Socialist Party books and pamphlets

Planning Green Growth


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The Techniques of Socialist Planning

After the initial time of rapid expansion, a steady state society will emerge where the enormous power of planning, combined with the release of human resourcefulness and energy under socialism, will enable huge steps to be taken to preserve the environment.

Since a key to achieving this success will be to introduce an efficient system of planning-this poses the question, what does it actually consist of? It is allocating resources of labour and materials for the production of goods and services for the benefit of society as a whole, rather than to make profits for the capitalists.

It will operate at three levels, nationally and internationally, at industry or sectoral level and at the individual enterprise.

Considering these in turn:

1.The overall performance of the economy will be decided at the national and international level. There will be targets for productivity growth, investment, consumption and of course sustainability, which will be determined democratically by institutions created after the overthrow of capitalism.

Here the decisions about the priorities that society must have in the initial stages, for example between health expenditure, housing or the environment, will be made.

2.At the sectoral level it will be necessary to determine consumer demand for the goods or services of that particular industry and to organise the efficient exchange of materials and semi-finished products with other sectors e.g.

from suppliers. The determination of demand will be done by obtaining information from powerful proactive consumer bodies and by using the very sophisticated tools for market research developed under capitalism.

To organise the movement of goods between industries, avoiding bottlenecks, it will be possible to use the techniques, such as operational research, developed by the big capitalist monopolies to plan the complex movement of goods between their operations around the world.

3.Planning at the enterprise level. The methods mentioned in b) above, ie consumer committees and market research, will also be used here to determine consumer needs and preferences.

It is also likely that as far as enterprises making consumer products as concerned (as opposed to capital goods manufacturers) a type of market system will be retained in the transition from capitalism.

This could operate through small businesses or worker co-ops, but only within the framework of a nationalised economy.

If the market sector was too large it would threaten to impose its inherent inequalities onto society.

Since Marx's day, and particularly since the Russian Revolution, academics have written libraries full of books about why socialism cannot work.

It is only possible here to briefly respond to the key points. One of the main criticisms is that planning the efficient allocation of resources is impossible because of the vast complexity of modern industrial society where millions of economic transactions take place every day.

However most of these economic interactions are between enterprises, they do not involve consumers, and it is quite clear that present day multi-national firms conduct planning of a similar complexity to that required under socialism all the time.

The activity of the multi-nationals answers a further criticism that the operation of supply and demand to determine price is the only efficient way to proceed in the exchange of goods.

In their international operations companies like General Motors simply allocate resources between countries and factories without reference to the market.

As far as planning for consumer needs are concerned the key point is that active democratic institutions should exist that can compel the planning bodies to respond to their demands.

In addition to this, techniques such as market research and using the internet will make the tasks faced by future socialist planners enormously easier than their counterparts had to deal with in the young Soviet Union.

It is important, though, not to exaggerate the role that will be played by the internet or look for a 'technical fix'- the existence of democratic institutions will be paramount.

The role of democratically elected and powerful consumer bodies will also make sure that shoddy goods are not produced and quality is maintained.

Here as well, the advances in modern production management techniques can be applied, since the future socialist society will inherit, unlike the Soviet Union, an industrial tradition, or culture, associated with the highest levels of technique developed by capitalism.


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