After several requests by listeners to talk about the differences between the Venus Project and Communism/Socialism I have been researching this topic for some time. This is also why I have not done any radio shows yet this month, as there was a lot of research that went into this. I wanted to be very sure that I knew what I was talking about.
First of all, let me begin by talking about Karl Marx and his vision. I read “The Communist Manifesto” to be able to understand the direction he was considering. I feel that he had his heart in the right place. And many of his observations about the problems with capitalism are right on track. Let go over a few
Most of Marx's work talks about the conflict between the “bourgeois” which basically is a word for the “ruling elite” and owners of the means of production, and the “proletariat” which is a word for the working class. The people who actually do the work. In his descriptions of these struggles he details how the elite exploit the working class and always seem to end up sitting around most of the day making money just because they happen to own some land or factories while the workers sweat and toil to make money for them.
From the Communist Manifesto:
“In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed — a class of laborers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labor increases capital. These laborers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.”
“The average price of wage-labor is the minimum wage, i.e., that quantum of the means of subsistence which is absolutely requisite to keep the laborer in bare existence as a laborer What, therefore, the wage-laborer appropriates by means of his labor, merely suffices to prolong and reproduce a bare existence. We by no means intend to abolish this personal appropriation of the products of labor, an appropriation that is made for the maintenance and reproduction of human life, and that leaves no surplus wherewith to command the labor of others. All that we want to do away with is the miserable character of this appropriation, under which the laborer lives merely to increase capital, and is allowed to live only in so far as the interest of the ruling class requires it.“
This basically talks about how in the capitalist system the people who have all the money will only give us a share of it if it in some way brings profits to themselves. And when they do so they are only inclined to do so enough to keep the laborers in a state of living that permits them only to always be dependent on that labor to be able to survive. We are watching this happen today as labor unions lose their power to do much about outsourcing and automation. Marx's points are made even stronger when you take into account technological unemployment. Technology's power to put people out of work was tiny in comparison to what it is now. And as Marx points out, the elite are only inclined to employ people so long as it is profitable.
Marx further goes on to attack private property in such a way that I believe many of us in the Zeitgeist Movement would agree with.
“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.”
Marx here basically exposes the utter hypocrisy of the Capitalists to say that there is some sort of “freedom” being taken away when Communists/Socialists take private property away from the elite. The real motive behind capitalists defending private property is defending their right to exist as a few who get to live lavishly thanks to the work of the many.
“The lower strata of the middle class — the small tradespeople, shopkeepers, and retired tradesmen generally, the handicraftsmen and peasants — all these sink gradually into the proletariat, partly because their diminutive capital does not suffice for the scale on which Modern Industry is carried on, and is swamped in the competition with the large capitalists, partly because their specialized skill is rendered worthless by new methods of production. Thus the proletariat is recruited from all classes of the population.”
This statement pretty much blows a huge hole in the Free Market capitalist theory that small businesses will be able to compete with large corporations. This statement above is kind of the crux as to why the notion that competition alone will prevent monopoly is absurd. It talks about technological unemployment. Some of the arguments that were used to debunk Marxism were valid before technology achieved what it has today.
Problems with Marxism:
Marx had an incomplete idea. From Wikipedia: “Karl Marx never provided a detailed description as to how communism would function as an economic system, but it is understood that a communist economy would consist of common ownership of the means of production, culminating in the negation of the concept of private ownership of capital, which referred to the means of production in Marxian terminology.”
This lack of detail left the idea wide open for interpretation and therefore corruption. I will get into some examples of that corruption here. Lets take the example of Soviet Russia.
When Marx envisioned how the socialist revolution would come about, he initially figured it would happen in the most advanced capitalist countries. At the time of the revolution that took place in Russia the conditions were certainly not in line with this criteria.
“In Russia, the 1917 October Revolution was the first time any party with an avowedly Marxist orientation, in this case the Bolshevik Party, seized state power. The assumption of state power by the Bolsheviks generated a great deal of practical and theoretical debate within the Marxist movement. Marx predicted that socialism and communism would be built upon foundations laid by the most advanced capitalist development. Russia, however, was one of the poorest countries in Europe with an enormous, largely illiterate peaseantry and a minority of industrial workers.”
This kind of set the system up to fail from the beginning in these conditions. Resources were already scarce from the start. This is the reason that Marx generally figured that his system would work best in an already advanced capitalist country which could then convert it's resources to the new system.
What ended up happening in Russia was a series of problems often seen on a smaller scale in communes. You cannot take the capitalist infrastructure and just decide to “share” the already flawed system and expect it to work. You also cannot expect people to just “volunteer” to do messy jobs. The whole system depended entirely too much on labor with very little incentive.
What Marx wanted to see was what he called a “Dictatorship of the Proletariat.” which basically meant rule by the working class. This was never actually realized in Soviet Russia, and is generally never realized in any other Communist/Socialist state. Some sort of harsh regime always convinces everyone it is necessary before such a great world where everyone gets a say in their lives can truly exist. Kind of like the pigs in animal farm. This ruling class starts off on the right road. But eventually as the limitations of resources become clear the people who are in charge of their distribution tend to find themselves in the position of making sure they are on top. This is what critics and former citizens of Soviet Russia referred to as the “nomenklatura”.
Who were the nomenklatura? Well they were basically the pigs from animal farm who changed the rules from “All animals are equal” to “Some animals are MORE equal then others.” For those of you who have not read or watched animal farm I will define it further.
“The nomenklatura were a small, elite subset of the general population in the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries who held various key administrative positions in all spheres of those countries' activity: government, industry, agriculture, education, etc. The nomenklatura was analogous to the ruling class, which Communist doctrine denounced in the capitalist West.”
Basically, you are looking at a group of elites, who choose and appoint themselves. If you want into this exclusive club you have to be sponsored by someone already in it. And once in your continued livelihood was utterly dependent on that sponsorship as you could always be replaced.
“Because a client was beholden to his patron for his position, the client was eager to please his patron by carrying out his policies. The Soviet power structure essentially consisted of groups of vassals (clients) who had an overlord (the patron). The higher the patron, the more clients the patron had. Patrons protected their clients and tried to promote their careers. In return for the patron's efforts to promote their careers, the clients remained loyal to their patron. Thus, by promoting his clients' careers, the patron could advance his own power.”
So what do we have here? Just nobility under another name. A bunch of elites stacking the leadership of the country they are leading to ensure they are always on top. Now, before the Capitalists declare victory I would point out that in the strongest capitalist country on the planet, that being the United States the situation is no different. We just are better at hiding this fact in layer after layer of political donations and favors. In the communist system your direct superior was your sponsor. In the capitalist system corporations are your sponsors.
In any case, these people were widely seen (and resented) by ordinary citizens as a bureaucratic elite that enjoyed special privileges and had simply supplanted the earlier wealthy capitalist elites. Just business as usual.
Now, when this system just as any other system starts to have problems, it turns to fascism. Even though this is entirely against the core concepts of Marx's beliefs just as it was in theory against the founding father's of the United State's beliefs.
“Western criticisms of the Soviet Union and Third World communist regimes have been strongly anchored in scholarship on totalitarianism, which points out that communist parties maintain themselves in power without the consent of the populations they rule by means of secret police, propaganda disseminated through the state-controlled mass media, repression of free discussion and criticism, mass surveillance, and state terror. These studies of totalitarianism influenced Western historiography on communism and Soviet history, particularly the work of Robert Conquest and Richard Pipes on Stalinism, the Great Purge, the Gulag, and the Soviet famine of 1932-1934.“
So, tell me if the above statement reminds you of anything else? Oh yeah...the capitalist United States. The difference is as I described before, the elite here in this country can achieve all of this while still maintaining the charade that we are supposedly all citizens of a free country. The fact that the government doesn't officially control the media in the United States only makes them more powerful. As the average citizen has no reason to even consider that their news might be propaganda.
Comparing this system to the Venus Project:
1.We (meaning the Venus Project and Communists) both think capitalism sucks.
2.We also agree that private property is a bad idea.
3.We both tend to feel that we should share the resources.
1.Communism does not focus it's efforts on eliminating scarcity. Instead it kind of assumes that there is enough for everyone. And when this proves to be false rather then seeking solutions using the scientific method it just turns to fascism and tyranny.
2.Communism fights for the rights (or claims to fight for the rights) of the working class. We want to eliminate the need for a working class entirely.
3.Communism doesn't address the very real problem that people will not be inclined to work nasty jobs. And therefore does not recognize the importance of automation.
4.Communism still depends on the concept of law to keep people in line. And in fact is very harsh in it's pursuit of people who step out of line. The Venus Project feels that we should instead be focused on eliminating the root causes of criminal behavior at their source. The Communists also still use prisons as a means to solve this problem rather then treating people who behave abberantly as sick patients.
5.Communism in implementation tends to end up falling into the same traps of corruption. Mind you, if they were actually doing what Marx suggested they wouldn't have this problem.
6.Social stratification is still part of the Communist implementation, leading to a new “elite” all over again.
7.The communist system still uses money. And as always this can and does get used as a tool to make sure that some people have more then others.
8.Communism does not utilize the scientific method. And decisions are still made by unqualified statesman with half-assed opinions on any given subject rather then well educated experts.
9.Education at least in Soviet Russia consisted of a lot of propaganda designed to ensure that everyone was in love with it. In the Venus Project our education will be rooted in enhancing the critical and analytical thinking of the people of the world so that no one will ever be foolish enough to be taken in by another fascist ploy again. And when problems are encountered, rather then trying to cover them up or attacking people who show that the system is flawed we will embrace these findings and adjust our society accordingly.
10.Self-sustaining technologies should have been the top priority of any society that would try to share the world's resources. In the Venus Project ideal they would be.
In closing, Communism/Socialism both started off as promising ideas. And I think that if they were implemented exactly as their creators envisioned they would stand a far better chance of success. I feel that we in the Zeitgeist movement and the Venus Project could stand to learn a lot from their mistakes. I also feel that we will probably have a lot more luck finding allies in these movements then in the capitalist side of things. Most people seek out socialism out of a true love of the idea of everyone working together and sharing the world's resources for the betterment of all mankind. And we would certainly say that is a step in the right direction.