One of the Anonymati [Anonymouses? Anonymice?] asks that I write a critique of the oh so sober, serious analysis of socialism, complete with charts and graphs, produced by the President’s Council of Economic Advisors. After more than sixty pages of objective, balanced consideration, the Council comes to the surprising conclusion that socialism is a bad idea, economically. The Council’s principal point of comparison is Nordic countries [are they confusing socialism with cross-country skiing?]
The big news, of course, is that Trump’s Council of Economic Advisors actually thinks it is worth their time and effort to write the report. Much has been made, and rightly so, of the fact that the Trump Republican Party has welcomed Nazis, Klansmen, racists, and anti-Semites in from the cold. Who would have predicted that they would also give a shout out to us socialists?
Why am I writing about this today, after a horrifying week capped by the slaughter of Jews in a synagogue? Because I am desperately trying to stay sane, that is why, and writing about alternative universes, like one in which socialism is actually possible, is one way to do that.
I have read the Executive Summary of the report and scanned through the report itself, but I do not intend to take issue with it, and my reason for not doing so is the real subject of this post. Let me begin by reminding you that Karl Marx, who wrote 5000 pages, more or less, on the history, anatomy, laws of motion, and mystified ideology of capitalism, wrote maybe 50 or 60 pages, if that, about socialism. It was not a lapse in memory on his part. He had a reason for not writing about how socialism would work, and that reason is the very heart of his economic and historiographical theory.
Marx believed that just as capitalism had developed slowly, organically, within the existing socio-economic system of feudalism, so too the social relationships of production appropriate to socialism would develop within the structure of capitalism until the contradiction, as he called it, between the two would produce a revolutionary transition. Socialism would not come about as a result of manifestos, or theoretical analyses, or counter-cultural utopian experimental communities. Rather, the inner development of capitalism itself would create the new social relations of production out of which socialism would emerge. In effect, capitalists themselves would be the gravediggers of capitalism. Taking this claim seriously, I tried in my essay, The Future of Socialism, to think through what those inner developments might be. If you are interested, you will find it archived at box.net, accessible via the link at the top of this page.
Marx did not think that the transition to socialism could be advanced by arguments that socialism would be a good thing, in effect a plank in a political platform. I am delighted that folks are once again calling themselves socialists and that the president’s Council of Economic Advisors thought it a useful expenditure of their energies to write a 70 page paper explaining why socialism would be a bad thing, not to say Nordic. But arguing with their critique would be a waste of time.