The commodity producing society is supplied with products by a number of private producers who sit by themselves and produce more or less by guess, with private profit as their driving force. In this way production under capitalism is directly private. But these private producers are still part of the social division of work, together they command society's total amount of labor power. And they are expected to satisfy society's needs, if those needs can be expressed though buying power. Therefore, production is indirectly social. There is a contradiction between production's private and social aspects.
The law of value and market mechanisms regulate how society's total resources of labor power and means of production are divided. This mechanism is frequently celebrated by the supporters of market economy as "the invisible hand" which arranges everything for the best. But then they don't mention that redistribution of labor and the means of production from one sector to another is done by razing jobs and, perhaps, whole local communities. Sometimes the system can only be adjusted by violent crises, yes, even war. They don't mention that the labor capacity of the majority of people is turned into a commodity. The carrier of the labor power that "floats" around in society in time with the law of value, is a human being. But that human being is reduced to a sort of appendage to his/her own labor power.
Therefore, socialism's aim has been to replace that mechanism with something else. What is central here, is production's characteristic trait of being directly private, but only indirectly social. This is the contradiction socialism must solve by letting the state take over all means of production, and production becoming directly social by distributing social labor according to a plan directed towards supplying people's needs. Instead of the law of value as the main regulator, the planning process, which Huberman so vividly describes, comes in.
The central plan and its central apparatus has often been seen as the guarantee for the working class' power, and private commodity production, also when on a small scale, as a threat to socialism. Lenin spoke about small production firms that "create capitalism, every hour, every day" And he vividly paints the war against this evil (Lenin, The Russian Economy in our days. In Tax in kind, Collected Works, Moscow 1973 - Retranslated from the Norwegian Ed. Selected Works, Vol. 12, Oslo 1978, p. 40):
"It is not state capitalism that is at war with socialism, but the petty-bourgeoisie and private capitalism that fight together against state capitalism and socialism. The petty-bourgeoisie oppose all kinds of state interference, accounting and control, no matter whether it is state capitalistic or state socialistic. This is an indisputable fact from experience, and many economic mistakes spring from misunderstanding this. The profiteer, trade blackmailer, he who breaks the monopoly - these are the most important "inner" enemies, enemies of those economic steps which the Soviets take. /.../We know full well that the economic foundation for profiteering both includes the small owners, of whom there are unusually many in Russia, and private capitalism, for whom every single petty-bourgeois is an agent. We know that the petty-bourgeois octopus every now and then spreads it millions of tentacles around some strata of workers, and that profiteering activity penetrates instead of the state monopoly i every single pore of the economic and social organism."
Socialist strategy has in practice often meant building up a strong, centralized state apparatus: centralized economy, centralized planning, centralized state management of most social tasks, centralized political power. There are several reasons for this. One reason is the economic: society's control over the means of production has often been seen as state control. And state planning has expressed production's "directly social" character. As Huberman puts it (p. 242): "In a socialist society the state finds itself in capital's position, only a thousand times stronger - that is, the state is the only owner of capital and must make all decisions. " True, all property has not been state-owned in any socialist countries. Collective property has existed, and private property has existed. But the aim has often been to make increasingly more things state-owned so as to strengthen the "directly social" steering of the economy, and hinder capitalist germs from developing from below.
And capitalistic germs can grow out of collective property. During a visit to China in 1984, I could observe how a form of capitalism grew in small ways, from below (but with the blessing of party and state, though): In Jinan in Shandong we learnt of three families of a total of 12 members who had started producing purses. They had become immensely rich according to Chinese standards, and used much of the money on reinvestments in production. Parts of the production were given on contract to family and friends, i.e. they really had employees. In one "village" in Taian, also in Shandong, there were companies with a total of 1,000 workers. 500 did not belong to the village. Workers from outside received the same wage as workers from the village, but since they were not collective owners of the company, they were not allotted a share in the profits the company made.
Important welfare tasks have also been tackled through state initiatives. Also, the state has been seen as the working class' tool, both to organize the economy in line with their interests, and to hinder the old rulers in coming back to their own old positions. The state should express the new power relations. If the state is the working class' state, it is natural to consider a strong state as an expression of the working class' strength. Most socialist countries have been exposed to aggression, and threats of aggression, from an imperialistic world. A strong, centralized state has also contributed to defense against foreign aggression. In short, the state has become the great problem solver.
But experience of socialist societies shows that the state is not the big problem solver. It is just as much the big problem maker. Even a state that is supposed to serve working people's interests, has an almost irresistible tendency to separate itself from those it should serve, to breed new bureaucratic ruling strata. Such a development is quite logical, seen in the light of Marx' and Engels' theories: as long as the division of labor demands that ruling and administration is a special task for a minority, class society has its "historical right". The minority that rules and administrates will also easily become rulers. We can support workers' control organs and other arrangements that hinder this sort of development. But these workers' control organs may easily end with the same type of relationship to the state apparatus that the State Pollution Supervision Authority has to Norwegian companies: they come along afterwards and clean up the worst of the mess. But they are not the ones who set the terms for development.
Within Marxist thinking, however, the long-term goal is really to abolish the state - in a classless communist society where no one rules over others. Marx said that the state would "wither away" when the time was ripe. But the state's "withering" will hardly be a gradual harmonious process that occurs all by itself. It may take active struggle to create a society with a low power base through the whole of the socialist transition period. Maybe a strategy will be needed that takes a more direct starting point in the long-term goal: stateless communism - a strategy for building up power from below, for finding decentralized solutions, solutions that mean gradually dismantling the state and bureaucracy.
This is not unproblematical. Democracy demands material opportunities. If the whole of the working people are to rule, and not just a small minority that have this as their special role, the majority must have time and strength to do it. Lenin's ideas on the worker's direct participation in ruling and administration of the state and society were still very radical in the first period after the revolution. In 1918 he saw the soviets as the actual basis for socialistic democracy. He writes of the development of the soviets (The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government in The Soviet State Apparatus, Moscow, 1969, p. 145):
"There is a petty-bourgeois tendency to transform the members of the Soviets into "parliamentarians", or else into bureaucrats. We must combat this by drawing all the members of the Soviets into the practical work of administration. In many places the departments of the Soviets are gradually merging with the Commissariats. Our aim is to draw the whole of the poor into the practical work of administration, and all steps that are taken in this direction - the more varied they are, the better - should be carefully recorded, studied, systematised, tested by wider experience and embodied in law. Our aim is to ensure that every toiler, having finished his eight hours' "task" in productive labour, shall perform state duties without pay; the transition to this is particularly difficult, but this transition alone can guarantee the final consolidation of socialism."
Lenin wanted "every single toiler" to turn up after an 8 hour day and take part, free of charge, in the administration of the state. First of all, that is a pretty stiff demand. Also, under conditions like this, it easily becomes a question of "taking part" in a limited way: one takes part in something someone else (those who have ruling and administrating as full-time jobs) has defined and set the terms for. Secondly, Lenin's "toilers", who were to devote themselves to state tasks after working hours, could not have had care- and housework to do. The cook should rule the state, said Lenin. But when was she supposed to have time for it?
In countries of the Soviet Union's and China's type, it was difficult, not to say impossible, to create a "worker's state" or, alternatively, a "worker and peasant state", that the majority actually controlled. When a great deal of people's time is used to produce material necessities and to carry out the most basic tasks for staying alive, a special social stratum for ruling and administrating has to appear. This stratum may eventually become fixed as a new ruling class. That is what happened in the Soviet Union. The bureaucracy developed into the real rulers, even though the bureaucracy did not spring from the soviet organizations, but from the party and the new "red experts" who were given special education and power under Stalin. The large industrial basis for Soviet society was shaped under Stalin's leadership. But it was no longer an aim that "every toiler should perform state tasks". The working class was mobilized as producers, but not as rulers, as Fossum (1984) has expressed it. And therefore, it followed inevitably that they should be ruled.
The opportunities for gradually dismantling the state, and managing to make an active democracy where the whole of the working class and the working people take part, depends upon material conditions. But not only. It also has to do with political line. With a starting point in an everyday life perspective, it becomes decisive to be able to bring out common people's experience and knowledge, their frame of reference, their way of formulating needs. The struggle to bring the everyday life perspective into the planning process and production of knowledge must necessarily be a struggle for radical, participating democracy, for a society with a low power base. This struggle cannot abolish the limits the material conditions set. But within these limits the political line decides how the opportunities are utilized.
What kind of administrative solutions a society finds for different social tasks are no coincidence. In our society the solutions that are chosen must serve, or at least not threaten, capital owners' power. Let us use the Work Supervision Authority as an example. The Work Supervision Authority is supposed to protect workers from working conditions that are detrimental to their health. A sensible object in any case. Serious violations of the Worker's Environment Protection Laws shall be punished. If injunctions from the Work Supervision Authority are not followed within a certain time limit, this can also lead to punishment. In 1985 the police received 6 reports of violations of the Work's Environment Protection Law. The same year, 89 occupational accidents, with fatal results, were reported to the Work Supervision Authority, with 5,033 occupational diseases. If these people had been injured or killed by street violence, there would be cries about a terrible wave of violence. But crimes against the worker's environment, those are crimes that are not punished. Why is the Work Supervision Authority so inefficient? The reason is simple: because it is supposed to be. The Work Supervision Authority is supposed to keep an eye on the worker's environment, but only as long as it doesn't affect profits. This is even said straight out. When the state of the market started getting worse at the ends of the seventies and beginning of the eighties, the government stated in its long-term program that in this difficult economic situation " ... it will be necessary to show consideration in economic questions, and, especially, showing consideration for the company's ability to compete, should be stressed when carrying out the Worker's Environment Protection Law." The law becomes a paper tiger when it stands in the way of the economy's demands, as the criminologist Nils Arne Bakke (1980) comments.
A Work Supervision Authority that is supposed to protect workers, at the same time as it is not supposed to protect them, has got to be organized as a special administrative organ away from workers themselves. But what if we want a Work Supervision Authority that should truly keep an eye on worker's health and safety? Would we then need a special administrative organ? Wouldn't it be more sensible to simply give the workers more power, to give the trade union authority to regulate the work environment in the company? And wouldn't that also be a better guarantee for workers' power than a controlling organ in a state apparatus with a tendency to distance itself from those it should serve?
The example of the Work Supervision Authority can be transferred to many administrative organs in our society. The tasks they have been set to solve, are to be solved on capital's terms, without threatening profits. The whole thing we call the welfare state, and which we struggle to defend today, is, apart from securing some benefits for people, also supposed to control and discipline people. The state is not neutral, it is a class state. It carries out its tasks so that it serves the interests of the rulers.
But how will this work when the rulers are the majority, workers themselves? When the administrative organs are not supposed to protect profit, or control and discipline people into serving the interests of a small minority? Then it should be much easier to let what is left of real tasks be carried out directly by people themselves, or in decentralized organs near the grass roots. This is also necessary in order to tie production of knowledge closer to the interests it shall serve. In the interview I quoted from earlier, Navarro points out the connection between making the state more democratic and a qualitative changing of medical science (Klassekampen (Class Struggle) 25.11.90):
"Both social democrats and communists have been wrong and thought that medical science and practice were neutral. That meant that socialism's aim was limited to a better distribution of medicines, better distribution of hospital services, etc. The distribution task had to be mainly the state's task. Concepts changed in the sixties. More people began to ask whether science really was neutral. They saw that science preserved power relations, and, that medicine isn't neutral either. It, too, preserves power relations. Medicine is sexist and racist, and it is class medicine. Socialistic medicine cannot be a better distributed medicine. It is a qualitatively different form of medicine. It is not just a question of expertise. It is a question of how knowledge is produced. It demands that science and medicine become more democratic. And this cannot happen without the state becoming more democratic, too."
But not everything called "becoming more democratic" means more power to common people. In today's Norway, town councils (and in Oslo, even smaller units, town district councils) have the responsibility for carrying out a number of tasks that are very important for people's welfare. But the terms for their activity are set by the leading capitalist groups and their state. This particularly concerns resources. When the economic framework shrinks, the town councils and town district councils have to administrate the deterioration in people's life conditions. They become the extended arm of the state and capitalist groups in local communities. In this situation an apparent paradox springs up, which is that the more areas for which local organs are given responsibility, the more powerless the local population become. If they try to make demands on the town councils or town district councils, these just wave their arms and explain that there is no money in the town coffers. If they try to make demands on the state, the state authorities explain that the area under discussion is the responsibility of the local community: people must therefore demand that local politicians change their priorities. But for the common people in a community little is gained by closing a nursing home instead of a day care center, or the other way around. The ruling authorities, though, have gained a lot if they can get the supporters of child care to fight with the supporters of care for the elderly over the small allotted sums.
The existence of local determining organs and laws on local self-government are, in themselves, no guarantee for the local population's influence on its own daily life. Such organs and laws can as easily be tools for a finely woven central control. The chosen representatives are not the local population's representatives to the authorities, but the authorities' representatives to the local population.
This is a form of decentralization that strengthens the capitalists' class interests. The "local democracy" is beginning to have the same "garbage function" reproduction has: local organs are given responsibility for everything that isn't given high priority centrally - with no resources and no power.
In the new society a "low power base" must mean real power to the grass roots. And perhaps a lot can be done differently if one stops thinking that the working class' power is mainly expressed through a strong state (which can quickly become an illusion when the state bureaucracy distances itself from its class basis and starts to serve its own interests), and instead thinks that the lower the power base in a society is, the stronger workers are.
Marx saw the struggle for the new society as moving with the stream. History was on the side of the working class, socialism and communism: capitalism as a system would more and more be shaken by its insolvable, inner contradictions. And capitalism itself created the economic and political basis for its own destruction. Production became steadily more social, and capital was concentrated on fewer and fewer hands. In the end it could be plucked like a ripe fruit by the revolutionary working class. Capitalism itself created the modern proletariat, its destroyers. It disciplined them and brought them up to do the revolutionary task they must carry out, and to administrate their own workers' state afterwards. As Lenin put it (The State and Revolution, Peking 1965, chapter VI, p. 119):
"If really all take part in the administration of the state, capitalism cannot retain its hold. And the development of capitalism, in turn, itself creates the premises that enable really "all" to take part in the administration of the state. Some of these premises are: universal literacy, which has already been achieved in a number of the most advanced capitalist countries, then the "training and disciplining" of millions of workers by the huge, complex, socialized apparatus of the postal service, railways, big factories, large-scale commerce, banking, etc., etc."
The terrific development of production forces would after a while turn the division in classes into an anachronism, and clear the way for the classless society where the split between intellectual work and physical work, between the rulers and the ruled, was abolished.
Much of this has happened. But much has also happened differently from what Marx had imagined. The socialist revolutions in the capitalist centers have failed to appear. Instead, the revolutions appeared on the periphery. And these countries have been faced with the choice of either gliding into a new-colonial status, or choosing a socialistic route that certainly couldn't follow the recipe. In these countries there was no highly concentrated, social, large-scale industrial economy to "pluck". And the development of production forces was definitely not about to make the division of labor and classes superfluous. On the contrary, most of the population had to use all their time on providing the necessities of life. Under such conditions it was difficult to avoid a sharp split between physical work and intellectual work, between those who produced and those who ruled.
In this sort of situation, the idea that the struggle for socialism and communism first and foremost is a movement with the stream, must be dangerous. The material foundation for classes and divisions between classes, and therefore for the minority's power over and oppression of the majority, was in no way gone. Even though one managed to break down the old ruling classes' power, the spontaneous development must necessarily mean new class divisions, and, in extension of that, new oppression of those the revolution was meant to serve: workers and poor peasants. Building socialist power relations on such a foundation must be a movement against the stream.
Mao was very critical of the stalinistic understanding that development of production forces and building up large industry was alpha and omega for socialist society. He has a number of critical comments to two of the central economic texts that were published under Stalin. These were the authorized textbook in political economy and Stalin's own Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR (Moscow, 1952). His general criticism of the first of these, is that it is exclusively concerned with material conditions and seldom raises questions that have to do with what, in Marxist terminology, is called the "superstructure": the class character of the state, philosophy and science. The main theme for economy is the production relations, says Mao, that is, the relations between people and classes in production. And production relations cannot be studied isolated from the rest of the social structure. One example of the type of criticism he raises, is the comment to this sentence in the Soviet textbook: "Machine- and tractor stations are important tools for carrying through the socialist reform of agriculture." Mao's comment on this is (Eng. ed. 1977, p. 55):
"Again and again the text emphasizes how important machinery is for the transformation. But if the consciousness of the peasantry is not raised, if ideology is not transformed, and you are depending on nothing but machinery - what good will it be? The question of the struggle between the two roads, socialism and capitalism, the transformation and re-education of people - these are the major questions for China."
Mao also criticizes the textbook's treatment of workers' rights under socialism, because it doesn't mention the right to manage the state, the different companies, education and culture. He thinks, too, that under socialism there might appear what he calls groups that have an interest in retaining the existing institutions, and who therefore are unwilling to change them. The road from socialism to the classless communist society will therefore not be a harmonious glide with no struggle or contradicting interests. Later he started the Cultural Revolution to throw out parts of the party and state apparatus that he thought no longer served socialism's cause.
For Mao, building socialism was not just a question of developing production and creating the material foundation, then the rest would follow of its own accord. To him it was also a struggle about people's heads and hearts.
The criticism of the Soviet texts were written at the end of the fifties, during what was called "The big leap". "The big leap" was a huge campaign to succeed in making enormous changes in Chinese economy and social organization in a short time. In this period the Peoples' Commune, among other things, was formed, as the most important local unit in the Chinese countryside. The Peoples' Commune was both an economic and an administrative unit, that was supposed to integrate agriculture and industry, and take the responsibility for a number of welfare- and cultural needs among its members. At the same time high economic goals were set at a national level. Among other things, steel production was supposed to increase from five million tons a year to over ten. And this was supposed to happen within a half a year. To fulfill this several tens of millions of peasant were called out in the middle of harvesting to cut down trees and burn coal for innumerous small, primitive ironworks, says Steigan (1990). Great stretches of forest were razed and the necessary labor power taken from agriculture. This had necessarily to have destructive results, for, among other things, food supply. Steigan refers to Vaclav Smil, who thinks that "the big leap" led to an enormous deforestation. Perhaps this contributed to the strong flood and drought catastrophes that hit China at the end of the fifties.
There is something strangely dual about Mao's politics, as they are expressed through "The big leap", among other things. On the one hand, the Peoples' Communes, that were really a formation incorporating opportunities to integrate different sides of production and daily life under the people's control. And Mao talks about the people as the most important thing all the time. On the other hand, there are important characteristics of "The big leap" that are not particularly different from the most senseless and heedless behavior capitalist contractors have shown in carrying out their wonderful super-projects in the Third World. The local population's interests and knowledge have been neglected, with catastrophic results. How could the creator of the "mass line", who talks all the time about the importance of people, be responsible for this? Perhaps the key to some of this is that the "mass line" became, after a time, mostly a question of "mobilizing" the masses, that is, awakening their enthusiasm for the big plans, rather than to listening to their wisdom? The way Mao formulates his criticism of Soviet economy, can give that impression. The peasant's consciousness must be "lifted" and "the masses reformed". It is obvious that a new society also demands that people start to think in a new way. But where do the new impulses come from? Mustn't an important part be that the oppressed are given increased belief in the validity of their own knowledge and interpretation of reality, and a valid language with which to express their own needs and experiences?
The same strange duality appears during the cultural revolution. On the one side, mass activity, underlining common workers and peasants in contrast to experts, intellectuals and bureaucrats. Important new things are happening in many areas, new things that undoubtedly occur on common people's terms and strengthen their power. On the other side, blind worship of authority, a religious view of the Chairman's words as being the highest wisdom, setting aside common sense. And Mao himself cynically used hero worship to reach his goals in the power struggle that was going on.
I suppose one must say that both Lenin and Mao, in contrast to Stalin, in many ways saw the creating of socialist power relations in their countries as a movement "against the stream". The fact that they didn't solve the problem under the extremely difficult conditions in the Soviet Union and China, is hardly surprising. Criticism may easily look like cheap moralism, cut off from the real historical situation in which the struggle went on. But it should be possible to harvest some knowledge. One piece of knowledge is, perhaps, that building a new society in countries of our type, will not be a movement "with the stream" either, despite our richness, productivity and the high educational level of most people. We will be faced with the task of creating an ecologically defensible economy for the good of the majority (both sexes), liberated from exploiting relations with the Third World. This will take a fundamental settlement with hundreds of years of ideological, political and scientific tradition, where women, nature and non-white people in part have been something that ought to be conquered and controlled, in part have been outside of our field of vision. Further, it is probably true as Lenin said, that capitalism both "educates and disciplines" workers. The question is: to what? Rosa Luxembourg clearly has a point here in her famous polemic against Lenin's wish to build on "a discipline that is an inheritance from the capitalist state - where only the conductor's baton is moved from the hand of the bourgeoisie over to a social democratic central committee ..." (Luxembourg, Norwegian ed. 1973, p. 97). The division between leaders and "masses", where the leaders are active and the "masses" sadly passive, is recreated time and again in the working class organizations, as they have been recreated in the socialist societies. This happens despite the very best intentions. This has to do partially with division of labor in the material sense, but not only. It also has to do with being unable to create overnight a new type of knowledge that implies that control, power and the decisive opportunities for action are moved downward. If one thinks that science and technology (and discipline) are something neutral, they may not be created at all. Then the spontaneous development will see to it that most things remain as before.
Nor is it possible in countries of our type to imagine a viable socialism where no attempt is made to express the majority's interests through a central state apparatus and central plans. There must be a common, co-ordinated effort to build and rule the new society. There are a number of superior aims that cannot be reached without central planning and co-ordination. There is a need of central organs that can gather resources to carry out big, common tasks no region or local community can manage alone. And the state must be the guarantor of some basic rights and common standards for services everyone is to enjoy. That means that the central apparatus must have power.
At the same time there is a danger that the central apparatus distances itself from the working class and the working people, begins to rule on behalf of itself and elevates itself to a new, oppressive ruling class. And there is a danger of the entirety of everyday life being broken up, and common people's terms, needs, knowledge and experience being defined away because they don't fit in with the structures of the central power.
The central apparatus is both a necessity and a threat. It is both an expression of the new power relations, and a spring of re-creation of the old. I think this duality is inevitable. The question is how one can change the strength relations between the two sides. One of the answers may be organizing the counter forces against the spontaneous development.
The necessity of organizing the counter forces is perhaps one of the most important pieces of knowledge one can draw from socialism's history up to now. Several of the working class' and people's most important political tools were swallowed and changed by the State and bureaucracy:
I have pointed out earlier that the revolutionary force in our country is not a unity either. It carries along both contradictions and oppressive relations, for example between man and woman. Seen in this way, there is a need of intermediation between the different forces in the alliance that the new society will be built on, in countries of our type, too.
However, I see great problems with the state being the intermediary between the different partners in the alliance, and taking care of the interests of the whole. Let me again take my starting point in the relations between women and men. Let us imagine that women, through their strong, independent women's organization, made demands on the state, and the free, independent trade union movement, dominated by the men of the working class made their demands on the state. It would then be the central planning organ's job to find a proposal for the economic plan that, in a sensible way, showed consideration for both women's and men's wishes and interests. I think that there is a considerable danger, in this situation, that women's demands would quickly be reduced to, and treated as, a special sector, that we would not get a type of economic development that integrates production and reproduction, that saw the work that goes on in working life and in the home, in connection with each other. I think, too, that there is considerable danger that the alliance between women and men would crumble from below.
In one way or the other, the alliances that support socialism, among others the alliance between women and men, must be given expressions at the grass roots that are both alive and capable of remaining that way. The same thing goes for integration of the ecological perspective in economy and in other social organization besides. The interweaving of production, reproduction and taking care of the environment must go on with a starting point in people's daily life. Creating such expressions of the revolutionary alliance at the grass roots, is also a step in organizing the counter forces. Such alliances will make it easier to set terms for the development of society from below, and it will make it more difficult to use a split and rule policy from the top.
Several socialist countries have raised, and tried to find solutions to, problems connected with centrally directed, bureaucratic planning. Yugoslavia was the first socialist country that summed up the fact that strong centralism and state control did not solve all problems. In the book Yugoslavia - an attempt at socialism, Peder Martin Lysestøl (1985) describes how the country first attempted the traditional, Stalinistic way. At the 5. party congress in 1948 the Yugoslavian leaders could put forward statistics over everything that had been nationalized: mines, industries, warehouses, hotels, even private bathing pools and cinemas. In April 1984 there were only 1,000 private shops left of the 40,000 that existed before an additional law on nationalization was adopted.
In the countryside, however, the demand for collectivization met with great opposition. And the break with the Soviet Union and the other Eastern European countries made dramatic changes in the framework's economic conditions. The socialist countries that in 1947 made up 57 % of all imports to Yugoslavia, stood at 0 in the trade statistics for 1952. In return the capitalist countries delivered 88 % of the commodities, and 94 % of Yugoslavian exports went to the capitalist world.
According to Lysestøl, there were both internal and external reasons for the Yugoslavian leaders to look around for other alternatives to Stalin's economic model. The complicated planning system, the slow decision-making routines and the sluggishness in the system did not function well when it came to trading with efficient, modern capitalist companies. Pressure from the economic connections with the capitalist world forced forward a system that was more decentralized, where every factory could take their own initiative on the market. But the changes that were carried out after a while, were not only a result of pressure from the outside. Settling with Stalin had forced the leaders and people to ask basic questions about the "Soviet model".
The result became the famous "worker's self-government" in the companies. Tito's reason for the reform was fascinating. In his speech to the Peoples' Assembly in 1950 he stressed these six points:
Development of the self-governing system went through several phases. Lysestøl splits them in two:
What has this system led to in practice? On the one hand, unbelievable things can happen, seen with Norwegian eyes. Lysestøl explains that one can still hear of cases where the majority on a worker's council has gone against both the party's and the company leadership's views. This can also apply when it is a question of a big project that would have secured the country badly needed foreign currency, but that didn't work out because it was voted down in the worker's council. One example (p. 88):
"At a party at the home of an engineer in Belgrade I experienced a lively discussion where the engineer complained that his trip to Algeria didn't come about. He was an engineer in a large engineering firm. They had been given a job in Algeria which consisted of building housing in a satellite town. But the majority in the worker's council had gone against it, despite pressure from the party, company leadership and the engineers. For the engineers the project would have meant opportunities of extra income and an exciting foreign stay. The big majority of the people were against it because they would have to be away from home for too long, and because working conditions under the burning Algerian sun were not too tempting. Maybe people were a little short-sighted here, hadn't taken the country's interests into consideration, hadn't understood that the project was necessary for the future of the firm, etc. It is impossible for me to comment on that. But the example illustrates that, at the individual business, it can happen that the majority decides against the whole power block. This is, of course, not the usual occurrence, but it is formally possible."
The workers had the power to say no to the project in Algeria. But does that mean that they have power over the development of society - economically and politically? Lysestøl points out that the state has given away the property rights to the means of production to collectives of workers. Even the railway, telephone company and hospitals function this way. But these worker's collectives are forced to adjust to market forces, they end up like big "joint-stock company". The firms can buy and sell the means of production, decide wages, decide prices. The firm's capital is, in practice, to be considered as a form of group property. Lysestøl thinks that the Yugoslavian self-governing system lies "closer to the Conservative Party's freeholder democracy than to Marx' socialistic model for companies". Instead of having solidarity with each other, the workers are split between the companies, they have to compete with each other (p. 105):
"Competition and the victory of the strongest over the weakest, are the brutal laws of production valid in the worker's self-governed Yugoslavia. And when the companies' profits are divided, there is no doubt that the top people in the firm secure for themselves a part of the surplus value that goes way beyond their own contribution to the value production."
The "brutal laws of production" have, among other things, had the result that about 20 % of the Yugoslavian population cannot get work in their own country. They are either unemployed or guest workers in other countries. Export of labor power has become one of the most important providers of currency income for the country. Workers who have the right to deny the firm the opportunity to take on a job in Algeria, may, next time around, have to leave the country anyway, as guest workers, when the firm at home has gone bankrupt.
The market laws function the same way, whether the firm is owned by a worker's collective or a capitalist. A decentralization, with the market and the law of value as the intermediary mechanism between the individual units, does not create socialism and give people real power over their own daily life and their own life conditions. That is to return to a situation where production is "indirectly social", and where the law of value is the main regulator for dividing work and the means of production.
Neither "state socialism" nor "market socialism" have proven able to solve the problem of how workers can really get power over economy and the organization of society, and how social development must be directed towards supplying their needs. Capitalism faces the problem of adjusting production to the affluent demand. The capitalistic anarchy, with crises, wars and destruction of machines, people and nature, is closely tied to this. And the problems only grow as capitalism develops. Socialism is, in principle, supposed to replace money with democracy - it is supposed to adjust production to the working peoples' real needs, which is not the same thing as affluent demand. Perhaps we might say that socialism, too, has its anarchy, when production doesn't meet needs. The result can be that one ends up both with enormous nails that no one needs, and long queues because of lack of products people really need. And socialism has had its share of destruction - of machines, people and nature. A society where "democracy is the constitution of economy" is difficult to create. It is difficult because a really active, participating democracy for the large majority is not something one can simply proclaim. And it is difficult because "economy" in a new society must mean something different and more than whatever turns up on the market today. Both problems with democracy, and the problems with the existing structures and sectors in "economy" have probably contributed to "socialism's anarchy". Also, these two aspects hang together - because people's daily needs cannot simply and immediately be expressed in the economic structure's sectors.
There is no armchair solution to these problems. Nor is there a "perfect" solution. Socialism can never be "perfect". It must be full of contradictions because it is a transitional society, a difficult and unexplored road from the old to the new. What we can do is to look these contradictions in the face. And we can hunt for the germs to novelty, and fight to strengthen them.
We have to hunt for these germs already today. Not because they can "grow into" the new society with no break or revolution. But the conditions for growth of a new society must be found in the old, in the shape of social forces, movements and forms of organization, in the shape of ideas, needs experienced and material opportunities. These germs have a connection in one way or another to what I have called "everyday life perspective", that both has to do with power from below and with new, versatile structures.
One example can be found in a district of Oslo. Lars Borgersrud tells about the inhabitant's association Vålerenga Vel, that was founded in 1972 to fight to stop transit traffic in the district. The struggle against the transit traffic is still going on. But Vålerenga Vel has developed into far more than a traffic action. And it brings together the population across different demarcation lines (Ericsson 1990):
"What is so special about Vålerenga, is that we are such good friends, we have a close social network. There are historical reasons for this. Vålerenga has always been a special district that way. Vålerenga is a typical worker's district with long traditions. Big companies like Jøtul and Kværner have had their people mainly in the area of Vålerenga and in Gamlebyen, people have been at it, struggling, keeping at it, for years.
What is typical of those who have been leaders in Vålerenga Vel, is probably that they have had some kind of connection to what went on before. I have worked with the union chapter at Jøtul before, and, before me, there were people who have had connections to progressive, radical environments, either trade unions or something else. The same goes for sports. It has always been the most important thing offered to kids in Vålerenga and has brought people together. Then we have a church that is radical, the parsons are active and have been so for many years. It has a certain importance that the church is on the barricades, too. We have got soccer and hockey going for women, we were the first club that really made women's soccer swing. We've had handball for women for years. The school should be mentioned in all this, Vålerenga school. Strømsveien (a main thoroughfare, translator's note) splits the school district in two, this is the first year where kids on the west side of Strømsveien (the Jordal side) have had the right to choose whether they want to go to Kampen school or Vålerenga school. This has led to the white children on the Jordal side moving to Kampen and the guest worker's kids starting at Vålerenga. Strømsveien is destroying our school district. The school views the whole street thing as a threat to its existence, the pupil basis grows smaller. Vålerenga is a small district. Since the school feels it's in the danger zone, well, clearly, that means pupils and teachers join in our action, too.
The Strømsvei action is just a small piece of Vålerenga Vel's work. Vålerenga Vel has just a bit of the character of a district government, really. The traffic on Strømsveien has ruined an area of about 50 meters on each side of the street, people have moved out, the houses are ruined. The most important job the Vel has had, has been to make sure this area is reconstructed. We have managed to carry through a proposal in co-operation with OBOS (Oslo Building Society) to build 1,000 housing units in the area. The situation now is that OBOS refuses to build these units now because the street hasn't been closed. They are scared of not being able to sell the units. Our most important aim now is to secure this reconstruction, that is why we're working so hard on the street question. We work on all sorts of other things, too, for example, housing questions, we take up things like when housing speculators buy up houses and let them decay. And we co-operate with the City Antiquarian to secure the character of the old housing as much as possible. Social conflicts between people are also taken up. For example, we have an inn that bothers neighbors and offers a form of leisure activity we're not too happy about, and have tried to influence. We've mainly tried to change opening hours and that kind of thing, we don't want a boozing ken where people sit and use their money on beer and can't go to work the next day. And then we arrange tours for the old folks, and different social things like that. People come to us with all sorts of things and we sort out what we can do something about. We are a real mass organization, a real front between all the inhabitants."
The struggle against transit traffic is an environmental struggle, cultural struggle, housing struggle, anti-racist struggle, a struggle for belonging and security all at once. And it is carried on by a very versatile organization in a worker's district rich on traditions. It is not very hard to imagine Vålerenga Vel projected in to the future, in a different society, changed from an "oppositional movement" to an organ for local power and local democracy.
Another example, also from today's Oslo, is almost cut out of a socialistic utopia. It is about a group of trade unions in Groruddalen, who have co-operated on versatile environmental work. With the trade unions as starting point, bonds have been forged between many different groups locally. One of the tasks the trade unions have set for themselves, is to turn Alna river, that runs through the valley, into a "natural rallying-place, the river shall become blue and the riverside green," to say it as Arne Bernhardsen, one of the trade union activists in the project, does. Here he tells about how they try to work (Ericsson, 1990):
"We have an excellent example. NSB (the state railway company in Norway) is the freeholder on large tracts of the river. We have made a contract with them about a 1,2 kilometer stretch, where they, in co-operation with the workshop club at Nyland (a factory) and one, maybe two of the other worker's associations at NSB, have the main responsibility for improving paths and conditions around the river. They have supporters: Groruddalen Nature and Youth (an environmentalist youth organization, transl.'s note), the Hunter and Fisherman's Association, and Hellerud Videregående School (a high school, transl.'s note). The school's participation is very wide. They have a data course and a natural science course and a building and construction course that are involved already. The natural science course has the knowledge about the types of biotopes and problems there are in a river like this, the data course makes the programs for the automatic surveillance of the river, test results etc., and the building and construction course can be pulled in when it is necessary to build supporting walls, footbridges, etc. There you have a project we believe will be a success. There are many housewife groups and district welfare groups and scouts that have told us they would like to join in on this type of adoption of portions of the river. One positive thing just now, is that the town council has decided to regulate the river as an open-air area and protect it. They are going to buy 20 meters on each side and make a path for hiking. This wouldn't have happened without the pressure we've put on for the last year and a half. The Alna river has been a question all political parties in Groruddalen have had to take a stand on."
In Groruddalen the trade unions at the companies that have polluted the valley and river have taken the initiative to do something about the problems. Here, too, alliances are made over a broad spectrum. This type of worker's politics is not unique for Groruddalen. The local trade union federation in Odda, for example, has a long tradition (stretching over several decades) of raising environmental issues in local society, among other things environmental problems the industry they themselves are employed by, have created. The worker's movement in the area has been a driving force in pushing for a better solution to garbage problems at the company, Norzink, than that of dumping it in Sørfjord. (See the Jubilee book Odda and Environs Trade Union Federation 75 years old.) A ruined Sørfjord is not something that doesn't concern the workers in Odda. It concerns their own everyday environment.
From the Odda area, we also know about the struggle to keep jobs at the aluminum factory in Tyssedal, that developed into a struggle for securing the existence of the whole community, and particularly through the association "Let Tyssedal live". Many local communities are fighting to survive in today's Norway. Gunvald Lindseth (1990) studied a number of attempts that have been made at finding solutions for the crisis-stricken Northern Norwegian population. He quotes a report from researchers John Borgos and Dag Arntsen in The Norwegian Institute for Town and Regional Research (NIBR), where they have a look at a strategy that stresses local developmental efforts in fringe areas. By local developmental efforts they mean collective efforts to improve the fringe society's chance of surviving. The following two points are particularly important:
The NIBR-report studies four projects in Nordland: Skogsøya, Hovde, Østre Vågan and Risøyhamn. Common problems for these places were that the population decreased, new households were not established, both public and private investments stopped. This led to some people in these places taking the lead in attempting to reverse this development. The "enthusiasts" usually had a background in organizational work or political work. Important experience from these projects can be summed up in 10 points.
In the evaluation the report states that "the projects have worked the way a good district policy should". All the projects confirm that the biggest hindrances for positive development in today's fringe area societies, lie outside of the threatened local societies, in the "greater society's" power relations and structures.
Germs to novelty can, not least of all, be found in the women's movement's and the women's struggle's perspectives. Women are both wage workers and home workers, both working class and female gender, both socialists and feminists, both environmental activists and women's activists, etc. etc. In this life, where they are constantly being both the one and the other, they are forced to hunt in the unknown for a new whole. An important element in this whole is a new unity, a new relation between "production" and "reproduction". And precisely there, in the split between "production" and "reproduction", there is a sort of disconnection of production from the direct satisfying of human needs. A new unity between "production" and "reproduction", where "reproduction" is not subordinated and marginalized, can be an important contribution to a society where development is ruled by human needs.
The ideas of the research group for "The new everyday life" (See Cronberg and Sangregorio 1982 and Cronberg 1990) may, perhaps, be seen as an attempt to get closer to a new unity between production and reproduction. But similar ideas have also come from other starting points. The division between the productive, occupationally active, who can be exploited on the one hand, and the unsuitable, useless, on the other hand, is becoming so sharp that it lies like a heavy burden on capitalist economy. How can this be solved? The ruling method at the moment is the Thatcher method, letting those who cannot provide for themselves by wage labor end in the gutter and die in their own muck. But this also has terrific social costs. Radical reformists have, instead, argued for creating a new social sector dominated by use-value production, with a starting point in local environments. The Swede Benny Henrikson, who led a large survey for the Swedish Youth Council, calls this "care economy", and he describes it like this (1981, p. 78):
"The care system should include the collective activities that in one form or another build on common activity in a social network, in organizational activity, in protection of and support of the local environment, etc. /.../ This part of our total economy should be lifted forward, strengthened, and made visible. If this occurred, it could solve many of the production tasks that have to do with society and with co-operation between children and adults on the local basis. Also, this part of the economy could be a basis for work on protecting nature, securing social renewal and care, or production of commodities and services that would be useful for the community."
Henrikson thinks that working hours should be reduced in normal working life, simultaneously as people must have a duty to take part in "care production".
Under capitalism such a "part of economy" would have its conditions and framework decided by capitalist profit-hunting. The danger of it becoming a "garbage-sector", is imminent. But in a new society, with other framework conditions, things could be different.
The environmental struggle and environmental movement is yet another area where one can look for germs to a new social organization. Timberlake (1986, a) has pointed out that the crisis we face isn't an environmental crisis, but a crisis in the economic and political system that dominates the world. And in the Brundtland commission's report (1987, p. 1-10) we can read the following:
"Thus economics and ecology must be completely integrated in decision-making and lawmaking processes not just to protect the environment, but also to protect and promote development."
A superior aim must necessarily be to create a way of living and producing that does not destroy the environment around us. It is a question of formulating the relation between humans and the rest of nature all over again. But how? The expression "sustainable development" was brought forward by the Brundtland commission's report, and has become a part of common language usage. What does this expression really comprise? The commission argues for "a new era of economic growth" on a "sustainable" foundation. By "economic growth" the commission obviously means more market economy (1987, p. 3-21):
"If large parts of the developing world are to avert economic, social, and environmental catastrophes, it is essential that global economic growth be revitalized. In practical terms, this means more rapid economic growth in both industrial and developing countries, freer market access for the products of developing countries, lower interest rates, greater technology transfer, and significantly larger capital flows, both concessional and commercial."
The problems are to be solved through the same means that have created them, but now in a "sustainable" way. The Brundtland commission's view is in content about the same as that taken by some English members of the bourgeoisie in the last century, when they supported forbidding some of the worst results of the capitalistic exploitation, for example, use of small children in the coal mines. New generations of workers were simply destroyed before they grew up. In order to secure a "sustainable" capitalistic exploitation, it was necessary to set certain limits for what could be done to the labor power. The Brundtland commissions view does not represent any break with the tradition from Francis Bacon, that, among others, Shiva (1989) describes, the tradition of looking at nature as something to be conquered, controlled and subjugated. This view of nature goes hand in hand with a comparable view of people. (See Steigan, 1990 for a discussion of the Brundtland commission's view of the relation between nature and people.)
A new relationship between people and nature is unthinkable without a new relationship between people. The experiences of Joji Carino from Cordillera People's Alliance in the Philippines is an example. She is spokeswoman for an organization of aborigines that has fought militantly and successfully for many years against razing the rain forest in their area. The rain forest is threatened both by commercial felling and the building of enormous dam constructions. Joji Carino's experiences with Western environmental organizations are mixed: "The environmental organizations we have contacted say that they don't work on aborigines questions, but on protection of the rain forest. The have solidarity with the trees, but not with the people who take care of the trees!" she said at a conference in Oslo in March 1991 (reported in Klassekampen (Class Struggle) 4.3.91). The Western environmental organizations saw the trees. But their white, blind point made it difficult for them to see the people who had the defense of the trees as an inseparable part of the struggle for their foundation of life and their rights.
The struggle against the "environmental crisis" is a struggle to change the power relations between people. The Brundtland commission also touch on this point, when it points out that power to the aborigine's institutions is central to a "sustainable development". (p. 4-20):
"The starting point for a just and humane policy for such groups is the recognition and protection of their traditional rights to land and the other resources that sustain their way of life - rights they may define in terms that do not fit into standard legal systems. These groups' own institutions to regulate rights and obligations are crucial for maintaining the harmony with nature and the environmental awareness characteristic of the traditional way of life. Hence the recognition of traditional rights must go hand in hand with measures to protect the local institutions that enforce responsibility in resource use. And this recognition must also give local communities a decisive voice in the decisions about resource use in their area."
The line of thought in the quoted paragraph fits very well with Varun Vidyarthi's way of thinking: his view is that environmental policy isn't to plant trees, but to create popular institutions in the local community, where people can take the power over their own daily life. And perhaps this is the central point, not only for aborigines and village dwellers in India, but for everyone. Isn't Vålerenga Vel, where people in the district organize to do something about the problems in their immediate environment, including environmental questions, that sort of popular institution? And aren't attempts being made to create that kind of structures in Groruddalen, in the broad local co-operation about the Alna river?
These are struggles, organizations and popular environmental counter-movements that spring out of the working class, the women, the entire struggle for environment and living conditions that is led in local societies all over the world, from the Philippines to the coast of Finnmark (northernmost county in Norway - transl.'s note). They are counter-movements, but at the same time they bring forth the outline of something new, the outline of a possible tomorrow.
Is it possible to imagine a "direct social" organization that doesn't mean strong central leadership and bureaucracy? Marx and Engels pointed out that a concentrated and social production calls for plans and steering. And that is right. But does a concentrated and social production call for steering by the majority? Or does it, in many ways, get in the way of letting people have control over their own lives? Let me take an example from an area that is seldom brought into the debate on socialistic power relations, the sewer system.
Mexico City is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Five million people empty themselves in the open air here. For many years they have waited for the sewer system to reach the houses where they live. It never did. It never will. The authorities and planners never considered alternatives to the water-closet. Nor did they ever have a budget that stretched far enough to build out the sewer system. And even if the budget had been big enough, there wouldn't have been enough water. The water in the Valley of Mexico is already insufficient for 20 million people. By drying out all the areas around, water is now being transported from a 100 kilometers away, and has to be pumped up to a height of 2,400 meters. As much as 40 % of the water that is available for use in the households is now being thrown away on sewer, to transport muck.
Gustavo Esteva tells us about this. Some inhabitants developed alternatives to the water closet. But these alternatives were for years persecuted by sanitary engineers, authorities and planners. Esteva tells that they had to use the latrines and the ecological toilets in secrecy, and this made them a part of the social struggle. By both the right and the left they were considered reactionaries, they were against progress, scary hippies who wanted to go back to the Stone Age. In 1985 the earthquake destroyed the sewer pipes of two million families who could no longer manage without, and 150,000 people were homeless in the middle of the city. Esteva and his friends were the only ones who had the necessary experience to quickly lend a hand with this collective problem. From that time onward the authorities had to stop their persecution, they even had to support the alternative proposals. Esteva concludes (1990, p. 9):
"We learned a lot more through this episode than how to provide ourselves with cheap and sensible sanitary arrangement. We quickly grasped what it meant to have one's intestines tied to a centralized and technocratic bureaucracy. We already knew that the sewer system was terribly unfair, aggressively discriminating towards the majority, a merciless creator of privileges. We didn't know that it was also a dangerous polluting system, a method that mainly destroys its surroundings. /.../ Through this episode we learned a new type of relationship between ourselves and our environment. We learned to value ourselves, so we could correct our mistakes and limitations independently. Our political struggle was radicalized. During this process we learned to know others who had had similar experiences. We shared with them a radical criticism of the industrial, standardized, technocratic and centralized society and a driving force toward different forms of independent and hospitable way of life."
The point of this example is not to propagate the excellency of the "Friends of the old-fashioned outdoor toilet" . The point is, rather, to show that the big, centralized arrangements also have their costs. Esteva and others learned, through the earthquake, what it meant to have their "intestines tied to a centralized and technocratic bureaucracy". In our type of society not only our intestines, but most other parts and functions of the body are tied to "a centralized and technocratic bureaucracy" in one way or another. A concentrated and strong social economy binds us and controls us. It gives us a number of benefits and advantages, but at the same time, it takes much of the power over our own lives out of our hands.
Perhaps the relation between the economic basis and socialistic power relations are considerably more full of contradictions than Marx and Engels could see. On the one hand the development of production under capitalism has created the foundation for more liberated time, and therefore, for a more extensive, active democracy and less divisions between the ruled and the rulers. On the other hand, it has created more concentration and centralization, which means that few can control many, and that people are bound by a thousand ties in daily life. And these two sides have sprung forth as one and the same process.
Economic concentration also arranges matters favorably for power concentration, for central directing, in capitalistic or plan economic form. Perhaps things aren't so simple that a strong social economy immediately means good conditions for socialistic power relations, if one, by socialistic power relations, means real majority rule, a form of democracy where most people have an opportunity to set the terms for their own daily life.
Nor is it certain that large-scale operations and the big, centralized solutions are the most rational in all connections. It depends on what the object is. Sewer pipes in Mexico City need water that dries out the areas around the town. The water could have been used for more pressing needs. The pipes pollute, and lead to no solution of the sanitary problems in the city's enormous densely populated poor areas. Sanitary problems in Mexico City need solutions that view all these conditions together, and that take their starting point in the majority's needs.
In very many areas one can question whether large scale operations are the best. Is it sensible, viewed from the majority's point of view, that food becomes an international trade commodity, instead of the aim being the greatest possible degree of regional self-sufficiency. The Nobel prize winner Trygve Haavelmo points out in an interview that liberalization of trade promotes commodity exchange that is not strictly necessary: "It sort of becomes a benefit in itself "to exchange herring for herring". I see no foundation for polluting the world with oil from cars and ships to do that." (Interview in Klassekampen (Class Struggle) 3.11.1990.)
A "directly social" organization of society must perhaps mean that more unity has to be created through small units, instead of through big, centralized initiatives that are tied together at the top. I see several reasons for this:
One reason has to do with the possibilities for breaking the sector perspective and seeing things connectedly. An everyday example: Jorun Gulbrandsen states that the school where she works was supposed to be closed down so that the town could save the wages she and her 14 colleagues earned (Ericsson 1990):
"The parent's calculations were different. They said what if 5 of the 150 students have a lot of big problems with being moved to a new and big, school, and need help from the system, maybe for several years. Then that would be many times more expensive than the wages for 15 teachers. We looked up the amounts for what it costs to keep youths and children in institutions, they are gigantic sums. Our school was small and everyone knew everyone else. Therefore, we could have pupils who could go to a normal school precisely because they went to our school."
Another reason has to do with power concentration and dependence. This is no new discussion. Albania revolted against the "socialist division of labor" under the Soviet Union's leadership, which worked on the principle that the different countries in the "socialist camp" should produce whatever the country had the best natural preconditions for. In Albania's case this meant that they ought to become the socialist camp's "orange glade". But Albania refused. They wanted to have their own steel works and everything they otherwise needed to have a fairly versatile economic foundation. Without such a foundation they were afraid they would also lose their political independence.
The capitalistic world market also forces forth this type of division of labor. The question the poor countries face is whether they should go in for finding their own "niche" in the world market where they can be competitive, and hope for economic development through integration in the capitalistic world economy. Or will this mean dependency and subordination under the strongest capitalist states?
A third reason has to do with the opportunities for developing oneself on one's own terms, in line with the particularities in each society and local society. Economic and social conditions vary enormously in the whole world. Variations are also great within each country, even in a small and fairly homogeneous society like Norway. Treating everyone "alike", that is, submitting everyone to the same market or the same plan, will most often give the opposite of equality as a result, at least if we by equality mean fairly equal living conditions.
A fourth reason has to do with people's possibility of having control and surveying their own lives. A society that is democratic in the deepest sense, must give such possibilities. That means, perhaps, that more things have to go on "on a small scale".
Samir Amin's book De-linking, which is about revolutionary strategy for the Third World, has the sub-title "Towards a polycentric world". Maybe we can draw a parallel to conditions within a country, too? Maybe a socialist Norway should be a sort of "polycentric society" , where the different local societies and regions try to develop their planned "direct sociality" from local needs and conditions? This does not mean, of course, that one can do away with central plans and ruling organs. The NIBR-report on the four Northern Norwegian local societies that have tried to take district politics into their own hands, points out that part of the process is to make demands of changes outside the local society.
This illustrates that the developmental process in local society needs a superior structure, a framework that gives support. Local societies do not just blossom happily of their own accord as soon as the oppression of the central power is removed. In local societies, too, there are contradictions and class differences. New central organs must be created as an expression of the new relations. If Vålerenga Vel is to win the struggle against being suffocated by transit traffic, they must, along with others, be able to set the premises for a total communication plan.
My errand is not to agitate for the slogan "small is good", or for the idea that the good life of the future will be lived in idyllic local societies. Socialism will be full of tensions and contradictions, and hardly any peaceful idyll. My errand is to open a discussion about how one can create a social organization that expresses new relations, new both in relation to capitalism and the socialistic societies the world has seen up to now. The new relations must be expressed both through the central organs, and in the relationship between top and bottom. There are two things that are absolutely decisive for socialism's future, in my view.
But alliances are as important as one's own organization of the social forces that have the greatest interest of ridding themselves of everything that reminds them of the old society. And alliances cannot only, cannot even first and foremost, mean deals between leaderships in, for example, the worker's and women's organizations. Alliances must be built up from the grass roots, in practical co-operation (and conflict solving!) on how society should be developed. Such local alliance-building strengthens the comprehensive everyday life perspective as the foundation for planning and other social processes.
A socialist society is a road from the old to the new, instable, alive, full of contradictions. Therefore, it is more meaningful to look at this society as a number of processes and movements, rather than as something finished, something that "is". The old German revisionist Bernstein was correctly famous for his statement that "the movement is everything - the aim nothing". The movement is important, but not because the "aim is nothing". On the contrary. The movement is so important precisely because it plays a part in deciding what the aim will be: a classless communist society or a re-establishment of the old conditions of oppression in a new form.
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