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Finally, an achievable socialist goal

Abolish profit is the proclaimed goal of The New York branch of Democratic Socialists of America (they would also like to abolish prisons, cash bail and borders, but abolishing profit comes first). Normally, I think that, this time, socialism won’t work – because it didn’t last time, and the time before that, and the time before that – but for once, that logic points in the opposite direction.

Sure, I’m for social insurance, medical care and the rest, provided it’s given to the people from the profits which the State, as owner and operator of the factories, makes on them – the profits that formerly were made by the capitalists – and not from the earnings of the workers themselves. In that was the gist of the revolution.

But where are your profits? Your industry and your whole economy work at a loss. And we, the citizens, are forced to cover those losses.

Revolutionary socialist Andrei Kravchenko said that to his son, communist official Victor Kravchenko, in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1936. Socialism’s ability to abolish profit was later confirmed by Mao, Mugabe and Chavez – and by a number of nationalised industries in the UK. So I believe socialism can do this.

Unfortunately, the DSA’s second goal – abolish prisons – is one that socialists have never achieved, since prisons are the means by which “we, the citizens, are forced to cover those losses.”

18 comments to Finally, an achievable socialist goal

  • Schrodinger's Dog

    Makes me think of a bumper sticker I used to see occasionally, while growing up in England in the rather grim 1970s: “Nationalise crime. Make sure it NEVER pays.”

  • The Big Mac

    With May’s utter betrayal, I fear we are about too find out , if this time , it will really , really work.

  • Regional

    Harold Wilson began closing Britain’s nationalised coal mines and steel mills when it became obvious they were an embuggerance, he actually closed more than Maggy Thatcher.

  • RRS

    Many years ago, Peter Drucker wrote a salient piece in the WSJ explaining that “Profits” are a cost of conducting business, particularly production.

  • If the State is “owner and operator of the factories”, it’s not socialism, it’s communism pure and simple. These people are so stupid they don’t even know the proper name of their own ideology.

  • Itellyounothing

    Or lying to avoid the down side of Communism’s “brand identity”.

    Socialism seems to have Karma Houdini’d much better.

    Social Democracy even more so.

  • Chester Draws

    And now you’re doing it, just in reverse.

    Social Democracy isn’t a form of Socialism, so of course it has a better “brand”. Trying to pretend social democrats want common means of production, i.e. Socialism, is done merely to try to tarnish the better reputation of the latter.

    Lots of really nice countries are Social Democrat. No nice countries are Socialist.

  • Laird (July 9, 2018 at 4:49 am), the elder Kravchenko was describing reasonably well ‘the gist of the revolution’. Socialism is transferring things from private to public ownership. Communism is achieved when, finally, absolutely everything is transferred from private to public ownership, so even money is abolished, etc. Many speeches in the 30s by leaders of the communist USSR (the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) make the distinction. They regarded themselves as practicing socialism and working towards a final complete communism (when the state, Marx assured them, could wither away) – or, at least, that is what they said when the level of dialectical finickyness grew high.

  • Runcie Balspune

    What is profit? Once a person works and covers the expenses of feeding and clothing, then whatever is left is “profit”, to dispose with in whatever manner of the worker’s choosing, and nominally to fund someone other worker’s profit. Remove that and you remove the ability for the individual to control their work, they effectively become slaves, and once the choice of how they enjoy the fruit of their labour is also taken away, then enslavement is complete. This is the intention of socialism/communism, to achieve Marxist “worker units” who have their choices made for them by elites – the men who were once pigs.

    By telling people that “profit” only comes from grand companies is misleading, those who work for corporations (including public ones) create “profit” as reward for toil and labour, if you abolish the profit from the top you also abolish it from the bottom, that bit is not mentioned.

    The irony is that “wage slave” is given as the excuse to demolish the private company, the truth is they offer a far more dismal form of slavery in return.

  • Laird

    Niall, the clause I quoted was not “transitional”, it was end game. So I stand by my statement.

  • Tim Worstall

    The true joy is that Stalin actually managed what Marx warned against, monopoly capitalism. Or what we today would call labour monopsony. There was only one employer, the State. Therefore the State could – and did – determine wages. Meaning that the profit margin was, in the absence of competing employers to drive up wage levels, truly vast, At least on paper anyway. This then being used to finance the development of heavy industry.

    It’s a dark amusement, sure, but it hs always amused. Stalin didn’t just do what Orwell and Conquest said he did, he also did what Marx warned against.

  • Jacob

    Profit is the natural state of things. Profit (or loss) is what you get when you willingly sell something to someone at a price the other party is willing to pay.
    Abolishing profit means abolishing property rights and free exchange of thing – i.e. means use of force.
    There is no “abolishing profit” without a totalitarian, force based, murderous state.

  • Jacob

    Wage levels in communist states (determined by the state) are minimum wage (a low minimum) for everybody. The “nomenclatura”, the “bosses” – they got extra benefits like free housing, cars (government cars), etc., etc., and, of course – bribes and black market deals.

  • RRS

    Is the “character” of a society” or social order discernable from the functions that come to be assigned to the coercive (and collective) mechanisms of its units of governments at various levels?

    Is that “character” better discerned in understanding the how and why those assignments occur?

    In those assignments within predominantly Social Democratic societies, what “character” do we note, with what distinctions ?

  • Paul Marks

    It is the greatest problem – how can people be so tactically brilliant, as so many socialists are (vastly better tactically than we are) and yet strategically so incredibly stupid?

    It is as if their minds were entirely devoted to achieving their objective – without ever actually examining what their objective would mean if achieved.

  • Mr Black

    Their objective is power. Every socialist dream of being the big man in charge, not one of the serfs in the wheat fields. If other people have to suffer for that, it is a cost they are willing to pay, many times over.

  • Mr Black (July 12, 2018 at 11:57 am) is making the same point as Edmund Burke did long ago. The French revolutionaries used old, tried and trusted methods to seize and hold power “because there they were in earnest” whereas they offered absurd self-defeating nostrums to France’s social problems because there they were not.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Jacob, above at 4:43:

    Abolishing profit means abolishing property rights and free exchange of thing – i.e. means use of force.

    There is no “abolishing profit” without a totalitarian, force based, murderous state.

    Exactly. But the logic is opaque to many, including many who just assume that “most people would be better off if the Profit Motive were removed as the incentive to production.”

    But you can only abolish profit by abolishing value gained by both A and B upon their agreeing to trade items produced in one way or another, based on the personal judgment of each of the degree of gain (or loss) he will get from the deal. (This includes non-financial, non-commercial value, as when one guy values the other guy’s watermelon more than his own cantaloupe because he prefers its taste, and vice-versa. It’s also true when the main goal is, ultimately, financial profit — the manufacturer judges that he maximizes his financial game by selling his product to the retailer rather than trying to sell direct to the user, and the retailer judges he’s better off financially by buying the product from the mfr. for retail sale rather than making the thing himself. And the buyer of a house values the pleasure he expects to get from living in it more than the other things he’ll have to forgo getting, in order to pay for it; whereas the builder values the money he’ll get from the sale quite a bit more than having this unsold house on his hands.)

    So to abolish profit you have to prohibit any production and any trade where the producers or the traders will find net value — in their own individual judgment — from the production or the trade. In shortspeak, you have to “abolish value.” (Pages omitted about how this is in actual fact impossible, while any serious attempt to do so will have tragic results — just like right now, or last time, or the time before that.)

    So you have to force people to give up valuing, i.e. to force them to quit acting on judgments of what is of value to them, which means they cannot be allowed to have emotional responses of Yes, or No, or Like, or Ugh!, or Want, or Don’t want!

    But these valuings and these emotional responses are in fact what arouse motivation to produce, to trade, to work any more than is necessary to stave off death physical or psychological; to the extent that they are effectively destroyed, so is motivation.

    This is to say that self-determination is abolished.

    This can only be accomplished by force or the threat of it.

    The condition is called Slavery.


    Just to be accurate: A man can be unable to exercise self-determination because his body isn’t functioning properly somehow, either through a purely endogenous malfunction or because of the effect of drugs. Unless the drugs are administered purposely to cause him to do someone else’s bidding, such a condition is not enslavement.