Forum topic: Only one other world is possible: communism

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Marin Jensen
Forum topic: Only one other world is possible: communism
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Only one other world is possible: communism. The discussion was initiated by LoneLondoner.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

Marin Jensen
Following on from the discussion on a day in communism

I started writing this post under Communist's imaginary "day in communism", when I remembered that we had already written some thoughts on the subject - so I encourage comrades to read this article, especially the last half or so, for some ideas on the subject.

In the meantime, here's my post following on from MH's publication of the "anarchist Class War Comix".

I looked through that Comix, it reminded me of everything I found most offensive about the squatting movement back in the 1970s and why I got out of it!

However, I rather regret that Jaycee and Communist have not come back on this thread, and that it seems to have rather degenerated into pub discussion (not unpleasant, but not very enlightening either). That is a shame because the issues raised in the original post are important albeit hidden perhaps. So here are some of the problems I think that Communist and Jaycee's posts raise:

First of all, we have the presence of the "oldsters" who can remember capitalism. This is a literary device (Alexandra Kollontai used it also in a short story imagining a New Year celebration in communism) which makes it possible to contrast the old with the new, but we need to be clear that the transition from capitalism to communism will not happen overnight. Such an illusion was permissible in the days of Owen (who thought that it would be enough for the workers to undertake a general strike and refuse to go on working for the bosses); it was already much less so for the anarcho-syndicalists at the beginning of the 20th century. And today, when we consider the depths to which so much of humanity has sunk (the pogroms in Russia, in India, Rwanda, Congo... and on and on), and the degree of destruction the planet has suffered, it is clear that it will take generations to repair both the planet and humanity and create a communist society - those who made the revolution will be long gone by then.

The second point is that to me, Communist and Jaycee's imagined communist day is more like a kind of mirror image of the alienation that we suffer within this society, rather than something new. Above all, though I may be wrong, I do not get a sense that in communism the role of labour has been restored to its rightful place. This to me is critical in imagining the future: while we all have our individual fantasies about a future world (which reflect more than anything our own imaginations warped by capitalism), the fundamental underlying point is that labour has ceased to be alienated, and has become free. This means two things: first, that the associated producers own the product of their labour, so that dead labour (capital) no longer enslaves the living; second, that for the first time in human history necessary labour (ie to produce food, clothing, etc) will be reduced to a tiny proportion of labour time, and that for the first time labour will become truly free, the freely creative activity of changing the world to make it more beautiful, better suited to human life (exactly what that would mean is a whole question in itself). So labour becomes a joy, something to be treated with pleasure. 

Finally, the vision proposed seems to me very parochial (as I said in a previous post). We live in the world of the Internet even now: in communism, we can imagine being connected to friends and projects throughout the planet (and even beyond) more or less permanently. Can you imagine an entire day where you don't check out what's happening on Fred's research station (for example), or checking out the latest bit of music from that concert playing out in the Andes where one of your mates is taking part?

In the Comix, this parochialism is positively criminal: clearly from the story line the revolution is still going on, yet the attitude of the people in this rural commune is basically "I'm alright Jack". This was exactly the attitude of the Spanish collectives in 1936, which we have written about here.

baboon
You missed out the link there

You missed out the link there Lone.

I agree with the thrust of the above. The civil war will be an enormous struggle involving many phases for an ultimately successful revolution. The work really  begins then both theoretically and practically in order to build a communist society, which itself I imagine, would undergo various stages and phases. It's a work of many generations that will have to take place in some conditions which are not provident. I think that it will remain a struggle for some time but a struggle in entirely different conditions and one that's moved along by conscious associated labour. The end of labour as a curse of capitalism and free labour organised for building a new society.

I know that a lot of people hate their jobs and this is a simple reflection of the alienation of labour that exists today. But on a personal note I loved mine. I worked closely - had to - with many different workers and we had to act together and rely on each other and when we relaxed we discussed everything - though sport took up a disproportionate part. I wasn't at all sad to retire - I'd done my whack of shift work and all the shit of the bosses was coming down. But I could project that collective labour being in a different world and shorn of the weight of capitalism could imagine it being very strong and dynamic.

I can read in the morning and go hunting in the afternoon now.

Marin Jensen
Link and liking work

baboon wrote:

You missed out the link there Lone.

Bizarre - there is only one link in the post (at the end) works ok for me.

I sympathise with baboon's memories of his job. I've been very lucky too in having a job that on balance I enjoy, but there are two things about it that are deeply depressing to me. The first (I work in commercial IT) is that the vast majority of what I have produced is, to be honest, pretty worthless in terms of adding anything to human endeavour (I mean, if I had worked in a brewery at least I might have been able to say I helped people enjoy a good pint - unless I'd worked for Double Diamond of course). The second is that of course you have no control over what you do, your labour (which Marx considered to be one of man's most fundamental attributes) does not in fact belong to you, it becomes something that stands over and above you, and that is pretty soul-destroying I find.

Fred
Free to grow

I hate having to admit it but I quite enjoyed my job too like baboon and LL.  That's to say I enjoyed it sometimes but not always. I hate too having to say I was a teacher, because I loathed teaching and the way most teachers approach the job, but like working in a learning environment with other interested people who didnt always, or necessarily expect you to behave like a teacher even though that's what you're paid to do. And having said that I must admit too that many times on some days I wished I didn't have to go in and do it all over again and again, with different people like a conveyor belt, and pretend to be interested and enthusiastic when I've already been doing it for what feels like aeons  and would really like a few years off and try and do something else. Or just read. Or just do nothing and think. Or travel around and look at new things. But that's the trouble with work under capitalism, isn't it?   Either you have a job (The JOB)  and you have to go repeating the same now boring job for ever just to stay alive, till death starts to look like the only escape, or you don't have a job at all, have no money and can't do anything.  Oh! Capitalism! How loathsome you are and how seemingly impossible to escape.  And oh how you turn what could be the most fascinating experience of all, being alive, into a total misery and pointless drudge for just about all of us; while those pathetic  people who defend the system and appear to get something out of it or at least kid themselves they do (are they deluded?) insist on telling us how really everything's alright or it will be and can only get better (can't get no worse!),  and if only  we would stick at our boring jobs, or try  at least to look  for one and escape unemployment, and save money for the system,  or failing that go and fight in the latest war, everything will be wonderful and life become a box of chocolates for everyone. But who wants a box of chocolates anyway, with its ready made choices all   neatly packaged in glittery papers, and the only real choice is soft or hard centers, when what we all really want is to invent our own lives and society together, like those generational waves out there in infinity which operate to create the very space and time into which they then grow? We want to be like that don't we? Free to grow. Capitalism is just anti-life,  anti-pleasure and anti-human. Why don't we get rid of it? 

radicalchains
Inn jokes R us

You all went to school but yet you still chose to become mind jailers.

Fred
mind jailers and others (an inn joke)

Shades of the prison house begin to close upon the growing boy, as Wordsworth put it. And its true that  bourgeois education for the non-bourgeoisie is there to reinforce subservience to the capitalist system. And I suppose its true that teachers can thus  be seen as "mind jailers"  (lovely expression rc) at the service of the system.  But I think you credit teachers with too much power and influence. I think shades of the capitalist prison house would have closed upon the growing Wordsworth, as upon the growing radical chains, whether they'd gone to school to be conditioned by it and for it or not. Don't you?  As for me, I went in for teaching because of the short hours and long holidays and was anyway incapable of doing anything else.  

 

How about you rc? Is your job, if you have one, free from contributing to the all pervasive capitalist mind jail?  Or do you just earn an "honest" living?   (I've been longing to overdo some smiley faces for ages. So there!  Done it.   #%¥€***=% etc. ))

radicalchains
I can't claim credit for the

I can't claim credit for the term mind jailers, as far as I know someone on the Libcom forums made it up. Someone else might have said, school is a factory. I think school is a lot worse than simply reinforcing subservience. It's abusive, sexually repressive, divisive, hierarichical etc and those are only some of the immediate inflictions. I personally think if you are aware of this and you get a job in teachig you should set out to 'make a difference'. It's just not the same job as say someone selling a hi-fi in a shop. There's no crime in becoming a teacher cos you're attracted to short hours and long holidays I just think much greater effort needs to be put in to the actual work and your approach otherwise you're a total hypocrite.

I like your smiley faces, they certainly brighten up the forum. No, I don't have a job. I've worked in retail mostly, shops and automotive. Which I quite because it was such a drag, I gave some 'unofficial' work a go for a few years but found that just as difficult but in different ways. At least it was more fun and less repressive and controlling. Probably why a lot of people turn to 'unofficial' work these days, can't hack it won't hack it. With the lack of fight in the working class there's not much confidence things can be changed so people tend to fuck off and do something else.