Why the Mode of Production Needs to Preceed the Revolution

The following is precisely the same as the key argument of P2P Theory, but I add an important corrollary, that the emergent proto-mode of peer production is the missing piece in the phase transition process. The authors below are still looking for it.

Excerpted from Gavin Mendel-Gleason and James O’Brien:

” The political aim of revolutionaries in the French revolution ranged from constitutional monarchism to radical democracy, but economically the ideas of how the economy would change were dominated by an envy of England. By contrast, the masses of society in the Russian revolution took up the banner of socialism. They were not looking to replace the economic system with that of a competitor, but instead hoped to forge a new one from scratch. The complete collapse of the Tsarist regime and the incompetence, financial weakness and disorganisation of the middle classes gave a window for the better organised Bolsheviks to take a stab at power buoyed by the help of a supportive mass movement of peasants and workers.

When in power, they sought to establish a new mode of production entirely ex post facto; a mode of production with which they themselves had spent far too little time imagining or experimenting, and one which came not from the activities of the general population, but instead almost entirely by state decree. While this was not their intention, the collapse in production and the pressure wrought by a worsening civil war led them down the cul-de-sac of war communism. Bukharin, a Bolshevik and member of the central committee, and previously a partisan of war communism realised this problem earlier than many of the other Bolsheviks. Eventually Lenin himself realised that the Bolsheviks would have to retrench and take a longer view to the transition and reorganisation of the economy; a view which lead to the establishment of the NEP. Nor were the Bolsheviks unique in their lack of a clear route to socialisation. Even the SPD didn’t have a clear idea of how to proceed towards socialisation, hence the flurry of work in the aftermath of the German Revolution, e.g. Kautsky’s The Labour Revolution, which attempted to navigate a road forward. But this was very late in the day to be working out a feasible route through unknown territory.

Milovan Djilas 3 has promoted a theory as to why so many problems were encountered in attempts to implement socialism. Essentially his theory states that the change in the mode of production might need to precede the revolution. Indeed, his contact with the problem was not the result of idle theorisation. Djilas was involved with an attempt to implement socialism in Yugoslavia after the success of the Yugoslav Partisans in World War II. The tremendous difficulties they encountered in changing the economic structure of society led him to look for some theoretical explanation. Djilas was steeped in Marxist theory and so he naturally looked for an explanation using Marx’s theories of historical change. The mode of production and its relationship to former revolutions therefore rose to the fore.

The question of which system is desirable, in detail, is quite important. Unfortunately we cannot determine in abstract which system will work best and what problems will develop, though we can make guesses. To fully understand the consequences of an economic system can only be decided experimentally. This leads us to the chicken and the egg problem. How can we promote a new system without knowing what it will look like and if we don’t have a new system to promote, how can we convince the broad masses that we should remove the presently existing system – however deformed our present system becomes.

The most viable solution to this Gordian knot is to attempt to create the new modes of production experimentally…… now. It is the corporation which gives us the best experimental laboratory currently within reach and it is the democratically controlled corporation, or cooperative, which gives us the form most likely to succeed in a radically egalitarian programme of transformation.

This idea is not new at all. In fact, it was believed to be a necessary component of the struggle for socialism by both Marx and the Anarchists during the first international.”

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