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Re: [tlug] Introduction to (Tech) Worker Cooperatives, 09:00AM on Sunday, July 12th JST

On Thu, 16 Jul 2020 at 21:02, Benjamin Kowarsch <> wrote:

In an earlier email you weren't happy that I wasn't using the term socialism
as a euphemism for bolshevism like almost everybody else does [...]

This is the part that I didn't quite follow. First of all, I'm not sure that "almost everybody" uses the term socialism to mean "Bolshevism" (which is a slightly odd term in and of itself—most people would label communism as theorised by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union "Marxism-Leninism"). This probably was true in the US during the Cold War, but now seems to be largely synonymous with "social democracy" (i.e. neoliberal capitalism plus a social safety net) to most non-conservative USians, thanks to Bernie Sanders bringing the term back into mainstream electoral discourse. Socialism seems to have yet another meaning in European political discourse, though I haven't been able to get enough Europeans to precisely define what it means to them to be able to find a common theme.

Secondly, I'm not sure what you were getting at by bringing Marxism into a conversation on how modern workers coops should work. As far as I know, Marx (as Steve pointed out) did a lot of diagnosing the problems of capitalism, but not so much in figuring out how to implement an alternative. So I highly doubt (but I could be wrong, as Marx wrote a lot and I have read very little of his original work) that he wrote on the specific operation of worker coops, more on the general need to have worker control over the means of production.

So I guess you could have clarified what you meant by socialism, pointed out that it differed from the Marxist conception thereof (which you actually got wrong; as I pointed out, "socialism" to a Marxist means precisely the process of transitioning from capitalism to communism), and moved on with your general point about the operation of workers cooperatives.
I hope this clarifies why I am not making up a term for socialism but use
the existing terminology (since hijacked by Lenin) and apply its original

Again, I don't know where you're pulling the "original meaning" of socialism from. Citations would be helpful.

Lenin had nothing to do with formulating the Marxist definition of socialism; that was Marx himself. Your criticism of Lenin seemed to me to be in his implementation of socialism, which is fair enough. Any principled communist would freely admit that Lenin got a hell of a lot wrong, and that the Soviet Union did not turn out the way anyone would have hoped.

You started out by pointing out, completely correctly, that the meaning of the term "communism" has been completely distorted by Cold War propaganda, then, in my opinion at least, applied your own distortions. Your criticism of "ownership" is valid, but you seem to have gotten what Marx thought about ownership wrong, as far as I can tell. Again, I would be happy to be educated by citations in primary sources.

The reason that I didn't belabour this point at greater length is that I think that a discussion of 19th and 20th century communists and their various failures and excesses doesn't really add to the original discussion, but since you keep bringing it back up, I think it's worthwhile to at least point to where you seem to be misrepresenting the actual meaning of terminology in a Marxist context.

Terminology is a tricky fucking thing. I think it is more useful to start a discussion by saying, "For the purposes of this discussion, here's what I mean when I say foo, bar, and baz. Please keep that in mind as we hash this out." I don't think it's helpful to argue about which is the "correct" meaning of terms that have been overloaded for centuries. ;)

Anyway, I'll leave it here. I'm really interested in hearing about how modern workers cooperatives can and do work, especially in the context of tech, since that's what I do for a living.

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