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A Primer on Alternatives to Capitalism

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posted on Sep, 23 2009 @ 12:06 AM
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I decided to write this because of the widespread confusion over multiple terms. In the wake of the healthcare debates, I've seen the terms "socialism", "communism", "anarchism", "Marxism", "Stalinism", etc, thrown around as if they were interchangeable terms. I've going to write this primer to help people diffentiate between them. We'll begin with a quote from a Christian socialist by the name of James Keir Hardie:


This generation has grown up ignorant of the fact that socialism is as old as the human race. When civilization dawned upon the world, primitive man was living his rude Communistic life, sharing all things in common with every member of the tribe. Later when the race lived in villages, man, the communist, moved about among the communal flocks and herds on communal land. The peoples who have carved their names most deeply on the tables of human story all set out on their conquering career as communists, and their downward path begins with the day when they finally turned away from it and began to gather personal possessions.


The concept of "Socialism" began as feudalism slid away in the face of the Industrial Revolution. During feudalism the workers would develop a communal lifestyle, often revolving around the workermen's guilds. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the end of the feudal age, the communal lifestyle came to an end, but many wanted to continue it's existence. In wanting to maintain their communal lifestyle, they opposed the progressive nature of the Industrial Revolution and the aristocracy that it had created. The factories's forms of production was ending rural life and putting many of the former craftsmen out of work since their skills were no longer needed. The actual term "socialism" would first be used by Pierre Leroux in 1834, referencing


the doctrine which would not give up any of the principles of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity of the French Revolution.


Many of the socialists borrowed ideas from a French revolutionary by the name of François Noël Babeuf, who argued against the concept of private property, stating that in doing so would be the only means to create a truly equal society. This fit neatly with the agrarian ideals of the socialists, who may have also been familiar with St. Thomas More's Utopia, which portrayed an image of the world where the society maintained a common ownership of property. Likewise, early socialist Proudhon declared that "property is theft!"

Then Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels came along.

The two saw and agreed with the socialists on Industrial Revolution's creation of wide gap between the worker class and wealthy class, and the oppression it generated. However, they disagreed with the early socialists on one thing: their rejection of industrial advancements. Marx believed that industrialization was a thing to be embraced, and that the new goal should be the end of the wage-labor system, as well as the transfer of ownership to the communal property. In the "labour theory of value", Marx argued that capitalism only becomes possible through the exploitation and oppression of the working class. Ideas such as these led to the creation of the Communist League in London in 1847. Initially a Christian socialist group following the ideas Babeuf called the "League of the Just" the Communist League would commission Marx and Engels to write the "Communist Manifesto" in 1848:


A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre: Pope and Tsar, Metternich and Guizot, French Radicals and German police-spies.

Where is the party in opposition that has not been decried as communistic by its opponents in power? Where is the opposition that has not hurled back the branding reproach of communism, against the more advanced opposition parties, as well as against its reactionary adversaries?


The program laid out in the Manifesto called for the abolishment of private property and the nationalization of the means of production. These and other radical ideas would be implemented by a revolutionary government called the 'dictatorship of the proletarit', and would serve as the transition into a stateless and classless society. In Marx and Engel's system this stage would be referenced to as "socialism".

In 1864 the International Workmen's Association (IWA), more commonly known as the First International was established in London. This was a socialist organization comprised of various left-wing political groups, trade union organizations and revolutionary individuals, dedicated to the working class and their struggles. Karl Marx would soon be elected to every General Council of the First International, but many who agreed with his ideas on the working class struggle disagreed with him on his means of transferring to a classless, stateless society.

One such man was Mikhail Bakunin, the father of modern anarchy.

Anarchism is a concept that has long predated socialism, with elements of the system being found in the philosophies of Taoism, founded by Lao Tzu. The Greek founder of Stoicism, Zeno, said in his Republic that there was no need for the state, for wise men should not be required to give their liberty up to such a construct. The ideas also crop up again in the 15th century, when François Rabelais (anybody interested in Aleister Crowley, take note!) wrote about a fictional utopia called the "Abby of Thelema" were the only rule is "Do as Thou Will Shall Be The Whole of the Law". (Take what you will from this; I for one are troubled by the moral implications.) The first to describe themselves as an "anarchist" would be the socialist Pierre-Joseph Prouhon, who I mentioned above.

[continued below]




posted on Sep, 23 2009 @ 12:06 AM
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reply to post by Someone336
 


Mikhail Bakunin opposed Marx's form because he, and his followers, viewed capitalism and the state as the same, and one could not exist without the other. Therefore, Marx was enabling power to the capitalistic system when state gains absolute power during the 'dictatorship of the proletarit'. And history will show that Bakunin is correct in this assumption. Bakunin said the famous line:


If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power, within a year he would be worse than the Tsar himself.


In 1872 these differences in opinions came to a head when the congress of the First International faced a vote on whether to participate in parliamentary elections. Marx supported it, while Bakunin and his camp opposed it. In the end, Bakunin and his faction were expelled from the First International on charges that they were maintaining a secret conspiratiorial faction within the IWA. Bakunin and his followers would hold their own International, and he would continue to function in the socialist circles of Europe.

Marx would die, the Second International would be formed, and the ideas of Communism, Marxism, Socialism, and Anarchism would grow. In 1898, the Russia Social Democratic Labour Party, just as a nationwide crisis in terms of social, economic, and political near collapse became widespread in the country.

Two schools of thought in the Communist party began to develop: whether or not the revolution could be conducted by the violent overthrow of the capitalists, or gradual progess through established political system. This divide would split the Russia Social Democratic Labour Party into two halves: the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin and the Mensheviks, led by Julius Martov. Victor Serge would later say:


"I met the Menshevik leaders, and certain anarchists. Both sets denounced Bolshevik intolerance, the stubborn refusal to revolutionary dissenters of any right to exist, and the excesses of the Terror. The Mensheviks seemed to me to be admirably intelligent, honest and devoted to Socialism, but completely overtaken by events. They stood for a sound principle, that of working-class democracy, but in a situation fraught with such mortal danger that the stage of siege did not permit any functioning of democratic institutions."


In October of 1917 the Bolshevik's voted that an armed uprising was inevitable, and by October 23rd the October Revolution was underway. The Bolsheviks would hold power in Russia and Lenin would sit as head of state. I need not go into detail about the Red Terror, the Russian Civil War, and the war with Poland. Lenin died of a heart attack in 1922, allowing Joseph Stalin, the General Secretary of the Communist Party to assume power. Right off, Stalin changed Marx's ideas even further than Lenin: he promoted the idea that Communism could exist only in the state, i.e. it did not need to happen on a global scale. By keeping power to himself he shattered the idea of eliminating the state and class, and the rest is history.

Communists widespread spoke out against Stalin, stating that he had betrayed Communism, and that he had been corrupted by capitalist ideals. Maybe he had, and maybe Lenin had. There is evidence to suggest, if one just looks around here at ATS, that Wall Street funded the Bolshevik revolution.

Communism failed in Russia, but let us consider something. We've been programmed to despise Communism. Our media and our leaders led us to believe that Stalin was the perfect example of a Communist ruler, while Communists see him as an enemy. We're programmed to lump Socialism into Communism, thus bringing us straight to Stalinism. We're programmed to picture 'anarchists' as violent people. We're made to believe that all these ideologies are anti-Christian, when in fact many elements derive from Christianity.

Why?

Ask yourself why, say, next time somebody drags Socialism or Communism up in a healthcare debate, why this country go to the horrific lengths it did during the Cold War to stamp out every inch of alternative left-wing thinking.

Why do we think this way? Who really benefits from it?



posted on Jan, 31 2010 @ 10:30 PM
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reply to post by Someone336
 


I was intrigued by some of your posts, and decided to do some digging into your other threads. This one is notable as no one has responded to it. I shall do my best to at least spark discussion.


I think it is funny how the same issues come from both sides of the 'private property' issue.

Anarchist Socialists, those like Mikhail Bakunin, believed that capitalism is synonymous to the state.

This, throughout most of history, has been true. The state has willingly given up some of its own power to the market in order for its own benefit.




Communism failed in Russia, but let us consider something. We've been programmed to despise Communism. Our media and our leaders led us to believe that Stalin was the perfect example of a Communist ruler, while Communists see him as an enemy. We're programmed to lump Socialism into Communism, thus bringing us straight to Stalinism. We're programmed to picture 'anarchists' as violent people.


I am going to change certain nouns and tenses of your quote to better illustrate my point.

"Capitalism is failing in the USA, but let us consider something. We've been programmed to despise Capitalism (knowingly or not). Our media and our leaders led us to believe that Wall Street is the perfect example of Capitalism, while market anarchists (anarcho-capitalists) see it as the enemy. We are programmed to lump state-pseudocapitalism with free markets, thus bringing us straight to Corporatism. We're programmed to picture 'anarchists' as violent people. "

Leninists believe that socialism should exist in a state-run society.
For clarification, I call these people State-Socialists.
Corporatists believe that capitalism should exist in a state-run society.
For clarification, I call these people State-Capitalists.

State-socialist seems like an oxymoron, if you take into account the original implications of the idea of socialism (Proudhon). Public ownership cannot exist within a system utilizing a state. This becomes state ownership, and once again the people are in yet another form of slavery. I believe you understand this point, so I will no longer go further.

State-capitalism also seems like an oxymoron if one sees capitalism as a free market. A market cannot exist in freedom if a state does that which it derives its own existence. A free market cannot be 50%, 75%, or even 99% free. This would assume some level of government control, and to be controlled, through force, is the opposite of being free.

The common denominator is the state. Without a state, the market would inherently be free such that people can freely associate (work for or with) whomever they please and 100% own that which they have earned or agreed upon as compensation.

In the scenario, socialism can work without a system of violence (state) to control the people.
______________________________________________________________________
Lets say Area A is a socialist area. Through there being no system of governance, the people in Area A are all members voluntarily. The means of production are owned by the public.

I, and many others, would freely choose to not live in Area A because we oppose this premise of public ownership. So we live in Area B and we live in a system of private ownership. In Area B, there are a plethora of businesses, some of which may even be run as a socialist union where by the means of production and product are owned by all who voluntarily take part in that business.

Both area's live in peace and trade often with each other, and most people are inclined to live in peace as it serves their own interest. Those that wish not to live in peace, will be met with opposition by those that do, and will likely leave, be destroyed (if they wish to go that far), or be corrected in their ways. Theft, and initiation of force are not in the best interest of most people, so their tolerance for such actions will likely be minuscule.

Monopolies will no longer exist because the biggest monopoly (that of violence, government) will not be present, and people will be encouraged to be autonomous, at least in their own circles of voluntary associations.

If one is not able to provide for themselves, they can and will easily be able to rely on the kindness of others, instead of the scraps that a welfare-state has left over.

Social capital will be very high, whereas a system of governance relies on keeping social capital low, using it to fill the coffers of constituents and maintain its own power.

When social capital is high people are not ruled by fear, people trust each other, and people are honest . These factors rely on each other. A stateless society needs social capital, and social capital comes from the nonexistence of the state. Or if looked at inversely, the state will no longer be necessary when social capital is high and will be rendered impotent, then nonexistent.


This is my alternative to what you call 'capitalism'.

[edit on 31-1-2010 by DINSTAAR]



posted on Jan, 31 2010 @ 10:55 PM
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Great thread! Flag for you my friend. Also great point about people blindly rejecting anything that doesn't fit the social norm that their use to,dismissing it as crazy without having a open mind. People should research these types of things for themselves instead of taking the words of Olbermen, Beck, and Hannity.



posted on Jan, 31 2010 @ 11:39 PM
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I think that Socialism/Communism can work . . . on a small scale. Once it gets on a large scale, it gets too big too handle.

Same with Capitalism . . . except with Capitalism, at least you have a chance to make it big.

Just my opinion/observation.



posted on Jan, 31 2010 @ 11:57 PM
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Great post, thoroughly enjoyed the read. I was first introduced, unknowingly that is, to the Communist perspective from Thomas Moore's Utopia, as you mentioned it above. One thing I noticed upon the reading of Marx's Manifesto in later years and continually examining public affairs which are strongly associated with big business (capitalism) is that these ideologies are evolving.

Communism itself has always been about the lower class.

Capitalism used to be owned by the upper class and beneficial to the middle class. Capitalism has, unlike Communism, evolved, it is now becoming the enemy of the middle class aswell as the lower class.



posted on Feb, 1 2010 @ 02:43 AM
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Originally posted by DINSTAAR
If one is not able to provide for themselves, they can and will easily be able to rely on the kindness of others, instead of the scraps that a welfare-state has left over.


I find this fascinating. So you believe in the good-will and generosity of individuals, but not the good-will and generosity of organizations or groups?

While I'm not presuming to know how you'll answer this, aren't governments composed of people? I fail to see how removing the GCD rather than the LCD solves the problem.


Monopolies will no longer exist because the biggest monopoly (that of violence, government) will not be present, and people will be encouraged to be autonomous, at least in their own circles of voluntary associations.


This is probably the strongest component of your argument. Government is without question a monopoly. This is why I'm continually impressed by the foresight of our founding-fathers. They vested as much power as they could in the monad rather than placing all jurisprudence at the top in the Federal government.

Decentralization has always had the benefit of encouraging individuals to be personally accountable, while simultaneously making it much more difficult to do a power-grab.

On the downside it decreases efficiency because it requires more work from each party since all people are given an equal voice. In computational terms we can think of this as the "handshake problem." If we have five nodes all talking to each other it isn't half as efficacious as if they had instead used a delegate that piped relevant information down to the sub-nodes (i.e. client server model versus distributed computing).

Meaning, working in isolation would more than likely result in a lower quality of living in terms of goods and services. Though on the flip side, in a completely decentralized system there'd be a higher quality of living in the sense that each individual is utterly responsible for their own well-being. This would without a doubt result in a feeling of self-empowerment but at cost of not having a large organizational structure that could help in a crisis situation (i.e. Katrina, Pearl Harbor, etc.).

Also it's very likely that "collectivists," as an organized unit, would have a greater advantage in a war-game scenario. If both groups had equal equipment, similar man-power, were educated using the same tactics then the only differences would be efficiency of delegation and creativity. In a completely open, free-society there would be more hands in the pot and it would be significantly harder to summon together a "coalition of the willing" since each community would be working in isolation from one another. In a regimented hierarchy commands could be issued rapidly.


Social capital will be very high, whereas a system of governance relies on keeping social capital low, using it to fill the coffers of constituents and maintain its own power.

When social capital is high people are not ruled by fear, people trust each other, and people are honest . These factors rely on each other. A stateless society needs social capital, and social capital comes from the nonexistence of the state. Or if looked at inversely, the state will no longer be necessary when social capital is high and will be rendered impotent, then nonexistent.

This is my alternative to what you call 'capitalism'.


I assume when you say social capital you mean "rapport?" If I'm correct in my understanding you're absolutely right that a small community is much more likely to require greater social interaction to establish a trust network. However again the same problem comes up that I mentioned previously: more cost in terms of time and effort from each person in the community.

If you look at this as a bandwidth problem the model become prohibitive as more people are added to the group. This becomes unworkable once the number of people grows beyond a certain number. No different than communes really.

This is likely why in reality we see hybridized political systems greasing the wheels of society, using a little bit of each philosophy, because no single polarized ideology solves all problems.

[edit on 1-2-2010 by Xtraeme]



posted on Feb, 1 2010 @ 10:20 PM
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reply to post by Xtraeme
 




I find this fascinating. So you believe in the good-will and generosity of individuals, but not the good-will and generosity of organizations or groups?


A group is an ambiguous collective. Nothing more than a bunch of individuals. The premise of the question is that I disregard the state (institutionalized violence) as a viable option to solve social problems. If individuals choose to coalesce and pull resources to solve social problems, I have no issue. When individuals band together in order to oppress others (i.e. form a government), I do have issue.



Meaning, working in isolation would more than likely result in a lower quality of living in terms of goods and services.


The only people isolated would be those that choose to be. Most people would find it is in their best interest to work with others.



This would without a doubt result in a feeling of self-empowerment but at cost of not having a large organizational structure that could help in a crisis situation (i.e. Katrina, Pearl Harbor, etc.).


I did not say that their would be no groups. People will be able to go in and out of groups voluntarily. They will find it is in their best interest to utilize some form of voluntary crisis control. To assume government provides the best possible solution to even societies larger problems can easily be refuted by both examples you give. Katrina.... hahaha, I am not going to get into how bad that was handled. As for Pearl Harbor, the event was provoked by actions of our government in order to get into war with Hitler.



This is likely why in reality we see hybridized political systems greasing the wheels of society, using a little bit of each philosophy, because no single polarized ideology solves all problems.


People solve problems, ideologies do not. Ideologies tend to cause problems and make it difficult for people to find the most viable solution. The hybridized political system causes the problems it claims as the reasons it needs to exist.



posted on Mar, 23 2010 @ 10:22 PM
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reply to post by DINSTAAR
 


I was just reading something and it made me think of your particular stance that I think you'll enjoy,


The doctrine that human beings have ineliminable freedom to choose, no matter how constrained they may be, is essential to Sartre's existentialism. We are the beings who choose what we are. In Marxism, equality is not only a value, it is the core political value: the value upon which other values depend. In anarchism, fraternity makes social harmony in the absence of power of the state possible. Ordinary human friendships do not need to be sustained by police, army, courts or taxation and this is a clue to the fact that society without the state is possible.
(Jean-Paul Sartre: Basic Writings, Sartre, pg. 4)

It really seems like the solutions we're looking for come as recognition of the best characteristics of all ideals and then trying to meld them in to a homogeneous broth.

It's just a shame we haven't gotten the proportions quite right yet.

[edit on 23-3-2010 by Xtraeme]



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