Private Property in Communism

Karl Marx (Image Source: Wikipedia)

Socialism is often accused of wanting to do away with all private property. That, together with the ‘central planning’ is probably the most contentious point of socialism.
But is it true that socialism, or rather communism wants to do away with all private property?
The short answer is no. But to really understand why, we have to start by looking at what is meant by private property.

The Manifesto of the Communist Party says about property (emphasis mine):

The distinguishing feature of Communism [from other forms of socialism] is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products, that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few.

[…]

We Communists have been reproached with the desire of abolishing the right of personally acquiring property as the fruit of a man’s own labour, which property is alleged to be the groundwork of all personal freedom, activity and independence.

Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the property of petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily.

Or do you mean the modern bourgeois private property?

But does wage-labour create any property for the labourer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage-labour, and which cannot increase except upon condition of begetting a new supply of wage-labour for fresh exploitation. Property, in its present form, is based on the antagonism of capital and wage labour. Let us examine both sides of this antagonism.

To be a capitalist, is to have not only a purely personal, but a social status in production. Capital is a collective product, and only by the united action of many members, nay, in the last resort, only by the united action of all members of society, can it be set in motion.

Capital is therefore not only personal; it is a social power.

When, therefore, capital is converted into common property, into the property of all members of society, personal property is not thereby transformed into social property. It is only the social character of the property that is changed. It loses its class character.

You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society.

In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.

From the moment when labour can no longer be converted into capital, money, or rent, into a social power capable of being monopolised, i.e., from the moment when individual property can no longer be transformed into bourgeois property, into capital, from that moment, you say, individuality vanishes.

You must, therefore, confess that by “individual” you mean no other person than the bourgeois, than the middle-class owner of property. This person must, indeed, be swept out-of-the-way, and made impossible.

Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriations.

Does this now mean that in Communism no one owns anything, as is often said? No, it doesn’t mean that at all, as the last sentence makes very clear.
All Communism is concerned about, it to prevent an individual or group of individuals (usually called the ‘bourgeois’ at the time, nowadays you would best call them the ‘corporatist’) from deriving power over others from their property.

This means you can still own a car or a house. This sort of property is not touched at all. However, you can no longer own the factory or the bank that produces or finances the production of these products. This sort of property is meant. According to Communism this sort of property, which it calls bourgeois property, needs to be in ‘public hands’.

Here is how Communism thinks it can achieve that goal:

The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.

Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionising the mode of production.

These measures will, of course, be different in different countries.

Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.

1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.

You can see, that while one could agree with the previous part, most people disconnect here with this list. I do as well, because certain points, I am completely at odds with.

However, to understand the list, one must first clarify what is meant by ‘the State’.
Most people belong to the proletarian (worker) class and not to the bourgeois (corporatist) class. This means that proletarians make up the vase majority of ‘the people’. For the people to own the means of production, they must first own the State.
This can certainly not be achieved by one party claiming to represent the proletarian class and imposing its will on everyone else. However, this was exactly what happened in history when so-called Communist parties did just that, calling themselves avant-guard.
This has nothing to do with Communism. All this does (or did) is replacing one small group of bourgeois elite with another small group of pseudo-communist elite. However, the latter is still a fundamentally bourgeois arrangement according to Communism’s own definitions. In the end, nothing changed but the names they were giving to it.

That is why I am of the opinion and keep saying that the Chinese Communist Party is and was not a Communist party at all. It is just another manifestation of the bourgeois class or the corporatists. The same was true for the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

If the people are to own the State, you must start with a democracy, with votes, elections, referendums and initiatives. Once you have organized your democratic State, you will have to look at the economic organisation. It is true, that some political reform is needed, as for example campaign finance reform, but those reforms depend to a certain extent on the economic organisation, so I won’t discuss it here.

To do that, here is my starter list. It may not be complete and need change over time:

1. Abolition of property in land and natural resources in, above, on or under this land; – you can still own the house on the land, but not the oil beneath it.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax; – to slow wealth accumulation in a few hands;
3. Abolition of rights of inheritance above a certain maximum total amount; – to stop wealth accumulation in a few hands;
4. Creation of a new money system without interest; – interest requires growth, but focus on growth is deadly for the ecosystem and the survival of mankind;
5. Creation of a basic income guarantee for all over 18; – to cater for basic needs like food, housing, clothing, communication, transportation etc and to take competition out of basic things needed for survival;
6. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly;
7. Revision of laws concerning corporate personhood, etc; ownership of and by legal constructs and their position in the legal system must be redefined;
8. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s labour.
9. –
10. –

These points need some explanation and some additional work. Which I will do later on.

Advertisements

Elite’s Strategy Emerging?

ZeroHedge claims:

Only a few days have passed since its release, and already the Mainstream Media has forgotten all about the Lehman Examiner Report, with barely an occasional mention. As the CJR points out, this unquestionably massive story of corruption and vice, is being covered up by powered interests controlling all the major news outlets, because just like in the Galleon case, the stench goes not only to the top, (in this case the New York Fed and the SEC), but very likely to various corporations that have vested interests in the conglomerates controlling America’s key media organizations.

I think that ZH is right and I think that I can see a strategy here. Part of this cover up is Michael Kaufmann’s newest book which was introduced on CBS 60 (see here for details). It was obvious to me that the whole CBS show was nothing but a sales pitch for the book the goal being to get the books message across that this whole finanical crisis was somehow based on key people not getting it and being delusional about their worth.
Well, yeah sure. The world’s best and brightest, as they are commonly refered to (by themselves, mostly) with Nobel laureates among them all did not know what was going on. How credible is that? If you believe that, then just tell me what the huge bonuses were for.

This is one attempt to deflect attention and the public’s anger from the US elite, but that’s not the only one.
All of a sudden Paul Krugman comes out in the NYT wanting to play hardball with China. According to ZH, 130 Congressmen joined Dr. Krugman in demanding that the US Treasury take action against the Chinese manipulation of the Yuan (aka Renminbi).
As I wrote in a post yesterday, in a post:

First, lets note that this sort of verbal sabre rattling is actually good for business, at least if you are in the business of selling arms. According to a SIPRI fact sheet, the largest exporters of arms are the US and Russia, by far. They are followed by Germany and France. In all, Europe, Russia and the US make up  88%  the suppliers. China is only 2%.
So, who, then profits from such “news”? The arms manufacturers, obviously. Which in turn means jobs in the respective countries. After all, we are talking here about people who manipulate the market for a living, so it would not be surprising, if these news were manipulated as well.
Besides, I don’t think the PRCs elite and the US elite have any major disagreements. They share the same ideology – corporatism – and  are dominated by the same personality types.

Second, the PRC, or rather the communist corporatist party of China, is in a bind. Being a single party dictatorship, there is, obviously, no alternative this one party. That means, it must succeed at all costs otherwise,  it will lose power and turmoil will result.
Now, this party promised to make the lives of the Chinese population better. If the party doesn’t succeed in doing that, it will be considered a failure by the Chinese population (or a part thereof). Since China does not have an alternative to the party, this might spell trouble for the Chinese elite – they might lose power and influence, something they would try to avoid at all costs? We will see.

If that analyis is correct than Dr. Krugman’s can only be another attempt at diversion to deflect the publics anger away from the elites. Keep in mind, in a conflict both the US and Chinese elites would lose most if not all of their power base.

Ok, so let’s see how many people fall for that diversion and how many get it. Make no mistake, I think this is a very dangerous situation. In case the public should not ‘take the right colored pill’ and turn on the elites, then the next steps could well be war with Iran.
I have been wondering for a while why all those additional troops in Afghanistan were needed, certainly not for the Taliban. The threat the Taliban are posing may well be hyped as a pretext to be able to beef up troop presence in Afghanistan. See this post on Think Progress.
That would correspond with the following article about the siege and taking of the noexistent city of Marjeh in Afghanistan. The article originally appeared on Alternet and I also wrote on it. Turns out Marjeh is not a city at all, the campaign looks more like a field exercise than a siege of a city.

Another hint that something may be going on, we can get from several resources in the newsmedia. For example there is the Brzezinski interview in the Wall Street Journal, then there is the Netanyahu remarks that ‘a war against Iran was not being planned’ and, of course the recent alleged rift between Israel and the US.
This might all be part of a deception campaing and thus the denials in all these – and there are more – recent pieces might mean the exact opposite.

Well, and if that’ is not enough to cow the US population, than you always the ‘martial law’ option.

This is getting way to scary, and I am really glad, that I am not in the United States or a citizen thereof, and if I were there I would leave now.

But of course, this all is just guessing and conjecture on my part. I am sure I am way to pessimistic here.

Famed NYT reporter tells Michael Moore capitalism driving humanity’s downfall

From Rawstory:

In his film Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore squares off with the free-market system for its role in leveraging the United States’s wealth into the hands of a few.

But in one clip cut from the documentary — which Moore provided exclusively to RAW STORY — he interviews Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter Chris Hedges, who explains how capitalism is actually contributing to the very downfall of the human race and the “degradation of the planet.”

Read full article and watch video here.

In the above article, you’ll also find a link to a leaked document from Citibank dating 2005. It makes interesting reading.

In short, the authors claim that the US, UK and Canada – and a few other countries – are plutonomies. A plutonomy is defined by investopedia..com:

Economic growth that is powered and consumed by the wealthiest upper class of society. Plutonomy refers to a society where the majority of the wealth is controlled by an ever-shrinking minority; as such, the economic growth of that society becomes dependent on the fortunes of that same wealthy minority.

In their analysis, they explain that there was no such thing as the US consumer but rather rich US consumers and poor US Consumers, the same for UK and other plutonomies. They conclude that investing in certain equities, namely the ones that cater to the needs of the rich top 1%, was a sure winner and a no worries approach as an investment strategy. The rich will get richer and will always have enough money to consume stuff.

What they are writing sounds about right. However, before you start  buying the shares they have in their basket, and a few others not on the list but certainly in this category as well, keep in mind that the top 1% of the population – or even less – control the world’s stocks (equities) as well.
What does that mean? It means that they could not make any additional money if only they themselves invested in these companies that they buy their products from. That would be a zero sum game.
Since this is Capitalism and Capitalism is a (or rather the ultimate) Ponzi scheme, they must make new participants come in to pay off the previous ones. So make to make more money, they need to find fools outside of their class who “invest” in those companies. Putting out such research reports and “leak” them would do this job nicely.

It isn’t surprising  that a plutonomy exists. It lies in the logic of capitalism and is an entirely predictable result. Indeed it has been predicted by Karl Marx and others that capital would accumulate in ever fewer hands.

This economic system called capitalism works for the benefit of a few and to the detriment of all others, even to the detriment of nature. Capitalism destroys the basis on which the very existence of mankind depends.

Do they care? No.

Idea for a New Economy

Our economic system is called Capitalism (for a good overview of the term Capitalism see wikipedia). It is equally clear that in the financial sector with all its deregulation and non-interference by regulators, we have seen Capitalism at its worst. If anyone needed proof that laissez-faire à la Milton Friedman is baloney then you are seeing the results of this before you.
With all the wealth that has been destroyed and which still we destroyed, it should have become clear that the current economic system does not work and that a new approach to doing things is needed.

To come up with a new solution, it seems in order to do a analysis of the problems caused by our current economic system.

Financial Issues

To live (and I mean that literally) you need money. To get that money most people have to find a job that pages wages they can live on. This is becoming more and more difficult and with the current economic downturn, I would say, it is an illusion form many people to find a job, or a job that they can live on.

Health Issues

Our way of living leads to people becoming sick. The lifestyle is based on consumption of goods. Consumption is a stress reliever. The stress is being artificially induced in the working place, where people work as wage slaves just to pay their mortgages, leasings, student credits and consumer credits.
Many health-issues today are caused by this setup. Many of them may just disappear once the stress is eliminated.

Resource issues

Natural resources are for the most part non-renewable. This is true for many metals needed in high-tech stuff like your PC, plasma screen, iPhone etc. It is also true for oil from which many plastics, drugs, etc are made. Without those things, there is no modern society, you will have to go back living as in the 18th century.

Environmental Issues

Our way of living produces too much waste and too much pollution and too much. Those in turn hurt our ecosystem. This affects not only the habitat of wild animals, but also the habitat of humanity. Today, the ecological footprint of many humans, especially in the countries that have embraced the capitalistic system, is way too great. This must be changed.
Environmental issues are also created by the way this work is organized. The commuting to and from the workplace not only takes hours, it also puts a stress on people and on the environment.

With the above, it is easy to see that we are in a vicious cycle with factors that do reinforce themselves and make it increasingly difficult to keep it working. In fact, we may have reached the breaking-point of the system. Once past that, there is no way it can be « fixed », more and more resources would be needed to keep it working. The only solution is to stop that madness, step outside this destructive logic and come up with something new. Here is a first idea of what could be done.

Possible Solution

(1) Reform social security. Scrap different programs for people in need and Medicaid and pay every US Citizen a monthly “basic income” of USD 2800, which will cover basic needs for housing, food, clothing. This way people will no longer have to work to make a living. The basic income will not be taxed;
(2) people may earn an “additional income” by working on their terms and as much as they want, depending on their needs. This “additional income” will be taxed, but only lightly until it reaches USD 250,000 , see (6);
(3) Freeze all mortgages for primary homes in trouble and restructure them, so people can afford them, there will be no need for foreclosure;
(4) Set the maximum interest rate for debt that can be charged to 15% p.a., define maximum allowable charges;
(5) Tax consummation through VAT,tax Carbon (di)oxide emissions, tax transactions (wiretransfers, stock-exchanges, etc);
(6) Tax additional incomes (see 2) from 33,600 to 250,000 will be taxed lightly, starting at 4% ending at 12%. Incomes above 250,000 will be taxed progressively starting at 12% reaching 79.9% at 5mln. Higher incomes will be taxed at 99.9%;
(7) Tax large fortunes – above 100mln – progressively the higher the income, the higher the tax, starting at 35% and reaching 79.9% at 2bln;
(8) Tax large heritages progressively starting at 35% reaching 79.9% at 2bln. Limit amount that can be inherited to 200mln;
(9) Ban lobbying by corporations in any legal shape or form. Corporations were not meant to benefit from any right guaranteed in the bill of rights. They are neither “natural persons”, nor do they belong to “the People”. Therefore they cannot “petition the Government”.