The REDSTAR2000 Papers

Listen to the worm of doubt, for it speaks truth. - Leftist Discussion

Wants and Needs in Communist Society November 13, 2003 by RedStar2000

Perhaps it is due to the wide-spread and still growing disillusionment with the Leninist paradigm, but I find that the subject of the "details" of communist society seem to be coming up over and over again.

Not that the Leninists don't defend their views with as much vigor as they can yet muster...but their historical failures vitiate every criticism of alternatives that they can scrape together.

Perhaps it is in the course of ideological struggle with their obsolete conceptions that we can clarify both what we really want and how we propose to get it.


I will quote here (partially) from the fashion pages of a current issue of a popular American magazine...


At left, Mr. X is in a suit by Hickey Freeman ($1,095), a shirt by Cerruti ($150) and a pair of Harry's Shoes ($508). Mr. Y wears a Jack Victor suit ($695), a Canali shirt ($185), and Bostonian shoes ($135). At right, Mr. Z is in a suit ($550) and shirt ($50) by ck, a tie by Lee Allison ($60), and a belt ($155) and boots ($420) by Toschi.

Miss A is in a dress by Marc Bouwer ($4,200) and stilettos by Zang Toi ($600). Mr. B is in a jacket ($1,130) and pants ($806) by Roberto Cavalli, a shirt ($195) and vest ($185) by Sabato Russa, a belt by Andrea D'Amico ($200) and boots by Paul Smith ($450). Miss C is wearing a skirt by Etro USA ($2,470), a bustier ($1,300) and shrug ($4,900) by Zang Toi, and boots by A. Testoni ($850). Mr. D. is in a jacket ($1,430) and pants ($755) by Roberto Cavalli, a tux shirt by NYBased ($98), a T-shirt by D&G ($130), a belt by Andrea D'Amico ($215), and shoes by A. Testoni ($795).

He's in a paisley shirt ($145), wool vest ($225), and velvet blazer ($750), all by Joesph Abboud. She's in a satin gown by Valentino ($11,590)...

The hymns of monopoly capitalism have different tunes, but one of the most seductive has been that of the "free market". Many people who call themselves socialists, Marxists, Leninists, etc. have joined the chorus: "a free market provides the most efficient mechanism of satisfying the varying "wants and needs" of the population." Their version of "socialism" would really be a kind of "pure" state-capitalism; state-owned enterprises would have to compete with one another in a "free market"...the winners would grow and the losers would perish.

That monopoly capitalist markets are "not really free" has actually been taken up by some "leftists" as a criticism...they propose a market that is far "freer"--less monopolistic--than that which exists now and claim it would be even more "efficient".

"Efficiency" is, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder. If they don't have what you want at a price you can afford, the "efficiency" of the free marker is a big fat zero in your eyes.

The "virtue" of the "free market", as Adam Smith pointed out in 1776 and as countless Viennese economists have elaborated on since, is that large numbers of individual decisions will "cause" capital and labor to "flow" from unprofitable economic activities into "profitable" ones...thus producing what people "want" at a price they can "afford".

We have to put words like "want" and "afford" in quotation marks because these values can be, to some extent, manipulated. The psychological effects of monopoly and advertising are a substantial "tax" on free market transactions...rendering "efficiency" as metaphysical, on occasion, as "intellectual property". How many people actually "want" Windows©? Try and buy a new PC without it!

The pure state-capitalists would prohibit both (presumably); without sanctioned monopolies or seductive advertising, consumers would choose a mixture of goods and services according to their personal preferences, price, and quality.

There are some obvious objections to this idea, not least of which would be the tendency of such a system to devolve back into regular capitalism (just as state-monopoly capitalism has devolved back into monopoly capitalism).

Any time you create a situation in which people are permitted and indeed encouraged to "act like capitalists", you may be sure that--sooner or later--they will become capitalists. Being determines consciousness.

But in this essay, I'd like to take a look at what we really mean when we talk about what people "want" and "need", not so much as abstractions but in terms of the situations people will actually face in the transition from capitalism to communism.

For example, it is likely that the working class will be in pretty bad shape economically on the morrow of proletarian revolution. In that context, will people "want" the baroque plethora of "consumer goods & services" presently "available", at least to the upper middle class and beyond? Will there be a large "unmet demand" for pet psychologists, aroma therapy, designer jock-straps, etc.?

We know that the first priorities will be much more basic: restoration of electricity and natural gas for heating and cooking, reliable availability of food in sufficient quantities, public transit, communications (especially the internet), housing for the homeless, etc.

At the very beginning, we communists expect all of these basic needs to be fulfilled for the asking...that is, free. Rationing will be the rule.

Of course, private capitalists will attempt to continue to function in a money economy that will parallel the quasi-spontaneous moneyless (communist) economy. You can get food to cook for yourself for free; but if you want to eat in a privately owned restaurant, you still have to pay.

Thus it will be in the interests of the working class to "squeeze" the private sector. The privately-owned restaurant begins to have trouble acquiring raw materials; the new chain of workers' restaurants has plenty on the menu...all free.

Let's assume that the workers win these initial struggles and that, some years into the future, there is a flourishing communist (moneyless) economy providing basic goods and services for free and a "semi-legal" private economy supplying other "wants". Where will they find their customers and how will they be paid?

Fewer and fewer people will work for wages as time passes...thus they will not be customers of the private sector. Those areas where the private sector is doing well are likely at any moment to run into competition from a workers' collective that distributes the same or a similar product or service for free.

What's a capitalist to do?

Moreover, what will people actually want? Baseball trading cards? Tropical fish? Gas-guzzling SUV's? Private yachts? Or, as illustrated above, "high fashion"?

The upper classes in the Roman Empire dined on hummingbird's there much demand for that dish these days?

In other words, what people "want" adjusts itself to the kind of society that exists and what it is reasonable to expect. One of the disadvantages that the state-monopoly capitalist societies like the USSR suffered in competition with the monopoly-capitalist west, was that Russians could not see any reasonable explanation why they couldn't have what westerners apparently had.

Communist societies in advanced countries should not face this difficulty, since workers will understand that basic necessities come first...for everyone, a lesson painfully learned in the last decade or two of the old capitalist system.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 1, 2003

Your questions relate to the details of the "transition period"...which are tough to predict, especially far in advance.

What I anticipate is the end of wage-slavery and the production of commodities for sale first in the "big ticket" areas of the economy...the list of things I mentioned required to restore a technological economy.

Why? Because I'm anticipating that the workers in those important areas will be more politically advanced and more likely to see the gains to be made from a "quick" transition to communism.

Will the same be true of small businesses and the people employed by them? Well, you know that the "petty bourgeoisie" have a different class outlook on things...and there will be a lot of them (not as many as now but still quite a few).

The folks who work for small businesses also have a different outlook...they often think of the boss as a "personal friend" and even socialize with him.

Now, imagine what these folks are likely to do when the power is back on...they will try to function as they always have (not all, but most).

I don't think there's anything we can do to "stop that" all at once. Not even the Leninists could do it with all the police powers that they had.

That's why I suggest "squeezing" them out of existence...where we find that they are doing something genuinely useful, we organize a collective to do the same thing for free.

They can't compete with "free". They either have to reorganize their enterprise into a wage-free collective or quit altogether.

Over time, people will stop working "for" them...the wages are useless except in a steadily shrinking private sector. And people will "look down" on them: "What? You're still a wage-slave? You poor bastard!"

The main point, I think, is to pay attention to the private sector...if they are doing something that people really want, we have to step in and organize that production or service along communist principles. We don't want to allow a situation to arise in which people are leaving the collectives to work for wages so that they can buy this greatly desired good or service. That would destroy our whole project and ultimately lead back to class society.

I agree, of course, that a "magic wand" would be quite useful in these circumstances...wave it and capitalism is instantly transformed into communism. As a practical matter, I don't think it will be that easy...though it will be much easier than the Leninists think.

But remember, we have abandoned the strategy of a centralized state apparatus with draconian police powers (because it doesn't work); that means we have no choice but to rely on the political consciousness of the whole working class.

And they will not all be communists or anarchists on the day after the revolution. There will still be a lot of work to do.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 2, 2003


So why do you call yourself an anarchist?

Actually, I've never "called myself an anarchist". The terms I've usually used are "marxist" and "communist"--sometimes, "real communist".

The problem with "anarchism" in my opinion is that it is "too broad"...there are too many completely contradictory ideas that are using that label.

Anarcho-communists and anarcho-syndicalists--sometimes called "class struggle anarchists" or "platform anarchists"--are folks I would get along with just fine (if they'd be willing to "forgive" my on-going assertions that Marx was essentially right...).

But I don't like "market anarchists" (Proudhon, etc.) at all. The Blanqui-ists strike me as Leninists without Lenin. The Stirnerites and the neo-primitivists seem to me to be outright nutballs. I don't want to be identified with any of that crap.

And anarchism as a broad "movement" has this really flabby tradition of accepting anyone who calls himself an anarchist as "legitimate".

They, of course, criticize Marxists (not altogether unfairly) from the opposite view--"you guys will split from each other at the drop of a footnote".

Like much else, I expect realignments with the passing of time and the fading of old disputes. I hope that the real communists and the class-struggle anarchists will perceive their common aims in the course of practical work...while the reformists and nutballs that mis-use both labels will fade into insignificance.

But in the meantime, I do not "tremble in my boots" because some Leninist calls me an "anarchist". They call anyone that who declines to submit to their "leadership" from the left.

Which makes it a kind of honor, don't you think?
First posted at Che-Lives on November 2, 2003


Don't mind me changing the subject a tad, but Redstar, how do you plan to have a dictatorship of the proletariat without a revolutionary communist party to wield power and bring the working class to power?

If there is a party "wielding power" then it won't be a dictatorship "of" the will be a dictatorship over the proletariat.

We've seen where that leads...back to capitalism.


At what level do you anticipate the consciousness of the working class will be at?

Pretty damn high, much higher than the Leninists anticipate but perhaps not as high as you anticipate. Remember that we are speculating here about the details of events that may still be quite far into the future.

The more advanced the class has become, the more deep and thorough-going the proletarian revolution will be.

But I would be very surprised if, even within the revolutionary movement, there was not a "left" and a "right"...and a conflict between them on "how fast and how far" to go.

You and I would hopefully find ourselves on the "left" of that dispute...but it would be foolish to think that "everyone" will be there.


Restaurants, etc., will not be necessary.

I wouldn't bet the rent money on that one; people will be working pretty hard to restore basic services and relieving them of the necessity of individual cooking might be a very useful thing to do.

A chain of workers' restaurants (with real food, of course) might be something that would be greatly appreciated by the class.


I would safely say from what I have read that you are an anarcho-communist. Anyone who refutes Marx's theories of organizing a revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat are principled anarchists, if not fundamentally so.

Here, of course, you touch on one of the problems that surround the traditional labels.

Marx, for example, never suggested the need for a "vanguard party" and, indeed, a literal reading of the Communist Manifesto suggests that he saw no need for a separate communist party at all. (Yes, that's what it says, folks.)

Nor did he ever suggest that "dictatorship of the proletariat" meant dictatorship over the proletariat by a self-appointed elite of bourgeois or petty-bourgeois origins. In fact, I believe there is a letter he wrote to the effect that communists should be suspicious of those who join the movement from outside the working class and that such persons should be watched closely to prevent the intrusion of bourgeois ideology into the workers' movement.

But if you'd like to refer to me as an "anarcho-communist", that's fine with me.


I am not sure what you mean by real communist. Please explain.

A real communist rejects the entire Leninist paradigm--vanguard party, "professional" revolutionaries, "democratic" centralism, imperialism as a special "stage" of capitalism, etc., etc., etc. A real communist throws the whole 20th century "communist" movement (with a few obscure exceptions) into the dumpster of history.

Not simply because it was "un-Marxist" in a theoretical sense (it was)...but because it failed the test of real world practice. Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Tito, Mao, Ho, etc., etc. all had their chances to show what they could do...and what they all did was restore capitalism.

Saddest of all is the fact that modern Leninists of all varieties have learned nothing from their own histories. They don't see fundamental theoretical errors; all they can do is blame one another for "treachery", "corruption", etc. And all the modern Leninists can do now is promise us that they will be "good" if we only give them "another chance".

Real communists will not give them "another chance".
First posted at Che-Lives on November 2, 2003


...what if someone wanted say a guitar, a bike, a skateboard or some chocolate? Would that state just create them and make them available for free to whoever wanted them? That seems somewhat idealistic to me.

There would be no "state" as such; the idea that the "state" will "exist" to "do nice things for us" is a holdover from 20th century Leninism.

There will be groups of workers who make all these things (and many others) and give them away. There might be some form of rationing involved or there might be a waiting list or both...but sooner or later, you'd get the product or service you wanted or a reasonable approximation thereof.

If you're aware of the history of Linux and freeware, you know there's nothing "idealistic" at all about the practice...and no "state" need be involved at all. There are simply ordinary people, doing what they enjoy, proud of the quality of their efforts, and happy that people want to use what they've created.

It "works".

So will communism.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 2, 2003


...but with luxuries, people want different things. How would you ration things like musical instruments and recreational things (bikes, skateboards etc.)? People have different interests so they'd want different things. But what if someone has a lot of hobbies and requests a lot of these items? Could this not incite jealousy among other people?

Well, it's true that if someone has material object X and you want one too...and have to wait some considerable period of time before you get one, you're apt to be a little pissed, to say the least.

And just to aggravate you even more, the production of luxuries will probably be dominated initially by small privately-owned companies...still hoping to survive the revolution and the arrival of communism. It will take some time for workers' collectives to replace them. (How much time? I don't know!)

Then, of course, there are wide differences in perceived quality in some things. Factory-made musical instruments are considered "inferior" to hand-crafted instruments made one at a time.

I'm not a musician and my "ear" is not well-enough trained to tell the difference, but I've heard musicians speak of such things with considerable vehemence.

If you really "need" a hand-crafted musical instrument, you are probably going to have to convince some very skilled craftsman that you are such an excellent musician that s/he will want to make an instrument for you.(!) And then you will wait a year for the work to be done.

But at least with regard to "mass-produced" luxuries--industries that can be readily converted to communist principles--I don't really see any long-range difficulty in satisfying any reasonable want.

As to someone who is "greedy"...who fills their house with possessions not for use but for "display" and "status", I would expect a couple of consequences. The first is that such displays will have a negative effect on their status...they will meet with social disapproval from neighbors and friends. Secondly, there will undoubtedly be some sort of central data base that collects information on consumption patterns...and greedy folks will "stand out". The central super-computer might well be programmed to send their names to the bottom of all waiting-lists for some period of time to give everyone else a chance to "catch up". (There's an interesting possible corollary: if you consume "too little", you might get an email from the central data bank suggesting some consumer goodies that you might want to check out.)


What do you think the characteristics of the advancement of class consciousness [will] be? As the class become more and more conscious, what will be the signs? And what do you think the ruling class will do at these stages? Do you not think that it will be impossible to advance class consciousness to the point in which we can have a true and functioning anarchist/real communist revolution because of the retaliations of the bourgeoisie?

Well, the short answer is that, unlike the Leninists, I don't "believe" in the "infinite power" of the bourgeoisie. I think that when the time comes for proletarian revolution, the old ruling class itself will be demoralized and, in many respects, ready to surrender. Dying ruling classes do fight to the end, but with less and less self-confidence as the end approaches. Their policies become erratic, they fall to squabbling among themselves, etc.

It is just the opposite with rising classes; their confidence in their forthcoming victory steadily increases as the moment of revolution approaches...their demands on the old order sharply increase in scope and depth until even the most sweeping "concessions" are rejected as hopelessly inadequate. They begin to grasp the idea that they really are a class, that "an injury to one is an injury to all", that class-wide solidarity makes sense. Even some people who are not members of the working class are "attracted" by this, the sense of adventure in "making a new world".

The clearest sign that we are really "on our way" is when the class struggle intensifies to the point that "everyone" (members and lackeys of the old ruling class) begin whining that "the workers are never satisfied!".


I don't really understand this. A revolutionary movement which did not want to advance the consciousness of the working class to a point that an anarchist/real communist revolution can be safe-guarded is not a revolutionary movement I would want to be a part of. Any revolutionary movement that deviated from the principles of anti-state and anti-hierarchy is, in my opinion, a hindrance on the process of freeing the workers and would not be a movement I would want to be a part of!

Well, those are good intentions and I hope you stick to them. But you have to remember that real revolutions involve millions of people with wide differences in political consciousness. All may agree that the old ruling class must go...but the shape of the new society will be widely and vigorously disputed.

When you stop and think about it, how could it be any other way? Millions and even tens of millions of people who were always taught to be politically silent and deferential to their "superiors" now have a voice.

And I don't think they'll be real shy about using it.


In a revolutionary situation these restaurants would not be needed and all property [would be] expropriated.

Expropriation is not just a padlock on the door and a cardboard sign taped to the window "Property of the Municipal Workers Council of Paducah, Kentucky--No Trespassing".

Expropriation to be meaningful involves workers actually taking possession of and operating the existing facility on communist principles.

Naturally, we'd like that to happen as quickly as possible everywhere...but realistically, that seems unlikely to me.

To arbitrarily shut down any small business that is producing something useful simply in order to padlock the door with no thought of replacing its useful function seems to me to be very short-sighted and will cause unnecessary hardship for those workers who actually relied on that business.

To put it crudely, we have to knock off "the big dogs" first...and, then, in due time, clean up the little dogs later.

Much as we might like it, we can't do everything at once.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 3, 2003


You talk about the advancement of class consciousness in a general way. I am talking about specific stages in advancement.

Well, I'm not sure how "specific" we can be at this point...nor am I even sure that "stages" is the right word to use in this context.

It's often convenient and sometimes useful to divide the progress of a movement by "stages" if they were "steps" up the side of a mountain.

But we should know that social developments are so complex and occasionally so chaotic that such divisions are inevitably crude descriptions of what is actually happening...and sometimes actually misleading.

Consider Lenin's famous work on imperialism...which he described as "the highest stage of capitalism". We know now (or ought to) that there is actually a rather seamless path from the rise of proto-capitalism in northern Italy and in Flanders (c.1300CE) to the which imperialism was more or less present all the way.

We can make distinctions between different periods of capitalism--there are some real differences along the way--but to describe them as "stages" really concludes too much.

And we know that capitalism has developed far "higher" now than it had in 1914.

So I don't feel particularly comfortable with the idea of trying to anticipate "specific stages" in the development of the revolutionary movement.


Do you not think that the revolution will come before full consciousness because of the attacks that will be made by the bourgeoisie during that process.

No, I don't think the last spasmodic attacks of the old ruling class will have any negative effects and may have positive effects...accelerating the development of class consciousness.

But I do think that post-revolutionary society will be faced with a potentially serious problem: people do not develop identically. There will doubtless be many conscious anarchists and communists, and many more who are strongly or weakly sympathetic to those ideas.

But there may be many others who did not feel that badly off under the old order and who are dubious or even unsympathetic to the new society. Many small businessmen will fall into that category and a lot of the "experts" as well.

So class struggle will continue after the a different way, to be sure.


When I talk about expropriation I talk about exactly what you said. The workers going into those businesses and running them along [anarcho-] communist principles.

Why do you not think it could happen straight away?

Because, as I explained above, not every worker will immediately see the need to do that.

Workers in small businesses have a marked tendency to "identify" with the "good boss"--who they see as a "human being" and not a faceless, greedy, bloodsucking corporation.

Thus, I think it's reasonable to conclude that their class consciousness will be "less developed" than that of workers in major corporate/government bureaucracies...who have fewer illusions, even now, about the nature of the capitalist class.

I think they will need to see, with their own eyes, that communism is better...before they'll be willing to do it themselves.

Of course, I wouldn't mind at all if I was wrong about that.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 3, 2003


Then how do you suppose inequality will be avoided if there is no central government to oversee an equal distribution of goods?

I actually expect considerable inequality in the early days, decreasing as things get organized, but never reaching anything much more than a reasonable approximation of equality.

Remember, "to each according to her needs"...and some needs are legitimately greater than others.


How do you suppose the reactionary plans of the bourgeoisie will be thwarted is there is no central government to do so?

I expect most of the old ruling class to flee for their lives. Those that remain will be keeping their heads down...hoping not to be noticed.

The only real danger, if it exists, will be from one or more of the remaining capitalist powers (if any).

And when proletarian revolution has just taken place in Western Europe, that suggests that global capitalism is in pretty bad shape...I think it unlikely that they will be able to mount more than a token and easily defeated intervention. (Remember that the U.S. and the U.K. are still unable to conquer Iraq.)

Of course, it's possible to create some pretty horrendous scenarios...the massive use of nuclear weapons to exterminate major revolutionary cities like Paris and Berlin, for example.

Should something like that happen, we are fucked! No Leninist state or party is going to keep that from happening, if capitalists elsewhere are so deranged as to choose that alternative. Hopefully, we'll have at least a few nukes to toss back...and, likewise hopefully, such an atrocity will simply result in massive revolutions in the guilty countries.

But who knows? One thing is for sure: it makes no sense at all to "plan" to re-fight the Russian civil war...any more than it made sense for French generals to plan to re-fight World War I on the eve of World War II.

Whatever forms proletarian revolutions take in this century, it's practically certain they will be different than they were in the last century.

Things change.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 3, 2003

Any society that didn't make spare parts widely and immediately available would find itself in the shit fairly quickly...although, it's interesting to note that in "replace, don't repair" cultures like American, getting something fixed is often the more expensive alternative.

When a friend of mine wanted to have her computer repaired, the manufacturer told her bluntly that it would be cheaper for her to buy a new one...and they'd even give her a small trade-in allowance on her old one. (!)

I think "repair, don't replace" makes more sense and imposes far less stress on the environment.

In practical terms, the most sensible thing to do with a "consumer goodie" that you decided that you didn't want/need would be to give it to someone who wanted/needed it. Indeed, there might be large "centers" in every city where unwanted/unneeded stuff is there for the waiting list or ration card required. (!)

Something like the way that people do "garage sales" now, only all in one place and no money is needed.


But the working class will have collective ownership of the means of production, making them the ruling class, subjecting the government to their will.

I don't want to discourage you or anyone from expressing your point-of-view...but you are not raising serious arguments. You are muttering an incantation, a ritual formula without regard to the historical record.

It does not matter who "the ruling class" in law is...what counts is who the ruling class really is.

If does not matter if the working class "owns the means of production" if a small elite actually manages the means of production as if they owned them. Material reality prevails over ideological pretensions and legal fictions.

To suggest that the working class "subjected the government to its will" in any country where Leninist parties ruled is so utterly at variance with the historical facts as to be more appropriate for a Harry Potter movie than for Che-Lives.

I don't mind disputing these issues with you at as much length as you desire...but I'm growing a bit impatient with the lack of substantive argument in your posts.

How many times will I have to say it: where is the evidence that any Leninist group has given up its pretensions of superiority to the working class?
First posted at Che-Lives on November 4, 2003


To tell you the truth, my knowledge of 20th century communism is very shallow, so I can't present to you much substantial evidence of past Leninist regimes.

Do you not feel that this imposes an obligation upon you? If you are going to defend the Leninist paradigm, then don't you have a duty to understand it well enough to argue its "merits"?


I know what is rational when reasoning progressively from capitalism to communism. It's rational, following the capitalist example (which is what has existed for centuries past), to place in power a party that acts in function of the interests of an interest group. This group is the working class.

So it would seem...except for one "tiny detail". When past ruling classes rose to power, they were minorities. They needed strong parties and strong states to protect and expand their interests vs. their competitors.

The working class will be the overwhelming majority of the population (it is now and will be even more so) does not need a political party or a powerful centralized state to enforce its will as a class.


I frankly see nothing inhibiting the people from democratically influencing a central government.

Why should the working class settle for "influencing" a central government when it can be the "government" everywhere?

If the class has all power in its own hands as a consequence of proletarian revolution, why delegate it?

And if some things, as a practical matter, must be delegated, why delegate them to members of a political party who have publicly declared that they have "a right to rule"? That's suicidal!

You might as well "elect" an emperor.


To me, the personal interests of the policy-makers pose no threat to the peoples' rule. Only if they constitute [themselves] as an individual class, but they will not.

Are you gifted with the gift of prophesy? How can you possibly know that?


The government officials will not be an elite ruling the people from above. They are members of the working masses like everyone else...They do not form a ruling class.

They may "start out" as members of the "working masses", but will they stay that way? Are you planning to rotate them out of office before they "get comfortable"?

Indeed, what makes you think that once they get "up there" that they will even "accept" the idea that they should give up their lofty position & perks? If the army and police are loyal to them, why shouldn't they just stay in power forever?


No Leninist regime has given up its so-called "pretensions of superiority" because they were/are all in danger of being over run by counter revolutionaries if they were/are to give up their positions.

In other words, the working class itself is entirely powerless to resist counter-revolution...only the Leninist parties can "do that".

Which utterly trashes your contention that the working class has any "power or influence". Because if it did, then "the party" would not be concerned about counter-revolution. The "party" would rely on the class, rather than the other way around.


Perhaps you can forget the fact that I'm a Leninist and actually use things gathered from what I've said and not from was done in the past. Maybe?

If I understand you correctly, you don't want to be held responsible for all the "bad stuff" in the past--which is fair enough. I know that you weren't alive then, didn't live in those places, didn't write those books, didn't run those prison camps, etc.

But consider: in the many threads about religion on this board, both of us have tried to make the "believers" understand the historical consequences of their reactionary views; we've appealed to human experience to show what happens when people start down the path of superstition.

I have exactly the same motivation when I criticize the views of people on this board who proclaim themselves to be Leninists. I want them to think very seriously about where that road leads.

And the inescapable conclusion is that it leads back to capitalism.

I don't think there's any reasonable way to get around that.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 4, 2003


The very nature of counter revolutionary movements and of the bourgeoisie is to concentrate power. If this is at any point successful, then the people will not have the ability to thwart their intentions, since their power (in stateless society) is only individual.

Oh, come on. There must have been at least a hundred posts on this board about organization in stateless have, by sheer chance, seen none of them? Look at the two threads on this page--"Demarchy" and "The Dictatorship of the Proletariat".

The idea that stateless societies consist of nothing but atomized individuals is just silly.


A collective wielding of power is necessary to increase the magnitude of the people's power.

True premise.


For its will as a class to be acted upon, it must be organized centrally.

False conclusion.

The mistake is one that goes "if a little is good, then a lot is even better".

No one disputes that organization is a necessary ingredient of human society. The questions are how much and what kind.

The danger, as we have seen from the experience of Leninist regimes, is that a centralized state apparatus promotes the creation of a new ruling class. That's history...and we don't want that to happen again, do we?

So we propose that power be dispersed to smaller collectives--perhaps in the hundreds of thousands--that federate into larger collectives on a functional basis.

That is, if job X requires the cooperation of N collectives, then they federate for the purpose of doing job X...and that purpose only. There's no need for a "general governing authority" to make "general laws" covering "anything" that might occur to them.

The "efficiency" of such a mechanism is arguable--having a divine emperor is the "most efficient" way of commanding that things get accomplished (as long as people obey and carry out the emperor's orders).

But, efficiency aside, it does have the virtue of liberating us from emperor-wannabes.

quote: centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class

Yes, that is what Marx and Engels thought in 1847. What people rarely take into consideration is that those guys lived in the era of bourgeois revolutions and how much that fact shaped their own views.

In the era of proletarian revolution--this century or the next--things will be far more advanced than they were in the time of Marx and Engels...and we can go much faster and more directly to what we really want than they would have thought possible.

Have you thought about the material reasons why Marx and Engels ever came up with the idea of a "period of transition" between capitalism and communism?

In 1847, the working class was a minority in every country and a very small minority in most. In most countries, the working class was illiterate. In all countries, the most reactionary organized superstitions still had a powerful grip on nearly everyone, including the working classes.

Consider the fact that Marx & Engels themselves called for "working men of all countries" to unite...the female half of the human species was still politically invisible even to them. This in spite of the fact that there were already many women (and children) factory workers in England while the Manifesto was being written.

Whatever people write--including whatever revolutionaries write--is subject to the time in which it was written. Prophesy is for charlatans.

It is clear from the totality of the works of Marx and Engels that they were for communism and that any measures short of that were temporary and only recommended out of compelling material circumstances.

We are not under those conditions or those compulsions. There's no reason to settle for less than what we want.

First posted at Che-Lives on November 6, 2003


Any factory will produce more per worker than a farm, for example. Without a central government to collect and redistribute the products and goods, the workers of a farming community or district would be left with only the relatively low worth of goods in comparison to the workers of an industrial city or district. There is nothing you can do to make unprocessed goods worth as much as manufactured goods.

It seems to me that you're still thinking in terms of a market economy, with collectives of workers and farmers producing commodities for sale.

In a communist society, stuff is produced for use...and there's no reason that a farmer would not take what s/he needs with the same ease as an urban worker.

It will not be a case of "worker-owned" factories trying to be "more profitable" than one another or than farmers. The concept of "ownership" and the concept of "profit" belong to the old era...they won't have any meaning at all in communist society any more than feudal concepts have any meaning today (except for historians, how many people even recall the old words, much less their meanings?).


Without central organization, classes will arise from income disparity.

There's no question that, abstractly at least, classes do arise (in part) from income disparity.

But central organization not only has not prevented income disparity but actually introduced it and promoted it. The leaders of Leninist parties have always lived better than their followers and better than the working class.

Now consider the situation in the immediate aftermath of proletarian revolution.

Will people not be hyper-sensitive to material inequality...and, indeed, to institutionalized privileges of all kinds? Will they not be predisposed to take immediate steps to change that? And will there not be real communists and many anarchists present to demand that those steps be taken immediately?

Of course, there will be struggles over the specifics; I can imagine some folks saying things like "It's true that inequality is bad in general, but my own particular privilege is really justified".

But others will be quick to expose such self-serving hypocrisy...the supporters of inequality in any form are always going to be on the defensive.

As they should be.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 6, 2003


The value of goods is based on the resources used to manufacture or make it and the work put into it.

No, in communist society there are only use-values...there are no exchange-values.

I can imagine communist society "keeping track" of resources and labor-hours of producing this or that good or service...simply in order to suggest changes or improvements.

But there's no "value" in the sense that you are using the word.

When you "take" something for "use", that's the only "value" it has. If you "take" something for "use" but don't actually use it (attempt to accumulate for the sake of accumulation, in other words), people will stop you from doing that.


Whether or not those with the ability to increase their gain are able to or not, is not something that de-centralized governments can assure either, eh?

The only "guarantee" that history offers (thus far) is what has happened, can happen.

All you can do is pick "the best odds" and roll the dice.


In your rebuttal to my quotation of the Manifesto, you completely failed to tell me why the working class's status as a minority, society's disregard for women, and the proletariat's illiteracy changes anything at all about what Marx and Engels wrote.

How many dots must I connect for you? Is it not clear that these weaknesses in the working class might suggest to Marx and Engels that an immediate transition to communism, however much they might have wished for that, was at that time and under those conditions a practical impossibility?

Look at the famous 10 points in the Manifesto: they actually speak of "gradually" taking over the means of production from the capitalist class. Do you think for a second that that is how they wanted to proceed? Or did they accommodate themselves to the material reality of the era?

Do you still wish to take into account the conditions of 1847 when making proletarian revolution in the 21st or 22nd centuries?

First posted at Che-Lives on November 6, 2003


...but how do you suppose local collectives and committees will be immune from elitism? What makes you think that the central organizations of workers will be overcome by personal interests and local ones will not?

The "common sense" answer is that the "higher" up you get, the easier it becomes to disguise elitism and corruption. In the U.S., corrupt mayors are fairly easy to locate; corrupt governors more difficult, corrupt federal officials almost always "beat the rap".

Also, of course, the higher up you are, the more rewards you have to distribute to your supporters. A corrupt mayor can hand you a contract worth $50 million; a corrupt governor $500 million; a, Secretary of Defense or Vice-President, $200 billion or more!

Of course, things would certainly work differently in a "modernized" version of the old USSR or "People's" China. But the principle still applies. If you are one of the "higher ups" in such a regime, you have enormous opportunities to accumulate wealth and power virtually without limit...though you may be compelled to hide this from the working class.

Could there be corruption and elitism in a decentralized classless society? I'm sure there will be people who will try.

But you can see the obvious difficulties they would face. Other people would know them, would see if they were trying to grab "more than their share" and would, presumably, protest vigorously.

Even in the old USSR and "People's" China, low-level corruption was, now and then, prosecuted vigorously...more than a few local party bosses went to labor camps or in front of firing squads. It was the higher-ups who escaped retribution and, in fact, it's their children and grandchildren who make up the backbone of the new capitalist ruling classes in those countries.

There will undoubtedly be people for a long time to come who will try, in one fashion or another, to "game" any system for their personal gain.

A communist society is a much more difficult environment for such people than a centralized "state-socialist" (Leninist) environment.


With the de-centralization of power, the local collectives will be too weak to thwart counter revolutions.

This is something you have repeatedly fact, it's the most common Leninist argument in defense of the dictatorship of their party.

There's just no evidence to support that contention.

It relies, I think, on a conviction common to Leninists that the old ruling class will still be incredibly "powerful" and "resourceful" in trying to get back into power. History suggests that old ruling classes are, in fact, pretty demoralized. Some of them do indeed conspire to return to power as best they can, but most simply flee. After all, one of the underlying reasons for major class-based revolutions is that the old ruling class can no longer govern.

Think of those half-million or so Cuban "refugees" in Miami; how many of them are active counter-revolutionaries working towards the day when they can return to Havana on the back of an American tank? 5,000? 500? The data-entry clerk for the U.S. Assistant Under-Secretary of State for Cuban Affairs is a bigger threat to the Cuban Revolution than all the unreconciled elements of the old Cuban ruling class put together!

In fact, I would go so far as to say that counter-revolution is only a real threat when you have made a "revolution" based on a minority of the Lenin did. China's peasant-based "Marxism" was never under any serious threat of being overthrown...except by the "Marxists" themselves.

Proletarian revolutions of this and the next centuries will be massive upheavals in which the old ruling classes will have pretty close to zero chance of reversing.

The Leninist state is unnecessary.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 7, 2003


What I still struggle to understand, Redstar2000, is what does the attack against the bourgeoisie initially manifest itself as in your revolution.

Perhaps I have been unclear. I sort of assumed that everyone "knows" that proletarian revolution involves a massive uprising of the working class.

This obviously means that the old bourgeois state apparatus is destroyed and the bourgeois politicians arrested (the ones who haven't already fled).

I would anticipate that all of the assets of the major corporations would be seized by the workers in those corporations...and that workers in most middle-sized corporations would do likewise. Only small businesses would remain and still attempt to operate "as usual" after the revolution (and some of them might be collectivized by their workers as well).

The main problem that the working class would then face is exactly how to convert from a market economy into a moneyless, classless society...and do so rapidly and with a minimum of fuckups.

Perhaps they would begin with a series of regional conventions of workers' delegates to discuss the details of conversion within their respective regions. (I'll stick in a plug for demarchy here as the best way to select those delegates.)

Ultimately, there may or may not be a "national"'s hard to say what meaning "nation" will even have at that point.

As time passes, and assuming the transition to communism doesn't run into unforeseen difficulties, it will be necessary to "squeeze" those small businesses out of existence...and there are various non-coercive ways that this could be done. Many might be voluntarily collectivized by the workers there; some will run into difficulties acquiring supplies or customers; some will shut down because they can't compete with "free", etc.

In a way, it will very similar to the methodology that I proposed for eliminating religion from public life in post-revolutionary society. First, you demolish the big cathedrals, the most prominent symbols of superstition. Then you gradually put the remainder out of "business" until they are all gone.

I do think there will ultimately be some kind of centralized data bank--ultimately encompassing the entire world. It will track the use of every resource and, perhaps, suggest changes and improvements to different regions. But it won't be a "state" has no "power of command" or armed force to "make people obey".


Do you mean to squeeze them from the start with the formation of collectives etc, without a revolution?

No, that has been proposed from time-to-time, but I do not think it is realistic.


I seem to be getting the idea that you mean that the individual proletarians will overthrow their own oppressor and not go out of their way to free their brothers.

History suggests that once an uprising reaches a certain level, it spreads "like wildfire" and even folks that you'd think would "never" rebel nevertheless find it within themselves to rise. One of the most interesting documents to emerge from the "May Days" of France in 1968 was "the revolt of the nerds"...the CERN physicists demanding the right of self-management for atomic researchers.

Truth is, once people realize that a new world is really possible, you don't have to help them much...they are quite willing to do it themselves.

And quite capable.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 8, 2003

"How much" petty-bourgeois economic activity will actually exist after the revolution is clearly impossible to predict. I mentioned privately-owned restaurants as an example; other small businesses that are targeted directly at consumers might also exist for a considerable length of time.

What we want to "nail down" initially is the basic foundations of the economy, including all basic consumer necessities.

Then, as time passes, we can "squeeze" the remainder.

I make this point not out of any particular fondness for small business (I have worked for some and found them just as greedy and exploitative as large corporations...just not as sophisticated). It's a practical question; how much can you do and how quickly can you do it?

Yes, I do reject Leninist vanguardism and consequently I also reject the idea of shutting down everything that we can't immediately control...padlocks on storefronts does not commend itself to me as a viable economic policy.

On the other hand, there's nothing wrong about being honest about our intentions; the petty bourgeoisie should be under no illusions about their ultimate fate...and this in itself will demoralize many of them and cause them to gradually withdraw from whatever is left of "the market".

If we can get communism to work on "the big things" then I think the "little things" will mostly take care of themselves.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 10, 2003


What about things like agriculture, specialist and qualitative work. Certain things might not be easily liberated.

I quite agree...and, in fact, agriculture in particular concerns me a good deal.

I don't see why demarchic collectivization would not work well enough on "factory farms". But we still have a substantial number of "rich peasants" in the U.S.--and, I suspect, a number of other advanced capitalist countries.

They are very productive...and reactionary to the core!

I worry that they will give post-capitalist society a lot of grief.
First posted at Che-Lives on November 11, 2003
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