How Parecon Can Outcompete Markets
In this paper
- Learning from History: “participatory dual-power strategy” differentiated from the “vanguard dual-power strategy” of Lenin
- How Can a Nascent Parecon Compete With Markets? Clear Parecon Example Institutions and Solving the Crisis of Overproduction.
- Parecon Currency: Growing Federated Participatory Coops’ (FPC)
- Leaving Markets in Our Dust and Moving Established Parecon on Unsullied
With loyal business to business patronage between participatory co-ops in the parecon federation, and consumer loyalty brought about by all the federated co-ops using an allied ‘brand’ and participatory media apparatus, we can see how parecons grow themselves very quickly. The major question that comes up most is; as parecons (Federated Participatory Co-ops) grow, how do we defend them against the corporate state? Participatory dual-power strategy as per my and Brian Dominick’s thinking addresses this question. Read on below but also be sure to check out Brian Dominick’ Participatory Dual Power Strategy papers:
Many think that a movement for systemic change would need to fight off the attacks from imperial capital and I conquer that this is likely. But we must be careful with the difference between a “participatory dual-power strategy” and the old “vanguard dual-power strategy” of Lenin. In participatory economics our alternative institutions are our counter institutions, and so make counter-institutions less relevant within the enjoyable nature of participatory social modes: Without the ideas of Balanced Rotation of Tasks (BJT), Remuneration based on Effort and Sacrifice (RES), participatory self-management guided by say-proportionate-to-stake, Lenin was led to formulate a coordinator or van-guard type of dual-power strategy, which we know primarily as the counter institutions of the Communist Party, centralize command economics, the KGB, the Red Army,,, and the rest is disappointing history. Without participatory governance, the need for authoritarian or coordinator class counter-institutions to defend against imperial capital is quite real. But eventually, you are simply replacing one kind of ruling class with another, but now it’s a socialist intelligentsia autocracy – one that must also be inherently disconnected from the realms and people they are making decisions for. Because now you have a coordinator class which doesn’t do a good balance of other tasks (beyond conceptual and coordination) in the organizations they govern, and so they don’t actually experience and thus fully understand the nitty-gritty and inter-meshing realities of what they delegate and coordinate to be done.
In parecon our primary counter institutions are more so internal. Parecon organizations are so enjoyable and rewarding that an attack on them becomes incredibly unpopular. Many people who know of them will want to consume and work in participatory firms, and so the family members and friends of people who do work in FPCs will have a lot of solidarity when the capitalist do attack. Plus our parecon values and institutional codes (say proportionate to stake, BJC, and RES, etc.,), keep us on track with revolutionary consciousness through our daily practices in solidarity inducing divisions of labour (BJT), our own methods for ensuring equity (RES and say-proportionate to stake), etc. Just think about the worst jobs you’ve had. Was it the kind of work in particular, or was it often the political-power play B.S. in the organizational structure that made it unbearable? Most people I talk to find it to be the latter – they’ll suffer through hard labour if the group they work with is energizing, but will often drop out of high-end conceptual work if the hierarchy is stupidly stifling.
With clear parecon institutional codes, which break ourselves out of replicating oppressive organizational structures, we are much less prone to what Lenin called “tail-ism” - where we find the revolutionary intelligentsia having to chase spontaneous worker initiatives and keep their actions in accord with revolutionary consciousness instead of the ever present trap of bourgeois reformism. Parecon institutional structures of self-organization are already intrinsically rewarding, non-oppressive human values, which we propagate while working and organizing for anything. Parecon is an organizational methodology, a way which achieves the revolutionary end just by stepping onto the path (the paths being RES, BJT, participatory self-management in lieu of say proportionate to stake, etc.,). In parecon there is no need to remind people of a bourgeois reformist trap because they are living a new revolutionary system just in the methods they employ in working and relating with one another. Our ways of interacting keeps revolutionary consciousness ever present and arising from within ourselves and our daily cultures. The internal experience and practice of revolutionary consciousness as a kind of daily cultural language precludes the necessity of centralized counter-institutions to keep capitalism at bay.
Because I agree that our primary adversary is more so our own internalized culture of market-opposition (buyer vs. seller) and commodity fetishizing of human interaction, I think we need Alternative Institutions (AI) which clearly demonstrate the beautiful possibility of human values as enshrined by parecon institutional codes or paroles (i.e., the ‘language’ of equity, solidarity, self-management, and diversity as ‘spoken’ by the ‘grammar’ of BJC, RES, proportionate to stake and participatory planning). Without visibly large examples of proper parecon, I think slow reform and negotiation with elites’ claims to control of ‘their’ property will breed disorientation of direction and thus cynicism by those workers we are helping to organize for pareconnish gains. Parecon-capitalist hybrids will primarily serve to confuse people as to which is parecon and which is capitalist, giving opportunity to call out parecon as equally corrupt.
Just by making the large, of scale parecon institutions fully participatory we make them counter institutions by the fact that they are popular bodies which ensure the flourishing of peoples’ sublime participatory work places and participatory consumer planning/design. To attack them is to attack a broad population’s beautiful new lives together. Federated Participatory Co-ops (FPCs), Memes Facilitation Coop (MeF Co-op) or a Facilitation Board might have the scale to serve as kinds of counter-institutions just by their nature as Alternative Institutions with broad participation across regions, so hopefully we won’t need them so much for ‘countering’. Essentially we head the war off at the pass instead of letting it onto a cultural and economic battle field. We re-frame the standards so that an attack by the corporate state completely delegitimizes it and robs it of more workers and consumers. For the corporate-state to attack parecon’ culture is thereby to attack itself.
The Memes Facilitation Coop, Facilitation Boards and/or Federation (of Participatory Co-ops) simultaneously serve the purposes of counter & alternative institutions and replace/evolve the need for revolutionary state or coordinator institutions. The introduction of such ‘vanguardist’ divisions of labour in counter institutions which were meant to protect revolutionary councils, was actually those councils’ undoing: By introducing an expert, vanguard or coordinator class, the Soviet councils and Catalonian syndicalism (of Revolutionary Spain) essentially brought in foxes to guard the hen houses and were so defeated from the inside out. I think (hope?) if parecon alternative institutions have done their job of fostering a participatory culture that permeates deeply throughout societies’ practices, we won’t have to engage in such violent operations… Especially as participatory economies within the Global North deflate the capitalists’ capacity to wield violent smashing and undermining of alternatives.
Can parecon compete with markets, are we ready for an attack, or did it come long ago? I believe parecon is more efficient and that our prices won’t be that much higher compared to market firms even though we’ll treat ourselves better with more social spending. I believe our democratic currency will be more valuable in relative purchasing power terms as parecon will realize more workers with good incomes now that profits are being distributed throughout a workplace instead of to just a few capitalists and coordinators: A very rich %10-20 won’t buy nearly as much because there is a point where they just don’t need 10 cars or couches like the other %80-90 (working class) would purchase as a block (if they made half descent wages that weren’t totally creamed off by the capitalists). If you have 1 rich person and 8-9 working poor people who can’t afford to buy much, there will be less demand than if the income were spread more equally. Because the rich person just isn’t going to have the same wherewithal or need for 10 of the same things, as 9 other individuals will have the need and time to go out and get those things. Basically, society sees more exchange and production when there isn’t a hierarchy of income. With more purchasing power spread around in RES ‘currency’, FPCs will simply experience more demand from its ‘participatory population’ than a whack of capitalisms’ working poor being exploited in McWal Jobs can.
Federated Participatory Co-ops would give their workers a greater percentage of their pay in the Federated Participatory Co-ops’ (FPC) currency (which would be free of the states’ tax burden – as this currency has been legally designed to) if the workers show that they spent more and more of their income at other FPCs. This ensures that the FPC network realizes the gains of its more evenly and widely spread wealth towards its own expansion… and not simply giving over the greater demand to the capitalist economy; the greater demand which participatory methods developed by spreading more wealth more widely.
Not only does parecon overcome the above overproduction of capitalism crisis, but with automation and innovation being the friend of parecon workers, it’s now in everyone’s interest to realize greater technological productive gains. You see, within the capitalist economy the owner implements mechanized automation to do away with wage labour – technology is actually our enemy in capitalism. Also, with people now rotating through the various roles in an organization (Balanced Job Complexes) we start to get better decisions… Because now more minds see and understand the inter-meshing of departments and production cycles more completely. Generally, better decisions are made about everything. We will still have our focuses (specializations) but we won’t be stuck doing just that one thing and will rotate through categories of other kinds of work, including conceptual and menial.
Now that everyone has to do their share of the rotation through the menial work, we all have an interest in preventing the menial jobs from accumulating and in automating them. No longer does %10 of an organization just delegate others to do all the shitty work and then forget about it (out of sight, out of mind). It’s in everyone’s faces now, so we all want to automate or prevent menial work from accruing. ‘Cause once we automate we all get more time for the glory work, which tends to create more value (or just more time for our own lives).
A unit of effort and sacrifice or a unit of parecon currency, is nothing more than a divisor or perfect share of total productive wealth in existence (within FPC). So as we all build the networked scale and wealth of FPCs, the value of our inputs (let’s say an hour of work) increases… Especially as we introduce technology to put us out of the crap work, we start to earn more for every hour of work, resulting in us having to work less and less to maintain our level of ‘purchasing power’. Remember you can own your own personal property (clothing, house, car, bike, etc.,) but all the productive means are held and governed by participatory councils of stake holders… making it so that no gains go to a capitalist owner, but instead go to lifting the overall wealth of a unit of labour. This is why we call parecon the economy of robots.
In the transition towards fully established (stand alone) parecon, there is obviously a concern for time and velocity of (the) movement element. We want to quickly gain scale so we can be in a position to ward off any attacks from the corporate state as soon as possible. For this reason I propose that those who join and work for parecon sooner realize greater value in their RES (Remuneration based on Effort and Sacrifice) a little before those who join later. We create a structural dividend on RES credits, but only credits that were circulated back into the Federation of Participatory Co-ops. So the more you’ve put into helping build the parecon network, the quicker you realize higher valuations on your total division of wealth. This sounds a lot like a pyramid scheme and it would be if not for two things: First one could only build up RES (remuneration of effort and sacrifice) ‘dividends’ when using the RES ‘currency’ at other FPCs. The result is that only in actually building the network, and thus helping introduce opportunity for new members to come in and earn their RES dividends, can an “early adopter” build their dividend basis towards their earlier ‘capitalization’ on more and more efficient production of wealth over the whole FPC economy. Second, such dividend shares are phased out in 15 years in the participatory co-op incorporation structure I’ve developed. This 15 year time line can only be overturned by a %75 vote in each participatory co-op. With many new members necessitated to grow and patron all the participatory co-ops in the FPC network, this will be a rather flat pyramid with the interest of the vast majority of members lying in totally flattening remunerative gains to perfect equity…
Another concern might be, ‘why wouldn’t the co-ops simply block new membership and instead only use temporary and part time workers who they can shaft people out of full FPC membership?’ Because then the network and established members would be shafting themselves out of a wider consumer base who could use FPCs’ quasi-legal RES currency. Only when you use and get paid in that currency (and use it in FPC) can your input hours be qualified towards the FPC Network Builder dividend. And besides, in the early stages there won’t be enough FPCs to enable the widespread use of an FPC currency. FPC employees will want to be paid in the corporate state monetary system (i.e., Dollar or Euro) because there won’t be enough things they can get with FPC’ RES currency system. Founding FPC workers have to bring in new members and co-ops just so there are enough products and services with which they can use the participatory currency to buy (and thereby gather the dividend). So, only as FPC grows can early adopters accrue their Network Builder dividends.
There are a whole bunch of formula we could add to the above to make sure that the Network Builder dividend is never used inequitably, but that doesn’t strike me as terribly elegant… and besides the parecon structure itself insures equity rather nicely. As long as FPCs don’t reward for property ownership (as they are prevented from doing in the FPC incorporation structure), and say proportionate to stake is the democratic principle which reigns supreme, the above structural blocks and incentives will do quite nicely for keeping my proposal from becoming a top powerful pyramid scheme. All while giving FPCs the added benefit of more incentive for quicker growth. Because now, the quicker you organize your fellow trades and/or professional colleagues into an FPC, bring your clients into already established co-ops, etc., the quicker you’ll realize the gains of parecon’ efficiency and have to work less.
The above is maybe totally unnecessary, as the moral and enjoyable nature of working and planning within parecon firms could well be enough to make FPC positions the hottest jobs in any region. Having meaningful say in the design of your products, infrastructure and services will also make FPCs the best places to loyally patron.
The Memes Facilitation Co-op (MeF Coop – pronounced Meph Coupe) is our primary counter institution. It simultaneously propagates the alternative culture of alternative-institutions while acting as the counter propaganda and legislative wing for the movement. It is designed to have many divisions from legal, to communications infrastructure and technology, to media production (animation, video production, photography, etc.,), to ‘advertising’ and festivals. By placing all of these informatics capacities under one roof we gain a body that can simultaneously lobby for our legislation at the political level, while being able to popularize parecon interpretations of the law and bring public pressure to bear as we move our agenda and law through state bodies.
I’ve been on blockades with paramilitary operations breathing down my and my crews’ necks. Just from those minimal militarized experiences I can say that we should not romanticize and talk about civil-war as inevitable to the point where we are inviting our movement into a violent show down. We need to be looking for ways to head violence off at the pass. I hope I have helped to start the discussion on how a parecon revolution can prevent violence in a supposed ‘insurrectionary period’. In this spirit I’ve written extensively on how we achieve our revolution through a cultural shift of consciousness. Please keep reading and join the conversation by registering with http://cooperativeway.org, Znet or joining a parecon Facebook group. By registering you can add your own thoughts and responses so we can evolve our strategies and tactics.