Essays after the Collapse of Communism
New Thinking in Political Economy series
Chapter 2: Marxism and Decentralized Socialism
* A late 1980s discussion of the progress of perestroika reported that the proGorbachevites ‘claim they are the real socialists, advocating ways to reverse alienation of the workers and achieve a decent society. They base themselves on the works of “the young Marx, before the Communist Manifesto and the ideas on political economy,” as one man put it’ (Lewis, 1988, p.31). The works under review in this chapter (Albert and Hahnel, 1978; Bideleux, 1985; and Selucky, 1979) are among those which advance the notion that there are decentralist alternatives to the Soviet model of Marxist socialism, and that these alternatives are economically feasible. A discussion of them should properly begin with ‘the young Marx’, that is, most importantly, his Paris Manuscripts, though it is questionable whether the dichotomy of early against late Marx is as sharp as some Gorbachevites might wish. MARX’S CRITIQUE OF MARKET ALIENATION The worker under capitalism, according to Marx, is thrown into an objectiﬁed, alienated world. As the division of labor increases along with the extent of production for the market, the worker, being without land or capital, becomes more dependent upon his labor for mere survival. The worker sells his labor power to capitalists for a money wage: labor power, therefore, becomes a commodity, an object of purchase and sale in the marketplace. To be sure, the worker’s productivity increases as capitalist production becomes more technical and is rendered more eﬃcient within the ﬁrm. But the fruit of his labor, the ﬁnal product, is...
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