Democratic Centralism: Great Under Capitalism, Not So Great Under Socialism

 

vladimir_lenin_cc_img_0.jpgDemocratic centralism as a tactic is crucial to modern socialist and communist parties under capitalism. During periods where the strength of capital is unfettered, it is a crucial organizational tool for the working class. Its effectiveness is self-evident when compared to parties that do not utilize this method of organization. It is capable of mobilizing and rallying the masses to the streets with a fervor and concreteness of action that no other model of political organization can bring. A socialist party of 3,000 can have more of an impact under such a model than one of 300,000.

But in reflecting on the history of the 20th century, one must come to the conclusion that the democratic centralist model is not at all applicable to a revolutionary government or post-revolutionary state. It is not at all applicable to the organization of a socialist society as such. Within such a framework, under any system, the central organs of party (and thereby state) power act as the sacred maintainers of the ‘correct’ political ideology and the ‘correct’ political line. Insofar as the party is of reasonable size, and insofar as democracy within the party is maintained, and insofar as it is a party taking a critical attitude towards the history of the 20th century, this is not a problem.

But when such a party becomes ‘the party’ for an entire society or a new emergency government, it converts Marxism into a political religion, into an alien dogma which cannot be questioned or genuinely believed in without such a person being half suspected of being a dissident. In this we the roots of a potentially totalitarian society. When Stalin took power, we saw precisely what such a state of affairs can bring to a country.

As victory becomes increasingly inevitable, millions flock to join the ‘winning’ party and the democratic aspect of democratic centralism is done away with to preserve the radical nature of the revolution. Under such a state of affairs, we find (as in the case of the Bolsheviks) that state terror becomes a lash by which the spiritual rebirth of the people is enforced at the direction of a small number of party intellectuals. But such a society is contradictory in the extreme, socialist democracy and the spontaneous action of the masses is the only thing that can bring a genuine spiritual rebirth in political life. And unrestricted individual liberty is a prerequisite to such a rebirth. It is rule by terror that demoralizes. Here we find one of the biggest mistakes of the Bolsheviks, one of the most accurate criticisms of Lenin and Trotsky.

But without a democratic centralist framework in capitalist society, in the midst of class struggle, the contradictions within a party of professional revolutionaries become innumerable. The agreed upon historical analysis of the history of the 20th century, the role of the Bolsheviks, the attitude a workers party should take in regards to modern political affairs, to economic affairs, to electoral politics, to historical figures, to methods of struggle, to anarchist tactics, to modern politicians and parties, and so forth, become so contradictory within such a party that its effectiveness on the battlefield of class struggle disintegrates entirely. It opens itself up as a ‘multi-tendency party’, meaning a party without a firm scientific or Marxist analysis of society.

Such a party and mode of political organization does have a time and place in which it should exist, as it is one that embodies the purest of democratic philosophies. But it should not exist as a party of professional revolutionaries and revolutionary intellectuals with the intent of leading the masses as they overthrow bourgeois society. It should not exist in a society where class consciousness is extremely low. These innumerable questions as to the positions such a party must take on various issues should be freely discussed and debated within the party, but once a decision has been made it must be accepted. This is the essence of democratic centralism: freedom in discussion, unity in action. When such a party becomes the only legal party in a newly born society, freedom of discussion vanishes, and the central leadership effectively becomes a dictatorship. Not a genuinely free and democratic dictatorship of the proletariat, but a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense of the word, in the Jacobin sense of the word. Such is the essence of Rosa Luxemburg’s early criticisms of the Russian Revolution.

A socialist party not ascribing to a particular variant of Marxist thought, that is not a democratic centralist party, has the potential of being a proletarian party in the truest sense of the word: a party in line with the will of the proletariat and the broad masses as it actually exists in a socialist society. Such a party, or parties, or such a political organization, can and should emerge in the spiritual rebirth that a genuinely free and democratic socialist society brings. Society must be shaped in line with the will of the working people, not in line with the will of a few political theorists and party intellectuals. But such a party has no place in a capitalist society with extremely low class consciousness, or as an effective revolutionary socialist party within capitalist society.

It is in this that we can declare democratic centralism to be good under capitalism, but bad under socialism. Of course it is never so black and white, but this is generally our analysis.

America Only Has A Criminal ‘Injustice’ System

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America does not have a criminal justice system, it has a criminal injustice system. It does not ‘rehabilitate’ people. On the contrary, it turns decent people convicted of petty or one-time crimes into actual criminals. 4/5ths of those ‘rehabilitated’ return to prison. It denies female prisoners the most basic of feminine hygiene products and punishes them when they bleed openly because of it. It punishes those who are troubled by isolating them from everyone and everything in a most cruel punishment, which only makes their problems worse. It makes those convicted of even petty sex crimes social outcasts by putting them on sex offender registries. It does nothing to help people when they are released from prison. It does nothing for transgender prisoners, forcing them into prisons populated by members of their birth sex where they are raped, abused, and murdered. It refuses them vitally needed hormone replacement therapy. It disproportionately targets people of color and the poor. It is a heartless institution. It does nothing to address the material conditions of physical and spiritual poverty that create crime, on the contrary, it worsens them. It is a racist, criminal, sadistic, unjust system that has no moral justification to exist.

Photo by Carles Rabada on Unsplash

‘Free Society’ is Dying: The Diagnosis of 21th Century Geopolitics And Its Remedy

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There has been a hard authoritarian right wing shift in global politics: the emergence of Trumpism, Brexit, and the triumph of Chinese state capitalism are all symptoms of this social transformation. What is happening and why? And what is to be done about it? I hope to address all of these things here.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF MODERN SOCIETY: THE REVOLUTION

There is a general trend in the course of recent human events. Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, the masses of common men and women have fought bravely for their individual liberty and their liberation from oppression and exploitation in all its forms. The American revolution, the French revolution, the Haitian revolution, the revolutions of the 1840’s, the workers revolution that founded The Paris Commune, the Russian revolution, the Cuban revolution, the Chinese revolution, and even the revolutions of 1989 have all been a part of this great revolution. Such a revolution undoes itself when it is betrayed, or when it no longer represents the interests of the liberation of the people. It may not do so immediately, it may take many years of struggle. This is what we saw in 1989 with the fall of Stalinism in Eastern Europe. This revolution is not a straight line, it is a spiral of self-contradictions. But the general trend is almost universal: two steps forward, one step back.

The revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries fought mainly and almost exclusively for negative liberty, the barest of human rights. The revolutions of the 20th century fought mainly and almost exclusively for positive liberty, in societies that never had negative liberty to begin with.  The revolutions of 1989 made clear that no people can achieve liberation by negating the most basic negative liberties in the pursuit of a society that guarantees positive liberty.

This is what the ‘fall of communism’ symbolized. There can be no socialism without unfettered liberty and democracy, and no real liberty and democracy without socialism. The latter, however, was lost on such a disillusioned people as the Eastern European’s of 1989, and for this we cannot blame them. All these social contradictions and antagonisms, and especially those of our modern society, make clear the need for yet another expansion in the realm of personal liberty, another great revolution, this time for positive liberty on top of the negative liberty we already have in Western countries. This time what is needed is a revolution for a truly democratic and free socialist society, a society in line with the ethics of all the major religions of the world, not one like ours which is against those ethics. This is what we socialists believe.

But the information and telecommunications revolution, itself a phase of the industrial revolution, has revolutionized society to such an extent that it has struck at the very heart of the revolution. It has placed all of ‘free society’ in mortal danger. Not because technology is evil or bad, but because of the way technology functions in our liberal bourgeois society.

WHAT IS THE DIAGNOSIS?

Global politics has taken a hard authoritarian right wing shift in recent few years. There are several reasons for this and I believe the diagnosis is far more serious than anyone realizes. The reasons and consequences of this are as follows:

1.) Neoliberalism is a failed economic and political system that has not only lost all faith in itself, but it has lost the faith of the people.

2.) The establishment liberal left offers no viable alternatives to the existing order. Since the collapse of the USSR and co, the social democratic left offers no viable alternatives to the existing social order that will not be completely undone by capital via privatization and neoliberal ‘reforms’ just years after implementation. This is not because said social programs ‘failed’, but because the bourgeoisie is in power and it puts its own interest above the general interest. There is no USSR left to compete with in regards to ensuring a social safety net for the common people of western nations. As a result, social democracy alone is no longer a viable alternative. The majority of far-left parties are Stalinist, advocating a return not to the democratic ideas of Marx and Rosa Luxemburg, but to a return to the totalitarianism of Stalinism. No one takes Stalinism seriously as a potential alternative. Politically it is a dead end. Anything other than Stalinism is preferable, including the existing social order. The almost total lack of a viable left wing alternative is entirely the fault of the left.

3.) In spite of the fact that we are statistically living in the safest era in all of human history, we are also more connected than we ever have been before thanks to the information and telecommunications revolution and with it, the creation of the internet. The human brain evolved to know only several hundred people that geographically live around the person in question. This is a recipe for disaster when terrorism is introduced to an over-informed and hyper-connected society. This is especially true given the fact that the media is a capitalist organization whose goal is typically to entertain and sensationalize rather then to objectively inform. A terrorist attack that happens 1000’s of miles away killing a few dozen people causes people all over the world to feel unsafe. Even though you are more likely to be struck by lightning, people FEEL like terrorism is a serious threat, they FEEL unsafe and are willing to give up their liberty for illusory promises of security. In our political era, feelings tend to be equated with facts: fear becomes policy.

4.) The later stages of the information and telecommunications revolution has caused a logarithmic growth in the emergence and creation new technologies and with it, new frontiers have emerged for the abuse of state power and the violation of the rights of the people. In combination with the perceived threat of terrorism, this threat is terminal to the existence of any ‘free’ society.

5.) Due to the nature of liberal democracies, there is a significant delay between the creation of new technologies and the creation of ethical legislation regarding the ethical use of said technologies by the state. The laws “protecting” our rights in the digital age are mostly from the 1980’s and earlier. The fourth amendment and the 12th article of the UN’s declaration of human rights guarantee privacy to be a fundamental human right. However, these rights are declared to be null and void in regards to the digital world. Freedom is always and exclusively the freedom of dissent. A free society is one in which the people can meaningfully oppose state power without fear, without self-censorship or surveillance. Privacy is therefore not only a right, but it is the only real prerequisite to the realization of virtually all other rights. Nearly all legislation passed in the United States and similar ‘liberal democracies’ in this regard has been unethical, illiberal, and in direct violation of the rights of the people (ex. House of Reps repealing regulation that forbade ISPs from selling your internet history to the highest bidder in 2017, NSA mass surveillance or ‘bulk collection’ of metadata as revealed by Snowden in 2014 w/ PRISM, TEMPORA, five, nine and fourteen eyes alliances, etc.)

6.) Despite ‘economic growth’ for the rich, real wages have not risen with productivity since the 1970’s and the life quality of working people continues to stagnate or decline. Working people have become increasingly disillusioned with establishment politics. The liberal left’s obsession with political correctness has only furthered this disillusionment. Liberal leaders such as Obama have failed to implement any transparency or “change”, but have instead done the exact opposite.

Conclusion:

7.) The combination of all these things has caused a resurgence in right wing and far-right politics and with it, vast increases in authoritarianism and gradual decreases in civil liberty. Privacy is not only a right, but it is the only real prerequisite to all human freedom. Freedom is always and exclusively the freedom of dissent, and the erosion of privacy means the erosion of the capacity of the people to effectively dissent. The state has vastly increased its own power and has effectively decreased the power the people have to meaningfully oppose said power. Censorship is superfluous in a society that imposes mass surveillance. Instead of implementing external censorship and physically crushing dissent, mass surveillance causes people to self-censor themselves because everyone’s most personal secrets are known or are readily available to the state with no real oversight. Anyone who stands effectively in defiance of the state or state policy is an easy target for state-sponsored blackmail, slander, or demonization- and these powers are only growing stronger with time. The safeguards in place, which are policy, not legislation, change every 2 to 4 years in a liberal democracy and are gradually being eroded in the name of ‘security’. This erosion will only speed up in the coming decades.

The governments of the western nations, of the ‘freest’ countries in the world, no longer represent either the will or the general interests of the people. They are the biggest threats to individual and liberal rights that have ever existed in all of human history. Snowden is right in claiming that they have constructed and are continually strengthening architectures of oppression far surpassing those of the wildest dreams of the Stasi and the Nazi Gestapo. Establishment liberal politicians who promise more transparency and less authoritarian measures are Machiavellians in the truest sense of the word. Even the White House review panel on NSA surveillance programs has come to the conclusion that these programs have not stopped a single terrorist attack since their inception. But our political system, like our whole bourgeois society, is not based on reason and facts, it is based on feelings. These Machiavellians know that if they end these Orwellian programs, that they personally will be blamed for the next terrorist attack that happens. It is far too rare for an elected official holding high office to subjugate the individual interest to the social interest, and as such, we cannot rely on elected officials to implement the changes that are necessary.

The common people are conditioned not to be involved in politics. The nature of the political system is such that it is designed to keep things the same, even when there is minor change, it is done by offering small enough concessions to continue the growth of the capitalist system. Freedom in a stable society is always only ever a fundamental issue to the dissenting minority, it is never a question of the majority interest but of the minority interest- and it is an absolutely crucial minority interest just the same. Only when a society becomes authoritarian or unstable (as our society is becoming) do these rights become essential for an entire society. The information and telecommunications revolution has created such an expanse in the emergence of new technologies that abuses of said technologies are deemed to be acceptable to the non-political class precisely because the current political system is designed to keep things the way they are, to maintain existing forms of oppression and exploitation. By design, it alienates the masses from the affairs of the political class, which just so happens to consist mainly of the petty-bourgeoisie and big bourgeoisie.

The only successful form of capitalism in our era is the Chinese model of authoritarian state capitalism, a capitalism wholly divorced from democracy. The future of the capitalist system is a capitalism divorced from democracy. If the United States and Europe continue under capitalism in the coming decades, they will likely and out of necessity, become more like China.

It is for these reasons that we believe that there is an extremely high risk that the late 21st century will consist mainly of a people crushed under the weight of totalitarianism if the current system is allowed to continue. The erosion of privacy, the only real prerequisite to civil liberty in our society, is but a first step in this social transformation. It is a betrayal of almost every revolution that has taken place since 1774. The increasingly authoritarian rightward shift in global geopolitics reflects this diagnosis of society.

WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

The solution to these grave social ills can only be a left wing solution. This cannot mean a solution consisting of a small group of intellectuals seizing power nor of any manner of individual terrorism. It must be a revolution if the people. It cannot aim to establish a Stalinist state or a one-party dictatorship. Only the people are capable of liberating themselves and governing themselves. Nothing can nor will change without the support of the people. We believe the solution to right wing authoritarianism is not left wing authoritarianism, but a democratic, anti-authoritarian, mass socialist movement. This is in line with the ideas of Karl Marx and Rosa Luxemburg as well as the principles of Trotskyism. Luxemburgism, Trotskyism, and some of the anarchist ideas on the radical left that no one took seriously for most of the 20th century, must be taken seriously today if the people of the 21st and 22nd century are to be free and healthy.

The slogan of socialism in the 21st century is that of expanded individual liberty as much as it is the introduction of industrial democracy, of this be sure. Rosa Luxemburg, in her perhaps misplaced criticism of the Russian Revolution (in Ch.6 of a pamphlet titled ‘The Russian Revolution’), famously declared the necessity of liberty in a socialist society. To quote,

“Freedom only for the supporters of the government, only for the members of one party – however numerous they may be – is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of ‘justice’ but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic, and its effectiveness vanishes when ‘freedom’ becomes a special privilege…

Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them, in reality only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously – at bottom, then, a clique affair – a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians, that is a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins (the postponement of the Soviet Congress from three-month periods to six-month periods!) Yes, we can go even further: such conditions must inevitably cause a brutalization of public life: attempted assassinations, shooting of hostages, etc.”

Any socialist movement worth its salt in the 21st century must defend and expand the liberal rights that have been won through decades of working class struggle.

The way for society to progress in a stable world would be to wait for the inevitable: the later stages of the information and telecommunications revolution will bring vast increases in automation technologies. The automation of most forms of physical labor will make communism (a stateless, classless, moneyless society) a virtual historical inevitability. But we do not live in a stable world. In addition to increasing authoritarianism and the erosion of civil liberty, the capitalist system is utterly nihilistic when it comes to acknowledging its own effect on the environment. To ensure its own survival, it has sacrificed the entire future of humanity to further its own ends. It accepts that it has destroyed the environment beyond repair and refuses to do anything of meaning to address this, it accepts that we are probably living in the final centuries of humanity. It blames the individual for climate change, not its own systematic rape of mother earth. From a species perspective, capitalist society has become so illogical that we would not be wrong to call it suicidal. By the time the automation revolution comes, the effects of climate change will become so acute that the potential such technologies have for ensuring human liberation will become superfluous in its wake.

For this reason, the working people of the world cannot wait for some far off historical inevitability. As Lenin said, “sometimes history needs a push”. And in the advanced capitalist countries where civil liberty already exists and the economy is highly industrialized, where socialism can already be built without the iron whip of Stalinism, we have to agree. As liberal democracies become increasingly unstable, it is only a matter of time before they degenerate completely into a system similar to the Chinese system of authoritarian state capitalism, and this will likely happen far before the automation revolution. It is precisely at this moment of destabilization and crisis that the common people, the working people, must seize all state power and work to ensure the future survival and freedom of the human race. This is the only way that we can cast Trumpism, the suicidal perpetuation of technologies that are destroying the environment, authoritarianism, and capitalism into the dustbin of history. The slogan of such a movement is the same as it was in the 20th century, “Workers of All Countries, Unite!” People should not fear political change, they should not fear a radical restructuring of society. If it is something done by the will of the people, with the people truly in power, have faith that it will be done in a way that changes the world for the better. Only this, we believe, can get us out of our current predicament.

What Would Socialism Look Like In The 21st Century?

I claim that only the revolutionary socialists of the 21st century can be the real guardians of unfettered liberty and true democracy. What would a socialist society look like in the 21st century? It would be as far different from Stalinism as Bernie Sanders is from Tsar Nicholas II. Unlike Marx we can take the liberty of guessing what such a society would look like. I claim that orthodox Marxism (the ideas and principles of Marx and Rosa Luxemburg) have more in common with anarchism than with the totalitarian distortions of Stalinism. This is true even of Leninism and Trotskyism. We would undoubtedly base many democratic principles on those of the Paris Commune. Unlike revolutionary Russia or France, advanced capitalist countries do not exist in such a state of material and spiritual poverty. The masses are educated, literate, and have an abundance of material wealth. Unlike these countries, liberal rights have already been won in our society and the people will not stand for any form of tyranny. As such, historical reflections of the ‘totalitarian excesses’ of the French and Russian revolutions would not be able to emerge if such a revolution emerged first in the advanced capitalist countries, as Marx predicted they would.

It would be a revolution not of a small group of intellectuals seizing power for themselves in the name of the workers or the people. This is a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense of the word. In our society, governing institutions could but only consist of elected representatives of the people themselves. Any socialist movement worth its salt would not only defend, but would expand the liberal and human rights won through decades of struggle. Representatives would have extremely short terms of service and would be instantly re-callable by popular petition at any time. This was a fundamental democratic aspect of the Paris Commune.

There would be no need for such governing institutions to suppress a free press or demonstrations of the people. A revolution at its purest is reason in revolt, a revolution IS dissent. If it is to truly be a revolution of the people, the people themselves would decide the course of the revolution and not an ‘enlightened’ central committee of a single monolithic party. This means also, that such a society would not be a one party state as were the Stalinist states of the 20th century.

Such a revolution by design would place a great amount of faith in the masses. In the Stalinist states of the 20th century, those in power tried to censor what information the masses could attain. It coddled the masses out of fear that the masses, if given a choice, would not support the existing social order. We see this today in North Korea, and to a lesser extent in Cuba, China, and Vietnam. Only Laos has taken real steps towards allowing unfettered access of the masses to free information. These restrictions on the rights of the people are an abomination to Marxism and to scientific socialism and must be seen in such a society as grotesque remnants of a much darker past.

In a socialist society of the 21st century there would be, on the contrary, unfettered and free access to information in the country in question and abroad. The internet would be free and democratically controlled with an abolition of intellectual property, proprietary software, and absurd copyright laws (downloading pirated movies would be legal). The established order by design would have no right to use powers of mass surveillance. The architectures of oppression that have been built in our society by shadowy intelligence organizations, and intelligence organizations generally, would be dismantled in full by the will of the people. The state would have no right to this criminally attained information. The only just course of action would be its destruction.

Such a society would have faith that the people would not join protests against the new order, that they would not petition and rally en mass to return to the old order. And if something was fundamentally wrong with the revolution, if something needed to be addressed, those elected would by design be forced either to address it or be instantly removed from office by popular petition. At no point would the approval ratings of those in power drop below the level of majority support of the masses. If it did those in power would be instantly removed from office by popular petition and a new election would take place to put into power a person genuinely supported by, and in support of, the popular masses. Those who did hold office would hold extremely short terms of service.

The purpose of such a revolution would be to bring about a spiritual rebirth in social life, to bring the masses into political life and political affairs directly, to have public debates and discussions, (subjected to reason, fact checks, and an analysis of logical fallacies,) about the necessary courses of action. The masses today cannot be bothered with politics. Even if they had the time, the bourgeois state only changes things just enough that the fundamental base and superstructure of society stay the same. By design the bourgeois state and bourgeois society in general alienate the masses of working people from political life. Such debates and discussions would educate the masses on various political, ethical, and philosophical issues. It would at no point indoctrinate them into an obscure political ideology. It would not convert Marxism into a political religion as did the Stalinist states of the 20th century. Such conversion of Marxism into a political religion is by is very nature, anti-Marxist. It would not dictate Marxism and Marxist philosophy to the masses. Marxism by design recognizes that not even Marxism is infallible. Like everything, it is constantly changing and reevaluating its validity in the dialectical process of world history.

Contrary to popular belief, a genuinely socialist economy would not mean state ownership and control of industry. This is not socialism. Socialism means social (can be state) ownership AND democratic control of industry. Neither state nor private controlled industry can be trusted to truly represent the people and not bring about vast abuses of power. Instead, the working people and public must have democratic control over production. Industrial democracy is socialism at its purest, not the tyrannical control of owners and board members as we see under modern capitalism, nor the despotism of state bureaucrats and unelected officials as we saw in the former Soviet Union.

Production would be democratically planned by public representatives in collaboration with similar industries and changes to the way business is done would require approval of the workers directly. No factory floor would ever have agreed to fire everyone and send their jobs to Mexico if workers had such power in our society. The same principles of democratic elections and the ability to instantly recall elected officials by popular petition would apply here too. Computers would be utilized to ensure that production was planned in accordance with the material and social resources available. The purpose of production would be to meet human and social needs directly, not to enrich a handful of ‘owners’, board members, and share holders as is the case under capitalism. The surplus value created by an industry would not be ‘profits’ or ‘capital’, it would rightfully be recognized as the unpaid wages of the working class.

Socialism would mean a democratization of the whole of society, industry included. It would expand, not squander the human and liberal rights won through decades of struggle, and those rights enshrined in the documents marking the establishment of the bourgeois era. It would add positive liberty to the negative liberty we enjoy in our bourgeois society. In addition to freedom of speech, religion, press, personal property, organization, etc. the people would for the first time have positive liberties such as the right to education, housing, healthcare, food, internet access, transportation, and the means necessary to truly realize their essential negative liberties. Make no mistake, it would be such an “open” society that the “open” society we have today, that liberals lust over, would look to this socialist society like a “closed” society. This is the goal of socialism in the 21st century.

The purpose of the press would no longer be the generation of capital for the bourgeois owners of the press. It would, after the overthrow of bourgeois ownership and rule, not use sensationalism and mindless entertainment to generate profit as the generation of capital would no longer be the goal. On the contrary, its purpose would be to objectively inform the masses. It would be allowed to maintain its adversarial and skeptical stance to government and the government by design would have no right to suppress a free press. At no point would it be converted into an organ for state or party propaganda as it was in the 20th century Stalinist states. A free press would be a cornerstone of such a socialist society. This includes the freedom of independent journalists and groups of people to form press organizations, even ones adversarial, freely.

Unlike the Stalinist states of the 20th century, the transition period between socialism and communism would be not only inherently democratic and anti-totalitarian, but it would have a visible end in sight. Its purpose would be to directly attain a free communist society. Here the democratic, not totalitarian pursuit of communism, would be the goal. The state would be designed to wither away and the armed people would ensure it attained this aim. I predict the tribal and nationalistic ‘intelligence organizations’ of the old society would be substituted in an an act of parody with WikiLeaks! It would be made clear that the state has no right to exist after the socialization of industry was achieved. The Stalinist “strengthening of the state against the ‘remnants’ of the bourgeoisie”, that gross totalitarian distortion of Marxism, would by design not possible and the armed people, organized into various voluntary militias, would be right to abolish it by force if it did not wither away. Here anarchists would serve a vital function as the protectors and ensurers of the attainment of a stateless society.

The increasing capacity of society to realize its full potential to meet human needs would usher in a new ethical paradigm. Working 40 hours a week would no longer be seen as morally desirable. It would be seen for what it is, a state of being that reduces the potential for individual growth, a state of being which deprives the individual of their humanity. The mass unemployment that will inevitably result from increasing automation would bring would not mean homelessness, hunger, misery and want for the working people as it means in our capitalist society. On the contrary, it would mean their freedom and liberation from ceaseless labor.

Unlike in the 20th century, the call of socialism would never be a call for militant atheism. Such a society by design would protect the peoples right to practice religion freely and publicly, for religious communities to construct new religious buildings and places of worship, to publish their teachings and to preach unfettered. State atheism would be deemed a grotesque remnant of the past. Not even in a communist society would atheism be enforced. The state and ruling apparatus by design would not be allowed to take a stance on religion. It would be a purely secular institution, neither ‘Christian’, ‘Muslim’, or ‘Atheist’. It would protect the rights of the people to follow whatever religious ideal or lack thereof which aligned with their conscience. The right to practice religion is a personal and a family matter, the state would have no right to to interfere with that right. Organized religious institutions would be compelled to either support the cause for human liberation from oppression and exploitation or the lose material and moral support of the masses. In addition to being grossly immoral, for the state to take an adversarial stance against religion in general would mean a loss of support for the cause of liberation from the people. I have written extensively on my views on the question of religion and socialism.

We are not Utopians. We make no such claim that such a revolution would solve all the problems of society. On the contrary, we openly admit that such a revolution is bound to cause even more problems. But the problems of homelessness, hunger, poverty, excesses of crime, overwork, and alienation- the problems of state and capitalist oppression and exploitation, the exploitation of man by man, those we aim to abolish. The abolition of every possibility of oppression and exploitation- this is our slogan!

These are not a series of ‘plans’ that an enlightened people should apply dogmatically to society. A revolution is a dialectical action. One learns from it and decides what principles to apply as it happens. There is no ‘guidebook’ to attaining a socialist or communist society to be found in small party of enlightened intellectuals that will liberate mankind ‘if only it is followed enthusiastically by the masses’. We can only make predictions and suggestions of what can and should emerge in our society. We libertarian Marxists, Luxemburgists, Trotskyists, and other revolutionary socialists wish to bring to the world a viable left wing alternative to the existing order. One thing is for sure, the totalitarian pursuit of a communist society is grossly immoral and should never be repeated. We accept only a truly democratic socialistic and communistic society. We accept only the rights respecting, democratic attainment of such a system.

We believe revolution will likely be necessary to end the capitalist system and destroy the bourgeois state, but we believe that this revolution can be achieved largely with only the threat of popular violence. It can be a largely bloodless revolution. Also, it can only be done with and by the will of the masses themselves. With the increasingly authoritarian right wing shift in geopolitics today, the world socialist revolution appears even more and more likely.

Should the overthrown ruling classes of bourgeois society rise up to seize power once again, any bloodshed would be on their hands alone. Should they start a civil war in one of these countries, the people would strive to re-implement democracy and liberal rights as soon as possible. For it is rule by terror that demoralizes, it is rule by terror that poses a greater threat to the revolution than anything else. We sincerely doubt the potential for victory of a dying social order in such a scenario.

Capitalism in the 21st century can only survive if it takes up the Chinese state capitalist model. The neoliberal model of capitalism is dead, the social democratic model is dead, even the Latin American model is dead. Even today neoliberalism has lost all faith in itself, first economically and now politically. Global capitalism can only survive if it further and further divorces itself from democracy, from even bourgeois democracy. The capitalism of the future, if it is to survive, is the capitalism of China increasingly turning to a sort of neo-fascism. It can only be a right wing surveillance state. This is late capitalism in decay. It is for this reason that the revolutionary socialists of the 21st century are the only real guardians of liberty and democracy. With the increasing rudeness and lack of respect of the conservative right, the socialist left must also become the guardians of decency, kindness, and respect for humanity. We must take a stand against the political correctness of the liberal left while at the same time reiterating the necessity of the rights for people of color, LGBT+ persons, women, Muslims, and other oppressed groups.

All of this relies on the principle that the first revolutions marking the end of capitalism, as Marx predicted, will happen in the most advanced capitalist countries first and not in the ‘weakest links in the chain of world imperialism’ as seemed to be the case in 1917. If a communist revolution succeeded in India or Africa today, it would likely be marked by a resurgence of Stalinist politics. It would be a deformed workers state from the beginning, and it would become a massive propaganda machine. Both the US and this Stalinist country would agree that the system these Stalinists have implemented is ‘socialism’, even if it is objectively not so. And it would be impossible for real revolutionary socialists to convince the masses that the one thing the two biggest propaganda machines in the world agree on is not actually true. The people of the western imperialist nations would never in principle support such a revolution. It would end up being confined to that country alone or to similarly impoverished countries. It would in principle stand against liberal rights and real workers democracy. In short, it would be another cold war with both sides being morally indefensible yet again.

If such a revolution happened in the advanced countries first, it would quickly spread to the rest of the world. The lackeys who work in the service of world imperialism, who hold power in the oppressed nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America would quickly be overthrown by the popular masses. It would be abundantly clear that this revolution was substantially different and infinitely more desirable and respectful of popular democracy and liberal rights than the Stalinist countries of the 20th century. As the wealthier countries met the human needs of the people in their own countries, there would be a decline in the exponential expansion of technological innovation and growth that we see in the present era of the later stages of the information and telecommunications revolution. This is not because socialism ‘squanders innovation’ as some bourgeois lackeys suggest. On the contrary, socialism has the potential to increase innovation to an extent far surpassing its ability under capitalism. This decline in innovation would be intentional and design. To advocate the slowing down of the information and telecommunications revolution, as I am aware, is political heresy. The wealthier countries would have a responsibility to provide aid for the newly socialist countries of Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. Those nations formerly oppressed by imperialism would be brought up to the standards of living and modernity we consider acceptable in the west with the aid of western countries. This would not mean a decline of the standards of living for people in western countries, but an increased standard of living as society was restructured to primarily meet human needs. It would however, mean a decrease in innovation temporarily.

This revolution would place the interests of humanity above those of capital. As such, the long term survival of the human species would be prioritized over the ‘profits’ of the fossil fuel industry and big corporations. The crisis of climate change would immediately be addressed by the transformation of the world energy system into one that runs on 100% renewable green energy. New cities would be built in preparation for the already inevitable drastic rise in sea levels. Plastics would be done away with and plans initiated to clean the oceans and rivers of plastic and other forms of waste. Fishing would be cut substantially to allow the fish populations to return to normal. The industrialization of the poorer countries would be done exclusively on ecological grounds and mass reforestation programs would be initiated globally.

Social democratic countries like Norway today claim that they have figured out how to be truly ecological under capitalism. “Norway has 100% renewable green energy!” says our petty-bourgeois democrat. Indeed it does, but even Norway, bastion of green social democracy, has fossil fuels overwhelmingly as its largest exports. Norway has created a fortress of ecology within its own national borders, it has merely ‘exported’ the crisis of climate change to other countries! A world socialist system would allow a country (Norway, for instance) to stop fossil fuel exports and resource exploitation entirely without a serious hit to that nations economy as other nations would provide it with aid.

I have taken the time also to make a series of points that would be generally applicable to nearly all the advanced countries, and could reasonably emerge in a socialist 21st century. Some of them have already been stated above and I hope the reader can forgive my repetition. Note that as I have said before, this is mostly speculation, I do not have a crystal ball. This is merely what one would hope to, and expect to see:

-Direct democracy on the local level, representative democracy on the higher levels. High officials occupying offices in specialized fields are to be elected by the people on the basis of their expertise in said specialized fields. Scientists only would be allowed to run for office and hold positions in fields dictating policy for scientific affairs (environmental regulations, etc.) The same applies to all other fields of government. The goal here would be to ensure that society ran smoothly and without constant “meetings of the masses” to discuss “how our community will get water this week”. We would want an engineer with experience with water systems to be responsible for the public water service, not merely a ‘comedic’ populist. We would want a scientist in control of a socialist EPA, not someone like Jeff Sessions.

-A spiritual rebirth and reemergence of the popular masses and workers into political life with the emergence of a system where the people are truly in power. An absence of Marxism as a political religion or mandated political dogma enforced by those in power.

-All political and industrial officials are to be elected, have an extremely short term of service, and be instantly recallable at any time by popular petition of the people.

-The abolition of private property, its substitution not with state ownership and control but with social ownership and democratic control by the workers themselves and representatives of the public at large. The state, we believe, can and should aid in this transformation. These representatives too would be democratically elected and instantly recallable by popular petition at any time. Such a change would not be implemented overnight and therefore necessitates the existence of a state to aid in this social transformation. The state should, upon seizing power, take the largest 500 or so corporations into social ownership and democratic control after a very brief transitional period of state ownership and control. Everyone would have to “go back to work” the day after a revolution. A revolution is an economic trauma as much as it is a political one. Effort would have to be made to return the (likely falling apart) economy to a stable state of being before serious reforms were implemented.

-An abolition of all rights to inheritance. Small businesses also would no longer be passed down from generation to generation. We have no intention of robbing small business owners of their businesses that they have legitimately worked hard to create without reason. Means of production would likely be seized by the state and transferred to the workers upon death of the respective owners. Small businesses as they exist today are a fundamental aspect of the economy. Simply seizing ALL the means of production instantly would be disastrous for the economy and for society at large, as would be a ‘too rapid’ transformation of society. It would be the biggest economic disaster in all of human history, far more so than the state of Eastern Europe and Russia in the 1990’s. The workers could still elect members of that persons family if they truly represent the interests of the workers and the public at large. It could in effect, still be a ‘family business’.

-The right of working people to form their own workers self directed enterprises. This necessarily entails an abolition of wage labor. All workers would be paid in proportion to their quality and quantity of work, and in proportion to their needs.

-An abolition of individual taxation for the overwhelming majority of society. Capitalists, millionaires, and billionaires possessing over 10 million dollars would have all funds seized except for 10 million dollars or its equivalent. 10 million dollars would be the maximum allowed net worth of an individual. Emigrants who fled the country and capitalists who took arms against the revolution would be deprived of all funds and property by default, both personal and private. The vast amounts of hoarded wealth would be distributed to the working people and be made to fund social welfare programs. It would also be reinvested back into production.

-The immediate release of all non-violent criminals and those arrested for crimes whose origins emerge from poverty. The total reconstitution of the criminal justice system on a reform, not a punishment basis. An abolition of the current criminal injustice system. Such a system should aim to spiritually enrich those imprisoned and give them the means to have a stable and meaningful life upon release. It should not dehumanize them, use cruel and unusual punishments like solitary confinement, etc. This also entails an abolition of the death penalty and the establishment of a “maximum” sentence for prisoners (perhaps ~30 years).

-An immediate abolition of homelessness via the seizure of all empty homes from their respective landowners and landlords. Systems should be put in place to help those with mental disorders and addiction. The formerly homeless should be guaranteed either employment or a guaranteed means of subsistence. (Even in America today there are 5 empty homes for every homeless person). All land and property rents would be abolished and the sacred and inviolable right of the home would be preserved.

-The abolition of all existing government institutions and their immediate replacement by grassroots workers councils representing the true will of the people. Such councils then would elect representatives of their local communities to the nation as a whole, who would naturally be instantly recallable by popular petition at any time.

-The organization and armament of the masses and their organization into various voluntary militias to replace the traditional military. An immediate recall of all troops stationed overseas and closure of foreign military bases. An immediate end to all wars and the abolition of all treaties and trade agreements made with all other countries. A backup reserve could still be maintained and recruited exclusively for the defense of country from foreign invasion. To go to war with another country would require a popular vote of the people themselves (not merely their federal representatives) and such a decision would have to be done on a purely rational and calm basis. This makes the likelihood of an aggressive war against another nation almost non-existent. No people in all of human history have ever willingly and in reason made the decision to start an act of aggression against the people of another nation without the indoctrination of the ruling class and profiteers of warfare. No nation at war has ever objectively informed the masses about the aims and views of the other side. Such a system would aim to do just that.

-The transformation of the police into a truly public service, not a weapon of the state. The police would be instantly recallable at all time by members of the community, and its head would be democratically elected and instantly recallable at any time. It would exist solely to stop violent crime, as an organization responsible exclusively to the public. If a community felt alienated by the police, it would have the right to bar the police from entering said community and to recall elected officials of the community and/or the policing institutions.

-Potentially a rotating office in the highest seats of leadership in both cities and in the country at large

-An established and expanded version of the Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the removal of all rights to private property (the exploitation of labor) and the inclusion of positive liberty.

-The withering away of the state as soon as the economy is sufficiently socialized. State power to be replaced with peoples self-government. This would mark the beginning of stateless communism.

-The transfer to 100% green energy globally, massive reforestation programs

-Large amounts of foreign aid to formerly oppressed countries to industrialize and modernize on an ecological basis

-An increase in public funds for arts and sciences, including the creation of a new space program

-Increased funds into organizations specializing in robotics and automation with the goal being the eventual full automation of production and the liberation of humanity from physical labor.

-Strict regulations put in place in regards to potentially dangerous new technologies and scientific discoveries such as genetic engineering, disease research, and artificial intelligence. (We don’t want to give an AI unfettered internet access without understanding it first)

-The reconstituion of the production of agriculture and foodstuffs for the purpose of ending world hunger entirely (We alredy produce enough food to feed 10 billion a year)

-The abolition of extreme poverty globally with an emphasis on the abolition of poverty generally. (In 2017 the profit of billionaires alone was enough to abolish extreme poverty globally over 7 times over)

-State secularism as opposed to state atheism

-An abolition of mass surveillance and the re-stressing of the importance of liberty over the elusive idea of ‘security’. Technology would be made to increase privacy by design and not to track users. The internet would be decentralized, proprietary software and current privacy laws would be abolished. (You could read the source code and the community could make edits to OS X, Microsoft Windows, Adobe Photoshop, etc.)

These are some of the general predictions of what a world socialist revolution in the 21st century would look like. Its purpose would be to bring ordinary working people into power, to overthrow capitalist and corporate domination of the state and to establish a system that truly represents the people. With this, it would end once and for all every form of private and state oppression and exploitation. It would aim to liberate humanity and all the oppressed peoples of the world. These are merely my own speculations.

In this era of increasing right-wing authoritarianism, the erosion of privacy (the only real prerequisite to individual liberty), and the further divorce of even bourgeois democracy from capitalism, we can definitively say once again, as Rosa Luxemburg correctly did in 1920’s Germany, that in this era, at this time in human history, it is either socialism or barbarism! Our slogan today is the same as it was then, Workers of All Countries, Unite! Unite under the banner of liberty and socialist democracy! You have a world to win, you have nothing to lose but your chains!

Announcement

This post will be deleted within the next few weeks. A series of articles are going to be released in the next few weeks that are substantially different from earlier posts. This will largely be a new critique of late industrial society and the implications of the information and technological revolution in the era of imperialism. These articles will attempt to explain the general course of world politics, why, and how individual liberty is being stripped away by the governments of the “freest” countries in the world, and what can be done about it. These articles are but the broad generalizations and early drafts of an even bigger document dedicated to these issues. This has been one of the reasons we have not been publishing as often as we’d like to. In the next few weeks we will outline the rough draft of our general critiques of late capitalist society that we have formulated in recent months.

Thought Foundry Blog

The Necessity of Exposing Social Constructs and Illusory Manifestations of Social Life: Exposing Some Basic Concepts

 

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In order for human society to function, it requires countless abstractions (i.e. illusory manifestations of social phenomena that do not in actuality exist). Society itself is one such abstraction. The basis of any real critique of bourgeois society, of the later phases of the information and telecommunications revolution, or of human society in general, entails the peeling back and exposure of said illusions. It is only in this way that one can achieve, as close as possible, pure objectivity in criticism and analysis of social phenomena. Here we will attempt to expose some of these illusory manifestations of social phenomena as rudimentary examples. We will critique the fundamental notions we hold of society, humanity, the nation state, class society, liberal and universal human rights, etc. both on the left and generally.

To begin as our first example, countries do not exist. A country is as real as Santa Claus. People do not believe in it because it exists. It exists (even without substance) solely because people believe in it.

One does not see proof of the existence of the object itself, but rather the real consequences of its perceived existence. The socially accepted perception of its existence manifests itself to the individual as evidence of its existence. This illusion in particular is historically necessary insofar as class society exists.

Social hierarchies and seemingly organic organizations of social life manifest themselves as unchangeable, morally defensible and necessary absolutes. Like all things, they too change with time and with the evolution of a society. These manifestations largely define the ethics, values, and socially accepted morality of an epoch.

These ethics, values, and morals are almost exclusively those of that epochs ruling class. “The ruling ideas of each age have only ever been the ruling ideas of that ages ruling class”, said Marx. Therefore we can say with reason that every socioeconomic and political system follows a moral system based squarely on the justification of its own existence. This system is adopted by the oppressed and exploited social classes in times of geopolitical and economic stability as much as it is promoted by the ruling class. Education systems and the press both promote the ruling ideas of a particular epoch, which are, as we have previously stated, those of that epochs ruling class.

There are many commonly held oversimplifications of the idea of the ruling class on the left. These too are illusions, and these too hurt the cause of human liberation. To begin, a member of the ruling class (except in cases so immoral that it is indefensible even to that members social class) does not perceive (typically his) actions as being immoral. On the contrary, he is merely an individual acting in the same way as those around them. He is merely mirroring the society from which his own psychologically ingrained moral code of conduct emerged.

When it occurs, a member of the ruling class is naturally taken aback by the eruption of a social revolution or a radical social movement. Because he lacks the experience of the oppressed classes, he does not understand why the revolution or mass movement has emerged. In case of revolution, the destruction of long standing social hierarchies and traditional manifestations of social life is such a shock to the status quo that such an individual clings to his own perceived and long ingrained notions of right and wrong. He therefore renounces objective reason in revolt and clings to the subjective ‘reason’ and ‘order’ of a dying social system.

Only the successful manifestation on positive social change brought about by a social revolution or movement can change the mind of such an individual.

But an individual is bound by their own experiences. A vast improvement of the social life of the majority in such a short span of time necessarily implies a reduction in quality of life, luxury and privilege for the ruling elite. This is why universal healthcare, in the liberal countries where it exists, is deemed to be ‘a disaster’ by the bourgeoisie who can no longer pay for ‘premium’ (see, better) healthcare due to their privileged status in society. Thus begs the question, “Is universal healthcare a disaster?” But we say that the question itself is invalid. To the proletariat and the working majority it is largely a godsend, to the bourgeoisie it is a nightmare.

In spite of the subjectivity of morality, there are certain actions universally abominable in virtually every society regardless of historical epoch. These actions almost always act against the interests of human civilization and the long-term survival of the human species.

The individual is infinitely malleable only because the potential course of human evolution is infinite. There is no such thing as ‘human’, this too is an illusion. A human is only the currently existing, statistical average homo sapien, and the homo sapien is constantly evolving even at what seems to be a snails pace. Within the bounds of natural evolution, there are certain facets of human nature that do not change with even the most radical social revolution. The constellations in the sky are not timeless and eternal, but the individual stars are moving. Their motion is not detectable to us as individuals, even over eons. But they are not static, the stars too are in motion.

The basis of our critiques are the identification of social illusions as they manifest themselves in the socialist movement, and in society at large. It is in this that we hope to soon publish our work on the information and telecommunications revolution, tribalism, and the erosion of liberty in late capitalist society.

A Change In Themes

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If you follow my blog you will have noticed that after over a year of regular posting I have suddenly stopped for several months. This is not because I have abandoned the Thought Foundry Blog or socialism but because my interests and life in general has changed slightly and I did not know how to integrate this change into this blog.

I recently have suffered a very deep personal tragedy and have been trying to cope with it. I am the kind of person who gets deeply absorbed in learning. I have always found certain subjects that captivate me to such an extent that I get lost in them. I have a deeply ingrained need to learn everything there is to know about them. Politics has been one such thing. I am a Marxist but my life does not necessarily revolve around Marxism. I am a person first and I have many interests. I have recently been swept away in learning many new things, in updating my knowledge in some areas and exploring new fields of study.
In the past few months I have written several posts for the Thought Foundry Blog but have discarded them for one reason or another. I have sought out to drastically improve the quality of my posts and have gone back and deleted old ones which did not meet my current standards of professionalism.

The topics and posts of this blog are still going to be socialistic in nature but are going to go even deeper in its critique of modern society and the existing socioeconomic and political order than my previous posts. They are going to be less radical in some regards, and more radical in others. Among these topics are: digital rights, mass surveillance, libertarian Marxism, tribalism, the information and telecommunications revolution, the automation revolution, and other critiques of advanced industrial society. Digital rights, technology, and the Internet will be a particularly large subject in the future.

Currently I am working on a manifesto regarding the information and telecommunications revolution in which I attempt to address our current predicament and the measures necessary for the long term survival of the human species and the protection of civil liberty. It is a work in progress. But to my readers let me be clear, the Thought Foundry Blog is not dead. It is not going away, and for the foreseeable long term future it will not go away.