The REDSTAR2000 Papers

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

What is Communism? A Brief Definition June 19, 2003 by RedStar2000

Communism is a hypothetical social order in which there are no classes and consequently no state as an organ of class rule.

It is postulated that such a society will have little in the way of public authorities or "government" and that whatever is found to be useful will be "ultra-democratic" and rely heavily on internet referendums (direct democracy). These public authorities will almost exclusively be concerned with the large-scale co-ordination of production and distribution of goods and services, and most of their "decisions" are likely to be suggestive rather than compulsive.

There will be no formal "nation states" in a communist world, though many of the names may persist as geographic designations.

There will be no production of "commodities" -- goods and services produced for sale -- instead goods and services will be produced for use -- either by the producers themselves or freely given to those who will make good use of them.

There will be no "currency" as such; no money...though old currency units may be used for record-keeping purposes, they will have no independent utility.

Individual compensation will vary little, and that according to "need"...the ability to actually use what is appropriated from the public total.

People will have the freedom to gravitate to the "work" that they find most intrinsically rewarding for its own sake. But there will be considerable informal pressure to "work" at something useful. The stereotypical "lazy bum" will be an object of scorn and/or pity. Work that is so "bad" that no one wishes to do it will either be automated, shared out in some collective fashion so that no one has to do very much of it, or simply dispensed with altogether.

The social life of a communist society will be extraordinally libertarian; very few of the taboos and and even fewer of the regulations that presently exist will still survive. Religion, if it survives at all, will be in the nature of a hobby, without the power to influence people's lives in any significant way.

Prestige in a communist society will come from competence and reliability...the highest respect will go to those who've demonstrated their ability to perform especially useful work that many will want to emulate.

The most utterly detested crime in communist society will be the attempt to "hire" wage-labor for the purpose of producing a "commodity". This will be regarded in the same way that we currently regard human sacrifice or chattel an unspeakable horror and an attempt to "bring back" an old and disgustingly inhumane social order, namely capitalism.

Thus, the hypothetical features of a communist society, as extrapolated from the ideas of Marx and Engels.

Since such a social order has never existed for any significant period of time, we presently have no way of "knowing" if it will actually "work". More importantly, it is really unknown what kinds of things must be done and must be avoided to successfully manage the transition from capitalism to communism...although there are many theories about this. It seems likely that there will be several centuries of "trial and error" before the human species manages this transition successfully.



I think, as Marxists, the distant future is not our concern.

Well, yes and no.

It's not our concern insofar as we should devote enormous amounts of time and energy trying to formulate the details of a social order that few or none of us is likely to live long enough to see.

But considered as a "navigational aide", it is of concern to us. It's a check on where we are going and what we are doing to get there.

The old German Social Democracy more or less openly stated that "the movement is everything and the goal is nothing"...a stance which lost them both their original goal and their movement as well.

The balance between our immediate goals (not reforms, but real subversion of and damage to the existing system) and our long-range goal of communism can be fruitfully debated and discussed.

But without the serious and thoughtful goal of a classless society, what could we hope to gain through our efforts, at best, but the overthrow of an existing ruling class and its replacement by a new ruling class?

And who needs that?
First posted at RedGreenLeft on June 21, 2003


It also shows how our society is evolving and that Communism is what society will evolve into.

Is this right?

Yes, that's a reasonable way to summarize the matter, with the understanding that "evolve" is a very long term way to look at what in the short run might be a whole series of revolutions.

The "evolution" from feudalism to capitalism took centuries and involved a whole series of revolutions and counter-revolutions as well as periods of slow change.

Also be cautious with the phrase "will evolve". To someone who has studied the matter a bit, to say that there "will" someday be communism on a global scale seems like a simple and obvious conclusion from what has happened in history thus far; but to people unfamiliar with the evidence, such a statement has all the "appeal" of the bland assertion that "Jesus will return."

Technically speaking, we really can't say there "will" be a global communist society until there actually is one...and the Marxist hypothesis is confirmed by direct and overwhelming evidence.

But if you ask me, it looks like a very good bet.
First posted at Che-Lives on June 21, 2003

If you actually do run into a lot of people who want to talk about Stalin...I suppose then that you have to talk about Stalin.

On those rare occasions when it happens to me, I patiently explain that Russia was a primitive and in some areas barbaric country in 1917...and such countries tend very strongly to produce barbaric rulers, regardless of what color flags they wrap themselves in.

That was then, this is now. Stalin has no relevance to the 21st century; he's dead and will be remembered, if at all, as a harsh Russian nationalist who defeated the Germans, kind of a "second edition" of Peter "the Great".

The shadow of Lenin is much longer...and gloomier. Most of the people who consider themselves "left" revolutionaries of one sort or another still think the idea of a "vanguard party" is "the way to go", inspite of massive evidence to the contrary.

I find myself arguing with those people all the time.

Getting out from under the shadow of Lenin once and for all is an absolute necessity if we are to make progress.

And it is very tough going, indeed.
First posted at Che-Lives on June 22, 2003


...then maybe you should stop speaking with all your academic friends and get out on the streets.

Would you believe that I don't know a single person in academia? It's true.


...but that doesn't mean he is not significant in the eyes of the workers around the world when it comes to communism. In fact children learn in school that Stalin was a communist, and if you look in school books and indeed dictionaries they all apply Stalin to their definitions of communism.

Well, sure. The stink lingers a while even after the corpse has been buried. But do we help matters any with lengthy and arcane excursions into the details of the Stalin era? Does it do us any good to repeat endlessly and in tedious detail "Stalin Bad! Us Good!"

Granted that you do run into someone now and then who is really interested in the details and there are many sources on the net where they can be found, I just can't believe most people have time for that old crap.

Even in America, where anti-communist propaganda is more ubiquitous than anywhere else on earth (except possibly Vatican City), I can't recall being queried about Stalin by an ordinary person even once. (That doesn't mean it didn't happen...just that it was so rare that I can't remember a specific occasion.)

The people who generally want to talk about Stalin are right-wingers and left-wingers (especially Trotskyists, of course)...or so it has been my experience.

Speaking personally, my advice is never argue with right-wingers about anything unless you outnumber them three to one or better...they're not interested in argument, they're looking to start a brawl.

With other lefties, it depends on where they're coming from; I know enough to poke gaping holes in all of the "official" versions, but I usually end up asking them why they are interested in this at all...and then try to give as balanced and fair analysis as I can.

If an ordinary person without a left background asked me about Stalin today, I think I would answer "What an odd question. Are you interested in Russian history?"
First posted at Che-Lives on June 23, 2003
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