Communist? Me? Well, yes, but…

         Adjustah over at BravoZulu.bm, who has kindly advertised my blog on his site, has described me as  a self-described communist, and Christian Dunleavy over at Politics.bm in January referred to me as Bermuda’s resident Marxist.  Personally, I don’t have any problems with these descriptions, I would call myself both a Marxist and a communist.  But what exactly do these labels mean?  There are after all certain preconceived notions that many people hold about these terms – to be blunt most people think of the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea and Cuba when these terms are bandied about.  Personally, I do not consider these states to be either Marxist or Communist States in anything other than name and rhetoric.  

        So, what do I mean by Marxism, or Communism?  What exactly do I advocate if I don’t consider the aforementioned countries communist/Marxist?

Both the so called ‘communist’ countries and their enemies had good reason to use the term communist.  The ‘communist’ countries often came into existence through legitimate workers revolution, with the ideology of Marxism being a key expression of the revolutionary workers.  That the resulting bureaucratic totalitarian state was not communist or bore any relation other than superficialities to the Marxist conceptions of communism, led the new ‘leaders’ of these regimes to fear a libertarian revolution against their bureaucratic regime.  It was useful for these leaders to cloak their own anti-Marxist existence with the rhetoric of communism, of Marxism – essentially to ‘pull the wool over the eyes’ of those they could, to shore up international support for their States (often from legitimate Marxists, communists and socialists, who had they been in these authoritarian states would have been ‘disappeared’ with accusations of Left Communism, Anarchists or Counter-Revolutionaries), and the indoctrination of the new generations who did not remember pre-communist times or the revolution itself.  The enemies of these states benefited in calling the self-proclaimed communist states ‘communist’ in that they could essentially smear or distort the ideology of Marxism as one of dictatorship, of authoritarianism.  Those who could clearly see that the USSR or the PRC were ruthless regimes became confused and largely resigned themselves into apathy.

           Names are forever used to fool the masses; it is much easier to accept pigeonholed labels that communism equals State socialism, propaganda, purges and dictatorship.  Only in name under State socialism (which may arguably be called State capitalism) did the workers rule, were the workers the masters of their labour, the masters of the ‘peoples’ State.  Socialism/Communism does not mean the nationalisation of production and nothing more; it does not mean ‘more goulash for everyone’ as Khrushchev so famously vulgarised Marxism.  Yes, ensuring that production increases, that people are freed from want, this is all part of what socialism/communism calls for.  But with the economic revolution (nationalisation and rationalisation of production) one must also call for a political and social revolution.  Under State socialism, the workers were not free, they were ruled by an Party elite which formed the bureaucratic apparatus, with managers appointed from above due to Party connections as opposed to technical skill.  This conception of society, of ‘socialism from above’ developed right out of the Leninist model of organisation with its concept of the vanguard, that the workers themselves could not rule, that the Party must rule in the name and interests of the workers.  Under State socialism the basic underlying fabric of capitalism, of capitalist mentality, continued with leaders and led, with managers and exploited workers.  As von Hayek wrote, it was a new serfdom.  

               Socialism/Communism cannot be realised by decree, or by an elite Party working in the name of the workers.  It can only be achieved from below, by the workers themselves.  All ‘leaders’ must be mandated delegates subject to the right of recall.  All information must be transparent and readily available for scrutiny.  No ‘leader’ must receive wages greater than the average wage of a skilled worker.  Socialism/communism is above all about freedom and the ability of humans to realise their full potential.  This is not obtainable under capitalism, and it certainly isn’t obtainable under State socialism.  Only with full freedom of expression, with total democratic control of both the economic and political structures of society, along with a continuous assault against those social traditions that contain an inherent germ of authoritarianism (sexism, racism, sectarianism) can one even begin to achieve socialism.  The subtitle of this site is ‘for workers power’ which means I stand for workers self-control of the economy and society.

             So, am I communist, a Marxist?  Yes.  But am I a supporter of State socialism?  No.  If one must use labels, then call me a Marxist-Luxemburgist, or a libertarian socialist.  But names are just names, rhetoric is just rhetoric.  What counts is whether ones actions are in line with what one says one believes in.  That is the key.

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4 thoughts on “Communist? Me? Well, yes, but…

  1. LOL! Hey Jonathan,

    I stand corrected – I have not kept up on my Marx or other ‘isms much since uni’ and will happily amend my statement accordingly.

    I’d actually be interested to know your thoughts on whether Marxism would work in Bermuda given our deeply embedded and distinclty seperate class consciousness – especially on such a small island with a history of “small-town mentality” based materialistic tendencies?

    In the meantime, welcome to the Bermuda blogosphere, nice to have another one out here. I think that Sean over at IMHO.bm also has you listed amongst his local links.

    Cheers!

    Bill “Adjustah” Davidson

  2. Pingback: BravoZulu.bm » Blog Archive » A New Bermie Blog

  3. Hi Jonathan,

    Interesting piece mate. I am nowhere near as qualified to split hairs on the defining nuances of Marxists, Communists, Communalists, Leninists, Trotskyites, Luxembourgists, etc. Also note, I am a fervert Capitalist so please (please) take this in the spirit of debate in which it is intended, and feel free to educate me if I am skewing your ideological particulars 😉

    I’d be interested to know, as a Socialist, how do you reconcile living in a tax neutral environment like Bermuda, which makes near the entirety of its national earnings from institutions setting up shop to avoid giving back tax to the State? Would not enforcing Marxist & Socialist ideals upon your home country crush our entire economy? Do you favour a Global Socialist Utopia that would throw your Island back into the Stone Age, or do you prefer espousing a NIMBY (Not In My Back-Yard) approach to Socialism; where we should encourage *other* countries to tax the heck out of *their* citizens, thereby increasing the incentive to ‘Off-shore’ to Bermuda, and further our prosperity that way?

    And yes I am having a bit of fun with you, but feel free to rip one right back. CB

  4. Combat Banker – I do not advocate socialism in one country alone, primarily because I don’t think it is possible. However that doesn’t mean we can’t start on the road to socialism. Obviously one could not move against international business, at least not until we have significantly diversified our economy, without significantly reducing our livelihood. I do not see any reason why we cannot at least ensure that the businesses that do incorporate here are ‘corporately socially responsible’ – in other words, any business involved in arms dealing, renowned for gross labour exploitation, renowned for gross environmental desecration, involved in mercernary activity, complicit in war crimes (such as the corporations currently involved in the ‘scramble for Iraq’), and similar companies, I think we can say, no, we don’t want this blood money. I do wonder however, how much of these companies that have a ‘front’ in Bda really benefit the average citizen. Whenever I look at the folders in the MoFinance I see some already super-rich lawyers or the CEOs of already existing large Bda companies listed as the ‘representatives’ or ‘local directors’ with a list of the shares they recieve, or the fees they charge for such. I fail to see how this helps the mean and mode wages in Bermuda, other than causing such inconsistencies as saying that the average wage is something like US$75K, which I know I definetely don’t come near to in wages.

    I think for Bermuda we would need to focus primarily on gaining as near economic independence as we can, which would mean a solid investment in alternative energy sources to lessen our dependence on foreign imports, building up our national food capacity (national service can help with this), diversifying our import areas (I beleive something like 80% currently travels via US ports – imagine a Cuban style embargo on us at the moment), investing in Caribbean and African states, along fair trade lines, to ensure that we have alternative food sources, and really building up our educational and scientific research facilities, to serve as an alternate to International Business as a revenue area, as well as building a new tourism where the Bermudian (of all colours of course) benefits without losing what little is left of our culture.

    So no, I am not calling for a decree for socialism and the appropriation of IntBusiness, which would result in immediate capital flight and ‘throw us back into the stone age.’ But there are a variety of social, political and economic reforms that could be implemented in order to lay the foundations for socialism in Bermuda.

    I do for example think that we need to seriously consider reparations as a necessary vehicle to achieving reconciliation between the races, and ensuring a more just society. By reparations I don’t mean a check equivalent to x amount of acres and a donkey in 19th Century dollars. I think that is a vulgar representation of reparations and fails to consider the structural problems of race in Bermuda which are a result both of an ideology of racial capitalism (dead, but the effects still linger), and current consumer fascism. To me reparations would take the form of systematic long term investment into social welfare, health, education and housing for example, and ensuring an equality in oppurtunity for all. This of course must involve social reforms, combating several prejudices or aversions, for example towards ‘learning.’ The fact that many working class people are working two to three jobs and leaving the TV babysitting is a problem, and one that will have to be combatted. That the tradtion of reading is not as strong in some classes as others is a problem that contributes to inequality here. At most I would be okay with ‘credits’ to be used only for say, basic foodstuffs, for educational materials, books and stationary and the like. Reparations tend to get peoples backs up against the wall, with people saying, ‘I had nothing to do with slavery, why should I pay for what happened in the past?’ However, we all have a part in the present and ensuring a better future for our children. Reparations, in the form I am advocating, must be equally shared and not just to Blacks. For that matter, with the racial intermixing in Bermuda I think it would be hard to really say who is white and who is black in determining the proceeds. I would say we do need to introduce a form of income tax here, graduated so that the rich pay more. I do think we can also achieve a lot of these reforms through other means, such as vice taxes (junkfood taxes, etc) helping to subsidise healthy food and health services for example.

    One key area is also in building a cocnept of self-reliance amongst our people. Quite often you see/hear people complaining that this or that is not right, that the government needs to do such and such. That to me betrays a colonial mentality, expecting some omnipotent master to correct x,y and zed. It would be better for a neighbourhood or community to get together and say, okay, this is the problem, this is what we can do ourselves, this is where we need assistance, can the government provide this and we will do that. This of course would require some serious political reforms, for example, a revitalisation of the Parish Council system, but with real power to administer local affairs, based on the neighbourhoods, composed of revocable mandated delegates. A similar system can be built in the work place in the form of workers councils.

    As I’m sure you can see, there are a lot of issues involved here, and I do not have a blueprint in my pocket showing me the directions on the roda to socialism in Bermuda. It will have to be a mass discussion and participation, and not an enforcement from above, thats about all I can say with any degree of confidence, based on the history of state socialism in the 20th century. The aim of this site (and yes, I will write the ‘About’ section soon), is not to serve in the capacity of ‘leadership’ for socialism in Bermuda, but rather contribute to the debate about what is best for Bermuda and her people.

    And don’t worry about the nuances of Leftist thought. I personally find all the ‘isms’ quite nauseating. However, the fact that there are quite so many ‘isms’ – the balkanisation of utopia I once heard it put, isn’t really that bad, as long as one ism doesn’t start liquidating others. A balkanisation of utopia, the ensuring of total freedom of expression and criticism can be beneficial as no one person is infallible, and it is important to approach things from all angles and not become dogmatic and reject valid criticism and alternatives. The balkanisation of utopia, it has been said, is about the only guaruntee that utopia is worth having, provided we ever get there. My only reasoning in clarifying what kind of communist I am was to ensure people dind’t think I was a mindless dogmatic authoritarian.

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