Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Cheezy the Wiz, Nov 7, 2010.
apologies for question with badly hidden intent to start a "which is better" discussion
We have to decide which route we want to talk about when we discuss the development of a communist or socialist society then. What you prescribe is pure theory. It is egalitarian. It is ideal. It is utopia.. Not only is it utopia, but it is your personalized definition of utopia. A world where everyone comes together through enlightment and simply gives up the current system. I do not know many socialists or communists that hold these idealistic viewpoints. If socialists and communists cannot get it together as a unified whole, then how are you going to reach out to a solid portion of the population who are antagonistic of your view?
What level of reality can be applied to these notions? Wouldnt this process have cathartically carried itself out somewhere in the world already? Wouldnt socialists, or collectives, or communes have already proven their inherent superiority over the capitalist model and persuaded people to this way of life via the invisible hand? I disagree about the way you place certain preconditions to the proper development of communism, and simply wave your hand at antecedent history as the source of failure of communism and socialism in other nations throughout history quid pro quo. There is no justification in saying that only certain types of societies are capable of becoming mature communist/socialist nations. In my view, if any society is capable of arriving at a communist conclusion, then all societies are capable of arriving at a communist conclusion, whether they be modern industrialized liberal capitalist nations, agrarian nations, or nomadic tribes. Hand picking which societies are and which are not capable, and looking at history and pointing out why some arent, vastly under-estimates why those nations werent successful and the reasons they were de facto dictatorships. It also ignores the dynamics of society in general, and ponders the question why more egalitarian models have really never existed on this planet at any given time slice in history.
How do you not end up with a de facto dictatorship or an authoritarian scheme when the utopian view you hold only applies to you? It doesnt apply to me. I dont like it. It is unappealing to me. Pragmatically I believe it is detrimental to society, and that it would result in a lower quality of life (extrapolated to its finite end, I end up with 30% less than what I have now, and the person at Chipotle who couldnt make my burrito without breaking its shell receives the same fruit, and also has no motivation to make a proper burrito!). Your response to this was that I should simply get over it and deal with my fruit and bursting burrito. But what if I dont? What if I cannot tolerate, or morally justify the reduction in my income when it compares to my contribution to society while the grown adult at the Chipotle Communist Burrito Paradise cannot even produce an edible burrito for me? And what happens when 40% of the population feels like me? Not everyone, no matter how hard you may want to believe it, is going to have the same values regarding economy and society as you. Even those who are economically marginalized. (It reads like a blithe Bill Maher question of, Why do so many poor people vote Republican! When it would be in their self-interest to have all kinds of stuff provided for them through socialization!) People have different values, and its been proven that we are hardwired towards certain political beliefs through scientific study. Of course, this partially explains the wide divergence in economic systems and forms of government throughout the planet. You will never get rid of this divergence within society, even in small, homogenous societies like Denmark. Particularly when you consider that all of our positions are rooted in self-interest which will always clash.
They can, but that depends on what their immediate self-interests are. The child will only be selfless if it happens to suit their current self-interest. If you give a small girl an ice cream cone, and deprive her brother, he will whine and pout habitually. Sibling rivalry is a scientific point of fact. It is natural. The sister will gloat that she received the ice cream cone, the brother pouts. Take the same male child, and give him an ice cream cone but deprive his best friend, and he will be more apt to share with his best friend who he views as more of an equal, and certainly will not gloat. Stick his sister into the scenario and he will retaliate and gloat about the delicious resource that he has and she lacks.
Children, like any adult, will only be selfless when it suits their self interests. Adults will only behave like this when they perceive that the reward of being selfless outweighs the material gain of holding onto any given possession or supply of money. And these definitions vary widely, and are completely subjective person to person.
You go on to state, children are raised and taught by their parents, their teachers, television, other adults and parents, and authority figures in society. Then, with firmness you say, they are a product of their environment.
If you examine our current society, conclude (like me) that children are a product of their parents, then at what point do you conclude that your utopian vision can be accomplished without authoritarian measures through an entirely organic process? Particularly when you admit that authority figures and appendages of authority figures shape a childs environment!? What is to change the course of entertainment? Are teachers anything other than a digit of the government? Doesnt this require authoritarian government policy to socially engineer children? And that is specifically what Marx was talking about. Give him (Marx) seven years of teaching children and he could alter society forever. This is the de facto dictatorship that is required to achieve this kind of society. It is simply impossible to think that entertainment and parents will alter their perceptions or goals and create an egalitarian world without a hand pushing them towards this state. We have spent decades trying to reconstitute issues associated with poverty in the world with no success. In fact, we could very well be looking at the complete implosion of the socio-economic morality weve artificially bolstered for decades because of our actions. What is to change this? On what level do you reasonably presume that the vilest of human greed, corruption, nepotism, and cronyism will just go away on its own without an aggressive inherently authoritarian doctrine being instituted? How on earth are the Goldman Sachs executives of the world going to see the light? And how are they not going to pass their traits onto their children? Generations are like linked chains. What you say expresses an explicit need to cut the chain. And you cant cut the chain without applying an external force.
And yes, there is human nature. Anybody who argues otherwise doesnt understand the science behind psychology or biology for that matter.
No, I think it is possible. But I think it would be fragmented and will never be universal. In a sense I believe it would simply be reshuffling of the deck at some level. In my opinion your analysis falls far short of ever achieving your stated goal. The largest problem, which Traitorfish was discussing, is the ruling aristocracy or oligarchy that already exists and generally justifies its position across the entire breadth of global society. How do you address this very real problem with your outlook considering that in order for communism and socialism to really get moving, that they require the pre-existing capital held by the top 1% class that you view as inherently antagonistic to society and your goals? Secondly, I believe that many current workers would be justified in pursuing a path you forward. Which is fine. But you ignore the realities and detriments that would occur after achieving their goal of sharing in the fruits of their labor. You see them uniting as workers. But once they start sharing in the fruits of their labor the same imbalances will rear their ugly head due to the inherent inequality of people, and the criticisms I have already discussed will come to a point. People will be jealous, people will be envious, people will resent their hard work being passed off to people who are exploiting the egalitarian model that has been established. Today we have hard working people in laborious jobs who feel they are not being compensated enough and stolen from. As soon as everyone is equal the shoe will be on the other foot in a sense. They will feel they are not being compensated enough in reference to their peers because they work so much harder than everybody else. Instead of being stolen from by the capitalist or rent seeker, they will feel that those not working their fair share will be doing the stealing. In the end, this model will not end up out-competing the capitalist model, which is far more streamlined, and far more efficient at meeting the demands of the marketplace.
I follow the Cheezy mode of socialization. I believe this is what Marx advocated. Marx never dealt, (and I dont think that he wanted to deal with), the impossible and infinite complexities of an egalitarian society that he prescribed. These complexities are really only glossed over by his critics and a few other New-Hegelians. I believe that Marxs predictions do not matter, as almost everything he said would happen hasnt. And those that havent probably wont.
Isnt the definition of a market people deciding for themselves what they need, and how to meet those needs?
First, I believe you have to justify this statement. Second, no nation operates under a pure capitalist model. Third, your two paragraphs combined simply result in a garbled mess that cannot be adequately summed up by simply saying that people must decide for themselves what they need and how to meet that need. Supplanting this upon an egalitarian society becomes a complex gigantic rubberband ball of interweaving intricacies that cannot be dealt with justly without an overarching bureaucracy. What happens when one factory believes that the workers in another factory are living ostentatiously and that they really dont need some of the material objects that they have? What happens when I decide that I need some papaya, but my comrades decry that I really dont need it because it is an expensive luxury? How do you replace the capitalist marketplace without being authoritarian about it? Or am I just supposed to get over not having my papaya that I could otherwise have in a capitalist system?
We also revert back to the screw them, capitalists. Which I readily admit, do exist, and hamper society as we know it. But how do you make them and their infectious mentality go away? How do you alter their input on their children (think of a few verbose, young, well to do, members of this community for instance). How do you think youll change the current status quo of the ruling aristocracy? Furthermore, why do you think that there wont be people in a socialist/communist model saying, screw them.? Particularly when there have been a large number of communist/socialist nations that have openly said, screw them!
1. What moral justification is there for their (the inequalities) existence in this transition period?
2. Why do the inequalities exist in the first place?
3. What makes their existence inherently immoral?
For instance, I know full well that I am not exerting my full potential in my career, despite the road of success I happen to be on (PhD student, federal employee). I have reached a happy point, with happy goals. My father and my mother are the same way. They could achieve more, they could take on greater roles, but choose not to because they are content. Most of my friends are the same way. Who are we to begrudge a group of people within our society who do work to their full potential and end up raking in lots of money? Who are we to begrudge them to the point where we somehow arrive at the conclusion that we are actually equal when it comes to our labor and importance/impact on society? Again, how do you gage a persons skills, or a persons effort? How do you avoid people taking advantage of your system when it is plainly evident that the vast majority of people have no desire to work their guts out? And isnt socialism and communism supposed to deter people from working their guts out anyway? Doesnt Marx profess that the road of communism is a road of comfort, with easier labor at less hours per day? Isnt it supposed to lead to an easier life as a whole? Doesnt this necessarily imply that if everyone centers around the socialist group think that the people who are the most productive in society will no longer exert the same level of effort? And what makes you think others will pull up the slack given that they are now just as equal as those who were once working their guts out?
Why do the workers get to decide what is reasonable? And how is that not authoritarian? What happens when what the workers decide to be reasonable completely bends the work versus reward paradigm and engineers and doctors unilaterally decide that the work involved in being an engineer or a doctor isnt worth the reward granted to them by the less skilled, less educated workers? Do you believe this is possible? Is this not a looming negative impact with your model? Dont invisible hand markets already take this into account, and dont they exist for very valid reasons? I can never envision a society that is truly equal across the breadth of society where people willingly choose to endeavor into these fields at a rate that satisfies societal demand when much easier mutually exclusive alternatives to labor exist, unless society affords these professions additional economic benefits (which, at that point, dont we defeat the purpose of implementing the social/communist model anyway). Life, forever and always, with every human being, is about work versus reward. It revolves around every decision we make. All human beings will always favor reward over work. And the only people who will pursue these careers will be people who find real, selfish enjoyment, in performing this line of work. People who love and are fascinated by physiology and medicine will become doctors. People fascinated with math, physics, and mechanics will become engineers. If the economic impulse is removed then many people who currently pursue these labor intensive, but reward heavy jobs, will not pursue these fields because they will never view the work as being worth the reward. In short, you will never be able to fulfill the real demand that society requires.
if you are a doctor for the money you probably shouldnt be a doctor.
Is that some kind of socialist ethics?
no, common sense.
I don't know what you're referring to.
Marx was of the opinion that material circumstances, rather than utopian schemes, are what lead to socialism. Take his comments in The Civil War in France, about how the Proudhonists and Blanquists who participated in the Paris Commune were forced to abandon their programs almost immediately, instead bending to the demands of material circumstances and to the democratic will of the proletariat. "Events have their own logic, even when human beings do not", as Luxumburg had it.
From the perspective of a worker, perhaps, but workers are an essentially secondary category within capitalism. The market primarily acts as the field in which capitalists compete and accumulate, within the intent of increasing their share of capital; if they fulfil peoples needs in the process, then it's all well and good- and they are usually compelled to at least give the impression of meeting needs to sell commodities- but there are no assurances that this will occur in a rational or efficient fashion.
You are unaware of the existence of the Third World? Or the historical impoverishment of the majority in the First World?
Capitalism, in the proper sense, refers to a system of generalised commodity production. It does not demand the existence of a "free market", which is what I assume you are referring to.
I think you take my comments about "democratic distribution" to rather absurd ends. I'm not suggesting that every ounce of material consumed must be assigned by some comprehensive parliamentary structure, merely that production goals are determined by different workplaces and communities communicating in rational fashion, rather than being clumsily inferred from the shifting chaos of the market. It doesn't mean that consumption won't involve individual choices, or that production will pay no reference to consumption; the point, after all, is to produce for individual needs, which are by definition varied and subjective.
In an age of increasing computerisation, this is a goal which is becoming more realistic than ever, as, I would suggest, the increasing absorption of complex production processes into single corporate entities demonstrates. The part of a manufacturing plant that makes, say, the casing of a computer monitor doesn't need to sell it on to the part that installs the electronics, they simply follow a predetermined plan of production in which it is passed on as a matter of course. What's to say that you couldn't extent that across all of society?
If you want a better idea of what a society might look like, do some reading into ParEcon; I don't agree with everything in there, but it's probably the best hypothetical model of a collectivist society taking into account the form of modern production, and will at least give you some idea of what we're talking about.
I don't believe that the mentality to which you refer is, in fact, "infectious", but is a product of material and idealogical circumstances. Capitalism is a system, at its heart, which demands people screw each other; is it any surprise, then, that we should see a lot of people under capitalism trying to screw each other over? Socialism, in contrast, is a system which demands people work together, so would it surprise you if that attitude, instead, came to predominate?
Which is not to say that I adopt a utopian view that people will reform overnight, or that everyone under socialism will be a perfect little saint, simply that I do not view this is a crippling gear-in-the-works. It's something that's to be dealt with as and when it comes up, by any given community, not something that I, sitting here today, need to come up with sweeping measures to contend with; that would be truly utopian.
1. Some people put more in, they get more out; in a society which has not yet developed a fully communist system of production ("from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs", and nothing else) that's simply the natural way to arrange things.
2. What do you mean by this?
3. Who said that they did? Nobody outside of a few religious sects has ever imagined that communism entails literal material equality.
I don't quite understand what you're asking here; you're asking why we should "begrudge" those who work harder or better than others? Did I suggest that they should?
And as for your question about gauging a persons skills or effort, then, again, I will have to answer "democracy". That is, after all, the entire point of socialism.
Well, first I would remind you that this is "Ask a Red", not "Argue With a Red", so I hope you'll forgive me if I merely lay out the Marxist perspective on this issue, rather than trying to contest you blow for blow.
Marx argued that the "work versus reward paradigm", as you put it, is not a universal factor of the human experience, but something which exists within the terms of certain relations of production, and only becomes the universal paradigm which you suggest when those relations become universalised, which is to say, in a system of generalised commodity production. The sale of the labour power of the work alienates the worker from his actual labour, in that it no longer becomes a process by which use-values are created, but a way through which he obtains money with which he will obtain use-values that he has no hand in creating, and the creation of which is an abstraction to him. (Marx, in his notes, puts this as "In fact of course, this 'productive' worker cares as much about the crap he has to make as does the capitalist himself who employs him, and who also couldn't give a damn for the junk.") We will not put X into one slot to get Y out of another, but do X because X is a useful and therefore satisfying thing to do. Communism, as such, while reunite the worker with his work, and in doing so will oblige him to reconstitute his entire ideological conception of what it means to work, dissolving the false opposition of "work" and "reward".
One could even suggest that you see very rough illustrations of that within capitalism, such as, to take a convenient example, the modding community on this very board, where people work under their own direction for no money at all, simply because they enjoy the work, and the distribute it to others for free, because it is of use to them, and because they know that by doing so they help sustain a gift economy that means others will do the same. (That's hard, CivFanatics, you heard me: you're all filthy communists! )
And, because you leave me with pessimism, I shall retort with optimism.
Link to video.
Roch the wind in the clear day's dawin
Blaws the cloods heilster-gowdie owre the bay
But there's mair nor a roch wind blawin
Thro the Great Glen o the warld the day
It's a thocht that wad gar oor rottans
Aa thae rogues that gang gallus fresh an gay
Tak the road an seek ither loanins
Wi thair ill-ploys tae sport an play
Nae mair will our bonnie callants
Merch tae war when oor braggarts crousely craw
Nor wee weans frae pitheid an clachan
Mourn the ships sailin doun the Broomielaw
Broken faimlies in lands we've hairriet
Will curse 'Scotlan the Brave' nae mair, nae mair
Black an white ane-til-ither mairriet
Mak the vile barracks o thair maisters bare
Sae come aa ye at hame wi freedom
Never heed whit the houdies croak for Doom
In yer hoos aa the bairns o Adam
Will find breid, barley-bree an paintit rooms
When Maclean meets wi's friens in Springburn
Aa thae roses an geans will turn tae blume
An the black lad frae yont Nyanga
Dings the fell gallows o the burghers doun
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Moderator Action: The discussion of this thread being a red diamond moved to the appropriate thread. Use this thread to ask reds, not sicuss this thread.
There is no such magical entity as a "community", or "society". There are only groups of people: an individual is a group of one, and the "society" is the group of everyone. Equally, there is no such thing as a "collective self-interest of the workers". There is only a set of separate interests of each individual worker. These interests sometimes overlap, giving the illusion of a single, collective will, but it is by no means guaranteed to be a consensus.
The difference between the group of everyone and the "society" in the Marxist usage, is that you cannot expect everyone to participate in "regulat[ing] the general production", because different people want different things. As long as this difference exists, it is tremendously difficult to get everyone agreeing on anything - think about what kind of debates it would involve to decide which cars to make, or what kind of power plants to build, or who to have a holiday in Cyprus, or who to clean the toilet. The number of decisions you can make in a given day is inversely proportional to the size of the group. It is not practical to run a referendum for every day-to-day issue.
In other words, the basic goal of communism - socialisation of production - simply cannot be done in its literal sense.
What can be done is to delegate control to a (much) smaller group of people, who will have the power to arbitrate in case of disagreement. When you say "socialising", you don't mean transferring control of capital from capitalists to everyone. You mean transferring control to some other group who would supposedly represent the people. But what makes a capitalist a capitalist? By owning capital. So when you give all capital to the Vanguard Party, the Party stops being representatives of the people, and becomes the new capitalist class instead. Marxism began by assuming communists "have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole". It is precisely this confusion between the people and the elites that made communism fatally vulnerable to the rise of totalitarianism.
Of course, delegation can work. Liberal democracy makes plenty uses of representatives. But liberal democracy does not assume the representatives have "over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the lines of march". If you ask an average voter, he will likely tell you that his representatives are the daftest people he knows. The "liberal" in liberal democracy originated from the belief that "the individual is sovereign", that "government even in its best state is but a necessary evil". It was because of this mistrust that strenuous restrictions were placed on the representatives to prevent abuse. Most famously, the American Bill of Rights protects freedom of speech, freedom of body, private property, due process, and other rights, by saying "Congress shall make no law" with regard to those rights.
Of these restrictions the protection of private property is the most essential. What good is habeas corpus if you cannot support yourself, when the single group in control of capital does not want you to be employed? How do you exercise freedom of speech, if the same group controls all the media? And what would judges do if their relatives' jobs have been threatened? These are actual ways people's freedom have been abridged in communist states, even if all those rights were formally guaranteed (Václav Havel, in his essay The Power of the Powerless, has some excellent accounts of how this works). Proclaiming you are all for freedom does not by itself protect freedom. Or equality, for that matter. You have to find a way to prevent people from breaking your system, instead of merely hoping that everyone would magically become nice. That is largely a solved problem in liberal democracies. The solution is balance of power, both within the government, and between the government and the people - hence the need for private property. Even if there is only one government, as long as the different branches inside the government do not want to see any single branch growing too strong, the power of the entire government is limited. Same goes with capitalists. As long as the capitalists compete against each other, none of them will be powerful enough to dictate to everyone. And long before any grows too powerful, we'd have the government stepping in with antitrust lawsuits, etc.
Here is the same issue as above. The reason Marx gave for a violent revolution was that as long as the bourgeoisie hold power, they would never willingly give it up - as if they have a single will - so any amount of progressive reforms must be for the purpose of preserving the existed order of things. And given that he predicted capitalism to become increasingly monopolistic, commercial crises to become more frequent and more devastating, preserving that isn't going to help much (notice the flawed reasoning here?). Hence, power must be given to a new, better class in order to create a thoroughly different organisation of society.
But power does not belong to classes. It belongs to groups of people, the latter being amorphous and hard to define or demarcate. Essentially, power is the ability to influence other people to do something they would not do otherwise. When you destroy the class that holds power, this ability to influence is not automatically transferred to the entirety of the other class. Marx incorrectly thought that private property was the cause of power. A bourgeois has more power than a proletarian because the former has control of means of production. If the latter wants to eat, he has to accept whatever work the bourgeois demands him to do, instead of doing the kind of work that he'd like to - a phenomenon Marx called alienation, the cure of which would equalise power. But ownership of private property is far from the only source of power. A father has power over his children because he can punish them. A religious leader has power over his flock because they believe in him. A government regulator has power over a company even if he doesn't own it. An extortionist has power over his victim. More relevant to communists, a person in charge of managing production and distribution has more power than the workers. A person who can influence who is chosen for those managerial roles has the most power. As the need of management did not disappear with private property, these powers were not abolished but given to the Vanguard Party. And you shouldn't be concerned about the lack of restraint on those powers: you have just gotten something "a million times more democratic than the most democratic bourgeois republic"!
The very attempt to be a million times better is the reason it failed. To be thoroughly different, communists had to cut off all connections with the past, be it good or bad. Not by forgetting the past, but by willfully disregarding lessons from it, they doomed themselves into repeating the Middle Ages.
(I wanted to rant about alienation as well, but I lost steam )
I don't feel particularly obliged to respond in detail to an unsolicited polemic in an "Ask A..." thread, but it may be worth clearing up the Marxist conception of society, at least for those less hidebound in their conception of humanity as a pack of Robinson Cruesoes obliged, against their will, to inhabit the same planet.
Marxism, as a materialist theory of society, holds that material conditions dictate the existence of living creatures. As humans are uniquely capable of remaking their material conditions, they are thus uniquely capable of remaking their existence, and so the existence of human beings in any given society is determined by how they produce and reproduce their environment. However, human labour is, in practice, a social affair; every incident of human labour embodies the previously expended labour which enables it, while this labour will itself go on to, at least in part, enable further labours. This means that the form of production and reproduction is a social form, that production is a system of social relations, which in class society are expressed in the dominant property forms of a given social formation. That capitalist social relations mystify this, by throwing up individualising property forms which atomise human beings and alienate them from the social experience of their labour (the source of Alassius' confident Thatcher-paraphrasing), does not make it any less the case.
Communism, therefore, proposes the abolition of property, and with it the demystification of social relations; the re-purposing of production not for exchange on the market, but directly for use. That doesn't mean that all production has to be centrally directed- lord no!- but that all production is conducted in reference to those who enable it, and those who it further enables. A more complex affair to day than in Marx's, no doubt, but if there is one thing that has not only kept pace with but actually surpassed the increasing complexity (and therefore increasingly social form!) of production, it is communicatory and coordinatory technology, as demonstrated by the simple fact that a huge amount of complex production can be coordinated within capitalism, with only a relatively small amount of what is produced ever actually having to be plopped down on a shelf in the hope that somebody turns up to buy it.
If you have any more rants (and you scrape back a few points for admitting as much, I'll give you that), please start a new thread.
Edit: Also, that last little bit about "power" is just odd. I'm really not sure what strawMarx is being referred to; Marx explicitly deals with the distinction between state power and class power in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, among other documents, so the pearls of wisdom offered here would not exactly surprise him. Somehow, I can't help but feel that Alassius learned everything he knows about Marxism from a discussion with some CPGB-ML creep.
This exemplifies what is wrong about Marxism. You guys are superb at throwing a truckload of big words into grammatically correct sentences - but that is the extent of your offer. You don't try very hard to give practical answers. Exactly what does it mean by "demystification of social relations"? How do you implement it? And how does it make everyone's life better? How do you mean by "conducted in reference to those who enable it"? That everyone would have a say? Which was exactly what my post was about. It doesn't have to be centrally directed? Sure. But who directs it? The "society"? In what ways can you organise production, socially or not, without making some people more powerful than others? My post was exactly about why that isn't possible. Your "clearing up" steered clear off explaining how to do it, being merely satisfied with "it should be like that". What the paradise should look like was never a hard question. How to build it was. The lack of understanding of the latter was the reason none has been built.
Your faith in "communicatory and coordinatory technology" is no more than an extension of Marx's faith in mechanisation replacing human labour. That happened in some cases, but our economy still relies on gigantic factories in China that employ, literally, a quarter of a million people each. Same with technology in management. Computers unfortunately do not think. Everything a computer does is because a programmer told it, in more precise terms than laws, what to do. A computer does not have insight. It doesn't understand the semantics or implications of its instructions. In other words, it cannot replace human thinking. You still need humans to make decisions. Which brings us back to the question: who will make these decisions? Does making decisions make them more powerful? Can they abuse that power?
Or, perhaps you could be so kind as to point out where exactly Marx addressed unequal power in the "classless" society? I'm not referring to something he said. I'm referring to the utter lack of consideration of that problem. Regrettably I did not have the honour to meet anyone in CPGB-ML. My knowledge of communism came from a decade of school education in a country where Marxism was still a mandatory part of the curriculum, my own readings, as well as the gracious gentlemen on this board including you. I've yet to see a satisfactory answer. Would you enlighten me?
Well, we do try.
Then allow me to try. I honestly do want to, if only people are willing to actually engage in a sensible and mutually respectful exchange of questions and answers, rather than trying to hijack threads as a platform for their own unfocused anti-Marxist exposition.
Short answer, the dissolution of social relations which generate a mystifying ideological superstructure, i.e. capitalism. A decent treatment of capitalist "mystification" can be found in this video: part 1 part 2
I'm going to ask here, how complex an answer are you wanting to this? It could be anything from a multiple-volume series of books, to the simple word "revolution", depending on the level of detail you're interested in.
"Better" in what sense? Democratising production is an emancipatory goal, and socialising it an egalitarian one, both of which seem fairly clear, so I'm not sure what you're asking beyond this.
Democratically, through councils, delegation, and so forth. If you're asking for a hypothetical model, then the most complete one which I could point you to would be parecon, which, although imperfect (it lacks a properly Marxian understanding of production, for a start), is at least a decent illustration of the sort of thing that we're after.
I don't care. This is "Ask a Red", not "Ask an Alassius". Start a new thread, if that's what you're after.
You don't "build" communism, at least if you're approaching it with anything regarding a coherent understanding of Marxist thought. Stalinists try to, and some of the more dim-witted Trotskyists think that they should be allowed to have a go, but I honestly don't consider myself to be much of a muchness with them. My understanding of revolution is organic, rather than mechanical; a process of social reconstitution in which new social relations are generated, rather than an episode of political reconstitution after which new social relations are constructed.
Maybe? I don't know, I'm not clairvoyant.
(And, I have to ask, in what sense is this a question about communism specifically, rather than the advocacy of human liberty generally?)
I don't believe that he did; utopian blueprints were really not his speciality. The entire basis of historical materialism denies their validity, and he spent most of his time working on either contemporary issues or on fundamental theory to invest a lot of time wrestling with the ins-and-outs of long term social organisation.
In regards to the last three points, you seem to be under the impression that Marxism is another form of bourgeois politics, that what we offer is a program to be carried out within the terms of existing society. It isn't. It's a theory of class struggle and of social revolution; we can identify the mechanics, and try as best we can to help move society towards the ends we would like to see, but we can't draw up some enormous blueprint and set about trying to put it together, piece by piece.
Same thing, in practice. One Stalinoid is much like another.
And I would appreciate it if you could keep the tone of future posts polite and sincere, rather than this stream of snide remarks that you're giving me now. I understand that you have a bit of a chip on your shoulder about this topic (presumably that's the "country where Marxism was part of the curriculum" thing), but you don't need to sour what is supposed to be a space for constructive discussion.
I honestly don't think it's possible to have a constructive discussion about Marxism with people who have no mind for the theoretical. Marxism to me is a theoretical framework (especially for the purposes of critique). In this vein, it may be tempting to put the source of disagreement down to a difference between practically-minded people and ivory tower theorists, but I don't see this as much different from the division between blue-sky research and 'practical' research. Practical-mindedness is often just and excuse for impatience.
Impatience is what it boils down to most of the time, especially when one already has a personal bias against what they believe the theory might or is trying to argue.
This line of thinking comes from the same manner that produces conclusions like "there are no two animals of the same species, since each is genetically unique." Communists don't disavow the existence of the individual, or the uniqueness of people and their motives. What we do is realize that there is something bigger than the individual. Capitalist defendants - I shouldn't even say that, since capitalism doesn't even operate on the basis of a lack of society, it's really just a personal obsession with the self and lack of interest in anything else (narcissism if I ever saw it) - don't.
Great, so how is one person better at deciding what is best for everyone?
Do we really need to go back through this again? Let's pretend that Traitorfish and I just posted a bunch of links to cooperative enterprises, both past and present, I'll remind you of the cooperative (committee-driven) nature of modern corporations, maybe Azale drops in to remind us of the Argentinian anarcho-syndicalist factories. You call us stalinists, scream "it's wrong!" or outright ignore us, and we're back to where we started again.
Gee that was fun.
No we don't. There you go again, projecting onto us a bunch of USSR-copycat M-L nonsense. And you wonder why we get snippy with you.
Which is why such a system is state capitalism, and not socialism. You stifled your own question.
They don't have to be.
And that couldn't possibly be the product of the system.
Um, no? It originated in the belief that the government exists to serve the needs of the people. It's called popular sovereignty.
Or they did it because they thought it best to specifically enumerate it rather than the ad hoc way the British system did things.
For a moment I forgot which one of us was the socialist.
You know, you'll make a brilliant Trot one day.
What is the point of this paragraph?
Not must, but will, because they will refuse to continue tolerating their slavery.
As I said above, I really do tire of your projectionism. No one here has spoken in favor of a Vanguard Party for any industrialized nation. Continued attempts to strawman in this thread will be regarded as trolling and reported as such.
First, that video isn't demystifying anything. That freedom has bounds is not a well-kept secret. It's one of the basic tenets of classical liberals. The video is in fact mystifying social relations: by attacking the limits of capitalist liberty, it implies some kind of greater, truer, freedom is possible, except that it's hidden by some mysterious force. That "true freedom" is the actual myth here: everybody talks about it, nobody has seen it, nobody knows how to find it, and a lot of people who went to seek it never came back. Second, the video isn't decent. It's basically regurgitating Marx's alienation theory: workers are not truly free because they have to feed themselves instead of doing whatever they want to. More importantly, just like Marx, it makes a lot of noise about how bad we have it, but conveniently shied away from suggesting how we can make it better. The last part is what I'm asking.
Is there anything addressing my question, which is how you deal with unequal power, in your multiple volumes? The simple word "revolution" certainly doesn't.
Here we go again. Throwing around big words doesn't mean you can deliver it. It's the part where you try to reach the goal that's hard, not the part where you say what your goal is. How are you supposed to make "democratising" and "socialising" of production happen?
It's imperfect not because it lacks a properly Marxian understanding. It's because it lacks a proper understanding of power, the same deficiency it shares with Marxism. As with many other Wikipedia pages, the "criticisms" section is the most interesting:
This is either a satire, or written by some ivory tower amateur who has no understanding whatsoever of how corruption works in the real world. "[N]ever to handle proposals that pertain to their own region"? All it takes is a few board members agreeing in private to rub each other's back. I'll give your niece an easy and comfort job and you'll give my son a holiday to Cyprus. No currency to bribe with? You don't need currency if you happen to have an empty apartment in the new, luxurious residential block that you oversee, or if you happen to be delivering a truck of Cuban cigars. "[D]isempowering tasks"? I'll put on a show today cleaning toilets for the front page of Pravda. As for other days, can't you see how busy I am serving the people? Surely getting that factory running is more important? "Board meeting would be transparent to the public"? Ha ha ha ha. I promise I would never talk about business outside boardroom! Never! Promise!
So now you are explicitly against Marx's famous dictum "the point however is to change it"? That's fine with me, though I can imagine Marx having a field day with you... But how do you mean by "organic"? Actually letting the people decide what's best for themselves, instead of telling them what their class consciousness is supposed to be? Here's bad news for you: nobody believes in communism any more. If you let people to make their own decisions, they aren't going to start a communist revolution. They have no reason to. The reasons Marx gave for the demise of capitalism no longer applies to our world. See my arguments here.
The blueprint is the only thing that matters. You see, Leninism was not in fact a deviation from Marxism. Leninism was a practical solution of distributing power (albeit not a very merry one). There was hardly anything in Marxism in that aspect to deviate from. Democratic centralism happened because you have to have some ways of making decisions when people don't agree. You can relax and sit back. Fine. The bad guys won't. And they will want centralism. As soon as the next Vladimir Ilyich comes up with better rhetorics than yours about how "only a special central group can be the direct practical leader of the movement", you end up as the Mensheviks. The "organic" way leads to a dictatorship from there. Not having an idea of what they were doing was precisely what the revolutionary pioneers did.
And that's just one half of it. The other half was that they thought they had a blueprint. They thought they knew what they were doing. You accused me of not having "a coherent understanding of Marxist thought". Can you tell me with a straight face that "formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat" are not steps of building communism? Or that this list was not supposed to be "a program to be carried out"?
The only thing the revolutionaries didn't think was how awful this blueprint was.
"[T]here is something bigger than the individual" is not the same as "everyone can equally share power". My question for you is how you would choose who is going to decide what is best for everyone. Even a cooperative like John Lewis has a chairman, a board, and all levels of managers. Would your society have the same hierarchy? Would the people on top of this hierarchy have more power than the cashiers at the bottom?
Whatever you call it, this is what communism degenerates into, if 1) you have hierarchy; 2) you don't limit the power of the powerful. Whether you want it is entirely irrelevant. It's a corruption of the system which happens because your system is utterly incapable to defend against it. Just because you don't speak in favour of it doesn't mean it's not going to happen. Someone else who likes totalitarianism better can easily beat you, like they did, in history.
To show you why liberal democracies don't end up as totalitarian hellholes like all communist states do?
Trotsky correctly identified what's wrong with Stalinism. And he didn't have a solution. This is where I'm similar to him. He however still have faith in communism, despite offering pretty much the same policies. That's something I couldn't comprehend.
Absolutely not. A car designer does not disagree with Newton. The difference between Newton and Marx is that you can actually use Newton's theories to predict things. Can you use Marxism to predict when capitalism would end?
Well, actually, you can. Marx himself did, and he was proven wrong. But the problem is not so much as he was wrong as some people keep defending him after he was proven wrong.
Alassius, I will say this again: this is an Ask A Red thread, not a place for you to carry out your dishonest and poorly-informed polemicising. If you have questions, ask them clearly and politely, without these snide remarks and this dishonest twisting of words. If you don't stop carrying on like this, I'm going to have to ask the moderators to bar you from posting in this thread.
I never got what the obsession with predicting things is about. Plenty of political theories have no utility for making predictions. Heck, economics isn't too good at predicting things. Does that mean all of them are crap?
Maybe there is another source of disagreement here - the difference between those with scientific pretensions and those who understand what the 'humanities' entail.
I want to start a thread comparing an ideal* communist and ideal capitalist state, and the road to get there.
Can a Red suggest me any links that can fill me in on communism enough to start an unbiased discussion ( in less then ~100 A4 pages of text )?
some examples on what kind of questions i have:
- Who are the people in the struggling class in modern western europe countries?
- What are some actions they have to take, to achieve an ideal communist state?
- What is the difference between people with ethical and responsible self-interest that the struggling class acquires - and enlightened entrepreneurs, who create and own companies that are willing to accept lower short-term profits, by giving workers fair salary, good working enviroment, and consider workers opinion when making decisions, in the hopes of gaining higher long-term profits later?
italics refer to terms used in post #510 by traitorfish
*by ideal i mean a state where there is negligble amounts of poverty/suffering, and almost everyone has at least the same quality of life as median western european person has today.
This is a really good read, although it's more suited to anarchism than leftism as a whole: http://infoshop.org/page/AnAnarchistFAQ
Anyone who's disenfranchised from the means to what they produce. Anyone who works for a corporation that is at the mercy of top-level decision makers.
Too many to list. A stronger sense of class unity is generally what needs to develop.
Separate names with a comma.