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Old 07-27-17   #1
Dark Messiah
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DM's Thread About Life and Stuff

I figured I should have a thread for this probably.

Finished getting my bachelor's a while ago, spent a while working a shitty restaurant job, quit and am now trying to figure out what the fuck to do with my life. So that's going on.

Oh I'm a communist these days. I think that's new. Except to fr0g.
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Old 07-27-17   #2
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Probably going to add more lately although I am still not a fan of this thing where the internet has become the place where everyone knows everything about you.

I guess at least my porn browsing history is private.

At least to anyone who doesn't want to pay Google $0.05 for it.
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Old 07-27-17   #3
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It annoys me that I still don't know your real name, even after all these years.
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Old 07-27-17   #4
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Buh

We were literally friends on Facebook how do you not know my real name
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Old 07-27-17   #5
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That was it for real? I assumed it was phony.
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Old 07-27-17   #6
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Nah

I mean legally my name is John, but everyone calls me Jack.
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Old 07-27-17   #7
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I know far more about DM than I ever thought I would, that's the nature of facebook I guess. I'll admit though, I enjoy your posts more than most.

I don't understand the communism thing though. I have several friends, very smart friends, who also profess to be communists. I don't get it, hasn't communism been tried several times and never worked out? Why would we want to go down that road again?
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Old 07-27-17   #8
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So there are several things to address in that question, let me cover a few of the major ones briefly.

First off, what do we mean by communism? We mean a state of society in which the rule is by society; usually this is referred to as stateless in leftist theorizing, but you can call it an omni-state if you want, since it's mostly a semantical difference; not in the sense of there being a separate state that is everywhere, monitoring society, but in the sense that the "state" is de facto made up of everyone in society.

This is understood to mean total political and economic democracy. Meaning not only are laws and rules and general decisions made in a communal fashion, but so are questions around the distribution and share of wealth.

Here a quick demarcation must be made to address a very common complaint and misunderstanding: While one cannot really generalize to all socialists very precisely, the vast majority understand this to mean that there cannot be private property, but not that there cannot be personal property. Or put another way, you can own things for their personal use value; but you cannot own things for their commodity value, and for their ability to produce things for personal use. Hence the phrase, "The means of production." E.g., you can own your shirts, you just can't own a shirt-factory. Another way of thinking of this would be to say that there is some sort of wealth cap, for instance, no one can own more than, oh, $2 million in personal wealth, or a ratio, such as; the richest member of society should not be more than 10x richer than the poorest member of society. These are just examples for framing, and defining the exact lines and where to draw them on this topic is obviously a subjective matter of future implementation, but it's important to note that almost no socialists or communists are going to say that you can't own things for yourself as a blanket rule.

Now, Karl Marx did not invent communism or coin the term, but he was undoubtedly the most influential 19th century thinker on the subject and on economic history; in fact, regardless of political affiliation, historians generally acknowledge Marx as a very important foundational figure in historiography, as basically creating the concept and the framework we still use to analyze economic classes as a historical matter.

Regardless, Marx and Engels and other major 19th century Communists who followed after them tended to eschew thinking too much about what communism should actually look like in the future, being in fact scornful of such efforts; Marx referred to such thinkers as "Utopians" and criticized them as basically having their heads in the clouds. Marx and other 19th century thinkers mostly focused on analyzing the then still new and emerging system of capitalism and industrialized production, and its effects on class society.

If you could generally summarize 19th century communist theory though, it would go roughly like this: The history of mankind is primarily a history of social classes, defined by each class's relations to their mode of material reproduction, i.e., how does a society perpetuate itself and the things in that society? How do people live, materially, and how do they keep getting and making the things that allow for that life?

In this analysis there have only really been three phrases of human history thus far, and only two really important events. There was the agrarian revolution, before which mankind lived in a state of "primitive communism," essentially egalitarian hunter-gatherer tribes where the means of reproduction were very limited and shared. After the agrarian revolution, mankind began the period Marx referred to as feudalism, here meaning not strictly the Medieval caste system in Europe, but basically all post-agrarian societies before the modern era, which shared very similar economic models based around agrarian production, and a class division between serfs and a ruling elite whose power came from control of arable land and people, defined by the rise of patriarchal gender structures, the dominance of patrilineal lines as a means of passing on wealth generationally, the growth of cities and division of labor etc. etc.. And this was the dominant mode of material reproduction for about ten thousand years.

Then there was the industrial revolution, where mankind's productivity grew more quickly in fifty years than it had in the preceding ten thousand. The introduction of the steam engine and subsequent systems for unlocking fossilized energy and machine power created a rapid and total change in the material mode of reproduction and in peoples' relations to those, shifting from an agrarian to an industrial society, and re-aligning, according to Marx, all of society into only two remaining classes; the capitalist class, who owned the machines and access to the machines that could produce wealth, and the labor class, who had to sell their labor to work those machines and make wealth for others in order to continue to eat and live.

The theory of communism wasn't that capitalism is itself intrinsically or particularly bad; Marx certainly saw the flaws in capitalism, but viewed it as a transitory stage, which, as it continued to develop, would basically destroy itself as machines became increasingly efficient, and as the opportunities for expansion, upon which capitalism rests, shrunk.

When this happened, there would of course be social upheaval and violent revolution, but it would end with the adoption of a post-capitalist, post-industrial communist society in which access to machine production was universal.

Enter the late 19th/early 20th century and Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Marxist theory implied that communism would arise first in the most advanced industrial economies, which everyone at the time took to mean probably the US or Germany. Russia by contrast was one of the most backwards of the great powers; hell, they had only abolished Serfdom in the 1860s, and in many ways Russia continued to operate under a feudal caste system, including laws who could wear what clothing. There had been multiple failed revolutions and most of them produced reactionary backlash from the Czars, reversing social reforms that had taken place.

So this should have been terrible ground for a Communist revolution. Lenin, however, had a theory (and likewise, this wasn't his alone, but we'll simplify it to just Lenin here.) Marxist-Leninist theory was basically that you could short-cut through capitalism if the process was controlled, not by a motley of private, competing, irrational and greedy capitalist interests, but by a "vanguard party," a centralized state ruled by an enlightened class of true communists.

Lenin and his Bolshevik party saw their chance during the Russian Revolution. The initial deposition of the Czar was replaced by a social-democratic regime led by a dude named Kerensky, and a coalition that included old school Marxist communists who thought that Russia was far too close to feudalism to be even close to the jump to communism, and basically just wanted to develop the country into a liberal social democracy. Unfortunately for them, they also thought this required keeping up warm relations with the Western nations, which meant keeping Russia in WWI, which is exactly what caused the Czar to get overthrown in the first place. Because, if I didn't mention, Russia was economically backwards, and were getting their asses kicked on the Eastern Front. Like really, they did pathetically against the German troops throughout the First World War, although in fairness they had some victories against the similarly pathetic and backwards Austro-Hungarian Empire. But by 1917 Russia's pitiful industrial sector was struggling and you had soldiers in frozen trenches fighting with newspapers for shoes. The Kerensky regime doubled down in the face of popular backlash, becoming ever more closely aligned with the conservative, reactionary and even remaining royalist factions who wanted to re-instate the Czar. Russia began disintegrating again.

During this time the central social hub of Russian life became the Soviets, a curious social institution that arose first in 1905. The Soviets were basically nothing more or less than communal gatherings in towns and factories and in the army and navy, small scale open parliaments basically where anyone could show up and speak and vote on decisions for whatever the given community was. They were not under the control of the Bolsheviks at the time, who were still a fairly small minority faction even within the revolutionary left, but the Bolsheviks saw an opportunity and began pushing for a second revolution with phrases like "Peace and Bread!" and "All power to the Soviets!"

Of course once in power, they completely depowered and defanged the Soviets, and in some cases repressed them violently (See: Kronstadt, among others.) Other leftists who had other theories were swept out of the way, as the Bolsheviks seized total power to themselves to implement their theories, and this basic form has been the dominant mode of all the subsequent 20th century Communist revolutions, in China and Cuba and so on.

Now, I do not much like Leninist theory and as a leftcom I have a pretty big historical grudge against Leninists since they killed a lot of other leftists in their rise to power. Besides other atrocities of course. Like at one point, Stalin had his loyals in Germany actively collaborating with the Nazi party during their rise to power because he was less concerned with Hitler than with undermining other leftist parties and factions in German politics.

But is it fair to say that it never worked out? That seems kind of spurious. Russia started from an abysmally low spot when the Bolsheviks took over, and then they became strong enough, despite Stalin's Red Army purges of Trotsky loyalists, to basically do 90% of the legwork of defeating the Nazis in WWII. After having struggled against just the Austrians a generation before. Certainly throughout the thirties, forties and fifties Americans, Brits, and other Westerners were scared shitless of the pace of industrial production growth under the Soviet Union.

There were a lot of atrocities and fuckups along the way to be sure, but that's also true of the development of Western nations.

I'm not sure that it's true that Marxist-Leninism was any better than Liberal-Capitalism as a system, but it's not clear that it was very much worse. Certainly, for all that people want to exaggerate the economic problems of the Soviet Union by the late 80s, we can now say that

1) In most of the former Soviet Union, it took at least a decade to return to USSR-era GDP and standards of living, especially outside of those countries that weren't receiving oodles and oodles of EU aid money; and in some parts it still hasn't returned. If you ask older people in these places today, you find plenty of people that are nostalgic for the Soviet era. Granted, old people love being nostalgic about things that weren't actually that great, so eh.

2) Certainly in the past decade or so we've seen liberal-capitalism show its ass plenty in terms of systems with major problems.

So again, that's not really to defend Leninism. I don't agree with Leninist theory and I don't like Leninists in actuality. More than that I think it's irrelevant. Leninism is a theory for what to do in an early-capitalist or late-feudal society. We are in a late-capitalist society. Areas of economic malaise are mostly post-industrial, not pre-. Our problems are exactly the ones Marx foresaw; we are approaching an excess of machine labor efficiency that is rendering human labor obsolete in many ways, which is a real problem when your system is predicated on people having to lease out their labor power to avoid starving. Meanwhile, having propped up false growth for decades with an excessively over-leveraged and indebted consumer class, we're running out of real areas in which capital can continue to expand.

I'm trying to avoid anything resembling a no-true-Scotsman here, as I am not saying that Leninists are not communist. But the Soviet Union was never a communist society. Lenin indeed did not describe this state as such, calling it "state capitalism," although Stalin later did try, laughably, to claim that they had achieved a communist state.

But to answer the question, no, then, communism has never been tried, and the problem is that we do have to figure out how to try it. And I do not contend that this will be easy or painless or that there is one obvious way to do it. But we are running into the ends of where capitalism makes sense as a system; and my great fear is that if we do not begin the transition towards some form of actual communism, socialist economic and political total democracy, that we will wind up going the opposite path, with more and more wealth and power concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer until we wind up with a neo-feudal order.

This is also why I sometimes short-hand people to say that I am more of a Star-Trekist than what they probably imagine by "communist" per se.
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Old 07-27-17   #9
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Dude, come on.

I'm gonna have to come back and read that sober.
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Old 07-28-17   #10
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OK, I read it. There's my accomplishment for today.

To me it's always seemed that Communism, much like most hardcore Libertarian ideas, relies far too much on people doing the right thing. I used to think people could be trusted to do the right thing, that naivety died a horrible death last November.
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Old 07-28-17   #11
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Also, and forgive my ignorance on the subject, you said you can own a shirt but not a shirt factory. I would assume that means the state operates all the shirt factories. What motivation does the state have to make more than 2 or 3 types of shirts for everyone? In this scenario does everybody wear the same shirt?
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Old 07-28-17   #12
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Mine died June 23 last year.

Dunno. I've got a friend who grew up in commie Berlin. The stories he tells are kind of heartbreaking. When his grandma from West Germany used to visit, he'd sniff her clothes to get the smell of fresh bread and scented soap, as these things were hard to come by on government rations. I suppose I want to believe in a meritocracy that is also not so douchy as to refuse to take care of the less fortunate, the sick, the elderly. But that seems to be a blatant contradiction. So I'm left with "dunno", hinging on "fuck it".
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Old 07-28-17   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thefr0g View Post
OK, I read it. There's my accomplishment for today.

To me it's always seemed that Communism, much like most hardcore Libertarian ideas, relies far too much on people doing the right thing. I used to think people could be trusted to do the right thing, that naivety died a horrible death last November.
Not really. There's nothing about the system that implies an intrinsic lack of abuses or problems; The only thing it's really predicated on is a certain level of labor efficiency via advances in technology, and the development and spread of said technology.

Hence my comparisons to Star Trekism.

All we really mean by communism is direct and total political and economic democracy, which still leaves plenty of room for innumerable problems. Much like Star Trek.
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Old 07-28-17   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thefr0g View Post
Also, and forgive my ignorance on the subject, you said you can own a shirt but not a shirt factory. I would assume that means the state operates all the shirt factories. What motivation does the state have to make more than 2 or 3 types of shirts for everyone? In this scenario does everybody wear the same shirt?
You're thinking of the state as existing as a thing separate from the people, which is not the system in question.

If people want more types of shirts then they will agree to make more types of shirts. Hell, the assumption is that if people want to just make their own shirts that nothing would stop them, assuming that they live in a community that has a shirt factory, or can trade with one that does. Or they could hand-make them too if they wanted.

This is kind of a spurious example though since in actuality shirts are like at the ultra low end level of production and pretty easy to make a billion varieties of, but you can apply it upscale.

So no everyone is not all forced to wear the same shirt. In actuality there would be a lot more freedom for individual expression than under existent consumer capitalism in which everything is strongly oriented towards bulk production.
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Old 07-28-17   #15
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Quote:
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Mine died June 23 last year.

Dunno. I've got a friend who grew up in commie Berlin. The stories he tells are kind of heartbreaking. When his grandma from West Germany used to visit, he'd sniff her clothes to get the smell of fresh bread and scented soap, as these things were hard to come by on government rations. I suppose I want to believe in a meritocracy that is also not so douchy as to refuse to take care of the less fortunate, the sick, the elderly. But that seems to be a blatant contradiction. So I'm left with "dunno", hinging on "fuck it".
I wrote a wall of text about how I am not talking about the kind of system they had in East Germany, you should slog through it.

Of course in reality capitalism rarely produces actual meritocracy anyway, since people in function will tend to promote and favor friends and family and it's networking, more than talent or skill or hard work, that leads to success.
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Old 07-28-17   #16
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I read your wall of text. I was just talking. I tend to do that on occasion.
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Old 07-28-17   #17
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Outrage, calumny and lies
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Old 07-28-17   #18
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I am also legitimately flattered you would read my wall of text tho. That's true friendship right there.
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Old 07-28-17   #19
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Quote:
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You're thinking of the state as existing as a thing separate from the people, which is not the system in question.

If people want more types of shirts then they will agree to make more types of shirts. Hell, the assumption is that if people want to just make their own shirts that nothing would stop them, assuming that they live in a community that has a shirt factory, or can trade with one that does. Or they could hand-make them too if they wanted.

This is kind of a spurious example though since in actuality shirts are like at the ultra low end level of production and pretty easy to make a billion varieties of, but you can apply it upscale.

So no everyone is not all forced to wear the same shirt. In actuality there would be a lot more freedom for individual expression than under existent consumer capitalism in which everything is strongly oriented towards bulk production.
I have so many questions about how all this would actually work, that I don't know where to start. How would the state not exist separate from the people? We can't vote on everything. What about the tyranny of the majority? And who is making the shirts? Who builds the factories?

I'm trying to imagine a highly educated first world society like this. Children are born, go to school to be taught by people who want genuinely want to teach, not just to be paid for their time teaching. Assuming there are enough of those people to educate the populace, the children will then go on to learn a trade. Some will be engineers, some will be doctors, they will decide what they want to do and pursue it, not for the lure of a good salary and comfortable life style, but because it is what they want to do. But there will be a sizeable group of people who wont want to do anything. Sure, automation is going to take a lot of really base-level jobs, but it will never take over the high skilled positions. We will always need engineers and doctors, teachers, people to repair the machines that are doing all the dirty work. And in the mean time, we will need people to design and build and improve upon these machines, and they will have to work for the good of humanity, not for personal gain.

If I come off as condescending I'm seriously not trying to. It just seems so incredibly unlikely to me.
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Old 07-28-17   #20
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So one of the core premises of most communist theory is that government (here meaning the act of actually deciding questions of the rules and processes of society etc.) will be mostly local. Not entirely local because there's stuff you can't do that with and besides which, you'd end up with communities where slavery was re instituted or gays were stoned to death or whatever, but primarily local.

So the question of voting on everything is that you kind of can if it's mostly local and you can of course delegate to representatives for certain things. Personally, I prefer randomized representatives as the Athenians used to actually do (not that I much care for the Athenians) over actual campaigns for representatives, which tend to favor, intrinsically, social class dynamics.

My best answer to the tyranny of the majority, which is already a problem of course, is that things should probably move to consensus and not first-past-the-post voting.

As to the question of labor;

1) Experiments on, for instance, guaranteed basic income have indicated that when they don't have to worry about starvation, people are generally more productive (although you would have to start providing better incentives for shit jobs like janitors etc.)

2) We are increasingly hitting the point in our economic development where the problem is, within the context of a wage-labor dependent system, that there is not enough work to do for people who want to work. So this seems like the opposite of our problem. Note that the core tenet of Marxism is that this is a system that must inevitably arise as capitalism develops through its end, i.e., as technology becomes sufficient to displace most immediate need for human labor.

Also if we are moving past wage slavery per se, what people want to do should be thought of more broadly than just "a trade."

But every indication is that we can or will soon be able to afford plenty of people not doing anything; and that in fact the bigger social problem is trying to figure out in the current order of things, how exactly we can find bullshit tasks for enough people to do sufficient to keep them from starving or dying of easily preventable diseases.
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