View Full Version : Open Questions about socialism, communism, communalism

Ed Jewett
08-25-2011, 06:41 PM
How did socialism arise?

How is socialism different -- in theory and or in practice* -- from communism or Communism?

How is socialism different than collectivism?

How is socialism different than communalism?

What were its excesses under the applied socialism of Bolshevism, the era of Stalin, in Red China?

How would socialism be reasonably applied in the America we know today?

* "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is."

Gary Severson
08-25-2011, 11:08 PM
Marx & Engels didn't did distinguish between socialism & communism. Lasalle made that distinction which was a revision of Marx & Engels.

Imagine if in the US all of the means of production were owned by the people, i.e. mining, shipping, transportation, entertainment, agriculture, banking, business etc. we would have a society that wasn't controlled by an oligarchic plutocracy. We would have a true democracy & not the bourgeois version we are saddled with.

Magda Hassan
08-26-2011, 12:03 PM
Socialism arises naturally but unevenly. The first human economic system is usually described as 'Primitive Communism'. This describes nomadic and hunter gather societies who have no ownership of property but where the property (tools, spears, clubs, stone axes, skins) exists it is shared by all according to need and use. There can be some division of labour with men often hunting and women gathering. All people are needed and every one contributes to the tribes survival. No mine and yours. Everything is ours to use as needed. Things that are not useful are not kept as they are a burden to carry. Religion, such as it is, is based on natural observable phenomena, sun, moon, storms, seasons, animals. Because the land belongs to all there is no class structure. The means of production are communally owned (sticks, axes, stones, spears etc) and the produce (food and tools) is shared.

Once animals were domesticated and settled agriculture started to take place 'property' comes into being. Permanent access to water and pasture was secured, boundaries, accounting systems (100 head of cattle plus 250 head of cattle, minus the 5 that the wolves ate and the 10 we traded with the folks over the hill for their wheat and the new born calves added another 35 to the total) Invasions and war to steal resources occur. Resources include people for labour so this time is also the beginning of slave owning societies. Division of labour is more complex and specialised, sheep herders, millers, metal workers etc. Because agricultural production can produce a surplus to what is needed to feed every one there also develops a caste of society which does not have to work for a living. This becomes a priestly caste and eventually a monarchy. 'God' is invented and his representative on earth is king. Religion supports the class structure of the day. Slaves do not get to keep the produce of their labour and do not own the mean of production, land, kitchen tools, etc which belongs to their master.

Feudal society came about in Europe as the result of the collapse of slave owning societies. The land still being owned by monarch and his nominated families (aristocracy) Most people are now no longer slaves but serfs tied to the land and their lord (land lord). Serfs work the land and keep their produce but must pay some to their lord who pays some to the king as a tax. All owe allegiance to the Monarchy. There are some obligations of the Lords to their serfs as well, days off etc. The Lord may still trade his serfs to others Lords or he may set them free. (Dostoyevsky Dead Souls) Some free men exist in the cities where they produce specialised goods and arts and belong to guilds. Religion supports the class structure of the day. Production is still vested in the land so ownership of the land determines the class structure. Produce from the land belongs to the landlord not producer.

Production becomes more specialised and scientific developments and understanding allow for industrial development of production in the form of machinery. Serfs are no longer needed in the accumulation of capital. The commons are closed and tenants evicted and sheep installed. Factories and machines are built to mass produce textiles and pottery and other machines. Transportation is mechanised. When feudalism no longer provided and the new capitalist class was clamouring for more rights and privileges of their own unhindered by aristocratic obligations and ties there was the split in the church with the Roman catholic church of Spain and Portugal still opposing usury while the Protestant church of England and the Dutch and Germans breaking free of these financial constraints and allowing their new industrial capitalists to bloom. As an added bonus the Protestant ideology also provided the new puritan work ethic which suited the new factory owners very nicely. People are now 'free' in that no one 'owns' them but they are also 'free' from the land that produces the food needed to exist and the commons now longer belong to everyone but have been closed and now owned by individuals. The only thing landless ('free') people have of value to sell is their labour which is sold to the factory owners who still need some labour to run the machines. They do not own what they produce. This is owned by the factory owner. See Marx for explanation of 'Alienation' and Ernst Mandel (and Marx) for 'Surplus Value' The ideology changes to support the ruling class of the day.

This is pretty much where we are now in western society. Parts of the world still have slavery and some are more advanced. It is not evenly developed through time or place . The contradictions inherent within capitalist class society will eventually cause it to change. See Marx and Engles on Historical Materialism and Dialectical Materialism. While production capacity is great and getting greater its class relations do not allow for that production capacity to be realised since it is based on profit and profit (surplus value) is accrued to the owner of the means of production and not to those producing. Hence jobs lost overseas, unemployment, and workers unable to buy goods they make. Hence also the creation of credit and debt and loans to buy what you cannot afford.

In the early stages of socialist society there will still be class relations. A 'dictatorship of the proletariat'. Scares the shit out of the bourgeoisie when they hear that phrase but we already have a dictatorship of capital right now. What will change is that the State and its organs will no longer be the preserve of the bourgeoisie who are the present ruling class and instead will be for the use of the proletariat. Since proletarians make up the vast numbers of population this is most people by far. So, while a bourgeois person may have billions of dollars to buy a 20 bedroom mansion by the sea or a an Italian car that goes 200 kms they will not necessarily get one just because of their money in a socialist society. Resources will be allocated on a needs basis. From each according to their ability and to each according to their needs. The 20 bed room mansion on the sea side is much more likely to end up as a nursing home or a holiday venue for workers. If you have a large extended family and work in the area you may end up with it. But you wont get it simply if you just have a missus and two kids but a ton of money. But you could get a two or three bedroomed home plus up size if your family does. You will of course be able to make money if you want. Rubik's cube was invented by a Hungarian and all patents and rights were his. What you wont be able to do is pay some one else to do the inventing and keep the patent and profits like Edison did. Since nearly all work is complex it is therefore by necessity social. All persons involved on a work project or in a work place get to share in the realisation of it. Decisions are made collectively for the collective not for one person at the top. Ownership of the means of production can be based on direct ownership by the users of the productive property through worker cooperative; or commonly owned by all of society with management and control delegated to those who operate/use the means of production or public ownership by a state apparatus.

Ultimately as things progress and evolve naturally the state will wither away and there will be no property, no classes and no state. People will use things as needed, make things as needed, distribute things as needed. This is all in the future and will not be in our life time. So theory only.

Theory and practice is a big real and abstract mess. People are uneducated. They can go against their best interests and identify other classes interests as theirs. eg small business objectively have much more in common with workers than with big business but most don't see it that way. Plus, the bourgeoisie still have control of the State and its armed forces. They will and do fight to preserve their privileges and to enforce their will on the other classes. Proletarians only weapon is their labour which they can with draw any time to undermine the ruling class. The ruling class cannot survive on its own It is a parasite class and needs to exploit the labour of the workers to maintain their class position and privileges. Where ever a country has tried to implement a socialist or even just an alternative economy to capitalism it has been seen as a threat (and is ideologically) to capital. Recall Henry Kissinger talking about Chile “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.” So these new societies have had to spend most of their energy just defending themselves against constant ongoing attacks, covert and overt from the capitalists and were never left free to develop them selves.

Socialism and collectivism can have similarities but collectivism can be ascribed to national, religious and ethnic groupings as well as class. There is also political and economic distinctions. From wiki:
Economic collectivism can refer to two distinct concepts: that property (usually in reference to productive property) be owned by all of society in common, or that possessions be owned by collective groups that use the property. The first concept is related to Communism, communalism and some forms of socialism, while the latter concept is related to forms of socialism based on independent cooperative organizations such as Syndicalism, Guild socialism, libertarian socialism and market socialism. Additionally, capitalist systems that largely consist of either cooperative or corporate ownership structures, with ownership being vested in collective entities of legal owners rather than the producers/users of the property, can be characterized as being collectivist to some degree.
Politically and socially, collectivism can be horizontal like a kibbutz or collective farm in soviet times. Or it can be vertical like fascism where the role of the individual is subservient to the ethnic group, patriarchy or nation state.

Socialists would argue that true individualism can only happen when individuals are freed from coercive social structures to pursue their own interests. This can only be happen through common ownership of socialized, productive assets and free access to the means of life so that no individual has coercive power over other individuals.

With regards to socialism and communalism it might be worth a read of Marx (or was it Lenin?) 'Socialism Utopian and Scientific' (maybe it was Engels) I know this is an area of huge differences for anarchists and communists and socialists and libertarians. It is not my area of expertise. Bores me to tears and is, for me, akin to discussing how many angels can fit on a pin head.

As for the 'excesses' of the Bolsheviks, Stalin and the Red Chinese are these of a socialist nature at all? Of course the New York Times and the rest of the bourgeois media will say of course. Certainly deplorable things happened but I reject that they are inherently socialist in nature.

People have been trying to implement socialism in the US since forever. Many have died trying. In many respects many of the first nation tribes in their pre-European state would have been primitive communists same as our Aborigines here. There are right now many businesses there based on a co-operative model as well as mutual and friendly societies. But there is no sign of the bourgeoisie freely handing over the reins of power just yet. So, while it is one thing to boycott and bypass and use creative visualisation techniques political organisation is still a must. But that can take many forms other than signing up with the local party.