Parecon and Marxism
This essays is excerpted from the Zed Press book, Realizing Hope
This chapter addresses the relationship between participatory economics and the theory and strategy of social democratic, Leninist/Trotskyist, and libertarian Marxist frameworks. Next chapter addresses parecon and anarchism. Chapter seventeen addresses parecon and broader left perspectives.
My discussions of anarchism and particularly of Marxism are contentious and controversial. It has seemed that my past presentations of this material have often failed to communicate my actual thoughts. To correct misinterpretation, here I argue positions from multiple angles and in multiple ways. This lengthens the delivery, but I hope readers will bear with it.
Marxism is a wide and deep toolbox of concepts that label aspects of history and provide claims about their interrelations. Key to Marxism are the ideas that production and consumption are central to human existence, that accomplishing economic functions entails institutions or modes of production, and that modes of production in turn impose requirements that delimit virtually all outcomes and possibilities.
As Engels famously summarized: “Just as
Of course, for Marxists the economy isn’t the only factor affecting society, nor does influence run only one way. Instead, again according to Engels, “political, juridical, philosophical religious, literary, artistic, etc. development is based on economic development. But all of these react upon one another and also upon the economic base. It is not that the economic position is the cause and alone active, while everything else has a passive effect. There is rather interaction on the basis of economic necessity, which ultimately always asserts itself.”
Thus, history unfolds in light of the pressures and conflicts occurring largely in society’s technology and social relations of production. “At a certain stage of their development the material forces of production in a society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or what is but a legal expression for the same thing, with the property relations within which they have been at work before. From forms of development of the forces of production these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation, the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed.”
Critical to the Marxist framework is the idea that in accomplishing economic functions the economy casts people into contending classes with different ownership relations to the means of production. Some people own means of production. They are capitalists, and gain income as profit. Other people own only their ability to do work, which they sell for a wage to the capitalists. They are workers, or wage slaves.
The conflict or class struggle between owners and workers in capitalism shapes all society’s aspects including politics, culture, and gender relations, so that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
In capitalism itself, capitalists seek to maximize their profit, both for their own direct benefit, and because to maintain their position entails that they compete for market share and for revenues to invest. Workers, in contrast, seek to earn as high a wage as possible, both to stay above destitution, and, when possible, to eke out a better existence. The capitalist pays as low a wage and provides the cheapest conditions for as much labor as he can extract. The worker seeks as good conditions for doing as little labor for as much wage as he or she can extract.
The conflict that ensues between owners and workers over wage rates, unemployment levels, work conditions, and broader cultural and political policies composes class struggle and in turn contours the unfolding logic of capitalism.
Capitalism thus reprises the class struggles of all past history in a specific and new manner. “Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, the guildmaster and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended either in a revolutionary reconstruction of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.” With the arrival of capitalism the class struggle becomes that of workers and owners.”
On top of these core Marxist conceptual commitments there arise additional insights and interpretations which inform diverse Marxism-based strategies.
Do Marxism’s concepts highlight what's most important and leave out only what's peripheral? Do they reveal the roots of oppression? Do they conceive liberating relationships? Do they comprehensively inform activist interventions? Finally, is parecon entirely and comfortably Marxist, or is parecon a reaction to failings in Marxism?
Marxism's virtues include that it tells us that economics is important (with which parecon concurs), it rejects capitalist ownership relations and profit-seeking (as does parecon), it reveals many horrible effects of markets (which insights parecon extends), and it highlights the importance of class dynamics (which parecon also highlights). So far, so good. But what are Marxism’s problems?
First, when real existing people utilize Marxism’s concepts they tend to systematically under-value and misunderstand social relations of gender, political, cultural, and ecological origin. Used under trying circumstances, Marxism tends to exaggerate in its users minds the centrality of economics and to insufficiently prioritize gender, race, polity, and the environment.
Most Marxists feel that race, gender, polity, and environment are of course important and often even very important - but also think that non-economic features attain their importance precisely through their relations to economics.
The lenses Marxists use to understand society are not confined to but are certainly rooted in attention to class relations. Marxists examine how economic relations affect classes and how class relations in turn affect potentials for change. Marxists in turn examine how race, gender, sexuality, power, ecology, and other factors impact class struggle by propelling or impeding working class gains, which, in turn, they believe, will auger gains of all kinds.
A pareconist perspective agrees that economics is a profoundly important aspect of society and that the class divisions and struggles economics produces are hugely instrumental in affecting the quality of our lives. But a pareconist, or at least this pareconist, sees that the same claim can be made for cultural relations, for sexual and gender relations, and for political relations.
Rather than understanding the latter three arenas of social life and the divisions and struggles they engender largely, or even primarily, as they are affected by class, a pareconist perspective asserts that we need to understand each, and economics too, insofar as they are all affected by one another.
Put differently, Marxism says that the mode of production of a society emanates a force field that affects all of society, often very dramatically. I agree with this claim and to me, in fact, it seems utterly uncontestable. But then I also agree with the feminist who says that the organization and relations of socialization and nurturance emanate a force field that affects all of society. And I agree as well with the multiculturalist who says the same thing about cultural and community relations, and with the anarchist who says the same thing about political and power relations.
All these viewpoints rightly identify a locus of important influence, but each is wrong whenever it (explicitly or even just implicitly) denies the comparable importance of the other loci of influence. The conclusion is that there are at least four sources of profound influence in society rather than only one, as Marxism typically concludes.
The claim is that giving attention to matters of race, gender, authority, and also ecology primarily via examining their impact on and implications for class struggle often undercuts seeing their importance in their own right and compromises attention to their own dynamics. It may emphasize them but it will be mainly or even only in their economic implications.
The mistake of "monism" - even when it is a very flexible and enlightened monism - is to tend, under pressure, to elevate one realm to predominance and lose track of the priority of other realms. The point is, if we prioritize economics and class as the primary focus of conceptual attention and raise its concepts above all others in importance, we will likely not only misperceive a more complex reality, we will also relegate other comparably important focuses to a wrongly subordinate position.
The solution isn't to reduce attention to economics, but to elevate attention to other spheres and to their mutually defining influences without presupposing any to be prior or dominant. To overcome Marxism’s over attentiveness and over elevation of economics would therefore require a twofold alteration the way most Marxists construct and utilize their world view. They would need to admit:
1. That Marxism mainly conceptualizes economics and not all of society and history, and
2. That feminist, multiculturalist, and anarchist conceptualizations offer equally central insights into society and history, and in particular, that influences from other domains can centrally shape economic relations just as the reverse can occur.
That is, for real world Marxist practice to be desirably multi-focused, Marxists would need to jettison their claims of an economic base pushing and pulling a social and cultural superstructure and instead highlight that gender, race, and political dynamics all affect what goes on in workplaces, allocation, and consumption just as significantly as economics affects what goes on in religions, racial communities, families, and governments.
Marxism would need to recognize all directions of causality instead of exclusively or even just primarily emphasizing only causality from economics to the rest of society, and would have to refine many of its concepts accordingly.
This type of critique has in the past propelled feminists to create socialist feminism (to try to merge insights from gender-focused and class-focused analyses), and has led as well to variants of anarcho-marxism, Marxist nationalism, and other approaches, right up to frameworks that centrally address economics, polity, culture, and kinship on a par.
The upshot is that while the observation/criticism that Marxism has been overly economic is important, I don't think it is devastating. Many Marxists accept this criticism already and all Marxists could relatively easily adopt the more complex formulation described above that incorporates that influences from race, gender, sexuality, and authority can mold the economy just as the reverse can occur and that groups defined by those other core features can be as central actors in historical struggle and change as classes can. If insufficiently highlighting and comprehending other spheres of social life in their own right were Marxism's only problem, it wouldn't cause me to reject Marxism, but to try, like others have, to incorporate new insights to it.
Marxism and Class
But an overly economic emphasis is not the problem of Marxism that I wish to feature in this chapter, partly because it is straightforward to correct and a great many Marxists have worked hard on doing so, and partly because it isn’t as directly germane to concerns about parecon as matters that I will now take up.
Indeed, suppose all Marxists soon achieve an enrichment and diversification of their concepts to incorporate race, gender, power, and also ecological influences as also primary. Would I be satisfied with such a renovated Marxism and then urge that parecon is a Marxist vision?
I would certainly be happy about the change, yes, but no, I wouldn't yet celebrate Marxism, because the pareconist perspective indicates that Marxism has a second much more damning and less tractable problem than over prioritizing economics. Marxism, ironically, not only over prioritizes economy, it gets economics wrong.
On the one hand, in its orthodox variants, the Marxist concepts for explaining how economic inputs and outputs exchange misunderstand the determination of wages, prices, and profits in capitalist economies. Marxism’s conceptualization of relative valuations and wages tends to direct activists' thoughts away from seeing how wages are largely functions of bargaining power and control, which are categories that the Marxist labor theory of value largely ignores, and toward accounts of labor hours and subsistence (which are categories the Marxist labor theory of value highlights), as if the latter are objective, numerical, factors.
Likewise, orthodox Marxist crisis theory distorts understanding of capitalist economies and anti-capitalist prospects by theorizing intrinsic collapse where no such prospect exists, and by orienting activists away from the importance of their own organizing for change and toward presumed historic contradictions that will inevitably arise within capitalism itself.
But here too one can imagine Marxists transcending these orthodox ills, like they can overcome the monism described earlier - as indeed many have. So, just as we assumed away an overemphasis on economics, let's assume these two problems away as well.
The remaining problem with Marxism is that in virtually every variant, however flexible and enriched it is, Marxist class theory denies the existence of what I call the coordinator (or professional-managerial or technocratic) class and underemphasizes, or more often literally denies its antagonisms with the working class as well as with capitalists. This failing obstructs class analysis of the old Soviet, Eastern European, and Third World non-capitalist economies, and of capitalism itself. Worse, it interferes with attaining worthy goals. Let’s see.
Marxism rightly reveals that class differences can arise from differences in ownership. Capitalists own means of production. Workers own only their labor power, which they sell for a wage. The capitalist pursues profit by trying to extract as much work as possible at the lowest expenditure possible. The worker tries to increase wages, improve conditions, and work for as few hours and at as low an intensity as possible. This is class struggle. What's the problem?
The problem is that while this Marxist picture rings true as far as it goes, it only asserts, and never really proves, or even argues, that we should see property relations as the only cause of class difference. Marxism never investigates the possibility that other relations of work and economic life can divide people into critically important opposed groups with different circumstances, motives, and means. Marxism’s fatal weakness is that it ignores the possibility that factors other than ownership can also produce classes, and that overlooking additional possibilities compromises many core insights of the framework.
In capitalism, for example, some employees monopolize empowering conditions and tasks and as a result have considerable say over their own jobs and the jobs of other workers below them. Also, other less powerful workers control virtually no assets beyond their own energies and as a result endure only disempowering conditions and have virtually no say over their own or anyone else's conditions. The more powerful employees try to maintain their monopoly on empowering circumstances and greater income so as to continue ruling over employees lower down the hierarchy.
Within capitalism, we thus have not only capitalists and workers, but in between these two classes, also a group of empowered individuals who defend their advantages against workers below and who struggle to enlarge their bargaining power against owners above. I call this the coordinator class.
A Marxist might reasonably look at this claim and ask why we should introduce a third class label for this intermediate group? Why not just say it is a strata of one of the other two classes?
I respond that we should given it a new class label because the position of those who monopolize empowering work isn't just confused or contradictory. They aren’t workers with a slight difference from most other workers. They aren’t capitalists with a slight difference from most other capitalists. Nor are they some kind of amalgam of the two, or the bottom strata of capitalists merging into the top strata of workers, thereby occupying what some might call a contradictory position. Instead this group has its own well defined position, its own clear definition, and as a result, its own views and interests.
Calling it the petit bourgeoisie, as some Marxists do, continues to narrow our thought in accord with the old ownership viewpoint. It pays attention to the wrong attribute of these people’s position - that they in some cases own a little but not too much capital - and it overlooks that something other than ownership is the source of this group’s class interests, and can even lead to a new form of class rule.
Parecon’s view, in contrast to Marxism’s, says that the coordinator class between labor and capital is defined by having a relative monopoly on empowering work. It controls its own situation to a great extent. It controls or defines the situation of workers below to a great extent. It works to enlarge and defend its comforts and power against capital above, as well as against workers below even as it sometimes also does the bidding of those above, of course.
Who composes this class? Wealthy and powerful doctors, lawyers, engineers, managers, and professionals of many kinds. These are people who self-servingly see capitalists, by and large, as an annoying obstacle to the fullest elaboration of their personal genius. They are people who self-servingly see workers, by and large, as more or less dumb folks to be taken care of, and, of course, kept below.
At this point, the Marxist might ask, "What could possibly be the basis for political and social unity between a high level supervisor of the production process, the comptroller for the same company, a creative director at the advertising agency hired by that company, an engineer designer of the tools of the workplace, a legal partner at the company's law firm, and the surgeon who works on them all, if they come to need it?"
My answer is that the coordinators all get their status, power, income, and identity from monopolizing empowering skills and knowledge, as well as from their access to daily levers of economic control and influence.
What they have in common is that on average they all tell themselves that they have their considerable material and social advantages not because they rip off their greater wealth and status from others by monopolizing domineering circumstances, but because they are smarter than others.
What they have in common is that they see capitalists as a painful impediment to the fullest manifestation of their capacities - though also, of course, that they frequently have to serve capital (like workers often do, as well).
What they have in common is that they see workers as inferior and subordinate, as maybe worth saving and even lifting out of destitution, but as not worthy of having serious influence over economic life.
And what they have in common can be, under certain historical conditions, that if they manage to eliminate private ownership they can run the economy without capitalists above them and with workers still below them.
The still skeptical Marxist might then ask, "Under what circumstances would they all unite against both workers below and capitalists above? Surely you can’t mean they would do that."
My reply is that yes, to publicly adopt such a stance would be suicidal, of course. Rather, what this class or its foremost elements would do if they wanted to usher in a new economy in their own interests is wage a class war against capital by identifying capitalism’s many horrors to facilitate appealing to all those who suffer capitalism’s indignities and impoverishment. In the course of the ensuing anti-capitalist struggles, however, the coordinator class, seeking its own domination and not just an end to capital’s rule, would monopolize into its own hands control over institutions, elevate its own culture and values, and impose its rule on more grass roots movements and new institutions, all as a kind of reflex of their self image and their image of others. In this way the coordinator class would wind up dominating the new society, not only theoretically as I have just described, but as has actually occurred in historical practice, in all countries where Leninists have taken power.
The Marxist might then reply, "In the real world, you mean to tell me that you can actually imagine these coordinators uniting to overthrow capital and establish their own independent mode of production?"
Yes, I might then answer, I mean to say exactly that. Not in the trivial way that some might think, such as coordinators dressing up in fancy clothes and holding aloft their graduate degrees while standing behind banners saying capitalists suck and workers suck too, but in a social process that throws off the capitalists as the enemy due to the immoral exploitation capitalism wrecks on all citizens and particularly on workers, all while employing the working class as allies - really, as troops - and then selling out the working class once victory over capital is attained. Indeed, to my mind this is what Bolshevism did.
The key point of all this analysis regarding parecon’s relation to Marxist perspectives, is that this coordinator class can actually become the ruling class of a new economy with capitalists removed but workers still subordinate.
The key problem this analysis raises about Marxism, then, is that Marxism’s concepts obscure the existence of a class which not only contends with capitalists and workers within capitalism, but which can become rulers of a new noncapitalist economy, most usefully called, I think, coordinatorism.
Finally, the absolutely damning point for Marxism is that this coordinator-class ruled economy is in fact historically familiar. It has public or state ownership of productive assets and corporate divisions of labor. It remunerates power and/or output. It utilizes central planning and/or markets for allocation. And it is typically called by its advocates “market socialism” or “centrally planned socialism.” It is celebrated, that is, as the goal of struggle in every serious Marxist economic text that gets beyond glorious economic rhetoric to actual institutional prescriptions for economic life. It has been imposed by every Marxist party that has transformed a society's economic relations. Yet although this coordinatorism is prevalent in history, in Marxist theoretical literature, from its origins to the present, coordinatorism is barely conceptualized at all. When the actual system we call coordinatorism is discussed by Marxists, its class features are obscured.
Marxism and Vision and Strategy
It turns out that Marxism is counterproductive to attaining a desirable society in a few ways.
First, and most easily overcome, is Marxism's general taboo against "utopian" speculation. Interestingly, what this taboo tends to do in practice, like an ironically parallel anarchist taboo of the same sort, is to cause folks concerned about over-reaching into inaccessible details and especially concerned about authoritarianism, to foreswear vision entirely, thus leaving coordinator-inclined folks to take up prescriptive tasks alone.
Second, and also manageably overcome, Marxism tends to presume that if economic relations are made desirable, other social relations will fall into place. This leaves activists without any reason to generate vision of other spheres of social life.
Third, and a bit more troubling, Marxism confuses what constitutes an equitable distribution of income. The instruction that we ought to strive for "from each according to ability to each according to need" is not only utopian in being unattainable, even if we could do attain it, it would curtail needed information transfer obscuring the relative preferences people have for different economic choices. Moreover, it has, in any event, never been more than rhetoric for empowered Marxists, whose operational priority has been that we should seek "from each according to ability” and remunerate “to each according to contribution" (if not power). This is not a morally worthy maxim because it would reward not just effort but also genetic endowment and advantages from tools, conditions, and even luck.
Fourth, and most damning and intractable, in practice and in its substantive prescriptions, Marxism approves hierarchical corporate divisions of labor for production and either command planning or markets for allocation, thus imposing coordinator class rule.
In other words, the heart of the problem that should make a pareconist reject Marxism is that due to Marxism’s underlying concepts, Marxism's economic goals amount to advocating a coordinator mode of economic organization that elevates to ruling status administrators, intellectual workers, and planners.
Marxism uses the label “socialism” for this goal, of course, but this is to appeal to workers and other people of good will. When Marxists are in position to affect societal outcomes, Marxism does not, in fact, structurally implement “socialist ideals,” nor does it offer even in theory a vision that does so.
The situation is analogous, Marx himself would surely point out, to how bourgeois movements use the labels democratic, free, and equitable, to rally support from diverse sectors to their capitalist agendas - even though, when implemented the agendas do not structurally engender truly democratic, free, or equitable outcomes.
Finally, Leninism, which is a strategic orientation to win change, is a natural and by far the most frequent activist outgrowth of Marxism in capitalist societies. Marxism Leninism, however, far from being the "theory and strategy for the working class,” is, instead, the theory and strategy of the coordinator class due to its focus, concepts, values, goals and organizational and tactical commitments.
Marxism Leninism employs coordinator class organizational and decision making logic and structure. Even against its advocates’ intentions, it imposes coordinator class rule.
Council self management is what the Leninist Bolsheviks destroyed in the Soviet Union. Remuneration for effort and sacrifice is denied by rewarding power or output, the typical approach of coordinatorist models. Balanced job complexes are obliterated by corporate workplace organization which imposes the coordinator rule that is present in all actual Marxist economies and substantive accounts of Marxist economic goals. Participatory planning is destroyed by markets and or central planning, which are also present in virtually all Marxist program and practice, thereby imposing the allocative basis for coordinator rule.
Coordinatorism has roots in various Marxist and Leninist theoretical concepts and strategic commitments, even counter to the broad aspirations of most members of Marxist and Leninist movements, which is why these movements need to be transcended.
What if a Marxist or Marxist Leninist disavows economism and additionally enriches their framework with concepts focused on other domains of life, rejects failed economic aspects of the framework, and in particular rejects its two-class conceptualization and adopts the three-class view and also parecon as a vision? Do I then say okay, I embrace your type of Marxism?
Yes, I in fact would happily do just that - but for one problem. At that point, I would have to wonder, what is gained by still calling the revamped framework Marxism or Marxism Leninism? These labels imply to virtually everyone who hears them very different views than the hypothetical person holds. Why not find a new label that can convey the new allegiances instead of tainting the new allegiances with the associations conjured to mind by old labels?
I suspect the answer is that folks who call themselves Marxist and Marxist Leninist do so overwhelmingly to see themselves as part of a heritage - not the heritage of the actual systems that have been put in place and have brutishly curtailed options and even snuffed out lives and aspirations, and not the heritage of top-down authority and internecine sectarianism that often persists in Marxist Leninist oppositional organizations that have lacked power, but the heritage of courageous resistance and struggle from below, grassroots aspirations, and solidarity and mutual support that has existed among large populations seeking change.
Well, I too wish to see myself in that heritage and to be worthy of helping it continue, but I am also concerned with the meaning of my words - not their meaning for me, and not their meaning for people who agree with me, but their meaning for the huge numbers of people who justifiably understand the words differently than I may mean them. And so, no, even if a particular Marxist or Marxist Leninist party makes all the changes noted above - something that could certainly happen - I would not join up just due to their use of the label, however much I would feel affinity for their choice and happily respect them and presumably ally with them.
Marxism Indicts Marxism
Marx taught us, quite brilliantly, to look at ideologies or conceptual frameworks, and to ask of them, who do they serve? What are they suited for? What do they include and what do they exclude, and will their inclusions and exclusions make them suitable or unsuitable for us?
Marx was no one's fool, and these are very insightful instructions. If we apply them to Marxism, however, the instructions reveal that the framework leaves out important economic relations regarding the division of labor and relations of allocation and that the absence of these features benefits the coordinator class’s agenda to overcome capitalism and install itself into ruling status.
Because of this we shouldn't only tinker with and otherwise minimally reform Marxism, just as we shouldn't only tinker with and otherwise minimally reform bourgeois economics. These are both frameworks bent to serve interests that we oppose. They have insights we can borrow, especially Marxism, due to its being anticapitalist, but as to Marxism’s overall conceptual package, following Marx's own advice, we have to transcend that.
But a contemporary Marxist may say wait, Marxist and Leninist movements espouse values much like the ones parecon celebrates. They urge the need for classlessness, for equity, for justice, for solidarity, and so on.
Yes they often do, and when bourgeois elements railed against royalty they didn't do it in the name of their own future great wealth and power either, but in the name of freedom and justice for everyone. Their ideology was sharp in railing at the enemy, but very vague as to differences between themselves and "their troops." This is always true when an elite group contends for power.
Indeed, I have no doubt that many advocates of bourgeois ideology believe their own rhetoric, and I think understanding this phenomenon is one of the abiding accomplishments of Marxism, including seeing that the rhetoric, no matter how heartfelt, doesn't redefine the reality. The class position of corporate elites, the defining relations of their lives, and the attitudes, values, and modes of operation their position in society gives them, leads them even despite their rhetoric, to implement enrichment for the few. This is true for capitalists and it is the same (in different ways) for coordinators.
It may be that even the people in leadership positions in a coordinator-class oriented movement have quite sincere and worthy aspirations. They rally workers below - who certainly are sincere about their positive aspirations - by railing against injustices perpetrated by a capitalist elite they seek to remove. At such moments, the leading coordinator elements no doubt feel real pain for the suffering of others and feel real solidarity in struggle with them. The "masses" in turn certainly want dignity and justice and expect it. But in spite of all these fine desires and relationships, the Leninist process leads to nothing more than a new class taking the place of the old one in a position of authority over workers, because that's what's immanent in the ideology and in its institutional commitments.
The Marxist may reply that when such movements yield new oppressive relations they have failed to fulfill their true agenda and are instead violating the underlying conceptions. In reply, I think that it is just apologetics to call every victory by a party full of people who call themselves Marxists and who can recite Marxism’s concepts and theories inside out, and who say they are applying those concepts and theories, and who certainly seem to be doing so, and who are admired while in the opposition and praised as exemplifying the cause, not Marxist just a little while later despite no discernable renunciations or conceptual turn-abouts.
The Marxist might say that what stands out most about these so-called “socialist” societies is how much they resemble capitalism, so why not just call them capitalist or perhaps state capitalist? The new term, coordinatorism, just confuses the issue, argue the Marxist.
My reply is that this is like seeing the folks between labor and capital as part worker and part owner, rather than as a class unto themselves. The Marxist is saying the old Soviet economy can only be either capitalism or socialism. Those are the only possible options. And since it isn't socialism, it must be capitalism. But this is a set of failed concepts at work. Concepts always organize our thoughts and provide categories we use. Sometimes concepts are useful in that they push us past what’s obvious and help us reach important insights we would otherwise overlook. Other times, however, as in the case of Marxism’s obscuring coordinatorism from us, concepts hide the obvious from us by cluttering our perception with mistaken formulations. We miss what we ought to be attending to.
As Einstein put this general insight: “Concepts which have proved useful for ordering things easily assume so great an authority over us, that we forget their terrestrial origin and accept them as unalterable facts. They then become labeled as `conceptual necessities,’ etc. The road of scientific progress is frequently blocked for long periods by such errors. It is therefore not just an idle game to exercise our ability to analyze familiar concepts, and to demonstrate the conditions on which justification of their usefulness depends.”
To say that the old Soviet economy was capitalist despite there being no private ownership of the means of production, is, to me, far less useful than realizing that it must have been, instead, if not capitalism, and if not an economy in which workers self manage - then something else for which we will need another name that highlights its different defining features.
The absence of owners and the elevation of central planners, local managers, and other empowered workers to ruling status is what characterized these economies as different.
If we call the Soviet Union state capitalist, as many Marxists urge, one conclusion is that we don't have to worry that maintaining a division of labor that has some people ruling over others is part and parcel of ushering in a new economy that isn't in the interests of workers. If there is no such thing as an economy not in the interests of workers other than capitalism, and if we are certainly anticapitalist, we must therefore be on a good path forward. In truth, of course, the whole point is that one can be anticapitalist in ways that don't elevate workers but instead elevate coordinators. That is what parecon strives to avoid.
When I argue that coordinatorism is celebrated as the goal of struggle in every Marxist text that offers a serious economic vision, many Marxists are likely to reply that "that is utterly false. Both for Marx, and for every genuine Marxist who followed him, the ‘goal of struggle’ in every text that takes up this question is a society characterized by mass working-class participation, democracy, and freedom."
Well, I think that what this Marxist says is true about Marxist rhetoric, but that what I claim is true about Marxist reality.
I don’t say, in other words, that Marxists never verbally advocate working class participation and control. Or even that they never seriously desire it, as individuals. I say only that they don't offer a vision that yields that result. I say that very nearly every serious Marxist formulation of economic aims, including of course, what Marxists have done in practice - is intrinsically coordinatorist whatever accompanying desires and rhetoric might say to the contrary.
Yes, there have been some Marxists, most particularly the “council communists” such as Anton Pannekoek, among others, who tried to describe a truly socialist - in the positive sense - vision. I feel that while their intentions and many of their insights were very admirable, they didn't get very far into the institutions of a new vision, though others might feel that is too dismissive. But the main point is that what we might call libertarian Marxists or anarcho marxists are the nearly imperceptible exception that proves the overwhelming rule. While they ought to be extolled as the best Marxism has had to offer, instead, they are literally ignored by large Marxist parties the world over.
Not People At Fault, But Institutions
Put another way, to highlight another component and dimension of the argument, the problem with Marxism isn't bad people. Yes, Stalin was a bad guy, to put it mildly. But the real and lasting problem was the institutions that selected and elevated a thug like Stalin. The problem with Marxism Leninism isn't that everybody in Marxist Leninist parties wants to trample workers on the road to ruling them. That is utterly false. The problem is that those parties and their core concepts, however well meaning most members motives may be, lead to that outcome.
None of us is immune to the pressures of our circumstances. On average, the Marxist concepts that organize Marxist’s thoughts and the Leninist organizational structures and strategies that Leninists abide, together have a built-in logic that causes Marxist Leninists - even against their best inclinations and aspirations - to elevate coordinators.
Become a police officer or a prison guard in a capitalist society, even with the best of motives, and the odds are that you aren't going to serve the people with sympathy and respect, even if that was your initial intention. Moreover, some who take this route will become grotesque agents of repression.
Become a lawyer or a surgeon in a capitalist society, again even with the best of motives, and the odds are that you aren't going to be a paragon of justice but an elitist, commercialized person, even against your best inclinations.
Become a Leninist, even with the very best of motives, and the odds are that you aren't going to make a revolution in our modern world for want of a sufficiently diverse focus and especially for want of true working class appeal. If you do make a revolution, However, the odds are that even against your hopes, your achievement will elevate coordinators, not workers, to economic rule.
Some Marxists find this claim personally insulting. I don't think it should be. It isn't a comment about particular people. It is a comment about concepts, methods, and institutional allegiances, and their predictable impact on groups of people.
I am saying, in other words, that I think certain concepts and views, even in the hands of sincere and wonderful people, lead to results that all people of good will, including themselves, would at the outset say they reject.
So in light of all this, do I think that parecon is contrary to many of Leninism's and even of Marxism's inclinations? Yes, of course I do. But that doesn't mean I think all people who calls themselves Marxist will be blind to a good thing when it comes along. I expect lots of Marxists to become advocates of parecon. This is already, in fact, happening. I'll also be happy when a Marxist party decides to advocate parecon - something that may take longer, but will likely also happen, and perhaps repeatedly.
Concepts and Collective Behavior
First, Marxism's concepts tend to overemphasize the defining influences arising from economics, and to underemphasize the defining influences arising from gender/kinship, community/culture, and polity.
This doesn't mean that all (or even any) Marxists ignore everything other than economics, nor even that all (or even any) Marxists won't care greatly about other matters.
It means, instead, that when Marxists address the sex lives of teenagers, marriage, the nuclear family, religion, racial identity, cultural commitments, sexual preferences, political organization, war and peace, and ecology, they overwhelmingly highlight causes arising from class struggle and implications affecting class struggle, and overwhelmingly deemphasize concerns rooted in the specific features of race, gender, power, and nature.
This criticism predicts that Marxist movements may respect innovations coming from other viewpoints when movements force them to do so, but also that Marxists will not generate many original and useful insights regarding analysis and aims for polity, culture, and kinship.
It also predicts that Marxism's concepts will not sufficiently offset tendencies imposed by society, by circumstances of struggle, or by tactical choices that generate authoritarian, racist, or sexist trends - even against the best moral and social inclinations of most Marxists.
And it therefore also predicts that we will see some pretty horrible results in the areas of race, gender, culture, ecology, and political organization from Marxist movements in struggle and especially from Marxist movements in power, as we most certainly have.
In other words, my claims about Marxism's "economism" do not predict monomania about economics, or even a universal and inviolable pattern of adhering too strongly to economics and not enough to everything else, but, instead, they predict a harmful pattern of imbalance on average.
Second, and less tractable, Marxism's concepts fail to highlight a (coordinator) class between labor and capital defined primarily by its position in the division of labor and not by matters of ownership or political bureaucracy.
Marxism inadequately understands the postcapitalist mode of production that it calls "socialist" or "state capitalist," and it fails to see that this type of economy elevates neither capitalists nor workers to ruling economic status, but elevates instead what I call a coordinator class of planners, managers, and other empowered participants in the economy.
Likewise, Marxism typically favors markets or central planning for allocation, public or state ownership for control of assets, remuneration for output or for power and sometimes for need to determine the distribution of income, plus corporate divisions of labor to define workplace organization. And regardless of hopes or intentions, these commitments all lead to coordinator outcomes.
Notice, this doesn't say that most (or arguably even any) Marxists are intentionally trying to advance the interests of managers and other empowered economic actors over and above workers. It says, instead, that the concepts within Marxism do little to prevent this elevation of the coordinator class and even propel it in various ways, so that we can expect to see coordinator economic dominance emerging from successful Marxist movements regardless of the sentiments of the movement's rank and file and the slogans of its leadership - as we have in fact seen historically in every Marxist society from Russia to China, and East Europe to Cuba.
A Better Marxism?
What is an antidote for the two highlighted problems? Regarding economism, the problem is a conceptual framework that starts from economics and only then enters into other realms incidentally and with the primary intention of seeing economic implications. I propose that we ought to instead begin with concepts that simultaneously highlight not just economics, but also polity, kinship, and culture. We ought to use concepts that first prioritize understanding each of these sphere's own logic and dynamics, and that second prioritize seeing how each sphere influences and even limits and defines the others. Our new conceptual framework would not rank any one of these spheres of life above the others, but should instead see how they work out in practice. I have urged that this approach will more likely yield thorough insights about racism, ethnocentrism, sexism, homophobia, and authoritarianism (as well as about economics), than will starting with economics alone as our foundation.
But, if this new Marxist, and there are many like this, renounces ideas of economic base and extra-economic superstructure, rejects that historical change is driven only or even overwhelmingly via modes of production, and transcends seeing class struggle as the alone dominant conceptual framework for identifying strategic issues - will still calling him or herself a "Marxist" continue to mean what it meant in the past? Will the label "Marxist" connote what the multi-focus activist intends his or her self description to connote? I don't think so, but I can imagine overcoming this communicative problem as well.
The class-definition difficulty of Marxism is more deep going. Marxists sometimes talk about a class between labor and capital - but they do so primarily in political terms, asserting that its roots derive from Stalinism. They rarely see a third class between labor and capital arising from the economic division of labor and from economic modes of allocation (not from ownership or politics). And they do not see, therefore, that markets, central planning, and corporate divisions of labor are a source of class division, and of a ruling class other than capitalists, even if private ownership is eliminated and the state remains or becomes democratic.
Marxists do not, in this regard, offer a clear statement of truly classless institutional aims for economic decision-making, divisions of labor, workplace organization, remuneration, and allocation.
Yes, Marxists often offer descriptions of the justice, equity, and dignity that "socialism" should usher in. And these descriptions are often eloquent and worthy statements that any advocate of justice can support. But, if we look at texts by Marxists to see descriptions of institutions that will propel these proposed values, we find either vague rhetoric that lacks institutional substance, or, when there is real institutional substance, we find advocacy of institutions that are properly labeled market coordinatorist and/or centrally planned coordinatorist. And when we look at Marxist practice, we find these same coordinatorist structures universally implemented.
But could a Marxist transcend this problem too, and yet continue to see him or herself as a Marxist?
I don't know - but, if a Marxist does follow that path, I think signs that it has occurred would be obvious. For example, such new Marxists would disavow what has been called socialism in countries around the world, not by calling it capitalism, or by calling it state capitalism, or by calling it deformed socialism, but by recognizing it as a third mode of production that enshrines a different class above workers.
More, such new Marxists would offer a new economic vision contrary to coordinatorism, and this new vision would explicitly dispense with markets, central planning, and corporate divisions of labor, since these provide more empowering work to some people and less empowering work to others. The new vision would also dispense with modes of remuneration that reward property, power, or output.
Additionally, to transcend merely negative rhetoric and to orient strategy, such new Marxists would not arrogantly present a full blueprint for the future but they would propose major defining institutions to replace rejected options.
And finally, such Marxists would also advocate internal movement organization, methods, and programs that would propel their new positive aims, rather than approaches that would obviously obstruct those aims.
Strategies for social change need to self-consciously overcome coordinator class rule. If they embody organizational choices and methods that elevate coordinator class consciousness and attitudes to central authority - such as employing centralist parties and advocating markets, central planning, and corporate divisions of labor - they will not only not eliminate coordinator class rule, they will entrench it. Regrettably, Marxism's flaws lead to this result regardless of the desire of many Marxists to end up someplace much nicer than coordinatorism.
But what about Marxists who seek to correct the error of ignoring coordinatorism?
Well, I doubt that such new Marxists would call themselves Leninist or Trotskyist, but even if they did, they would certainly disavow many ideas of these two schools of thought. Instead of always quoting Lenin and Trotsky positively, they would forthrightly and aggressively reject Lenin saying that "it is absolutely essential that all authority in the factories should be concentrated in the hands of management." Being instead for self management they would also be horrified by Lenin’s saying "any direct intervention by the trade unions in the management of enterprises must be regarded as positively harmful and impermissible."
Likewise, Lenin’s formulation that "large scale machine industry which is the central productive source and foundation of socialism calls for absolute and strict unity of will... How can strict unity of will be ensured? By thousands subordinating their will to the will of one," would be horrifying to such new Marxists, virtually the opposite of their sentiments.
The capstone might well be the apoplectic reaction such new Marxists would have to Lenin saying "A producer's congress! What precisely does that mean? It is difficult to find words to describe this folly. I keep asking myself can they be joking? Can one really take these people seriously? While production is always necessary, democracy is not. Democracy of production engenders a series of radically false ideas." This is of course the antithesis of seeking classlessness and self management.
Trotsky would come in for harsh critique as well. What innovative new Marxist of the sort envisioned here would do other than scowl and then marshal facts to reject Trotsky saying about workers seeking to control their own lives: "They turn democratic principles into a fetish. They put the right of the workers to elect their own representatives above the Party, thus challenging the Party's right to affirm its own dictatorship, even when this dictatorship comes into conflict with the evanescent mood of the worker's democracy. We must bear in mind the historical mission of our Party. The Party is forced to maintain its dictatorship, without stopping for these vacillations, nor even the momentary falterings of the working class. This realization is the mortar which cements our unity. The dictatorship of the proletariat does not always have to conform to formal principles of democracy."
What new Marxist could feel affinity with Trotsky saying that “it is a general rule that man will try to get out of work. Man is a lazy animal." Who would ratify him saying, with pride, no less, that "I consider that if the Civil War had not plundered our economic organs of all that was strongest, most independent, most endowed with initiative, we should undoubtedly have entered the path of one - man management much sooner and much less painfully."
More positively, if the topic came up, such new Marxists would indicate how they would have done things differently than the Bolsheviks and than every Marxist party since the Bolsheviks.
For example, regarding the Bolsheviks, they might point out that the shop committee movement in Russia was moving in 1917-18 towards a National Congress to take over grassroots planning and coordination of the economy and note that unlike the Bolsheviks they would have seen such local agents as the best locus of planning rather than preferring the state. They might also note that Power to the Shop Committees was what the anarcho-syndicalists argued at the First All-Russian Trade Union Congress in January 1918, and indicate that they would have supported the anarchists in that, instead of opposing them, as the Bolsheviks did.
These new Marxists, noting that the Bolsheviks voted at that Trade Union Congress along with the Mensheviks and SRs to dissolve the shop committees into the trade unions and advocated "union management" of the economy, might say they would have at least stuck with that compromise instead of devolving by 1921 into advocating replacing union management with the still worse top-down "one-man management."
Instead of a hierarchical army these new Marxists might indicate that they would have favored using a militia based on the mass organizations, like the Revolutionary Army of the anarchists in the Ukraine. They might note that arguing, as supporters of Bolshevism do, that this would have been ineffective against the whites would be unreasonable given that it was the revolutionary army of the Ukraine that saved the Bolsheviks during the winter of 1919, when they attacked the white army besieging Moscow from the rear, destroying it.
And instead of invading the Ukraine with the Red Army to crush the People's Congress of the eastern Ukraine in 1921, as the Bolsheviks did, these new Marxists might indicate that they would have supported the Congress and helped it expand into the western Ukraine.
These new Marxists would note that instead of invading Kronstadt in 1921 and crushing the Soviet there, they would have agreed to the Kronstadter's demands for new elections to the Soviets, even if this meant that the Bolsheviks would have to go into opposition.
More, these new Marxists would note more generally that hierarchical structures in political institutions risk ushering in coordinator rule (as well as creating an environment uncongenial to widespread worker involvement) and also provoke political authoritarianism, and if they wanted to argue that in some difficult contexts such structures had to be employed they would urge using them only as a temporarily imposed expedient, and in all other respects they would try to pave the way for non-hierarchical relations, now and in the future.
And, finally, being attuned to the broader comprehension of class definition and working class liberation, these new Marxists would not say that everyone who sees vision and strategy differently than them but calls themselves a Marxist is a Stalinist. They would instead recognize that Marxism is a very incomplete framework and leads most people who adopt it to unworthy positions even against their personal inclinations.
Getting Personal About It
Those I would label as good and admirable Leninists and good and admirable pareconists each oppose capitalism and seek just and equitable improvements against current oppressions. We each advocate workers and consumers councils. We each oppose markets and also hierarchical planning. We each believe that movements should prefigure alternative goals even in current work.
We also agree that beyond capitalism there exists not simply a desirable economy, but also economic systems that we disavow. A difference between us is that pareconists tend to think the rejected systems elevate an economic coordinator class to ruling status, whereas what we might call good Leninists tend to think of this same group as a political product having to do with Stalinism.
We both oppose, at least as an end, authoritarian political structures. We also oppose, or feel we have to be very careful with, economic structures that create and elevate the in-between group that I call the coordinator class and that the good Leninist views as a bureaucracy. This means we both should advocate not only replacing markets and/or central planning with a new allocation system, but also replacing the current division of labor with balanced job complexes.
We both think allocation should be consciously, cooperatively undertaken by workers and consumers in a horizontal manner. Parecon proposes participatory planning for this kind of self management. Hopefully many Leninists, even all Leninists, will, in time, agree.
All of this is, or should be, congenial and mutual. Yet, the good Leninists are in a Trotskyist Party, or in a Leninist party, or in some tiny sect, all in the Marxist Leninist tradition. In contrast, I and pareconists more generally tend to very strongly reject such parties and also that tradition, and are quite critical of Marxism as well.
A reader might reasonably wonder how this is possible. How can rank and file, and even many leading Leninists and pareconists, line up shoulder to shoulder in what they reject, differ almost indiscernibly in the economic values they espouse, agree up to what appear to be fine points regarding economic aims, and yet still have such contrary allegiances?
Put to me, the questioner might ask: "Albert, how can you think that Marxism Leninism yields outcomes you aggressively reject and yet you so often interact congenially with people who identify with that heritage?"
To conclude this chapter, I hope to explain why this seemingly self-contradictory picture is accurate, possible, and not even unusual.
Imagine you were at a public talk given by Karl Marx. It is a wondrous tour de force in which he rails at capitalists for gouging workers while they pile up wealth at the expense of humanity. He explains how ownership imposes on capitalists a view of their employees and a set of interests that yield their heinous behavior even against their own better natures. He says it is a systemic phenomenon that derives from capitalists’ position in the economy and that manifests as members of the class collectively and individually carry out their economic functions. He calls them all “Moneybags,” for short, exhorting the need to eliminate them as a class.
The talk ends and Marx exits, stage left, of course. You go out for a bite and, lo and behold, there in the next booth at the local eatery is Karl Marx having his own snack while chatting with his close friend and lifelong ally, Frederick Engels. Yes, that's right, there with Marx is the Engels who owns a factory. How is that possible? Why is Marx not spitting in the face of this owner of capital?
The chummy session is possible without contradiction because Marx's class analysis never says that every person who occupies a certain position will inexorably hold certain views. Class analysis says, instead, that the class position people occupy tends to impose certain broad behaviors and views on them over time, and especially in demanding circumstances. In the clash and jangle of these and a host of other influences, on average, the economic commonalities of a class will yield the predicted broad characteristics within the overall economic behavior of the class’s members. Engels diverges from his class average, but in doing so, he in no sense violates Marx’s claims about that class’s average properties.
Returning to my view of Marxism, I say Marxism is an array of concepts and of claims about how to comprehend attributes of society and history in specific cases. I say Marxism’s concepts have many virtues - but that they also have two overriding faults which make me feel that we must transcend this framework.
The first fault, potentially correctable even while one is a Marxist, is a relative over emphasis on class and its associated economic sphere of life with a concurrent under emphasis on race, gender, sexuality, and political position and the associated kinship, cultural, and political spheres of social life. The claim is that groups of adherents to Marxist concepts will collectively highlight how economy affects the other spheres of life, but largely overlook how those other spheres affect the economy. The users will highlight how classes can be central agents of oppression and liberation, but will downplay how genders, sexual groups, races, religious and ethnic and other cultural groups, and political formations can be central agents of oppression and liberation.
Importantly, any individual Marxist will do better or worse on these matters depending not only on how mechanically he or she utilizes narrow economic and class concepts, but depending also on his or her familiarity with, and use of, other perspectives when thinking about relations and developing agendas. But, despite that variation, given that the societies we live in tend to make us not only classist, but also racist, sexist, homophobic, and authoritarian, and given the exigencies of difficult daily practice and political struggle, and in particular given the pressures and benefits of collective unity, my claim is that on average, groups of Marxists working together will be relatively weak in their comprehension of and commitment to addressing the non-economic dimensions of social life, and that this will be especially true whenever attending to such broader matters seems to conflict with their shared insights about class and economy.
Please notice, I don't say Marxists are racist, sexist, authoritarian people. I say, instead, that there is a built-in conceptual bias, powerfully exacerbated by conditions, that is by the historical evidence overwhelmingly likely to lead to harmful results. In the clash and jangle of many factors, the shared economic concepts tend to swamp broader insights.
The solution, one might argue, is for Marxists to append insights from other perspectives (as I tried to do myself, many years back). And that's fine, as long as Marxists are prepared to permit it. But here is the wrinkle. For many Marxists, particularly in groups that work hard to attain and maintain a collective identity, such innovation violates a major tenet about the priority of class and economy and if it is ever undertaken at all, it tends to be jettisoned later.
I think a much better solution, therefore, is to adopt a new conceptual framework which keeps what continues to be valuable from Marxism but puts new gender, cultural, and political concepts at the same priority as economic concepts.
Okay, that's one issue of major disagreement, but as I have indicated often above, it is not the biggest issue of dispute because many Marxists and Marxist Leninists try to deal with it - and to a degree succeed - just as many feminists try to deal with overemphasizing kinship and gender at the expense of other critical factors - and to a degree succeed.
The most intractable difference I have with Marxism Leninism is, instead, my rejection of Marxism's conceptualization of the economy itself and my rejection of Leninism's practical strategy and vision.
I think Marxist consciousness on average in real struggle leads to insufficient attention to the agendas and possibilities of what I call the coordinator class, up to and including championing an economy that elevates the coordinator class to ruling status. And I think that Leninist strategy on average in real struggle generates collective allegiances to both authoritarian and coordinatorist results.
Now when some Marxist or Leninist says, hold on, that isn't me, or says I can name a Marxist who doesn't have the failing you mention, or says I can name a Leninist who doesn't have those failings, it has virtually no impact on the argument I am making, just as when some sociologist says hold on, Mr. Engels owned capital, or hold on, Mr. Moneybags just wrote a very humane book. Those facts have no impact on Marxist assertions about the average implications of ownership of private property.
Probably due to a failing in my presentation, Marxists and Leninists never quite hear my criticism the way I intend. They instead seem to hear an easily dismissible claim that every single person who calls him or herself a Marxist or a Leninist thinks in one particular way. They do not hear a more subtle claim that the commonalities among people who call themselves Marxists, and particularly among people who operate in Marxist Leninist parties, tend to overwhelm the myriad of other attributes present so that when the clash and jangle of diverse factors resolves itself into average outcomes the result is overwhelmingly economism, authoritarianism, sectarianism, and, in particular, coordinator-serving strategy and vision.
What's my evidence for this claim?
Well, having described the concepts of Marxism and the strategic commitments of Leninism in a way that yields the above prediction, the evidence for it’s validity is that the prediction is borne out by the practice of every single Marxist Leninist party that has ever attained power or even attained any significant size and scope, and by every single serious Marxist Leninist model for a post capitalist economy, as well.
I don't know how much more evidence one could possibly offer. Okay, some will dispute pieces of it. They will find no fault with East Germany circa 1980, or no fault with Russia whether under Stalin, or more likely only before that, or will find no fault with the Bolsheviks before they took power…or with early Mao but not middle or late Mao, or with late Trotsky but not his early incarnation, or whatever other permutation. But really, even ignoring how weak these assertions are; is all this anything other than special pleading?
And what would Marxists and Leninists need to do to rectify the situation? All that it would take to get well under way is to admit that the historical framework is insufficient and flawed. The next step would be to agree that other spheres of social life are as key as economics is, and most of all to realize that, yes, class refers to groups defined by their economic relations including but not confined to property relations.
And here is where I annoy even Leninists who are my friends. It seems to me that the difficulty of taking these steps most often has more to do with a religious cast of mind and with issues of personal identity and group commitment than it has to do with anything rational or moral.
I find no other convincing way to explain why when I and Marxist and also Leninist friends talk about politics and dissent without using concepts that explicitly put the Marxist framework in question, and without criticizing historical actors from the Leninist heritage, things often go swimmingly, but the minute something comes up that explicitly implies a gap in the Marxist Leninist identity, guards go up and what seems like obtuse denial and aggressive defensiveness set in.
Contrary to how people often react to my suggestion that non rational factors affect Marxist Leninist allegiances, putting it forth isn't extreme or nasty. The truth is that we all behave this way sometimes. It is the essence of self defense against loss of self image or denial of group allegiance. Everyone has some matters or behaviors or linkages or viewpoints that when challenged, spur a defensive reaction. The problem is that this reaction is particularly problematic when its presence defends beliefs that are not only wrong, but are also harmful to ourselves and to others, and especially when it occurs collectively, with each person not only abetting but also encouraging the steadfastness of others, and with the overall impact thereby made that much greater.
Anyhow, to all the Leninists who may hopefully read this chapter and whose practice and commitment and courage I admire, what can I say? We agree on a lot. I feel that if we direct the conversation carefully over dinner or in a congenial online debate, or even in some struggle situations, we can have a delightful time together. Yet I also fear that if we vary just a few words, or make reference to certain historical epochs, all hell will break loose. And I suspect you have the same impression.
Is this a behavioral conundrum of little consequence? Or are these dynamics basic to some of the left's substantive and recurring difficulties? Hopefully, in the future we can comprehend and perhaps even overcome our remaining differences, including dealing better with the social and interpersonal dynamics of disagreement.