Collective decision - making and supervision in a communist society

We may well aspire to a better form of 'Democracy For the 21st Century' but just how such a democracy could function in practice needs to be considered.

This paper by Moshe Machover is made available from the London School of Economics Online Research Facility and deals with that issue.

Don't be put off by the use of the word "communist". The author explains at the beginning exactly why he seeks to reclaim this word.


If communism means anything at all, it means a radical eruption of democracy. Bursting its present narrow political confines, where it is allowed to hold truncated and partly illusory sway, democracy is to engulf all spheres of social life. This applies in particular to what is, under capitalism, the alienated sphere of economics: major choices that are now made behind the backs of society – imposed by private owners who monopolize wealth, or left to the chaotic play of blind market forces – will be decided onsciously and collectively by the community concerned. The enormous extension of the sphere of collective decision-making will necessarily imply a corresponding expansion and deepening of the scope of public supervision, ensuring proper implementation of decisions.

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Moshe says: 'Control of production by the direct producers is essential to communist democracy. Yet it cannot be exercised properly at an exclusively local level, separately in each separate workplace. Those working in a given workplace cannot be allowed to run it entirely as they alone please, ignoring the wishes and interests of other members of the wider society.'

This presupposes the classic economic model of the self interested, ie selfish, individual. What is ignored is the role of caring (because it cannot be measured?) or because at this time it is not recognised as having any economic or political value? Yet it is the foundation of society without which it could not reproduce itself, or function. The assumption that gross inequalities can only be corrected by supervision and control, ie top down decision making, means people cannot be trusted to care for their brothers and sisters. This assumption arises out of the ethos of scarcity in which capitalism functions. Communism assumes an ethos of abundance, which may or may not reflect an external material situation, but which rests on an internal experience of sharing, solidarity. and the experience of enough. If communism means anything it means everyone has an equal right to provision of basic needs and any surplus is shared. If this system has arisen, it can only be because people have acknowledged these equal rights, unless this is an imposed system, which has already been ruled out.

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