist commonwealth might also want to consider the option of aggressively penetrating the markets of the capitalist bloc with their own superior but deliberately under priced goods. This strategy is not without risk. But it sorts of entails beating the capitalists at  their own game (outdoing them on price, quality and quantity)
  8. Yet another strategy might be the wholesale delivery of some free goods or services to certain capitalist countries as this could generate an enormous amount of sympathy and interest. Arguably, in certain circumstances it might be unethical for the socialist commonwealth to actually not do this; for example in catastrophic circumstances such famine, tsunamis or earthquakes. But where the catastrophe had its origin in or was exacerbated by the capitalist mode of production, socialists would not need to feel inhibited in highlighting this fact.
  9. Tourism to various parts of the socialist commonwealth could also have a huge impact the growth of socialist support within the capitalist bloc. Insofar as holidays could be offered at ‘affordable’ prices to destination no longer sullied by commercial blight, such holidays could become extremely popular. Again, it’s a case of beating the capitalists at their own game.
  10. Military strategies might also need to be contemplated if it appeared likely that one or more capitalist countries had hostile intentions

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:

  • The economic ‘clout’ or size of the country transitioning to socialism (The impact of the US opting to become socialist, for example, will be of far greater significance than Ghana or Belize)
  • The population size of the country in question.
  • The extent and specificity of its resource base (Very few countries, for example, possess rare metals)
  • Its contiguity (or otherwise) with socialist territory
  • Its geographical position, which, for example, may have strategic importance (think of the canals running through Panama or Egypt)
  • The cultural or linguistic background of the country (An erstwhile ‘Islamic country choosing to shed its religious baggage and adopt socialism would have a huge impact on that segment of the capitalist bloc styling itself as ‘Islamic’. Similarly, one might imagine that when the first Spanish-speaking country, for example, adopted socialism that interest in socialism would dramatically soar in the hispanophone world. Conversely, it is possible that in linguistically isolated countries, such as Finland, this fact in itself might frustrate the spread of socialism.  It is also worth pointing out that patterns of cultural hegemony would be dramatically altered. Think of all the escapist and ideologically sustaining nonsense churned out by Hollywood. Well, all of that would practically cease overnight once the US came on board)
  • Finally, the point in the AP at which a country acceded would have a bearing on the impact of this event

One might similarly speculate about the factors relating to the ease with which a country acceded to socialism:

  • A crucial factor here would be the number of countries that had already acceded. Obviously, the more there were, the easier it would be.
  • However, the impact of those countries that had acceded had had in so doing is relevant too.  If a number of large resource-rich countries had already acceded, that would most certainly make it easier for others to do likewise.
  • The political stability of the country in question would also have a bearing. It is always possible that some sort of putsch might be launched by reactionary forces in the aftermath of a socialist victory. Or, it is possible that separatist elements within the country might wish to exert themselves. Whether or not there was an established tradition of democracy could likewise have a bearing on how easily the country would accede to socialism
  • Contiguity with socialist territory would make things a lot easier too as this would facilitate the rapid delivery of assistance.
  • Whether or not there were urgent  major problems – natural or man-made -  that needed to be immediately addressed, such as a drought, an earthquake, or a war, would be relevant to how easily socialism was established
  • Economic factors, such as the pre-existing level of development, the existence of an adequate infrastructure, or the degree of self sufficiency in resources, would be relevant too.                 
  • Finally, I would maintain that, crucially, a lack of detailed pre-revolutionary and post-revolutionary planning, as well as informational shortcomings, could make the establishment of socialism significantly more difficult, as I’ve already pointed out.

 

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

 

Pre-revolutionary period

Actions

(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

Actions

(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-

nationally

 

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 UK citizens, or the investment and property ownership by individuals/companies in these countries in the UK, loans, sponsorship arrangements etc. A quid pro quo trade off might be considered. Those in the UK owning assets abroad would obviously not be able to benefit from them, and could be asked to cede them to the commonwealth for the purpose of this exercise.(D)

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

 

  1. The newly elected local councils, whether run by socialists or not, would be obliged to immediately implement the provisions of the ‘Establishment of Socialism’ Act applicable to them, given that a majority in the country had consented to the establishment of socialism.(D)
  2. The reorganisation of local democracy along the lines planned for would need to happen fairly soon to allow clear decision-making processes to come into being. One obvious development at the local level might be introduction of ‘direct democracy’ (as opposed to ‘representative democracy’).(D,E)
  3. The plan to create a District Co-ordinating Hub would need to be put into action immediately by the local council.(D)
  4. The plan to create a Property Agency would need to be implemented as soon as possible. Homeless people or people in substandard housing could then apply for re-housing immediately. Massive demolition programs of substandard building estates (such as hideous ‘sink’ estates, tower blocks etc) could be commenced at once. The local Property Agency would also be tasked with ensuring that all properties complied with planning, building, and heritage regulations.  Far more attention would be lavished on the sturdiness, safety and aesthetic appeal of buildings with due regard being given to their surrounding environment, natural and man-made.(D)
  5. All banks, insurance firms, tax offices would need to be closed immediately. Records from these may need to be destroyed. The properties, would  then have to transferred to the Local Property Agency tasked with managing all properties within the local area.(D)
  6. The plan to re-configure business/enterprises would need to be put into action. Again, numerous premises may be vacated in the process, and some thought will have to given to what is to become of these: they could be upgraded and used for other purposes, or demolished. The remaining units in use would need to be assessed to see if upgrading, expansion, or whatever, was required.(D)
  7. Supply networks would need to be established (See the Free Access model).(D,E,F)
  8. The newly created Regional Co-ordinating Hub (See my Free Access model below) might want to liaise with the District Co-ordinating Hub in regard to proposed infrastructure projects or other schemes.(D,E,F)
  9. Projects aimed at improving the local environment, creating /extending amenities etc, suggested by the people in the community in pre-election surveys and by other means, would need to be democratically considered and, if accepted by the community, brought to fruition.(D,E)
  10. Local job centres would need to be revamped to fit in with the new system or created where none exists in order to process applications by all seeking to volunteer the labour. These centres would collaborate closely with the Production Department of the District Co-ordinating Hub (See the Free Access model), and with educational establishments.(D,E,F)
  11. Educational establishments would likewise need to be revamped in order to fit in with an entirely different ethos in which learning was undertaken entirely voluntarily, and natural curiosity was encouraged. Punishment and other forms of negative reinforcement would play no role; rather, the emphasis would be on creating a happy exciting atmosphere in which to learn. Whatever materials were required would be obtained. With no financial barriers to impede uptake, it is to be expected that many more people might avail themselves of the opportunity to learn and develop themselves intellectually, thus making for much higher general standards of education. Creativity and flexibility in the delivery of courses would likewise encourage uptake (A reinvigorated and vastly extended Open University might become the default tertiary education option in this country and elsewhere in the socialist commonwealth).(D,E,F)
  12. The local health services would need to be re-configured as per previously drafted plans. Many of the bureaucratic impediments and structures currently blighting the NHS would simply disappear. The ridiculous fragmentation of the health service into trusts, and indeed the existence of ‘private’ hospitals and clinics would be things of the past as the health service would become a coherent, integrated and unitary structure with a robust internal communication structure. State of the art medical equipment would be introduced across the board. Adequate staffing levels would be determined, and every effort would be made to ensure these were maintained. Preventative medicine would be promoted, as would outreach and domiciliary services.(D,E,F)
  13. A thorough going inspection of all utilities (Gas, water, electricity, sewage) would need to be carried out to ascertain whether upgrading or the introduction of new equipment was required. Safety and reliability would be key considerations. Mindful of carbon warming, ‘green options’ like solar panels and wind turbines would be utilised as far as possible. A single 1.8 MW wind turbine could, for example, potentially supply the energy needs of  1000 households.(D,E,F)
  14. Likewise, the transport network would need to be inspected.  A dedicated District Transport Network Unit would need to be created to carry out any maintenance or construction work that might be required.(D,E)
  15. The provision of local amenities like parks, libraries, swimming pools, halls, skate parks, recreation centres, and so on would also need to be reviewed. Such amenities as there are might need upgrading or extending, others might need to be created. Proposals put forward by members of the public regarding amenities, both before and after the establishment of socialism, would need to be considered and democratically endorsed before being acted upon.(D,E)
  16. Waste collection is something else that would need to be looked at.  As with other services. It would help to set up a District Waste Collection Unit with the express purpose of providing a more than satisfactory service. The most environmentally friendly disposal options would be sought (as money would be no object), and recycling would be promoted as far as possible.(D,E)
  17. With junk mail, bills, most ‘business’ documents and so on, being things of the past, it is to be expected that the volume of postal items would shrink dramatically. Nevertheless, the postal service might need to be expanded at a local level and integrated at a ‘national’ level if its remit was stretched to the delivery of any household item, including furniture, for example. As an all-purpose ‘delivery service’, it would replace the plethora of parcel delivery services one finds today.(D,E)

 

 

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 UK. Hence, it would make sense for distribution outlets in this part of the socialist commonwealth to have stable ‘contracts’ with tropical fruit producers in other parts of the world.  That said, there would be a role for the Planning/Development Department of the local DCH, once a certain level of ‘out of area’ requests had been flagged up, to consider ways of redressing  the local shortfalls.

 

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:

  1. The first is that needs should, whenever possible, be met locally. When local suppliers were unable to meet specific needs then more distant suppliers would be sourced – via various communication channels. This actually makes ecological sense: Such a policy would dramatically minimise transportation and storage requirements. It makes no sense having, say New Zealand butter available in Somerset, when butter could just as easily be produced in Somerset. Apologists for capitalism might squeal that this would deprive individuals of choice. But I think this is just spurious nonsense. The environmental costs of making New Zealand butter available in Somerset would far outweigh the gains from being enabled to relish whatever discernible difference there might be between the butter originating from these two locations (which, in any case would be manufactured to the highest standards under socialism). Additionally, this policy would ensure local self sufficiency universally, and thus greatly enhance adaptability in the event of unforeseen natural disasters. It would also lead to a more productive use of local resources, and might even act as a spur to technological development: Consider, for example the possibility of ‘greening’ deserts. The policy would also make cultural sense insofar as it would promote local production traditions, and thus encourage cultural diversity rather than bland homogenisation.
  2. The second principle is that the socialist economy can be conceived of as a hierarchical arrangement of geographical domains, ranging from the local at the bottom to the world-wide at the top, with a communication spine running all the way through these levels. It is important to bear in mind, however, that this idea of a ‘hierarchy’ in no way implies that the more local domains are in a sense subordinate. Power is not the defining feature here. Rather, it is communication or information. Thus higher level structures are only higher in the sense that they co-ordinate integrate or match up inputs and responses from lower level structures. Socialism being founded upon voluntaristic labour, there could be no question of the former compelling the latter to do something. At the very most, requests would be issued. The only ‘power’ to be wielded would be that democratically expressed via a multiplicity of constituencies across the world.
  3. A third principle is that flexibility would be built into the system: Whilst  higher order structures might mediate in many production projects, particularly in the case of those that had not as yet got off the ground, there is no reason why distribution outlets or service agencies could not liaise directly with local providers or even out of area providers. The hubs would serve to facilitate such connections but could be by-passed. And as I’ve suggested with facilities/equipment providers,
  4. This brings me to a fourth principle, which is that units within the system would have autonomy, but within parameters set by the local communities. In fact, like the communities within which they would be situated, economic units under socialism, whether they are production providers or consumer outlets, would necessarily be democratic in the manner of their operation (because they would be manned by volunteers). Of course, expertise, seniority, training, and experience would all be pertinent to the day to day functioning of any given economic unit, and might even constitute criteria one needed to satisfy in order to join the team. One wouldn’t want to see unqualified individuals (with or without Munchausen by proxy predilections) wandering around hospitals with stethoscopes around their necks. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that all team members couldn’t have their say and vote upon the policies and major decisions pertaining to the operation of their unit. And because of their democratic and voluntaristic basis, there would be no question of these economic units being ‘compelled’ to adopt a particular course of action. In other words, they would operate autonomously.
  5. Finally, in a society not riven by conflicting interests, people will clearly make the linkage between themselves as consumers and themselves as producers. They will understand that work needs to be done for goods and services to be made available. Since production will no longer be fettered by the need to maximise market prices (and hence profits) and to minimise the costs involved, the highest possible standards will be sought. This will immensely simplify the process of production. Instead of there being a bewildering array of products of a certain sort, differing in terms of quality, packaging, appearance and so on, socialist production will simply opt for the best. Capitalist apologists may trumpet free choice’, of our inalienable right to select from fifty seven brands of baked beans. But like so much else in their intellectual armoury, this argument is simply devoid any merit unless one seriously believes that shoddiness, adulteration, built in obsolescence, over packaging, and overpricing are good things. Without having to be concern with such matters or agonise over what  competitors are doing, production in socialist society will simply need to determine the quantity of a particular item be produced  items; its quality having by default been pre-determined as the best possible. 

 

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.