The next generation

swears

preppy-kei
I guess the answer would lie in actually having communally run services and industries that are better than anything private enterprise could provide, rather than putting capitalism out of the picture by saying "This stuff's the state's now Mr businessman, kthanxbye! Off to the gulag with you". I expect Vimothy to respond with "Yeah, good luck with that." Suppose I am a big wet social democrat, really.
 

vimothy

yurp
So I've always wondered this, and it's probably something very obvious covered in Communism 101, but what exactly is the stopping point of having a democratically elected communist government?
As far as I can see, in order to carry out the communist economic enterprise (mutual ownership of the means of production), the government must by necessity be authoritarian, if not outright totalitarian. Why? Because people trade for their own benefit naturally and without encouragement, and they have done for centuries. Trade must be suppressed and communism must be imposed. (I point you to the historical record for proof). Therefore, any communist government must use the mechanisms of state control to suppress the market (stealing land, business, labour, etc). Come the next election, they'd probably be straight out the door (you know, 'cos they stole your family farm).... but then, communists seem to have a strange aversion to holding elections once they actually hold power.

There's also this thing that Lenin (not Marx) came up with --> "dictatorship of the proletariat."

If a state-run enterprise is being run poorly, elect some different people that will run it better!
Unfortunately for the Communists, it's not, nor was it ever, that simple. It's not just a "state run enterprise", it's the whole shebang -- the entire economy. I think I can kill communism in one thought experiment. Just imagine you are in charge: forget consumable goods, how the fucking hell are you going to figure out how many capital goods you need to build?
 

vimothy

yurp
One thing that I've ever understood is, why is it that people (like Communists) who think that their governments are generally imperialist fraudsters, want to hand over all control of the economy to that very group of imperialist fraudsters?

It makes no sense.
 

john eden

male pale and stale
One thing that I've ever understood is, why is it that people (like Communists) who think that their governments are generally imperialist fraudsters, want to hand over all control of the economy to that very group of imperialist fraudsters?

It makes no sense.
I have some sympathy with that, but here goes the defence

- a very bad distillation is that essentially the people in power act in the interests of their class. This isn't too much of a stretch when you consider that most of the people in the cabinet went to Oxbridge and a large proportion of the people in the shadow cabinet went to Oxbridge and Eton.

So what is needed is working class rule which favours the majority of the population.

Having said that, the actual machinery of govt has been set up by and operates in favour of the ruling class in this country. So you actually need a different system of govt as well as different people doing the governing.

The anarchist position might be similar to yours - i.e. that the state apparatus will automatically lead people to become "imperialist fraudsters" regardless of their origins.
 

vimothy

yurp
Hmm... I'm not convinced by the class angle. I personally feel that people in power will generally act in whatever way they feel will keep them in power. That's all they want: to keep their jobs, their perks, their flows of private goodies.

Britain today looks like a very middle class society, with a native working class that has been reduced to more of an underemployed underclass, living on benefits on sink estates. Hence the Nu-Labour elites really are acting in the interests of the majority if they are acting in the interests of their socio-economic class. And are they doing what's best for the middle class majority? Hard to say and there's much disagreement.

But maybe they are acting in the interests of the upper-middle class or the upper class. Not too far fetched, certainly, but then we have to wonder why Nu-Labour got in power, and why they haven't been voted out if the electorate feels that they have been captured by rival class interests.

Imagine a political party that could guarantee economic growth and a "rising tide that lifts all boats", such that everyone from every class would be better off. They'd get voted in and they'd stay in power, because it would be in everyone's self-interest, and if people can do nothing else, they can recognise their own self-interest. However, that party doesn't exist and no one knows how to run the economy in such a way to guarantee prosperity for all. Even if a "working class" power ran the UK, there's no hard and fast guarantee that life would be better for working class people, not only because of the undoubted lure of corruption, but also because intending to make life better for one or more constituent groups does not necessarily ensure that outcome. That's a big lesson of Communism's failures in the 20th C, surely.

Anyway, based on what John said,

If you think Brown and co are corrupt and captured by upper (or whatever) class interests, you should want to limit their involvement in the economy.

If you think that the political system guarantees corrupt politicians captured by upper class interests, you should want to limit political manipulation of the economy, period, regardless of who is in power.

I don't think that there's any chance of having a revolution and making things fairer, because that just about never happens, certainly not if you're already in a democracy (unless we get to be citizens with a written constitution, at long last). Basically the best system is the system where the maximum amount of consent is required for a government to hold power, because that guarantees more public goods than private goods. Don't know of anythng superior to democracy in that regard.
 

noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
and if people can do nothing else, they can recognise their own self-interest.
Are you sure about this? I suppose you mean that people can recognise what might appear on the most superficial level to be in their interests but in reality it's the fact that this is so completely not the case that is the major cause of most of the word's economic and political difficulties. For a start to understand what is truly in your self-interest requires a good understanding of the complete world situation which I would say in fact necessitates standing outside your immediate 'self-interest' to get a good perspective on, not to mention making apparent sacrifices. So a party making the usual appeals to basic greed or desire for instant gratification would more than likely be doing the opposite of what is best for all. And I think in the long run that's what we see happening.
Imagine a political party that could guarantee economic growth and a "rising tide that lifts all boats", such that everyone from every class would be better off. They'd get voted in and they'd stay in power, because it would be in everyone's self-interest,
Even if such a thing were possible or had been devised, and setting aside the question of whether 'economic growth' is the ultimate desirable anyway, it just would not be recognised as such by enough people so we would probably never get to test it out. See above for why.

If there is a political or economic solution to be had it needs to be founded on a more holistic idea of self-interest. And of course this makes no sense if it is imposed by 'the state' so I'm not talking about communism as we have known it.

But maybe that last point is not really relevant anyway, the fact is that so often people plainly do not act in their own best interests, even if they do have some idea what those might actually be.
 
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mixed_biscuits

_________________________
This isn't too much of a stretch when you consider that most of the people in the cabinet went to Oxbridge and a large proportion of the people in the shadow cabinet went to Oxbridge and Eton.
So what? Do you want the best-educated people in charge of the complex machinery of state or not?

Not to mention that several prominent politicians had resolutely normal backgrounds: John Major's dad sold garden ornaments; Margaret Thatcher's father was a grocer; John Prescott's dad was a railway signalman. Politics is not a closed shop to the progeny of the working classes or petit-bourgeoisie, provided that they have the ability and the ambition.

Vimothy is totally OTM in this thread.
 
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N

nomadologist

Guest
Yeah basically I was wondering if you could have a communist economy without any of the authoritarian garbage, and instead have regular elections, freedom of the press and things like that. This is, of course, assuming broad based support for communism, but if a communist economy could function properly and efficiently and keep people happy, you would assume that they would keep electing communists to the government.

Basically I don't really see why this would be a contradictory approach. If a state-run enterprise is being run poorly, elect some different people that will run it better!
Yes, of course you could.

The West is full of chicken shits scared dickless of communism, that's why we've spent billions upon billions fighting its propogation throughout the world.

i don't like authoritarianism any more than anyone else does, but anyone with half a brain realizes that not even our DEMOCRACY is very democratic.

oh i have a choice between two versions of the same corporation-run bullshit? great where do i sign up?
 
N

nomadologist

Guest
Yeah, right.

Didn't the communists have rather different ideas about the freedom of their slave-populations? If you disagree with the with the policies meant to acheive the "mutual good" of the commune (as decided by your unelected leaders), go straight to the gulag.
That was Russian communism. Not at communists are Stalinists, or Leninists, or whatever you want to pigeonhole them as.

Take a look at China right now. They're all set up to surpass the U.S. and with it the U.K. and the E.U. And they (gasp) have a communist form of government. Imagine that.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
Take a look at China right now. They're all set up to surpass the U.S. and with it the U.K. and the E.U. And they (gasp) have a communist form of government. Imagine that.
Do they bollocks! They have a very ruthless, centralised form of state capitalism, with all the attendant apparatus of a communist police state. I saw a programme the other day about China's economic development and they were talking to this old woman whose son was having to work two jobs (or something like that) to pay for her medical treatment because the family couldn't afford medical insurance. Sound like another country you know of? Communism, my arse.
 

turtles

in the sea
Thanks nomad, that's kinda what I thought.

People seem to be starting from the assumption that a communist economy couldn't ever be popular with people, based mostly on the evidence that all centrally planned communist economies so far have ended up failing miserably and being very unpopular. But couldn't that be because they were run by a bunch of authoritarian assholes? People like to point at the track record of communism and say "hey nice idea but it didn't work!" without ever offering up much of a reason WHY it didn't work, aside from Vimothy's rather weak "economies are just too complicated to control!" argument, which I find pretty funny coming from a man seems to subscribe quite religiously to modern economic theory, aka the theory of how economies work!

So basically I'm suggesting that maybe if communist governments were held accountable to the populace on some sort of time interval, they would be much more motivated to get it right. And I think people could be made very motivated to support the challenges of creating a well functioning communist economy simply based on the MORAL superiority over free market capitalism. Witness how willing people are to pay more supposedly fair trade, organic, biodegradable anything (as dodgy as this practice actually is). People actually like the idea of living in a society that cares about people and the environment.

Noel emits is very otm re: people's inability to make decisions that actually ARE in their best interests. Moral rather than financial motivations could probably keep a communist democracy swimming along nicely, really.

Also john eden otm about communist leadership. I do believe the point of communism was to create a society without class such that any leadership would be a leadership of the people. However communism as practiced essentially just cut it down to two classes, the proletariat and those with communist managerial positions, thus retaining the class basis for oppression.

Lastly, mixed_biscuits the idea that the people with the most prestigious degrees are actually our best and brightest is laughable. Most indoctrinated maybe.
 

noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
I think that even beyond a moral argument, an economic argument could be made for an almost exponential increase in such things as ingenuity, efficiency, technological progress and productivity in a society composed of enfranchised, engaged individuals living and working in an environment engineered to support their wellbeing. Does that sound crazy?
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
People seem to be starting from the assumption that a communist economy couldn't ever be popular with people


I'm sure it was (and still would be) very popular indeed among, for example, starving oppressed peasants or malnourished mill workers; thankfully, this no longer describes the populations of developed countries.

Lastly, mixed_biscuits the idea that the people with the most prestigious degrees are actually our best and brightest is laughable. Most indoctrinated maybe.
Oh come on, we can do better than this kind of sixth-form politics, can't we? Sure there's a big element of privilege in terms of who gets into what university due to the differing levels of school education (to say nothing of home life and general cultural background) available to people of different socio-economic groups, but at the same time you're not going to get (say) a First in politics from Cambridge without being pretty fucking smart and hard-working as well. In any case, m_b didn't say brightest, he said best educated, and you can say what you like about the political culture prevalent at top universities but they do generally offer a pretty good education. That's why even people with no particular interest in becoming our future oligarchs and mandarins make such efforts to get in!
 
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mixed_biscuits

_________________________
Lastly, mixed_biscuits the idea that the people with the most prestigious degrees are actually our best and brightest is laughable. Most indoctrinated maybe.
Well, if you think that our education system produces mindless clones (which, of course, is obviously wrong), then maybe, but bear in mind that if there's anything that students might get indoctrinated in at university, it's Marxist theory, as the overwhelming majority of academics are lefties (from my experience of 4 different subjects on four different campuses).

If you were to claim that Oxbridge didn't offer more to, and demand more from, its students than any of the other universities in the UK, meaning that they weren't put through the most rigorous intellectual training, then you might have a better argument, but that too would still be incorrect - there's a reason that the most prestigious educational institutions are seen as such, and it's not because they advertise on the tube.
 

noel emits

a wonderful wooden reason
The sort of people who are interested in being politicians are generally the last people I would like to be making decisions about my life and my society. I think picking community representatives on some sort of random basis would be better, it can't be worse.
 

turtles

in the sea
Having gone through both a BSc and an MSc at one of Canada's top universities I feel confident in saying that I know as many university educated morons as I do non-university educated morons. The primary thing higher education tests is your ability to stubbornly stick to a task and bring it to completion in a form that meets the standards set for you. Yes there are some very smart people in university, but just the same there are many very stupid stubborn people who know a lot of facts and think very highly of themselves. Though I would never have the job I have now if I hadn't gone to uni (but this only because of idiotic credentialism) I sometimes wonder if I could have accomplished a helluva lot more, and a lot more interesting things, had I gone off and started working and traveling and teaching myself about the world straight out of high school.
 
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