Hi. Welcome to the site. Please check out the About Us, and if you have a question about crime and/or punishment, perhaps look at some previous questions along those lines first.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

Straight to Communism OR Transition to It thru Socialism?

–7 votes
This is a question for those who are in favor of communism – people being allowed to consume as much as they feel they need for a good life without their amount of consumption being dependent on how much they work. That includes those who want communism as an eventual goal even if we have a transition phase.

Do you think that we should start full communism immediately after we’ve expropriated the means of production, which means while the armed combat phase of the revolution is just beginning? Or do you think that we will have to transition to communism via socialism? (By “socialism” I mean using remuneration / limiting our consumption to how much we work, but we all get “paid” the same for each hour... and exceptions are made for those unable to work, or work as much, due to disabilities or due to children/elderly dependents.)

Why do you have that opinion?
And what is your rebuttal to the arguments made by the other side?

Here’s a summary of both sides of the argument, as I understand it...

1) For those who think we should go to communism right away, they say that if we have even a phase of socialism then we might get stuck in that phase and are even at risk of moving backwards to capitalism. They think capitalism might creep back because they say that remuneration keeps alive an individualistic mentality and causes us to value our labour for what it does for us (giving us entitlement to consumption) rather than what it does for the community. This mentality might corrupt us and cause us to drift back to old ways (capitalism).

2) For those who think we need a transition phase of socialism to get to communism, their argument is more complex...
a) They say after expropriation the armed combat phase of revolution will just be getting started, and years of war ahead of us means scarcity and chaos that would sabotage communism. If there’s no limits placed on consumption, scarcities could be exacerbated and destitution result.
b) Also, communism takes plenty of meeting in workplaces (to plan production) and in communities (to plan consumption), especially during the early stages when we’re still figuring out how to coordinate all the details of democratically planned production and consumption, it will be a time consuming thing, and in a war it’s too chaotic for that.
c) Also, in the early stage there will likely be a sizeable minority of the working class (10%? 25%? 35%?) who is not yet in favor of the revolution and thus may refuse to work. Others may not be for or against revolution but have an individualist mentality, leftover from capitalism, and choose to consume a lot and work very little. By pegging how much we can consume to how many hours we work (with exception for those unable to work as much or at all), socialism is coercive enough to ensure that people work even if they dislike the revolution or would like to take individualistic advantage of it. On the other hand, socialism is egalitarian enough that it will win the support of those who are against it, and replace their individualism with solidarity so that they will be prepared for the next phase, full communism.

I’m wondering what other people’s opinions are:
•    Do you support going straight to communism or having a transitional phase of socialism before communism?
•    Why?
•    And what is your response to the arguments made by those who take the other view?

Thanks. I’m not certain on my own views yet.

edited to add tags
asked Aug 12, 2011 by uv (100 points)
edited Jul 13, 2014 by dot
i guess i'll leave this here for the anarcho-communists in the house.
for the record, many many (most?) anarchists would not say they're for communism, hence why we call ourselves anarchists and not communists.

3 Answers

–1 vote
Best answer
I am against the transitional phase as an insane control mechanism on free activity. But I can't say I agree at all with your phrasing of "the other side" of the debate which I would therefore "support."

It's not that people would go straight to communism immediately AFTER expropriating the means of production, but immediately IN expropriating the means of production (in addition to other activity--see #3 below), to the extent that that activity takes the form of communization.

Also, to clarify, the immediacy of communization:
1. is not necessarily temporally immediate. It could take place "over time," just not through the kind of managed, measured, progressive capitalist time we are accustomed to. It is immediate in the sense that the ends are not separated from the means through a mediating body such as party control or the disgusting society of coercion and control which you are describing as socialism.
2. is a theorization of actual forms of class struggle arising in recent decades. In other words, it is not a theory from which practice is meant to be modeled (which would be programmatic and therefore counter to the theory's content), but an understanding of the way in which class struggle has developed (not necessarily progressively).
3. is not limited to expropriation of the means of production, having as its scope the whole transformation of social activity, the expropriation and destruction of commodities and retail locations, the blockade and destruction of various infrastructural systems, the occupation of a variety of spaces, the stoppage and destruction of the means of production, and more that cannot be foreseen. In short, it is the production of communist social relations immediately in and through the destruction of capitalist social relations and their materiality. Better yet, we can't really know what it is except by doing it.

Following #2, it is important that we understand communization not simply as an "issue" that we have to "take a position on." It is undeniably the form which insurrections-of-communist-potential take within/against/beyond the present conditions, and in the course of these uprisings overcoming their limits, they sometimes have and will have to deny and attack the proponents of transitional phases and planning.

Personally, and to depart from the theory itself, I find it intensely repulsive that communists would act as social planners in a mass uprising, trying to plan activity, place limits, force production, and so on. To wax poetic: the flower of communism must be quenched with the blood of these communists in order to truly flourish.

To put it another way: get with the program, which is anything but a program.
answered Aug 28, 2011 by anok (21,030 points)
–1 vote
Why is it that, for you, communism is fundamentally a matter of arriving at a socially unified calculation of labor time for all productive activity?

How does communism figure into this?  I don't understand at all.

We are already living in a society where all productive activity is taken into account on a global level, and where all production is socially unified. There is no precedent for the social unity capitalism has established. (How much material is moved for trade in a single major port on any given work day? How many labor forces, in how many different regions and cultures, contribute to the production of complex assemblages?) What you are trying to find communism in sounds much like a typical day of accumulation. The implication of this being that capitalist society is the necessary—no, *fundamental*—causal factor in the genesis of communist relations, and therefore we are already at the "transitional phase" and it is now only a matter of class conscious specialists, such as yourself, designing a tenable program of facilitating the separation of the productive forces from value and ownership and integrating them into a planned economy of social ownership on the prefigured (by capitalism) global scale.
answered Aug 31, 2011 by madlib (3,770 points)
+1 vote
skip socialism and communism: go straight to anarchy.

Constantly attack all structures of state and capital, never allow them to re-consolidate their forces, and attack all emergent forces of domination.

This is not really an option, because the other "choices" are just pretty lies.

"Transitional" phases never seem ready to transition to the next phase, and states that will "wither away" always seem to think that should happen later.  This is consistent with the logic of domination: I am good; I am in power; I can do good for others by controlling them because I am in power; If I lose my power I cannot do good for others; me losing power over others is bad.

A revolution against domination and hierarchy and exploitation will by definition have a character of uncontrollably.  All attempts to control, restrain, and manage revolution must be seen as counter-revolutionary.  What we need is solidarity, not a new management class.
answered Sep 4, 2011 by Taigarun (2,810 points)
Communism is not anarchy.
Anarchy is the lack of all government.
If I refuse to let other people say what to do with things I made with my own two hands, food I grew, a house I made..
it is taken from me by force.
Against my will.
And redistributed for the "greater good" to which all individuals must be sacrificed.
In communism, this is your only worth.
You have no worth in and of yourself, but only in how much you can be sacrificed for.. and how dare you claim innate and sovereign human worth.

In communism my actions are governed by others.
No form of communism is anarchy.
I think you have a vision of communism not unlike what right wingers and similar people spread in order to scare people where they tell you that communists are going to take away your watch and communize it.

During the Spanish Revolution, the most extensive social experiment of  anarchism in history, the capitalist and semifeudal landowners lands were taken over mostly by its same workers who worked these lands. Nevertheless the CNT-FAI  let small individual peasants who didn´t employ anyone else and who wished to keep working their own land to keep doing exactly that. On this point they didn´t do what the bolsheviks did in the USSR. The family small peasant units in the USSR rebelled when they were going to be forcefully colectivized by the Soviet State and so the USSR state had to sent many of the most rebellious ones to the concentration camps known as gulags. To me this is a good history lesson on what not to do.

Another example is the Landless Workers Movement in Brasil. When they squat a piece of land, they decide whether they distribute the land between the landless peasants or instead if they decide to work the land cooperatively.

It seems to me though that for ecological reasons and maybe in order to produce enough for a community, there shouldn´t be too much of a view which tries to give every single peasant a piece of land. Anyway even if in your case you do enjoy working by yourself many people actually enjoy working with others while others really see their individuality is not really too related with owning land or in working by oneself but with enjoying life with sovereingty over one´s soul and one´s body. It seems to me also the question of housing and the question of land for production are different things and so i think everyone should have a private space such as a room and a group of friends or a family should have a house or an apartment with many rooms but production even in today´s capitalist society there is non-capitalist individual self employed producers but most producers act together in factories, offices, farming land, etc. In an anarchist situation of course there wouldn´t be a boss but an assembly of workers deciding how to produce.
"In today's capitalist society"?

That's where I take issue. America has not had a capitalism since December 23rd, 1913. Any issues you have experienced during your lifetime if you're American are not due to capitalism. It has not existed here in your lifetime.

The "croney capitalism", the fiat currency debt based system of controlling rights of production and distribution are the opposite of a free market. Laissez faire literally translates "leave it alone". As in no interference. No regulation. American banks, corporations, and governments do not "leave it alone". The resulting market place is not due to a failing of financial freedom, but of the hindering at every turn of the prospering of the common individual. It's not a failing of free trade where both parties mutually consent and mutually benefit, but an overriding by a system that seeks for a select few to benefit at the expense of others against their will. That. Is not Free Market capitalism. We do not have. and have never had in your or my life time in this country. A free market.
your definition of capitalism highly simplistic up to an incredible level. Anyway I am surprised to hear someone in an "anarchy 101" defending capitalism. So if this happens I guess also fascists, marxist-leninists and social democrats can also come here and answer and discuss questions. At some point if this continues, this space should stop calling itself "anarchy 101" and so it should proceed to adhere to "political/ideological neutrality" o something like that. Not that I haven´t been in places like that but if something calls itself "anarchy 101" it is quite reasonable to expect a difference with something like yahoo questions and answers.
My definition IS simplistic, you're right. Because all I mean by it is free trade between individuals in ways that aggress against no one. Nothing else is free. Nothing else deserves the name. The word, like the rest of the system has been entirely hijacked and honestly.. I should probably just stop using it because of the connotation it's developed instead of trying to reclaim it. And look, I haven't called anyone a Nazi for disagreeing with me or anything like that. Let's forego the "fascism" bit and all the name calling and if you see faulty reasoning, point out how it is faulty instead of making attacks on character. It's much more constructive and clarifying for everyone reading.
capitalism does not mean, nor has it ever meant, "free trade between individuals."

Where did you come by this definition of capitalism?  Did you invent it yourself?  Is it some horrid revisionism by 'anarcho'-capitalists?

You do know that capitalism as a term was coined by anti-capitalists, right?  Read Marx for fucksake. (Capital Volume 1)

Why on earth would freedom mean "no government interferes with the actions of the rich and powerful?"  The right to do what you want with your property only helps those who have property.  The right to use your property to make profit only helps those with large amounts of property.  This is a class based system and it is entirely antithetical to the ideas of anarchism.

Yes, you should stop using the term capitalism, because the way you use it makes no sense.  You should also think about how freedom and 'free market' are or are not connected.  (why would freedom primarily be about property and not the meeting of human need?)