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Darzin

Communism vs Capitalism does anyone actually think we'd be better off in a Communist society?

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So given the discussion in the US politics thread with the discussion about death tolls and such. Putting that aside does anyone actually believe that we'd be better off with Communism and opposed to Capitalism*? The Marxist-Leninist societies which have existed strike me as fundamentally illiberal and not places I would want to live, and the more anarchic mostly untested versions strike me as prone to mob rule, innefiecient and not ready to meet the challenges of a globalized economy.

*That's not to say Capitalism now is perfect, I consider myself on the left and would like to move towards the Nordic model, but that is a capitalist model and I have a hard time seeing a communist or socialist society achieving better results then that.

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15 minutes ago, Darzin said:

Putting that aside does anyone actually believe that we'd be better off with Communism and opposed to Capitalism*?

I don't agree with the premise of the question.  This isn't 1947.  Or even 1989.  Communism as the Soviets or Mao or most anyone else conceived it is dead.  In terms of economic systems, it's an argument between capitalism and socialism.  And every industrialized nation in the world is a mixed system therein.  The concerning contemporary schism has nothing to do with communism - it's one where authoritarianism or "illiberalism" conflicts with democratic or at least republican precepts.  So, obligatory, but:

 

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53 minutes ago, Darzin said:

Putting that aside does anyone actually believe that we'd be better off with Communism and opposed to Capitalism*?

We're not actually with capitalism -- as DMC said, we have a hybrid and it can definitely be argued that we'd be better off with a slightly different hybrid that leans more towards a command economy. The current crisis does a great job of illustrating this. It's perfectly obvious that there are certain industries (finance, air travel, etc.) that the governments of nominally capitalist countries will not allow to fail. We've bailed them out before, we're bailing them out now and we'll bail them out again. There is nothing capitalist about this; in a truly capitalist economy, they would go bankrupt and everyone else would have to deal with the shock to the system. Worse, this clumsy mechanism is bad for almost everyone because the people who run these industries know that they will be bailed out and act accordingly (that's why the airlines spent their profits on stock buybacks rather than saving for a rainy day).

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1 hour ago, Altherion said:

We've bailed them out before, we're bailing them out now and we'll bail them out again. There is nothing capitalist about this; in a truly capitalist economy, they would go bankrupt and everyone else would have to deal with the shock to the system.

It's entirely consistent with capitalism. It may not be consistent with a so-called "free" market, but that's not the same thing.

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One thing that Soviet Union has proven beyond doubt is that central planning of all sectors of the economy cannot be efficiently done by humans. Until we get an AI capable of providing us with Culture-style space communism, that idea is dead.

However, not all communist countries used central planning. For example, Yugoslavia had (limited) free market of worker-owned companies from the mid-60's until its breakdown. Also, Vietnam seems to be doing well with a mix of central planning and free market.

Personally, I'm in favor of mixed economy - basically, Rhenish capitalism with greater worker ownership of companies, and state ownership of crucial sectors - energy, transportation, health care and local utilities. Some of the successful examples of each include French EDF, British NHS, and German Deutsche Bahn.

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Posted (edited)
17 minutes ago, Gorn said:

One thing that Soviet Union has proven beyond doubt is that central planning of all sectors of the economy cannot be efficiently done by humans. Until we get an AI capable of providing us with Culture-style space communism, that idea is dead.

However, not all communist countries used central planning. For example, Yugoslavia had (limited) free market of worker-owned companies from the mid-60's until its breakdown. Also, Vietnam seems to be doing well with a mix of central planning and free market.

Personally, I'm in favor of mixed economy - basically, Rhenish capitalism with greater worker ownership of companies, and state ownership of crucial sectors - energy, transportation, health care and local utilities. Some of the successful examples of each include French EDF, British NHS, and German Deutsche Bahn.

Deutsche Bahn is a textbook example of how you wreck public services through privatisation and "competition." Fortunately, it's IPO had to be cancelled because of the financial crisis, so it's at least still 100% owned by the German government. However, it has behaved like a purely profit oriented, public company these last 20 years and that hasn't been good for German railway passengers. The EU's competition rules haven't helped either. There has been some back-pedalling over the last couple of years but nobody is ready to admit what a disaster the privatisation policy of the 1990s has been. Same with telecommunication. Everybody bitches about the lack of broadband internet but nobody will admit that the IPO of Deutsche Telekom and the auction of the frequency bands for mobile data 20 years ago could have anything to do with it.

Edited by Loge

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2 hours ago, DMC said:

I don't agree with the premise of the question.  This isn't 1947.  Or even 1989.  Communism as the Soviets or Mao or most anyone else conceived it is dead.  In terms of economic systems, it's an argument between capitalism and socialism.  And every industrialized nation in the world is a mixed system therein.  The concerning contemporary schism has nothing to do with communism - it's one where authoritarianism or "illiberalism" conflicts with democratic or at least republican precepts.  

 

I actually agree with pretty much all of this. That was my point from the other thread no one wants this system anymore, but it was also essentially illiberal.

As for central planning the issues with a Leninist economy relate more to growth then anything else. The Soviets managing of supply chain and quality control were abysmal and those issues could be fixed but I don't believe growth can work with central planning.

I find the Yugoslav system super interesting because it was such a different kind of economy. But it did also show some of the limits of a "real" worker controlled economy, chronic unemployment as co ops have incentives to the keep the numbers of employs low and a lack of participation as most workers just want to do their job and go home and not participate in workers  councils determining how their workplace is run. 

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- Marxism-Leninism and communism are not synonymous.
- Neither Marxism nor communism is incompatible with liberalism. In fact, liberalism today owes a lot to Marxism.
- A reference to Marx or Marxist perspectives does not equal in any way to a reference to Marxism-Leninism or the Soviet Union. Marxism offers analytical tools and perspectives that even private bankers or investors use on a regular basis.
Also, Marx was essentially correct about most things.
- The reference to the "body count" of the Soviet Union or Maoist China is just a distraction from legitimate criticism of capitalism or financial capitalism.
- No one here would want to live in the Soviet Union or the DPRK. Obviously.
- The opposition between communism and capitalism is a false dichotomy, again, to distract from legitimate criticism of capitalism.
- One could argue that the opposition between communism and capitalism is solved by cooperativism, or even to some extent by codetermination.
- Small-scale communis societies have existed throughout human history. Some anthropologists even argue that a form of "communism" is the default human society.
- By the definition of communism, yes, we'd be better off in a communist society. Of course. Even conservatives generally admit that. But because we do not know whether large-scale communist societies will ever come about, we compromise by advocating large-scale socialist (or socialistic) societies which we know to be efficient.

4 hours ago, Gorn said:

One thing that Soviet Union has proven beyond doubt is that central planning of all sectors of the economy cannot be efficiently done by humans.

This is wrong. The Soviet Union's central planning was efficient enough to scare the Americans shitless, and that was before computers.
China also has some level of central planning, and it should be the dominant economic superpower by the end of this year (if it isn't already).

I'm not saying this to defend central planning (I wouldn't) but because this commonplace assertion threatens to derive the wrong lessons from the Soviet failure. The risk would be to conclude that planning is inherently bad or inefficient and that we should let things to the market(s), when the opposite is true.

Some food for thought from economist Ha-Joon Chang (who defends capitalism and considers central planning a failure):

Quote

In all aspects of our lives, from how we organise our personal lives on a daily basis to the space programme, we need planning. The only question is where to plan and where to leave things to spontaneous interactions of different agents – mostly in the market but also in other areas of life (e.g., spontaneous organisation of activities in local communities).
In almost all countries, the government is the single most important economic actor, handling resources (producing, consuming, and transferring) equivalent to 30-50% of GDP and employing 15-25% of workforce. Like any big organisation, governments plan most of their activities internally, rather than relying on market mechanisms. Most governments are also deeply involved in the planning of private sector activities, through their support for R&D and investment in infrastructure.
Even in the private sector, most of the activities these days are planned, in the sense that the bulk of private sector activities are conducted according to plans formulated in corporations, rather than through market mechanisms. Just to give you one example, anything between 30-50% of international trade are actually trade within the same corporations, conducted according to internal plans. They are not really trade between different nations, mediated through markets, any more.
When you think about it, planning is not only compatible with capitalism but it is a product of capitalism. After all, Marx got his ideas about planning by watching how capitalist firms organise their activities.

The questions being asked are always the wrong ones... :crying:

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Gorn said:

One thing that Soviet Union has proven beyond doubt is that central planning of all sectors of the economy cannot be efficiently done by humans. Until we get an AI capable of providing us with Culture-style space communism, that idea is dead.

Just to expand on @Rippounet's answer above. There are already lots of examples of command economies working efficiently. Too efficiently in some ways. Walmart is one. Amazon is another. These organisations have internal economies that exceed many countries, and they're organised entirely by central command. See People's Republic of Walmart by Michal Rozworski.

I'm not saying that therefore we should organise our societies according to Amazon or Walmart's internal model. Just pointing out that the idea that "communist" command economies fail whereas "free market" economies succeed is not really true, and that capitalism and central command are not antithetical either.

Edited by Liffguard

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I wish I could have the same faith in this hyper capitalist state's rulers to do its best to save lives and feed its people in this pandemic that the Cubans have in theirs.

Of course, Cuba by now is a totally mixed economic system, but much is still planned centrally from the top.  Cuba not only is flattening its covid 19 infection curve, it is way on the downslide.  Moreover, as this desired outcome is in progress, instead of re-opening or relaxing shelter in place, they are strengthening it, and ramping up testing even more and tracing contacts even more.

Moreover, nobody is actually starving in Cuba, or dying alone on the street or anywhere else, or without medical attention.  The state centrally mobilized and food is being delivered or provided in other ways to every one, despite Cuba having a difficult time feeding its people due to we know why.  Nevertheless the agricultural sector has not shut down, food is still being grown and harvested.* Meat not much, particularly chicken which they've had to import so much anyway, and which the US is prohibiting anyone exporting to Cuba, as with so much else, including all medical supplies and medications. 

People are not resentful of being kept isolated, and are complying.  Particularly as they are seeing the positive results of everything the state has organized.

* The construction sectors and the industrial sectors such as nickle are still operating.  Not to mention the medical sector, which of course deathcultists are screaming about as bloody anti-capitalist horror sinc.

 

 

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Communism and  socialism were tried and proved to be terrible. On the other hand there are a lot of capitalistic systems which work just fine and do not have people dying on the streets: for example Sweden or Austria or - well actually - all over Europe. So the problem is not capitalism as such, but the way it is implemented.

Why is it that in some states it is seen as normal that streets and police and state infrastructure is paid with your taxes but not health care and education which are as important to the success of the system? This is where some countries seem to fail, change could come just by the election of other politicians there would be no reason to radically change the system.

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Posted (edited)
18 minutes ago, JoannaL said:

Communism and  socialism were tried and proved to be terrible. On the other hand there are a lot of capitalistic systems which work just fine and do not have people dying on the streets: for example Sweden or Austria or - well actually - all over Europe. So the problem is not capitalism as such, but the way it is implemented.

Why is it that in some states it is seen as normal that streets and police and state infrastructure is paid with your taxes but not health care and education which are as important to the success of the system? This is where some countries seem to fail, change could come just by the election of other politicians there would be no reason to radically change the system.

In the United States, concentrated wealth is turned in to politcal power. This a pretty common feature of democracy, but here it has been professionalized. Various forms of white collar crime and corruption are becoming legal, with Supreme Court backing. It's possibly a death spiral as there seems no end in sight. It leads to greater inequality, which then creates more concentrated wealth that can be turned in to political power.

Edited by Martell Spy

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Communism and  socialism were tried and proved to be terrible. On the other hand there are a lot of capitalistic systems which work just fine and do not have people dying on the streets: for example Sweden or Austria or - well actually - all over Europe. So the problem is not capitalism as such, but the way it is implemented.

there's quite a bit of blinkered special pleading in this--as though an allegedly negative instance of socialism/communism proves it terrible, whereas we excuse terrible instances of capitalism as the way it is implemented.  

 

no one wants to live in the soviet union because that requires turning the clock back at least 30 years--though most people think of 100 years ago when they say these things.  i don't wanna live in any country 100 years ago in general; i wouldn't want to live in the soviet union in particular because it was invaded twice by the rightwing and destroyed twice--and then a different part of the rightwing, beneficiary of the invaders, acts like OH NO IT CANT NOT WORKS! or: drop more bombs on vietnam than all bombs dropped in world war two by all belligerents: LOKE NOW VITENAME COMMARNISMS DOESNT WERK TOLD U SO111! fairly easy to see the interference in each alleged socialist state, coming out of colonialism, during independence.  this is why we draw the distinction between actually existing, or siege socialism, and something less crazed, had allegedly liberal societies left them to develop on their own.  (nevermind also that the stalinists likely would've shot me as too far to their left after their rightward turn.)

 

operativity is a relative concept. conceptualizing what 'works' vel non depends on what is under analysis; every system has an operativity--some have 'growth' (growth for its own sake is the ideology of malignancy, recall), some have 'efficiency' (authoritarianism is plenty efficiency), some have cost effectiveness (kill the wagner act and install FTZs, maybe).  saying capitalism 'works' because it has growth and accumulations of hoarded wealth doesn't really tell the whole story. as an acquaintance otherwise mentioned to me, every lottery has real people winning it--but if the methodology in studying the lottery is limited to examination of only the winners, then the conclusions will be very amusing; of course capitalism 'works' when we only look at those who are not afflicted by it.  

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30 minutes ago, JoannaL said:

Communism and  socialism were tried and proved to be terrible. On the other hand there are a lot of capitalistic systems which work just fine and do not have people dying on the streets: for example Sweden or Austria or - well actually - all over Europe. So the problem is not capitalism as such, but the way it is implemented.

Why is it that in some states it is seen as normal that streets and police and state infrastructure is paid with your taxes but not health care and education which are as important to the success of the system? This is where some countries seem to fail, change could come just by the election of other politicians there would be no reason to radically change the system.

I'm going to say that I can't reply to this in a way that is better than Solo's reply.

But I just want to emphasize the whole issue with the above statement, or even the purpose of this thread, as being incredibly binary. No one wants to lift up the current capitalist system, throw it away, and place something else in its place. That's ridiculous. But people do want to use Marxist beliefs, socialist practices to curb the most destructive parts of our current system.

I've never heard anyone but trolls suggest all-out communism is the way we ought to go. 

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1 minute ago, Simon Steele said:

But I just want to emphasize the whole issue with the above statement, or even the purpose of this thread, as being incredibly binary. No one wants to lift up the current capitalist system, throw it away, and place something else in its place. That's ridiculous. But people do want to use Marxist beliefs, socialist practices to curb the most destructive parts of our current system.

Its a false dichotomy/strawman, yes.

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14 hours ago, Darzin said:

does anyone actually believe that we'd be better off with Communism and opposed to Capitalism*?

Hell yes.

14 hours ago, Darzin said:

The Marxist-Leninist societies which have existed strike me as fundamentally illiberal and not places I would want to live,

Hell no.

14 hours ago, Darzin said:

and the more anarchic mostly untested versions strike me as prone to mob rule, innefiecient and not ready to meet the challenges of a globalized economy.

Well yes, obviously participating in a global economy run on capitalist principles is going to be a problem for a socialist state. If your priority is decent wages and working conditions and avoiding environmental damage, your prices will be massively undercut by multinational corporations employing virtual slave labour in the third world. But the problem there is the global capitalist system.

My proposal for abolishing capitalism is to start with just taking public ownership all business, but don't change anything else. For the vast majority of the population, life continues on just as before, doing the same jobs for the same employers and spending the same pay on the same goods and services in the same market system with the same laws. The small minority who were living primarily off investment income will have to get actual jobs just like everyone else. But what does change is the government suddenly has massively more revenue to fund public spending. More money for schools, healthcare, welfare, public transport, etc, and tax cuts too. And the new shareholders are able to prioritise the public good and long term goals over short term profit, since they're government employees whose own income isn't affected by the company profit rate.

It might not be the best alternative to capitalism, but it's the least scary to people used to the current system.

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 No one wants to lift up the current capitalist system, throw it away, and place something else in its place. That's ridiculous. 

the fascists, as much as they hated bolshevism, regarded it as simply 'manchester liberalism' taken to its logical end.  we don't want to endorse rightwing ideas, but there is something in this caricature insofar as it recognizes that marxism wants to preserve the gains of liberalism, including fictive 'individualism,' while negating the negation, as it were. that would be the dialectical way of handling it, anyway.

 

anarchic mostly untested versions strike me as prone to mob rule

we haven't had the anarchic variants primarily because the states in question could not wither away while the counter-revolution was active. am understanding the fear of ochlocracy, if not sharing it much.  we have an anarchy of production now, and it's dreadful. it likely can be mitigated when production is subject to democratic discipline.

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The thing is that in pure capitalist countries what is called 'health care' is merely a system for extracting wealth from the average person for the benefit of obscenely bloated private wealth holders, whether through something called a hospital, a doctor's office or an insurance company.  In socialist or socialist leaning countries health care is about health -- as it is in Cuba.  I know which one works best, and it ain't what's in the USA -- or the UK either, where the bloated political-financial class has been long determined to turn Britain's system into the USA's wealth extraction system.

 

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In addition to many points made, I’d point out that a lot of the evils many westerners associate with communism/socialism via the USSR...police state, informer society, waves of condemnation for political thought-crime, etc....are not actually inherent to ~ communism at all. They are instead very typical of revolutionary societies of any ilk which are immediately treated as existential threats by their surrounding states which then proceed to relentlessly attack them from within and without, bent on their destruction. That either succeeds in destroying the society or prompts a hyper-autocratic police state necessary to stay afloat, often followed by some kind of strong man who eschews much of the principals of the revolution itself in the name of surviving and maintaining other principals of said revolution. 
 

We see the exact same cycle in other non-communist revolutions put in that situation, for example democracy in the French Revolution when the surrounding powers treated democracy much the same as they later treated communism.

This is so true that the Dulles Dance for how to destroy nascent ‘anti-capitalist’ states was considered almost unbeatable because either your waves of funding coups and revolts and external attacks and assassinations and terrorist strikes etc. succeeded and brought the house down themselves or it forced the government to get all autocratic and heavy handed to stop them at which point you could point and say ‘See, heavy-handed autocrats! We must stop them!’ and bring the weight of economic and diplomatic power to bear to otherwise destroy the state...or invade. 

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