“So just what will a Communist world look like?”
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that question- it seems that any discussion or (as it mostly is) debate on the subject of Marxism turns inevitably to that issue. How will _____ work under Marxism?
For the most part, Socialists won’t answer this question, claiming that predictions about the future are overwhelmingly wrong. I think there’s some points to be awarded for being cautious in the regard, but let’s face it- the absence of a clear picture of the world we’re trying to build does the movement more harm than it does good. Conservatives, after all, can point to a heavily mythologized Rockwell-esque picture of 50s America as the “good ol’ days” they’re looking to restore…
…while Liberals, on the other hand, can point to a hybridization of Scandinavian and Western European welfare states.
Ok, so that’s a bit of a potshot, but the truth of the matter is that both of the mainstream tendencies in this country have decently clear visions of the social system they’re trying to create, and there’s really no way the radical left can expect to compete for the hearts and minds of the public at large if all we have to offer is some vague, pie-in-the-sky promise that things will be infinitely better. We need a picture of a Socialist America, and while we’re gradually coming around to this concept, we could stand to do a lot more (and reciting this scene from Monty Python doesn’t count).
Here’s me pitching in.
Politics & Civics
Contrary to popular belief, Marxism does not espouse an all-powerful, tyrannical government dictating the lives of the citizens. The abolition of the state is called for, but the specifics of what is supposed to follow are fuzzy. Here’s how I see it-
We’re looking at the radical redrawing of borders based not on the decisions of a bunch of rich white guys hundreds of years ago but according to the desires of the public at large, based on linguistic, cultural, and environmental needs. For example, I went to college in western New York, a largely- scratch that- entirely rural area. Out there in the backwoods, we had a lot more in common with folks south of the border in western Pennsylvania than in the metropolis of New York City, yet it’s representatives from NYC who would often have control of the state government and policies affecting the farmers of Allegheny County.
Redrawing borders on the grounds of common consensus would seem to make life easier on everyone. A population comprised overwhelmingly of farmers would have a government tailored to dealing with the issues unique to their geography and lifestyles- and that increase in general efficiency should in turn lead to a diminished role for government in general. Working off of the idea that it’s easier to do things on a small scale than on a large one, decentralized and local governments can minimize waste, meaning there’s less to fix, less to supervise, and less to regulate. This would be especially complemented by that long-standing demand of Socialists, “Direct Democracy”.
Now “Direct Democracy” is a unique flavor of government in which most major decisions are made not by elected representatives but by mass polls. We see this. in a very limited sense, already when the general public is occasionally asked to vote on certain propositions. This, however, would be the norm under Socialism, with the vast majority of major decisions being made through polling the public (an act made much more feasible with the introduction of the internet), leading to the elimination of a lot of lobbying, misrepresentation, and various shenanigans that tend to accompany hierarchical governments. This is about as “of the people, by the people, for the people” as it gets.
Economy & Production
This is an area where we have had some speculation, but unfortunately, not nearly enough. We know we’re supposed to be trying to democratize the workplace, and in some cases, we already have, but when it comes to picturing this on a massive scale, we’re still falling short.
Now, we’ve touched briefly on the subject of work and time before, but I don’t think I’ve ever really grappled with the issue. I’ll just come out and say it right now: We work too hard.
No, we really do.
We all have to work, I don’t believe in “guaranteed minimum income“, but for the majority of us, we produce everything we need to feed ourselves, pay our bills, and keeps the lights on in a handful of hours. At a certain point, everything we do is simply to make profit for someone else. Now obviously it’s a bit more complex than all that, but the simple fact is that just as the radical left secured for this country a 40 hour work week, our advances in technology have led us to be long overdue for another cut to the working-day. Under Socialism you can expect to have much more free time to yourself. With no push to work hours upon hours simply to maximize a profit, you’ll have hours to devote to your own amusement, participation in politics, or in developing yourself as a human being. And of course, you’ll be doing some manual labor on the side.
Don’t worry, we’re not talking about work camps here or anything like that. Just that one day a month it’ll be your turn to sweep the streets or wait tables or wash dishes or do some other kind of untrained labor. The lousy jobs in our society are typically the ones that don’t require a ton of training to do- why would we waste the valuable talents and abilities of an underclass of people when they could just as easily follow their true passions and divvy up the work evenly? Plus that manual labor is going to be (1) more healthy for us and (2) provide us with some valuable perspective on what it’s like to work a job like this. I’m guessing that treating folks in the service industry like crap will become just as looked down upon as being nasty to any other kind of worker. I say a world where cashiers and wait staff can work with dignity and pride is a world worth fighting for.
All of it. Simple as that.
Now this isn’t to say all schools are owned by the state, but rather, that all schools will be funded by the folks who wish their kids to attend such an institution. One school might place a lot of emphasis on learning logic and critical thinking and receive overwhelming support from the community it serves, whereas a school where all the lessons are taught in German probably won’t survive too long. The idea of a private institution becomes a thing of the past as teachers, parents, and yes, even students, are collectively tasked with creating an equitable and viable system of education. Will there be conflict? Absolutely- but I’d rather have conflict and a say in my education than have children be subject to the constraints of their parents’ bank accounts.
No communist is going to advocate the enforcement of atheism or anything of the like, but even a religious person like myself can imagine a substantially more secular world than we have today. Call me a cynic, but I’d hope that once the possibility of living in obscene luxury is out of the picture, we’ll see the disappearance of televangelists, megachurches, and economies-unto-themselves groups like the Wesleyan or Southern Baptist Conventions would break apart. I don’t think I’ve been the first person in history to suggest that money and faith doesn’t mix well…
Art & Media
This one is a doozy, I aint gonna lie. Exactly how do we deal with the issue of art in a Socialist society? I mean, we’re probably not going to go around copyrighting everything, but at the same time, it would seem reasonable that a person who makes something should have some basic claim to it, even if only as the original creator. We’ve played around with the concept of a “CopyLeft“, designed to prevent anyone from claiming ownership over a certain item, but exactly how well that will work still remains to be seen. And we haven’t even begun to touch on the issues of film, television, and radio. Does everyone working on set get an equal say in the formation of the story? Does an individual artist pitch us the idea, we vote on it, and then follow his vision to a tee?
Truth be told, I just don’t know. It’s well past midnight as I’m writing this, and I haven’t even started on such issues as the environment, law, trade, science, and the like. I don’t think even everything I’ve written here is a snowflake on the tip of the iceberg.
Readers, I need help. This is simply too daunting of a task for one man, and let’s face it, the development of the ins-and-outs of an entire future society probably shouldn’t be left up to a single person, myself least of all. So let’s get the conversation going in earnest here- what will a future Socialist America look like? What’s staying around? What’s going away?
Once again, if we don’t have a clear picture of where we’re going, how is anyone supposed to create an action plan or platform more elaborate than “Democracy good! Exploitation bad!”? We need to have this talk, and soon. There’s no way we can win in our fight with all the things we’re against if we have no picture of what we’re fighting for.
Let’s change that.