The definition of communism has shifted. When, how, and why?

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Lucky Black Cat
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Aug 1 2019 05:46
The definition of communism has shifted. When, how, and why?

The original definition of communism is well summed up by the phrase: "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need."

It now seems that most communists take it further. Free access is widely considered a requirement of communism, and if there's not free access, it's not communism.

I, too, have gotten used to thinking of communism this way, to the point that I forgot that this is not the classic definition. I was only reminded recently in a conversation from another thread, where I said that communism necessitates free access, but was then corrected and told that it only necessitates "to each according to their needs."

Kropotkin, perhaps the most famous anarchist-communist in history, describes his vision of communism in his 1892 book Conquest of Bread. He recommends free access for necessities but that people must work extra hours in order to access luxuries.

When did the definition of communism shift from the classic "to each according to their needs", as described by Kropotkin, to what seems to now be the current definition of "free access"? How did this shift occur? And why?

Or am I wrong about there being a shift? Is the classic definition still the current definition? Is free-access just one interpretation of that, and not necessarily the dominant interpretation?

(Edited to make post more concise)

Dave B
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Aug 1 2019 06:33

The idea predated the Gotha programme;

Letter from Engels to Marx, in Paris, [Barmen, beginning of October 1844]

The Teutons are all still very muddled about the practicability of communism; to dispose of this absurdity I intend to write a short pamphlet showing that communism has already been put into practice and describing in popular terms how this is at present being done in England and America.The thing will take me three days or so, and should prove very enlightening for these fellows. I’ve already observed this when talking to people here.

And that led to;

Description of Recently Founded Communist Colonies Still in Existence

Written: in mid-October 1844

The sect of the Shakers originated some seventy years ago. Its founders were poor people who united in order to live together in brotherly love and community of goods and to worship their God in their own way. Although their religious views and particularly the prohibition on marriage deterred many, they nevertheless attracted support and now have ten large communities, each of which is between three and eight hundred members strong. Each of these communities is a fine, well laid-out town, with dwelling houses, factories, workshops, assembly buildings and barns; they have flower and vegetable gardens, fruit trees, woods, vineyards, meadows and arable land in abundance; then, livestock of all kinds, horses and beef-cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry, in excess of their needs, and of the very best breeds.

Their granaries are always full of corn, their store-rooms full of clothing materials, so that an English traveller who visited them said he could not understand why these people still worked, when after all they possessed an abundance of everything; unless it was that they worked simply as a pastime, having nothing else to do. Amongst these people no one is obliged to work against his will, and no one seeks work in vain. They have no poor-houses and infirmaries, having not a single person poor and destitute, nor any abandoned widows and orphans; all their needs are met and they need fear no want. In their ten towns there is not a single gendarme or police officer, no judge, lawyer or soldier, no prison or penitentiary; and yet there is proper order in all their affairs.

The laws of the land are not for them and as far as they are concerned could just as well be abolished and nobody would notice any difference for they are the most peaceable citizens and have never yielded a single criminal for the prisons. They enjoy, as we said, the most absolute community of goods and have no trade and no money among themselves.

It is often not appreciated but the communist examples of the Shaker communes was more widely understood and known about in the 19th century, eg?

CHAPTER XVI. SOCIAL ARCHITECTS

The great facts of modern Socialism are these: From 1776—the era of our national Revolution—the Shakers have been established in this country; first at two places in New York; then at four places in Massachusetts; at two in New Hampshire; two in Maine; one in Connecticut; and finally at two in Kentucky, and two in Ohio. In all these places prosperous religious Communism has been modestly and yet loudly preaching to the nation and the world. New England and New York and the great West have had actual Phalanxes before their eyes for nearly a century. And in all this time what has been acted on our American stage, has had England, France and Germany for its audience. The example of the Shakers has demonstrated, not merely that successful Communism is subjectively possible, but that this nation is free enough to let it grow. Who can doubt that this demonstration was known and watched in Germany from the beginning; and that it helped the successive experiments and emigrations of the Rappites, the Zoarites and the Ebenezers?

These experiments, we have seen, were echoes of Shakerism, growing fainter and fainter, as the time-distance increased. Then the Shaker movement with its echoes was sounding also in England, when Robert Owen undertook to convert the world to Communism; and it is evident enough that he was really a far-off follower of the Rappites.

France also had heard of Shakerism, before St. Simon or Fourier began to meditate and write Socialism. These men were nearly contemporaneous with Owen, and all three evidently obeyed a common impulse. That impulse was the sequel and certainly in part the effect of Shakerism. Thus it is no more than bare justice to say, that we are indebted to the Shakers more than to any or all other Social Architects of modern times. Their success has been the solid capital that has upheld all the paper theories, and counteracted the failures, of the French and English schools. It is very doubtful whether Owenism or Fourierism would have ever existed, or if they had, whether they would have ever moved the practical American nation, if the facts of Shakerism had not existed before them, and gone along with them.

But to do complete justice we must go a step further. While we say that the Rappites, the Zoarites, the Ebenezers, the Owenites, and even the Fourierites are all echoes of the Shakers, we must also acknowledge that the Shakers are the far-off echoes of the Primitive Christian Church.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/35687/35687-h/35687-h.htm#CHAPTER_XLV

And from Lenin, spit, in 1920;

V. I. Lenin, From the Destruction of the Old Social System, To the Creation of the New

Communist labour in the narrower and stricter sense of the term is labour performed gratis for the benefit of society, labour performed not as a definite duty, not for the purpose of obtaining a right to certain products, not according to previously established and legally fixed quotas, but voluntary labour, irrespective of quotas;

it is labour performed without expectation of reward, without reward as a condition, labour performed because it has become a habit to work for the common good, and because of a conscious realisation (that has become a habit) of the necessity of working for the common good—labour as the requirement of a healthy organism.

It must be clear to everybody that we, i.e., our society, our social system, are still a very long way from the application of this form of labour on a broad, really mass scale.

But the very fact that this question has been raised, and raised both by the whole of the advanced proletariat (the Communist Party and the trade unions) and by the state authorities, is a step in this direction.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/apr/11.htm

zugzwang
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Aug 1 2019 10:32
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The original definition of communism is well summed up by the phrase: "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need."

It now seems that most communists take it further. Free access is widely considered a requirement of communism, and if there's not free access, it's not communism.

I, too, have gotten used to thinking of communism this way, to the point that I forgot that this is not the classic definition. I was only reminded recently in a conversation from another thread, where I said that communism necessitates free access, but was then corrected and told that it only necessitates "to each according to their needs."

Kropotkin, perhaps the most famous anarchist-communist in history, describes his vision of communism in his 1892 book Conquest of Bread. He recommends free access for necessities but that people must work extra hours in order to access luxuries.

When did the definition of communism shift from the classic "to each according to their needs", as described by Kropotkin, to what seems to now be the current definition of "free access"? How did this shift occur? And why?

Or am I wrong about there being a shift? Is the classic definition still the current definition? Is free-access just one interpretation of that, and not necessarily the dominant interpretation?

(Edited to make post more concise)

Free access is sort of what 'from each according to their ability, to each according to their need' means: people contribute what they can and take what they need (within reason).

Take Pankhurst's description of a communist society for example:

Pankhurst wrote:
Under Communism all shall satisfy their material needs without stint or measure from the common storehouse, according to their desires. Everyone will be able to have what he or she desires in food, in clothing, books, music, education and travel facilities. The abundant production now possible, and which invention will constantly facilitate, will remove any need for rationing or limiting of consumption.

I don't think Kropotkin argued 'free access to necessaries, but you must work so and so hours for luxury items'. It requires work to produce most useful things (especially in the 1800s when Kropotkin was writing) regardless of whether it's a necessary or luxury item. I think his vision of a communist society assumed a certain amount of work from everyone, and in return people could take whatever they need (and if there's enough to spare then people who don't contribute could satisfy their needs too):

Kropotkin wrote:
After studying all these facts together, we may arrive, then, at the following conclusion: Imagine a society, comprising a few million inhabitants, engaged in agriculture and a great variety of industries — Paris, for example, with the Department of Seine-et-Oise. Suppose that in this society all children learn to work with their hands as well as with their brains. Admit that all adults, save women, engaged in the education of their children [???], bind themselves to work 5 hours a day from the age of twenty or twenty-two to forty-five or fifty, and that they follow occupations they have chosen in any one branch of human work considered necessary. Such a society could in return guarantee well-being to all its members; that is to say, a more substantial well-being than that enjoyed to-day by the middle classes. And, moreover, each worker belonging to this society would have at his disposal at least 5 hours a day which he could devote to science, art, and individual needs which do not come under the category of necessities, but will probably do so later on, when man’s productivity will have augmented, and those objects will no longer appear luxurious or inaccessible.

Kropotkin wrote:
Take, for example, an association stipulating that each of its members should carry out the following contract: “We undertake to give you the use of our houses, stores, streets, means of transport, schools, museums, etc., on condition that, from twenty to forty-five or fifty years of age, you consecrate four or five hours a day to some work recognized as necessary to existence. Choose yourself the producing groups which you wish to join, or organize a new group, provided that it will undertake to produce necessaries. And as for the remainder of your time, combine together with those you like for recreation, art, or science, according to the bent of your taste.

“Twelve or fifteen hundred hours of work a year, in a group producing food, clothes, or houses, or employed in public health, transport, etc., is all we ask of you. For this work we guarantee to you all that these groups produce or will produce. But if not one, of the thousands of groups of our federation, will receive you, whatever be their motive; if you are absolutely incapable of producing anything useful, or if you refuse to do it, then live like an isolated man or like an invalid. If we are rich enough to give you the necessaries of life we shall be delighted to give them to you. You are a man, and you have the right to live. But as you wish to live under special conditions, and leave the ranks, it is more than probable that you will suffer for it in your daily relations with other citizens. You will be looked upon as a ghost of bourgeois society, unless some friends of yours, discovering you to be a talent, kindly free you from all moral obligation towards society by doing necessary work for you.

“And lastly, if it does not please you, go and look for other conditions else where in the wide world, or else seek adherents and organize with them on novel principles. We prefer our own.”

That is what could be done in a communal society in order to turn away sluggards if they became too numerous.

Our productive powers, technology etc. have improved since the 1800s, so it really shouldn't be an issue satisfying everyone's needs within reason today, even if not everyone wants to contribute.

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Aug 1 2019 15:53

I imagine that such a definition was never that fixed? Perhaps that, as the circle of social relations that people depended on grew larger, the quite uncomplicated notion of "omia sunt communia" and "from each/to each" was deemed not enough of a guarantee, and notions of maintaining commensurability between benefits and efforts crept back in? So I guess as communism went from a peasant communitarian thing to an urban social movement, the simplicity of that principle started to appear as a problem, at least an organizational one.

In smaller-scale communities that entertained notions of communism, that link would likely be kept by the fact that people knew each other, co-produced wealth in more tangible ways etc., so mutual dependence and mutual benefit were joined. Then the later communist aims were projected onto the terrain of large-scale society, so this at least became a question for them in theory if not often in practice. So you get all sorts of solutions to the conundrum in a situation where money is abolished, but some accounting is seen as necessary, e.g. in the form of labour-time accounting that settles accounts between collaborative workplaces that people participate in, or individually, with labour vouchers issued for hours of work done, and so on.

As we - through the world market - currently tend to produce stuff for people we generally don't know, and who in turn produce stuff for others they don't know, the notion of producing everything for everyone beyond all commensurability or measure does lead to those kind of questions.

Personally I used to hate these kind of questions because they're the default trap you end up in when an idiot hears you have anticapitalist ideas, and the discussions had tend to be futile.

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Aug 1 2019 17:21
Lucky Black Cat wrote:
The original definition of communism is well summed up by the phrase: "From each according to their ability, to each according to their need."

It now seems that most communists take it further. Free access is widely considered a requirement of communism, and if there's not free access, it's not communism.

There's no conflict between the two definitions. To understand it properly I think you [people in general] need to understand that communism is about freedom, and not equality in the egalitarian sense of the word, and to think about what freedom and needs are.

Watch the videos on this Youtube channel as a starter:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsln1E-ttrNPsMivrnf9V7w

Most likely the most dominant definition of the word 'communism' these days is still probably one that refers to the USSR and such like though.

Words always have shifting and broad meanings..

Mike Harman
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Aug 1 2019 18:14

The first part of Marx's critique of the gotha programme has elements of both:

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch01.htm

Marx wrote:

What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.

Here, obviously, the same principle prevails as that which regulates the exchange of commodities, as far as this is exchange of equal values. Content and form are changed, because under the altered circumstances no one can give anything except his labor, and because, on the other hand, nothing can pass to the ownership of individuals, except individual means of consumption. But as far as the distribution of the latter among the individual producers is concerned, the same principle prevails as in the exchange of commodity equivalents: a given amount of labor in one form is exchanged for an equal amount of labor in another form.

[...]
In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly – only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!

So he more or less says that as communism is emerging from capitalism there could be a system of labour vouchers or similar, but that this would be an inherently unfair system because there's no such thing as 'equality' in reality, but then a 'higher phase' of communist society these have been done away with. Some people have interpreted this as a long transitional phase but you could also read it as an insurrectionary/immediate-post-insurrectionary situation vs. as soon as things start to settle down.

Some discussion of this here: https://libcom.org/library/marx%E2%80%99s-critique-socialist-labor-money... and https://libcom.org/forums/theory/dreaded-labour-notes-02042009 and probably other threads and articles.

On Kropotkin:

Choose yourself the producing groups which you wish to join, or organize a new group, provided that it will undertake to produce necessaries. And as for the remainder of your time, combine together with those you like for recreation, art, or science, according to the bent of your taste.

It's not stated explicitly here, maybe elsewhere, but at least implicitly he's arguing that in order to minimise the amount of time any one person spends on producing necessities (however defined), everyone should contribute to doing so. Then once that's done, you could obvious dedicate time to producing non-necessary stuff, or not bother. But Kropotkin isn't advocating for measuring exactly what time people spend on what, just some social pressure if someone is obviously not contributing at all.

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Aug 2 2019 09:34

The post of darren p #5, pretty well sums up my opinion on the thread topic.
Just a further comment, as the point has been raised.

Mike Harmon #6

‘But Kropotkin isn't advocating for measuring exactly what time people spend on what, just some social pressure if someone is obviously not contributing at all.’

What qualifies as ‘obviously not contributing’? We live in a society, past and present, obsessed with ‘spongers’, and people ‘living on benefits’. Is there an expectation that these attitudes and behaviors will be carried into the new society?

Will the future society continue to separate out the deserving and the undeserving? If so, what a poverty of ambition.

It was raised on another thread something about the drudgery of cleaning toilets, well I’ve worked in places where the toilet cleaners (incidentally all men) took pride in their work to the extent of polishing all the copper pipes on the urinals! Lads working in boiler houses (ex-sailors mostly) took the same housekeeping pride in their work. Importantly their work was recognized and appreciated.

Mike Harman
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Aug 2 2019 10:04
Auld-bod wrote:
The post of darren p #5, pretty well sums up my opinion on the thread topic.
Just a further comment, as the point has been raised.

Mike Harmon #6

‘But Kropotkin isn't advocating for measuring exactly what time people spend on what, just some social pressure if someone is obviously not contributing at all.’

What qualifies as ‘obviously not contributing’? We live in a society, past and present, obsessed with ‘spongers’, and people ‘living on benefits’. Is there an expectation that these attitudes and behaviors will be carried into the new society?

Yeah I think Kropotkin was insufficiently optimistic too.

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Aug 3 2019 20:20
Mike Harman wrote:
but that this would be an inherently unfair system because there's no such thing as 'equality' in reality,

Most likely a slip of the pen, but I don't think 'fairness' is the right way to frame it either. Eg. Communism is not better than capitalism because it is more "fair". Communism is desirable because capitalism places un-necessary restrictions on the development of human potential, on the development of individual and social powers. Communism is more desirable to capitalism because it structures society in such a way that the "free development of each" will be the "free development of all". We are free to the extent that we have the power to develop and nurture our human potential. Once we have achieved subsistence etc, our most radical need is the need to develop that potential. So communism isn't about making sure that everyone has the same amount of stuff, or making everyone the same - it's about structuring society in such a way that everyone can freely develop their potential as much as possible, regardless of what differences they may have. Concepts such as "fairness", "justice" and "equality" collapse into contradiction when sufficiently probed, we should be careful when invoking them.

If anyone wants a better explanation, watch this series of lectures on Marx by Raymond Geuss
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLfqdvDnX3lbAGzd770mJOFyRI4Khz50Uq

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Aug 4 2019 07:26

Hey, sorry I haven't replied until now. Thank you to everyone who took the time to write a reply.

It's been a long time since I've read Conquest of Bread, and it seems I got things a bit wrong. But I wasn't too far off.

Kropotkin, Conquest of Bread wrote:
The same will be done as regards all pleasure not comprised in the necessaries of life. He who wishes for a grand piano will enter the association of musical instrument makers. And by giving the association part of his half-days’ leisure, he will soon possess the piano of his dreams. If he is passionately fond of astronomical studies he will join the association of astronomers, with it philosophers, its observers, its calculators, with its artists in astronomical instruments, its scientists and amateurs, and he will have the telescope he desires by taking his share of the associated work, for it is especially the rough work that is needed in an astronomical observatory bricklayer’s, carpenter’s, founder’s, mechanic’s work, the last touch being given to the instrument of precision by the artist.

In short, the five or seven hours a day which each will have at his disposal, after having consecrated several hours to the production of necessities, will amply suffice to satisfy all longings for luxury however varied.

So he's saying that if you want luxuries, you have to directly participate in the labor it takes to create them. This is different from just putting in extra work hours in general (regardless of what type of work you're doing). But it does demand that you put in extra work.

It seems the consensus view here is that there is not a distinction between free-access and "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need." I agree that there is not necessarily a distinction, but they are not necessarily the same thing, either. It seems to me that free-access is one interpretation of "from each... to each." Another interpretation is free-access for necessities, conditional access to luxuries. (For Kropotkin the condition being that you contribute your labor to creating them, though there could be other conditions, instead, like contributing extra labor, regardless of what type of work it is.)

I'm not trying to argue that one interpretation is better or more valid than the other, I'm just wondering when free-access to both necessities and luxuries became the dominant interpretation.

Darren P - thanks for recommending the youtube channel! Red Plateaus makes good videos.

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Aug 4 2019 07:55

Regarding equality, I like Marx's point that we should focus on the development of human potential (which is what Red Plateaus explores in their first video), but I don't want to abandon the championing of equality. The notion of "equality" is inspiring to many people, it stirs something deep in their heart, it has great popular appeal. To abandon it seems like a missed opportunity to connect our politics to people's desires.

Yes, if interrogated, equality can be shown to be impossible or even undesirable. But that only happens if people accuse you of seeking equality in all ways for all things. But that's a strawman, and can easily be brushed aside by clarifying what you mean by equality.

Isn't free-access a type of equality? Everyone is equally entitled to the various goods and services.

I guess even this could fall apart if interrogated closely enough. As mentioned in another thread, we wouldn't all be equally entitled to MRI-scans, only those who need them would get them, and it wouldn't be something you could just do on a whim because that's how you like to have fun. But even this is a type of equality: We are all subject to equal standards of whether we qualify for getting an MRI-scan.

In communism, I'd expect that people's material quality of life would be equal. This isn't the same thing as saying our material conditions would be equal, since things like differences in climate, population density, and so on would ensure that's not the case.

As for the development of human potential, doesn't this necessitate something approximating equality in material quality of life? If there were significant disparities in this regard, then some people would have their ability to develop their potential stunted by that disparity.

It's not a perfect equality but it's a rough equality. I'm sure many holes can be poked in it, even insofar as I've described it, it is certainly not philosophically or logically air tight. But I'm still not convinced it should be abandoned, due to its deep popular appeal. Our politics are already so alien to most people. Anything we can do to connect to popular desires, ideals, and values, we should try to do so.

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Aug 4 2019 08:55
Lucky Black Cat wrote:
The notion of "equality" is inspiring to many people, it stirs something deep in their heart, it has great popular appeal.

I think there are two main different ways of thinking about equality. There's the egalitarian - distributive justice - way of thinking about it. Then there's the way of thinking about in the sense that everyone is of equal moral worth, deserves equal respect etc. It's possible to be one without being the other I think. So when people talk about equality it is important to think about what they are talking about; equality of what? So yes, you could think of the human capacities way of thinking about it as everyone being equally able to develop themselves..

One thing though - Socialism is often described as being about distributive equality and capitalism about liberty or freedom - It's useful to dissolve this I think..

I have more I could say about this but little time this morning. Marx's concept of freedom came from Fichte, as far as I understand, it would be interesting to find out if Fichte was an influence on Bakunin too. Both were schooled in German philosophy so it's quite likely...

There's a difference between invoking a principle to inspire or motivate people, and that principle being coherent. The Diggers used appeals to God to justify what they were doing - I don't think we should be doing that...

The Geuss lectures are more detailed than the Red Plateaus one - I'd also recommend his book "Philosophy and Real Politics" if you want to look into the questions about "equality" further. Allen. W Wood's "The Free Development of Each" is good too, it's about the concept of freedom in classical german philosophy - Marx included.

zugzwang
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Aug 4 2019 08:50
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So he's saying that if you want luxuries, you have to directly participate in the labor it takes to create them. This is different from just putting in extra work hours in general (regardless of what type of work you're doing). But it does demand that you put in extra work.

...

It seems to me that free-access is one interpretation of "from each... to each." Another interpretation is free-access for necessities, conditional access to luxuries. (For Kropotkin the condition being that you contribute your labor to creating them, though there could be other conditions, instead, like contributing extra labor, regardless of what type of work it is.)

It's been a while since I've read Kropotkin as well, though I doubt he's saying there that to enjoy a piano (or whatever is considered a luxury) one has to directly participate in its immediate production. For example is growing food in a communist society to feed piano-makers not also essential to piano production? Or how about collecting the raw materials (wood for example) that go into the production of a piano, or making the instruments used in piano-making (hammer I guess), as well as the transportation of these means of production to the site where pianos are made?

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Aug 4 2019 10:17
darren p wrote:
One thing though - Socialism is often described as being about distributive equality and capitalism about liberty or freedom - It's useful to dissolve this I think..

Yes, when talking about communism/socialism/anarchism, I like to emphasize both freedom and equality. It's very important to highlight the ways capitalism limits our freedom and communism can expand it.

Most of all, though, I think we should emphasize how it expands and enables human wellbeing. (Expanding and enabling the development of human potential is part of that.)

darren p wrote:
There's a difference between invoking a principle to inspire or motivate people, and that principle being coherent. The Diggers used appeals to God to justify what they were doing - I don't think we should be doing that...

Fair point. So I wouldn't recommend invoking a principle simply because it's popular. It would have to have a genuine connection to communism, and I believe that is the case for equality.

I think any concept, if you interrogate it, can be shown to have problems, at least by extreme interpretations. Like freedom. Freedom taken to the extreme would be anything goes, and allow people to literally get away with murder.

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Aug 4 2019 12:26
Lucky Black Cat wrote:
Freedom taken to the extreme would be anything goes, and allow people to literally get away with murder.

Well, only if you took freedom to be "freedom to..."

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Aug 18 2019 15:04

Somewhat related - since when socialism was so simplistically defined as 'workers control the means of production', so as to include co-operative capitalism under the umbrella? It seems to be more prevalent than ever. In the classic literature of Marxism or anarchism, I would assume that the term has a stronger and meaningful definition, so much so that it wouldn't be a problem, since most of the socialist movement derives from those two traditions. Or I am mistaken in this view? Or is it because folks don't even refer to the classic literature anymore - instead relying on other means of picking up ideas?

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Aug 18 2019 17:31

I think there has been some kind of "unmerging" between the labor movement and the left which has led some leftists to turn their heads away from the working-class and to co-ops and small scale-production. Groups like the BSA openly support like small business associations as "progressive", along with the general sudden thought of a "youtuber union". It becomes especially clear in what people call "economic democracy", which has at least in the social-democratic worker's movement has just in general meant that workers get "a seat the table" and insight to the firm that they work for. In other words, unions are turned into organs for class collaboration to achieve "peace on the labor market". Now (in internet discourse) it just means co-ops.

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Aug 18 2019 18:51
Agent of the International wrote:
Somewhat related - since when socialism was so simplistically defined

There's never been a singular definition - look in the back of the Communist Manifesto. The word has been used for a mixed bag of things the whole way through.

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Aug 18 2019 20:40

As far as Marx and Engels go they apparently switched between "socialism" and "communism" at different times to avoid association with certain people. This 1936 Socialist Standard response to the Daily Worker I think has some informative bits on Marx and Engels' usage, which also chime with Engels' preface to the Manifesto.

Engels wrote:
Yet, when it was written, we could not have called it a socialist manifesto. By Socialists, in 1847, were understood, on the one hand the adherents of the various Utopian systems: Owenites in England, Fourierists in France, [See Robert Owen and François Fourier] [...]

Socialist Standard wrote:
Marx and Engels used the terms Communism and Socialism to mean precisely the same thing. They used “Communism” in the early years up to about 1875, and after that date mainly used the term “Socialism.” There was a reason for this. In the early days, about 1847-1850, Marx and Engels chose the name “Communism” in order to distinguish their ideas from Utopian, reactionary or disreputable movements then in existence, which called themselves “Socialist.” Later on, when these movements disappeared or went into obscurity, and when, from 1870 onwards, parties were being formed in many countries under the name Social-Democratic Party or Socialist Party, Marx and Engels reverted to the words Socialist and Socialism.

Regarding Lenin's usage of socialism and communism

Socialist Standard wrote:
These terms have had a chequered history, but it can be said with certainty that the Daily Worker’s statement about them is wrong. It is not correct that Marxists have always used the term Socialism to mean a “period between the seizure of power by the working-class and the epoch of full Communism.” Marx did not, neither did Engels, and Lenin knew this even if the Daily Worker does not know it. Lenin, in The State and Revolution, actually quotes from Marx a passage in which Marx referred to such a period, but did not use the term Socialism to describe it. The passage Lenin quoted from Marx begins with the words: “But these defects are unavoidable in the first phase of Communist society ...” (See The State and Revolution, by N. Lenin. Pub. Allen and Unwin, Ltd. p. 96.) We see then that Marx at that date, did not call this period Socialism but “the first phase of Communism.” It is Lenin, not Marx, who then interposed the words “generally called Socialism.” (p. 96.)

ajjohnstone
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Aug 19 2019 02:02

The last few issues of Weekly Worker has articles debating the socialism/communism differentiation.