What do you think of our draft introductory guide to libertarian communism?

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Steven.'s picture
Steven.
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May 13 2014 18:34
What do you think of our draft introductory guide to libertarian communism?

Our first draft is now online here:
http://libcom.org/library/libertarian-communism-introduction

please let us know what you think.

Is anything missing? Should we take anything out? Are there any errors or typos?

Anything not clear? Anything not backed up enough by evidence?

Please give us any feedback. Also, try to keep feedback constructive. So if you can, propose an alternate way of wording something which would be better.

Thoughts appreciated!

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May 13 2014 20:55

Should be "True democracy is more than the right toelect a handful of (often rich) individuals to make political decisions for us for a few years"

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May 13 2014 20:56

And you've missed another word here

"The principle concern most people hold as to whether a communist society could work is asking if humans really can produce enough for us to survive without the implicit threat of destitution, enforced by the wage system."

Other than this I think its a great simple piece.

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May 13 2014 22:11

It's difficult to know what exactly qualifies as constructive criticism when we're talking about a short introduction. After all, too much adapting it to criticisms and you'll end up writing a book!
In any case, I'll point out some things that I thought of while reading it:

For the section titled, "To each according to need...", you guys should consider explicitly pointing out why private ownership is undesireable. Also, point out why markets are harmful. Consider the following:

Quote:
Freed from the capitalist imperative to accumulate and profit, we will no longer be slaves to the market, forced to work boring, pointless jobs and produce ineffective products designed to break down so people have to buy new ones.

Markets are mentioned in a derogative tone, but it hasn't been established that capitalism makes you a slave to the market, that being the subject of a market is a bad thing, or that the market is responsible for jobs being boring, etc. We may know why, but someone reading this for the first time will be unequipped to answer the question, "Why are markets bad?", or "Don't markets give you freedom to choose?".

Also, the section on Cuba and the USSR seems out of place.

In the, "Without a state" section (and this is more of a semantic problem which happens quite a bit amongst anarchists, so take it with a grain of salt), the terms "state" and "government" are used synonymously and it's not explained why they are synonymous. Again, this is a point that perhaps should be discussed on another thread, but "government", I've been taught, is a term for whatever collection of institutions societies use to handle (or not handle) political affairs. So that governments can be direct-democracies, states, dictatorships, etc.

Everything else I think is pretty solid. I particularly liked the, "Without bosses" section.

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May 13 2014 22:18

Thanks for the comments, guys. I probably won't respond to them at the moment, I will wait and see what other feedback people have, then respond to all of it/incorporate feedback into the article

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May 13 2014 23:48
Ethos wrote:
Markets are mentioned in a derogative tone, but it hasn't been established that capitalism makes you a slave to the market, that being the subject of a market is a bad thing, or that the market is responsible for jobs being boring, etc. We may know why, but someone reading this for the first time will be unequipped to answer the question, "Why are markets bad?", or "Don't markets give you freedom to choose?".

I don't think it should be necessary, especially if its read with the other introductions that answers those questions. These intros are really part of single package, each taking on a different aspect or issue central to our politics. So for the sake of keeping this intro short and precise, it should stick to just explaining what communism means for us, and differentiating it from what people normally think it is, and from past societies that claim to be organized along those lines, and I think this intro was successful in doing that.

Btw, those intros make a nice book. You guys should definitely keep this pdf updated with all of the other ones not included thus far (it only has the intros to capitalism and class/class struggle).

cresspot's picture
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May 14 2014 03:14

It needs more pizzazz! to be honest.
some rhetorical kicks like
"and we don't care if we have to roast some rumps"
"it's high time we get things rolling"
"those soggybottoms don't know what a real revolution is capable of"
also, say "we communists" a bunch of times
I don't know. this whole communism thing hasn't been working very well so far. we need new tricks, we need new POSTERBOYS, we need more candy to give out.

Alexandra
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May 14 2014 07:55

It's a good introduction. It doesn't explain though how we would get to there, from here. How is such a society created out of the present capitalist world and how is it defended whilst it is in the process of transforming society from one type to the other?

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May 14 2014 11:48

As very much a novice in all things political, I would have found it helpful to have a paragraph explaining how this is different from anarchism. I'm sure it's obvious to more politically astute readers, but to beginners it sounds very similar.

Regards.

Spikymike
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May 14 2014 12:44

This draft is very good but as you might expect I'm not too comfortable with the sections and wording on 'democracy' especially with the phrase 'true democracy' , I realise this is an attempt to connect with workers current level of political understanding, but this tends to reinforce the understanding of communism, both as a social movement and a future society, as somehow the realisation of an ahistorical ideal rather than the practical needs of class struggle or the meeting of humanities needs in a communist society. We don't want to encourage the use of democratic formalism so often used against us in the inevitably initial minority aspects of class struggle or the scary vision of communist society as a long series of endless assemblies and meetings of all kinds- so best to at least to drop the word 'true'. Self-management is probably a better term to describe the organisational aspects of class struggle and communism but of course that term has also been somewhat abused.

I suppose I should at least say that although I've always been an adherent of the 'real movement' concept that as it is generally understood it is more problematical than the linked text suggests.

s.nappalos
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May 14 2014 13:33

I have a piece that explores communist distribution in a wageless system if that's helpful.

http://libcom.org/blog/ditching-class-praxis-anarchist-communist-economi...

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May 14 2014 22:42
Quote:
Here we will address these, starting with the latter, the less well-known meaning.

Just for ease of reading, perhaps change latter to second?

[/pedantry]

anarkinsey
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May 15 2014 00:00

I think the content's pretty solid, but I have some nitpicky little things to offer about the grammar and formatting if you're interested:

  • You seem to have a few links with a trailing space included in the linked text... while not an error per se, it looks a little weird when you mouse-over the link and the underline goes into the space after the last word in the link.
  • You're inconsistent with the dash character you use to set off parenthetical phrases; in some you use a hyphen (-) and in others you use a typographical dash (–). It'd look better if you made them all one or the other.
  • In the fifth paragraph of the conclusion, there's a trailing space before the comma after "have more fun".
  • In the following paragraph it'd be more consistent to have a comma after "'supervisors'".
  • The first item in the "More information" section doesn't have a bullet.
anarkinsey
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May 15 2014 00:04

Also, maybe this is just me but I feel like the last sentence of the introduction might flow better without the last 'the' (i.e. "the latter, less well-known meaning" or per Chili Sauce's suggestion, "the second, less well-known meaning").

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May 15 2014 15:08

So, my (not very constructive, sorry) comments are: overall it's a bit "Johnny Nash"*, i.e. "won't it be grand when all of the bad things about capitalism have disappeared?" But it's hard to get into the "Libertarian Communism - How?" details in an intro. Plus there are the usual problems of sectarian blueprints and cooks, etc. But still, we have to make some concession to the fact that of the proposed alternatives to capitalism - e.g centrally-planned state socialism, libertarian-collectivist market socialism, etc - communism is by far the hardest for people brought up in a capitalist society to conceive or imagine.

In that sense I think there needs to be some hint at an answer to the question "Why communism?" other than "because, capitalism" because that's the same answer the state and market socialists give. In that sense I'm sorta leaning towards Ethos' point (as I read it), i.e. that 21st century libertarian socialism possibly needs to lean more towards "why not market socialism?" a bit more than "why not state socialism?" - given that the latter has already been tried and found wanting. And in any case, most state socialists these days down-pedal the whole central-planning thing, at least for the first "transitional period" bit, for a more "mixed economy" approach of nationalised state sector (nationalise the top 500 companies...) alongside a market socialist sector (with cooperatives, basic income, milk & cookies and a pony...). So the whole "moneyless" thing is the thing that needs explaining really.

Also, I think this is (tenuously) linked to the problem with the "not to be confused with state capitalist regimes like the old USSR and North Korea" statement. It looks weird because anybody's natural first reaction is - what about China? And of course China no longer fits the neat "capitalism with a single owner - the state" model. But is it fully capitalist? Depends whether you accept that the market is essential to the law of value, generalised commodity production, and "the anonymous forces of capitalism imposing themselves behinds men's backs and appearing as a natural force" (or whatever the actual quote wording is). Not convinced the idea of capitalism without markets, the law of value, doubly-free labour, and all the rest isn't confusing the issue badly. Especially if you are trying to explain why Schweikart-style libertarian or liberal market socialism isn't going to cut it.

Also, like Spikeymike, while I'm a big fan of how the notion of "real movement" provokes thinking outside the programme-fetishism box, it has some serious problems as a frame as well (potential hidden teleology / theory of history- or, at worst, a sub-councillist, spontaneist anti-politicism/anti-intellectualism, etc).

Anyway, blah, blah, blah...

* You know -

Quote:
I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

I think I can make it now, the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I’ve been prayin' for
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

Look all around, there’s nothin' but blue skies
Look straight ahead, nothin' but blue skies

ocelot's picture
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May 15 2014 16:19
Ethos wrote:
[...] this is a point that perhaps should be discussed on another thread, but "government", I've been taught, is a term for whatever collection of institutions societies use to handle (or not handle) political affairs. So that governments can be direct-democracies, states, dictatorships, etc.

[Total derail - apologies] The (marginally) more preferable term for the processes used to handle social decision making in any society, regardless of social form, is "governance", which helps to distinguish the ambiguity in "government", which is most usually associated with the bureaucratic institution of "a/the government".

So you can talk about processes of governance in stateless societies, whereas talking of "government" in that context will sound odd to most people, given the more usual meaning.

Partly this is to do with the utter uselessness of sociology when it comes to even basic critical or categorical thinking, especially around the term "institution". Mainstream sociology uses "institution" to refer to actual bureaucratic bodies of state or semi-state workers, as well as entities like "money" or even social taboos. Hence because pretty much everything and anything is an "institution" for sociologists, the statement "collection of institutions society uses to handle political decisions" can refer to everything from the US State Department, the FBI, etc, to the Iroquois gathering of elders to debate the decisions facing the clan. Which is why sociology is useless dreck, in my opinion, but anyway...

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May 15 2014 19:41
ocelot wrote:
Ethos wrote:
[...] this is a point that perhaps should be discussed on another thread, but "government", I've been taught, is a term for whatever collection of institutions societies use to handle (or not handle) political affairs. So that governments can be direct-democracies, states, dictatorships, etc.

[Total derail - apologies] The (marginally) more preferable term for the processes used to handle social decision making in any society, regardless of social form, is "governance", which helps to distinguish the ambiguity in "government", which is most usually associated with the bureaucratic institution of "a/the government".

So you can talk about processes of governance in stateless societies, whereas talking of "government" in that context will sound odd to most people, given the more usual meaning.

Partly this is to do with the utter uselessness of sociology when it comes to even basic critical or categorical thinking, especially around the term "institution". Mainstream sociology uses "institution" to refer to actual bureaucratic bodies of state or semi-state workers, as well as entities like "money" or even social taboos. Hence because pretty much everything and anything is an "institution" for sociologists, the statement "collection of institutions society uses to handle political decisions" can refer to everything from the US State Department, the FBI, etc, to the Iroquois gathering of elders to debate the decisions facing the clan. Which is why sociology is useless dreck, in my opinion, but anyway...

I don't think I've ever seen the term "governance" used as something other than a synonym for "government", but your post seems perfectly reasonable. I also understand the desire to avoid concepts and terminology of current political systems when describing communist ones, so, yeah, I agree with your comment.

A'ight, sorry for the derail.

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May 15 2014 22:07

Okay, time for more pedantry. Take these comment for what they're worth - I won't be offended if you ignore all of them. Also, forgive the terseness, I'm too tired at the moment to jazz it up all nice-like.

Quote:
And when we can, we resist because the conditions we live under in this economy push us into asserting our needs against capital.

Remove "in this economy"

Quote:
just some of the occasions when the working class has tried to reshape society in our own interest, rather than the bosses'.

This sentence is a bit confusing. Perhaps "in our own interests, rather than those of the bosses'."

Quote:
Which includes the need for a safe environment.

Not a complete sentence - change "which" to "this"?

Quote:
federated with other workplaces and communities,

I still really think an intro on federalism would be great. Short of that, a link for "federated" could be really useful.

Quote:
To make collective decisions, instead of "representative democracy" which governs most countries at present we propose direct democracy.

Change to

To make collective decisions, instead of the "representative democracy" which at present governs most countries, we propose direct democracy.

Quote:
Where it was possible in some areas workers pushed closer to a communist society, abolishing money or distributing non-scarce goods for free.

Change to:

In some areas where it was more of a possibility, workers...

Quote:
People having the freedom and control to do what they want how they want, and having a constructive, socially useful reason for doing so is the best motivator.

"People having the freedom..." just reads a bit awkwardly to me.

Quote:
And without the profit motive, any technological advancement which makes a work process more efficient, instead of just laying workers off and making those remaining work harder like happens at present, we can all just work a little less and have more free time.

Long, slightly confusing sentence here. Maybe break it up into two or three sentences?

Quote:
As billions live in dire poverty amidst unimaginable wealth, and we hurtle relentlessly towards environmental catastrophe we believe the answer is a resounding "no".

Move comma from after "wealth" to after "catastrophe".

Quote:
But even so communism as the real movement

Add comma after "so"

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May 16 2014 22:41

i quite liked the old one tbh, but on that draft things that could be added would be
1) always good to briefly explain how unemployment works in an intro text, you hint at it rather than just laying it out
2) you dont really mention just how bad capitalism is (starvation, war, disease, child malnutrition etc etc) and how a libertarian communist society would do away with those things
I mean dont overdo it but its worth including
3) bits of it feel a little work centric, could do with a sentence or two more on rent, housing, healthcare etc

Also the links could include stuff like berkman as a counterpoint to the dryness of kropotkin

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May 21 2014 12:29

Thanks again for the comments everyone. If anyone has any additional thoughts please let us know ASAP as were going to finalise this shortly.

In terms of people's comments here, we will make all the corrections needed, and make the grammatical and some of the wording changes suggested here.

In terms of the other comments, one thing I would like to stress as the person above says, this isn't meant to be our overarching introduction to everything, this is just our final section of our general introductory guide (including previous sections on capitalism, class, the state, the environment etc)

Anna Chi wrote:
As very much a novice in all things political, I would have found it helpful to have a paragraph explaining how this is different from anarchism. I'm sure it's obvious to more politically astute readers, but to beginners it sounds very similar. Regards.

On this bit, it is not different anarchism, it is a type of anarchism. We will make that clear somewhere.

Cartwheels, no objection to having any Berkman but did he write anything which would be suitable here? I couldn't think of anything.

Scott, I will check out your article now

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May 21 2014 15:27
Steven. wrote:
...this is just our final section of our general introductory guide (including previous sections on capitalism, class, the state, the environment etc).

This isn't really the final, final intro, right? Remaining still are intros to race, gender and nationality. That's what you said on Jul 26 2013 13:20 in a thread on federalism.

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May 21 2014 17:16

Yeah, we still plan to do those as well.. this is the final in the sense that it comes last in the running order..

Jesus christ though mate, there's no throwing things down the memory hole with you! Can you do that for any post on libcom? If so, that's quite the party trick..

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May 21 2014 18:39

Dude it says name and date below the username every post on the forum ever.

Ed's picture
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Jul 14 2014 20:32

So, after a long wait we've finally updated the intro to libertarian communism.. we've tried to include as many of the suggestions as possible.. let us know what you all think!

Chilli Sauce's picture
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Jul 15 2014 11:56

Just had a look at the finished product, found a typo here:

Quote:
true democracy is more than the right elect

right to elect

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Jul 15 2014 12:52

unless it's an anabaptist reference

Spikymike
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Jul 15 2014 13:42

Haven't changed my mind about the use of this phrase even when corrected but then the communist critique of 'democracy' is I realise not accepted by most on this site.

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Jul 15 2014 21:59
Spikymike wrote:
Haven't changed my mind about the use of this phrase even when corrected but then the communist critique of 'democracy' is I realise not accepted by most on this site.

yeah, I appreciate the communist critique of democracy in terms of the class struggle (i.e. respecting the "rights" of a militant minority to act in advance of the rest of the class), but in terms of a communist society I'm not really sure what the critique of participatory democracy (i.e. that people should get a proportionate say in issues that affect them) is… Any pointers?

Spikymike
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Jul 16 2014 15:15

Steven,

You have already had to use terms like ''rights'' ''proportionate'' and the qualifying ''participatory'' just in one short question. On a very basic level beyond my earlier comment on this thread I'd say it was about making a clear distinction between communist content (defined negatively by the 'abolition' of the value form and positively as the creation of a world human community) and organisational forms the later of which might vary in practice accross the full spectrum of possibilities depending on functional,cultural, geographical and other circumstances and that communism is not defined by any particular form of democracy whether qualified by the words, true, social, workers, inclusive, participatory, delegate etc or by such phrases as workers or generalised 'self-management'. I'm sure I have tackled this question on other threads and it has come up in discussion of the schemes proposed by the likes of PARECON, 'Inclusive Democracy' and Castoriadis 'Workers Self-Management'. It is of course a tricky issue to deal with adequately when trying to get communist views accross to most people without getting tagged as some kind of elitist or dictator which is why I didn't pursue this line of argument further until the phrase got a second mention here. I don't want to detract from an otherwise pretty good Introduction.

PS: I was going to recomend again an ICG text which still makes some good points in (an admitedly rather abstract) marxist critique of 'democracy', but there is some criticism of it here on which I have commented: http://libcom.org/library/democracy-mystified-critical-review-book-again... There is also this: http://libcom.org/library/towards-critique-democratic-form-draft though unfortunately the author never bothered to follow up with any clarifications.

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Jul 16 2014 18:24

Right, thanks, I see what you mean and sort of agree, however I think we will keep it in there

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Jul 18 2014 02:59

Dear comrades,

I think its very usefull that such a thing is written. These text can also very easilly be transformed into little pamphlets that can be handed out. Thanks for you effort first of all.

To add some constructive critique:
I must say that I agree with 'cantdocartwheels' that its important to include a more broad vision of libertarian or anarcho-communism which includes healthcare, social welbeing, house-work etc. I think the german lib-coms have some nice positions on this and I think in their text in 'Strasse aus Zücker' fit that in very appealing. They have one English edition called Route Sucrées (http://strassenauszucker.blogsport.de/images/routessucrees1.pdf).

Another point of critique - which I also have on the Routes Sucrées btw - is that the word anarchism isn't mentioned anywhere except for a very minor mentioning at the end line "this is what we call anarcho-communism or [...]". This might be unintended, but non the less very problematic. Anarchism has given very much to the communist/socialist tradition and is in my opinion one of the few currents that might actually save this beautiful idea. It is supplying communism with the libertarian aspect and by not mentioning it you portion off this whole libertarian history and tradition.

I think anarchism needs its communist and socialist tendencies back since there are all kinds of weird forces at work with it: from the radical capitalists calling themselves 'anarcho-capitalists' to the conspiracy-corner which often has again ties with the former. By connecting the two it might add some to the normality of the communist base for anarchism. Also it might help rehabilitate anarchism in the communist tradition after its violent expulsion first at the 19th century (Marxism) and later in de 20th by Marxist-Leninism/Bolshevism. The other way around for the communist tradition anarchism can also supply and safeguard a wellworth the libertarian aspect.

Thats' my chippin' in for now smile