Economic Democracy, A Worthy Socialism That Would Really Work

Published on Loyola University Chicago’s personal pages, (taken from Science & Society, Vol. 56, No. 1, Spring 1992, pages 9-38), by DAVID SCHWEICKART.

MARXISTS ARE SKEPTICAL OF BLUEPRINTS, always have been. We all remember Marx’s polemic against Proudhon, the Manifesto’s critique of “historical action [yielding] to personal inventive action, historically created conditions of emancipation to fantastic ones, and the gradual spontaneous class organizations of the proletariat to an organization of society specially contrived by these inventors” (Marx and Engels, 1986, 64), and the numerous other occasions when the fathers of “scientific socialism” went after the “utopians.” In general this Marxian aversion to drawing up blueprints has been healthy, fueled at least in part by a respect for the concrete specificity of the revolutionary situation and for the agents engaged in revolutionary activity: it is not the business of Marxist intellectuals to tell the agents of revolution how they are to construct their postrevolutionary economy.

Yet the historical dialectic is a funny thing: virtues sometimes turn into vices, and vice versa. At this particular historical moment, the skeptical aversion to blueprints is out of place. Such is my contention. At this present historical conjuncture, we need a “blueprint” � a theoretical model of a viable, desirable socialism. It is no secret that the long-standing argument that socialism cannot work has been given a powerful boost by the recent and still unfolding events in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Indeed, the breadth and depth of the anti-socialist, pro-capitalist feelings among those who have lived or are still living under “actually existing socialism” cannot but be disturbing, even to those of us who have long been critical of that brand of socialism …

follows an excerpt from the pages 10 – 36

A Brief Conclusion:

I have sketched the shape and provided some of the details of the argument that Economic Democracy is an efficient form of socialism – more efficient, in fact, than capitalism. But efficiency is far from being Economic Democracy’s only strength. A careful, fair-minded analysis will show that Economic Democracy is less infected with growth mania than capitalism, and hence better suited to a world that must come to terms with ecological limits, that it is more stable than capitalism, more democratic, more egalitarian. I think it can also be shown, though I will not attempt to do so here, that Economic Democracy better accords with the underlying, bed-rock values of a liberatory Marxian socialism than does any of the existing or proposed alternatives. Moreover, if we remain on the lookout (as Marx advises) for institutions of the new society slowly forming in the womb of the old, I think we can discern the institutions of Economic Democracy. If socialism is to be humanity’s future (by no means a foregone conclusion), Economic Democracy is a future we can realistically project – and honorably fight for … (Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois).

References and NOTES 1 – 25.

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