fragmentos (science)

Originally Posted by cyu View Post
In my universe, we use a different name for science - it's Michelle - it is the filter through which we get all our information. Some people have a scientific filter, others a religious filter, and some maybe a hallucinogenic filter

By looking at you through the mirror, it seems that you have been abusing the latter.

But who knows, perhaps I am thinking that I am posting to you in an internet forum, but to others it looks like I am trying to dance the tango with a panda.

Take care, man. You are intelligent and sensible enough that it would be a pity to loose you to the Dark Side of the Force.



So, the Peter Principle was extended to film sequels? The last sequel af any series is going to be a flop, because while it isn't, filmmakers will always plan a next episode?

Makes sence. Indeed, makes more sence than the original Peter Principle…


Originally Posted by Die Neue Zeit View Post
What should we do with psychopaths? Their psychological influence extends to corporations.

I really don't buy this idea. What we are seeing is a dumbing down of the concept of psychopathy, that makes merely selfish people look like psychopaths. Seriously, I am not interested in putting an equal sign between a guy who vandalises property by paint spraying his own name over it and a guy who disembowels women because God told him to do so. Those are very different phenomenon, and only the latter is really worrysome.

This foolish idea that CEOs are psychopaths, or that the proportion of psychopaths among CEOs is higher than among the general population is of course a tasty bait for the left, but it really distracts from the actual point: normal people like you and me are perfectly able to exploit and dehumanise others in a routinely way. That's an effect of how our society is structured, and requires no psychopathological explanations.

A lot of this speculation revolves among the ill-defined concept of empathy: psychopaths would be human beings "devoid of empathy". But empathy means several different things, and to be "empathic" at the level it apparently is required to forteit the condition of "psychopath" would probably make us hysterical or depressive, unable to do anything because any of our actions could inadvertently harm someone somewhere somehow.

A psychopath is a guy who can't understand what the problem is with doing serious harm to another human being, nor why would the idiots called "normal" people avoid doing it, who takes pleasure on such actions, and who makes no distinctions between strangers and close people. Not someone who doesn't care if his computers are made through semi-slave labour in a sweatshop.


Originally Posted by Xhar-Xhar Binks View Post
And do you see the problem here? You're equating things that are improbable or impossible with something that quite literally already exists.

No. I am saying that some things that you deem possible are actually not possible.


Originally Posted by Xhar-Xhar Binks View Post
There are numerous reasons, none of which have anything to do with racism, why one might prefer to travel alone.

… those being?

If I were to use the same tumblresque rhetoric you use I would accuse you of advocating public transport so that women can get molested. But that would be a punch below the belt; more importantly it would be completely stupid.

Well, when I say "high quality" in relation to public transportation, I certainly mean a public transportation in which women are not molested. If they are molested, then it isn't "high quality" at all.

Besides, obviously racial discrimination is impossible in public transportation. No, wait, I'm a crazy liar, it's more than possible, and it happens even today. I've personally seen bus drivers who would stop and open the doors for a Croat pensioner, but refuse to do the same for a Roma woman. This is not an argument against public transport, of course; it's an argument against the relations of production that engender a virulent anti-Roma racism in Eastern Europe.

This assumes "bus drivers", who, of course, can be racists of all kinds.

But since the point would be automation of public transportation (which is part of making it "high quality"), so that no one has to "be" a "bus driver", I don't think we are talking about the same thing.

Also, why do you imagine black people want to share public transportation with racists? Speaking as a gay man, a situation that is somewhat analogous, the fact that homophobes might not want to share transportation with me is not exactly high on my list of daily complaints. Quite the contrary, if they want to segregate themselves, let them, preferably into the life of the world to come, amen. The problem is not that some sort of socialist authority has not forced us to share public transportation (how?). The problem is that capitalist society is structurally homophobic, due to its reliance on the family. Likewise, capitalist society is structurally racist.

Evidently, a capitalist society is structurally racist and homophobic. And sexist, and exclusionary at large.

Its racism, homophobia, sexism, and exclusivism, however, are implemented into the material apparel of life under capitalism. Why is racism a problem within public transportation? Because people want "high quality transportation", and in a capitalist society this will mean "transportation that does not transport the poor" (and being Black, or Roma, etc., is widely associated with poverty). Those who are well-to-do enough solve this "problem", or fulfill that "demand" by driving their own cars; those who aren't will come with "solutions" like segregated public transportation. And in this moment where political correctness has taken the place of class struggle (and, aparently, of actual reasoning) there certainly will be those who argue for segregation in order to protect the Blacks from racists, the homosexual from the homophobic, and women from bus molesters. Oh wait, the latter is already happening.


Originally Posted by ckaihatsu View Post
I think there's an outstanding issue here, though — that of expropriation for political 'punishment' vs. expropriation for human 'need' ('want', really, in the case of luxury items).

Just as we wouldn't link material rewards to (liberated) labor / work-effort performed, for the sake of its inherent commodification (communism is supposed to be production for *need*), we shouldn't be using expropriation as any kind of political-behaviorist *tool*

In an actual revolution, I think lots of things will be spontaneously expropriated by the masses (or by opportunists taking advantage of the masses). What we stand for is for the expropriation of means of production; what we will get is probably more than that, and I don't think we should return personal property that has been expropriated during class struggle, except in cases of blatant abuse.

The landlord defends "his" plantation against the peasants at gun point; the peasants overwhelm him and take it forcibly, and while they are at it, they take the landlord's mansion too, and transform it into a collective dwelling. Though thing; I think it should remain expropriated. If however the landlord has a clearer mind, and concedes to the expropriation of the plantation and manages to retain the mansion, I don't think we should send soviet's troops to enforce its expropriation.

Isn't this politically *problematic*, though, considering that all such tangible wealth was only possible due to the exploitation of labor — ? Wouldn't a newly self-liberated liberated labor want to understandably and justifiably collectively 'take back' the very things that their own labor produced in the past — ?

I think most goods have a time-limited existence, and can be abundantly produced if we decide to, so I don't think it is necessary to expropriate the limousines of the rich - or the compact cars of the lower middle class/upper working class. They will eventually turn into wreckage anyway, and we can produce more cars for collective use, or - preferably - revamp the public transportation systems so that they are more comfortable and speedy than individual/familial automobiles.

I'll introduce a tangential concern, if you'd like to address it — what of plain, ordinary structures, like nondescript small office buildings — ? It's entirely possible that no one, post-revolution, would readily want to use them *or* tend to them — would / should there be some kind of *social policy* made to address such 'weak spots', such as collectively offering some sort of 'incentive' for liberated labor to demolish, refurbish, or transform such structures — ?

There is an enormous habitational deficit world wide, and office buildings can probably be transformed into residential buildings without too much effort, at least transitorily.

I suppose — though, to be nit-picky, I would tend to think of that kind of thing just 'withering away'.

They may perhaps "wither away" if we take the appropriate measures to make them obsolete. But we will have to actively decide to make them obsolete.


Originally Posted by Xhar-Xhar Binks View Post
Opportunist groups like the Lambertists might not be a mass party (because no one wants to join them), but this does not mean they are independent from the influence of the labour aristocracy and bureaucracy. Quite the contrary. Lambert might have written tomes on "globalisation" and got the approval of Healy and Cannon, but what really kept his group afloat was their close relationship with the Force Ouvriere. Likewise, in the US, the ACFI/WL/SEP of Wohlforth, Mazelis and North was close to the AFL-CIO bureaucracy, who they begged for years to form a labour party on the British model.

Ah, but the Lambertists are certainly not the only cult-opportunist organisation in the world. And cultism-opportunism, like everything else, is very diverse.

True, any opportunist cult, even the most petty-bourgeois and outlandish, must derive their energy from class struggle, and so from actual working class organisations, be them the Force Ouvrière or the KKE. But most of them are merely parasitary regarding the class struggle. They function according to a dynamics of "growth by accretion" insterspersed with sectarian splits. They stand at the margins of class struggle, eventually recruit a few class fighters, who they then drive away from actual class struggle and into their own organisational life (or into "struggle" against other similar groups), and when and if they grow too much for what their organisational model can hold, they split into two or more opportunist cults. Some cults take great care as to not grow, to avoid those crises; others, more delusional, put great energy into growth, recruit too much, and go bang.


Originally Posted by Xhar-Xhar Binks View Post
Not so with socialism. In its heyday, socialism might have promised some immediate reforms to be won before the conquest of power, but at present, in this era of decaying capitalism, the only force capable of wresting reforms from the bourgeoisie is a powerful and militant proletariat - and this in turn requires the militancy to be generalised, to the point where the question of power is posed, or to dissipate, at which point all the reforms won will be withdrawn (as had happened in the seventies and the eighties).

So if socialism is something that happens after we are all dead, and struggling for socialism can't give us any tangible benefits in this world, what's the point? Obviously then the most we can hope for is some sort of unhappy marriage between the "socialism" of the "Socialist" International and the corporatism of the PRI.

Since we do not have, at this moment, a powerful and militant proletariat, it seems to follow that what the struggle for socialism can give us, as a tangible benefit, is exactly the building of a powerful militant proletariat.

With the sham we have nowadays, revolution is a pipe dream.


Originally Posted by Xhar-Xhar Binks View Post
And why does it take that much time?

Assuming this is a reliable source, which it seems to be, this is because most of the assembly is done by hand.

Ah, so Automobili Lamborghini SPA would need a little industrial revolution of its own, in order to evolve past its present artisan-like mode of production? That would mean that Lamborghini would have to be completely revamped, even to just continue producing luxury cars, wouldn't it? But should we completely revamp a factory, based exclusively in the demand that the products of such factory have of now, under capitalist social relations?

The point is, though, that this is another thing implied by "high quality" in a capitalist society: purposefully expensive, so as to fulfill its role as social hierarchy marker.

This might seem odd, even a bit scandalous, particularly in Italy, so famous for its industrial and household robotics, but it makes sense, of course. More than the volume of profit, Automobili Lamborghini SPA needs to keep its rate of profit high. Automation is horrible for the rate of profit, as no profit can be extracted from machines.

Yes, and yet most capitalist are pushed into automating, automating, and automating, in order to rise the surplus value rate. Lamborghini is able to avoid this because it produces for a niche market, and such market is niche because it is a market for luxuries.

Therefore, the first thing that would happen in the transitional society is that the former factories of Lamborghini would be automated as much as is possible. This would obviously cut down on the living labour-time needed to produce each automobile drastically.

So, what happened to "communism is possible today"?

Come on, it doesn't even make any sence. There are enough highly automated car factories - FIAT, if we stick to Northern Italy, Volkswagen, Ford, GM, Renault, Peugeot, Citroën, Toyota, Hyunday, that can provide the demand for familial wheeled vehicles if we want to keep them.


Originally Posted by ckaihatsu View Post
You're twisting and turning and trying to wriggle out of acknowledging that *plenty* of pre-existing luxury goods will inevitably continue to physically exist after the revolution — while paper 'wealth' will instantly become meaningless, any *tangible* goods will have to be physically / socially dealt with in one way or another. Would they uniformly be left to *rot* — ? Would they all be proactively *destroyed* — ? If 'expropriated', how would any such remaining goods be socially distributed — ?

You've decided to be argumentative for some reason, having already forgotten this part:

Originally Posted by Luís Henrique
My guess is that existing cars will remain personal property, until it becomes clear that having a personal car is lower quality transportation vis-a-vis real good public transportation. And that newly produced cars will be put at the disposal of the public for eventual use. That almost certainly will mean the production will need to be downsized; cars are extremely underused in the conditions of individual ownership.

Hm, read it again:

Originally Posted by Luís Henrique
Those that already exist, and aren't used in the barricades, will remain what they are, I suppose, until they are eventually superceeded by high-quality public transportation. I don't see why they would be expropriated, in principle.

If this isn't clear, let me explain.

The use of automobiles in barricades is quite traditional; a few will probably be destroyed that way. Those that aren't, will remain what they are - ie, will remain personal ownership of their owners. Until they are eventually superceeded by high quality public transportation - because yes, I think really good public transportation systems will render automobiles obsolete. On the other hand, I don't see why they would be expropriated - meaning that I don't think they should be expropriated. In principle, of course, because I am also not opposed to the expropriation of personal property of active counter-revolutionaries that take arms against the DotP.

any *tangible* goods will have to be physically / socially dealt with in one way or another. Would they uniformly be left to *rot* — ? Would they all be proactively *destroyed* — ? If 'expropriated', how would any such remaining goods be socially distributed — ?

I think there is little room for doubt here. Most tangible goods - cars, houses, yachtes, even luxury ones, that are personal property and aren't used as tools to exploit other people's labour, will remain personal property of their owners. Tangible goods that are used to exploit labour will quite certainly be expropriated, to exactly put an end to such use. Neither will be purposefully and systematically destroyed, or left to rot, unless they are for some reason deemed utterly useless and a new use can't be found for them (yes, churches are completely useless, but they can be turned into museums, or stand as attractions themselves if they are sufficiently "artistic").

The social relationships implied in their production and use, however, will have to be actively destroyed, if they are exploitative, excludent, or discriminatory. Meaning that while we won't destroy automobiles, or even automobile plants, we are going to destroy the "automobile culture" that plagues modern cities.

I never claimed that any segment of the population is / would-be 'superfluous'.

Nor did I say or imply that. Quite clearly, what I mean is that people who produce obsolete commodities, in a capitalist society, are superfluous to capital. And that in a communist society, we need to be able to stop the production of any given goods, without harming the livelihood of people who produce them.

Sure, there are no 'unwashed brains', in the sense that everyone exists in some kind of current social paradigm, with all of its pre-existing external influences, but even all of that doesn't negate my own self-awareness and personal sovereignty — such as it is — as an individual.

I don't think it does, though I certainly wouldn't use terms like "personal sovereignity". As I said, you are right.


Originally Posted by ckaihatsu View Post
It's not that they'd have to be continually *produced*, it's about what to do with the ones (of whatever) that already *exist*.

Those that already exist, and aren't used in the barricades, will remain what they are, I suppose, until they are eventually superceeded by high-quality public transportation. I don't see why they would be expropriated, in principle.

But to build a high-quality public transportation will need a lot of effort, conscious effort to provide all the populace with a system that allows people to go from their homes to wherever they may want to go.

Plus, discontinuing the production of any product, in a capitalist society, mean unemployment for all involved in that production. To discontinue the production of Lamborghinis in a socialist society requires breaking with that logic - just because we don't need no Lamborghinis doesn't mean that the people who produce them, and earn a living out of that production, are "superfluous".

Because I can use introspection and then *tell* you so.

Oh, sure, but then that is the introspection of a "brainwashed" brain. You are right, of course, but the "theory" you are trying to refute has an inbuilt "irrefutability clause".

What you're indicating are social outcomes *on the whole*, meaning that some people will be more predisposed to being influenced in whatever direction, but our revolutionary politics, in particular, helps to make people self-aware of their social roles and objective position in society, bringing about class consciousness and the potential to internally rebuff any imperialist-type social conditioning.

That. The point will be to make distributive conflict a tool for rising social awareness.


Originally Posted by cyu View Post
If you underestimate how much of our wants and desires are determined by advertisers, you haven't examined the advertising industry.

Sure we can say racists are only brainwashed to be racists, or that people of a certain religion are only brainwashed to be religious, or that soldiers are only brainwashed to want to kill Muslims or Westerners, but how do you know you haven't just been brainwashed to want to go to Disneyland, or to become a famous politician, or even brainwashed to want to be respected by your peers?

The problem with that line of reasoning is that there are no "unwashed brains" anywhere. All of us are socialised, which means we are taught to be racists, or Catholics, or Serbian patriots, or to want to go to Disneyland or to want to become a politician or be respected by our peers. None of these things are "natural" - but there isn't anything "natural" that can be opposed to them.

Yes, our wishes are certainly heavily influenced by advertising - if advertising didn't influence our wishes, there would be no reason for the bourgeois who produce goods and services to share their surplus value with the bourgeois who produce advertising - but, short of a revolution that puts an end to advertising, there is nothing that can be done, except earnest effort to think - individually and collectively - about the consequences and premises of our desires.


Originally Posted by ckaihatsu View Post
Dude, brah, I *need* a Lambo, 'cause I flipped my 'Vette — !

Then what you need is a Ferrari. That, or a VW beetle.

See, here's the thing — sure, I could see a good percentage of 'civilization's artifacts being annihilated as part of the revolution, but, at some point, the newfound post-capitalist social order would just be *depriving itself* if it did away with *all* use-values from the capitalist past.

What's wrong with Lambos, Ferraris, or any other luxury item, really — ?


Their production is certainly unsustainable in the long run, as is their mass use as individual/nuclear familial vehicles.

People may want to *make use of* these things, post-private-property, so the real question isn't how to *physically* rid society of its despicable commodities of the past, but rather how to transform all exchange-value commodities into pure use-values, post-commodification.

My guess is that existing cars will remain personal property, until it becomes clear that having a personal car is lower quality transportation vis-a-vis real good public transportation. And that newly produced cars will be put at the disposal of the public for eventual use. That almost certainly will mean the production will need to be downsized; cars are extremely underused in the conditions of individual ownership.


Originally Posted by ckaihatsu View Post
No Lambos for anyone, then? (sniff)

Only Ferraris. Deal with it. Ferraris are red.

Really, though, I'd be interested on your take on the fact that Lambos *will exist*, so then what to do with them and/or anything else, as far as 'redistribution of wealth' goes — ?

You mean they already exist, and we won't set them afire just to "make total destroy"? Or you mean that their production won't be immediately discontinued?


This discussion is perhaps too abstract.

Let's pretend that we are members of that "scientific plan" committee.

Let's accept the idea that the level of development of productive forces under modern capitalism in Northern Italy (not Nepal or Uganda) is enough for us to transition easily to communism (ie, as you say, that communism is possible now).

Lamborghini employs some 800 workers to produce some 2,400 cars yearly. It takes three workers labouring a full year, 36 hours a week, to make a Lamborghini.

So what if we had a demand for 3,000,000,000 Lamborghinis (ie, a Lamborghini per adult in the whole world)? We would need 1,000,000,000 workers working for a full year in order to supply this demand. Which would mean, one in each three workers would have to produce Lamborghinis. That, considering that our "communism" does not affect the labour journey. We would have to put one third of the world work force to make Lamborghinis, and refuse them any reduction of labour journey. If we were to keep with communist promises of shortened labour hours, we would need more than those many workers; but even if we put all the labouring population of the world into the production of Lamborghinis, we would still need each worker to toil 12 hours a week.

Of course, it can be said we don't need 3,000,000,000 Lamborghinis a year (but why not, if "demand" is sovereign?) We would only need 3,000,000,000 Lamborghinis in total, and a reposition production that would be that number, divided by the useful life of our Lamborghinis. If they can be assumed to last for 30 years, then we would "only" need a yearly production of 100,000,000 Lamborghinis. Which could be produced by "just" 33,333,333 workers, labouring 36 hours a week.

But then the "demand" for one Lamborghini for each adult would take 30 years to be met. Of course, as members of the "scientific plan" committee, we deserve priority…

… and that's how capitalism starts to be restored.

Of course, things can be changed if we increase the productivity of the manufacturing of Lamborghinis. But then we will have a curious "communism" that is concerned with the development of the means of production, instead of people. Or, alternatively, the problem is with capitalism, that has not yet developed the productive forces to the level where we can have both communism and a Lamborghini for each adult inhabitant of the planet. And so, communism wouldn't be actually possible now, unless people did the unthinkable, ie, conformed their "demands" to what can be actually produced.


Now, a Lamborghini Gallardo is a relatively small car, 4.3 meters long and 1.9 meters wide. They only occupy, consequently, 8.17 square meters. That's good news, because 3 billion of them could fit (immobile, and with no free space between them) in just some 25,000 square kilometers. We could park them all in Macedonia.

Unhappily, cars are only useful when they move, and they cannot move without leaving a considerable space between them. If they were to travel at 60 km per hour, they would need to allow a distance of 30 meters between them, longitudinal-wise, and of 1.5 meters latitudinal-wise. This means they need a total area of some 350,000 square kilometers to circulate all at the same time. That's a lot more, almost the area of Germany (indeed, more than the area of reunified Germany, if we realise that part of Germany is composed of lakes and rivers, in which cars cannot move). And this is moving at 60 km/h, which is almost a crime to do with a Lamborghini (top speed, 320 km/h).

Now, 350,000 square kilometers amount to streets 20 meters wide and some 17.5 million kilometers long. That's more than the sum of the total lenght of roads in the US, China, India, Brazil and Japan (which have the five longest roadway networks in the world); and it is more than a fourth or the lenght or roads in all of the world.

But perhaps what this means can best be understood by calculating what would happen in a huge city, such as São Paulo. With some 8,000,000 adult inhabitants, São Paulo would demand corresponding 8 million Lamborghinis; if they were to go into the streets simultanesouly, they would occupy some 120 thousand kilometers of streets. The municipality, however, only has 17 thousand kilometers of streets. Only one seventh of the total Lamborghini fleet would be able to take to the streets at any given time, and still be able to ride at 60 km/h. Alternatively, they could fit all in the streets, provided that they ride at 10 km/h. Which probably explains why this is already the average speed of urban traffic in São Paulo at the rush hours nowadays…

And so, again, the world cannot support both communism and Lamborghinism simultaneously. Either we have to further develop the productive forces, so that we have enough streets and roads to be used by 3 billion motorised people, or our "scientific plan" will have to rely on different means of transportation.

And so, Lamborghinis for everyone necessarily reintroduce scarcity. Even if the revolution is worldwide.


Originally Posted by Xhar-Xhar Binks View Post
It's not that I've misunderstood, but that you're backtracking. You said that in communism, we will all be dead.

See, there are two very different things that make up the time between us and communism:

  1. the time within capitalism, before a revolution that destroys the bourgeois State;
  2. the time it takes for a society that has undergone 1. above to transition between capitalism and communism.

I agree with you that 2. is going to be relatively short. How much time, I don't know, but I would say a few years (as in, five or six, not as in 72, or Pablo's "centuries of deformed worker States"). I very much doubt it is going to be just a week or a month, either. If it takes much longer, then odds are that there is no transition at all, or that it is a transition into something else than communism.

I also don't know how much time will be 1. But considering that the only social force that can effect a revolution that destroys the bourgeois State is the working class, and considering the complete disarray of such class, I am not overly optimistic. And so, I do not think most of us will be alive when we finally achieve communism. But I could certainly be wrong; as I said, or rather as Lenin said, time isn't necessarily measured in years, centuries or seconds.

So my comment that we won't be alive when communism "comes" should be taken as that, not as a theoretical position that the transition to communism will, or should, or even could, take more time than an ordinary human life.

Still, communism, when finally implemented, will mean a quite radical change in the way people are socialised. As you say, nuclear families will go bye-bye, so we will have people not raised by nuclear families (as a mass phenomenon; I am aware that the nuclear family is already in crisis, and that a few people are already being raised differently) coming of age at least twenty years after the revolution that destroys the bourgeois State. Probably more, since nuclear families are more likely to "wither away" than to be banned altogether by the DotP. These people, I think, will have a very different outlook than we have - than even the most radical and far sighted revolutionaries among us actually have. And at the time they are able to take the lead in the managing of society, most of us will be dead. I quite certainly will, even if the revolution that destroys the bourgeois States happens tommorrow and the transition to communism is particularly short and nuclear families go out of fashion really quickly and people raised already under communism are able to take the lead in social matters before their 30's.

Now, communism isn't an ideology, or a mode of reproduction of people; it is a mode of production, so this change in the way people are socialised shouldn't count as part of the "transition between capitalism and communism".

Does this mean that I should despair and give up the struggle against capital and the bourgeois State?

I would say no. While I certainly would like to see a completely transformed society, and while I think it is a pity (and further proof of the inexistence of God) that I certainly won't be able to, the sence of my life is structured around such struggle. Other people will win this fight; I hope that I have contributed, and will still contribute, a little bit for such victory, and that is good, even if I die without seeing the final result.

Which is what most humans do, regardless of what they dedicate their lives to. We know that our life is short, we know that others will continue the struggle for communism (the effort to eradicate malaria, the search for a cure for AIDS or the Theory of Everything, the plans to conquer Moon or Mars, the development of flying cars or intelligent computers, the making or blue or black roses, whatever), and so we continue.

Now, let's not sell Pablo short. After all, Pabloism was an ingenious invention when one wanted to express support both to Stalinism and to social-democratic, nationalist and military governments hostile to Stalinism. In addition, Pablo was a bureaucrat, but he was no thug, so while participating in a Stalinist party was a high-risk endeavour that might end with an unfortunate fall down a flight of stairs, the worst one had to fear from Raptis-Pablo was a bureaucratic expulsion, which I am led to believe doesn't hurt as much.

Agree. I don't think I said or implied otherwise.

Oh, and where might these opportunist groups that arise independently from the labour bureaucracy and aristocracy be found?


Most that are not under the categories of "Social Democracy", "Green and Alternative" or "Democratic Socialism and Reform Communism", which are more likely to be the more mainstream, mass-oriented, kind of reformism-opportunism.

I'm also highly amused by the fact that not wanting to "mingle" with other people in public transportation has become a high crime now. Why this prurient obsession with how people live their lives?

Sure, there is nothing wrong with a little private apartheid, for those who cannot fathom the idea of having to be in unfree association with Blacks.

show me one worker who wouldn't, at least occasionally, like to get away from the overcrowded public transportation, with questionable heating policies, people who haven't washed since the fall of the Soviet Union, bacilli everywhere, tired and rude people etc.

Well, and who hasn't dreamt of taps that provide milk and honey and wine, instead of just water, or of an harem of 72 virgins (or, perhaps preferably, non-virgins), or of the perpetuum mobile, or of the Philosopher's Stone and immortality. Of the Land of Cockaigne, for short.

But "Lamborghinis for everybody" won't make an "efficient" transportation system, unless somehow "permanent traffic jams" is substituted for "speedy and comfortable commute from one place to another" in the definition of "efficient transportation".

I consider myself reasonably familiar with the workings of large cities, having lived in several of them and having visited even more. You, as I recall it, live somewhere in Brazil. It seems odd that you would deny that public transportation is being cut, when just a few years ago there were massive protests over price hikes, which were resolved by, among other things, the public transportation company wowing to cut costs. The fate of public transport in America is another obvious reference point.

This doesn't amount to "cuts", it amounts (at most; in the case of Brazil, it is more attack on wages, of which a greater proportion has to go to transportation, than anything else) to privatisation. And frankly, the idea that workers are substituting cars for buses because the latter are unavailable or more expensive strikes me as absurd.


Interesting reference; I didn't know that author. Thank you.

Yet oddly enough I, the supposed productivist, cultist etc., am saying that the reproduction of the socialist society, and individual consumption, are a matter of the free decision of members of that society

What I am pointing is to a remarkable inconsistency within your reasoning: absolute centralisation of production, combined with absolute decentralisation of consumption (wich is inviable, because production and consumption are two sides of the same coin, even individual consumption being not more than re-production of labour power).

And now you make another conflation: between "free" decision, and "individual" decision. But actually "free" "economic" decisions cannot be individual, for the individual choices of each member of society have implications for other individual members. Meaning, in short, that if every member of society decides to go to "work" (or elsewhere, whatever that elsewhere could be) by Lamborghini, no one is going to be able to arrive at their destination on time.

whereas you invoke the quite frankly semi-fascist idea that the socialist society might ban something as basic as contraception because not enough brats are being born.

No, I don't "invoke" that idea; I am saying that it is a necessary consequence of your reasoning - and that without that, your reasoning is inconsistent.

To produce a loaf of bread, you need given amounts of flour, water, yeast, and gas (or oil, or electricity, or coal, etc.), and oven-time. And you need a given amount of human time, be it in the direct preparation of the loaves, or in supervision of automatic preparation.

Your reasoning is that we will have a "scientific plan" to tell us how much flour, water, yeast, gas, and oven-time we need, but that that "scientific plan" leaves out the amount of human time.

And that is because, while you proclaim the iminent abolition of nuclear family, when you think about the re-production of labour power, you still think in terms of individual decisions pertaining to… nuclear families.

Evidently the production or consumption of contraceptives won't be "banned" in communism, but the reasoning is quite different: there was never shortage of human reproduction in any kind of human society (except, in a quite limited aspect, of "workers" in slavery-based societies). Even in capitalism, population grows, and in fact this uncontrolled growth is of more concern than a supposed reduction. This would be even truer in a communist society, where you don't need to think in terms of being, or not being, able to properly raise kids, given your economic conditions.

I believe I have already answered; I don't have the nerves for it. Back in the seventies my grandfather used to carry a sledgehammer in his backpack, for (1) illegally harvesting date mussels, and (2) settling road incidents. By all accounts, I'm extremely similar to my grandfather if a bit more, ah, filled-out, and less calm. So until they allow me to drive a tank (this is another reason why I should never drive) I grind my teeth and share trams with our pensioners.

Mkay. But it sounds that, according to you, in a capitalist society, you are either "manic", or "insane", which is kinda funny, unless you are trying to make the point that the functioning of a capitalist society is crazied of itself. Which I guess is on some level true, but then I think we miss the fact that most people are still "functional" within a capitalist society, while a significant minority is not, and is a source of concern.

Communism is a post-scarcity society because the productive forces have developed to such an extent that the existing natural limits on resources are irrelevant.

This, of course, cannot be true, since there are actual natural limits on resources that cannot be ignored, unless you are thinking of interplanetary colonisation (but even then, the amount of planets that are or can be made inhabitable is limited, as is time for space travel). No amount of development of the productive forces will transcend the fact that there are just so many gallons of water apt for human use in Earth.

If we accept your notion, however, that overcoming scarcity is a matter of restricting demand,

Of course it is not a matter of "restricting" demand, it is a matter of rationalising demand, which means that "demand" is to be taken as what it really is, ie, a social construct, not a god-given natural trans-historic imposition of "reality".

then it would seem the US-backed Khmer Rouge statelet was a post-scarcity society.

That statelet was quite obviously not post-scarcity; on the contrary, scarcity was imposed with an iron fist, and ideologically glorified as a sign of non-"decadence".

After all, demands apart from basic demands for rice, clothes and so on were all suppressed

They were repressed, not suppressed. People still demanded champagne, jewels, and luxury cars, they just were denied a plausible mechanism for the distribution - and additionally sentenced to death/life in "labour camps" if they dared to complain. In the end, even if their complaints were just for rice or clothes.

The conclusion doesn't follow. And if you can make sense of production without demand driving production, good for you.

Of course demand must drive production; but then social planning must drive demand, not individual decisions by nuclear families.

If socialism fails because someone ordered a glass of champagne it bloody well deserved to fail, then.

I don't see the problem with a glass of champagne. I see a problem with more glasses of champagne than the cultivable land can provide, and with more glasses of champagne than would reasobly allow people to still understand reality around them.

Oh, spare us the poetry, it doesn't mean anything. One of the basic points of Marxist thought is the substitution of the compulsory association characteristic of class society with free association. That is the point. You're invoking impressionist anthropology to muddle this fundamental point.

Yeah, but as mentioned above, that "free association" isn't "free" in the sence that we can choose being part of it or not. Someone is going to bake the bread I eat, and no, I don't get to have a different baker just because I am a racist that cannot eat bread baked by Blacks, or a misogynist that cannot eat bread baked by women in general, or menstruated women in particular. It is "free" because it is free of the delusions that impair our ability to understand social life within capitalism; it is free because it is free of the material and social limitations that are imposed by scarcity.


What you propose, when you talk of a "planned economy", and of a "scientific plan", is planned capitalism; that is the reason that capitalism is restored: because it was never destroyed first place. Yes, this is a consequence of the failure of international revolution, but the failure of international revolution does not doom the revolution of itself; it does that trough a series of quite material consequences that follow from that failure and impose themselves into the social workings of a "deformed workers State". Otherwise we would be back to what you criticise as "talking about a delicate glass figurine, which must not be upset from its precarious balance, and not a historically stable mode of production". Why wouldn't it follow Khrushchev programme of defeating capitalism through competition, if it is such a stable mode of production - moreover if we think that it can thrive even with a substantial reduction of human population?


Originally Posted by Xhar-Xhar Binks View Post
In my original reply, I said that I wasn't sure why I was participating in this discussion in the first place, as obviously what Luis calls "socialism" is not what I would call socialism. Now, this remains the case. Nonetheless it is useful to register my disagreement, because, as utterly boring as my posts doubtlessly are, someone is probably reading this. And if, four or five years ago, I had read Louis's posts, and noted that no one seemed to object, I would think socialism is deeply problematic. Because that posts amounts to a kinder, gentler and also far less unhinged version of the same Jesuitical communionism (to use Draper's term) advocated by other members. And that's not socialism.

Well, thank you for reconsidering. This is an interesting discussion. And yes, this has to do with what is and what is not socialism.

But if I thought I was perhaps being too harsh, this post dissuaded me. We all get the reference. But the reference is completely irrelevant; Lenin was talking about historic events. Now, the life span of humans is not measured in the number of historic events they are likely to experience. It is measured in boring old clock-time, physicists' time. The average member of this site, I imagine, has forty to fifty years before they become a corpse. To say that we will all die before the end of class society is to postpone socialism for some fifty years, at least. And despite the "clever" reference, it makes socialism some sort of idle dream. Good luck finding the worker who is willing to fight for something that might happen in the distant future.

I think you fundamentally misunderstand things here.

Communism will happen in a distant future. Such "distant future" could be, for instance, 2020. Or 2237. What makes it "distant" is not the amount of time, but the amount of human activity that stands between us and communism.

Conversely, the demise of capitalism is at hand. It could happen at any moment now. And that moment could be, say, 2020. Or 2237.

Unfortunately for this narrative, Pablo lost control of the International Secretariat far before the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union. His brief period of political ascendancy was mainly in the fifties. By the sixties, when the Soviet Union seemed unlikely to go anywhere for, perhaps, centuries, his support had evaporated and Mandel and Frank took over the day-to-day operations of the IS, and by '65 they were able to erase Pablo and his remaining base of support, the minuscule African Bureau that looked to him more as a supporter of the FLN than a socialist theoretician.

Yes, but to the extent that the SU had any credibility as a "model" for "socialism", it was adequately represented within the working class movement by Stalinism itself; there was little need for a "auxiliary line" that wasn't minimally critical of the "deformed workers' State".

Indeed, Pabloism, the honest variant that no one follows anymore, or the Mandelite variant suitably alloyed with Maoist imagery and so on, like other forms of opportunism, arises from the class struggle; or rather, from the layer that always acts to spoil class struggle where it arises, the labour aristocracy and bureaucracy. What one sees on RevLeft more often than not is an imitation of opportunism.

Pabloism perhaps; but there are other forms of opportunism that arise directly from disconnection to class struggle. In other words, there is one widespread opportunist tendency that is expressed in mass parties, and is linked to labour aristocracy/bureaucracy, and their attempts to establish themselves as "brokers" in class struggle. There is another opportunist tendency that has little to do with labour aristocracy, and is more directly rooted in the petty-bourgeoisie and its "reacionary socialist" attempts to substitute for the working class as a revolutionary subject. This latter tendency thrives in denial of the real movement, and is expressed in cults and cliques that fancy themselves the "vanguard" of the proletariat - or even of an abstract "historical necessity".

Even so, use-values that function solely as markers of class distinction are rare. Gold foil, when used in food, is an example of such a use-value. But high-quality transportation, time-keeping, clothing and so on has utility quite independent of its use to mark its owner as belonging to a certain class. When the latter function withers away, the former remains. Likewise mirrors, which were used in Yayoi-period Japan to mark status (and were rarely used "properly"), continued to be used (in their mundane function) even after advances in bronze-working led to their symbolic function all but dying out.

This assumes an acritical view of what "high quality" is. In a capitalist society, a "high quality" transportation is one in which upper middle class yuppies can go from home to office without having to mingle with proletarian or lumpen proletarian types.

Cocaine is associated with several negative feedback mechanisms, as are the vast majority of substances that influence the nervous system in some way. I would have thought this is common knowledge. That people still consume cocaine, or alcohol, or what have you, in amounts that jeopardise their health, is for the most part due to social conditions. Cars don't come with biological feedback mechanisms, but there are definite feedback mechanisms associated with traffic jams. That many people still decide to use cars despite this negative feedback is due, not to some insidious desire of men to overconsume, but due to the cutting of all public services, including public transport, and the pressures associated with wage labour.

Where I live in, most people don't have the luxury of opting between public transportation and privately owned cars - they have to go to their jobs by bus or by bus, or, if they are lucky enough, by metro (but even then many need a bus to get from home to the metro station, or from the metro station to work place, or both).

And so, public transportation cannot be "cut" in the way you seem to imply (besides, albeit being "public" transportation, it is also very private business, exploited in a very capitalistic way by it own petty robber barons).

So we are either talking from very different social realities, or one of us is badly misunderstanding the inner workings of capitalist mega-cities.

The point is to transform the way in which humans expend their labour-power. This includes both the abolition of every individual having a fixed sphere of activity, and the social abolition of menial work - which means, not that industrial robots will not have to be supervised by humans, but that the relation between this sort of work and intellectual etc. labour will fundamentally change. None of this can be done from the home, which is good unless you think it a good idea for people to be shut up in their households (ugh).

Uh, no.

I suppose people will move around a lot; after all there are lots of interesting places to go, such as museums, libraries, danceterias, restaurants, stadiums, parks (or the very transformed successor of what we call by those names in a capitalist society), etc.

It is merely that moving around from home to the place of collective torture we call "workplace" will quite probably be no longer necessary.

We can socialise directly with other people, for the sake of socialisation; we don't need the "workplace" and its alienated "socialisation" as a substitute for real human interaction. And that is part of why I agree with you that our disagreement involves, or is reducible to, a disagreement on what is communism (or "socialism" as you put it). To me, your "socialism" very much looks like an extention of the capitalist workplace to the society as a whole. A "socialism" in which production and productivity remain the goddesses to cultuate.

Of course they are. They are psychotic maniacs in public transportation, in queues and so on. Some of it is due to cars as such; given a long enough traffic hold-up anyone would start to lose nerves. But more important than that (or the rurals coming into the city etc.) are the social conditions of modern capitalism. The only people who can live in this decaying capitalism and not go manic at least occasionally are all insane.

Hm. So why are you avoiding driving, because you are manic, or because you are insane?

But who cares about reformist mayors? People on RevLeft have this touching devotion to social-democracy but one bourgeois politician is like all other bourgeois politicians. It is certainly no job of communists to defend them. The rest of this paragraph hinges on the idea that automobile transport must come at the expense of public transport and v.v. This is the case in capitalism where a city has a limited budget, but not in the socialist society, which plans production and infrastructure to fulfill need.

Of course this is still the case in a communist society. What you fail to realise is that communism is a post-scarcity society, not because you will be able to fit 1,000,000 automobiles measuring each 9 square meters into a street that is less than 9,000,000 square meters in area, but (among other things, of course) because a communist society will stop re-producing scarcity, while a capitalist society goes on and on creating and re-creating "necessities" that imply the over-use of natural resources, thus making those resources (or else the products made of them) "scarce".

Consumption in a capitalist society isn't "neutral" nor it stems out of "necessities". It is a social construction that is very much a part of capitalism as a system, and it requires a capitalist production in order to be fulfilled.

Obviously there is more than a little possibility for doing something else than handing factories to "their" workers. To do so, in fact, would be colossally misguided - it would mean the dispersal of the means of production when what is necessary is their centralisation. After the revolution, the factories will be run by the existing corporate enterprises, obviously, and whatever organs for coordinating production already exist. In Russia these were the main committees and the centres, for example. The point is to subordinate these in turn to the workers' state and to begin the application of the methods of scientific planning, to the extent possible in an area still trading on the global market (via an external trade monopoly).

Which has been tried, with the known results.

If the working class isn't ruling things at workplaces, then it quite certainly won't be ruling things at society at large.

You are stuck with a false dichotomy between "centralisation" and "decentraliation". Which leads you to proposing a curious mix between absolute centralisation of production, and an absolute decentralisation of consumption.

How does it change demand? It raises demand for producer goods, true, but that is something that needs to be calculated for the entire planning period. Noting that the aggregate demand for rubber in e.g. six months' time (one planning cycle) is such-and-such doesn't simply mean that we set the targets for the rubber factories at such-and-such plus a certain amount of buffer stock; it means we calculate how much oil is necessary to produce the rubber, how much electricity etc. Hence socialist planning is scientific - it relies on a scientific understanding of the production processes, of complex systems etc.

But evidently this means that "demand" must be planned too. If we reach the conclusion that the "demand" for rubber is unsustainable in the long term, we will have to plan for a replacement for rubber.

Indeed, this is probably another false dichotomy: demand/supply. Those are categories of capitalist economy, and I am far from sure that they still apply in a communist society.

No, such "destruction" is precisely the way to preserve them. To "destroy" luxury is akin to abolishing the state by forming a death squad targeting "statists". Luxury is abolished when it loses its distinction from other goods.

Again, the issue is not to physically destroy objects and products. The issue is to socially destroy the socially hierarchical roots of the "demand" for luxuries.

And since such social markers are available to anyone who wants them they lose their status as social markers, because they mark nothing. So after, perhaps, an initial slight spike in demand the demand stabilises or even rapidly deteriorates, depending on the good in question and if it is even a use-value outside class society.

More likely, those social markers will still mark social status, and be a point of support for the restauration of the old order.

This is a bizarre contention. Forming the initial list of circulating goods entails simply collating existing lists made by individual enterprises. From there adding items to the list is simply a matter of paperwork. To think this would somehow stifle progress is bizarre. Or do you think firms in the capitalist society don't need things like permits, and other forms of paperwork?

Well, it was your contention that innovation cannot be planned. Which, if true, would lead to such a consequence. Thankfully, innovation can be planned - and is already planned even within a capitalist society, where such planning takes the form of budgetary provisions for R&D.

Socialist society means the end of alienation in the strict Marxist sense, the alienation of the producer from the product. It does not mean a return to pre-capitalist forms of social organisation. In fact in the socialist society man is freer from other men than he has ever been, since the start of class society. He is not forced into any unfree association with other people, and what large-scale (but also voluntary) associations exist are for the purpose of coordinating production. If someone disapproves of the things he does, things he consumes, how he has sex, whatever, this does not impact him in the slightest. His bonds are for him to choose.

I think this is a libertarian fantasy. We are social animals, we are only human in society. We are going to be freer than ever, but that freedom is not freedom from one another, it is freedom for one another. It is not that we are "forced into unfree association with other people", it is that free association with other people is our species-being mode of existence.

Obviously there was, not only on account of the purely biological fact that it is not the same to expend energy and conserve it, but also because we see quite ingenious labour-saving techniques in the neolithic society (stone adzes, arrows, bows, pottery etc.) but not one leisure-saving technique.

Again, this is a projection of capitalist categories into primitive socialism.

You cannot preserve energy without expending it, and it seems to me that you have things upside down: the "expense" of energy in "labour" is what actually preserves energy, or, in more Marxian terms, reproduces it. While the "conservation" of energy in leisure is actually mere expense of energy, for the sake of it (or, perhaps more realistically, is actually part of "labour", pedagogical activity to prepare people for actual "productive" activities.

The material productivity of socialist production is chiefly the productivity of dead labour. To think that cretinous labour-intensive methods will survive in socialism is completely mistaken.

Listen, the "productivity" of dead labour is a function of living labour; and, conversely, the "productivity" of living labour is a function of dead labour. Which of these do you mean by "productivity of dead labour"?

If you mean the productivity of dead labour, then this is a function of living labour. A loom will produce more, or less, according to the quality, intensity, and duration of living labour put into it. And so we are in the realm of productivity-mania, characteristic of capitalism.

If you mean the productivity that is function of dead labour, ie, productivity of living labour, then yes, a given amount of human living webster-labour will produce more, or less, according to the quality and quantity of the looms, ie, dead labour, it operates on. But then we are again measuring how "productive" human beings are, as if we were nothing more than "factors or production", so this is a calculation that only makes sence as long as we are a cog more into the machine. Which is, a calculation that only makes sence in a capitalist economy.

And yes, the reproduction of the socialist society is not guaranteed. In fact we can expect birth rates to sharply fall. But what of it? Socialism isn't magic; it places the decision in hands of human beings, not ossified social structures. If no one wants to continue the race, so be it. No one will be harmed by that.

So we have a planned economy, in which every single part of the process of production is "scientifically" planned (for what end?) But there is an essential part of the plan that cannot be planned, which is labour imputs, that must remain absolutely free, and are only subject to individual wishes and decisions. See how this is contradictory?

And you, Luis, what are you going to do about it? Where are you going to find the workers who will let you prevent them from using contraception? And why stop at contraception? Why not outlaw homosexuality and abortion too? You sneer at anarcho-Stalinism, but you wish to reserve to yourself the prerogative to out-vozhd the vozhd when it comes to family-mongering.

Hm, no.

I am sure that at some level of depopulation, class relations will be reinstated; a too small society cannot support communist relations (and an even smaller society cannot support capitalist relation, and so on, until we are back to primitive socialism.

A few years ago there was a little piece of spam circulating in the internet, about how the world would look like if its population was reduced to 100 people. The most comic (involutarily comic, that is) part of it was that if the world had only 100 inhabitants, there would be only one college graduate among them. Which college would that single graduate would have as his or her alma mater, that must remain forever a mistery, for it is obvious that it takes more than 100 people for a college to make. The same is true for each and every human activity; too small populations make hydro plants, automobile plants, tobacco farms, the internet, shipyards, rock bands, etc., inviable.

But long before becoming inviable, those things would become dependent on surplus labour extorted by violence or economic necessity.

So it is not that "I" (who will probably for starters be long dead) am willing to outvozhd the vozhd in family mongering (for starters because I don't think anything similar to "families" will be in place), but that if "socialism" is a "planned economy", then either you will have to plan for labour imputs, or you will have an incomplete and inconsistent plan. Conversely, if you don't want to plan for labour imputs in order to avoid some sort of natalism, then you must have an unplanned economy, or not have an "economy" at all.

If there is a demand, the socialist society organises to meet it. Even if the demand is not quantitatively high, it is more efficient to build a large-scale production unit so that the supply is able to scale.

This is again capitalist reasoning projected into communism. We should have huge facilities to produce almost useless things, in order to "save labour". But free "labour", or work, needs no "saving"; it is just the free activity of men and women freely interacting with their "natural laboratory", not a "factor of production".

And so, you are right. What you call "socialism" is not what I call communism, and conversely.


Originally Posted by KillGreed444 View Post
Well unless we can crush the chains of Capitalism now, the Corporate Elite are going to use workplace automation to replace humanity, and what would ensue then is a nation-wide modern Luddite incident. Capitalists are trying to utilize technology for all of the wrong reasons, it is supposed to be for the benefit of humanity, not the replacement of humanity.

To whom are the "Corporate Elite" going to sell their commodities, if they actually replace flesh-and-bone workers?


Originally Posted by Xhar-Xhar Binks View Post
Ah, well, if that's your position, I think we have something of a problem.

I hold that socialism is possible now. Obviously no one knows when the socialist revolution will take place, or even if it will take place. It is more than possible that the course of human history leads to barbarism instead of the socialist society (this makes a socialist revolution in the near future all the more important). But socialism is possible in the present, and has been since the 19th century. To take the position that socialism is something that will happen in the far future means to turn socialism into a fiction, a myth. It means that all practical relevance of socialist politics is lost. Who wants to wrack their nerves fighting for a society that will only come (perhaps) long after they're dead and gone? This is why Pablo's fantastic line about "centuries of deformed workers' states" led to the end of open Pabloism as a significant tendency in the socialist movement. Who wants to live under the weight of a parasitic bureaucracy all their life?

I think there is a different problem with Pabloism. It is not merely that "centuries of deformed worker States" is too much time to wait for the real thing; it is that, as history has proven, "deformed worker States" are not an actual transitional stage between capitalism and communism; where they have existed, they transitioned to capitalism, not to communism.

So, perhaps we could wait 72 years, if we were seeing actual transition, ie, if the workings of a capitalist society were in fact being superceeded by the workings of a communist society. But anyone who earnestly looked into the internal workings of "deformed workers States" would see nothing like this; instead, what was there to see was total disempowerment of the working class, coupled with continuity of the categories of market (value, prices, demand, supply, etc.) and not just the continuity, but actually an exacerbation of State repression.

On RevLeft, of course, this line is extremely popular, for the same reason "folk" Catholicism (Catholicism that allows the practitioner to have all the premarital sex he wants and still beat up gay people) is popular; it allows people to call themselves "socialists" so they can feel smug, "radical", good and hard, but to avoid drawing any practical conclusions from their avowed socialist principles, so they can continue to support Sanders, Corbyn, Tsipras, Woland etc. in peace.

There are many forms of pretending to be ueberradikal without actually being, and not all of them imply support for socialdemocrats or liberals in the American sence. They are not usually related to some version of Pabloism, though. They are related to a lack of connection to actual working class struggle (of which Pabloism is just a symptom, and indeed only one of many possible symptoms).

But I don't think we can equate cruisers and corn flakes, as kinds of commodities.

Indeed no, that being the point. Different use-values have different uses; some of these uses are dependent on the kind of society we live in, others are not, or at least are less.

Generally, it seems to me, demand comes from three kinds of sources, and correspondingly objects become use-values in three ways. There are objects that are useful to individual humans, objects that are useful to corporate groups, and finally objects that are useful to society in general, to which in capitalism we have to add the objects that are useful to the parasitic state.

There are objects (in the most ample acception of "object", including things that are not material at all) that are useful to individual humans, but such usefulness is intertwinned with social mores. A car is useful as a means of transportation; a Lamborghini is useful as a means of transportation, and probably more useful as a way to assert social status. And while transportation remains a necessity in whatever kind of society, capitalist, pre-capitalist, or post-capitalist, social status does not.

There are objects that are useful for "society in general", but then a communist society in general is very different from a capitalist society in general. There is a whole plethora of objects that are only useful because we live in a monetary economy.

Of the three categories, it is public goods that I expect to change the most in socialism. The socialist society has no need for destroyers, tanks, prisons, police batons, gallows, and so on. Corporate goods will change inasmuch certain groups, like the Church, will cease to exist (so the need for crucifixes and monstrances and censers etc. will cease to exist as well), but I don't expect much change in the things universities and laboratories, for example, need, not in the short term. Individual goods will change the least, as consumption patterns change slowly relative to the time scale in which the revolution and the revolutionary transition happens in the near future.

Indeed, use-values that are useful only for State repression have no place in a communist society. And universities and laboratories (as well as schools, museums, libraries, etc.) are possibly the least problematic; what they need changes according to their own proceedings. Which are quite transparent.

But I think you underestimate the potential change in individual consumption. Not only technological development changes what people need, but the way individuals relate to each other dictates much of individual consumption. Lot of use-values work as social markers; while they may be necessary for shelter, transportation, food, etc., they fulfill such roles at the same time and on the same movement they tell us whether the individual is a bourgeois, a petty-bourgeois, or a proletarian (among many other informations about themselves).

Finally, concerning handcuffs, human perversity (which is a good thing, of course) does not really respect historical boundaries - it does not respect history, period. People can and do fetishise things that are not used anymore, and I don't see a reason to assume that will change in socialism.

Human perversion may not respect history, but the forms in which it manifestates must do so. Whatever kinky things ancient Romans liked to do, they didn't dress as London Metropolitan Police when indulging in sado-masochistic fantasies.

I don't think that's convincing, to be honest. It relies on the unstated idea that free access is equal to everyone having the maximum possible use of the good in question. But then, any sort of free access becomes problematic. Free access to bread, if we accept these assumptions, would mean that everyone would eat lots of bread all the time and eventually coronary disease would get us all. It's just not plausible.

If we are to take in serious the assumption that use-values are different, then we will realise that bread is the kind of use-value that we have negative feedback against overconsumption. We get fed up with bred, quite literally. The same cannot be said of all use-values. Cocaine and cars, for instance, seem to have not such biologically in-built negative feedback.

Car drivers, at least in Brazilian huge cities, tend to demand more and more public infrastructure to increase the urban mobility of automobiles. This means destroying environment, dislodging people, in fewer words, wasting an enormous amount of resources (labour time included), in order to make the inferno even worse. This, I fear, cannot be addressed in an individual level; we will have to collectively decide what shape our cities should have, and the amount of viably available automobiles is a function of such decisions.

And obviously, it would be very strange for the socialist society to abolish capitalism but not the juridical notion of possession distinct from use. But even if an automobile is available to all who would use it, it is not public in the sense in which buses, trams etc. are. For one thing, the car will never be parked in the same place at the same time, unlike the bus which comes to the stop at the designated time, give or take a few minutes (assuming competent drivers).

In any way, we will have to wait for cars, or walk to the places where cars are parked, just we wait for buses or the metro, and walk to the places where they are available.

Or else we can have easy access to a car in our garage, and then wait in traffic jams because automobiles are so inefficient as means of mass transportation.

I don't think the idea is weird at all. Even in socialism - no, particularly in socialism. If I work in the chemical plant in the morning, fix computers in the afternoon and inspect factories in the evening, am I going to live in three or more places? Not to mention, even if it could be arranged that I live near all three, people in socialism will presumably change the tasks they preform a lot. Can they change the place where they sleep at the same rate? To me it seems that changing that too fast can be tiring. Not to mention that production and sleep are not the only things in life. In socialism, in particular, we will go to the theatre, go to the park, visit the ruins of capitalism and so on. Public transportation can manage most of these, of course. But sometimes you'll be running late or not be in a mood to deal with people on the trams (Links knows what I'm talking about). Then individual automobiles can pick up the slack.

I suppose a whole lot of the activities we use to call "work" can be conducted from "home" (whatever "home" may be in a communist society). Sure, menial work in factories can't, but the point would be to reduce such activities to a bare minimal, not to overwork ourselves in as many different menial activities as possible.

Plus some people just like to drive. I would be one of them if the drivers in this city weren't all psychotic maniacs.
Yeah, I do like to drive. So it is not that I am trying to impose my own predilections upon mankind.

Are all the drivers in your city psychotic maniacs when they are not driving, too? Or is such psychotic mania induced by cars, or traffic?

In any case, what you term "consumption whims", aggregated over some definite period, provide most of the input side of the planning process. What remains is to allocate targets and draw up schedules, guided by a scientific model of production.

I don't think so. Evidently in a city with no decent public transportation system, people will demand cars. And the more cars they get, the more the public transportation system degrades, and the more cars they demand. And the more cars they get, the more they demand wider avenues, at the expense of trees, houses, sidewalks, pedestrians. And the wider avenues they get, more cars are able to circulate, until wider and wider avenues are needed.

In a sane world, traffic jams would signal to people that there are too many cars, and so that the consumption of cars is overdimensioned and should be reduced. In reality, traffic jams seem to signal to people that there are too many bicycles, sidewalks, trees, pedestrians, reformist mayors - and we get "psychotic maniacs", as you call them, doing what the driver in the video posted above does, vociferating against anything that obstaculises his automobile.

I think workers running "their own" factories is a recipe for disaster, for particularism of the worst sort. It failed miserably with VIKZheDor, and it would fail miserably in any revolutionary situation, where the interests of any particular group of workers can sharply differ from the interest of the working class in general.

I think workers running "their own factories" is a recipe to the reinstating of capitalism. But what is the time frame we are working in? Are we thinking two years after revolution, or are we thinking the day after? If we agree that the day after workers should keep the production running, then its little possibility to do anything else than "run their own factories". If we agree that "running their own factories" is a recipe for reinstating capitalism, then we will have to introduce deep changes into the productive system, that cannot be dumbed down to a "scientific plan" that acts like a Walrasian auctioneer ex-machina.

And this is the problem of transition. We cannot revel in interminable "transitions" that never deliver a "transitioned" society, but we cannot skirt the transition. We will not go to sleep under capitalism and wake the following day under communism; there is a series of complex, interdependent steps that need be taken (and that will need to start to be taken before we have our magical scientific plan, and that will indeed be pre-condition to any workable plan.

Obviously the plan changes reality. If it doesn't, it's not a plan but some kind of weird technical semi-poetry. But the question is, in what way does it change reality? It tells the productive units how much goods to produce so that supply matches demand.

But then when it does that, it changes the demands. So our plan risks to always run after the bus, dictating that we produce for the demands of yesterday, only to discover that such demands are no longer in place, so we have oveproduced a few use-values and underproduced as many others.

Here it is imperative to take demand for what it is.

This is certainly what we are going to do they day after. But in the long term this is a recipe for disaster, or to the reinstatement of capitalism, for the demands we now have are demands of a society organised by capital.

Otherwise we give so much leeway to the planners their job becomes trivial. If they can't fulfill the demand for rubber, they can just write it off. Not to mention the actual harm done by people who imagine they can dictate consumption patterns to other people.

That's a one-sided view. True, people need rubber, so rubber needs production. But rubber demands either rubber trees or oil, and oil is a non-renewable resource, and rubber trees demand land, which is a non-renewable and actually limited resource. So we need a negative feed-back mechanism, lest we destroy the planet to have our rubber. In capitalism this negative feedback mechanism is price; if we get short on oil or land due to our demand for rubber, then the price of rubber rises, making the demand to fall. It is an awfully inefficient mechanism, but, at the price of famines and wars, it makes us stop overconsumption. What we need is a better mechanism of negative feedback, not a glorification of "demands" for the sake of demands.

That's the thing; it's not. Demand arises as the response of individuals and definite groups to their conditions. Changing the conditions might lead to a change in demand, perhaps. But what you describe, and what is sometimes described (wrongly, I think) as manufacturing demand, is mediated by social structures - status, celebrity culture etc. - that will not exist in socialism. And it doesn't always work. In fact most people wouldn't dream of wearing the clothes that are on display at fashion shows.

Those things will not exist in a communist society, but for such non-existance to obtain, they will have to be actively destroyed. And such destruction requires actual critical approach to the issue of demands.

I don't see how that will even be possible. Not only is actual innovation impossible to plan for by definition, how would you reproduce the effects of things like status without reproducing these things as well, which is surely contrary to the radical social leveling that socialism implies?

Well, either we "take demand for what it is", as it is "it is imperative to" do, or we don't. If we take demand for what it is, we start with a system of demands that does include people demanding social markers. You can of course have a "scientific plan" that somehow excludes such demands for social markers, but then you are not "taking demand for what it is", you are, in the end, telling people what they should demand. The Chinese for instance "abolished" the demand for individualised dressing, and told everybody that what they really needed was a practical uniform overall, equal for everyone. It is said that this in turn sparked the demand for pockets and pens, since while you couldn't dress a Giorgio Armani, you could express your hierarchy within the "deformed worker's State" by the number of pockets your uniform had, and by the number of pens you stuck into them.

I don't think diversity is a value in itself, but in any case it's not at odds with standardisation. Standardisation doesn't mean there is only one size of a suit. It means that an XL suit bought in Italy won't leave you feeling like a walrus because you can't fit. It means when you buy Camembert it will be made to the same sort of specifications, whether it's made in France or in China. And so on. This is important because, for planning purposes, we need a definite list of the goods circulating around the world.

If for planning purposes we need a definite list of the goods circulating around the world, then we are doomed, for such list can only exist at expense of any changes in production, that is, at the expense of any progress.

And how is this not "government over men"? You expect society to be organised according to the dictates of your personal ethics. Well, why would anyone besides you care about that? Socialism, if anything, is amoral, the public power is purely administrative and technical. If people want cocaine then they want cocaine. Saying that we'll all be insane on cocaine is the same sort of fallacy as saying we'll all die in a great traffic jam; just because cocaine is produced and consumed doesn't mean we're all getting fucked up on it every minute of every day. In fact, if you want people to do that, simply ban drug use or "discourage" it or however you want to put it.

This, I think, is deeply mistaken. A communist society is still a society; it is not a mere collection of individuals. We aren't vying for an Asimovian Aurora; we are vying for communism.

In a capitalist society, our relations to other human beings are masked by the relations between our products. One produces cocaine because one wants the money that can be exchanged for cocaine; what happens to others, directly - as in the drug addict that buys one's cocaine, and grows sicker and sicker out of it - or indirectly - as in the rising social costs of hospitalisation of people getting sicker and sicker on cocaine - is irrelevant; as long as the value of the cocaine is similar to the value of the money exchanged for it, it is a fair exchange; there is nothing wrong there. One produces automobiles because one wants the money that can be exchanged for automobiles. Whether this is helping make a better world for all of us, or, as it seems more and more evident by the day, making the world a worse place to live in, is irrelevant.

A communist society should mean the end of such alienation. One no more has to think of cars, or cocaine, in terms of value; one has no more to obtain money in order to participate in the socially built wealth. It stands to reason that now one has the possibility, and perhaps even the necessity, of thinking about one is doing. In a capitalist society, if someone wants something, we are under the obligation of providing that something. We are forced to work. In a communist society, not so; we can, and probably should, decide that we are not going to produce this or that use-value, because we will be able to think beyond the money it will beget, and realise the social consequences of what we are doing.

It was my impression that the terms were usually used the other way around; labour being the category that transcends class society (as in Lukacs's "ontology of labour") and work being compelled labour under class society.

That could of course be; in Portuguese we have one only word for those things, "trabalho", so we have to resort to longer phrases and explanations to make clear what we mean. It is in any case a huge source of confusion, both in Portuguese and in English, and a confusion that Marxists should not allow in their thinking.

In any case, whether we call it work or labour or Geoff, the time spent doing it has been a limiting factor in human production for quite some time. In capitalism that time becomes value, but that doesn't mean that in feudalism or the Asiatic mode of production labour-time was irrelevant simply because it did not have the value form. Obviously some feudal or Asiatic estates were more productive than others and allowed their owners to gain an advantage over others, usually a military advantage.

A neolithic farmer wouldn't think of things like that; to him there would be no distinction between labour and leisure. He did what he had to do, both because he needed the result of his activity in order to survive, and because it was a good thing to do. His time was not divided between a time to labour, and a time to do all other things that make a human a human. In capitalism, as Marx says, we feel human only when we are doing that that any animal does - eating, sleeping, fucking, idling. When we do such things that only human do - to transform the world - we conversely feel as animals. But this does not apply to neolithical farmers. Consequently, as in the long joke about the Mexican, or Polynesian, fisher, he sees no reason to save his time in order to be able to do everything he wishes - he already does everything he wishes (that his wishes are petty, that's a different, though very real, problem, which probably requires a capitalist stage to solve).

Well, yes, but as magic does not exist, to liberate ourselves from the tyranny of productivity requires a substantial amount of productivity, particularly of dead labour.

That goes without saying. Only a quite industrialised society can put productivity in its correct place in human life - something to enjoy, by liberating ourselves from menial labour, not something to obssess ourselves about, by enslaving us to the tyranny of machines. Likewise, there are no primitivists or animal rights people in feudal or slave societies. You have to take meat, plastics and computers for granted, before you find the time to theorise about the abolition of meat, computers and plastics. Likewise, as we discussed elsewhere, communism requires a certain level of productive force, and human work being a productive force, communism requires a minimal amount of population to be made possible - this being the reason why a communist society that allowed itself to reduce its population beyond such a minimum would be in deep trouble (that meaning that contraception is also a social issue, not merely a question of wanting children or not).

Now, if we allow ourselves to be driven by uncriticised "demands", which are in many cases destructive - and I mean destructive of productive forces - we would be undermining that substantial amount of productivity that allows us to free ourselves from the tyranny of productivity. It seems to me that overproduction of some use-values - cars and cocaine being actually good examples of those - does just that: to destroy productive forces.

I never said the time to read poetry, etc., was wasted. Quite the contrary. I said the time spent working in a small power generator when we could have a larger power generator and have less people working less to produce the same amount of electricity is wasted time. And that time eats into the time we have available for reading poetry, etc.

There is a contradiction, though, between your reasoning about the size of power generators, and your reasoning about "taking demand for what it is": because if there is a small demand for some use-value, then it would be as wasteful to build enormous plants to produce a few unities of such use-value as it would to attempt to mass-produce enormous amounts of widely demanded goods within petty manufactures. Suppose someone badly wants gebimbles (what is a gebimble? you see, the demand for it is so small that I can't even find it on google). Why would we put up a farm, or a factory, to produce something for which there is so little demand? Either we wouldn't produce gebimbles - or we would try to increase the demand for gebimbles, so that it would be reasonable to build up a facility for making gebimbles. In one case, we aren't taking that rare demand for what it is; in the other case we would be manufacturing demand. Unless, of course, we admitted that some use-values are best produced in small productive units.

I don't think Marxism has an "ethical core".

I can agree with that; but then it has a rational core, to which the idea that "productivity" and "efficiency" cannot be extricated from capitalist production and circulation of commodities belongs.


(fim da primeira página)

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License