"...solidarity...and love...may assert themselves secondarily as private acts of philanthropy or kindness, but they
are not part of the basic structure of our social relations."
-- Erich Fromm, The Sane Society, 1955, p.127
P C S V S . O T H E R O R G S
Project For a Cooperative Society advocates a new form of social organization called a "Cooperative Society," and an important companion principle, the "love ethic."
A "Cooperative Society" can loosely be understood as referring to what has traditionally been called libertarian or democratic socialism, though our conceptualization, in some respects, diverges from, and in other respects, exceeds, traditional socialist notions.
In comparing or otherwise assessing various organizations that seem similar, there are two principal considerations: the political program of each, and the "internal" operation of each. This latter consideration refers to the way a given organization treats members and non-members, alike, especially when the organization, which usually has the upper hand in the power relationship between itself and its members or others, perceives a member or other individual as deviating in some way from what it considers its accepted or preferable modes of behavior.
In fact, in some measure, this second consideration is the "dirty little secret" of the cooperative (i.e. democratic socialist) movement. Many parties and organizations don't like to talk about it--sometimes because they, themselves, do not behave honorably in these regards.
The PCS Cooperative program is here compared to several programs, including the SLP/NUP "De Leonist," and Socialist Party programs. As introduced, above, we can fully approve only those organizations that, first of all, unequivocally advocate a program for establishment of a genuine cooperative society, completely democratic in operation and in means of attainment.
As a point of comparison regarding this first condition, PCS rejects programs and organizations, like the CP or SWP, that previously or presently represent a "Leninist," "Maoist," or otherwise "vanguardist" viewpoint, referring to an approach that asserts the necessity of a small group of people to act "on behalf of" the larger population in creating, and managing, the new society.
We assert no ill-will toward individuals in those movements, but ask them respectfully to consider the possibility that the programs they advocate are not democratic, and in some cases are associated with persons and regimes who have committed monumental crimes against humanity. As such, these programs arguably do not represent the most morally or programmatically elevated forms and theories of and about the new society. We ask individuals in these movements to consider the alternative views and programs advocated by organizations such as PCS.
We note that the SP-USA, or Socialist Party, USA, is a "multi-tendency" organization, and as such does not officially represent one particular blueprint for the achievement or execution of a cooperative society. However, the SP does officially represent and advocate the general goal of a revolutionary cooperative society, attained and operated democratically.
As also introduced, above, there is a second condition for PCS approval of an organization. This element might seem superfluous to the uninitiated, but those in this movement for any length of years know that it's critical if one is to avoid the anger and pain commonly engendered by the routinely callous behavior of these groups toward even their own members: thus, our second condition is that an organization must comport itself in regard to other people, whether members, prospective members, sympathizers, or the general public, with respect, courtesy, and sensitivity--in other words, with some good measure of what we'd rightfully call love. As a point of comparison regarding this second element, PCS as of 2010 can recommend only the SPUSA and PFANS of the groups we've listed, below; a CPUSA recommendation cannot be determined at this time, as I, Vince De Benedeto, PCS Founder, have had no personal experience with leaders or office holders from this organization, and only a small amount of personal experience with rank-and-file, non-office holding members.
Programmatically, referring to the first criterion, of these two groups the only one we can recommend with little equivocation, is PFANS. Our discussion of the SPUSA is below.
Prior to reviewing these sets of comparisons, below, PCS suggests that you read our 12-Point Summary of why it is among the most advanced and progressive (i.e.theoretically sound and generally modern) of similar organizations. This Summary is actually oriented to seasoned activists, but everyone should benefit by reading it, if only through its role as catalyst in the intelligent generation of further questions.
The Cooperative Program vs. the SLP/NUP "De Leonist" Program
The Two Programs, Point-by-Point
The new program diverges with the De Leonist program in that the former:
However, these functions do not typically fall under the auspices of, or require as such, a congress. They fall, instead, to one or more planning offices or technical departments. Thus, an All-Industry congress is unnecessary. Departments or other organizational entities for polling, planning, distribution, and adjudication of competing need claims will be a necessary part of the new "Cooperative Industrial Framework".
It should additionally be noted that Project For a Cooperative Society promulgates its program to the public, and treats affiliated persons, as well as other activists, in a manner that is considerate, respectful, and sensitive. This has been the Achilles heel of certain traditional De Leonist organizations.
Similarities with the De Leonist Program
The Cooperative program does share some constituent elements with the De Leonist program, including:
I use the word "citizen," affirming that in a Cooperative Society every citizen is a "worker," which is to say that every citizen has a work function, but stipulating that their work function should not define the entirety of their being, and certainly should not set them apart as a separate class after the revolution. A potential flaw in existing socialist paradigms is that they continue to conceptualize and refer to people as "workers," even after the revolution. WorldSocialism.org remarks:
"...socialism will not have "workers" as a class separate from anyone else: there will be no classes."
The cooperative model sees people in their wholeness, not merely their capacity as "workers." Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, as Marx stated, non-alienated work is really just human activity that reflects the genuine interests of the individual. It is the kind of activity a person would do even without remuneration, because they find it fulfilling.
Of course, none of this is to categorically suggest that in a Cooperative Society people will never have to engage in human activity they did not care for. It is entirely possible, for example, that even under such a superior system, we'll have to take turns driving a taxicab, working on the sanitation truck, flipping burgers, or digging the earth at the local cemetery. A Cooperative Society cannot consist of one class that writes poetry, plays in the orchestra, and performs on television, and another class that does all the work commonly considered undesirable.
Thus, there may have to be a sharing of different kinds of tasks. But in a Cooperative society the entire approach to work will be different. Because career training, and access to information, generally, will be free, people will be able to develop a better idea of what they might really love to do. And they'll be able to do it, at least some of the time, with no economic penalty, as commonly occurs under capitalism.
Why the Love Ethic?
The love ethic, as conceptualized here, is not a passive, wishy-washy, "turn the other cheek" approach and philosophy, but a strong, enlightened paradigm calling for each person to consider the interests of the other while considering their own interests. And to assist others in not causing injury. Such assistance, itself, can even be "tough" as necessary, but always done courteously and in an obvious spirit of love and concern.
PCS includes the love ethic in its program because that principle has important, if not profound, implications for the cooperative project, both before the revolution, in working for a cooperative society, and later, once that future society has been established. Here's why:
Before the Revolution
A.) Years of involvement in the Socialist movement has produced many personal interactions with a cast of socialists, and left this writer with the impression that while socialists have the right political idea, they are generally clueless about how to treat real flesh-and-blood human beings, in the here-and-now, including other socialists.
The various socialist parties and organizations, including those of the so-called "libertarian socialism" variety, excel in using language to frame, most wonderfully, persuasively, and optimistically, the beautiful future society they advocate. However, if you think there is any sort of necessary connection between the elevated system of values presumed to inform human behavior under such a new system, and the present character development and orientation of its present-day advocates--you can forget it!
Indeed, some of the shabbiest, most insensitive, and most hurtful treatment this activist and writer has personally received over the years has come from socialists--persons presumed to possess something of an elevated moral sensibility. I have concluded that in character orientation most, perhaps all, socialists are no different than anyone else in present-day society; socialists freely and organically exhibit the full range of hurtful, insensitive, and injurious behavior patterns toward others as much as anyone else today, including the staunchest advocates of capitalism.
Indeed, so striking, surprising, counterproductive, and dispiriting, even depressing, has this been, that I have begun writing a brief account of my various experiences with this errant cast of characters. I cannot help but wonder whether these kinds of behavior patterns serve, unwittingly and paradoxically, as cogent, eloquent, and effective testimony against the viability of a cooperative system--a new social paradigm predicated completely on the ability of human beings to effectively cooperate, with everything that implies about the required flexibility, tolerance, and fraternity of human behavior.
From my many and varied conversations and experiences with socialists over the years, I can say that the overwhelming majority are wholly unconcerned with the love ethic, in theory or practice, officially or unofficially, formally or casually. Mention is sometimes made of this or that humanistic value, but there is little focus on the concrete practice or even the theory of the love ethic, as articulated and taught by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi, Jesus, Leo Buscaglia, Erich Fromm, and others.
The principle of love essentially means, of course, that we focus on the needs and welfare of others, in more-or-less the same proportion that we focus on our own. Implied are active behaviors and attitudes like respect, tolerance, courtesy, patience, charity, generosity, sensitivity, concern, compassion, and empathy.
The fragmentation and diminutive size of the socialist movement, and many of the various parties and other groups which comprise it, is probably due as much to the proffering of personal slights, insults, and insensitivities, deliberate or not, as it is to genuine theoretical or other differences. Were the love ethic adopted, it would inform intra-party and extra-party interpersonal relations, thus preventing or dramatically reducing conflict, enmity, infighting, insult, and undue, ego-based criticism, attack, and insensitivity. The movement would accordingly find itself growing stronger, more vibrant and robust, and hence more effective.
Indeed, social psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm asserts, in the Sane Society, 1955, pp. 284-285:
"...Socialism begins at home, that is to say, with the socialization of the socialist parties. Socialism is meant here...in terms of responsible participation of each member. As long as the socialist parties do not realize the principle of Socialism within their own ranks, they cannot expect to convince others; their representatives would, if they had political power, execute their ideas in the spirit of Capitalism, regardless of the socialist labels they used."
Indeed, this problem is why PCS asserts, as official policy, the pledge to treat members (and non-members) with respect and sensitivity, in contradistinction to what so many of us have experienced at the hands of other "revolutionary" groups.
Here is more.
B.) The fact is, the notion of a cooperative system is attractive in many ways, and each person finds their own reason (s) for affiliating with the cooperative project. Of these reasons, the fact that capitalism strangles the baby "brotherly love" in its cradle, leaving little room or capacity for a full-flowering of such love, is just as legitimate and powerful a reason for the appeal of a cooperative society as any other. In fact, it can arguably be seen as the, or certainly one of the, most powerful.
For example, in the best of cases, individuals drawn to the study or practice of the love ethic come to understand that its full blossom cannot occur under a system centered around, and which ultimately values, money and profit above all else. They realize that the principle of "brotherly love" can only reach full flower in the context of a cooperative society, that is, one conceived and built from the ground up to honor the human being, first and foremost. Thus, such persons can come to a belief in a cooperative system through their initial belief in, and adherence to, the love ethic.
In other words, simply following the natural logic of love readily leads one to the realization that to carry the practice of love to its fullest and most beautiful expression requires, of necessity, a profound departure from capitalism.
Indeed, it is a key part of the PCS argument that the love ethic cannot be fully practiced or exercised under capitalism, for a number of reasons.
In conclusion, then: we lose nothing by adding the longstanding and historic idea of brotherly love (agape, in Greek) to our larger argument, and in fact we probably gain a great deal, in drawing people to the movement as just described, and in correctly enhancing people's perception of the (1.) richness, and (2.) moral legitimacy, of the cooperative project and paradigm.
After the Revolution
Many people have found inspiration, and were perhaps even drawn to this movement, through the principle of Louis Blanc, echoed by Karl Marx:
"From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."
Arguably, this sentiment embodies the most evolved, most idyllic, most moral, and ultimately the most appealing vision of cooperative society, known. It posits a shared, cooperative society where all work in peace, harmony, and love for all, broadly sharing what they have; contributing what they can in good faith, and taking, in equally good faith, what they need or really feel they want.
In fact--Blanc's principle implies the love ethic. Such a conceptualization of cooperative society may be nothing more than a hazy pipedream without it: I am not going to work harder than you, knowing my remuneration may be the same as, or less than, yours, unless my actions and perspective are informed by love; unless my mind and heart are resonating to the sound of an ethic of "brotherly love." Unless I care about you. Unless I love you.
Even previous revolutions would have been less subject to bloodshed, corruption, or totalitarian rule had the principle of love predominated.
All things considered, Project For a Cooperative Society believes the love ethic must play an important role, whatever the exact nature of that role turns out to be. How else can we maximize the chance that people will adhere to Blanc's essential cooperative principle?
Some socialists, Marxists in particular, might find notions of "love" to be corny, nebulous, or simply irrelevant from the standpoint of a materialist analysis. Other socialists may find the cerebral nature of the socialist enterprise appealing, but balk or run from any dimension of the enterprise which calls for effort in personal change. They may fear such change, or be too lazy for it, or they might assert, in good faith, that the entirety of the success of socialism depends strictly, and only, on a change in ownership of the means of production.
These postures and assertions notwithstanding, all socialists and others genuinely interested in the notion of a Cooperative Society are duty-bound to consider any idea seriously put forth as helpful, if not essential, to the success of the revolutionary social transformation. The best democratic socialists and "cooperationists" hew closely to an active habit of critical thinking, and this, too, demands objective, open-minded, and courageous examination of new revolutionary ideas.
Indeed, did thinker and revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg assert:
"Marxism is a revolutionary worldview that must always struggle for new revelations. Marxism must abhor nothing so much as the possibility that it becomes congealed in its current form. It is at its best when butting heads in self-criticism, and in historical thunder and lightning, it retains its strength."
Thus does this writer urge everyone to learn about the principle of love. And insofar as said principle resonates, to begin to live this principle. This should help improve oneself, present-day society, and the efficacy of the democratic socialist/cooperative society movement. And it could make the critical difference between the success or failure of the larger revolution, once the formal transition to public ownership is complete.
Other Modes of Representation
Such as Represented, in Part, by People For a New Society (PFANS)
The "Socialist Industrial Union" framework (which the new "Cooperative Industrial Framework" is based on) has been critiqued as lacking certain elements. It has been criticized, for example, for basing citizen representation purely on the workplace, allegedly leaving out groups such as (1.) housewives or househusbands, (2.) retired persons, (3.) disabled persons, and (4.) persons in career transition. Additionally, it has been criticized for lacking a mechanism for (5.) "community control."
The PCS program is ground in the broader idea of citizen control more than the narrower notion of worker control. This is because while everyone is a citizen (understood broadly), and will always be one, not everyone will be a worker in every phase of their life.
Besides the two controlling groups we've just mentioned, there are also two areas of control:
Referring solely to "worker control" asserts, or at least implies, a limitation to the proper power of the individual in a Cooperative society, because it refers, or appears to refer, only to control of industry. However, control of resource allocation is an equally important kind of control, and it is exercisable by every person, whether or not they are presently working.
PCS asserts that there are two fundamental meanings of "representation":
Specifically, here is the PCS view on each of these categories of people:
The PCS program does not include a formal, permanent mechanism of community control, as it seems unnecessary.
In a Cooperative Society, any grouping of citizens, at any time, including those within a given geographical region (a street, neighborhood, group of either of these, or even larger areas such as regions), are free to associate and make common decisions. Once made, those decisions can be transmitted or otherwise communicated to the appropriate industry, which will act on them, or, if resources have not yet been allocated to implement the decisions, will record the decision, pending the necessary resource allocation for that kind of project. Resource allocation decisions for the constitutionally-mandated period (one year, two years, etc.) will be made by individual citizens through voting, as they are polled regularly to make such decisions. Thus, for example, if everyone in your neighborhood wants more street lights erected, or a public park emplaced, each person in the neighborhood can vote to allocate a greater share of the social resource to these kinds of projects for the upcoming allocation period (AP). Once the appropriate resources (equipment, supplies, and personnel) are democratically allocated, the appropriate industry/s will implement the decision at the appropriate time, and erect the lights, or build the park.
Resource allocations by citizens will occur in a fully informed way, as the "Polling Department" disseminates information on each of the proposed resource allocation requests. Additionally, individual citizens or any grouping thereof, including groupings by "community," will have the opportunity to make their case directly to the population using the various media. An always, allocation by need is seen as the guiding paradigm for the populace in making these decisions.
Thus, ad hoc organizational mechanisms created, then dissolved, by citizens are all that is needed to exercise community control. There is no reason to complicate the industrial framework itself by building in "representation" or "management." Management of what? Community control actually refers to community decisionmaking, and in fact, the community will be free to make decisions. Once made, industry will step in to implement them, assuming there is the appropriate democratic mandate for any required resource allocations.
Put another way:
What is typically understood as "community control" actually refers to community *decisionmaking* over matters understood to uniquely pertain to one or more "communities." In fact, community control actually breaks down into three parts:
So we see that community control actually involves three distinct social groupings--the controllers (the community), the resource-allocators (the populace as a whole), and the implementers (goods and service purveyors, some of whom will undoubtedly be based in the community).
And there is a three-part process to have these community decisions implemented:
In the cooperative society, governmental mechanisms will obviously already exist to handle the last two sub-processes above (persuading and executing). The question is whether there is a compelling reason to create an actual branch of government for the first, decisionmaking. PCS presently argues no.
Determining Codes of Human Conduct (i.e. "lawmaking")
If a given decision applies to human behaviors, not production, the community decisionmaking model still applies. Once this or that code of conduct is democratically determined (for example, one cannot commit murder, park in a handicapped space, or defecate on the street), the organizational entity (whether industry or department) responsible for compiling and promulgating specified guidelines for human behavior (i.e. "laws") will compile the polling data indicating the democratic decisions in this area, craft the appropriate language for the agreed-upon code if not done already, record, and promulgate that code. This entity might be called the:
Character, Extent, and Implementation of Law Yet to be Determined
This paradigm seems plausible for large geographical regions, such as an entire nation. However, yet to be determined is how to address the wishes of people who reside in smaller geographical units, such as individual neighborhoods. For example, suppose everyone within a 1-mile square radius of my home declares their desire for no loud talking after 10 pm, within their area. But suppose this is not a concern for everyone in the 1-mile radius contiguous to the first.
Can people in a geographical area of any size affiliate for purposes of code-creation (i.e. lawmaking)? In the example, can each small geographical unit create and enforce its own laws?
Or, if we have truly created a love-based society, will laws covering every nuance of human social existence even be necessary? Again, regarding the example, if the behavior of individuals is animated by the love ethic, and they have been trained in its implementation, isn't it reasonable to assume they would not engage in potentially injurious behavior, such as talking loudly after 10 pm, in the first place?
In other words, in an imaginatively-designed love-based society, isn't it axiomatic, or at least probable, that less formal law would be required, since behavior would be highly self-regulating?
Adoption of the Cooperative paradigm means that we wish to remove control of our society and ourselves from a tiny ruling class. We want control. Yet, if we are to control society, we must be competent to exercise such control. Thus will a cooperative society be managed and run by its citizens more directly and explicitly than any other in modern history. As a practical matter, we the citizens will spend a lot of time considering issues. While production-related decisions will be made principally by persons elected to management positions within the Cooperative Industrial Framework, decisions unrelated to means and methods of production, as described above, fall outside the purview of the CIF and will lie with the general citizenry. Such decisions will require knowledge and continuing study to competently make; this will be our challenge, our responsibility--and our joy, as the prime-movers in our new Cooperative Society.
In effect, in regard to all non-production or non-industry specific decisions and policymaking, the entire citizenry will serve as the legislature.
Those of us who also hold managerial positions in the Cooperative Industrial Framework will also have production-related decisions to make, in addition to non-production decisions.
In discussing the completeness, or lack, thereof, of the SIU "blueprint," a DeLeonism.org forum member remarked:
I think it needs work in the area of any policy making that isn't industry-specific. What about policies that affect everyone, such as the ethical questions about cloning? I lend toward favoring a bicameral congress, where policies require majority approval of worker representatives and public representatives.
In fact, it seems that at the level of implementation, just about every social decision is industry-specific.
Regarding cloning, for example, a system of industrial management is not required for society, i.e. people, to make decisions. As in the case of issues of, or affecting, "community," just discussed, ad hoc citizen discussion and decisionmaking bodies are all that is required. Since cloning, in particular, is a national (international, actually), issue, these ad hoc instruments will be national (or international, as the case may be): televised and radio-broadcast meetings and debates, books and articles written, discussion around the "water cooler," weblog commentary, etc.
After the appropriate discussion period, and/or during the next resource allocation polling event, each individual citizen will register their resource allocation decision, indicating whether they wish social resources be allocated to cloning efforts. If so, the appropriate industry, probably an arm of the "Health and Medical," or simply the "Health," industry, will begin the efforts as directed by the democratic decision. In other words, it will implement the decision.
It seems clear enough that all 'policy-making" decisions are, indeed, industry-specific once they have been made, and require implementation. And underpinning all of this is the reality that one of the defining values and characteristics of the new Cooperative (or socialist, for that matter) society, is its highly participatory nature.
Conflict Resolution and Ensuring Adherence to Law
Presently referred to as "jurisprudence" and "law enforcement," these social areas seem to justify the creation and addition of new formal mechanisms. This is because they pertain to areas of human social existence which will probably generate a continuing stream of activity (e.g. conflict and injury to others), which by its nature cannot be ignored, and thus reasonably requires a permanent mechanism to address it. Because human beings are imperfect, they will probably continue to transgress, in some measure, against even the most enlightened and elevated norms of social behavior. Thus, there must be a permanent mechanism in place to identify these transgressions, assist the transgressors in avoiding such errors in the future, and address any injury to others the transgression has caused.
The De Leonist sector commonly suggests that political parties will not exist under socialism.
Under socialism, it is probable that persons with similar views regarding how best to specifically implement this or that aspect of the new system will affiliate and form organizations. Such organizations, in the aggregate, will presumably have some kind of name. They might be called "political parties," or they might be called something else.
Love Ethic as Parent or Subsuming Principal for Activists
In reading the Introduction, Statement of Principle, Charter document, or other key document of a cooperative organization, one always encounters declarations of the following kind:
The Cooperative Program vs. the WSM/WSP Program
The WSM (and its American "companion party" WSP), both long-standing groups, calls for transition to a cooperative society, as PCS does.
Virtues of the WSM include its advocacy of use of the ballot box as the principle or sole lever for revolutionary change, and its claim to a "leaderless" orientation, lending itself if true to the full expression of democracy and viewpoints in its external and internal operation. This latter characteristic is extremely important, as some such groups are internally managed in an authoritarian manner. This one appears not to be, strictly speaking, although a recent conflict with the American branch of this group, the WSP, has seemed to reveal that several principals of the organization are of poor character, and the group is indeed subject to the autocratic egotism described on our Resources & Links page as common to such groups. This behavior is a major chink in the armor of the WSP claim to operate itself in a "leaderless" manner. In fact, in his deportment toward me and my petition for membership in this organization in January 2010, a party principal, Ron Elbert, did indeed act in a de facto leadership capacity, leading his comrades to an action in regard to me that was improper and unjust.
Advocates of the notion of a "leaderless" party or other organization may not be aware of just how elusive, in some cases properly so, this animal is. Even in an organization that appears leaderless, all that is actually required to generate a leadership dynamic is at least one individual with a force of personality, acknowledged prestige, or other influential characteristic, and at least one individual unable to resist these characteristics, either through passivity, blind allegiance to that person, inability to recognize the presence and influence of these characteristics, failure for one reason or another to engage in critical thinking, or some other factor. Conjoin these two kinds of individuals and you have, at a minimum, an implicit condition of leadership.
In fact, as far as is discernible, this is what appears to have happened in my case.
In this instance, in fact, a just, moral, and engaged leader could have and presumably would have interceded to prevent the WSP from committing a serious transgression against me, a brand new member in their organization. The notion of a leaderless organization is interesting and potentially useful, but as with any other practice whose basic germ is sound, effective execution is another matter entirely. In this case, the simple declaration "We're leaderless," even if accompanied by genuine belief, does not mean that authoritarian, autocratic, or even simply strong-willed personal behaviors cannot occur.
Here is my fledgling chronicle of my experiences in the Cooperative movement, including a personal account of my nightmare, at once agonizing and instructive, as I attempted to join the WSP in January 2010.
Additionally, persons with a religious orientation will likely be uncomfortable with the overt rejection of religion that is an official part of the WSM body of belief and written materials. Party literature, for example, uses descriptives such as "supernaturalism" and "superstition" to describe religion, all religion since it makes no distinction between theistic (ala' Christianity) and non-theistic (ala' Buddhism) theologies, and thus remains an organization that most of humanity will eschew. I have personally experienced a party principal, Ron Elbert, in written communication using the descriptor "ThatWhichDoesNotExist" rather than simply penning the word "God."
The PCS posture, in contrast, does not call for an umbrella hostility toward all religion, but simply extols the importance of critical thinking, and seeks to assist people in learning this key life skill. Over and above this, people can and must determine their own theological belief.
Another key difference, though not present on its application form thus misleading potential candidates, as I was misled in attempting to join this organization, is that there is a strong strain of belief in the WSM in the notion of "voluntary work." PCS does not, and indeed cannot, subscribe to this idea.
The Cooperative Program vs. the Socialist Party, USA (SPUSA) Program
PCS has respect for the institution of the Socialist Party, USA, in its longevity and principles, specifically its advocacy of genuine democratic socialism (PCS prefers the descriptive phrase "cooperative society"). However, there are significant differences between the two organizations that interested individuals should be aware of.
The three principle differences between the SP and PCS, are:
The essential purpose and raison d'etre of a socialist party is to advocate for, and educate about, a transition to democratic socialism. The specific and wide-ranging reform postures taken by the SP are, arguably, outside the scope of the proper mandate of a socialist party.
There are undoubtedly persons who are, or could become, interested in the notion of a cooperative society, or democratic socialism, who disagree with one or more of the kinds of issue positions taken by the SP, cited above. These individuals may, then, recoil from involvement--an undesirable consequence by any measure.
For both these reasons, at least, Project For a Cooperative Society does not generally extend its mandate to the issuance of formal positions on reform issues. This is not to say such issues are not important--activists and revolutionaries should affiliate and assist with efforts to address the various problems caused by capitalism. But rather than take positions on such problems, thereby potentially alienating interested persons, PCS advocates promulgation of class analysis of these problems. They are always class issues, ultimately, and can best be understood as such. Questions of whether abortion should be available, or English should be the official language are social questions that are properly decided by the population in a cooperative society. In fact, once under a cooperative society, many of these kinds of issues will simply melt away, anyway, since their cause--capitalism--is gone.
Ultimately, in regard to reform issues, the role of those working for a cooperative society is to provide a clear and cutting class analysis of the particular problem its corresponding reform movement is trying to address. The sooner everyone, especially reform leaders, understands that our money-and-profit system is the cause of these problems, the sooner we can begin attempting agreement on the exact nature and character of the alternative.
The PCS Cooperative Program vs. the CPUSA Program
In 1670, John Ray asserted:
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
Nowhere is this caveat more appropriate and applicable than the revolutionary movement to create a Cooperative Society.
Heeding the famous warning, PCS originated, promotes, and operates under the principal of:
This is the doctrine that asserts that, as individuals and groups calling for radical social change, given the gravitas of such an endeavor, and that such change can bring with it equally radical social and personal dislocation and even catastrophe, up to and including armed conflict and bloodshed, there is a distinct and irrevocable onus upon us to scrutinize, to carefully and soberly examine and re-examine, the practical and theoretical basis upon which we found our revolutionary activity, including political groups with whom we associate to facilitate that activity, and which we promote and promulgate to the public as desirable.
This means, for example, that as a practical matter, we should not join a revolutionary organization without a thorough and considered examination of the group, its history, its public and private practices, including how it operates, manages, and polices itself internally, and what its program is, both in the popular mind of its members, and formally and officially on paper, as contained in its theoretical and planning documents. These would typically include its constitution and by-laws.
With this rigorous approach to revolution, we can maximize the chance that neither the revolution nor our own participation in its facilitation, is compromised, and that the social end we think we are working toward, is accurate.
(A more extended discussion of Responsible Revolution can be found here)
The Communist Party
In applying the test of Responsible Revolution, PCS finds and asserts that the history, character, and program of the CP is starkly and sufficiently different than that of itself, and generally problematic; accordingly, CP members are disallowed from membership in PCS. They may assist or affiliate with PCS, if desired, in an unofficial capacity.
The quotations, below, were culled verbatim from the F.A.Q. at the official website of the Communist Party, USA. The official positions these statements reflect contain numerous points of conflict, both implicit and explicit, with the worldview and program of Project For a Cooperative Society.
FROM THE CP WEB SITE, 2005, 2007
"Socialism still requires a state that has an oppressive apparatus to prevent the former ruling classes internally, and the capitalist classes in other countries, from returning to power and wiping out any and all gains."
PCS believes in democracy; under a revolution based on PCS principles society would not seek to suppress or, indeed, "prevent" any political group from activity. If members of the former ruling class wish to peacefully and lawfully create political organizations expressing and representing their point-of-view, they will have that ability without obstruction.
However, PCS posits that the beneficial effects of genuine socialism will be so manifold and overwhelming that the individuals comprising the former ruling class will, in the main, integrate themselves quite happily into the fabric of the new society.
"We can't predict how long this transitional stage will take, and it will take different lengths of time in different countries. Obviously, 70 years of socialist development in the Soviet Union, taking place under constant attack from capitalists and fascists, wrestling with huge problems of underdevelopment, wasn't enough to make socialism irreversible. This was due to those constant attacks, to mistakes made by Communists and others, to trying to build an advanced society in an under-developed country, to the many millions of workers and Communists lost during WWII."
In large measure the problem here stems from the bifurcated conception of the revolutionary process held by CP theory: it sees socialism as its own phase of social development occurring right after the revolution, a phase that, while noncapitalist, is a proto-socialist period when the social processes and elements required for "communism," the actual goal of the revolution in CP theory, are developed and aggregated. Only after this period of indeterminate length is communism, the final stage of social organization, realized.
The problem, specifically, is that according to the assertions above, this preliminary preparatory period,"socialism," is indeterminate in length, and apparently any action is permissible by the state during this period in the name of maintaining, consolidating, and extending the gains of the revolution, opening the door to any sort of abuse--which is precisely what we saw in the former Soviet Union (and its satellites), the progenitor of the American CP.
PCS, in contrast, holds a constitutional conception of revolutionary social change: in democratic nations, at least, the populace will use the ballot box to peacefully vote in a Cooperative system, and the new desired social structure and processes will be incorporated into a newly-composed constitution. On the appointed day of implementation of the new constitution, the new society will simply...begin.
This is not to say there will not be one or more developmental phases, but they will not justify the existence of "an oppressive apparatus," as the CP stipulates.
When we learn that Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the central figure in CP theory, had opponents or those perceived as opponents executed during the Soviet revolution, the horrifying practical implications of their theory become apparent.
"There are many popular misconceptions about the Party, communism and socialism. One is that everything in the USSR and China and Cuba and other socialist countries is totalitarian, repressive, and undemocratic. These misconceptions at best are a superficial analysis and at worst an intentional falsehood."
Neither China nor Cuba are socialist nations, according to the PCS definition of democratic socialism (a "Cooperative" society); neither was the former USSR "socialist." Genuine democratic socialism represents an ideal form of social organization, an ideal society, toward which we are still working.
Moreover, the nations specified in this question are, or were (USSR), in the main, quite totalitarian, repressive, and undemocratic. In fact, PCS wishes good riddance to the social system of the former USSR, and is eager to provide the same send-off to the present-day totalitarian systems and rulers of China, Cuba, and North Korea, as well.
"The principle of socialism is: From each according to his/her ability, to each according to his/her work."
We also note the characteristically vitriolic version of this principle articulated by Lenin:
"He who does not work shall not eat."
PCS seeks to implement a Cooperative paradigm of "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need." Only if this principle proves or is ultimately deemed infeasible, do we advocate the latter concept specified by the CP.
(I did not readily see this last statement at the CP website recently, 2007.)
. . . . . . .
Please find further analysis of the CP on our For Young People page.
The PCS Cooperative Program vs. the Freedom Socialist Party
July 26, 2012: I've just read through an apparently representative sample of the material present at the website of the Freedom Socialist Party. I simply do not have time at present to pen the many significant differences between this organization and Project for a Cooperative Society, but here is abbreviated discussion of several:
In my somewhat cursory review of the FSP material, I saw nothing pertinent to 'B.' above, structure, and little or nothing pertinent to 'C.', above, operation. By contrast, the PCS program includes its Cooperative Industrial Framework.
I also note that in the comparative explication of various parties published by the Freedom Socialist Party at its website, it identifies three general kinds of revolutionary change organizations. However, it fails to mention the DeLeonist sector, which includes organizations such as Project for a Cooperative Society (this website), People for a New Society, the Socialist Labor Party, and others rooted in, or related to, the political thought of American revolutionary Daniel De Leon.
The PCS Cooperative Program vs. the Venus Project / Zeitgeist Movement
The Venus Project and the Zeitgeist Movement were affiliated until recently, though the latter remains a de facto mirror organization, in that its program and perspective are based closely on, if not identical to, that of VP, and seek a radical restructure of society, as does PCS. Their principal theoretical writing comes from Jacque Fresco, an engineer, in a body of material that I commend as powerful, imaginative, and detailed. The principal and founder of the ZM is Peter Joseph, a filmmaker who created several web-based Zeitgeist films in popular currency, based on the ideas of Mr. Fresco.
Both organizations appear to continue to share the same perspective and program for social change, so my assessment here pertains to both organizations, and is based on my initial examination of the ZM Activist Orientation Guide, and various content areas at www.TheVenusProject.com.
I refer via shorthand to "VP" to represent the program of both organizations, which, again, appears to come principally if not singularly from Jacque Fresco.
Gaps & Omissions
Here, however, are the gaps and omissions in the VP/ZM program:
Imaginative but Incomplete Socialism
Of Mr. Fresco, Wikipedia states:
"His hypothesis of a resource-based economy is sometimes equated with Marxism, socialism, communism or technocracy. Fresco responds to these comparisons by stating, "The aims of The Venus Project have no parallel in history, not with communism, socialism, fascism or any other political ideology...."
This is incorrect, as it is obvious that the VP blueprint, in specifying a moneyless world where economic activity occurs to meet human need instead of produce profit, is talking about a form of socialism. Indeed, I'd characterize The Venus Project as presenting one of the better expressions or conceptualizations of socialism, which is to say one of the more sophisticated and imaginative, but a form of socialism nonetheless. However, it's an incomplete conceptualization, as explained in this assessment.
I note, by the way, that the prose of Mr. Fresco appears more measured than the prose of Peter Joseph, the architect of the Zeitgeist Movement. The latter only recently moved away from the position that 9/11 was "an inside job," and his analysis contains remnants of the kind of cynical and often unsupportable conspiratorialism that is regularly seen in standard socialist literature, assertions such as: the population is deliberately kept dumbed-down so the government can retain control. In fact, Mr. Joseph's material makes exactly this statement.
Jacque Fresco has done a masterful job in painting a picture of what might be, the possible detail of the new system, but does not present a complete program for social change. A successful revolution, or chance at one, requires manifold components, multiple pieces of a puzzle. Mr. Fresco has emplaced several, but left several missing. In contrast, the PCS program is complete. It suffers none of these gaps or omissions.
As with many organizations both revolutionary and reform, the theoretician behind The Venus Project, Jacque Fresco, realizes that it is imperative that our present system of global capitalism be changed. However, also like most such groups, the area where VP falls flat on its face is its attempt at a prescription for change, especially its notions of what form of political and economic organization are required to replace capitalism. Indeed, this is precisely the Achilles Heel of many such groups seeking dramatic or permanent change.
I also note that Mr. Fresco's is not the first seemingly fanciful or imaginative tableau of a future society; another notable vision can be found in the fictional socialist democracy of Bergonia.
I understand that The Venus Project has many members. It also features a sleek, modern-looking website, and a polished, elegant, and catchy, thematically attractive logo. However, neophytes must understand that such elements alone, while potentially seductive, are unimportant. As you grow in experience, insight, and knowledge in this movement, you will increasingly realize that what matters are the ideas and principals proffered by a given change organization, not their marketing materials, whether digital or analog. The wrong ideas and principals, popularized by an inexperienced or unthinking group of adherents, can actually make things worse; can turn a bad society into a very bad one, or a very bad one into an outright catastrophe. Revolution can turn societies and lives upside down, and can even be bloody, and thus our revolutionary activity must be conducted with the utmost care, responsibility, and sobriety. Step #1 in doing this is to ensure that we advocate the program of change that we do because its ideas and principles are the very best available, and not for any other reason.
In conclusion, then, I assign the Venus Project an excellent grade for its ideas as far as they go, and certainly an excellent grade for effort and sincerity, and recommend acquaintance with their material, in concert with, or indeed after study of more realistic, relevant, inclusive, and primary materials such as the content at the PCS website at which you presently reside, or secondarily, that of the SLP.
The PCS Cooperative Program vs. PROUT
I've just begun, as of 2013, to properly familiarize myself with the PROUT program.
It already appears, however, that one big apparent problem with PROUT is that it speaks in terms of the continuation of small business after the revolution. Thus, PROUT does not appear to advocate the complete elimination of capitalism, which means that elements of the alienation and exploitation that are immutably characteristic of capitalism will remain in a PROUT-inspired society.
If true, this omission is a deal-breaker for PROUT, as the new society requires the complete elimination of capitalism, since capitalism is the direct or indirect cause of every human problem. In health, the cancerous body must rid itself of every vestige and remnant of tumor, and so must the cancerous body politic rid itself of every vestige and remnant of the toxic and injurious socio-economic system of capitalism.
Working with Project For a Cooperative Society
Maltreatment of, and disrespect for, members of organizations and others has been, and still is, a monumental problem in the De Leonist movement, and elsewhere among groups working for change. Human interaction in these quarters and within and across these organizations is rooted too-frequently in an unfortunate, inappropriate, and counterproductive egotism, narcissism, and/or sectarianism. Twenty-one years in this movement has taught me that, typically, revolutionary groups will expend much energy and resource trying to attract members or other interested persons, yet discard these members or individuals almost at the "drop of a hat," which is to say, arbitrarily or even capriciously for almost any perceived transgression, large or small. Moreover, this termination of relations often occurs unilaterally on the part of the organization in question, with no warning or notice to the individual(s) in question, and with no airing of the complaint to try and effect resolution.
If this sounds like a disturbing, dispiriting, and sadly counterproductive phenomenon--it is.
I would be extremely cautious in placing my trust, fidelity, time, money--and the very future of humankind--in any organization advocating a cooperative world in common, that has not mastered even the basics of the human social equation to a degree sufficient to successfully create and maintain even a tiny present-day political organization in common--which is overwhelmingly the norm in this movement.
In fact, I have personally experienced this phenomenon so often that I have begun writing a brief account of these experiences. My own unfortunate experiences herein are partially responsible for the pro-actively courteous, respectful, sensitive, communicative, and conflict-resolution-oriented character of Project For a Cooperative Society.
The other reasons for this organizational posture are (1.) the fact that a cooperative society will probably not work without personal change by individuals, away from the narcissism of capitalist society and toward an active posture of greater charity and generosity of spirit--better, arguably, to begin cultivating such a personal capacity sooner, rather than later, and (2.) the direct influence of my personal belief in the love ethic, a principal of amazing power and effect!
Thus, individuals who have experienced shabby treatment at the hands of other "revolutionary" organizations will find much joy in working with Project For a Cooperative Society!
Specifically, unlike many activist, advocacy, or even "revolutionary" organizations (like this one), in promulgating this program we pledge to interact with our fellow PCS members, fellow activists, and fellow citizens, in a manner that is considerate, courteous, respectful, and sensitive, which is to say, in a manner informed by a generosity of spirit, rooted in the love ethic! We will never take an individual, or group, or their interest or participation, for granted!
We advocate community, and we try and live what we advocate!
Other Characteristics of PCS
Permeating much, if not most, of the movement for democratic socialism is a hostility, even a vitriol. Against whom? That varies. Some groups and individuals harbor these sentiments toward the ruling class or in some cases its more high-profile members. Some harbor them against other socialist groups, or individual socialists. Some against people, generally, whom they consider stupid or unaware of their class status. This kind of consciousness may find its roots in the thought of Karl Marx, who spoke of the class struggle, the epic conflict between workers and capital.
This reality has several deleterious consequences, however, notably including the fragmentation of our movement. But this reality does neatly create a space for the PCS outlook, as we uniquely and explicitly speak for a love-centered vision of socialism. One that does not trade in hate and venom, but love, fraternity, solidarity, and reconciliation. Someone must speak for this conception of socialism, and we do.
Another distinct characteristic of PCS is found in that we place ourselves as a distinct counterpoint to vanguardism. Members of vanguardist organizations, for example, cannot join PCS. This rule has been challenging, as the two individuals who have actually petitioned for membership in PCS thus far are both members of the American Communist Party. Both applications were rejected.
I'm personally acquainted with these individuals, and respect their perspicuity in seeing the wisdom in the PCS approach. I encourage them to work with PCS as sympathizers, and one of them is doing so to good effect. I appreciate this, and I told him so.
Another difference between most other groups of this kind and PCS is, their present cache amongst much of the left notwithstanding, we do not admire murderers and tyrants such as Lenin, Mao, Castro, or Che Guevara (see our For Young People page). In this sense, and in our single-issue, non-reform orientation, as well as our attempt to distance ourselves from our own egos in working with other groups in this movement, and in our refraining from joining the chorus of positions generally associated with the left, such as pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, unqualified pro-immigrant support, pro-immediate Iraq withdrawal, and in other respects, PCS is perhaps among the more "conservative" of the existing democratic socialist groups.
Not socially conservative, but conservative in defining the boundaries or parameters of the role of the democratic socialist organization, which is not to advocate for this or that reform position (with rare exceptions), but:
These are all some further ways that PCS differs from many other similar groups, and thus establishes its unique organizational identity!
~ Advocating Economic & Personal Change ~
Project For a Cooperative Society