A few questions on Anarcho-Communist theory

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Jerome
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Mar 11 2009 02:40
A few questions on Anarcho-Communist theory

I just want to say that I'm new to Anarchism and this website, so please cut me a bit of slack for my lack of knowledge. Also, I have read about Anarcho-Communism from Krompotkin's book "Anarchism, revolutionary pamphlets", wikipedia, and the FAQ, which is frequently cited on this website, so please, unless the source directly answers one of my questions, don't refer me to another source. Thanks.

Anyway, here are a couple of my questions about Anarcho-Communism that I would appreciate if someone helped me with:

1. In a Anarchist society would there be written laws? If so would each commune have different laws?

2. If there are workers councils for every business, but the plan for the economy would be created by mass assembly of the community, who would have the ultimate authority?

3. What motivations would a individual or collective have to give away goods for the benefit of the collective, when they can just keep the surplus?

4. Why do Anarchist blocks in protests always have to wear all black instead of looking normal? (the ninja look scares potentially interested people)

5. How would a Anarchist society be implemented in a suburban type environment, which is very much dependent on other areas?

6. If a Anarchist society is moneyless, then how would they conduct trade with other societies which are not?

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Django
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Mar 11 2009 09:08

Hi,

I'm a member of an anarchist communist organisation, though for me, anarchist communism is the same thing as small-c communism, or council communism. It is a stateless society where all the components of capitalism have been done away with - money, capital, banks, commodity production, wage labour, property etc.

However, my idea of communism isn't really one of sovereign self-governing communes. For me the communist society is the commune.

I should say in advance that to a good degree I think this stuff is angels on pinheads. We're a good way away from being able to construct such a society, which would develop out of significant levels of class conflict. I think the priority now is building a strong working class with is aware of its own interests and able to defend them. So I don't think blueprints of a future society are massively important at this stage, but I'll try to answer your questions.

1. In a Anarchist society would there be written laws? If so would each commune have different laws?

I think decisions about how interpersonal affairs are run will be down to the communities that make up the society. Obviously, we're not talking about law as it functions in a capitalist society here. Law, as a means of underpinning the capitalist system will be gone. Property-related crime would be gone, and we'd think that much of the crime associated with deprivation, poverty and alienation would be gone too.

Still, we're going to have to have a way of dealing with the occasional sociopath, or with crimes of passion. I don't think communism is a society of angels.

This will have to be decided on in democratic processes involving the people it effects - the community in question - like everything else.

I'm not sure if this is down to 'the commune' so much. Like I said, I think the commune would be the communist society. If a stateless society is going to work, and work beyond a primitive level of development, we're going to need to use principles of delegation, and set up bodies that allow for the co-ordination of things beyond a local level - transport networks, power generation, transporting parts, materials and resources, bringing in food etc. This is no problem from my point of view. Maurice Brinton said that setting up bodies beyond the basic organs which grow up in revolutionary periods - workers councils - which we want to form the basis of a new society, isn't the problem. Its the relationship between these bodies and the 'base'. If they are made up of immediately recallable delegates with mandates, rather than being decision-making organs over the base, then they're fine, and necessary.

So many questions in a society like ours would, out of necessity, be working at a level larger than a 'commune'.

2. If there are workers councils for every business, but the plan for the economy would be created by mass assembly of the community, who would have the ultimate authority?

Well I think that workers councils are something that spring up in revolutionary periods, and that we want these to form the basis for decision making in revolutionary periods. They're made up at different levels, from assemblies in the workplace through levels of delegation. At a basic level, we'd want to bring the entire working class into the mass bodies.

I think in a post-revolutionary situation, we'd be looking at economic questions being made in a three-way process, by mass assemblies (deciding what is wanted), workers councils with delegates from across the society (administration of what is wanted) and the syndicates of the workers in question (how it is done). Of course the syndicates would have people in the mass assemblies as members of the community as well as members in the syndicate as directly-affected workers.

But again, I imagine there'd be use of mandates and delegation, in pragmatic ways which are worked out during the process. This has happened in the past, and isn't surprising, as no-one wants to spend their lives sat in fucking meetings.

3. What motivations would a individual or collective have to give away goods for the benefit of the collective, when they can just keep the surplus?

Because if a 'collective' say a factory, is producing something, say girders, they can't live off them in a self-sustained way, and can't continue producing them without other 'collectives' providing the materials, machinery, power and transport services to make them. 'Collectives' and 'individuals' rely on one another to function. Common sense really. The capitalist world of hermetically isolated, sovereign producers is a myth. We rely on each other to do anything.

Though saying this we'd also expect people to have a range of jobs which they're involved in, and the most unpleasant jobs to be shared if they can't be abolished through technological development. I don't think anyone would want to commit to one workplace, or one job that needs doing.


4. Why do Anarchist blocks in protests always have to wear all black instead of looking normal? (the ninja look scares potentially interested people)

Christ knows! I don't do this. I always dress nice when I'm interacting with 'normal people'. Though I do tend to think I'm a relatively normal person in most ways, beyond this anarchism business. But I definately think setting up anarchist subcultures is a bad idea.

5. How would a Anarchist society be implemented in a suburban type environment, which is very much dependent on other areas?

I think this has been touched on above, I would say that we'd be looking at transforming our society and environment massively - abolishing useless work, totally transforming the way workplaces are run etc. We'd be looking at transforming the relationship between housing, 'work', and education, and transforming the way transport works - moving towards having excellent mass transit systems rather than individually owned cars. So we wouldn't be inheriting the material fabric of capitalist society and leaving it intact, but transforming it to make it fit our needs.

6. If a Anarchist society is moneyless, then how would they conduct trade with other societies which are not?

This is the reason we have to make revolutions international. As far as I'm aware, Britain needs to import food to feed its population. We're going to want to move material around, some areas have power generating capacity which could benefit other areas etc. The revolution is going to have to be spread as far as possible, and ultimately it needs to be worldwide. And if history has told us anything, its likely that capitalists will attempt to interfere from 'outside' anyway.

tigersiskillers
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Mar 11 2009 17:52

Welcome to the site. They're thoughtful questions. My answers are likely to overlap a little with Djangos...

1. In a Anarchist society would there be written laws? If so would each commune have different laws?

Some anarchists writers have said do away with all written law per se. I think this is balls. I have no problem with laws as long as they are democratically decided upon. This is qualitatively different from 'Law' in a capitalist society, where the reasonable laws - don't rape people etc - are just one part of a wider structure geared towards supporting and protecting the ruling class.

I would assume that the basic stuff - eg killing people being a no-no - would be decided further up the federated political structure than locally, but there may be flexibility around what I guess you could call by-laws. Eg 'people have been getting pissed up right by the kids playground, that's out of order' kind of stuff.

2. If there are workers councils for every business, but the plan for the economy would be created by mass assembly of the community, who would have the ultimate authority?

There would need to be co-ordination of this, I'm not sure that necessarily it's about having the ultimate authority. The plan has to be an accomodation between what we want to consume, and what we want to produce. As people in such a society we will be both producers and consumers, with these roles no longer mediated by income, profit seeking etc. It shouldn't be an antagonistic relationship.

Whatever you may think of Parecon as a whole, it has an interesting way of trying to address this through a kind of facilitated ititerive process between federated workers councils and local assemblies.

3. What motivations would a individual or collective have to give away goods for the benefit of the collective, when they can just keep the surplus?

As Django said, there's no real benefit in keeping the surplus. I see an anarchist society as being complex and interlinked (as opposed to a more C19th anarchist vision of largely self contained communities) whereby it would be hard for groups or individuals to lever advantage through such forms of economic blackmail (or out and out force) because they'd be reliant on others, and the rest of society could just freeze them out and work round them.

4. Why do Anarchist blocks in protests always have to wear all black instead of looking normal? (the ninja look scares potentially interested people)

Because some people have overactive fantasy lifes. It's stupid, and not really representative of anarchists. Unfortunately it's often more visible than the other stuff that people do.

5. How would a Anarchist society be implemented in a suburban type environment, which is very much dependent on other areas?

Like I said above, I think it's actually a good thing that an anarchist society would involve complex links between communities and workplaces. While some forms of production can be localised (I think Wayne Price had some examples in an Anarkismo article from a year or so ago), it often doesn't make sense to do this in terms of resource use or environmental impact. Communities wouldn't be on their own trying to source goods and items from elsewhere - they'd be tied into federated structures to co-ordinate this kind of thing.

6. If a Anarchist society is moneyless, then how would they conduct trade with other societies which are not?

Some stuff may well need to be obtained from places far away. But for anarchism to succeed it has to be beyond one country. Not so much because eg we couldn't feed ourselves in Britain - we could with different priorities on food production - but because other countries would be hostile, either directly - sending in the troops to try to restore 'order' - or indirectly, denying access to raw materials etc. I don't mean that the revolution has to occur in every country in the world on the same day, but that it has to be something that spreads.

In a post revolutionary world international trade would be replaced by exchange on the basis of need.

Dave B
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Mar 11 2009 18:43

Hi Django and Jerome

I thought those were great questions and answers.

I think that if you accept that the idea of a ‘new society’ involves no money and free access to products that are directly consumed by people, then certain things follow on from that.

Firstly labour or work becomes totally voluntary as there is no economic compulsion to work, as on an individual level your position is not altered at all concerning your access to goods whether you work or not.

Leaving aside self sustaining communes and accepting the division of labour in an advanced industrial society.

You are unlikely to be spending most of your time working to produce stuff that you are going to end up directly consuming yourself. So you will be voluntarily working to produce stuff for ‘other’ people or the community as a whole.

If what you are voluntarily doing is for others then it makes sense to get some feedback from the whole community that what you are doing is helpful or is going to be appreciated.

The flip side is I think that when it comes to voluntary labour as a recipient of it you don’t start laying the law down about how it is done and in the process piss the providers off.

So the basic principal remains the same whether it is workers fitting out the livery in aircraft or a couple of people in a kitchen cooking a meal for 10 or 15 friends. Become too demanding of the chef’s and they will throw in the oven gloves and storm off in a huff, with a do it your way then etc.

Providing these people don’t claim monopoly ownership of the kitchen or the aircraft workers insist lurid pink, in a take it or leave it situation.

Other types of situations are obviously more serious and emotive and go beyond keep them happy or they will walk away. Eg nuclear power, eating animals and turning natural habitats and peoples homes into reservoirs etc.

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Jenni
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Mar 11 2009 19:16
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Firstly labour or work becomes totally voluntary as there is no economic compulsion to work, as on an individual level your position is not altered at all concerning your access to goods whether you work or not.

I have a problem with this tbh. I don't think people who are physically and mentally well yet refuse to produce anything for society should have the same access to everything that people who contribute do.
'To each according to need; from each according to ability' means that the former depends on the latter. It's not about allowing certain people to produce nothing and live off the work of others (sound familiar?), it's about labour not being exploited and people producing and consuming in a fair way.

edit: just remembered there's actually already a thread discussing this in which i and others made exactly the same argument, never mind. it's here if you're interested!

Boris Badenov
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Mar 11 2009 20:45
Django wrote:
Though saying this we'd also expect people to have a range of jobs which they're involved in, and the most unpleasant jobs to be shared if they can't be abolished through technological development. I don't think anyone would want to commit to one workplace, or one job that needs doing.

As much as this argument seems to make sense, I was never really convinced by it. I think if anything, most people would rather be doing one thing they truly enjoy rather than a series of shit jobs they have to do. Granted that with capital gone out of the way, they wouldn't have to do any job just to ensure the basic necessities of life, but there would still be an indirect element of coercion. People who refused to do their job when their turn came to clean the septic tanks of the community (a clichee example, but I think it's fantasist to presume that all nasty jobs will be abolished by efficient technology), could, I imagine, face exclusion from said community. And on good reason ultimately, as none would be able to function if the streets were inundated by shit. But ultimately, a rotation system doesn't change the element of alienation involved in doing a job you don't want to do.

Jenni wrote:
I don't think people who are physically and mentally well yet refuse to produce anything for society should have the same access to everything that people who contribute do.

What does it mean to produce something for society? To work in production? Is being a history teacher productive for society? And if so, then this is a job where usually a high degree of specialization is required. How would this still be possible if we all had to take turns at operating machinery (which a lot of us would have to learn how to use first) and whatnot.

Django wrote:
This will have to be decided on in democratic processes involving the people it effects - the community in question - like everything else.

So if someone gets raped, the community has to convene and democratically decide how this action should be viewed? That seems a bit impractical. Sure, the aggressor would have to be tried in a democratic manner by a body of community members, but should there be a vote on each occasion something like this happens, on the question on whether rape itself is a crime? I think not, and if not, then it means there will have to be some sort of "written law."

These are just some questions that torture me intellectually; otherwise, I think the above answers are good, and I tend to agree with Django that blueprinting utopias is a waste of time given the current situation.

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Jenni
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Mar 11 2009 20:52
Vlad336 wrote:
Jenni wrote:
I don't think people who are physically and mentally well yet refuse to produce anything for society should have the same access to everything that people who contribute do.

What does it mean to produce something for society? To work in production? Is being a history teacher productive for society? And if so, then this is a job where usually a high degree of specialization is required. How would this still be possible if we all had to take turns at operating machinery (which a lot of us would have to learn how to use first) and whatnot.

I meant either producing things per se or providing any useful service. 'course being a teacher is productive and specialisation in education would still occur in the same way that it would have to in medicine, architecture, engineering etc. sorry for confusion

Boris Badenov
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Mar 11 2009 21:16
Jenni wrote:
Vlad336 wrote:
Jenni wrote:
I don't think people who are physically and mentally well yet refuse to produce anything for society should have the same access to everything that people who contribute do.

What does it mean to produce something for society? To work in production? Is being a history teacher productive for society? And if so, then this is a job where usually a high degree of specialization is required. How would this still be possible if we all had to take turns at operating machinery (which a lot of us would have to learn how to use first) and whatnot.

I meant either producing things per se or providing any useful service. 'course being a teacher is productive and specialisation in education would still occur in the same way that it would have to in medicine, architecture, engineering etc. sorry for confusion

Thanks for clarifying. But if there would still be specialization, then said history teacher would have to be maintained by the voluntary work of people who do work in production (i.e. the food industry, the health industry, the electricity industry etc.), and I think it's a bit far fetched to assume that all these workers would in turn be able to benefit from the professor's historical research. How would there be any mutuality in this case?
A doctor can cure you, an architect can design a building that you regularly use, but there's a whole series of high-specialization jobs which wouldn't immediately benefit anyone, and if they do, then the benefit is not usually material. Artists, historians, musicians and so on would most likely have to survive on the services performed by workers, not all of whom might give a toss about art, music and history. Perhaps I'm verging into sophistry here, but I think this is a valid point to make nonetheless, because if we're gonna have mutualism based on productivity, we need to clearly define what those two things mean.

edit: I'm not trying to say that in order to have access to food you would have to perform work that is immediately useful to those people who have produced the food; that's not the mutualism I have in mind.
But in capitalism the usefulness of certain jobs is decided for reasons that are wholly divorced from the nature of that job. An artist is "successful" if he/she sells enough albums or whatever. Same goes for a lot of academic jobs. My question then is how would these jobs be assessed in a communist society? What dictates if they are "useful" or not, and if those who perform them deserve unrestricted access to the community's resources?

knightrose
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Mar 11 2009 21:17

On the idea of labour being voluntary. I agree and disagree. It all depends on what you mean by voluntary. It also ignores the question of social conditioning or integration into society. I'd imagine that in an established communist society there would be an ethos and a culture that assumed people would work for the good of the community. Work would be voluntary, in the sense that people would receive no pay, but there are vast layers of compulsion that people use to make others do things when they don't want to. I'm mostly thinking of emotional and moral blackmail. On the whole, I'd guess people would just do their share because "that's the way things are done", it'd be the norm.

The more difficult discussion revolves around what would happen before a mature communist society came into being. I suppose we'd have to rely on people's sense of enthusiasm and commitment here. And then recognise that people's ideas and motivations change as the material world around them changes.

Regarding the whole ninja look, it really saddens me. Why do some anarchists imagine they are living in a period which makes it necessary? Our job is mostly one of propaganda these days and to do that effectively we've got to be able to relate to others. On top of that, masks are pretty ineffective anyway. I presume that with the prevalence of CCTV the cops have the ability to track individuals back to the point where they put the masks on, if they can be bothered.

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Django
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Mar 11 2009 22:17
vlad336 wrote:
As much as this argument seems to make sense, I was never really convinced by it. I think if anything, most people would rather be doing one thing they truly enjoy rather than a series of shit jobs they have to do. Granted that with capital gone out of the way, they wouldn't have to do any job just to ensure the basic necessities of life, but there would still be an indirect element of coercion. People who refused to do their job when their turn came to clean the septic tanks of the community (a clichee example, but I think it's fantasist to presume that all nasty jobs will be abolished by efficient technology), could, I imagine, face exclusion from said community. And on good reason ultimately, as none would be able to function if the streets were inundated by shit. But ultimately, a rotation system doesn't change the element of alienation involved in doing a job you don't want to do.

I'm not really sure whether people would commit to one workplace, or in fact whether one workplace would be carrying out one function. From my point of view, I can think of loads of things I'd like to do if I had a say in how they were done. On the other hand specialisation to some degree is necessary - I can't see how you could have someone qualified to maintain high-voltage power lines, drive freight trains and build ferries, Like Jenni says. I imagine there'd be a good mix of working patterns, though obviously with unnecessary work out of the way, it would be taking up much less of our waking lives and with capital out of the way it would be much more involving, engaging and rewarding. So it wouldn't be 'work' any more, for the same reason that someone working on an allotment has a much different relationship to what they're doing than a farm worker does. I could see people with specialised jobs also being involved in food production, making furniture etc a few hours a weeks just because its rewarding - amazingly, some people do this now, under capitalism. Add to this the social pressure of understanding these things need doing, and we need x number of people to get involved, and you're laughing.

My point really was that we're not going to have a situation where people work full time cleaning other peoples toilets, or sweeping the streets. These things would have to be done, and there'd be systems of getting them done. But I imagine it would work the same way as doing the hoovering or washing up - you get a rota going and make sure people stick to it. the commitment of a few hours every few weeks isn't much.

I don't really think it would be possible to expel anyone from the 'community' in a meaningful way in a communist society. I mean, if communism is the material human community, and the commune is the communist society, 'expelling' someone would just mean sending them off to another part of it. I imagine leaning on people, with the understanding that 'from each according to ability, to each according to need' means just that would have an effect, for the reasons Jenni has talked about. Selfish bastards would get ostracised anyway, I think. No-one likes to pull weight for someone else because they can't be arsed. And If you don't contribute anything, why should you get anything? Its not difficult.

I also think a communist society would also develop its own ethics reflecting its material structure as it develops, its not going to be like picking a bunch of people off the streets today and dropping them onto an Island to see how they manage.

vlad336 wrote:
So if someone gets raped, the community has to convene and democratically decide how this action should be viewed? That seems a bit impractical. Sure, the aggressor would have to be tried in a democratic manner by a body of community members, but should there be a vote on each occasion something like this happens, on the question on whether rape itself is a crime? I think not, and if not, then it means there will have to be some sort of "written law."

This wasn't really what I was suggesting. I was assuming there'd be a clear understanding that things like rape, murder and the rest are 'illegal' - written or otherwise. I don't seriously think a community would meet and debate whether murder is a bad thing every time one happens - which i think would be rarely.

But these kinds of debates are angels on pinheads territory, as interesting as they might be as thought experiments.

Jerome
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Mar 12 2009 04:29

Thank you for the feeback. I have a few more questions.

1. After a revolution, assuming all land was communally owned, would the previous rich live in the mansions still while the previous poor live in apartments? I'm assuming not, but in that case wouldn't there be massive migrations of people? What would be the solution to this?

2. Would Anarchist militias be responsible to the mass assemblies? If that is the case, then wouldn't militia's be like a external police force who may be likely to use coercion for the benefit of one assembly over the other?

3. In a Anarchist society, what would be the motivation to work? If it is ostracism by the community/workers, then doesn't that count as coercion?

4. Would Anarchist-Collectivist ideas of labour-notes abolish wage-labor in the capitalist sense of the word? Would Anarchist-Collectivist ideas of labour-notes be preferable to the bartering, moneyless society of Anarcho-Communism because they provide incentives to work?

5. In a Anarchist-Communist society why would collectives provide for others without mutual return? For example, why would farmers or farmers collectives provide food for mapmakers or artists or writers if they don't get anything in return (assuming they don't need maps, pictures and books)?

Although this is a British website, I would like to know what kind of Anarchist activity around Seattle, Washington, USA is going on other than Left Bank Books.

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jesuithitsquad
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Mar 12 2009 05:29
Vlad336 wrote:
[Artists, historians, musicians and so on would most likely have to survive on the services performed by workers, not all of whom might give a toss about art, music and history. Perhaps I'm verging into sophistry here, but I think this is a valid point to make nonetheless, because if we're gonna have mutualism based on productivity, we need to clearly define what those two things mean.

right, but artists, musicians, and history professors would still have to do their share of collecting the trash or (insert shitty job here) which i think settles the problem.

tigersiskillers
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Mar 12 2009 11:32

Hi again. Remember that the answers you get here are not 'The Answer' to the questions you raise. Who really knows how a future community will arrange its affairs? The suggestions you're geting here are possibilities given certain starting principles.

1. After a revolution, assuming all land was communally owned, would the previous rich live in the mansions still while the previous poor live in apartments? I'm assuming not, but in that case wouldn't there be massive migrations of people? What would be the solution to this?

Housing would be on the basis of need. In the early days big fuck off mansions would likely become multi occupancy, poor housing would be fixed up or adapted. I don't see that this means mass migration. As things settle down new housing would be built according to social need, no doubt with new norms - maybe more emphasis on communal living (not hippy communes, but maybe stuff like large shared kitchens/dining areas. Who knows - but a new society would have different ideas about how to house people)

2. Would Anarchist militias be responsible to the mass assemblies? If that is the case, then wouldn't militia's be like a external police force who may be likely to use coercion for the benefit of one assembly over the other?

Anarchist militias in times of immediate defence of a revolution would most likely have their own federated structure informed by the federated assemblies, as this would make more sense in terms of military co-ordination. Once this is no longer necessary I don't see the need for militias in the same sense. I do see the need for a kind of police function, maybe with a version of the current special constables with some people with specific detection skills - forensics etc. Certainly nothing with the power to act as a coercive force against other communes.

3. In a Anarchist society, what would be the motivation to work? If it is ostracism by the community/workers, then doesn't that count as coercion?

An anarchist society would not be an idealised coercion free society. There would be expectations and norms. I don't think it's terrible coercion to prevent someone from shitting in the street. Like Jenni has said, 'from each according to their ability' is a reasonable expectation. Maybe it would be considered ok for absolute shirkers to have access to basic necessities but the line would be drawn at them helping themselves to Xboxes from the communal store.

Remember too that work would not, could not, must not be like it is now. If after a revolution work is pretty much like it is now except you might get a vote on the colour of the toilet roll in the bogs, we'll have done something wrong. So perhaps one way to think of it is not so much that there'd be motivations to work, but that there wouldn't be the demotivators we have now.

On top of that, we wouldn't need to work as much as we do now. Think of all the jobs that are only necessary because we live in a capitalist society. There are entire 'industries' that would be redundant - insurance, banking, sales, advertising and so on - and so many roles/functions that are based around money or enforcing control over workers. I come from the voluntary sector, where much work is about picking up the pieces from an economy/society that's not based on human needs or values.

4. Would Anarchist-Collectivist ideas of labour-notes abolish wage-labor in the capitalist sense of the word? Would Anarchist-Collectivist ideas of labour-notes be preferable to the bartering, moneyless society of Anarcho-Communism because they provide incentives to work?

There shouldn't be bartering in a moneyless society - the point isn't to return to some form of primitive economy. Exchange in economic terms would simply mean passing something to someone else, not 'We'll give you x if you give us 3ys'.

Maybe I'm the wrong person to answer this, as although I'm not a fan of labour notes I'm not sure of a totally free access communism either. Perhaps after a new society has bedded down, but I think there has to be some sort of accounting where you have at least an indicative sign of what a reasonable 'income' is. I don't know exactly, but at least something that flags up if you're taking the piss, and that also gives at least some indication of consumption patterns in order to help with production, allocation of raw materials etc and distribution.

5. In a Anarchist-Communist society why would collectives provide for others without mutual return? For example, why would farmers or farmers collectives provide food for mapmakers or artists or writers if they don't get anything in return (assuming they don't need maps, pictures and books)?

Because everyone would be interlinked. Like I've said before, I don't want to see lots of insular self sufficient communities. Farmers would be relying on others to provide goods too - their farming equipment, clothes, household items, even food. Also, I doubt people would be just artists, or writers or whatever. There would have to be some attempt at roughly equalising 'work', so that as well as writing your great novel you might work part time at a care home, just as on the farm you don't spend all day every day shovelling pig shit.

fatbongo
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Mar 12 2009 21:26
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My point really was that we're not going to have a situation where people work full time cleaning other peoples toilets, or sweeping the streets. These things would have to be done, and there'd be systems of getting them done. But I imagine it would work the same way as doing the hoovering or washing up - you get a rota going and make sure people stick to it. the commitment of a few hours every few weeks isn't much.

This ends up with the person who is most bothered about the state of the house cleaning up loads more than the "lazy sod who claims they can't see any mess"

At least that's what my partner says.

But seriously, the 'lazy sod' allegation might just be a reflection of different priorities. In the absence of total abundance and/or everyone becoming a saint, there will always be conflict over the best use of time and resources and, i suspect, lots of moaning by people whose priorities are at odds with that of the majority.

I wonder whether anarchist society would abolish some conflict (eg by abolishing class society) but other conflicts would become much more apparent, because instead of priorites being decided by those with money or state power and 'order' being maintained by the state there'd be more up for grabs. Personally, i reckon we could probably work things out, (how many times would you let the contents of the community sceptic tank run down the middle of your street before you took some action?) Having said this, it often feels like a leap of faith rather than being based on a hard headed assessment of the way people actually behave.

Quote:
Perhaps after a new society has bedded down, but I think there has to be some sort of accounting where you have at least an indicative sign of what a reasonable 'income' is. I don't know exactly, but at least something that flags up if you're taking the piss, and that also gives at least some indication of consumption patterns in order to help with production, allocation of raw materials etc and distribution.

Something like a debit/loyalty card? If I remember correctly, pat devine's model of decentralised planning consumption involves people being given an allowance based on their needs and then they are free to buy what they want. I'd lose mine on a regular basis.

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Django
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Mar 13 2009 09:02
farbongo wrote:
This ends up with the person who is most bothered about the state of the house cleaning up loads more than the "lazy sod who claims they can't see any mess"

At least that's what my partner says.

But seriously, the 'lazy sod' allegation might just be a reflection of different priorities. In the absence of total abundance and/or everyone becoming a saint, there will always be conflict over the best use of time and resources and, i suspect, lots of moaning by people whose priorities are at odds with that of the majority.

I wonder whether anarchist society would abolish some conflict (eg by abolishing class society) but other conflicts would become much more apparent, because instead of priorites being decided by those with money or state power and 'order' being maintained by the state there'd be more up for grabs. Personally, i reckon we could probably work things out, (how many times would you let the contents of the community sceptic tank run down the middle of your street before you took some action?) Having said this, it often feels like a leap of faith rather than being based on a hard headed assessment of the way people actually behave.

Well in that post I wasn't really saying that it would get done in some spontaneous way just by people taking it on themselves to do it.

Clearly I was talking about some kind of co-ordinated, planned and accounted way of allocating the time spent on these kind of jobs, not an ad-hocracy:

Django wrote:
I imagine leaning on people, with the understanding that 'from each according to ability, to each according to need' means just that would have an effect, for the reasons Jenni has talked about.

If you don't do the work expected of you then why should you have access to the benefits of it? We'd actually need clear and precise planning to make sure vital services, like sewage and waste disposal, work properly. That would mean having structured ways of making sure people were on hand. But this would only mean a few hours every few weeks, and we'd be attempting to get rid of as much unplesant work as possible through redesign, redevelopment and automation, with the understanding that some would remain.

These things would be decided on democratically and openly like everything else.

I also don't think communism would be a utopia, free of conflict. Like I said above, its not a society of angels. It might look like 'utopia' from where we are now though.

MT
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Mar 13 2009 09:18
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If you don't do the work expected of you then why should you have access to the benefits of it?

I understand the "common sense" of this, but it is tricky, isn't it? Let's use it for example for members of AF. It would be hard to believe that all do the work expected from them, it just doesn't work this way. The logic then is: needs - duties - fullfilment of the needs in return. Isn't it just another way of saying: needs - sanctions for no work - oppression? A bit by the head and ears but I hope you know what I'm trying to say as this is an old issue in anarchist/communist movement.

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oisleep
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Mar 13 2009 09:54
Quote:
right, but artists, musicians, and history professors would still have to do their share of collecting the trash or (insert shitty job here) which i think settles the problem.
Quote:
There would have to be some attempt at roughly equalising 'work', so that as well as writing your great novel you might work part time at a care home, just as on the farm you don't spend all day every day shovelling pig shit

there's two things that usually come out when folk getting talking about their dreamy anarchist/communist utopia - firstly the sort of stuff we see above saying that we'll all be doing all variety of things workwise, the other being that due to the huge increases in productivity that the development of capitalism has brought us (with the obvious unfortunate by products - or more correctly the increase in productivity is the fortunate by product of the development of capitalism) we all won't have to do that much work at all. Now productivity, defined here as the production of more use values with increasingly less living labour, is inherently linked with division of labour, the more division of labour you have the more productivity, the less division of labour the less productivity you have. So on that basis how is the tendential rollback of division of labour that is talked about in the quotes above squared with the view that we'll all be working less? In my mind you either have working less with more division of labour or working more with less division of labour - and bear in mind your dreamy anarchist utopia will have to deliver living standards at least equal to that being offered at the moment to your average worker in a given country for it to have any credible support amongst those you look to to provide the material basis for your future society.

No doubt the response to this will be that work will be different in this great new society and it won't be like how it is at the moment and it won't feel like, or even be called, work - but the basic facts are that just like under capitalism workers will have to do a certain amount of work that is socially necessary for the reproduction of society, also just like under capitalism the increasing development of productivty reduces the necessary length of time of this work - if society is to grow and move forward and develop & implement solutions to the myriad of problems this planet faces (or even to just survive) then this in itself will raise the amount of necessary labour that is required for the reproduction of society even at existing levels, let alone improved ones - so I really struggle to see how this has even a whiff of being achieved without a continued and probably vastly increased division of labour in relation to the socially necessary aspect of work that is required to reproduce human kind. Sure, once the amount of necessary labour to reproduce society has been done, then free time (surplus labour under capitalism) in theory would be yours to do as you please with it, but i do often think that dreamy visions of an anarchist/communist utopia massively underestimate the amount of necessary labour that would be required in the first place just to keep things ticking over, never mind progressing.

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Django
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Mar 13 2009 14:19
Oisleep wrote:
their dreamy anarchist/communist utopia ... dreamy visions of an anarchist/communist utopia
Django wrote:
I should say in advance that to a good degree I think this stuff is angels on pinheads. We're a good way away from being able to construct such a society, which would develop out of significant levels of class conflict. I think the priority now is building a strong working class with is aware of its own interests and able to defend them. So I don't think blueprints of a future society are massively important at this stage, but I'll try to answer your questions...
I also don't think communism would be a utopia, free of conflict. Like I said above, its not a society of angels
etc
Oisleep wrote:
No doubt the response to this will be that work will be different in this great new society and it won't be like how it is at the moment and it won't feel like, or even be called, work - but the basic facts are that just like under capitalism workers will have to do a certain amount of work that is socially necessary for the reproduction of society, also just like under capitalism the increasing development of productivty reduces the necessary length of time of this work

If we look at the composition of the UK economy we’ve got 46% of the workforce in services, and 24% in Government. Much of the work in these sectors would be useless in a non-capitalist society, and you can add to that the changes to ancillary issues such as energy use, use of productive resources, transport infrastructure, communications etc. So the transformation of how we do things would have to involve a massive shift from useless labour (much of the accoutrements of capitalism) to useful labour – that needed to reproduce society and raise the standards of living. Which isn't really 'just like under capitalism'.

I think that the initial period of transition would look pretty different to any later post-revolutionary society. The amount of work necessary to transform an oil/gas/automobile based economy, retrain the workforce, build the infrastructure of non-capitalist society, increase the infrastructure for recycling rather than producing certain goods, rebuild from the wave of violence that is likely to be unleashed by the ruling class, etc would mean that we couldn't immediately cut the working week down to a few hours - though through all this we'd be looking at the reduction of the working day as something desirable of itself. This would certainly involve putting in the work, and the Spanish anarchists started this process – rationalising food production around Barcelona, transforming to a war economy through workers control etc was possible for them in a short period of time (though you can say what you like about the wisdom of anarchist strategy during the civil war).

But in the long-term, in a non-capitalist society, the point of raising productivity would be to reduce the amount of necessary work in terms of labour time, not to accumulate capital, as you’ve said. So therefore its weird to argue that we'd be continuing to increase labour time.

Oisleep wrote:
if society is to grow and move forward and develop & implement solutions to the myriad of problems this planet faces (or even to just survive) then this in itself will raise the amount of necessary labour that is required for the reproduction of society even at existing levels, let alone improved ones - so I really struggle to see how this has even a whiff of being achieved without a continued and probably vastly increased division of labour in relation to the socially necessary aspect of work that is required to reproduce human kind

The most obvious threats to humankind are associated with a form of society we are talking about getting away from – the threat of ecological collapse and nuclear war being the most obvious, problems which capitalism doesn’t stand much of a chance of solving. Using reproducing society as it currently stands as a benchmark for a different form of society doesn't really make much sense to me given the difference in raison d'etre between them.

I think division of labour is being used in different senses here. We can talk about it between workplaces or within them. The tasks within the production process can still be divided whilst the actual people doing the work is rotated. We could follow the pinmaking example Smith used with the occupation of positions within that process being rotated. As for having more than one workplace, this happens in capitalism anyway so it’s hardly beyond the realms of imagination that people might work in two or three places in the course of their week.

In the discussion that Jenni linked to above one of the points made was that people would likely opt for factory conditions in circumstances where this reduces the amount of time necessary to do socially necessary work. I think this would be applied to different kinds of work as it is perceived - we might make some jobs more efficient through division of tasks (which can still be rotated) whilst making others more craftlike if wanted.

But to say once again, I don't think discussing future societies is massively useful at this stage.

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prec@riat
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Mar 13 2009 15:42

Jerome,
I find the theoretical utopianist questions you've asked somewhat dull*, and it seems other posters on here have done their best at answering them and I don't have much to add, so I'll comment on a couple other questions.
"Why do Anarchist blocks in protests always have to wear all black instead of looking normal? (the ninja look scares potentially interested people)"
The black bloc tactic is inherited from the German autonomen, afaik, which was mostly based in the squatter and anarcho-punk communities of the '80's. I think it is used to preserve a level of anonymity and also serve as a unifying dress during protest marches. It is only one protest tactic (and as others, including yourself, have alluded is one that is rather cliche and often silly) used by anarchists.
"Although this is a British website, I would like to know what kind of Anarchist activity around Seattle, Washington, USA is going on other than Left Bank Books."
http://teamvictorywillwin.org/
http://www.classactionalliance.org/
http://www.seattleiww.net/
http://www.seasol.net
I've put those in order of what I think you will find most interesting. To be honest however the order would be reversed if I were to order them for what I personally consider to be the most relevant organizing/ activism in Seattle.
Also, fwiw, this magazine which may have been associated with this defunct group was produced in Seattle and probably the best North American anarchist journal during it's brief run. It's absence means it's back to the usual toss-up between the Northeastern Anarchist, Rolling Thunder, ASR, and Anarchy magazine (dependent on the issue contents).

*not that I don't think about such questions, I just prefer to get paid when I write about it (such as when I helped write the section on 'anarchists' for a supplement to a cyberpunk role-playing game).

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oisleep
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Mar 13 2009 15:22
Quote:
If we look at the composition of the UK economy we’ve got 46% of the workforce in services, and 24% in Government. Much of the work in these sectors would be useless in a non-capitalist society, and you can add to that the changes to ancillary issues such as energy use, use of productive resources, transport infrastructure, communications etc. So the transformation of how we do things would have to involve a massive shift from useless labour (much of the accoutrements of capitalism) to useful labour – that needed to reproduce society and raise the standards of living. Which isn't really 'just like under capitalism'.

well given you've already said above that the revolution has to be worldwide i'm not quite sure what benefit quoting statistics on a small country within that worldwide system is meant to prove, but if you are willing to believe that the work saved by stopping doing certain things will outweigh the enormous ongoing resource that will be required to do all the things that both you and I have talked about then fair enough. I don't think you have understood my comment about 'just like under capitalism' - the point of that statement is to say that there will always be a level of work required to reproduce society, i.e. just like under capitalism - that statement in itself makes no claims or value judgements about what the content, level, or worth of that necessary work will or will not involve, so not sure what point you're trying to make there

also for a worldwide libertarian communist (lol) society to even come round to a decision (democratically made and not enforced) as to what actually constitutes this 'useful labour' that you talk off will probably soak up a massive amount of any resource saved through scrapping labour in other area!

Quote:
I think that the initial period of transition would look pretty different to any later post-revolutionary society. The amount of work necessary to transform an oil/gas/automobile based economy, retrain the workforce, build the infrastructure of non-capitalist society, increase the infrastructure for recycling rather than producing certain goods, rebuild from the wave of violence that is likely to be unleashed by the ruling class, etc would mean that we couldn't immediately cut the working week down to a few hours - though through all this we'd be looking at the reduction of the working day as something desirable of itself. This would certainly involve putting in the work, and the Spanish anarchists started this process – rationalising food production around Barcelona, transforming to a war economy through workers control etc was possible for them in a short period of time (though you can say what you like about the wisdom of anarchist strategy during the civil war).

given that the intitial period of transition (lol) will no doubt be the stage that makes or breaks the 'revolution' and would likely span several generations, then the massive amount of work that you correctly identify that would be required during that phase would come to categorise what living in a libertarian communist society would be like for most living under it, and as such that would be the norm for generations of people - and as such the necessary labour required to reproduce the society (in the direction it is going) is likely to be far greater than it is at the moment (certainly in the countries where most on this board are from), and as such anything that serves to inhibit ongoing productivty increases would only make that task even harder

Quote:
But in the long-term, in a non-capitalist society, the point of raising productivity would be to reduce the amount of necessary work in terms of labour time, not to accumulate capital, as you’ve said. So therefore its weird to argue that we'd be continuing to increase labour time.

In the long term, we're all dead. You've already pointed out yourself (effectively) that the level of work would increase in the 'transition' stage - where our views differ is that for me the transition stage (if i actually thought it would ever arise in the first place) would be more or less a permanent feature due to the multitude of ongoing internal & external problems that would need to be addressed, on that basis it's a fair assumption to make that the necessary labour time to reproduce your desired society would be at least equal, if not far greater, than what it currently is

Quote:
The most obvious threats to humankind are associated with a form of society we are talking about getting away from – the threat of ecological collapse and nuclear war being the most obvious, problems which capitalism doesn’t stand much of a chance of solving. Using reproducing society as it currently stands as a benchmark for a different form of society doesn't really make much sense to me given the difference in raison d'etre between them

the most obvious threats to humankind we face at the moment I agree come from within the form of society we are talking about getting away from (the same society which has also provided the material basis to get away from it), and many of them will outlive the system that brought them about and will therefore need to be solved independently of the actual getting rid of the system that created them, so this is all necessary labour which will need to be added to the huge amount that will be required to affect your transition to a worldwide libertarian communist society. Additionally problems won't just vanish as capitalism vanishes, new ones will arise regardless of what method is used to organise society, all of which will need huge amounts of socially necessary labour to confront.

I think you miss the point about reproducing society as it currently stands though, what i mean is that why would anyone (i.e. the people who would provide the material base of any libertarian communist society) continue to provide voluntary support and labour to a changed socio-economic system that couldn't even deliver the same standards of living that they enjoyed under the previous one (not to mention the work involved in bringing up the living standards of roughly 5/6th of the world's population to one's which we currently enjoy at the moment) and given i presume any libertarian communist society would be one which would not compel people to do things they don't want to do - either through economic compulsion like we have now, or political/legal/military/moral compulsion like we've seen in previous epochs, then the only basis you have to retain support is to deliver real tangible benefits in living standards and quality of life for those who inhabit such a society - all of which involves a greater and greater amount of sociall necessary work to reproduce your society, and perversely the very method in which to provide this (i.e. through increasing socially necessary labour time) pulls the rug away from what you are meant to be offering in the first place, i.e. reduced work. To compound this issue even further by talking about romanticst notions of each person being a poet, hunter, fisherman, binman, art critic, software developer, street sweeper all in one day seems to miss the (hypotehtical) challenge that awaits you all

Quote:
I think division of labour is being used in different senses here. We can talk about it between workplaces or within them. The tasks within the production process can still be divided whilst the actual people doing the work is rotated. We could follow the pinmaking example Smith used with the occupation of positions within that process being rotated. As for having more than one workplace, this happens in capitalism anyway so it’s hardly beyond the realms of imagination that people might work in two or three places in the course of their week.

I don't disagree with any of that - but it doesn't detract from the fact that the more division of labour you have the more productivity you have, and the more productivity you have, the less labour time is required to reproduce society. So my general point in all this was to highlight the contradiciton I see when people start dreaming about an anarchist/communist society, i.e. if you want to have less division of labour you have to increase the overall level of socially necessary labour in society - and given that you will already have a monumental fuck load of socially necessary labour requirement on a scale that no one has ever seen in the entire history of humankind at this stage anyway, it seems odd to hear these romanticist notions that were even laughable in the time they were dreamt up, in the 19th century.

Quote:
But to say once again, I don't think discussing future societies is massively useful at this stage

I totally agree, but bear in mind I was replying to a string of somewhat lengthy posts, your own included, which were doing this very thing, i.e. discussing future societies - so it could be seen as being a bit sneaky to respond to those who question your take on it that it's not useful to discuss it!

tigersiskillers
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Mar 14 2009 00:42

I wasn't suggesting that people can be a "poet, hunter, fisherman, binman, art critic, software developer, street sweeper all in one day", simply that a society in which some people's work is enjoyable and empowering while others is arduous and disempowering is neither equal nor equitable. I used the extreme example of a novelist as an example of a cushy job where there'd probably be an expectation that that person also do something directly productive. Most of our jobs involve a number of different tasks. I would guess that in a society concerned with such things we'd try to balance the tasks that make up our jobs a little fairer. I can't see that having a catastrophic effect on productivity - would it be vital to the economy that the farm worker I described spend all day every day shovelling pig shit?

Django's figures for service industry employment aren't that far off the international figure, which is around 40% according to the ILO.

And like everyone else, I wasn't trying to describe a utopia. The OP asked some questions, I was simply offering possible answers.

tigersiskillers wrote:
Remember that the answers you get here are not 'The Answer' to the questions you raise. Who really knows how a future community will arrange its affairs? The suggestions you're geting here are possibilities given certain starting principles.
Hungry56
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Mar 14 2009 22:20
Quote:
This ends up with the person who is most bothered about the state of the house cleaning up loads more than the "lazy sod who claims they can't see any mess"

At least that's what my partner says.

People who clean the house are mental and uptight and clean because of their own sick obsessive compulsive disorder or whatever. They shouldn't blame their housemates for being cool and laid back and not caring about mess.

Jerome
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Mar 15 2009 22:01

I have 4 last questions, and please try to stay on subject.

1. In an anarchist society, where this is free association, wouldn't the food-producers, who control the lifeblood of society have more power than other collectives?

2. What would a anarchist society do after a revolution if it is isolated? For example, say in the UK only london successfully revolted, what would be the relation to the other parts of the UK? How would the new society survive constant threat of capital and force? What would happen if some of the society who produce essential goods went back to charging capital and hiring labour?

3. After a revolution, who would take on the tasks the central government did before?

4. By definition, anybody who sells their labour for a wage is working class. So therefore bankers, government officials, police men, and people in the army are working class, correct?

Also i found 2 anarchist type songs I would like to share:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmADpM9X4LQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njG7p6CSbCU

slothjabber
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Mar 16 2009 00:24
Jerome wrote:
I have 4 last questions, and please try to stay on subject.

1. In an anarchist society, where this is free association, wouldn't the food-producers, who control the lifeblood of society have more power than other collectives?

Why? You could argue that water or electricity or fuel for the tractors or shoes or any of the other myriad things our society needs to function are the 'lifeblood' of society. No one group can go "we did this all on our own wiith no help from you yah boo sucks". Social wealth is social wealth. You can't say this or that group 'controls' or 'owns' it or anything. So what if they harvested the food? Hundreds if not thousands or even millions of other people have contributed to the process. Any one of those groups could say "we want all the food or we'll shut the water off" or "we want more sandwiches or you don't get any bicycles".

Jerome wrote:
2. What would a anarchist society do after a revolution if it is isolated?

It would die.

Jerome wrote:
For example, say in the UK only london successfully revolted, what would be the relation to the other parts of the UK?

It would be a large hole full of corpses, I would think. If it was only London, no way could that be considered 'successful'.

Jerome wrote:
How would the new society survive constant threat of capital and force?

It wouldn't, it would overwhelmed militarily within the week.

Jerome wrote:
What would happen if some of the society who produce essential goods went back to charging capital and hiring labour?

Inevitable in the circumstances you outline, whether this happened before or after a bloodbath is not really important. There would be a bloodbath anyway. Either the state would conquer 'free London' and slaughter millions to 'restore order' and re-instate capitalist relations, or 'free London' would capitulate and capitalism would be re-instated, at which point the government would move in to 'maintain order', and then there'd be a bloodbath. I think the lesson is that London shouldn't attempt any premature action.

Jerome wrote:
3. After a revolution, who would take on the tasks the central government did before?

Like, starting wars and imprisoning anarchists, you mean? No-one. As someone once said, "that's like saying, once you've cured cancer, what do you replace it with?"

I don't know if you had other central government functions in mind. Perhaps you did. If you say what they are, perhaps there might be other answers.

Jerome wrote:
4. By definition, anybody who sells their labour for a wage is working class.

Not quite. Anyone who survives by selling their labour for a wage is working class. Not sells any labour. A duke could do 2 hours paid work a week, doesn't make him working class.

Jerome wrote:
So therefore bankers, government officials, police men, and people in the army are working class, correct?

If the bankers survive on wages not share options - in other words, bank clerks - yes. Not drectors. Some managers are probably technically working class, in that they live on wages. But they'll probably mostly side with capitalism.

Government officials, again, if you mean clerks in the DSS or whatever, yes. Ministers? No.

Police officers... well. Arguably, in capitalism, a police force is necessary to turn the product of the collective labourer into money - without a police force there'd be no way to enforce capitalism's rules, and we'd just go and expropriate the capitalists. So in that sense, you can argue a policeman is a non-productive but necessary part of the collective labourer I suppose, like advertising and transportation... but it's a bit tenuous. I think you have to look at the role they play in enforcing class domination and say that even if they're part of the working class, they're a part that isn't just working for capitalism, but actively working against the working class.

The army, possibly similar arguments. But given the fact that a good many working class youngsters join the army to 'learn a trade' or because it 'makes a man of you' (in other words, to get out of shit situations of poverty, deprivation and unemployment), the army is probably more 'working class' at least in sentiment than the police. Which is why policemen are usually more likely to be sent in to beat up protesters than the army. Could you imagine what would have happened if the army had been called out to suppress the Miners' Strike in '84-'85? Mutiny, at least, I would have thought.

Spassmaschine
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Mar 16 2009 03:10
Jerome wrote:
4. By definition, anybody who sells their labour for a wage is working class. So therefore bankers, government officials, police men, and people in the army are working class, correct?

I think a better definition of working class would be 'anybody who has nothing to sell but their labour'. In other words, being 'working class' describes your relationship to the means of production: if you don't own any capital and have to work to survive, you're probably working class. So if you're talking about people who work in a bank rather than investment bankers or some such, then they are most likely working class. Likewise most lower-level government officials, police and low-ranking soldiers are also members of the working class.

Of course, being a member of the working class does not automatically imbue you with some sort of 'communist consciousness', and the police and army play an anti-working class role under capitalism. But in its attacks on the working class, capital also attacks its own instruments of domination, and so we sometimes see police and soldiers fighting for better conditions. We can only hope that in a revolutionary situation, working class cops and soldiers gain an understanding of their actual position and mutiny en-masse, otherwise we are screwed.

edit: I missed slothjabber's post, which says a similar thing, and probably more clearly

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oisleep
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Mar 16 2009 10:48

do people honestly think that at present there is a complete overproduction of useless things and the time saved by not producing these would both balance out the additional work required to do everything else and allow everyone to reduce the amount of work they have to do?

while there may be overproduction under capitalism, it is only overproduction within the confines of capitalism - i.e. overproduction relative to the ability to realise and reinvest the surplus value contained within those use values (and overproduction relative to a small percentage of the earth's population). there is a definte under production relative to social need, and clearly capitalism has no incentive, or even the ability, to produce both the types of things and in the quantities required to adequately satisfy the total social need. In this global utopian anarchist society however these use values would need to be delivered, and it's not like there's a big shed somewhere with all the use values required that are kept locked inside by some greedy capitalist and all that's required is to steal the key and distribute this things in an equitable manner - these use values required don't exist, and arguably neither does the productive capacity to produce & distribute them on the scale required to meet all social need. these would therefore need to be produced and distributed in order for this utopian anarchist society to do what it says on the tin. while redistributing current 'value' in society would have a part to play in this it would not achieve anything in and for itself, because in this sense you can't eat value, can't live in value, value can't cloth you or get you from A to B, or cure your cancer or educate you, and in any case value as a concept and reality in its present form would cease to exist and all you'd have left would be the material productive capacity & collection of use values that once formed a part of that overall value, a productive capacity that is set up to produce & deliver use values to only a tiny fraction of those who actually need them (i.e. those who could previously provide effective demand for them)

in a global population of 6 billion, it's probably fair to say that only a billion live in areas where a decent (subjective i know) modern standard of living can be attained, and within this billion if you took the median standard of living as something that is acceptable and a desirable target for this utopia to deliver, that means that you've another half a billion in those regions themselves that don't have that standard of living at present. So therefore the task of the anarchist utopia is to produce and distribute use values that would bring 5.5 billion people up to the norm standard of living that would hoped to be delivered in an anarchist utopia. This in itself would require a huge increase in work/production to deliver an adequate level of food, housing, education, transport, healthcare, culture, sport, leisure activities, and all manner of other things to the global populace - and to do this in my mind, wouldn't just require a simple increase in quantity of things produced, but a complete qualatative change in the way things are produced to be able to deliver the huge amounts required (and to deal with the resource constraints and environmental problems that production & distribution on this scale would lead to), something like the revolution in productivity that was delivered to 'us' under capitalism (which has so far taken a couple of hundred years to deliver) would be required to effectively produce & distirbute the required amount of use values to make this utopian dream a reality. And all of this would be on top off all the other things that would need to be done during any 'transition' phase and the monumental upheaval that that would bring.

I think these anarchist utopias would be a bit more credible if we all just realised that there is a shit load of work involved in them. there always seems to be a conflation of work with wage labour and therefore a desire to minimise it, rather than an acceptance of the fact that if anything like this is to come about then the level of work would be monumental and the productivity gains required to do it would be immense (and therefore an ongoing divisioning of labour required) but ultimately worth it in relation to the pay off it would ultimately bring. But to talk of getting this pay off and us all only having to work a few hours a week after a couple of years of 'transition' is just hatstand

slothjabber
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Mar 16 2009 11:42

At the end of 2007 the global economy was worth $54 trillion. Dividing up capitalism's wealth between the world's population would therefore mean that we'd all get $9,000. Every man woman and child on the planet.

Now, it's true that's only the equivalent for a family of 4 of $36,000 a year; but that's a vast improvement for at least 80% of the world's population.

Sbtract from that the vast saving from not having army, police, banking, governement... in other words, if the social wealth currently wasted in those sectors of capitalism could be instead turned to social production, and you can multiply the worth of that $9,000 many times over I'd reckon.

Added to which 50% or more of the world's workforce is either unemployed or underemployed, and a good deal more of it is employed in utterly non-productive sectors. All this potential labour power could be doing something socially useful.

So, yeah, a sensible re-organisation of the existing wealth (social wealth that is, I'm not advocating re-distributive capitalsim, just starting from that as a 'baseline') would actually benefit close to everyone in terms of both work done and material resources, I'd argue.

PS, nice use of "hatstand". Roger would be proud.

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oisleep
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Mar 16 2009 12:20

i think you miss the point i was making in the previous post

this notion of dividing value amongst people in a society where value itself (and therefore it's representative, money) no longer exists or is no longer relevant is completely absurd - as i said above, value/money in this context can't cloth,feed,educate,cure,move,entertain,protect you - only a material productive capacity that is capable of producing & distributing these use values on the monumental scale that they are required can do this and you can't just magic this capacity into existence, and especially not from a society where that productive capacity is only designed to provide these use values in sufficient quantaties for only a small percentage of the global populace

you can't just make all those collections of physical use values appear just by redistributing access to paper tokens (this is like the logic that all these things already exist and are kept in a big shed that you can access only if you have the money to buy them), this doesn't change the amount of material goods/use values that are in existence at any point in time, that stays static unless the productive capacity that makes them is increased and the productive capacity that would be required to deliver decent standards of living to 6 billion instead of 500 million is emmense

the point is that under capitalism, there is a chronic under production of use values - only by addressing this under production (which would entail expanded reproduction on an extraordinary scale, and all that goes with that) will any future society have a hope of putting itself on a more equitable and stable footing

slothjabber
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Mar 16 2009 13:51

Okay, if I follow you correctly, you're saying we need seed drills and sandwiches not bombs and bankers.

Which is what I was saying when I said "if the social wealth currently wasted in those sectors of capitalism could be instead turned to social production".

My point was not that we could just divvy up the products of capitalism, because anyone who gets 1/10,000 of an aircraft carrier and nothing else is going to be well pissed off. I was using the example of what is currently produced to demonstrate that the production of wealth, though inefficient and supremely wrong-headed, is actually sufficient to ensure a minimal standard of comfort for the whole world, even at the moment.

I absolutely agree that the social wealth that is currently misused (ie used for non-socially useful ends) would have to be re-allocated for socially useful ends, and this would take time and effort. No matter how soon tobacco fields are turned over to food crops, for instance, the corn needs to grow and be harvested; no matter how quickly factories building bombers are turned over to making parts for wind farms and solar panels, they won't be on stream the next day; and some things just don't have a social useful end as far as we know. I figure we're going to be spending a long time cleaning up the toxic shit that capitalism has left all over the place, decommisioning nuclear weapons and all sorts.

And I agree that the problems are immense. However, I think that they are also soluble, because the waste, inefficiency and 'non-productive' production of capitalism is also an immense resource. It's not quite the case that it's just in shed somewhere and we just need the keys. But if we had the keys, we could at least take over the machines in the shed and get them making what we wanted them to.

Much of the economic business of capitalism is not geared to the production of goods; even some (much? most?) of the production of goods is not geared to the production of socially useful goods, I would argue. Personally, I don't care if there's no more Coca-Cola or Pokemon toys. So the liberation of productive capacity that the turning of the productive apparatus to social useful ends could accomplish (to say nothing of the increase in social wealth that the ending of banking, advertising and a great deal of transportation could bring) is also immense.

Without increasing productive capacities beyond what we have now, just be moving production from socially-useless to socially-useful production, we could enjoy a standard of living many times higher than it currently is - and I know that we can't apply accounting as if it were capitalism, but we don't have any other standard to measure by. If, let's say, 50% of capitalism's potential productive capacity is wasted on weapons, repression, competition, advertising, the media, banking, government, waste, and inefficiency (I'd say it would be higher, personally, but how does one tell?) then our entirely theoretical $9,000 dollars would be 'worth' $18,000 when we'd moved that productive capacity into something more socially useful.

I don't think this is in an unattainable target. The biggest problem to realising it will obviously be the state of the world in the aftermath of the revolution, which is likely to be very grave indeed. But the productive capacity exists, at the moment, to make life much better for most people. Much of that capacity may be destroyed by the capitalists. But I don't think that in itself is a good enough argument against revolution.

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oisleep
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Mar 16 2009 14:57

you're framing your analysis in terms of (potential) exchange value rather than (potential) use value though.your 9 grand (or whatever multiple of it) to everyone becomes irrelevant in a socio-economic system that does not have exchange value as its bedrock. giving 9 grand to everyone won't all of a sudden magic the material capacity into existence to provide all the use values that people would need to lift up their standards of life to that of say the median of an average western type country - as just one example lately we've seen how much food prices have gone up as demand has increased from an emergent (but small in comparison to rest of country) middle class in countries like china, india and brazil (plus bio fuels etc...) - that's because current productive capacity and natural resource constraints can supply a limited amount only, and while that limited amount may at times be even too much relative to those who can provide an effective demand for it, it's still way way below the level required to meet the social need worldwide. the same thing applies to all the other areas where vastly increased quantaties of use values would need to be provided - housing, education, healthcare, transport, security, leisure, arts, sport etc...

so my point is that regardless how much overproduction & waste is currently carried out within capitalism, the productive capacity freed up by its riddance will provide nothing like the capacity that is required to produce the bundle of use values that would be required to provide 9 billion people (which the population will be within another generation or so) with living standards and lifestyle that this anarchist utopia seems to be promising (and certainly not if everyone's only working a few hours a week with massive undivisions of labour which is the line we always here being pushed by the utopians)

the only way there would be a hope of doing this would to have a revolution in productivity similar, but far larger in scale & reach, than what was delivered under capitalism (one which was only able to be delivered through extreme brutality and utter degradation for most involved over hundreds of years) - now capitalism is probably the one example in history we can look to off a 'successful' 'revolution' in the social & economic mode of organising society, and this in itself took at least a couple of hundred of years to deliver the productivity levels we see today, now given that current productive capacity is designed to meet the needs of people that number in the hundreds of millions, to be able to adequately provide this same bundle of use values to nearly 9 billion is a completely different ball game, and not just a matter of planting a few more crops and waiting till the next harvest to reap the benefits and adequately feed another 8.5 billion. as i said before it's not just a quantative thing that would be solved by simply upping the volume churned out now that production, and productivity itself, is no longer constrained by capital & pursuit of surplus value. the problems that would come up (resource issues, environmental issues etc..) in trying to produce adequate use values for the world's population would entail, if it was even possible of being done, a complete qualatative transformation in the way everything was done to even get close to a whiff of being able to do this with any degree of success. now my point throughout this discussion has been how the hell is this going to be done when everyone is being fed patent nonsense about only having to work a few hours a week (after a few years of 'transition') - I'm not saying that any of this is impossible and i'd be fully behind any (sensible) attempt to do so, but this kind of eyes wide shut approach to things like this don't really bode well for any rational attempt to analysis the thing you seem to be offering in this anarchist utopia

Alderson Warm-Fork
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Mar 16 2009 15:32

If I could pipe up in defense of "a vote on each occasion something like this happens, on the question on whether rape itself is a crime", as Vlad336 asked.

One of the things that makes it hard to deal with rape at the moment is precisely that this logic of 'is it a crime or isn't it? full stop' is applied to it, which means that, e.g. there's a high burden of proof that discourages people from reporting it, it may become emotionally harder for someone to report if they still have feelings for the perpetrator, and it doesn't deal very well with various forms of sexual coercion that don't live up to the full-strength idea of 'rape', like sex in conditions of drunkenness, badgering, or implicit threats.

Also, the crime/not crime dichotomy suggests that you either punish/don't punish, and the forms of punishment we have are often very psychologically destructive (e.g. prisons make people more alienated, and often subject them to rape themselves). Obviously anarchists tend to be against prisons as we know them, but that just makes the question even more open-ended.

So it doesn't seem completely unreasonable to me to suppose that having more ad hoc structures, that could be more flexible in dealing with the nuances of the case, that could aim not to cement the opposed interests of perpetrator and victim but to encourage personal change and recognition and other hippie stuff.

Same things could apply to other crimes to a lesser degree. Phrases like "murder is wrong" only sound simple because the word "murder" simplifies them.

Of course this to some extent depends on how common 'crimes' are - if they are systematically present, like they are now, because some feature of society is systematically creating them, then it might be more necessary to be efficient and clear. But if the social roots of crime can be got rid of, and such events became rare and exceptional, then it might be more efficient to respond to each one ad hoc, than to construct a necessarily simplifying system of generalities.

More generally, I sometimes think we should move away from describing, even roughly, 'a' vision of the future, and describe two - an optimistic one (where production can expand and antisocial behaviour vanishes and people will happily work for the social good) and a pessimistic one (what do we do if resource limits and crime and selfishness present major problems).

For example, anti-communists often say that people are innately "too selfish" to work without being paid. One answer is to deny this (I think it is in fact false) but I sometimes prefer to say, ok, maybe they are, that might require a different system (the dreaded 'labour vouchers') but it would still be based on workers' councils and collective ownership and stuff, so you still need to man the barricades.

I don't see any need to claim that I know either way.