Is there any private property under socialism/communism?

29 posts / 0 new
Last post
yoda's walking stick
Offline
Joined: 6-04-11
Feb 22 2012 23:39
Is there any private property under socialism/communism?

Obviously under socialism or communism the means of production will be publicly owned. But will any private property remain, such as a house, a car, or a guitar? Perhaps such things will be technically public property but individuals will be given some kind of right to their individual use?

ludd's picture
ludd
Offline
Joined: 4-05-09
Feb 22 2012 23:45

http://libcom.org/library/communism-points-consideration-linsecurite-sociale

Quote:
In communism, the end of relations based on force, on violence and the universal antagonism of each against all … will presuppose the end of ownership rights over people and things. The abolition of private property means putting an end to their foundations: the domination of the “other” (man or nature); appropriation, which only perceives the other in relation to utility; and the generalized degradation of the relations between men and also between the latter and nature.

One will no longer be able to “use and abuse” something, whatever it is, just because one owns it. Nothing will belong to anybody anymore. A thing will be defined by its use. A bicycle will be used to travel and not just so that Mr. Jones, its ‘legitimate owner’, can travel. The very idea of property will soon be considered to be absurd. The question regarding whether, for sentimental or any other kinds of reasons, human beings or some human beings have a need for a particular territory or for objects over which they can establish tacit rights, has nothing whatsoever to do with property. Each person’s material and emotional security will, on the other hand, be reinforced: the disappearance of relations of force and of money will allow for human relations in which each person will have the right to food and clothing, and to live alone or with others, depending on his tastes. It is the interest of each person that takes precedence over the rights of property, of force, or of money, which one may or may not possess. The end of institutionalized violence and indifference will allow each person to live in peace, without being destroyed or ignored.

radicalgraffiti
Offline
Joined: 4-11-07
Feb 22 2012 23:46

most of us wouldn't call houses cars or guitars private property

A Wotsit's picture
A Wotsit
Offline
Joined: 14-11-11
Feb 23 2012 01:00

Yoda, again with the questions. What do you think?

I think if something holds real sentimental value but no real value in terms of practical applications, we can notionally say that in a socialist/communist anarchy it would essentially be treated the same as private property- but only because there is no social need to share it, not because there would be laws and shit to define 'rights' of ownership. If something is of value to more than one person then we'll share it, or cooperate to make more of it if it's scarce.

If you made it/ found it yourself or someone made it/found it for you, and gave it freely, and you can hang on to it, and need it most days, then I think we can say it'll effectively be the same as 'owning' it because it would be more practical that way (underwear, toothbrush, mobile phone etc).

In our form of socialism social behaviour and individual freedom is what governs us- no money, no leaders, no laws. So no one needs to decide if people are 'allowed' the 'right' to 'own' stuff- there are no laws to define ownership, if people are cool with you keeping something, then you can keep it, if you are being selfish expect to be confronted and have that item taken from you to be shared, or be encouraged to let others use it when you aren't.

In pure socialism social or anti-social is the only concern. It's in your interests to be sociable and caring and sharing as people will reciprocate. If you take stuff from people that they are using or stuff they need to hold on to it until such time as they need to use it again, this would be anti-social and people would decide what to do about encouraging you to be more sociable in future. If you are selfish and hoarding then people will act to correct your behaviour in some way, or just shun you and let you keep the guitar to play all on your lonesome.

Who would want to own a house when you can go where you want and sleep where you like? Likewise who would want to own a car when you can just pick one up when you need it or use a bike or walk?

Ernestine's picture
Ernestine
Offline
Joined: 3-12-11
Feb 23 2012 02:24

Bikes are more than a means of transport, you personalise your bike to your body and you may even put it together or make parts of it yourself. Musical instruments are deeply personal and you live in simbiosis with them. A house can be considered yours or your family's if you make good use of it and aren't too greedy for space when others are in need.

I am not sure if I need a car. I like old semi-classic cars and do put some work into them, and I travel to work with heavy gear and struggle with public transport so I can make a case for it. Not a very good one maybe, though I tend to do without a lot of other products that others use routinely, but I don't really need and manage without. I do have far too much stuff and not enough time at the moment to deal with it all, but I am slowly getting sorted. I don't think guilt or pressure should be the influence to help with this - it has to be self-motivation.

I am taking this question personally. I am not good at understanding hints but prefer straight talking, and have an unusual mind-set that reacts wierdly to other people. I have been on my own a long time and have become too defensive and insular. Rather than possessions, my ego balance is probably my biggest problem. I have taken the view that too much is better than too little. Obviously a middle way is better. But the worst thing to do in life is to be a bystander, and if I meddle stupidly sometimes, well you can shun me if you like.

I don't think my lifestyle is too excessive, considering the circumstances. I do consider I have good friends and I try to be honest. I have encountered a lot of snide, from people of all political persuasions. I hardly ever return it.

LBird
Offline
Joined: 21-09-10
Feb 23 2012 07:35
yoda's walking stick wrote:
Is there any private property under socialism/communism?

Obviously under socialism or communism the means of production will be publicly owned. But will any private property remain, such as a house, a car, or a guitar?

The simple answer to your question yoda, is to ask 'Is the item used for social production?'

If yes, it's social property.

If no, it's personal property.

The term 'private property' belongs to the lexicon of the bourgeoisie, who try to hide this basic division by mixing up your 'house, car or guitar' with production systems (factories, mines, offices) transport systems (roads, railways, airways), distribution systems (dockyards, warehouses), financial systems (banks).

'Private property' is a loaded ideological term. It hides theft on a massive scale.

My advice? Don't use that term. Distinguish social use from personal use. You won't have to use communal toothbrush.

We shall collectively define the different categories.

ocelot's picture
ocelot
Offline
Joined: 15-11-09
Feb 23 2012 12:43

We'll allow you a toothbrush, but underpants will be communal.

But seriously. The possession/property distinction goes back to Proudhon at least. LBird's categorisation is the most direct. The scratty old town bike I use for commuting to work, could probably be replaced by communal commuter bikes (if Dublin bikes ever made it out as far as where I live, I might well retire the old commuter bike). But my super-duper road racer, that I use for training on weekends and evenings after work is my pride and joy and whosoever touches it without my permission is going to get their legs broken. Like my guitar, it's a personal possession, a means of personal recreation/reproduction, not a means of social production.

yoda's walking stick
Offline
Joined: 6-04-11
Feb 23 2012 18:38

I haven't read Marx on rent and stuff. Is a house considered a means of production, since it could potentially produce wealth through renting? /stupid question

Croy's picture
Croy
Offline
Joined: 26-05-11
Feb 23 2012 19:39

No such thing as a stupid question, only stupid answers

Railyon's picture
Railyon
Offline
Joined: 4-11-11
Feb 23 2012 19:51
yoda's walking stick wrote:
I haven't read Marx on rent and stuff. Is a house considered a means of production, since it could potentially produce wealth through renting? /stupid question

Not a means of production but a means of subsistence (is that the correct term?), in other words the means of life. Like foodstuff. The means of production, if I understood it correctly, is just the means of producing like machines and so on, but not necessarily the final product itself.

It can produce wealth through renting, yes, but hardly so in a scenario where property is founded on occupancy and use. Where private property rules, it is usually the case though.

LBird
Offline
Joined: 21-09-10
Feb 23 2012 20:28
yoda's walking stick wrote:
Is a house considered a means of production, since it could potentially produce wealth through renting?

‘Houses’ don’t produce wealth, yoda, humans do.

Under Communism, houses won’t be built to be rented out, but to be lived in. Need a house? We build it.

But if you’re asking about under the present capitalist system, then if your ‘house’ is ‘private property’ (not our concept of ‘personal property’ in which someone lives, that is, a ‘home’) and is ‘rented out’ to ‘produce’ an unearned profit, then yes, it is ‘considered a means of production’.

yoda's walking stick wrote:
/stupid question

It’s not a stupid question, but I am a bit baffled as to why you in particular are asking it, because surely you’ve been here long enough to have answered it for yourself.

A Wotsit's picture
A Wotsit
Offline
Joined: 14-11-11
Feb 24 2012 02:31

The personal possession/ private property distinction is definitely helpful. My other post was a bit mangled and poorly put without that... (mangled and poorly put is my style though).

I'm not necessarily saying it would always be socially acceptable for anyone to just take your personal bike/ use your personal guitar at whim (or maybe I was). I s'pose it makes sense that in many cases we would have possessions we used most often, and some we guard slightly, and others which friends generally possess but which you would borrow from time to time, others which would be totally public and shared by all.

If you live in your home and use it every day and its not excessively big or excessively draining on local resources, or excessively polluting in a way that would be anti-social, no one would decide to invade or evict in proper socialism, I'd hope, and if they did I hope people would come to your aid. But even if you weren't renting out somewhere at a profit I still don't think you could claim some sort of moral right to 'personal possession' entitled you to live in a massive place in an anti-social way or not help people out when they needed a place to stay and also refuse to help them build another place. Right?

Either way, I suppose if you did class something as a personal possession and we lived with libertarian style communism it would still be in your interest generally to let some people borrow it from time to time if you knew it probably wasn't going to harm you or the possession if they did. You would benefit from sharing because they would help you make or find access to a new one if it needed replacing, or help you out in other ways important to you.

In my original reply I was trying to say we would respect people's desire or need to hang on to certain things if it wasn't anti-social to do so, but where it was anti-social we wouldn't have to put up with it... but without the 'possession ain't the same as property' concept it was hard to organise my thoughts, it still is tbh.

Of course you're all right that some people would want to retain personal possession of certain things (including cars, guitars, bikes and houses) and of course the kind of socialism we want to see would ensure society tolerated people holding on to possessions that weren't being used to exploit people or being used selfishly by forcing others to go without something, or taking more than you need.

However, if you had somehow acquired the only decent bike in town, and appointed yourself sole arbiter or its use, I would be pretty pissed off at you tbh no matter how much you cherished it, and I think other people would too. I think a bike and a house and a car belong in a separate category from a toothbrush or underpants somehow. I don't have a neat explanation for why, and would like to be convinced otherwise, because now living in an anarchy is starting to seem complicated. What if I need to get somewhere and the bike I normally use isn't available that day and you refuse to lend me your personal one?!

In that bike scenario where you had the best one in town I would ask how you came by it and if you could help us get or make another similar one to share I s'pose.

I'm also starting to wonder if a guitar is also something which no sole person should have sole decision on how it's used in many circumstances... if there aren't enough to go around, even if it is only a temporary shortage, I'd have thought the social thing to do is to at least find a few people who want or need to use it and come to a consensus on alternating possession or something, if hordes of people showed up saying we heard you had a guitar to share maybe you'd say 'no we don't as we don't want to share it any further but lets find someone who knows how to make them and see if we can help make some extra ones?'

I understand that the means of production have to be 100% controlled by non-hierarchical decision making and should be accessible to workers who need whatever is being produced, or have a particular desire to help produce that thing... and if anyone tried to capture the means of and exploit our labour we would not stand for that shit. But does libcommunist theory say anything about where the line might be between socially acceptable personal possession and being selfish with stuff that people other than yourself might also need? I s'pose we'd just have to cooperate as best we could to work out what's more socially beneficial should these issues arise... I still feel like maybe I'm missing something

Maybe this problem (personal possessions being used selfishly) is not a huge deal because if we controlled the means of production and we prevented exploitation of labour and we generally cared about one another and were used to making decisions by consensus and had a system which naturally heavily 'rewards' social behaviour without having to resort to exchange or gift giving (as I understand mutual aid is not quite either, but that's another poorly composed post for another time) that would probably be enough to ensure we all had more of what we need, and less of what we don't.

Finally, (at last) I think a lot of our attachment to objects would reduce so much if more stuff was shared as the norm, be they things we have helped produce, been given, things we cherish or stuff we need to get by, any thing which we have some form of social access to and we want in our lives, or the means of production to produce those things. Personal attachment would be more to people than to things in all cases, I hope.

LBird
Offline
Joined: 21-09-10
Feb 24 2012 07:11
stateless_crow wrote:
But does libcommunist theory say anything about where the line might be between socially acceptable personal possession and being selfish with stuff that people other than yourself might also need?

stateless_crow, this question of yours seems to encapsulate the essence of your post.

The ‘line’ between ‘socially acceptable’ and ‘selfish’ will, as always, be drawn by society.

Within our present capitalist relations, the ‘line’ is drawn by a minority of property owners in pursuit of their socio-economic interests; under our prospective Communist system of social relations, the ‘line’ would be drawn by democratic means by all affected by the positioning of the ‘line’, in pursuit of our much more widely defined socio-economic interests.

For me personally, I have no problem with people wanting to have personal control over their own beloved items: the real issue is to take collective democratic control of the means of production. These ‘means’ are by their nature ‘social’ and can’t be allowed to fall under the control of individuals.

But bikes, guitars, homes, cars, toothbrushes, underpants? hmmm… I wonder who’d benefit from us not being able to tell the difference between these minor consumer items and, say, the Walmart chain, or General Motors, or Goldman Sachs, or…

stateless_crow wrote:
The personal possession/ private property distinction is definitely helpful.

Yeah, in fact it’s so helpful a distinction, I wonder why it’s not taught in schools, eh?

Croy's picture
Croy
Offline
Joined: 26-05-11
Feb 24 2012 08:55

If this was taught in schools I would probably not have to do the blog I do tongue

Birthday Pony's picture
Birthday Pony
Offline
Joined: 11-12-11
Feb 24 2012 09:04

Don't know about the other details, but there will be communal underwear. Start going commando or get used to it, comrade.

ocelot's picture
ocelot
Offline
Joined: 15-11-09
Feb 24 2012 16:56
stateless_crow wrote:
However, if you had somehow acquired the only decent bike in town, and appointed yourself sole arbiter or its use, I would be pretty pissed off at you tbh no matter how much you cherished it, and I think other people would too. I think a bike and a house and a car belong in a separate category from a toothbrush or underpants somehow. I don't have a neat explanation for why, and would like to be convinced otherwise, because now living in an anarchy is starting to seem complicated. What if I need to get somewhere and the bike I normally use isn't available that day and you refuse to lend me your personal one?!

The complication, or your confusion, has three sources, as best I can see it.

1) You assume generalised scarcity as the eternal foundation of social life.
2) You fail to distinguish between fungible goods that meet generic needs, and specialist items that meet specific desires.
3) You are attempting to imagine or construct an alternative system of social relations in the mode of a pseudo-Kantian ethics.

1) Let's assume that there is an urgent social need for you to hammer in a nail and (mysteriously) there is a sudden lack of hammers or any other wieldable hard object to hammer in the nail. Would a violinists refusal to hand over their priceless Stradivarius to hammer in the nail be selfish? A stupid example. But your transformation of my everyday example, is equally stupid. "The only decent bike in town?". Absurd. You can borrow my commuter bike if you have a need for it, no problem. But you can't borrow my racer because, in the first place it has no pedals, only cleats, so you would have to borrow my cycling shoes as well. Then you would have to have the same shoe-size as me and inside-leg to even ride the thing. The fact you don't know these things tell me that you've never ridden a road racer before, so the likelihood of you knowing how to look after it, compared to how you ride a town bike, is clearly nil. But, more to the point, a racer is not for getting from A to B, it is for racing or training or riding long distances from A to A (via the scenic route) for pleasure and recreation. Which gets me to...

2) Although there is no rupture or dichotomy between needs and desires - there is a smooth spectrum from one to the other - nonetheless we can say that needs are more general and desires are more specific. Different people have different specific desires and tastes. A racing bike is not just "a better bike" (for the purposes of getting around town, it can be a worse bike) it is a specific activity - a specific means of self-reproduction, in the broad sense. Only a minority of people are going to engage in such a pursuit. Similarly, skateboards, violas, nipple clamps and rotten whaleshark puree are not things the majority of society feel a particular need for. But a great number of people, the majority even, find ways of expressing themselves through particular pursuits and desires, even though they are all different. Unless we want a society of Mao suits and Gosplan leisure items, that has to be part of a free society. Egalitarianism not only does not mean sameness, it cannot - otherwise society would be unequal between those who were happy with the uniform norm, and those who detested it. Ironically the base assumptions of neoclassical microeconomics - that preaches self-actualisation through consumer choice - is that every individual has the exact same tastes and preferences, so this is also another bourgeois assumption (even if a hidden one),

3) Is more obscure, but basically the reason why your attempt at progress gets so confused is your method - posit ethical rule, test it against all possible bizarre scenarios (that Strad hammer, or the only bike in town) and then get confused. Kant spent 40 years confusing himself and the best he could come up with was the categorical imperative, which was basically just the golden rule from the bible anyway. He'd a been better off reading Hillel. Trying to posit social relations from the construction of a transcendental ethical mechanism is a hopeless task (and politically dodgy). A libertarian democratic pragmatics is a much more productive approach.

A Wotsit's picture
A Wotsit
Offline
Joined: 14-11-11
Feb 25 2012 01:16

Yeah, there was a lot of crap in my post, and I have to say even without your replies I can see I was making something of very little.

Good points made in the replies, my post gave the impression I was firmly against people enjoying possessing things and things should be taken from them. I am most definitely not in favour of that. I am in favour of mass direct democratic control of the means of production and bottom-up democratic social organisation, where it is necessary to make collective decisions in that way, and I'm familiar-ish with methods of organising.

LBird and ocelt; I agree with you. I see that the bike example illustrates nothing, I had intended to exaggerate a hypothetical to illustrate a point, but that point gets a bit ridden over. I was basically just trying to say that as well as democratically sharing the means of production, a libertarian socialist society would also naturally help individuals to share other things in a way that was socially and individually beneficial.

In real life I know that transport would not be a problem in a libertarian communist world, nor would getting hold of a bike, racing or otherwise.

Now, underpants on the other hand...

bzfgt
Offline
Joined: 25-02-09
Feb 25 2012 19:53

I also have pondered this passage many times:

Quote:
The capitalist mode of appropriation, the result of the capitalist mode of production, produces capitalist private property. This is the first negation of individual private property, as founded on the labour of the proprietor. But capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a law of Nature, its own negation. It is the negation of negation. This does not re-establish private property for the producer, but gives him individual property based on the acquisition of the capitalist era: i.e., on cooperation and the possession in common of the land and of the means of production.

What is meant by "individual property"?

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Feb 25 2012 21:05

The situation in which immediate producers have the means of production at their own disposal.

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Offline
Joined: 9-02-06
Feb 26 2012 08:26

This has been interesting

bzfgt
Offline
Joined: 25-02-09
Feb 26 2012 17:44
jura wrote:
The situation in which immediate producers have the means of production at their own disposal.

It's not transparent what that means outside of producing for immediate use. Furthermore, the quote seems to suggest collective ownership of the MOP is the basis of 'individual property,' not consubstantial with it.

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Feb 26 2012 20:12

OK, let me try again:

1. Some of pre-capitalist production was based on producers who owned means of production and produced mostly for their own consumption. This sort of "individual property" was – more often than not – not based on juridicial relations as we know them and hence had little in common with "private property" in the bourgeois sense.

2. Capitalism negates this sort of individual property by expropriating producers, turning them into proletarians, and excluding them from ownership of the means of production through a system of legal relations and force (the state).

3. Communism is a "negation of negation", because it negates capitalist private property and returns the means of production into the hands of immediate producers (who dispose of them as "free producers"), but at the same time negates the narrowness and toil of pre-capitalist self-sustained production by using the fruits of capitalist development: socialized production by means of cooperation, large-scale agriculture etc. Hence the "association" of free producers.

For Marx, "property" in a very general sense is the pre-condition of any production:

Marx in the Grundrisse wrote:
All production is appropriation of nature on the part of an individual within and through a specific form of society. In this sense it is a tautology to say that property (appropriation) is a precondition of production. But it is altogether ridiculous to leap from that to a specific form of property, e.g. private property. (Which further and equally presupposes an antithetical form, non-property.) History rather shows common property (e.g. in lndia, among the Slavs, the early Celts, etc.) to be the more original form, a form which long continues to play a significant role in the shape of communal property. The question whether wealth develops better in this or another form of property is still quite beside the point here. But that there can be no production and hence no society where some form of property does not exist is a tautology. An appropriation which does not make something into property is a contradictio in subjecto.
bzfgt
Offline
Joined: 25-02-09
Mar 9 2012 06:01

It still seems fuzzy to me what is the exact relation between communal production and communist "individual property." If individuals do not produce directly for need then there are a variety of ways communal control of means of production could be estranging to the individual, the problem is that the hardest point--how such communal control could at the same time constitute "individual property" in some sense--while not impossible to imagine, is not really elaborated by Marx.

jura's picture
jura
Offline
Joined: 25-07-08
Mar 9 2012 09:11
bzfgt wrote:
the problem is that the hardest point--how such communal control could at the same time constitute "individual property" in some sense--while not impossible to imagine, is not really elaborated by Marx.

Yes, I agree with this.

liviu
Offline
Joined: 14-06-13
Jun 14 2013 13:31

Although they were important variations among socialist countries in this regards, and in all these countries private property was pushed to the lowest rank, there was plenty of private property during "real socialist" era, especially in the last decade prior to the fall. Actually, the paper of that guy below attemptes to give same statistical data and analytical distinctions in support of what i said: http://www.academia.edu/1047588/Communist_and_post-communist_property

Tyrion's picture
Tyrion
Offline
Joined: 12-04-13
Jun 14 2013 15:50

The Eastern bloc governments were not socialist in any sense, regardless of their shallow rhetoric.

WattTyler1381
Offline
Joined: 21-08-12
Jun 14 2013 17:39

I have just seen this (posted by "orange ruffy" here):

Quote:
Workers should not worry, because the IWW does not advocate property destruction (we just don't worship "private property" like a religious icon!)

The IWW believes that the working class should own and operate the means of production, and we cannot do that if we destroy it!

http://www.iww.org/history/myths/5

Given the destruction of property by the working class in Bangladeshand other places, is the IWW going to come out and condemn these acts?

Corn
Offline
Joined: 10-12-13
Dec 10 2013 23:24
ocelot wrote:
1) You assume generalised scarcity as the eternal foundation of social life.

When did assuming (read: hypothesizing) commuter bike scarcity become assuming generalized scarcity? Presumably, it was sometime after the invention of the commuter bike, but can we get any more specific? At what point did it become stupid to divert resources from an absolute (i.e. impossible) abundance of commuter bikes to

a) reducing the scarcity of relatively scarce or necessary products or, if you assume generalized abundance of all products at least as necessary as commuter bikes,

b) hastening the arrival of products that don't yet exist in any numbers (and are thus scarce to the point of emergency!) but may (like the commuter bike) become necessary once they become real?

ocelot wrote:
2) You fail to distinguish between fungible goods that meet generic needs, and specialist items that meet specific desires.

You assume you're the only badass competitive cyclist in town. Or perhaps it's the pedals, not merely the shoes, that require your unique feet, in which case the racer is not merely specialized, but personally tailored, and thus as naturally restricted to you as your contaminated toothbrush and underwear. But violas, even expensive ones, and the rest of your examples generally are not. They are merely specialized, much as jumbo jets are specialized. Should the latter be the private property of the pilots? That's certainly a possible position to take, but I just don't see a correlation between specialization and some sort of need to privatize. I myself have two bikes, one an all-terrain bike that has sentimental value to me, and one a relatively specialized street bike that doesn't.

And while I certainly don't presume a right to break the legs of a needy traveler who doesn't know that the communist revolution has made everything "generic" abundant, and who doesn't understand that the my means of "self-reproduction" are comparatively scarce and in particular necessitate that I get a glimpse of my dusty all-terrain bike every time I reach for the one I use, I would also be more disappointed to lose the former, particularly given the theoretical abundance of the latter.