| What, then, is the difference between “market socialism” and capitalist private enterprise ? As far as can be judged from certain “models of market socialism,” the difference lies in the fact fact that enterprises belong not to private owners but to society through self-governing collectives of enterprises as independently operating subjects. Naturally, there are many variations of this “model,” but they are all basically the same : it is something in the nature of corporative or guild socialism, a reminiscence of anarchistic and syndicalistic ideas that were condemned in fierce debates when Lenin was still alive.
Essentially, it is the latent or manifest assumption of the theory of “market socialism” that intrabranch competition and orientation toward the market automatically lead society to progress in production without the aid of centralized decisions.
Western commentators tend to confuse such concepts as “attention to the consumer” and “orientation toward the market.” Outwardly they appear to be similar, but in actual fact there are enormous differences between them. Attention to the consumer is a task which entirely corresponds to the economic interests of people under socialism. It is not by chance that today, at a time when a powerful production apparatus has been created, more attention is focused on the production of consumer goods. In 1968, 1969, and 1970, the growth rates of consumer goods production began surpassing the rate of production of the means of production. At the same time, the share of output of Department I remains dominant in the structure of the gross social product.
But we have a completely different attitude toward the principle of “orientation toward the market,” which is written on the banner of champions of “market socialism.” This is not so much a question of the satisfaction of and the continuous increase in the population’s needs as of somehow “facilitating” the conscious management of social production. To this end, it is proposed that reliance be placed on spontaneous market relations and collisions and that success be judged according to the degree of profitability of production and the volume of sales of any goods and services, which means following habitual, frequently perverted tastes inculcated by the petty bourgeois way of life.
Such “orientation” requires nothing more than the study of current demand or, more accurately, obsequiousness to the more profitable directions of such demand. Centralized plans (except for discussion of “indicative” programs) are unnecessary and are therefore rejected. Nor is there any need for an apparatus to actively influence the volume and structure of consumption by means of scientific forecasting, industrial research, and introduction of the sale of totally new goods and services promoting the ever more complete and all-around development of man’s capacities.
Orientation toward the market is a manifestation of the fear of failing to cope with the truly serious problem of planning production on a bilateral basis : to take resources into account, to make optimal use of them, and to master the achievements of the revolution in science and technology on the one hand, and to consider consumer demand and satisfy it maximally on the other.
Socialism is a society of creators. In a twofold process, the forces of nature are mastered to an ever-increasing extent, and the human mind is more and more restructured, man’s alienation from society is eliminated, and his capacities are developed in every way.
Orientation toward the market is the “socialism” of skeptics, of those who lack a deep belief in the creative strength of the working people. […] And this is precisely the orientation that is persistently propagandized by people attempting to undermine socialism from within.