A few questions on Anarcho-Communist theory

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Dave B
Joined: 3-08-08
Mar 16 2009 19:26

I think four basic points have been raised, they could headlined perhaps trivially ;

1) Are investment bankers or CEO’s workers.

2) Socialism in one country or region.

3) The exclusive and absolute control of the means of production by workers that work in it or with it.

4) the underproduction of necessary use values, stuff the workers as a whole ‘need’ in ‘capitalism’, production thereof in ‘Socialism’ or ‘Anarchism’. And the general level of ‘wealth’ that is achievable in a ‘socialist’ or ‘Anarchist’ society etc.

On point one for what it is worth Karl ‘dealt’ with it with his profit of enterprise thing, CEO’s etc operate as the functioning capitalist working with others capital and take a share in the surplus value etc etc. It is not a black and white issue as part of their ‘function’ or ‘work’ can be value adding, as that which is essential in organising, co-ordinating or administering production.

It is worthy of a thousand word essay on its own. You are a worker if you have to work for a wage irrespective of what you do. Working class ethics come into of course. I know for instance a lefty who was offered a job writing software for tagging ‘criminals’ and another, a Leninist, who actually wrote software for flight simulators for military aircraft.

Socialism in one country or region is a non starter, I suppose 100 years ago socialism in Europe was a theoretical possibility but not now. Actually Karl thought just beforehand that the Paris commune was a daft idea in a letter Engels 6th September 1870. They obviously spoke in favour of it or supported it in public during and after it as a noble effort or whatever.

Point 3) is without deliberately wanting in any way to bait the ‘tyranny of the majority’ and the non free access Anarchists, is more of a problem for them.

If you have free access what would be the point of refusing to produce ‘your product’ or withholding it from the rest of society.

If you have some kind of exchange mechanism between ‘your syndicates product’ and the rest of societies then that temptation would exist.

The simple solution I suppose would be for others to join any ‘awkward syndicate’ and change it from ‘within’, if that would be allowed. And the sitting syndicate workers didn’t claim property rights.

I think on point 4) we tend to take a first world centric and minority view, amongst other things, not helped by the fact that the majority do not have access to the internet and are not English speaking and are therefore effectively silent.

I admit that there is a huge problem when it comes to contemplating the redistribution of wealth etc in monetary terms and it is not easy to know where to begin.

However as someone else has done I think it is OK as a starting point to get potential ballpark figures about what kind of situation we would be dealing with.

If we were to allocate the equivalent of, and lets drop it down, $5000 per person, then that would be Nirvana for the vast majority of the population.

Now that might sound like pooh for your average first world western worker but perhaps a bit of international working class collective consciousness navel gazing would be required to fully appraise that one.

Probably first world workers are more productive due to the invested capital in them as trained wage-slaves helped by the infrastructure of where they live or the fixed fixed capital.

In my opinion you only have to meet someone who understands Microsoft word to realise the relationship between productivity and training. As you spend unsuccessfully 5 hours trying to do something that takes someone else 5 minutes to do.

At the point of revolution the fact that the capitalist production we inherit will not be set up to meet socialist or anarchist societies need is a given. How fast we will be able to re adjust is a technical problem.

As a purely technical problem there are I think some albeit unfortunate encouraging examples, for instance the war economies in World War Two.

Another point is that a substantial amount of useless and ‘skilled labour’ would be freed up in socialism and a lot of ‘skilled’ and potentially more productive labour is spent doing stupid stuff.

Joined: 1-08-06
Mar 16 2009 23:29
oisleep wrote:
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 ...

No, you're misunderstanding my point. I'm demonstrating that capitalism, a fundamentally flawed, outdated, irrational and anti-human system still produces enough social wealth, now, to give everyone in the world a standard of living equal to let's say an unemployed person in the western world. Which, were it possible to do that, is a big step up for most of the world's population. Not a western median, I have no way to calculate that figure, I don't know what the top end of it is. A low-level but not starving western figure.

Average wage in the UK is something like £25,000, or about $38,000US; no idea what average wages are like anywhere else. So many times what the theoretical 1/6billion of capitalism's current wealth is.

Nor am I saying this has any direct connection to communism, I'm saying that capitalism has the productive capacity to produce that, and, if we were able to wake up tomorrow and the revolution be accomplished, that productive capacity could put into socially useful ends.

It has nothing to do with 'actually' giving $9,000US to anybody, and the situation of capitalist production just falling into our hands still warm obviously is never going to happen. But capitalism has developed the means of production to a point where a society of abundance is on the cards - taking abundance to mean, a relative rise in the standards of living of a considerable degree for the majority of the planet.

Perhaps the idea of then multiplying that by something else was a theoretical construct too far; but the idea was that, if that is what capitalism can theoretically produce in the here and now, then, once war, waste and all the rest have been abolished, the material gains of capitalism can be thought to be that much more 'valuble'. What costs a dollar now, when 80 cents goes to wars, corruption, idiocy and all the rest, would only be 20 cents. If such a thing were to (could possibly) exist, peaceful, egalitarian capitalism could deliver the 12p loaf of bread for the entire globe (nice bread, not that plastic pre-sliced crap).

oisleep wrote:
... 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...

Well, in terms of food, my figures may be out date but the UN used to claim that the world produced 8 times more food than it needed. I'm sure that's less now, but even so, the problem isn't production in the short term, it's distribution (ie, it's the political and economic effects of capitalism, not productive technology per se, that's the problem). An end to 'profit and loss' would see an end to destroying foodstuffs to keep prices up for instance, because there'd be no prices.

The thing is, we wouldn't actually need to increase food production, if we could sort it out, we could even decrease food production and still feed everyone, even if the population does increase to 9 billion in a short time. Capitalism can produce enough to satisfy everyone's material needs (indeeed in many ways it does already), but it will never deliver for everyone - because there's no profit in it.

Now; the massive problem is that the civil war/revolution will absolutely cripple many parts of the world, and there will I'm certain be decades of putting the destruction to rights.

Also, I agree that we will need a revolution in production that will, I hope, make the industrial revolution look like an enthusiastic but messy bodge-job. We need to revolutionise all socially-necessary work processes to be able to bring down the amount of socially necessary labour, it won't happen by magic. However, I do believe that there is a logic to seeing this productive revolution coming from the potential for improvement that the entire working population will bring to the processes of production.

For the first time since the Middle Ages (probably), the majority of people will be actively engaged in control of their work, and for the first time ever they will be involved in a planet-wide community and communications network. The possibilities for rapid dissemination of ideas, debates and knowlege about use and process of production techniques provide the real possibility of revolutionising production in a huge number of fields.

So, honestly, I'm not approaching this 'eyes wide shut'. I see that there will be horrendous problems ahead. The actual death and destruction of the revolutionary war scares the bejeebers out of me. But then again, so does the death and destruction of capitalism right now.

On the other hand, I see hope in the possibility of releasing the creativity of an entire species collectively engaged in shaping its' own future.

jesuithitsquad's picture
Joined: 11-10-08
Mar 17 2009 17:57
foodfirst.org wrote:
Myth 1
Not Enough Food to Go Around

Reality: Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the world's food supply. Enough wheat, rice and other grains are produced to provide every human being with 3,500 calories a day. That doesn't even count many other commonly eaten foods - vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish. Enough food is available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day worldwide: two and half pounds of grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of fruits and vegetables, and nearly another pound of meat, milk and eggs-enough to make most people fat! The problem is that many people are too poor to buy readily available food. Even most "hungry countries" have enough food for all their people right now. Many are net exporters of food and other agricultural products.

foodfirst.org wrote:
Myth 3
Too Many People

Reality: Birth rates are falling rapidly worldwide as remaining regions of the Third World begin the demographic transition—when birth rates drop in response to an earlier decline in death rates. Although rapid population growth remains a serious concern in many countries, nowhere does population density explain hunger. For every Bangladesh, a densely populated and hungry country, we find a Nigeria, Brazil or Bolivia, where abundant food resources coexist with hunger. Costa Rica, with only half of Honduras' cropped acres per person, boasts a life expectancy—one indicator of nutrition —11 years longer than that of Honduras and close to that of developed countries. Rapid population growth is not the root cause of hunger. Like hunger itself, it results from underlying inequities that deprive people, especially poor women, of economic opportunity and security. Rapid population growth and hunger are endemic to societies where land ownership, jobs, education, health care, and old age security are beyond the reach of most people. Those Third World societies with dramatically successful early and rapid reductions of population growth rates-China, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Cuba and the Indian state of Kerala-prove that the lives of the poor, especially poor women, must improve before they can choose to have fewer children.


i can't find it now, but the un's fao now estimates food production, with current technology and without genetic modificaion, will continue to outpace population growth in the foreseeable future (as in until 2030).

oisleep's picture
Joined: 20-04-05
Mar 18 2009 15:34

both the posts above seem to have taken the productive capacity of food as a proxy for the overall productive capacity required to produce the collection of use values that would be required to bring the world's population up to the living standards of the median for an average western country - even if world food production and distribution capacity was currently sufficient for everyone to enjoy median western style standards of living (which i have big reservations about) this says nothing about all the other material productive capacity that would be required to deliver that increased level of living, education, health, security, transport, leisure, arts, etc....

and although i know you weren't suggesting that everyone just get's handed 9 grand, you are still using total exchange value as a proxy for the productive capacity required to produce the vast collection of use values required to achieve this worldwide standard of living - dividing world GDP by world population does not prove that the productive capacity exists at present to do this. all that does is take the produced output that does exist and express it per person in the universal equivalent, i.e. money. this says nothing about the actual material use value of the productive capacity that gave rise to that overall total

also if everyone thinks that the producive capacity already exists to meet not just effective demand, but global social need, this in a way denies the role of crisis within capitalism and indeed the innermost contradictions of capitalism itself. that capitalism itself always strives to develop productivity is not in question, the problem however comes around when productivity is developed to the extent that it comes up against the barrier of current value relations and the social relations of production itself, at that point crisis intervenes and destroys or expels excess productive capacity (excess within the confines of capitalism itself that is) and brings value relations back into line - therefore capital itself becomes a brake on the development of the productive forces, as marx said the real barrier of capitalist production is capital itself - at a certain stage increased productivity becomes a threat to capital valorisation, not a cause of it.

if the productive capacity does in fact really exist in the here and now (and in the appropriate quantity & distribution of physical/material forms required for it) to deliver this increased standard of living, this surely implies that crisis (and overproduction, underconsumption, disproportionality etc..) within capitalism does not exist either in reality or even in theory. it also suggests a belief that the determining and overriding motive of the capitalist system itself is production of things, rather than the production and realisation of surplus value

Dave you mention that the productivity requirement is purely a technical thing - i'm not sure what this means but it seems to suggest it's just a minor thing rather than a pivotal one - i'd argue it's the most pivotal thing, and certainly capitalism itself would not exist if it wasn't for the development of productivity that was both the cause and ongoing effect of capitalism. if productivity as such was not developed to an appropriate level so that everyone had to work 16 hours a day purely to replace, in their output, the value spent on their wages then surplus value and the capitalism that rests upon it would not exist - likewise for any future society, huge productivity increases would be required to provide any semblence of stability and continuation (and these would have to be delivered during apocalyptic like conditions)

But just to clarify, i'm not saying that the productive capacity could not exist to do everything that has been talked about (and more), i'm just saying that it doesn't at present and the reason it doesn't is mainly due to the existence of capitalism itself and the barriers it puts up to prevent this happening. capitalism therefore contains within it both the seeds for any future society but also a break on it, and therefore to move towards this increased productivity capitalism would need to be superseeded, but only at that point could the productivity requirements and output required to meet social needs be started to be realised

Joined: 1-08-06
Mar 19 2009 00:02


1 - we didn't take food production as a proxy for overall production. We demonstrated that the overall production of some basic goods that are absolutely fundamental to human survival, even under capitalism, is not as problematic as you think. We didn't say anything about other aspects of socially necessary production.

Nor did we, by slight of hand, combine 'production and distribution'. I quite carefully seperated the different problems of production and distribution. Of course distribution is a problem. we couldn't produce more food than we needed, but people still starve, without distribution being a problem.

2 - nor do any of us claim that crisis is impossible because of the existence of productive capacity. Your claim that the existence of abundance means that crisis can exist neither in fact or in theory I find particularly strange, especially as you go on to explain how it can. Of course it can. Capitalism without crisis is impossible, because society cannot absorb everything produced for it, because production is not geared for social necessities but profit. In other words, your perfect crisis-free system that you seem keen to set up with its 'appropriate quantity & distribution of physical/material forms required' is a fairy-tale.

In short, there is massive production of unnecessary 'goods', because goods are produced for economic motives not human needs, and there can never be in capitalism an 'appropriate quantity & distribution of physical/material forms required' because there would be no profit in it. Capitalism itself is the brake on the efficient workings of capitalism. The contradiction between the specific form of private property (private expropriation of social wealth) and the wage-labour form of social production, ensures that capitalism can do no other than lurch from crisis to crisis, using various measures to stave of the crisis but never overcoming it.

This does not mean that capitalism's productive capacity (note, nothing about distribution) is not currently sufficient for the satisfaction of a great many of what we would consider to be social needs. Capitalism really has developed productive capacity to the point where the world's population can have its needs met - if we overthrow capitalism and the state to liberate that productivity for the benefit of the whole human race.

Tarwater's picture
Joined: 29-12-08
Mar 19 2009 00:57

I skipped alot of this because I have to work in the morning, so feel free to attack me, within reason, if I'm off-base.

Most of Anarchism is best read as a critique, that has changed radically over time as situations/the milieu/etc have changed. There are a ton of question I could ask, as an anarcho-communist, with which I could stump myself because the specific context is lacking. It's best to start off there if you have questions because the frame of reference you get will form the answers for specific situations.

I hope that made sense, I'm half in the wrapper.

Joined: 18-07-06
Mar 19 2009 03:03

I think Oisleep's right about this. Probably there could be a very quick rise in the standard of living of people in the third world, at least to the extent that they'd no longer suffer from horrendous malnutrition. But the idea that we could immediately cut down on labor-time seems utopian. A socialist society is not compatible with massive inequalities between first and third world, and a significant universal reduction in labor-time would not be helpful in ending this inequality.

Joined: 20-04-08
Mar 19 2009 13:29

The SPGB position is one that we stand for free access but that is often caricatured by our critics that we will wake up day after this supposed vote in Parliament establishing socialism which is another position falsely ascribed to the SPGB and take what we need or want rrom the common treasury .

However , for all what we are called , we are not that utopian . We realise that there is a great challenge ahead to provide food clothing and shelter to 6 billion and that it cannot be achieved over-night . We would always say free access will be the norm "almost immediately" rather than "immediately”

Using a phrase with the connotations we all hate - “ the transition” - we can foresee that in many places we will have to forgo luxuries to provide the necessities to others . What luxuries that are available may be required to be rationed by various democratic options , the luck of the draw in a lottery , or even the simpler , first come - first served . This is one reason why the SPGB devotes much time to counter the lazy , greedy man analysis of human nature that is used against this altruism .If we did have issues of scarcity in the early stages of socialism, the use of simple rationing would be preferable to ensure people obtained basic minimum needs, rather than perpetuate the law of value i.e. its beter to make a
move toward people obtaining goods and services on the basis of their needs,
rather than because of their labour through some form of labour voucher exchange system .

The SPGB are seeking a 'steady-state economy' which corresponds to what Marx called 'simple reproduction' - a situation where human needs are in balance with the resources needed to satisfy them. Production would not be ever-increasing but would be stabilized at the level required to satisfy needs. All that would be produced would be products for consumption and the products needed to replace and repair the raw materials and instruments of production used up in producing these consumer goods. The point about such a situation is that there will no longer be any imperative need to keep developing productivity. Zero growth society could be achieved in three main phases.

First, there will have to be emergency action to relieve the worst problems of food shortages, health care and housing which affect billions of people throughout the world . This may temporarily need the rise in productivity that others on the thread have pointed to . But it is not an insurmountable problem , nor necessarily a long drawn out one . We have seen in real life the possibilities of a “war mobilisation” of resources ( In the WW2 food production in Britain was increased by 70% , and no , not “war communism“ , before that’s suggested by someone ), similar urgency and determination can be applied to the shortages experienced in the Third World . Nor should we underestimate the contributions that will be made by the poor and needy in those when the capitalist .
As someone living in India I am painfully aware how without the requirement of growing cash crops for the world market , the Indian peasant could provide for themselves .- simply just don’t expect to be drinking a lot of tea in socialism . Perhaps hunger/food production is a global problem , it doesn‘t necessary carry on from that the solution is necessary a global one .
Nor should it be automatically assumed that if you're family for instance that has lived in an African township slum for years , you need to immediately have all these consumer goods hi-definition plasma screens or whatever . Will they need to experience a quality of life similar to a rich western worker has today and disregard their own expectations and culture . If you see your children receiving significantly better health care , improved education and better housing than you did, would that not lessen the immediate craving to duplicate the North American or European way of life and encourage more self discovery and self development ? Just an idle speculation

Secondly, there will be longer term action to construct means of production and infrastructures such as transport systems for the supply of permanent housing and durable consumption goods. These probably be designed in line with conservation principles, which means they would be made to last for a long time, using materials that where possible could be re-cycled and would require minimum maintenance.

Thirdly, with these objectives achieved there could be an eventual fall in production, and society could move into a stable mode. This would achieve a rhythm of daily production in line with daily needs with no significant growth.

A practical approach to establishing "from each according to ability , to each according to needs" .

Joined: 28-01-09
Mar 19 2009 14:21
If you see your children receiving significantly better health care , improved education and better housing than you did, would that not lessen the immediate craving to duplicate the North American or European way of life and encourage more self discovery and self development ?

Without beig a hippy, isn't it the case that under capitalism "wellbeing" stopped rising after a certain level of economic development because of the way this was achieved. It happened in the uk some time in the 70's, since when rises in GDP haven't led to increased in quality of life.

I'm a bit pissed off about not being able to get a post-revolutionary cup of tea though.