Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wall Street on the Tundra

Wall Street on the Tundra:
Iceland’s de facto bankruptcy—its currency (the krona) is kaput, its debt is 850 percent of G.D.P., its people are hoarding food and cash and blowing up their new Range Rovers for the insurance—resulted from a stunning collective madness. What led a tiny fishing nation, population 300,000, to decide, around 2003, to re-invent itself as a global financial power? In Reykjav√≠k, where men are men, and the women seem to have completely given up on them, the author follows the peculiarly Icelandic logic behind the meltdown.

[h/t to kevin]

Monday, March 30, 2009

Yet another incompetent Christian hack

Guest Post by Dr. Douglas Groothuis: "The Straw God: Understanding the New Atheism"

My comment:
This sort of incompetence is inexcusable for someone who puts "Dr." in front of his name, unless that doctor is treating my bunions.

YouTube suspends JREF account



YouTube has suspended the James Randi Educational Foundation's account.

JREF will probably get its account back. But who else is being censored by YouTube/Google?

The lesson is clear: You see what your corporate masters want you to see. You hear what they want you to hear. And you believe what they want you to believe.

The economic roots of oppression

It seems a common criticism that communists ignore the psychological, social and political dimensions of misogyny and racism, that they see misogyny and racism as purely economic problems. While there may be some communists who take this approach, there is a more subtle argument: there are of course other dimensions to misogyny and racism, but so long as there is an enormous economic incentive to oppress and exploit women and racial minorities, efforts to address the non-economic dimensions will have only limited effects.

I'm not saying that these limited effects are always entirely worthless. No one should complain that forcible rape has been increasingly criminalized in the last 30 years or that women and blacks now have the vote (although having the vote in a bourgeois democracy is itself of limited value).

Furthermore, under capitalism, the best anyone can achieve is that entry into the bourgeoisie — or descent into the hyper-exploited — is no longer arbitrarily decided by race and sex... but this still leaves an enormous number of people oppressed and exploited.

I personally have been accused of asking women to "wait" for liberation. This is nonsense. I'm exhorting 70% of women not to wait while 10% are afforded entry into the bourgeoisie and another 20% allowed to serve the bourgeoisie for a few scraps of privilege. I demand — and every communist demands — that those who are admitted to the bourgeoisie and those who serve them, including women and/or blacks, give up their economic privilege, a privilege supported and paid for by the labor of the oppressed masses.

I understand too — and any sensible communist also understands — that very few, male or female, white, black or brown, will ever voluntarily give up his or her economic privilege. Everyone has a good rationalization why they personally "deserve" whatever surplus labor they extort from the oppressed masses, why someone else should be the first to forego their privilege. (It's another case of the Prisoner's Dilemma: if I forego my privilege just to have someone else exercise it, I'm just a chump.) Bourgeois privilege must be taken by force and the institutions that promote, protect and defend bourgeois privilege must be smashed. In just the same sense the bourgeoisie took by force feudal, hereditary and monarchical privileges in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the institutions that promoted these privileges were smashed or trivialized into irrelevancy. (Leaving, of course, those institutions which could be adapted to minority class rule in general.)

I'm for the liberation of everyone, every woman, every black person, every poor schmuck, male or female, white or black, who has to clean toilets every day and go home to a roach-infested crowded tenement, hoping they're not murdered by the army of occupation police on the way home. I'm not willing to liberate only that fraction of women or blacks who can worm their way into the bourgeoisie. I'm not willing to say to the masses of people that the best you can expect is to be oppressed by someone with the same color skin or the same genitalia.

Reforming the criminal "justice" system

Glenn Greenwald praises Senator Jim Webb's (D-Virginia) effort to reform the criminal justice system:
Jim Webb's impassioned commitment to fundamental prison reform is ... genuinely courageous and principled. ... After decades of mindless "tough-on-crime" hysteria, an increasingly irrational "drug war," and a sprawling, privatized prison state as brutal as it is counter-productive, America has easily surpassed Japan -- and virtually every other country in the world -- to become what Brown University Professor Glenn Loury recently described as a "a nation of jailers" whose "prison system has grown into a leviathan unmatched in human history."
Webb will, of course, fail in his efforts. At best, he'll smooth out a couple of rough edges; perhaps he'll get a better brand of beans in some hellhole in Georgia. But the American criminal justice system serves the needs of the bourgeoisie. It's profitable in and of itself, and they need a police force that more closely resembles — for anyone outside the mostly white male bourgeoisie and their mostly white male privileged lackeys — an army of occupation and oppression, an army of occupation that has the full support of the supposedly "liberal" and "progressive" managerial/professional middle class.

Who will the bourgeoisie support with their campaign contributions? Webb? Hardly. Look for Webb to lose the next election in 2010; it's possible he might even lose the Democratic party primary to a "tough-on-crime" challenger.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Lies and libel

Evolved Rationalist apparently finds lies and libel objectionable only when written by Christians and Scientologists; libel is perfectly okay when directed at people she doesn't like:
While all this despicable lunacy [persecution of supposed "witches" in Gambia] is going on around the world, the postmodernists still claim that we must leave them alone; and rant about how it is AWWRIGHT because their culture is different...or something fucktarded like that.
ER names postmodernists, not even some postmodernists (which would be intellectually dishonest in another way: you can find some members of any group that endorse almost anything; such a claim demonstrates nothing) so she would have to show that this was a majority of opinion. She also claims that that they still claim that we must leave the Gambians alone, so she would have to show the majority opinion exists and has been expressed after these news reports were widely known.

And what must we do to not just "leave them alone"? Invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity? It's one thing (quite objectionable) to assert that Gambians should not be criticized for their actions; it's quite another thing to argue that their actions, abhorrent as they are, do not justify imperialism or military aggression.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The patriarchy made flesh

The patriarchy made flesh:
[T]o the men of religion, women's lives simply do not matter: "respect for life" never ever means "respect for a woman's life."

[h/t to Butterflies & Wheels]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Quotation of the Day

Don't ever preach at me about Christian morality: I've seen it, and it is empty of love for humanity, replaced with sanctimonious idolatry and commitment to dead, dumb superstition.

PZ Myers

Quiverfull

Hemant Mehta interviews Kathryn Joyce, author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. Martha Peace is one of the women profiled in Quiverful:
… [P]riorities [for Christian women] may include rising early to feed the family, being available anytime to satisfy a husband’s desires (barring a few “ungodly” or “homosexual” acts), seeking his approval regarding work, appearance, and leisure, and accepting that he has the “burden” of final say in arguments. After a wife has respectfully appealed her spouse’s decision — a privilege she should not abuse — she must accept his final answer as “God’s will for her at that time”… The godly wife must also suppress selfish desires (for romance, a career, an equitable marriage), practice addressing her spouse in soothing tones, and maintain a private log of bitter thoughts to guide her repentance. “If you disobey your husband,” Peace admonishes in The Excellent Wife, “you are indirectly shaking your fist at God.”

99%

Philosophers and communists are like lawyers: 99% of them give the other 1% a bad name.

Butterflies and Wheels mentions (presumably approvingly) Norman Geras' denunciation of postmodernism. On the one hand, having read a fair amount of postmodernist philosophy, I understand Geras' frustration: 99% of it really is complete bullshit (even granting that we should be taking epistemological advice from professors of English Literature in the first place). But Geras' denunciation of Niall Lucy & Steve Mickler's defense of postmodernism is intellectually dishonest, and I'm frankly disappointed that Ophelia Benson would even bother to mention it.

Geras' intellectual dishonesty is explicit, "This would-be defence is either postmodernism in retreat or a postmodernism that has forgotten the claims of some of its best-known protagonists." Geras is demanding that postmodernism be dogmatic. Geras could make precisely the same claim that current evolutionary biology or physics is in retreat from or has forgotten the claims of its best-known protagonists, such as Darwin or Newton. Geras simply dismisses the Lucy & Mickler's arguments because they contradict what he — as an outsider — privileges as objectionable postmodernist dogma.

Geras' problem, of course, is that there are only three choices:
  1. There is exactly one absolute truth (modernism)
  2. There is no truth at all (nihilism)
  3. Truth is more complicated than one or none (postmodernism)
Lucy & Mickler's defense argues the third case, but Geras simply dismisses that case out of hand, and essentially argues for modernism... but modernism fundamentally rests on privileged authority to establish the "one truth". (Any good scientist would laugh in the face of any philosopher who asserted that science gives us the one absolute truth.)

A serious intellectual faces Sturgeons Law in evaluating any school of thought, especially one without the rigorous internal controls of modern science: 90% of everything is crap. (90% of science is crap too, but scientists have become practiced in keeping the crap out of the public eye. Well, most of it.) If 90% of something is crap, why shouldn't that overwhelming majority define that something? Why should a minority viewpoint define a school of thought? On the other hand, if 90% of everything is crap, then everything becomes defined by its crap, and we end up with nihilism.

The problem is further complicated in that 100% of some things — e.g. religion, Scientology, Randianism, homeopathy, Nazism — are crap. H. Allen Orr criticizes The God Delusion for falling into what I call "Sturgeon's Trap": criticizing the worst of religion, not the best. Orr's criticism would be valid even if 99% of religion were crap: it's every intellectual's duty to criticize the best. Because Dawkins can refute the religious arguments he presents in The God Delusion Orr concludes on that basis that Dawkins has considered only the crap 90% of religion. But of course 100% of religion is crap; Dawkins really does criticize the best that religion has to offer. (Modern "sophisticated" apologetics are much much worse than Aquinas' classics.)

Percentages, however, are completely irrelevant to the seeker after the truth. Every good idea begins as the opinion of a minority of one. The search for truth is never a political struggle; when you let your politics take precedence over the truth, you have lost your way.

Of course, actual politics — the search for and implementation of good — is different. What a group of people actually do as a group is very dependent on the majority opinion. It's irrelevant, for example, that 1% of KKK members aren't racist; in a political sense, the KKK is definitely a racist organization, because 99% of their members are explicitly racist.

Hence my struggle with my self-identification as "communist". As far as the truth goes, I'm convinced that Marx et al. have profound insights into truths of economics, politics and psychology. On the political level, however, too many self-identified "communists" are dogmatists, Utopians, economic reductionists, opportunists, naive anarchists, or just plain ignorant fools*. (This is not a problem only among communists and socialists; the entire political left is infected with stupidity. Of course, the political right is infected with at least as much (if not more) stupidity and a lot more evil.)

*I'm pleased that although they have their own problems, the Revolutionary Communist Party exhibits none of these manifestations of egregious stupidity.

I'm beginning to feel some sympathy for the moderate, humanist Christian, surrounded by a sea of dogmatic fundamentalist assholes. Only some sympathy, though: the communist canon is a lot more sensible and humanistic than the Bible. But regardless of the quality of the canon, an argument about who is the "true" anything — communist, christian, atheist or Scotsman — is a pointless waste of time, a distraction from both the search for truth and the implementation of the good.

One of the reasons I've (mostly) closed the blog is that I'm getting more flak from fellow communists and socialists than I am from capitalists and bourgeois apologists. Not because my analyses and suggestions are wrong, but because they are not "true" socialism. It's one thing to have enemies; I've been an outspoken atheist long enough to be comfortable with the enmity of the religious. It's quite another thing — very discouraging — when your putative allies are against you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Ideal Man

Romancing the Stone-Cold Killer: Ayn Rand and William Hickman
In her journal circa 1928 Rand quoted the statement, "What is good for me is right," a credo attributed to a prominent figure of the day, William Edward Hickman. Her response was enthusiastic. "The best and strongest expression of a real man's psychology I have heard," she exulted. (Quoted in Ryan, citing Journals of Ayn Rand, pp. 21-22.)

At the time, she was planning a novel that was to be titled The Little Street, the projected hero of which was named Danny Renahan. According to Rand scholar Chris Matthew Sciabarra, she deliberately modeled Renahan - intended to be her first sketch of her ideal man - after this same William Edward Hickman. Renahan, she enthuses in another journal entry, "is born with a wonderful, free, light consciousness -- [resulting from] the absolute lack of social instinct or herd feeling. He does not understand, because he has no organ for understanding, the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people ... Other people do not exist for him and he does not understand why they should." (Journals, pp. 27, 21-22; emphasis hers.)

"A wonderful, free, light consciousness" born of the utter absence of any understanding of "the necessity, meaning, or importance of other people." Obviously, Ayn Rand was most favorably impressed with Mr. Hickman. He was, at least at that stage of Rand's life, her kind of man.

So the question is, who exactly was he?

William Edward Hickman [link added - BFB] was one of the most famous men in America in 1928. But he came by his fame in a way that perhaps should have given pause to Ayn Rand before she decided that he was a "real man" worthy of enshrinement in her pantheon of fictional heroes.

You see, Hickman was a forger, an armed robber, a child kidnapper, and a multiple murderer.

Other than that, he was probably a swell guy.
[h/t to Kazim]

1 Shot 2 Kills

1 Shot 2 Kills

Monday, March 23, 2009

Burning Man

ginandtacos.com on Burning Man:
I don’t have a single critical thing to say about people going to the middle of nowhere, listening to godawful jam band shit, getting higher than Jesus, and circulating herpes. If that’s what you want to do, by all means do it. What I find offensive are efforts to dress up such behavior in the pseudointellectual language of social consciousness. Burning Man attendees are no more going to the event to experiment with radical decommodification than sorority girls are going to Cancun Spring Break to experience foreign cultures. You are not being environmentally friendly or in any way making a political statement - you are going on an expensive vacation to do lots of drugs and blow strangers. That’s great. Embrace it. Stop trying to assuage your consciences by pretending that it’s a spiritual quest or a social experiment.
[h/t to Comrade PhysioProf]

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lenin on Religion

I ran across this little gem in Lenin's The State and Revolution. Lenin first quotes Engels: "[I]n relation to the state, religion is a purely private matter." [emphasis original] Lenin then goes on to to say,
Engels deliberately underlined the words "in relation to the state," as a straight thrust at German opportunism, which had declared religion to be a private matter in relation to the Party, thus degrading the party of the revolutionary proletariat to the level of the most vulgar "free-thinking" philistinism, which is prepared to allow a non-denominational status, but which renounces the Party struggle against the opium of religion which stupefies the people.

The struggle against religion cannot be made by any state (even a revolutionary state under the dictatorship of the proletariat) but there must still be a struggle against religion. Since the struggle should not be made by the state, it must be made by social propaganda, by polemic (a polemic is the opposite of an apologia).

I've been struggling in solidarity with the new "militant" atheists for a decade, and anyone who spends even a short amount of time collecting the actual facts, rather than relying on the lies and distortions of religious anti-atheist propaganda, fellow travelers and opportunists, can easily see that while most "new atheists" are not communists or socialists (they are predominantly mainstream liberals), our attitude reflects almost exactly Engels' and Lenin's. We must have legal secularism (indifference of the state to religion), but we must forthrightly and directly carry on the struggle against religion by social, polemical means.

As a side note, many socialists, anarchists and Utopian dreamers seem to have a difficult time grasping the concept that the new atheists really are freethinkers. The new atheist movement is deeply "ecumenical": no individual, however many books he's sold, speaks for anyone but himself. Specifically, even though Christopher Hitchens (and Sam Harris to a lesser extent) supports the U.S. imperialist war on Iraq and the Middle East, this support for imperialism is widely condemned by the mass of new atheists... without denying one whit the justified condemnation of Islam itself as reactionary, misogynist, despotic and fantastically ridiculous.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Religious war in Gaza

Israeli soldiers say army rabbis framed Gaza as religious war:
Rabbis affiliated with the Israeli army urged troops heading into Gaza to reclaim what they said was God-given land and "get rid of the gentiles" — effectively turning the 22-day Israeli intervention into a religious war, according to the testimony of a soldier who fought in Gaza.

[h/t to Butterflies and Wheels]

Even Krugman says we're screwed

Despair over financial policy:
The Obama administration is now completely wedded to the idea that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the financial system — that what we’re facing is the equivalent of a run on an essentially sound bank. ...

This plan will produce big gains for banks that didn’t actually need any help; it will, however, do little to reassure the public about banks that are seriously undercapitalized. And I fear that when the plan fails, as it almost surely will, the administration will have shot its bolt: it won’t be able to come back to Congress for a plan that might actually work.

What an awful mess.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Quotation of the Day

It's over — we're officially, royally fucked. No empire can survive being rendered a permanent laughingstock, which is what happened as of a few weeks ago, when the buffoons who have been running things in this country finally went one step too far. It happened when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was forced to admit that he was once again going to have to stuff billions of taxpayer dollars into a dying insurance giant called AIG, itself a profound symbol of our national decline — a corporation that got rich insuring the concrete and steel of American industry in the country's heyday, only to destroy itself chasing phantom fortunes at the Wall Street card tables, like a dissolute nobleman gambling away the family estate in the waning days of the British Empire.

The latest bailout came as AIG admitted to having just posted the largest quarterly loss in American corporate history — some $61.7 billion. In the final three months of last year, the company lost more than $27 million every hour. That's $465,000 a minute, a yearly income for a median American household every six seconds, roughly $7,750 a second. And all this happened at the end of eight straight years that America devoted to frantically chasing the shadow of a terrorist threat to no avail, eight years spent stopping every citizen at every airport to search every purse, bag, crotch and briefcase for juice boxes and explosive tubes of toothpaste. Yet in the end, our government had no mechanism for searching the balance sheets of companies that held life-or-death power over our society and was unable to spot holes in the national economy the size of Libya (whose entire GDP last year was smaller than AIG's 2008 losses).

So it's time to admit it: We're fools, protagonists in a kind of gruesome comedy about the marriage of greed and stupidity. And the worst part about it is that we're still in denial — we still think this is some kind of unfortunate accident, not something that was created by the group of psychopaths on Wall Street whom we allowed to gang-rape the American Dream...

Matt Taibbi

[h/t to James F. Elliott]

Sunday, March 08, 2009

50 reasons to reject evolution

50 Reasons I Reject Evolution
20.) Because my mom dropped me on my head when I was a baby.

21.) Multiple times.

22.) On purpose.

read the rest

Planet Communism

If any communist or socialist wants them, I own the domain names planetcommunism.com/.org and planetsocialism.com/.org. I've also paid for a server account to host an aggregator like planetatheism; there's 8-9 months remaining. If you're a bona-fide communist or socialist, I'll give them to you free.

I'm no longer self-identifying as a communist; apparently "militant" atheists such as myself are unwelcome.

The last fucking straw

First Kasama, then Lenin's Tomb and now Alderson Warm-Fork.

Apparently, we militant atheists are inescapably and ineluctably the enemies of communism.

Fine. If I'm not wanted, I'll go. I'm no longer a communist... or I'm at least not your kind of communist.

Truth is more important to me than communism.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity

I recently chided the Revolutionary Communist Party (and indeed much of the socialist/communist left) for their inadequate attention to feminism. They've published A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity and it's strong. It looks like a good start, a very good start.
The fabric of women’s oppression is carved deeply into the calloused hands of women in the sweatshops of China and Honduras. It is draped over the faces of young women in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. It is stripped off the bodies of girls of Moldova and Bangkok who are put up for sale in brothels worldwide, and it is worn like a prize by pre-teens in the U.S. and Europe who are taught to dress and move like sex objects long before they understand what sex even is. This fabric ropes back into history, it winds its way around the globe, braided into all the dominant religions and “moral codes” and woven into every aspect of human societies. It is a heavy veil that casts the darkness of humanity’s first oppressive divisions over the lives, the dreams, and the prospects of every corner of humanity in the 21st century.

To live like this on this planet in the 21st century cannot be justified and should not be accepted. None of this can be tolerated or excused away with counsel of patience..

WE DECLARE: NO MORE!
Keep up the good work. Seriously: don't let this be a one-shot deal. Keep up the pressure and condemnation of 21st century patriarchy.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Right-Wing 'Tea Party' Movement Was Planned Months Ago by GOP Billionaires

Right-Wing 'Tea Party' Movement Was Planned Months Ago by GOP Billionaires:
Populist revolt against the U.S. government is all the rage in the Republican Party, these days. As they tell the story, the public is so outraged by the recovery and reinvestment efforts of the Obama administration that Americans everywhere are turning out to overthrow the tyrannical king of the federal government by re-enacting the Boston Tea Party.

Funny thing, though: it turns out this whole "populist" movement was a planned PR stunt funded by big-money right-wing backers of the GOP who specialize in faking grassroots movements to drum up opposition to Barack Obama.

Everything about this so called "Tea Party" movement was pre-planned--from the supposedly "spontaneous rant" of CNBC stock market reporter, Rick Santelli, to the presumed ground-level organizing of protests all over the country. Fake, fake, fake--like a product launch staged covertly to look like a spontaneous trend.

[h/t to kevin]

Taxation and the Prisoner's Dilemma

Taxation, where the cost of some activity is spread out proportionally instead of by specific use, is a perfect example of a Prisoner's Dilemma situation.

If I and my neighbor are subject to taxation, the "rational" solution for either of us is to have the other pay his taxes and avoid our own; we get the benefit of what the taxes pay for without personally incurring the costs. If my neighbor pays his taxes, I'm better off not paying my own; if he doesn't pay his taxes, I'm still better off not paying my own. On the other hand, we're both better off if we both pay our taxes than if neither of us do. That's a textbook example of a Prisoner's Dilemma in real life.

Hence I talk in Supply-side and demand-side communism about using the coercive power of the state to fulfill people's needs for survival: the government taxes everyone to pay for everyone's basic needs. The coercive power of the state is used not to make an individual do what is not in her best interest, but rather to counteract the Nash equilibrium and ensure for each person that his neighbor is not taking a "free ride" and acting in an exploitative manner. Without coercion to ensure fairness, everyone's "rational" decision would be to not pay taxes, to their mutual detriment.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Morality Without Gods: Part 2

Morality Without Gods: Part 2

Tuesday, March 3, 6:30 - 9:00
New York University
The Silver Center - Room 703
100 Washington Square East
Free and open to the public

Across the planet with unjust wars, uncertainty & convulsions in people’s lives, belief in gods and religion is rising. Broad controversy and debate rages over god, atheism, faith, and science. Last November, an overflow crowd came out at NYU for Morality Without Gods: Part 1. Don’t miss Part 2, when 3 non-believers will discuss their views on:
  • If you don't believe in god, where do you get your morality from?
  • Why is science not just "another belief system”?
  • Could we/should we do away with belief in gods?
with

Massimo Pigliucci - Professor of Biology and Philosophy at SUNY - Stony Brook, author, with Jonathan Kaplan, of Making Sense of Evolution: The Conceptual Foundations of Evolutionary Biology, and Denying Evolution: Creation, Scientism & the Nature of Science. Massimo is a regular columnist for Skeptical Inquirer and Philosophy Now.

Sunsara Taylor - writer for Revolution newspaper and a host on Equal Time for Freethought on WBAI-NY. Sunsara is currently on a national campus speaking tour on AWAY WITH ALL GODS! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, the recent book by Bob Avakian.

Paul Eckstein - Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Bergen Community College, Paramus NJ, Adjunct Lecturer in Philosophy at Montclair State University, and a host on Equal Time for Freethought Radio on WBAI-NY.

Moderated by:
Matthew LaClair – student at Eugene Lang College, student President of The Center for Inquiry on Campus and on the Board of Directors of Secular Student Alliance. Matthew came to national attention when as a high school student in Kearny, NJ, he challenged his history teacher who was preaching his religious beliefs in class.

Sponsored by: Equal Time for Freethought on WBAI and Atheists, Agnostics & Freethinkers at NYU

Tuesday, March 3, 6:30 - 9:00
New York University
The Silver Center - Room 703
100 Washington Square East
[6 to Astor Place, N,R,W to 8th Street, A,C,E,B,D,F,V to West 4th St.]

www.equaltimeforfreethought.org or call 347-933-0776

Sita Sings the Blues

Sita Sings the Blues

Wow.

Supply-side and demand-side communism

I don't believe that "supply-side" communism will work under modern conditions. "Supply-side" communism entails that the workers own — in the contemporary sense of "own" — the means of production, i.e. constant capital: equipment, tools, land*, etc. Under "supply-side" communism, the role of the government is limited to protecting and enforcing the ownership of constant capital by the workers who employ it.

*Marx, IIRC, did not consider land to be capital, because it was not itself produced by human labor. However, land can be bounded in space and time, owned, and is required for the production of some commodities. It therefore functions enough like human-created capital to deserve the designation.

The problem is that if government appropriates some production for any use other than mitigating legitimate externalities (building roads to facilitate trade, cleaning up pollution, etc.), i.e. for the benefit of someone other than the workers, then the government necessarily compromises ownership.

We must, however, appropriate the production of commodities for the benefit of those who do not produce commodities: people who produce services, people who produce for the good of general culture, and people who do not produce at all.

Furthermore, there are large-scale macroeconomic issues. For some issues, there are resolutions that are mutually beneficial, but because of "Prisoner's Dilemma" conditions, independent entities, however rational, cannot achieve these resolutions. It's all the same whether the government makes these decisions directly or makes supposedly "external" decisions to force independent entities to make the right decision. Either way, the government must compromise ownership.

I don't want to bullshit around about what really is and is not "ownership"; it's better to grasp the nettle firmly: the government owns the constant capital. This move will at least decisively end private absentee ownership.

Rather than implement "supply-side" communism, it's better to implement "demand-side" communism: the government is obligated to provide the necessities of survival to every citizen, regardless of his or her productive status. The government will use its ownership of all capital to fulfill this obligation.

The government will directly manage the production of necessities. Every citizen is responsible for providing his or her share of labor to operate this production, either directly or indirectly through taxation. You either sign up for a government job in food production, or you pay the equivalent in taxes. Given that labor costs for survival are a fraction of total available labor power, it's expected that each citizen will need to contribute about 1/4 to 1/8 of the normal high-intensity average individual labor power: In short, anyone can work hard for 10 hours a week or work lazily for 20 hours a week to fulfill his obligations.

To make "demand-side" communism work, the government owns the capital and the people — including but not limited to the workers who use capital to create commodities — own the government. Stalin and Mao did not fail because they did not distribute ownership of capital to the workers; they failed to put the government firmly in the hands of the people and begin this task on day one. By the time Mao clued in and started the Cultural Revolution, the ownership of government by its own members has become too entrenched to reverse.

We need formal, well-defined social, political and legal constructions that ensure that the people control the government, so that the government retains real popular legitimacy. More importantly, we must use these constructions to ensure the government lacks incentive and ability to shape public opinion to the ends and interests of its members. We must begin creating these social constructions immediately; it is disingenuous and too dangerous to defer creating these democratic social constructions until the revolutionary government has "sorted things out." As Heinlein notes, "There's nothing so permanent as a temporary emergency."

We must begin creating direct democracy, where every citizen participates directly in local political and economic decision making. To facilitate more abstract decisions that affect more citizens that can comfortably manage direct democracy, we can implement immediately recallable delegates from local bodies to regional and national bodies.

We must begin the transition to direct democracy immediately, but we cannot immediately finalize the transition. There are too many capitalist traditions, social and legal constructions and psychological habits of thought prevalent in the population to make an instantaneous transfer of power feasible; we'd just end up with a capitalist pseudo-democracy like we have now.

It cannot be assumed that a revolution will have the active and informed consent of even a majority of the people. A revolution can occur only when the existing government and social structure retains the consent of a tiny minority of the population, and the revolutionary forces have the consent of a minority only somewhat larger than the existing government, as well as the uninformed toleration of a majority of the population. "I'm not quite sure what these Bolsheviks are all about," many Russians might have said, "But they sure as hell are better than that fucking Tsar!"

The active members of the revolutionary government (arbitrarily designated the Communist Party, explicitly denying any reference to existing political parties) should not directly participate in direct democracy: Communist Party members must be disenfranchised. The Party holds the reins of government by conquest, not by popular legitimacy, and this fact must always be emphasized and never discounted. If a member wants to vote and participate in democracy, she must first resign her membership and whatever political or economic office she holds by virtue of that membership.

Furthermore, there are some "bourgeois" institutions and social constructions that deserve immediate implementation and indefinite perpetuation under a communist society: The rule of law; an independent judiciary to interpret and apply those laws; freedom of speech and peaceable assembly, formal equality and the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex, race, physical ability, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, etc. (We need also need constitutional protection that nonviolent protest — even if the protesters otherwise act illegally — will be met by the bare minimum of force necessary to ensure eventual (and explicitly not speedy) compliance with the law.)

Assuming this disenfranchisement, I can think of three good ways to manage the transition from direct Communist Party rule to direct democracy.

The first is to simply let the Communist Party die of attrition: accept no new members in the party, and as members resign, retire and die, transfer administrative control directly to democratic institutions.

The second is to keep administrative control in the Party on a long-term basis, but place induction of new members and promotion of existing members directly and completely under the control of democratic institutions. In this way, the Communist Party will be "infiltrated" and eventually replaced by the people, but the founders and initial members will leave their stamp on the social constructions inside the party.

The third is to set up the Communist Party as a "civil service" under the high-level control of democratic institutions, much like the UK (and to a lesser extent the US) civil service.

This method creates an interesting dialectic between the people and the civil service. In the initial stages the party (the civil service) will be relatively strong and the democratic institutions relatively weak; the party will influence the democratic institutions. As the people become more confident and competent, they can exercise their formal democratic power more forcefully, eventually subordinating the party to their own ends.

Bottom-up "supply-side" communism sounds like a good idea, and was probably a terrific idea in late 19th and early 20th century Europe, when the vast majority of people were employed making commodities and there were fuew large-scale macroeconomic issues. However, there are too many limitations in today's complicated economy with too few people actually creating commodities. The proletariat in its literal meaning (industrial commodity-producing workers), is too narrow today to exercise political privilege. Capital must be placed in the hands of the people, not just the proletariat, and the only way to place capital in the hands of a people without strong social and psychological constructions to cooperate is to make the government the intermediary of this ownership.