Is the press socialized in a socialist society?

23 posts / 0 new
Last post
yoda's walking stick
Offline
Joined: 6-04-11
Jul 14 2011 13:08
Is the press socialized in a socialist society?

I anticipate many dodging the question by saying that current technologies, such as the internet, mean there's not a limited number of media outlets and therefore no need for socialization. This, to me, rests on the fantasy that one can have an unpaid blogging press, which to me is a fallacy. The unpaid bloggers of today are, by and large, commenters. They don't do original reporting because, understandably, as private individuals they don't have the time and resources required.

devoration1's picture
devoration1
Offline
Joined: 18-07-10
Jul 14 2011 13:22

I think the first Constitution of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic (1918) is instructive on this point, from Article 2 section 14 - 17- but especially Article 2 section 14 (even though it didn't work out this way in practice after the October Revolution, it should have):

Quote:
14. For the purpose of securing freedom of expression to the toiling masses, the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic abolishes all dependence of the Press upon capital, and turns over to the working people and the poorest peasantry all technical and material means for the publication of newspapers, pamphlets, books, etc., and guarantees their free circulation throughout the country.

15. For the purpose of enabling the workers to hold free meetings, the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic offers to the working class and to the poorest peasantry furnished halls, and takes care of their heating and lighting appliances.

16. The Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic, having crushed the economic and political power of the propertied classes, and having thus abolished all obstacles which interfered with the freedom of organization and action of the workers and peasants, offers assistance, material and other, to the workers and the poorest peasantry in their effort to unite and organize.

17. For the purpose of guaranteeing to the workers real access to knowledge, the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic sets itself the task of furnishing full and general free education to the workers and the poorest peasantry.

http://www.marxists.org/history/ussr/government/constitution/1918/article2.htm

Though I think all of the above are necessary for an open and dynamic press, not just freedom to think-write-publish-distribute, but also to meet, organize, discuss, disagree, etc.

Toms's picture
Toms
Offline
Joined: 16-05-10
Jul 14 2011 13:57
yoda's walking stick wrote:
The unpaid bloggers of today are, by and large, commenters. They don't do original reporting because, understandably, as private individuals they don't have the time and resources required.

So don't the news outlets. Most news reports are exactly that "reporting", just saying something that ocurred with little to no investigation of the event, and that is something that even bloggers could do do. How often does one see investigative journalism from either bloggers or news outlets? Not to mention that most news covered is the result of information gotten from organizations such as Reuters, Lusa,... or officials.

I'm not saying that bloggers can simply do the job of the press, I'm just stating that I don't agree with this premise that most of the resources of the Media are spent on getting their journalists what they need to conduct a report (excluding their wages)

Baronarchist
Offline
Joined: 22-06-11
Jul 14 2011 14:29

Isn't this a question for state socialists?

redsdisease
Offline
Joined: 31-12-10
Jul 14 2011 15:04
Baronarchist wrote:
Isn't this a question for state socialists?

Seriously. In a world without a state and without capital I don't see how the press could be anything other than socialized.

yoda's walking stick
Offline
Joined: 6-04-11
Jul 14 2011 15:17
redsdisease wrote:
Baronarchist wrote:
Isn't this a question for state socialists?

Seriously. In a world without a state and without capital I don't see how the press could be anything other than socialized.

I don't know what the fuck anarchists mean by the state. All of the anarchist utopias and existing historical experiments I've seen relied on some administrative organization of some kind. To not call this the state or government seems like semantics to me.

yoda's walking stick
Offline
Joined: 6-04-11
Jul 14 2011 15:25
Toms wrote:
yoda's walking stick wrote:
The unpaid bloggers of today are, by and large, commenters. They don't do original reporting because, understandably, as private individuals they don't have the time and resources required.

So don't the news outlets. Most news reports are exactly that "reporting", just saying something that ocurred with little to no investigation of the event, and that is something that even bloggers could do do. How often does one see investigative journalism from either bloggers or news outlets? Not to mention that most news covered is the result of information gotten from organizations such as Reuters, Lusa,... or officials.

I'm not saying that bloggers can simply do the job of the press, I'm just stating that I don't agree with this premise that most of the resources of the Media are spent on getting their journalists what they need to conduct a report (excluding their wages)

This is naive. I work for a paper and am not an "investigative journalist" by any means. But I regularly attend lengthy town board meetings, record them, type a recap the next day, and call relevant players for quotes. A mere 500 word story often takes hours and hours worth of time to produce. If you think unpaid bloggers are going to do that, I have a bridge to sell you. I certainly wouldn't do it if I wasn't paid for it. It's often boring as hell. But that's where the hard news comes from that columnists, and yes, unpaid bloggers later discuss.

Baronarchist
Offline
Joined: 22-06-11
Jul 14 2011 15:35

Well that's an on going debate isn't it. Most anarchist scholars who I have read refer to states as political, economic and military rule by of a geographical territory, by a representative or hereditary based government.

I think democratically controlled worker's confederations are a big of a stretch on the term state, especially if it's participatory.

Toms's picture
Toms
Offline
Joined: 16-05-10
Jul 14 2011 15:36
yoda's walking stick wrote:
This is naive. I work for a paper and am not an "investigative journalist" by any means. But I regularly attend lengthy town board meetings, record them, type a recap the next day, and call relevant players for quotes. A mere 500 word story often takes hours and hours worth of time to produce. If you think unpaid bloggers are going to do that, I have a bridge to sell you. I certainly wouldn't do it if I wasn't paid for it. It's often boring as hell. But that's where the hard news comes from that columnists, and yes, unpaid bloggers later discuss.

This is exactly why I said excluding wages, because in an anarchist society as long as there is a need for journalism (there always is, but obviously it can't be everyone working there) people can take that position as there work. As such the relevance of me stating that the major costs of journalism are associated with administrative and wage factors resultant of the capitalist way of operating is significant so as to affirm that if a person can have society support them while they give back by reporting on what is happening then that person could do so, to a large extent, without any great investment on them by part of society. That is if society supported the journalist in question he would be able to take the "hours and hours worth of time to produce".

And don't fucking call me naive, you don't know where I worked or workplaces I have been involved in.

jacobian
Offline
Joined: 18-03-09
Jul 14 2011 16:58
redsdisease wrote:
Baronarchist wrote:
Isn't this a question for state socialists?

Seriously. In a world without a state and without capital I don't see how the press could be anything other than socialized.

Easy - don't divert product from other productive enterprise toward the production of press. Then you don't have a press - and the press is therefor not socialised (unless you allow non-existent things to satisfy arbitrary properties).

I think the real question is how can we have an economy such that public goods can be produced. This was an argument amongst anarchists that has a long pedigree.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C3%A9sar_De_Paepe

De Paepe finally ran into the Yoda's Walking Stick camp after being so fed up with anarcho-semantic arguments over what constitutes a state and how we would manage the production of social goods without a collective body of governance (in his parlance, a workers' state).

Obviously there are fewer Proudhonists around these days, and most people are calling themselves some form of communist so the question of mutualism is perhaps less interesting, though I think there are arguments with similar undertones present in the communist camp.

The question of how communism might be possible is still up for discussion and part of that discussion will be how to collectively agree how/where/whether we want to...

a) devote labour
b) allocate from absolute scarcity of inputs
c) subject to constraints on externalities of production

..for the production of both rival and non-rival goods.

The free-access camp has it that there will not be any scarcity of any goods anywhere and therefor the question of devoting resources does not arise. I think this is pretty fantastical.

In reality there will need to be some economic system which attempts to ensure that things are produced efficiently (according to some notion of effeciency) and with a systemic tendency for the labour time embodied in everything to fall as much as possible so that we might get closer to an economy in which scarcity really is eliminated.

Ethos's picture
Ethos
Offline
Joined: 6-07-11
Jul 14 2011 21:23
yoda's walking stick wrote:

I don't know what the fuck anarchists mean by the state. All of the anarchist utopias and existing historical experiments I've seen relied on some administrative organization of some kind. To not call this the state or government seems like semantics to me.

Troll harder.

RedEd's picture
RedEd
Offline
Joined: 27-11-10
Jul 15 2011 04:49
jacobian wrote:
The free-access camp has it that there will not be any scarcity of any goods anywhere and therefor the question of devoting resources does not arise. I think this is pretty fantastical.

I think this a little unfair, though there may well be some free-accessers who think that way. I think the point of free access is that distribution is organised in such a way as to ensure that consumption is not mediated by exchange. That means, for example, not making certain inherently scarce items such as diamond rings or out of season strawberries flown across the world, changing mechanisms of consumption so that, maybe, a car is something you can use whenever you want, but can't have all to yourself, and if all else fails rationing. The 'everyone can have whatever they like all to themselves all the time' version of free-access is obviously a bit... ambitious.

Getting back to the press, I think its a little bit difficult to do predictions, but perhaps its worth commenting that the division of labour represented by professional journalism is not one we should seek to maintain particularly. Of course there are lots of technical skills involved in journalism which not everybody is going to suddenly acquire come the revolution, but I think that there is no reason that disseminating information about things one is involved in can't be a much larger part of the basis of how we do the kinds of information exchange that is currently handled by the press. So in the case of the meeting yws mentioned, perhaps a participant could have turned the minutes into a press release and popped it up on the web as an alternative way of getting the same info to people who wanted it. I'm not a big fan of the newspaper/tv news/etc. way of presenting information anyway. I think it lends itself towards the use the press that creates the impression that the world is something normal people have no control over and can only act in in atomized ways.

yoda's walking stick
Offline
Joined: 6-04-11
Jul 15 2011 11:09
RedEd wrote:
So in the case of the meeting yws mentioned, perhaps a participant could have turned the minutes into a press release and popped it up on the web as an alternative way of getting the same info to people who wanted it. I'm not a big fan of the newspaper/tv news/etc. way of presenting information anyway. I think it lends itself towards the use the press that creates the impression that the world is something normal people have no control over and can only act in in atomized ways.

This is an absurdly naive delusion. I went to a two hour meeting last night. My entire day at work today is going to be spent breaking the topics discussed into three or four articles. That's going to take me from 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. You've got to be a looney tune to think the average joe is going to have the time and the inclination to do this unpaid on a regular basis. Get real.

Baronarchist
Offline
Joined: 22-06-11
Jul 15 2011 11:36
yoda's walking stick wrote:
RedEd wrote:

This is an absurdly naive delusion. I went to a two hour meeting last night. My entire day at work today is going to be spent breaking the topics discussed into three or four articles. That's going to take me from 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. You've got to be a looney tune to think the average joe is going to have the time and the inclination to do this unpaid on a regular basis. Get real.

I think you misunderstand unpaid...

jacobian
Offline
Joined: 18-03-09
Jul 15 2011 13:32
RedEd wrote:
jacobian wrote:
I think this a little unfair, though there may well be some free-accessers who think that way. I think the point of free access is that distribution is organised in such a way as to ensure that consumption is not mediated by exchange.

It's not the slightest bit unfair.

First, "organising" something is extremely vague. For a large scale economy you need abstract organisational principles. It is not possible to return to artisan production (unless the world collapses Mad Max style). The organisational principles are going to have to be spelled out in detail.

Neurath is probably one of the greatest proponents of the calculation in kind camp. He wanted the abolition of exchange value but with a process of calculation to ensure production for need. Unfortunately Neurath was unable to explicate how this calculation in kind would take place without a principle for the optimisation of such calculations. I think it's safe to say this is a dead end (though I have a few ideas about how you might resurrect a Frankenstein cross-breed).

The free access folks are generally a lot more vague than Neurath on the question, but I've had a number of discussions with proponents so I'm generally chosing my concrete straw-men from among their number.

If you have other proposals I'd love to hear them. I'm not opposed in principle, only the likely practice.

The most common argument is that we can assess production needs based on apparent scarcity. We give everyone equal access to everything - perhaps with rationing notes in the event of absolute scarcity. This strategy is poor for the following reason.

Supposing that we have no more cars and no more bread. If we have a principle of equal-access this conveys only one bit of information - on or off. There is no *relative* information here on the social necessity to produce the one as relative to the other. We must now decided whether we are going to try and increase the production of these two goods. This will require input parts and input labour. The ratio in which these should be divided is not given in principle by their scarcity. Since there is no unit of account, there is not even any principled way where we could decide a number with which to have a ratio.

We will then be at a loss systemically as to how to devote resources in production. Now, we can obviously see in this case that the car is the wrong one, and the bread is the right one, but with 5 billion potential products, it is not even in principle possible for people to make a decision on each of these even with a mammoth bureaucracy.

In this case price is clearly a superior organising principle. It gives you information about at which point the market will still clear, and hence the relative importance between the two. If people only have enough for bread, the car does not clear at any price. If people have enough for bread and Lamborghini's we get some ratio of importance in terms of what amount of social labour people are willing to engage in to obtain it.

In addition we have information about the difficulty in production in our unit of account. It's not a purely subjective principle that causes Lamborghinis to price so high - it's that they take more resources - especially labour - than bread.

Now, I'm not saying that exchange value is what we should use as an organising principle, but if we choose a new one, it should be no worse. Equal pay and price would be a better social organising principle than socially determined production without a unit of account based on apparent scarcity.

ocelot's picture
ocelot
Offline
Joined: 15-11-09
Jul 15 2011 15:54
jacobian wrote:
The most common argument is that we can assess production needs based on apparent scarcity. We give everyone equal access to everything - perhaps with rationing notes in the event of absolute scarcity. This strategy is poor for the following reason.

Supposing that we have no more cars and no more bread. If we have a principle of equal-access this conveys only one bit of information - on or off. There is no *relative* information here on the social necessity to produce the one as relative to the other.[...]

Why not? I would take it as read that you would be creating an aggregate demand function from individual demand ordering schedules (nb not to be confused with single-commodity v price demand schedules in conventional econ usage). Given that the large majority (excluding petrol-head coeliacs perhaps) will put bread higher than cars, the aggregate schedule will reflect that. I don't see why equal-distribution implies lack of relative demand assessment. (In fact I can't see how any relatively complex economy could work without a demand function).

yoda's walking stick
Offline
Joined: 6-04-11
Jul 15 2011 21:49

I guess, to me, it makes sense that the press should be socialized. Does this make me a Leninist?

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Jul 16 2011 00:06

If by "socialized" you mean supported and directly mandated by wider society, then no. If you mean controlled by a centralised body underpinned by a "representative" democracy, then probably, yes.

Edit: I kind of touch on this subject in this article for Black Flag's Breathing Utopia series in issue 230 (PDF at the bottom)

yoda's walking stick
Offline
Joined: 6-04-11
Jul 16 2011 02:40
Rob Ray wrote:
If by "socialized" you mean supported and directly mandated by wider society, then no. If you mean controlled by a centralised body underpinned by a "representative" democracy, then probably, yes.

Well both options sound good to me. More democracy is better obviously, but a socialist representative democracy, without the scare quotes, doesn't sound too bad to me.

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
Jul 16 2011 07:03

They're for sarcasm rather than for scaring, on the grounds that historically, representative democracy is neither very representative, nor very democratic.

Chilli Sauce's picture
Chilli Sauce
Offline
Joined: 5-10-07
Jul 16 2011 10:50

If we create a non-market based wageless economy based on the maxim "FEATTA, TEATTN" where the means of production are placed under worker control*, then that that will apply to the press as well. Newspapers, TV and radio stations, etc will be run by their workers. In other words, they'll be socialised.

This all seems pretty straightforward to me.

*This is not to say they're won't be administration, only that it will it will occur through bottom-up federated, delegatory structures, ie, not a state which is objectively top-down and hierarchical.

jacobian
Offline
Joined: 18-03-09
Jul 16 2011 22:24
ocelot wrote:
jacobian wrote:
The most common argument is that we can assess production needs based on apparent scarcity. We give everyone equal access to everything - perhaps with rationing notes in the event of absolute scarcity. This strategy is poor for the following reason.

Supposing that we have no more cars and no more bread. If we have a principle of equal-access this conveys only one bit of information - on or off. There is no *relative* information here on the social necessity to produce the one as relative to the other.[...]

Why not? I would take it as read that you would be creating an aggregate demand function from individual demand ordering schedules (nb not to be confused with single-commodity v price demand schedules in conventional econ usage). Given that the large majority (excluding petrol-head coeliacs perhaps) will put bread higher than cars, the aggregate schedule will reflect that. I don't see why equal-distribution implies lack of relative demand assessment. (In fact I can't see how any relatively complex economy could work without a demand function).

Well, there is no relative information provided if we only look at scarcity, so you're not dealing with the straw man I set up in my argument. grin

There are other methods, and as you say, the an aggregate of individual demand ordering schedules which also included some way of assessing the amount of labour that people were willing to allocate could work in principle.

There are a number of potential problems here though.

A) How do you collectively encourage allocation of labour in appropriate areas.

B) What is the social aggregation function (Arrow's theorem will come into play here - though that's not a show stopper).

C) How are the inputs given to the social aggregation function?

(C) in particular will be harder to implement than something that works on "money" or debit-card like objects. In addition calculation in kind from a list of outputs will be very difficult to break-up into smaller scale sub-plans. It will not be very flexible in terms of the scale of control over the plan.

None of those are necessarily impossible to overcome, but it's quite a challenge.

ocelot's picture
ocelot
Offline
Joined: 15-11-09
Jul 18 2011 11:37

I'm going to do my usual and take the points in reverse order

jacobian wrote:
None of those [issues] are necessarily impossible to overcome, but it's quite a challenge.

Sure, running an economy with a relatively highly developed division of labour is never simple. I think because in capitalism, awareness of how the economy works is generally obscured from us, there is sometimes a tendency to underestimate how much labour time, energy and computing power actually goes into making the price system (aka "The Market" tm) work. In the US apparently there are right-wing christians who believe that the market is a divine creation - god's will on earth. Other more secular market fundamentalists still tend to think that the market somehow produces "something for nothing" in a platonic way - i.e. that the price system magically appears, without any additional labour, from the aggregate effect of us handing over cash at the store in return for goods. Not so.

Although I have no way of measuring this (nor am I entirely sure how it could be measured, but then I'm not a social scientist), I would put forward, as a hypothesis-as-provocation, the proposition that in more developed capitalist countries (i.e. where less than 5% of the workforce is in agriculture) a higher proportion of the collective social labour time is dedicated to making the price system work than to producing food. I'm not just talking about the accountants and finance departments that every business has, but the proportion of office staff time taken up by the processing of money related information. Most databases (at least in the private sector) are really only feature-rich billing systems with knobs on.

So the question then becomes, not is any alternative to capitalism resource-consuming in terms of administrative costs, but is it substantially more resource-consuming than capitalism? And we should bear in mind that a merely similar level of resources as what capitalism dedicates to making its price system work is actually a seriously substantial amount of people time, collective brainpower and enough computing brawn to make CERN's LHC data banks look like an abacus.

jacobian wrote:
There are other methods, and as you say, the an aggregate of individual demand ordering schedules which also included some way of assessing the amount of labour that people were willing to allocate could work in principle.

There are a number of potential problems here though.

A) How do you collectively encourage allocation of labour in appropriate areas.

I think there are two types of voluntary labour - the self-directed and the service-oriented. By self-directed I mean activity that follows a person's individual interests, whether than be counting butterflies, obscure mathematical research projects or writing computer games. By service-oriented I mean the kind of voluntary labour that is directed towards servicing some social need. For the latter kind of labour, having a system that can give you fairly reliable information on where to apply your labour to maximise social benefit will go a long way to getting the desired result. So long as the volunteers are relatively indifferent to the type of concrete labour to be done, why would you take on a job that only a few people want doing when you could just as well be doing the most requested job in the queue? Of course often* people would rather be spending their time doing self-directed stuff instead. Where there was an oversupply of people wanting to do a particular kind of work relative to social demand (assuming resources other than the individual's time is required) then you could potentially balance of oversupply in some areas against undersupply in others as a potential incentive structure, should one be needed. I have also mentioned elsewhere that for those jobs that most people find unpleasant, the only likely workable solution, absent coercion of labour, is to share them out equally - anything else would be (rightly) seen as unfair.

jacobian wrote:
B) What is the social aggregation function (Arrow's theorem will come into play here - though that's not a show stopper).

Good question. It will probably need to be a bit more sophisticated than a simple Borda, Condorcet or STV style algo. On the plus side, this is not a problem that we have to wait for the revolution to start working on. Voluntary labour exists even within capitalism. Hence the volutary labour allocation problem is a real-world one in the here and now. Plus virtually all existing revolutionary groups are essentially run on voluntary labour, so if we were serious about prefiguration we get to work on it within our own organisations. In general terms I don't think a social aggregation function needs to be "total" or even proveably correct, but it must be directionally convergent and transparently so - that is, it needs for each next step to move closer to what people want, rather than further away. Logically that may be petitio principii, but politically it can be determined (at least in the negative case where economic outputs are increasing diverging from what people want).

jacobian wrote:
C) How are the inputs given to the social aggregation function?

(C) in particular will be harder to implement than something that works on "money" or debit-card like objects. In addition calculation in kind from a list of outputs will be very difficult to break-up into smaller scale sub-plans. It will not be very flexible in terms of the scale of control over the plan.

The bulk inputs are the individual demand schedules that people draw up ahead of time. In addition there will almost certainly need to be an "a postiori" market - i.e of stuff that people didn't predict ahead of time that they were going to want until they happened to want it (crutches for example, no-one plans to break their leg sometime this week). For that we forecast demand based on regression analysis of past data - which already do under capitalism. But generally, at the micro level, the inputs come from the only place they can come from - i.e. from people themselves. Use values are subjective, after all.

On a macro level, decisions have to be made as to proportions in which to allocate production resources to short-term consumption versus long-term projects, public goods to private ones, and so on. There's no right answer to these and they are political decisions as much as economic ones. It's likely (desireable even) that different communities will come up with diverse results as well.

In terms of your precise point on scale and sub-plans, I probably need to review the existing Calculation in Kind (CiK) literature to get it. But my rough understanding of how the plan to sub-plan process would work is that it would have to be some kind of bidding process from production teams for production resources made available for a particular area. I can't see a workable process that wouldn't involve a high degree of autonomy by production teams as to what work they would bid for and who gets to join the team (and if you want to play on the best team, you need to prove you're good enough, harking back to the incentives question). So to a degree the sub-plan question needs to be solved through distributed, bottom-up methods.

* But not always. I've known a number of people over the years that were capable of doing pretty much anything they turned their hand to but had no idea what they wanted to do in life (and in all the cases I've seen, this actually made them deeply unhappy).