This was supposed to be on the redfortyeight.com site but ended up here by accident…
Still another article on socialism in The New Republic…
Our reflections on neo-communism, we have moved beyond the term ‘socialism’, express and yet also challenge the sense of commentators on socialism of the hard division between liberalism and a postcapitalist communism. That division arose at the start of the radical era of revolutionary politics. But the hard distinction is misleading
Our tendency has been to see that, revolution or evolution, the outcome should as well remorph its starting point: we have talked of our ‘democratic market neo-communism’ as a communism that looks like liberalism and a liberalism that looks like communism: there is no absolute division of structures beyond the admitted shock of expropriation: if a remorphed liberalism can adapt to the creation of a Commons (and not as a state capitalism) much of what remains can fall into place or restructure along familiar lines again with some important novelties. But the point is that the sense of realism versus utopianism is false: our ‘democratic market neo-communism’ is a liberal democracy done right, minus the Lockean interpolation of ‘property rights’, a choke point rising in the era of the Restoration and the birth of rigged systems with oligarchic parliaments, etc…
A key lesson of computer programming, at least for an amateer c-coder like myself, was that remorphing code tidbit by tidbit each step debugged to viable functionality works much better than imaginary top down ‘swallow it whole’ approaches. While the analogy is not exact, and the need to plan a new society is vital, the fact remains as we look backward that the russian exemplar ended up in a void of top down novelties that gave unexpected results. Our DMNC is a system that takes a system like what we see in the US and once it has established the principle of a Commons can function with much of came before, in each case to be sure slightly modified: for example a capitalist corporations will turn into a communist corporation going on much as before but with licensed resources from the Commons. Note that the latter can be achieved (at the risk of civil war!) with a stroke of the pen.
It will have a president with considerable yet limited powers in tiered system of political parties: a one party state of revolutionaries that promotes an ecological Commons but with no further powers on top of a parliamentary system of multiple parties that mediate the issues of social function: an ecological core will also be served by ecological courts and a new body of law to remorph economy around an ecological socialism/communism. This system will show interaction of market based communist markets, and planning/ecological courts and other legal novelties. (in addition in our model there is a third semi-anarchist level below a certain threshold where a kind of let go allows small-scale entities of any given type: this system will also conserve its full social dna in multiple brands and versions ‘stored’ thimble sized in the third sector…?)
The point here is that our model is not utopian but a simple remorphing of a democratic capitalism into a new system that still resembles its starting point. Note that much of this already exists: a given entity e.g. a public utility gives the flavor already of such an outcome. Such a system is thus multivalent with a series of parallel potentials and recognizable starting point in elder liberal systems. This system is going to generate a high degree of equality with a robust set of economic, liberal, and other rights in a system of checks and balances. In an ecological framework ‘nature’ is itself and entity with ‘rights’ in some fashion given the legal equivalent: the gauntlet of growth/degrowth must be faced directly in legal terms. Not one party state and bureaucracy can control the general field of a working class that moves into the status of the universal class, ec… We can add any number of other systems, from worker cooperatives to communes, but the overall structure, e.g. with parliaments, is a direct descendant from its starting point but balances a set of opposites.
The point here is that this outcome is both top down and yet a remorphing of given histories and tested at each step in a transitional period of refoundation.
The point is that we can’t just talk about socialism as if the term had a meaning in advance: we must construct in advance a set of definitions that take into account the realities of a new social system.