Friday, October 08, 2010

My view of communism

I call myself a communist — I believe I must call myself a communist — because I believe that we should socialize all capital, i.e. we should socialize all the means of production, financial and physical. We cannot afford the individual ownership of capital any more than we can afford the individual ownership of coercive governmental power of non-democratic governments.

But just because I call myself a communist does not mean I therefore agree with everything anyone — or even just the famous anyones — ever said about communism, even the parts that contradict the other parts.

I do not believe, for example, that we should implement a fully planned, pure command economy. We must have some social planning (and even now we have some social planning in capitalist economies, both by the government and the capitalist ruling class as a whole) but there is a very important role for markets. Properly designed, markets are proven to do the complicated and difficult tasks that Marx himself saw in the Labor Theory of Value: measuring and making concrete the "socially necessary" and "abstract" components of socially necessary abstract labor time. I do not, of course, hold the view that just because you call something a market means you're calling it good; neither, however, do I believe that just because you call something a market you're calling it bad. A market is not an end; it is a tool, a means.

I do not believe, for example, that a communist party or some analog should exercise absolute or near-absolute political power "on behalf" of the workers. One important lesson of dialectical materialism is that no ideal — no level of ideological rigor and completeness — can allow a group to "escape" the material dialectic of opposing classes, interest groups and individuals. No group can ever rule on the basis of its ideology, at least not ultimately to the benefit of anyone outside its membership or those who control its membership. I believe the lesson of history is that it would be better to have "bad" communism with democracy — real democracy, not the half-assed bullshit republicanism of the United States — than "good" communism with autocracy.

I do not believe, for example, that the good of society should outweigh the individual good. I don't believe this construction is false; it is, rather, incoherent. There is no such thing as the "good of society" independent of individual good: the good of society is some statistical, abstract property of everyone's individual good. In every society we ask or demand that some individuals — criminals, soldiers, construction workers, taxi drivers* — sacrifice their own good for the good of other individuals, but the whole point of civilization itself is working out ways of structuring these sacrifices in socially legitimate ways. Communism is no different in this respect from any other system of political economy that actually is a political economy.

*IIRC, construction workers and taxi drivers have a higher per capita job-related mortality rate than soldiers, policemen and firefighters.

I do not believe, for example, that to implement communism we must create a better species of human being. I like human beings just the way we are. Of course, we learn, grow and change as individuals, as cultures and as a species, but growth is a collaborative process: it cannot (never mind should not) be imposed from above by the sword, the pen, or the Skinner Box. I think human beings just the way they are are capable of implementing a communist society that has no more (probably considerably less) coercion than modern republican capitalism. (Sadly just because we are capable of something doesn't mean we will actually choose to do it.)

I do not believe, for example, that to implement communism we must do everything that Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro or anyone else actually did. The United States is not Russia, China or Cuba; the 21st century is not the 20th. The material conditions — social, political, economic, technological, scientific — of the modern world are very different from the material conditions of the world just a decade ago, much less a century or fifteen decades ago. We have much to learn from history and we must learn it; only those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

I believe what I "choose" to believe, what I do my best to rationally determine according to the evidence I've seen what would be in my own best interest and the best interest of humanity. I may be wrong or mistaken — I don't know everything — and one need only point out arguments or evidence I've not yet considered for me to honestly reconsider any of my positions. But if you think I believe what I manifestly and explicitly do not believe, then fuck you. If you think I'm not a "true" communist because I don't believe what you think I ought to believe, then fuck you.

3 comments:

  1. I'm tend to just call myself a far left socialist. But in case you haven't read it, I wanted to recommend Bernard Shaw's "The Intelligent Women's Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism." A great read!

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  2. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with pure communism as there isn't anything wrong with pure democracy, but they will not work with people as they are now. For them to work requires very intelligent people willing to be adult and accept their responsibility's for themselves and for the society. The forefathers realized this about democracy and replaced it with the BoR and the Constitution and implementing a democratic republic.
    As far as I know one one has successfully implemented communism.

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  3. I ordinarily don't respond to comments, but since you've been writing reasonably sensible comments... at least up to now... I'll responsd.

    There is nothing intrinsically wrong with pure communism as there isn't anything wrong with pure democracy...

    There's no such thing as "pure" communism. Did you not read my post?

    ... but they will not work with people as they are now.

    Bullshit. Why not? What assumptions are you making about communism? Why would you attribute those assumptions to me? Especially on a post where I'm demanding that people not make assumptions about what I believe.

    For them to work requires very intelligent people willing to be adult and accept their responsibility's for themselves and for the society.

    Paternalistic bullshit.

    Look: I'm usually slack about grammar and spelling (I make enough mistakes of my own), but seriously: if you're going to (implicitly) condemn ordinary people for their stupidity and irresponsibility, learn how to properly pluralize nouns in the English language.

    The forefathers realized this about democracy and replaced it with the BoR and the Constitution and implementing a democratic republic.

    The founders wanted to make sure their slave-owning asses stayed in the driver's seat.

    Keep in mind that you're commenting on a communist blog. I share your namesake's evaluation of opinions: like assholes, everybody has one, and they usually stink. If you want to substantiate your opinion, feel free. Otherwise, you'll get the "just another idiot who can't read and comprehend simple declarative sentences in the English language" silent treatment.

    ReplyDelete

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