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Communism: Discussion on practicalities

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CFN Mandate of Southeast Asia
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Communism: Discussion on practicalities

Postby CFN Mandate of Southeast Asia » Mon Jun 07, 2021 6:42 am

This is a highly controversial and hotly debated topic, and I'm not really anticipating any university-level intellectual debating here, but I'd like to see how those who might support communism may react and respond to my doubts about their ideology so that I can get a better perspective. Spoiler alert: I am not a communist and am what some might consider "conservative", but I am willing to listen and hear out what supporters of this ideology have to say.

What is my interpretation of communism? I know that there are many variants and sub ideologies of communism, but from what I can gather from my reading (mainly the communist manifesto by Marx and some online articles. Very insufficient, I know.) the end goal of communism to establish a classless society; this is because communism I think views history and the world through the lens of a struggle between the proletarian and bourgeoise classes (actually just class struggle but at this stage it's between those 2). And herein is my first doubt. I don't get how a classless, stateless society might look like in practice. What does it mean for the state to simply wither away? Even assuming that is possible, a) I don't get how the system of economics might look like for central planning without government, and b) won't this power vacuum simply lead to other groups simply filling in and taking over? What does the sentence "to each person according to his need" mean in practice? Who defines this need, who gets to choose which people work in which area, and who gets to be in control of the means of production (I know it's the workers, but what does this look like in practice)?

The second thing I have with communism is that I think the road to getting there, while paved with good intentions, can lead to authoritarian states like those of China or the Soviet Union. By letting the government have complete economic power in the transitioning stages, doesn't it make it easier for the state to dictate which groups of people are and are not allocated resources and therefore open up greater possibilities of totalitarianism? I know this might not be the case 100 percent of the time, but from what we can gleam from Venezuela (where I'm not saying the problem is directly with socialism, but more of the fact that socialism created the environment for the corrupt rule of Maduro), China (former Maoist stronghold turned fascist state in my eyes), and the Soviet Union (which was not as authoritarian towards the final years but still more authoritarian than liberal democracies), and other communist states like Cuba...I think the trend is not coincidental.

But these are just my 2 cents. Feel free to respond, agree, disagree, argue, praise, jeer, compliment, and insult me in any way you like. I feel like I'm an open minded person (no guarantees), and I'll try to view things from both the pro-communist and anti-communist perspective.

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Salus Maior
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Postby Salus Maior » Mon Jun 07, 2021 6:46 am

I think the issues of a command economy are pretty evident.
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CFN Mandate of Southeast Asia
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Postby CFN Mandate of Southeast Asia » Mon Jun 07, 2021 6:48 am

Salus Maior wrote:I think the issues of a command economy are pretty evident.

Yes, but having read some communist/democratic socialist theory (from Orwell, who was opposed to Soviet communism but not to Spanish revolutionary socialism), I think that communism and command economics while linked are also slightly different. And there are many people, even on this website, whom I know are supporters of communist ideology. I'd like to hear how they might respond to these arguments.

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Borderlands of Rojava
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Postby Borderlands of Rojava » Mon Jun 07, 2021 7:23 am

A stateless society was a concept I didn't grasp for a long time when I was a social Democrat. But basically, imagine a continent with many small villages or towns on it run by a democratic council of citizens. That's basically what it is. I myself don't call myself an anarchist and I'm not so sure you can totally abolish the state, but I do think the state should mainly be concerned with defending its people while most other issues are handled at a local level. So imagine a classless state made up of democratically run towns and cities based around concepts like mutual aid, and the federal government of said state can raise an army to defend against outside threats. A form of left wing federalism.

As for authoritarianism, there has unfortunately been many a time where a communist movement descended into bloodshed and terror like in Cambodia or the Soviet Union. At day's end, I think the goal of any left wing society or society in general should be to not concentrate too much power in one person's hands or one small group's hands. I think each individual should have as much power as the next, barring some exceptions like a psychotic lunatic who thinks the demons are telling him to drive over school children.
Last edited by Borderlands of Rojava on Mon Jun 07, 2021 7:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Salus Maior » Mon Jun 07, 2021 7:24 am

Borderlands of Rojava wrote:But basically, imagine a continent with many small villages or towns on it run by a democratic council of citizens.


That's just Switzerland.
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“No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it. The real conflict is the inner conflict. Beyond armies of occupation and the hecatombs of extermination camps, there are two irreconcilable enemies in the depth of every soul: good and evil, sin and love. And what use are the victories on the battlefield if we ourselves are defeated in our innermost personal selves?”
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Borderlands of Rojava
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Postby Borderlands of Rojava » Mon Jun 07, 2021 7:31 am

Salus Maior wrote:
Borderlands of Rojava wrote:But basically, imagine a continent with many small villages or towns on it run by a democratic council of citizens.


That's just Switzerland.


Are their towns literally run by the whole population?

Switzerland could fit my idea more if they abolished capitalism but still, that's pretty based of them to devolve most things to the towns.
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Postby Ifreann » Mon Jun 07, 2021 7:37 am

CFN Mandate of Southeast Asia wrote: I don't get how a classless, stateless society might look like in practice.

I don't think that anyone knows exactly what it will look like, since it's never really happened before.
What does it mean for the state to simply wither away? Even assuming that is possible, a) I don't get how the system of economics might look like for central planning without government, and b) won't this power vacuum simply lead to other groups simply filling in and taking over?

I believe the idea is that there wouldn't be a power vacuum, because the power is transferred away from the state and directly to the people. Who might see fit to constitute a government to organise things for them.
What does the sentence "to each person according to his need" mean in practice? Who defines this need,

The person themselves.
who gets to choose which people work in which area,

The workers themselves.
and who gets to be in control of the means of production (I know it's the workers, but what does this look like in practice)?

It means that if you work in the toothbrush factory you get an equal say in where the bristles are sourced and how long the breaks are and what kind of health and safety protocols need to be in place for working with the big machines. All the decisions currently made by the owners or their chosen subordinates would be made democratically by all the workers.

The second thing I have with communism is that I think the road to getting there, while paved with good intentions, can lead to authoritarian states like those of China or the Soviet Union. By letting the government have complete economic power in the transitioning stages, doesn't it make it easier for the state to dictate which groups of people are and are not allocated resources and therefore open up greater possibilities of totalitarianism? I know this might not be the case 100 percent of the time, but from what we can gleam from Venezuela (where I'm not saying the problem is directly with socialism, but more of the fact that socialism created the environment for the corrupt rule of Maduro), China (former Maoist stronghold turned fascist state in my eyes), and the Soviet Union (which was not as authoritarian towards the final years but still more authoritarian than liberal democracies), and other communist states like Cuba...I think the trend is not coincidental.

Ostensibly democratic capitalist states already dictate which groups of people are and are not allocated resources. Under capitalism we produce far more food than we need, and yet people starve to death. Why? Because it is impossible to feed them? Of course not. If we can get resources out of the most remote regions, and we can, then logically we can get food in as well. But resources are not allocated to feed people because there's no profit in it, and profit is the primary motivation in capitalism.

Likewise any other crime that people fear happening under a socialist regime. They are all already happening under capitalist regimes. The economy is already fully out of your control.
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Postby Kubra » Mon Jun 07, 2021 7:56 am

CFN Mandate of Southeast Asia wrote:I don't get how the system of economics might look like for central planning without government, and b) won't this power vacuum simply lead to other groups simply filling in and taking over?
In 19th and early 20th usage, "state" was often used more to refer to the coercive institutions of government, rather than the administrative. Look at any prominent anarchist org and you'll notice plenty of committee's, treasurer's, departmental secretaries, so on and so forth.
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Postby Washington Resistance Army » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:07 am

The non-authoritarian nature of modern liberal democracies is largely a fantasy tbh. The United States has mass domestic spying, has assassinated its own citizens, at least a few police departments have used black sites, the Commerce Clause is used to grant the Federal Government control over nearly every aspect of life, social credit exists except the market controls it instead of the government (which is arguably even worse) etc etc. Pretty much everything people fear from places like China is already happening in the west or has happened in the past.
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Postby Lady Victory » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:23 am

The pursuit of Communism can be equated to running on a treadmill in order to get to the market: it doesn't matter how fast you run, you're still not going anywhere.
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Postby Ifreann » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:27 am

Lady Victory wrote:The pursuit of Communism can be equated to running on a treadmill in order to get to the market: it doesn't matter how fast you run, you're still not going anywhere.

How so?
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Postby Lady Victory » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:29 am

Ifreann wrote:
Lady Victory wrote:The pursuit of Communism can be equated to running on a treadmill in order to get to the market: it doesn't matter how fast you run, you're still not going anywhere.

How so?


A society in which the state, currency, and class (of any kind) have all been abolished simply isn't feasible and it's rather pointless to try. You'd have better luck negotiating with a hungry gator.
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Postby Duvniask » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:31 am

Lady Victory wrote:
Ifreann wrote:How so?


A society in which the state, currency, and class (of any kind) have all been abolished simply isn't feasible and it's rather pointless to try. You'd have better luck negotiating with a hungry gator.

This is little more than assertions made from pigheadedness.
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Postby Greater Cesnica » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:32 am

Lady Victory wrote:
Ifreann wrote:How so?


A society in which the state, currency, and class (of any kind) have all been abolished simply isn't feasible and it's rather pointless to try. You'd have better luck negotiating with a hungry gator.

[Citation needed]

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Postby Enjuku » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:32 am

Speaking as a former communist (for lack of a better term) I think your concerns are valid and warranted. I still consider myself a leftist, so I'm going to answer in three parts. Note these are my own generalizations and I'm using Communism as a stand-in word for all the tried variants of Marxism:

1. Communism defines itself more by what it opposes rather than what it wants to achieve

This relates to your question about creating a classless society. It may sound confusing or flat out wrong, but Karl Marx didn't wake up one day and say "I want a classless society". He spent years studying the conditions of the factories in France, England, and Germany. His ideology was formed based on the severe oppression and struggle he saw among the workers, and he combined this analysis with his own knowledge of history. Up until the industrial age, Europe was a feudalistic society that used serfs. Before that, the Roman Empire relied on slave labor. Etc. Marx formulated Marxism not as a "let's create new society", but as a diagnosis and remedy to the social problems he observed in Europe and European history.

Today, we live in a world much different from 19th century Europe. Communism is now a universalist ideology; it applies itself to many different societies with different conditions than Marx's industrial Europe. Like Marx, subsequent Communists observed the problems occurring in their societies, and formulated Communist theories based on those conditions. They similarly didn't just wake up and think "let's have no classes". Instead, they concluded having no classes was a solution to the problems they were having.

So knowing Communism relies on juxtaposing with what it's trying to fix or replace, we move to #2:

2. Communism, like any ideology, is different in practice from in theory

This relates to your question about what classlessness looks like in practice. Communism, because it tends to deal with emotionally raw issues like injustice and oppression, can invoke passions. Passions lead to defensiveness. Being defensive about your beliefs often makes it harder to convey them to others. This is a problem, because Communism isn't a belief system; Communism is a political ideology based on diagnosing social problems and solving them. So the basic Communist formula is:

abundance led to hoarding resources --> hoarding resources led to class systems --> class systems led to cycles of oppression and struggle.


Capitalism is just the latest form of class system, based on wage labor and private property ownership. To end this cycle of oppression and struggle, you remove classes. Very formulaic.

Of course, Communism in practice has faults. You point out China, which bent and twisted to still call itself Marxist today despite having huge corporations that pay industrial revolution era wages. Other examples exist of countries trying out communism and not meeting the end of the formula: classlessness. That's because the theory, like for any theory, still needs to adapt when put into practice.

Take the American theory of republicanism for example. The US started in the 1700s by putting the theories of Montesquieu, Rousseau, Locke, and other theorists into practice. We often talk about the American experiment as a "success", but in what way is it anymore a success than if the Soviet Union lasted as long as the United States has? Modern America is much different than what those theorists envisioned.

We aren't a union of sovereign states anymore, the Civil War proved that federal government was powerful enough to stop secession. We don't have pure separation of powers anymore, because the President mostly handles wars and the Supreme Court exerts judicial review to strike down Congress's laws. We don't even have the old American idea of democracy anymore (Jefferson envisioned a republic of yeoman farmers aka landowner voters), because everyone can vote regardless of land or wealth.

If we compare the American experiment with Communist experiments, we reach the same problem. Both theorized an ideal world based on observing material conditions. Americans saw exploitation by government, and so wanted a government that protects natural rights. Communists see exploitation by upper classes, and so wanted a society that removes class distinctions.

Both experiments aren't perfect, and both have been responsible for heinous human rights violations. Yet there are still people pushing for the theories behind those experiments. Because of #3:

3. Communism gives people a vision of the most attainable ideal world

This addresses your point that Communism is paved with good intentions but leads to authoritarianism. That is very true. Communist states historically took an "ends justify the means" approach to implementing their ideology. But it also makes sense why it does it that way. Communism, as I've been harping for most of this post, presents itself as formulaic and based on material conditions. It's supposed to be based on the reality of things. Life sucks. There's exploitation. So here's a formula to get rid of all of that: Communism!

When your life is full of shit, religion can give you peace. Family and friends can give you comfort. But ideologies like Communism give something different. It gives you a method to not just feel better about life, but actually change your life. And change the lives of people around you. That's a powerful message. It empowers people by saying you can actively change the world, and here's a method to get it done. And that's what encourages that "ends justify the means" approach.

-----

So that's the end of my long answer. Again, not a communist anymore (I'm much more moderate), so not trying to say these reasons are why Communism is the way to go. Just wanted to address your concerns to help understand where Communists are coming from. :)
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Northern Connecticut
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Postby Northern Connecticut » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:33 am

Communism is bad in my opinion for these reasons.
1. It does not make everyone's life better by raising them up, it pulls everyone down.
2. The government should not be allowed to take my money and property.
3. It paves the way for psychotic dictators like Stalin to take power.
4. A centrally planned economy is not as good as a free one, because, in the centrally planned economy, you have no choice in your job, and the best people for the job are not picked.
5. Did I say that the government should not be allowed to steal from its citizens? Well, let me say it again.
6. Soviet Russia did NOT have progressive social policies.
7. Communist countries just become police states 99.9 percent of the time.
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Ifreann
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Postby Ifreann » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:35 am

Lady Victory wrote:
Ifreann wrote:How so?


A society in which the state, currency, and class (of any kind) have all been abolished simply isn't feasible and it's rather pointless to try. You'd have better luck negotiating with a hungry gator.

What's not feasible about it? And why shouldn't we try even if it were infeasible? As it stands, capitalism is pretty literally destroying the world. Seems to me that pursuing communism can only improve matters, even if we never actually achieve a stateless, classless, moneyless society. Isn't it better to try for utopia and never reach it than to maintain the status quo until it kills us?
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Greater Cesnica
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Postby Greater Cesnica » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:35 am

Northern Connecticut wrote:Communism is bad in my opinion for these reasons.
1. It does not make everyone's life better by raising them up, it pulls everyone down.
2. The government should not be allowed to take my money and property.
3. It paves the way for psychotic dictators like Stalin to take power.
4. A centrally planned economy is not as good as a free one, because, in the centrally planned economy, you have no choice in your job, and the best people for the job are not picked.
5. Did I say that the government should not be allowed to steal from its citizens? Well, let me say it again.
6. Soviet Russia did NOT have progressive social policies.
7. Communist countries just become police states 99.9 percent of the time.

1. [Citation needed]
2. The path towards communism can be paved without a coercive government.
3. Stalin was a right-winger in the context of the revolution and governed over what effectively became a state capitalist entity.
4. Communism entails a stateless and classless society. You're thinking of state socialism, which, again, is not necessary.
5. kek
6. Soviet Russia was not communist.
7. Name a communist country.
Last edited by Greater Cesnica on Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Kilobugya
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Postby Kilobugya » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:36 am

Well, this is a vast topic, and it's hard to answer everything, but I'll try to give a few points (full disclaimer : I'm myself a card-carrying member of the French Communist Party, but I don't pretend to speak for all communists or even all from PCF).

First about the "end goal", the stateless, classless society.

I agree it's kinda fuzzy - but that's on purpose. Because we are historical materialists, and we believe societies are constrained by the material conditions of existence. The society at the age of Internet and mass production can't be the same than the one during the middle ages, and the future society with AI and nanotech and who-knows-what will likely be even more different. But also because we can't decide for future generations. The transition from capitalism to communism will take time, and while we are driven by values, principles and broad objectives, we can't decide for everyone, even less for those yet-to-be-born (or currently in their infancy).

But a classless, stateless society doesn't mean a vacuum of power. It means some form of direct or participative democracy, where decisions are taken collectively by people affected by the decision. The exact implementation can take many shapes, not necessarily exclusive - frequent online voting, pyramidal council systems, self-organisation at local level, ... the idea of the state "withering away" is that when people are more directly involved in decision-making, and that democratic decision-making process spreads to most aspects of social life (including organization of workplaces, ...) the distinction between "state" and the rest of society disappears.

As for "each person according to his need" it's a broad principle, the "needs" are indeed not exactly defined. But it means things people with disabilities being allocated resources to compensate their disability. It means a family with children should be allowed to get a bigger house/flat. It means sick people should always receive the best possible healthcare. How to allocate resources is a complicated issue, but I believe we can do much better than the capitalist free market system with a set of universal rights (universal healthcare, right to decent housing and food, access to broadband and clean water, ...), collective decisions of broad priorities, and then a mix of cybernetic planning and free market of cooperatives for the more consumer-oriented goods and services.

As for the implementation, the main issue to me is how to build "socialism" or "communism" while facing the hostility of the capitalists. Paris' Commune tried to build a democratic, participative, non-violent form of socialism (they even burned the guillotine, ...). They were slaughtered during the Bloody Week. Spanish Republicans tried a democratic road to socialism - they got Franco, supported by Hitler, while the "democratic" countries denied them any help. Allende tried a democratic road towards socialism - he faced massive destabilization and sabotage from the CIA and was killed in a military coup. Kurds in Rojava tried to implement a democratic form of socialism, they got bombed and invaded by Erdogan while USA and EU turned a blind eye.

That's the level of hostility communists or socialists will face - capitalists pretend they like democracy and non-violence when they are in power, but the day they lose it, they become ruthless and without any ethical constraints. How do we manage to defend the Revolution against such reckless hostility, without using methods that will turn us into tyranny ? I don't have any real answer to that question - and yet it's the crucial one. I can only say we should try, to the best of our abilities, to move towards communism, ready to defend ourselves from the violence of the counter-revolution, but careful to not lose our soul in the process.
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Kubra
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Postby Kubra » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:38 am

Northern Connecticut wrote:4. A centrally planned economy is not as good as a free one, because, in the centrally planned economy, you have no choice in your job, and the best people for the job are not picked.
This one is actually really complicated, at least if we're talking about the Soviet Union.
For university grads yeah, you were assigned a job. But for regular-ass folk, not only did you have to pick a job but it was your ass on the line if you failed to get one, and things could get especially bad if you tried to compete for professions reserved for university grads.
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An Alan Smithee Nation
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Postby An Alan Smithee Nation » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:38 am

If everyone was self-employed selling their services in the gig economy, is that closer to communism, or further away?
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Greater Cesnica
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Postby Greater Cesnica » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:39 am

An Alan Smithee Nation wrote:If everyone was self-employed selling their services in the gig economy, is that closer to communism, or further away?

Closer.

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Northern Connecticut
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Postby Northern Connecticut » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:41 am

Greater Cesnica wrote:
Northern Connecticut wrote:Communism is bad in my opinion for these reasons.
1. It does not make everyone's life better by raising them up, it pulls everyone down.
2. The government should not be allowed to take my money and property.
3. It paves the way for psychotic dictators like Stalin to take power.
4. A centrally planned economy is not as good as a free one, because, in the centrally planned economy, you have no choice in your job, and the best people for the job are not picked.
5. Did I say that the government should not be allowed to steal from its citizens? Well, let me say it again.
6. Soviet Russia did NOT have progressive social policies.
7. Communist countries just become police states 99.9 percent of the time.

1. [Citation needed]
2. The path towards communism can be paved without a coercive government.
3. Stalin was a right-winger in the context of the revolution and governed over what effectively became a state capitalist entity.
4. Communism entails a stateless and classless society. You're thinking of state socialism, which, again, is not necessary.
5. kek
6. Soviet Russia was not communist.
7. Name a communist country.


1. What the hell is a "kek"
2. Russia does not even to this day, has progressive social policies, look up how russia handles gay rights.
3. Soviet russia would literally send you to rot in a frozen hellhole if you had an opinion.
It seems to me that communism is WRONG, and DOES NOT WORK.
American Patriot and Paleoconservative

Republicans 2022

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Borderlands of Rojava
Postmaster-General
 
Posts: 14648
Founded: Jul 27, 2020
Democratic Socialists

Postby Borderlands of Rojava » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:42 am

An Alan Smithee Nation wrote:If everyone was self-employed selling their services in the gig economy, is that closer to communism, or further away?


I've asked myself before if right libertarianism and market socialism are really as different as they say they are partially because of this.

It's like the weirdest version of horseshoe theory.
Last edited by Borderlands of Rojava on Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
Leftist, commie and Antifa Guy. Democratic Confederalist, Anti-racist

"The devil is out there. Hiding behind every corner and in every nook and cranny. In all of the dives, all over the city. Before you lays an entire world of enemies, and at day's end when the chips are down, we're a society of strangers. You cant walk by someone on the street anymore without crossing the road to get away from their stare. Welcome to the Twilight Zone. The land of plague and shadow. Nothing innocent survives this world. If it can't corrupt you, it'll kill you."

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Kilobugya
Negotiator
 
Posts: 5986
Founded: Apr 05, 2005
Left-wing Utopia

Postby Kilobugya » Mon Jun 07, 2021 8:42 am

Lady Victory wrote:A society in which the state, currency, and class (of any kind) have all been abolished simply isn't feasible and it's rather pointless to try. You'd have better luck negotiating with a hungry gator.


Even if it's not reachable (which I don't agree with, but let's admit it) isn't worth trying to get much closer to it ? In a way, it's like medicine. It might not be feasible to cure all diseases and wounds, but it's still worth doing our best, attempting to get closer to it whenever possible. Even if we can't fully abolish social classes, the state, borders, currency, ... but there is lots of things we can do. We can get whole sectors (like healthcare) out of the commercial system. We can reduce the difference between social classes, both in term of wealth but also in term of control, like by giving workers power into the managing of their companies. We might not wither away the state completely, but we can move towards participative democracy.

I do believe the communist ideal is mostly reachable, with the level of technology we have today. But even if it's not the case, we can still make society much, much better by using it as a distant goal, as an inspiration, as a set of principles and values.
Secular humanist and trans-humanist, rationalist, democratic socialist, pacifist, dreaming very high to not perform too low.
Economic Left/Right: -9.50 - Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.69

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