The late Leszek Kolakowski is missed. In 1985 he wrote a review of David Miller’s book, Anarchism for the TLS. Not only is it worthwhile reading for his views on anarchism: “a puerile utopia,” it is also instructive for what he had to say on Marxism: “Anarchists… are strongest when they criticize Marxism as an infallible prescription for despotism.” However what struck me as particularly insightful were his comments on the market economy. I copy them below.
One cannot perhaps suppress the market entirely, it persists even in a concentration camp – which probably comes closest to what an ideal non-market economy would be in modem society. One can suppress it, however, to such an extent as to destroy all the sources of information which only the market can provide, to stifle the possibilities of innovation, to make the entire production system highly inefficient .and to organize a police state which is the sole owner of all wealth, of people, of the information and communication instruments and of human souls as well. It is remarkable that all economic reforms in communist countries, to the extent that they yield any results at all, go invariably in the same direction: towards a partial restoration of the market, that is of “capitalism.” Meanwhile, in the countries with mixed economies, if something goes wrong in nationalized industries or services, it is caused, according to.the standard Marxist explanation, by the fact that not everything is yet nationalized. If the education system is not satisfactory, this is because there are still private schools in existence; if the public health-service does not work properly, this is because private medical practice is still permissible, etc. And so the only way to. progress consists in forbidding people to engage in any socially useful activity unless they are ordered to do so by the state; the universal medicine for all social ills is more police, more bureaucracy, more control, more soles, more interdictions.
Source: Leszek Kolakowski, “For Brotherhood Or For Destruction,” Times Literary Supplement, January 4, 1985.
Hat Tip: Paul Bogdanor.