Liberal Communism

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In the book below, the French author Dominique Pelbois proposes a unique blend of markets and worker-consumer ownership, in which economic entity is co-owned by its workers (49%) and its clients/consumers (51%) in a common managerial assembly. In this system, economic entities would lease their high-value production to their customers, and work for their needs, as they are also the majority owners.


* Pour un communisme libéral, projet de démocratie économique Dominique Pelbois Editions L’Harmattan ISBN : 2-7475-8649-9 • juillet 2005 • 320 pages


The basic hypothesis proposed by the book:

Alternatives to demand-side domination

- 1) Suppy-side domination

- Planning creates unresponsible bureaucracy

- 2) Worker's Self-Management

- either a market or bureaucracy is still needed

- 3) Demand-side only

- This would create a despotism of the corporate hierarchies over the workers

- 4) Conclusion: only the fourth alternative, a combined system, is adequate

- The demand side represents the universal; the worker side represents the particular; The universal is primary but respects the particular; the entreprise can only function through a compromise of both.

Reading Notes

From the Reading Notes of Michel Bauwens, 2007:

This book presents a mode of appropriation which is neither based on the state, nor private. The dichotomy between capitalism and bureaucracy is a false one: an economics without capital is possible.

The first introductory chapter takes the form of a polemic against the French liberal thinker Alain Minc, who says a 'reasonable' society is impossible. Following the micro-economic axiom, Pelbois writes:

- “Un système économique raisonnable et celui qui produit à tous le plus de satisfaction possible en coûtant à tous .. le moins possible.” (p. 20)

Such a definition, which includes "all", is inherently democratic. A certain inequality (quasi-égalité) is admissible if:

- 1) all functions are open to all according to the equality of opportunity

- 2) to benefit the most needy, competence must be privileged (John Rawls)

- “Les distinctions sociales ne peuvent être fondée que sur l'utilité commune (art 1) ou sur la vertu et le talent (art 6) “, source: Human Rights Declaration, 1789

This entails an opposition to private patrimonium's. Reducing the input of all ('inconveniences), means also ecological minimisation. Contemporary capitalism considers nature as an externality to be exploited, and profits from destruction since it makes resources rarer and therefore more valuable. Capitalism is based on 'maximisation under budget constraints', but renders its mythical because of the inequality of conditions. But the basic principle of liberal self-sufficiency is valid:

- "S'autolimiter pour permettre aux autres de vivre" (p.23)

Property defined as exclusion defeats this purpose, which is why Pelbois introduces the notion of 'quasi-property'.

- “Qu’aucun ne peut accumuler, dont aucun ne peut être privé … que tous s’efforcent à améliorer pour eux et pour les générations futures.” (p 23)

- Quasi-property is un-accumulable and inalienable

- This quasi-property should not be confused with 'collective expropriation'.

The first principle, liberal self-discipline, is thus, through quasi-property, married to the second principle, 'communist re-appropriation', which puts 'demand' at the core of the economy; unlike capitalism where the supply predominates.

Premiere partie: Le modèle: Présupposés et élaboration

Chapitre 1: La loi fondamentale.

Pelbois is for “le Règne des Fins”, a society where we cannot treat other humans as 'means'. How to build a society based on a technical division of labor, without also have a 'social division'. Today's national accounting recognizes four groups: companies, households, administration and a 'exterior'; in liberal communism, only households are left as primary. Corporations become the executive arm, administrations become almost superfluous, and the exterior is mediated through a Chamber of Imports. The latter has a key role of permitting it to peacefully co-exist with the outside capitalist world.

Enterprises in the new system are not firms based on revocable contracts, but associations of individuals that produce and consume. They are not 'in debt' to shareholders, they are democratically governed, and are the 'executing agents' of the householders.

For each accounting period, the enterprise calculates:

- 1) the services or products it has delivered to its clients (sold, rented)

- 2) the salaries it has paid.

These two groups, resp. client-electors and worker-electors, get proportional power in electing the directors of the enterprise, in charge of organizing it. Legally, these enterprises take the format of non-profit public services working for their client householders, in consort with sister-enterprises. They have to plan the contradictory demands of their clients and workers, make priorities, and refer clients to others if need be. The clients have full access to technical and accounting issues, which allow fair prices. The 'market' is present in the general assemblies, because the clients are present in them. Companies have therefore direct knowledge of demand, and clients have a transparent knowledge of supply, which they 'run' themselves.

Enterprises, even those with other enterprises as clients, are always connected to the latter, even if indirectly, while the workers are always represented. Through their number in voting, they will not tolerate unjustified inequalities.

- “Le communisme liberal fonctionne sans capital et exclut tout revenu de propriété. Il s’ensuit que la quasi-égalité des rémunérations de travail entraîne la quasi-égalité du niveau de vie et des dépenses des consommateurs finals, et par consequence, la quasi-égalité du pouvoir qu’ils exercent.” (p. 44)

On the one hand, the new system forces the different parties (householders, enterprises, and workers), to take account of each other (since their power is imbricated, the demand side always influences the supply), but there remains a constitutive conflict: that between the householders, who desire products and services of the highest quality for the lowest price, and that of the workers, who desire the highest possible wage. Both are joined in a quest for the quality of life but which plays out differently within the enterprise. The latter is the arbiter between these competing demands, the advocate of each to the other; and this insures that no wastage can occur, while means for social reproduction and innovation must be provided. This means that more is given by the clients, than received by the workers, so the demand side has more power.

Chapter 2: Un probleme capital: le capital

Is it possible to have an economy without capital ? Enterprises with just workers and clients and no founders ? An accounting based on flows and no stocks ?

Liberal communism needs a starting position, which is provided by capitalism, but one that is established, as it already has been, so that it can sustain and grow itself. The condition for the latter is that capital investment can be extended in time. And the input of orders must also be a flow . This is why subscription and renting are the preferred modes of functioning.

Durable goods for households and capital goods for enterprises pose a particular problem:

- 1) they are only needed intermittently

- 2) they require vast capital outlays and thus, savings and credits. This creates a lack of continuity in the client-enterprise relationship and thus a problem for the liberal-communist system. These goods can therefore only be rented or subscribed to, hence evacuating the need to save/borrow and for capital itself. Note that in this system, the dependence on the owners is evacuated, since renters are the owners-electors of the enterprises that furnish the goods.

The companies who rent out their material, are themselves also renting (so again: no capital is needed). In that system, rent is so advantageious since it makes you the part-owner of the company, that it makes little sense to want it as personal property. Companies would naturally give priority to their own owners. If a capital good is valid for 30 years, the company would set aside 1/30th of this from its income.

Why is there technical progress ?

- 1) the workers, who have a guaranteed job, are interested in working less, hence in productivity gains

- 2) the clients are interested in better products, and pressure the company that they own.

- 3) the companies are interested in keeping their clients.

Is there a ultimate owner, say of the land ? It does not matter, since those that rent 'own the owner', and can cut the collective as they see fit. The still rent the land. Similarly, companies without capital can configure and reconfigure at will. See the graph of the power distribution in the company. Absentee clients are represented by a permanent delegation; if they are unhappy they can come themselves or be represented. The client side is represented by 3 groups: 1) the client themselves 2) the client representatives and 3) the permanent delegation for absentee clients. The 'management' represents clients and workers relative to the weight of their orders and salaries.

Chapter 3: Propriété et démocratie

This chapter starts with an overview of the positions of Marx and Tocqueville, the latter also recognizing it was the last remaining aristocratic privilege, and therefore subject to attack. Property, if it can be accumulated without profit, is antagonistic to democracy. This is why liberal communism makes it preferable not to own. Only direct clients are owners of the supplying companies, and so they are technically knowledgeable, as are the workers. Relations with exterior systems happen through a Chamber of Imports.

An objection is that the final consumers are not owners. True, but indirectly they are, and they own the housing companies. This is their anchor in the new system, where they know each other. And a similar reality operates for workers in the factories. They all have access to friends, families and associates who have more time to take care of common affairs.

This stress on physical proximity may be seen undermined by contemporary realities. But Pelbois thinks that, because transport is a cost, that naturally the tendency will be to have work closer to the place of living. This will reverse the city-rural split, and reinforce the proximity factor. - The founding law of liberal communism, where clients own their suppliers, will naturally to choices of local fidelity; and stores will be similarly led to a preference for local suppliers. This will engender a trend towards renewed localization. The following problem arises: the natural working of local conviviality may lead to disregard for formal procedures and this may lead to under-representation of the system. This is why the office of the representative absentee-clients - but always revocable - is needed. Since they are revocable, and may get paid, the have a vested interest in defending the clients.

The director, and the representative, are elected for limited terms, and are the two most important people in any company. The chapter concludes with an argumentation of how the right of property undermines those of liberty and equality, and therefore, subscription, rent, or common buying, by equalizing property, render a just society possible.

Chapter 4 - Une planification spontanée (les coopératives associées)

Pelbois reviews the scepticism of Marx towards the cooperatives, who, it they protect private property, can easily be part of Capitalism.

But the situation in liberal communism is different,

  • because cooperatives become the only institution and replace private property.
  • Because of their double structure, they become spontaneous organizations of cooperative planning.
  • Because of their imbricated client ownership, they are naturally vertically integrated.

But they are also horizontally integrated:

- 1) when they have common clients (a road system is client with different territorial units)

- 2) they have the same suppliers (housing cooperatives need to coordinate many services)'

3) many workers can be client of their own entreprises

In this system, planning is widely distributed but there is a hierarchy of planning. At the base is the local level, consisting of housing cooperatives and retail stores. They are in turn owners of the wholesalers, who are of industries and agricultural compounds, and ultimately of the land holding system. He then gives a number of examples in infrastructure building, showing how the obliged negotiation is an in-built factor for modernisation. Entreprises will also regularly have a surplus of workers and machines. This can be considered as a reserve for future activities. That the workers are paid is a form of legitimate rent available because there is no confiscation by capital.

Chapter 5: Integration horizontale

Different companies of the same branch will share the same suppliers. To be served well they will have a tendency to regulate standardisation procedures. This can be done through common delegates . Companies of a same sector will naturally seek to reduce costs by creating collective infrastructures (administration, accounting, R&D). There is no competition in the system. Rather, each company works for its clients and, to serve them in the best way, cooperates with others in the same branch. Liberal Communism is incompatible with deep scarcity, but can survive temporary crises by cooperation."

In fact, such permanent cooperation is a guarantee against scarcity occurring in the first place. This finds particular expression in the shared mgt. services located in the Sector Council (‘Conseil de Branche’), which also counts expert researchers.

Perhaps surprisingly, Pelbois’ internal model follows the principles of Fayol, but he claims leadership would change when democratically elected. He explains that internal clientship would apply to the relations between management sectors. The client directorate partly owns the production directorate; and this one owns partly the personnel directorate. But the workers also own the production and personnel directorate. Pelbois describes thus an alternative to Fayol, a horizontal linking by applying client relationships within the enterprise.

A critical note:

1) His examples are all arch-industrial

2) Why keep such a traditional hierarchy

3) Where is the innovation without an external market ?

Since companies are clients of their suppliers, there also will be vertical inter-branch organisations, so as to avoid bottlenecks.

Chapter 4: Inventions and Innovations

Clients want better products and services, but workers want the highest possible pay for the shortest possible work. Technological progress therefore has to be linked to job security, and to a certain amount of non-work (for equal pay), acting as a buffer. The working week is set by branch accords through negotiations between workers and clients. Another buffer are the ‘interim’ enterprises. Technical progress thus leads, it’s partly a choice, to better services for clients, or to shorter working weeks.

Enterprises are designed not to make profit, but what happens if they do ? It is distributed to their clients (discounts), and workers (bonuses); and if the client is another enterprise, the process repeats itself. Thus, it is so distributed as to have a marginal effect.

Chapter 7: Une monnaie democratique

Liberal Communism is a monetary democracy, which makes money into a tool for universal suffrage. Unlike in the capitalist economy, where money is autonomous and exterior to individuals, money becomes subject to human will. This is so because prices are decided by clients and production by the workers!

The liberal principle, self-limitation imposed by the needs and rights of others, is a principle of restriction. But to do so a ‘power’ is needed, which can only be money, but collectively decided by the community.

The liberal principles of the LC system are twofold:

1) The obligation to manage (‘calculate’); and

2) The separation of powers

Money is managed by the “Caisses de Reglement”, which have clients. It will still circulate, and be a means for everyone to judge his contributions to society, since the role of money will no longer be distorted by power relationships (inequality, dominance over supply, power of lenders, etc …)

Thus, it is indispensable to auto-discipline. Such money is a pure sign. The 'Caisse des Reglements' are technical enterprises paid by their customers (and thus owned by them), on the number of their operations (a technical cost), and not on volume (no inequality)/ Since small players have more transactions than big ones, they are better represented.

Chapter 8: Lea caisses redistribution du pouvoir d'achat

Redistribution is still needed because income is linked to work and one has to protect the unproductive (the sick, the old, the children). But it cannot be done by capitalisation. As second problem is how to define the clients: are they the contributors or the beneficiaries, respectively the liberal and communisitic aspect. For Pelbois, in this case, both client groups should be represented. To avoid a over-representation of the client vs the workers, it is only the difference between the input and output that is calculated, but the client seats are proportionnaly divided according to the size of their contributions. Starting to describe in detail the roles of and cooperation of the various funds, he describes their important role in social welfare policies, the Disease Fund is naturally interested in access for the handicapped, for example.

Chapter 9, 10, 11

- Skipped

Chapter 12

The enterprises are like little Republics, interconnected to each other. They are capable of managing many conflicts, to organize the police and the courts. The State could gradually be resorbed by society, and in any case, if does not own anything. It rents. The state can be asked to start new initiatives for which no new clients have been found yet. It could have a number of remaining central tasks such as education. The state would be totally transparent. The most powerful department, that of Finance, has the taxpayers as owners. For other dept.'s, who spend the money, it is the beneficiaries who are considered the clients. The state would be the ultimate arbiter in case of conflicts, in which a minority does not accept the majority decision. There could be 2 police forces, a local one with multiple owners (local tribunals, etc.. ); and a national one, belonging to the Ministry of the Interior.

Chapter 13: Que Faire ?

How can this system be implemented, that is the question of this chapter. DP first reviews the critics of utopia. The liberal utopia of 'laisser faire, laisser tomber', is a self-evident metaphor that points to collapse. By why could Marx not see that the new had to be envisaged, not just the old destroyed ? He thought that once in power, the future would reveal itself. He notes that for Marx, 'the dictatorship of the proletariat' in fact meant the universal suffrage, and that a progressive tax would bring down capitalism.

He then tackles Popper's advocacy of piecemeal reform, but thinks that within the context of private property , that is an illusion. After 30 years of anti-reform, it is hard to still believe in that story. How then to effectuate change ? Not by a violent revolution, which only creates new problems. But by the creation of a special kind of fund.

Chapter 14 - Le demo-domaine; la Chambre des Importations

This is a new type of 'Foundation': what has to happen is that, first, a group of revolutionaries has to put their savings together to create an entity, of which they are the clients, which will start renting and buying necessities. Since it can only cover a small amount of process, it will create a 'Chamber of Imports' that regulates the relations with the outside.

The exports will fund the imports. The Chamber of Imports has physical members, the revolutionaries, and 'moral' members, the internal enterprises, both unable to furnish themselves 'from within'. Internal enterprises can recruit outside members through a 'Recruitment Office', of which they are members. These external workers, not members of the Foundation, can nevertheless be represented through the Recruitment Office. Internal members who work outside, belong to a Placement Office. All these offices are run according to the lib-com principles, by clients and workers.

At the beginning of the transition process, when imports/exports are much higher than internal production, the Chambre will be the most important institution, but also, democratically run. The Foundation will receive gifts, and conduct business, but cannot undertake loans or give away. Their members are asked to abstain from private accumulation, but can provide for their old age and the children, if the Foundation cannot do it for them. The children are free to leave and make a life outside if they wish so, but receive an excellent education. The members who work outside give their salaries to the Placement Bureau. A flexible amount of inequality is permitted to allow their insertion in their social milieu: it's only from accumulation they must refrain. They are represented as clients in the Import Chambre according to their expenses (which includes external taxes and internal gifts).

The Foundation needs money and will only really take off when it has real estate that can be rented by its members. It can participate in any outside ventures. Pelbois suggest the creation of a Party, of which Foundation members could be elected representatives, but could not lead.

Pelbois insists on the difference between the Foundation, and previous utopian project, which had to isolate themselves. The Foundation is entirely open, and integrated in the outside economy. At first mostly directed by the Chamber of Imports, this institution gradually decentralizes as internal companies are created. The bigger is becomes, the more decentralized it will be.


In French:

"Avec ce titre pour le moins surprenant, Dominique Pelbois nous livre ici un texte d’une richesse extraordinaire au moment où la crise financière apparaît comme étant celle de notre système économique tout entier, crise qui pose avec acuité la question de l’après-capitalisme. S’inspirant, entre autres, de diverses citations de Karl Marx, celui-ci décrit et propose une société d’appropriation collective du capital qui évite un centralisme étouffant toute initiative, d’où cette mention du qualificatif « libéral » apposé à celui de « communisme ».

Selon cet auteur, une des clés de l’appropriation privée du capital réside dans son chiffrage en tant que stock (notamment dans les bilans de société). Il y oppose donc une restauration de la valeur d’usage au détriment de la valeur d’échange : ce qui nous importe n’est pas de posséder un logement, une machine de production ou encore du savoir-faire mais d’en disposer, d’en jouir. N’est-il pas plus important pour une société d’avoir la certitude que tout le monde soit correctement logé plutôt que de promouvoir l’accession à la propriété ? N’est-il pas fondamental que nous puissions, en tant que particulier ou entreprise, avoir la garantie d’accéder à des services plutôt que d’être propriétaire d’objets dont la seule finalité est leur usage et non leur possession en tant que telle ?

C’est ainsi que le « communisme libéral » prône l’impossibilité pour une entreprise qui fabrique un bien de longue durée d’utilisation de le vendre : elle ne pourra que le mettre à disposition, le louer. Ainsi, une entreprise utilisant une machine de production n’achètera plus celle-ci mais la louera à son fabricant. Cette pratique comporte plusieurs avantages. Le premier serait de résoudre les questions de financement et d’endettement des agents économiques : il n’y aurait plus besoin de contracter des emprunts bancaires puisque les biens ne sont plus cessibles mais mis à disposition sous contrat de location. Nous reviendrons sur cette question. Un autre est d’établir un lien permanent qui relie les clients aux entreprises. Dans nos économies capitalistes, les biens de longue durée d’utilisation ne sont achetés qu’épisodiquement, à quelques années d’intervalle. En louant ceux-ci, le client entretient une relation commerciale permanente avec son fournisseur, ce qui, comme nous allons le voir, a une implication en terme de « projet de démocratie économique » (sous-titre de ce livre).

Dominique Pelbois revient sur ce qui devrait logiquement justifier la production. Alors qu’en régime capitaliste, la production ne trouve sa source que dans la mise en valeur du capital, celle-ci devrait, au contraire, n’être justifiée que par la valeur d’usage que les individus en retirent. C’est ainsi que l’auteur estime que les entreprises vendant aux ménages devraient être prioritairement dirigées par les clients de celle-ci et secondairement par ses travailleurs (sur la base d’une clé de répartition qui reste d’ailleurs discutable). Comme les clients de l’entreprise entretiennent une relation permanente avec l’entreprise (sous forme d’achats de produits de courte durée d’utilisation, de locations de produits de longue durée d’utilisation ou encore d’abonnements à des services), il est possible de les identifier et mieux, ceux-ci ont tout intérêt à participer à la vie de l’entreprise afin d’obtenir le meilleur service possible.

Il généralise ensuite cette logique sur l’ensemble de la chaîne de production : toute entreprise est co-dirigée par ses clients et ses travailleurs, ce qui signifie que chaque entreprise contrôle ses fournisseurs et est donc en mesure de faire valoir ses besoins. Ainsi par exemple, les clients d’un magasin d’alimentation vont pouvoir exiger que les produits soient de bonne qualité, qu’ils ne contiennent pas de composants chimiques altérant la santé et plus généralement, qu’il y ait une bonne information les concernant. Cette exigence sera donc prise en compte par la direction élue de l’établissement qui aura alors un pouvoir sur les fournisseurs de ce magasin (en tant qu’électeur-clients), ce qui leur permettra d’obtenir de façon effective les produits demandés par les consommateurs. De même, ces fournisseurs qui peuvent être des exploitations agricoles ou des industries agro-alimentaires auront ainsi les moyens d’obtenir des outils de bonne qualité et surtout des intrants conformes aux desiderata des consommateurs finaux. On obtient ainsi ce que Dominique Pelbois appelle une « planification spontanée » qui rompt fondamentalement avec les expériences de socialisme étatique que nous avons pu connaître par le passé. L’origine de cette planification est alors le besoin, la valeur d’usage définie par les individus eux-mêmes et non plus par une administration centralisée qui doit recourir à de nombreuses enquêtes auprès des consommateurs pour deviner leurs besoins à venir (ce qui correspond d’ailleurs aux pratiques marketing des entreprises capitalistes). Nous avons là la source d’une relocalisation effective de l’économie, grâce à des pratiques de proximité qui ne sont pas sans nous rappeler les derniers développements de l’économie sociale et solidaire (notamment les AMAP, les différents magasins de commerce équitable et/ou d’agriculture biologique et au-delà des formes juridiques utilisées, le mode de dialogue et d’échange entre ses différents partenaires).

Par un tel système, Dominique Pelbois estime à juste titre que ces assemblées générales d’entreprises sont alors en mesure d’absorber et d’intégrer le marché. Le rôle de l’entreprise n’est alors plus de conquérir des marchés pour valoriser le capital investi mais de répondre aux besoins des individus, besoins qui s’expriment dans les assemblées générales et mis en œuvre par une direction élue par les clients et travailleurs de l’entreprise. De ce fait, les entreprises ne cherchent plus à se concurrencer. Il ne sert plus à rien de « gagner des parts de marché » et les entreprises d’une même activité sont alors amenées naturellement à coopérer entre elles, à échanger des informations et des savoir-faire afin de toujours mieux servir les usagers. On peut donc raisonnablement imaginer que les campagnes incessantes et parasitaires de publicité que nous subissons actuellement disparaîtront avec cette nouvelle organisation économique. Ce livre entrevoit ainsi l’hypothèse d’une société dans laquelle les entreprises deviendront de véritables services publics.

On peut néanmoins s’interroger sur la façon d’aborder la question du financement. Ce n’est pas parce que l’entreprise ne peut plus vendre un bien destiné à une utilisation de longue durée que nous aurions résolu la question du capital. Celui-ci reste un stock et nécessite une production, un travail effectué en vue d’une utilisation future. En décidant que les entreprises ne peuvent plus vendre ces biens mais seulement les louer, on ne fait que déplacer le problème : la propriété du capital se loge tout simplement à un niveau supérieur : celui de la production. Même s’il n’y a plus réellement de propriété définie de l’entreprise, celle-ci reste contrôlée par ses clients et ses travailleurs. Les clients peuvent effectivement accepter de payer plus chers les services pour réaliser de nouveaux investissements, mais on peut raisonnablement estimer qu’ils le feront pour eux et non pour de nouveaux venus. Prenons l’exemple d’une entreprise de construction immobilière qui devient donc aussi une régie immobilière louant ses biens. Étant dirigée par ses clients et travailleurs, quel est son intérêt à augmenter le parc de logement ? Ne sera-t-elle pas plutôt encline à louer à bas prix et à améliorer l’habitat utilisé et existant que d’augmenter les loyers pour financer la construction de nouveaux logements ?

Dominique Pelbois argumente que le « communisme libéral » ne peut s’épanouir que dans une société dans laquelle l’accumulation de capital a déjà été réalisée, ce qui constitue un propos assez raisonnable (et qui correspond à une vision marxienne de l’évolution de la société). Il n’en reste pas moins vrai que cela laisse entière la question de la poursuite des investissements. Dans le même ordre d’idée, ces entreprises sont dirigées par les clients et les travailleurs de celles-ci au prorata de leurs flux d’achats et de salaires, ce qui permet de dépasser d’une façon très novatrice les formes coopératives d’entreprise : il n’en reste pas moins vrai que la part coopérative reste un véhicule pratique d’investissement. Il est d’ailleurs surprenant de voir que Dominique Pelbois ne fait que très peu référence à l’histoire du mouvement coopératif et de ses impasses et dérives qui s’expliquent souvent pour ces mêmes raisons : la collectivisation du capital réalisée dans les coopératives reste privée à ses seuls membres. Même si l’adhésion à une coopérative reste ouverte, les membres présents n’ont pas forcément intérêt à investir pour un futur qui leur échappe et parfois se protègent en renouant avec des formes capitalistes de gestion de l’investissement (création de filiales, ouverture à des capitaux extérieurs cherchant rémunération, etc…). Cette absence de prise en compte de la contrainte de l’investissement explique que la transition envisagée par l’auteur (son projet de démo-domaine) est étonnamment similaire, quoique plus radicale dans son engagement, à celle du mouvement coopératif, c’est-à-dire une transition pacifique et progressive de la société vers le « communisme libéral » ou la coopération.

Cette objection n’est cependant pas rédhibitoire quant à l’intérêt principal de ce livre : la construction d’une « planification spontanée » qui abolit de facto le marché. Il nous faut simplement envisager l’appropriation collective de la totalité du secteur bancaire et financier capable de répondre (par création monétaire et épargne d’espèces monétaires privée et/ou publique alimentée par l’impôt) au financement des immobilisations et à l’amorçage de nouvelles entreprises. Malgré cette divergence fondamentale, il n’en reste pas moins vrai que, dans le contexte de la crise économique majeure de notre système capitaliste, la perspective d’une économie fondée sur la demande et non sur l’offre, la possibilité d’un dépassement du marché par une « planification spontanée » et décentralisée sont des enjeux politiques majeurs. Il est d’ailleurs fort intéressant de constater que sa solution est fondée sur une alliance des producteurs et des consommateurs, alliance qui est un des traits caractéristiques du mouvement altermondialiste et des combats actuels pour la défense et l’extension des services publics.

La lecture de ce livre, au demeurant particulièrement agréable et riche en références bibliographiques et en exemples concrets de ce que pourrait bien être cette société future, est aujourd’hui indispensable. Un grand merci à son auteur qui contribue ainsi de façon très innovante au dépassement du capitalisme et à la réalisation d’une société réconciliée avec elle-même et la nature."



Tere Vadén and Juha Suoranta:

This is a discussion concerning an alternative meaning of the term, developed by Slavoj Zizek:

"Again, Zizek (2006b) has his finger on the pulse when he discusses a new form of business in which 'no one has to be vile'.

One step removed from the utopia of cybercommunism, Zizek calls this new ideal 'liberal communism', and these are its rules:

1. You shall give everything away free (free access, no copyright); just charge for the additional services, which will make you rich.

2. You shall change the world, not just sell things.

3. You shall be sharing, aware of social responsibility.

4. You shall be creative: focus on design, new technologies and science.

5. You shall tell all: have no secrets, endorse and practise the cult of transparency and the free flow of information; all humanity should collaborate and interact.

6. You shall not work: have no fixed 9 to 5 job, but engage in smart, dynamic, flexible communication.

7. You shall return to school: engage in permanent education.

8. You shall act as an enzyme: work not only for the market, but trigger new forms of social collaboration.

9. You shall die poor: return your wealth to those who need it, since you have more than you can ever spend.

10. You shall be the state: companies should be in partnership with the state. (Zizek, 2006b, citing 0. Malnuit in the French magazine Technikart)

This is all well and good as far as it goes. But like many other forms in which the first economy simulates or appropriates features of the second, liberal communism conveniently forgets the essential structural conditions of its own existence. For Bill Gates to give away huge sums of his fortune in charity, he had first to collect it by ruthless monopolistic practises. More generally.

Developed countries are constantly 'helping' undeveloped ones (with aid, credits etc.), and so avoiding the key issue: their complicity in and responsibility for the miserable situation of the Third World. ... [O]utsourcing is the key notion. You export the (necessary) dark side of production — disciplined, hierarchical labour, ecological pollution — to 'nonsmart' Third World locations (or invisible ones in the First World). (Zizek 2006b)


As Zizek (2006b) points out, liberal communism can work only by masking the structural violence on which its outsourced practices are based. Against this, he insists on a true universalism that overcomes all local (ethnic, national, gendered, etc.) identities. The local identities are not, for Zizek, a force against global capitahsm, as it is only too happy to manipulate, create and commodify such identities. However, we might ask whether the Utopia of cybercommunism itself does not contain a quantity of structural violence — a violence that is familiar from earlier stages of cultural change."