Where did we run around all that time
We hurried ahead along social progress
And fell back behind ourselves
According to a similar German poem by Karl Kraus
In the late 1980s of the 20th century the Eurasian attempts at socialism that were marked by one-party state controlled paternalism ran aground. Despite all good reasons to grieve for the vainly wasted hope, pain, and sacrifices, the Fall of the Wall in 1989 should be considered as a relief out of a historical dead-end street. This is particularly the case for all communist conceptions of social progress which had been stuck there and turned into the totalitarianisms they were widely known for.
We cannot deny the bitter truth. To an end came a bugaboo like specter of communism, based on an illusion of people’s property that was actually directed by a dictatorship of esoteric operating commissions. Its political chairmen illuminated themselves as scientifically proven angels of a future heaven on earth, and secured the consideration of their almost 80 years lasting spook as actually existent socialism by an almost almighty secret police and by refusal of any noteworthy freedom of press, assembly, opinion, research or mobility. Who actually expected that this could enable anyone to build up the promised bridge into a global community of freely associated individuals who can decide in common where and how to go farther?
Nowadays we apparently live beyond any expectations of socialism as a bridge into a global togetherness freed from class interests and national egoism. Undoubtedly a call to provide the means of constructing bridges into communism would largely be considered as a foolish attempt to awake the specters of the past. Swearing sacred oaths that yours will be a truly real communism of the future – with always a smile on its human face and of course ecologically perfect – won’t help. That is understandable in many respects. We could leave it at that, at least for another couple of decades that might be needed to recover from the actually existing awe the historical witch-hour of a fake socialism had provided.
The problem is that just these days our world is sliding into the age of melting ice shields and similar threats against our basic life conditions. To meet this challenge it will be necessary to establish constructively cooperative forms of globalization along common destinations. We have to put our global interactions on the footing of common development goals and to develop the ability of designing, meeting, and renewing them in a manner that is both effective and acceptable for in principle each terrestrial.
To build up these capabilities, in the first instance it will be necessary to push ahead eco-capitalist means of regulation like distinguishing consumer taxes or customs along socio-ecological costs of the product’s entire impact or preconditions. Such materialistic means of political realism will not only be needed to steer the purchasing power into a socio-ecologically reasonable direction as far as this is possible within the scope of the current forms of economic interactions. At the same time they will be the most appropriate means to finance public transition strategies that enable the nations, regions and local communities to achieve the set of global objectives they had agreed to.
It is of little importance how such a stadium of transition will be named. Irrespective of whether one calls it green capitalism or the first steps towards a green socialism, it will not be the last word of history. We just should realize that very serious efforts towards a greener capitalism are indispensable to set the train on the right track.
Many left winged anti-capitalists who dream of a Great Leap Forward into what they call a freed society seemingly believe that one needs neither trains nor bridges to move forward. To bridge the troubled water one only has to be at the destination, namely beyond capitalism. All we need to get there would be a radical shift of consciousness which would be induced by a large crisis of capitalism in combination with the delivering of insights into its wickedness by those who see themselves already beyond the capitalistic way of thinking.
This combination, as might be the belief, would eventually impart a revolutionary meaning to the people. Eventually the expected great enlightment would merge all fights on earth for justice and ecological reason to the one and only spirit of the desired free society. Best of all, this would happen perfectly without Marx‘ and Engels‘ damned theories of socialism or communism.
This in particular could be a fatal error. The dream of an innocent revolution of consciousness, that lets us levitate above all historically formed conditions of development as Batman levitates above the world of crime, is not simply a naive illusion. Expectations of a great catastrophe that will function as a Last Judgment bear a tragic consequence.
Those who trust in the purifying capacity of a final weeping and gnashing of teeth typically condemn themselves to fight any step of action with which the real society actually enables itself to steer production towards an eco-humanistic mode. In this view every little sign of progress in implementing social, respectively ecological responsibilities into our global interactions must appear as a danger for the anti-capitalistic purity of souls. No wonder these anti-capitalists do not tire of repeating warnings of illusions in a Green New Deal, Green Economy and other gates into a green capitalism that they seem to imagine as a greenish hell of capitalism.
The tragedy of that left winged anti-reformism does not only consist in an unintentional contribution to shifting the society’s balance of power to the advantage of Brown Economy. This is also a perfect way to impede a historic journey towards eco-communistic perspectives of humanism at all. This is because there is no other way to strengthen and spread the needed ability of setting up a new foundation of human interaction that allows us to put our heads together in a socio-ecologically responsible sense, than to combine (!) the development of such eco-communistic visions with serious efforts to humanizing and greening capitalism as far as possible. Otherwise far too few people (and Peoples) worldwide, would have the chance to build up the intellectual and the sociocultural desire, will and capability to manage an eco-humanistic great transformation at the necessary degree of thoroughness and humanitarianism.
This cannot be directed from above. It needs to be developed on the basis of people’s experience with political respectively sociocultural progress or its failure, as well as an increasing capacity to draw lessons from them. Utopias of an entirely new set of basic conditions and means for regulating human interaction must of course be developed beyond the routines of everyday life, because the daily struggle for private existence and enrichment must inevitably limit the socio-ecological reach of reflection.
Nevertheless, the generated visions would be condemned to exist as simply a nowhere-plan for no one, if at last they would fail to meet the needs of those, whose living conditions don’t encourage thinking beyond capitalism. Visions show their own improvement by becoming useful means to push the everyday struggle ahead, by motivating people to push forward and overcome setbacks.
If visions thereby proof to be good listeners to what is said about everyday’s people’s experiences, concerns, needs and desires and errors, they could even teach us to get along with our necessary, but irritatingly conservative concerns about the incomprehensible risks of the more comprehensive changes. Not by ignoring the risks, but by a de-ideologization which allows us to also ask for the possible hazards of our own social respectively political perspective. Only in doing so could the visionaries themselves leave their remote home in the clouds.
After all it should be clear that the revolution in thinking which is needed is to form or strengthen the awareness of the dialectic in the sociology-ecological development of things, and learn how to influence their future development. We have to become aware of how all existence is in fact a constant flux of evolution and distinction.
To meet the harsh challenges of the 21st century it is therefore of highest importance to look for the different development potentials of current affairs and what circumstances could influence their future existence. That is why a more detailed preoccupation with Marx/Engels school of thought might be indispensable. If there is one thing, we all ought to learn from the comprehensive work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, then it is to look at history as a bundle of dialectically conflicting development processes based on the historical status of the technology, mental abilities and a suitable structure of economic relationships. This view might let us question the different possibilities, their basic development conditions and how to recognize and influence the growth and decay of historical potentials in this way or another.
How the right direction is to be found, if there is actually no right life in the wrong one?
„Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. „
Karl Marx/Friedrich Engels The German Ideology
All right so far, but concretely what of the present state of things is worth being abolished? What could help to manage that? At last: Which indicators could confirm whether or not that process is really a communistic one? A rational, that is a goal consistent debate on these questions requires a minimum of clarity about what the different participants of such a debate in particular mean if they use the term „communism“, respectively what they could never accept as such.
The times of innocence are gone:
„Is the scepticism of the mass against any communistic promises – following the revolutions of the 20th century – actually due to a false consciousness or isn’t it rather due to a right one? However to answer the question for an affirmation against the revolutionary risk, the inexpensive promises, next time all will surely go more democratic, is as easily given as the – just superficially radical – answer, that about the appearance of communism no statements can be made.
The prohibition of images, directed against the possibility of repeating the present within a dream, will become a lie that masks the possibility of repeating the past as a trauma. The dictum, that the nice picture of a true communism cannot be shown, will serve the legitimation to close the eyes to the ugly images of the false communism. As if it were to a certain or an uncertain future and not to the communists to provide an answer, why the communism of the future will not be equal, or even not equate to the communism of the past.“
Bini Adamczak „Die Flucht vor der Geschichte führt immer im Kreis“ Essay in Maulwurfsarbeit II – Kritik in eiten erstörten Illusionen, (translated by hhh)
This blog is aimed to be a place for researching, presenting, and discussing the more or less hidden treasures within the work of Marx (and Engels). Resurrecting these could be an indispensable contribution to mastering the current challenges. Furthermore this is concerned with reflecting and criticising different attempts to do so, respectively to ensure a more sustainable development of wealth, whether or not they are referring to Marx‘ (and Engels‘) writings. At last it might also be considered as an invitation, to take up inspirations of especially the green Marx (and Engels) eco-humanistic communism to form a future perspective.
Attempts to Locate an (Eco-) Communistic Utopia – 15 Proposals
- (Eco-) socialism / communism is not a commodity, that is (or could be) offered on the world market of historical possibilities, waiting to be taken by the masses. To determine, what an (eco-) communist perspective of social progress should be, it demands philosophical, analytical and political efforts that are of cause arguable and in need of improvement. The ideas about (eco-) communism must enhance with every possibility, attempt, and in particular, with every actual progress in taking over common responsibilities for the society’s interactions. They change with both, the increasing ability and needfullness of analysing and interpreting the thereby made experiences and insights, and with the skills of drawing conclusions. It’s so far a question of how to deal with the increasing productive forces and their destructive drawbacks in some eco-humanistic ways. The following proposals are meant as a basis for discussion.
- As a historic process eco-communism is the development and socialization of possibilities to develop, conduct and improve the human productive forces, (and those which are humanly influenced), within (globally) common research and decision-making-processes that are globally transparent and integrative. As well they must be modifiable with changing circumstances, states of knowledge and abilities that let both, people and Peoples act socio-ecologically reasonable.
- In such comprehension today’s eco-communism must develop amid the narrowness which given capitalistic circumstances typically serve, hence not free from them. To act and to think in a more (eco-) communistic manner, gaining possibilities of taking over common responsibilities with regard to goals, standards and limits of the human production are required. (Whereby the commonalities that have to be developed must eventually include the needs of future generations and life outside humankind.)
- In comparison to the philosophical glory of bare categories or to the level of socio-ecological rationality that human affairs should have been achieved, if we don’t want to risk a fatal melt down of civilisation, everything that can be done these days, can very easily be debunked as short fallen half-measures, full of contradictions and fallacies. But we have to take into consideration, that every element of real life is always an intermediate step into an open future. And the future’s condition depends more on the further developement of society’s power relations as a whole then on the radical insights and good ideas of its all-time enlightened left rim. The left thoughts and action are not negligible. What would a soup be without salt and red flames under its stockpot. At the end however the whole is going to count. Lefts who condemn adding some greener ingredients out of fear, that people could find the capitalistic soup tasty are in danger to appeal as cooks whose aim is to serve hot saltwater. Elements of an eco-capitalistic „green new deal“ like eco-taxes, calculating ecological footprints, conducting eco-autits, are as well as calls for an eco-fair consumerism, creating sustainability goals and other elements of „sustainable developement“ or creating, defending and broadening islands of common property are not only to be acknowledged for their present function or meaning. The more interesting question is, how far, or under what circumstances they could become intermediate steps to establishing an (eco-) communistic togetherness that people really want instead of fleeing it.
- No grass grows faster by drawing it, and any attempts of giving a more (eco-) communist orientation to current approaches towards socio-ecological responsibility, must inevitably get along with the current terms and conditions. Nevertheless, there couldn’t be, at last, that qualitative leap, that eventually would have turned all the moves and attempts within the limits of todays capitalism into an undercurrent running processes of rising (eco-) communistic perspectives, without an increasing growth of conscious debate about eco-communist future prospects whether or not one names this „eco-communism“. The term might be less required than to come to a reasonable conception of what has to become the basics of human’s interaction. The present stand of knowledge allows at least to address the needed future terms as a structure that allow the globalized interact on basis of a sustainability management that in the end must be commonly directed by the united people themselves. However one names it, an (eco-) communistic potential of such future perspective is growing with the actual ability worldwide, to reach agreements on sustainability goals, and to help each other to achieve them that allows them acting (and reflecting) socio-ecologically reasonable. That means to obtain the ability for taking together the different desires and skills with the social or ecological costs (like risks, damages, harm) that for now and for the future can be accepted on the ground of the commonly fathomed and defined targets that can only be achieved in joint efforts. The reality of the social processes that are defined in that way as „(eco-)communism“ (or what name ever will be found for that), could be measured on the basis of observable, hence publically disputable, steps into the above defined direction.
- (Eco-) communism cannot be realised as a political dictatorship or a forced collectivization. Its reality, respectively realization can only be based on modern types of free commoditization, conducted by voluntarily participating individuals and alliances that are willing and able to keep their idiosyncrasies while participating on (world-) societies processes of goal-setting and accomplishment, with which they could bring each other to socio-ecolocical reason. (Eco-) communism is development and communitarisation of the ability to keep the material impact and preconditions of pursuing human desires, will, and opportunities (and those of other living beings) within commonly defined boundaries, that allow socio-ecological responsibility. Whatever, wherever contributes to such a perspective for what ever reasons, can be seen as a part of historical process that could, under certain circumstances, lead to an (eco-) communist mode of coordinating common designed production purposes with likewise commonly accepted limits of social-ecologically rationality. It is just to keep in mind, that the former needs the outlook of success within the current structures and balances of power and the latter has to reflect the entire extent of the possible damage if there is no radical change in the structure of our global togetherness within a certain timeframe.
- It is of highest importance, to take into consideration, that such historical processes don’t mainly work as a competition between two or more concepts, that are already worked out and need only to be exchanged, as if they were phone models. The Concept of „sustainable development“ for example is anything but defined and understood for now and ever. Whether or not its future perspective will become a historical bridge into a new world society, that will at last based on an (eco-) communist mode of relations between the agents of production and consumption (science, art, planning or philosophy and so on), depends very much on the future development of the left winged visionaries. Will they learn to regard the dialectic forms of historical processes and to look at the potentials in the moves forward inside the (world-) society as a whole? Or will they continue to condemn all of what’s „mainstream“ and simply cultivating their own radical outrage against capitalism instead? Will they continue fleeing the challenge of taking part in „sustainability-processes“ as historical bridge-builders? Or will they continue, limiting themselves on questing for new terms like „good living“or „“very strong sustainability“ that alleged would not be contaminated by the use of capitalist subjects like „sustainable developement“.
- An (eco-) communist outlook seemingly requires an afresh approach to Marx‘ view on capitalism as a necessary intermediate stage, emancipation of humankind is forced to pass through. To mind this means, to work out how to take up the old society’s needs, experiences, knowledge, circumstances, contradictions etc. while strengthening what could contribute to building intellectual bridges into the visioned new stage of human interaction.
- The „historically materialistic“ spirit of this perspective is aimed at structural possibilities to overcome the helplessness of culturalism, that usually shows up with idealistic appeals for a major rethinking, while blinding out the structural conditions of building awareness, interests, socio-ecologigcal sence etc. In dead, a big cultivation is needed, a collective self-civilising . Its development however demands reciprocal interactions between social practice in order to manage the little steps forward, and, on the other hand, to strengthen the potential for further perspectives, that the thereby made experiences might serve. This would not make any sense if the content of this future-perspective is not clarified step by step forward. At this stage we can define it already as a global togetherness that will be based on an „(eco-) communist“ sustainability management. The latter will be essential to free culture from being merely a decorative accessory of the real development and make our global interactions be actually based on a culture of sustainability. To create sustainable developement as a guiding concept for the entire human intercourse is certainly a cultural achievement. To establish it however as a social framework which can actually make the world economy see socio-ecological sense, requires suitable conditions of livelihoods. New types of agreements, rules and institutions will have to secure new types of labour division, research, opinion-forming and decision-making, controlling, evaluation, etc.which allow us humans be the cultivated animal that will be needed for the beginning Anthropocene. What matter in the end are the possibilities of gaining common control over the developement and use of our human (or human influenced) productive forces, that make us solve the contradiction between the social character of production of social wealth and its private appropriation.
- The appropriate attitude of the developing human beings is the upright stance, that is to be able to stand up straight for what wrong one might have caused. Developement of humankind hence means to establish a system of worldwide accepted incentives, sanctions and possibilities with which the globalized (individuals and institutions) can make each other produce, consume and think socio-ecologically responsable. This „(eco-) communistic“ future perspective is aimed at forming the humankind as United Peoples, not as a world government, ought to heal the world by an alleged „nice dictatorship“, but as a means of the worldwide interacting individuals themselves to conform their different (!) abilities, needs and desires with the effort, risks or damages, it would likely cost satisfying them all. (As a matter of course this includes, when indicated, the alternation of needs).
- The actual existence of an (eco-) socialistic formation of society that shows up, in Marx‘ sense, as a bridge into (eco-) communist ways of organizing common responsibility for the socio-ecological preconditions and impact of production, appears in robust, that is, openly debated indicators and proof, that developement and commoditization of socio-ecologically reflected co-determination skills, concerning to the global relations of production (consumption etc) as a whole, is indeed the dominating trend in the society worldwide.
- Without sufficient possibilities of a free discourse in public, that is, of taking part in independent research, opinion and decision-making processes the dominance of the transition process (whether they will call it socialism or not) cannot be confirmed.
- In this view an (eco-) communistic formation of the society’s metabolism, will be conformable as far as the world-society as a whole actually enables its free associated individuals (and institutions) to manage their interrelations with each other and with the nature outside humanity on the basis of commonly defined goals and conditions to meet them. How exactly the (eco-) communistic division of labor, appropriation, enjoyment, care, organising, reflecting, taking responsibilities and so on will be look like, is unpredictable at this point. What is to say however is, that the (eco-) communistic structured relations, will have to empower the future humans to decide commonly and based on knowledge about the opportunities and limits producing wealth and damages.
- All previous attempts of socialism, that were (respectively, in case of China, are) supposed to be a society in transition into a globally communistic togetherness, have failed to fulfil their purpose not on the ground that too much communism was achieved. The problem was the consistent lack of communism. It was the lack of possibilities to define in common but free from pressure of an illusionary community regarding to the socio-ecological intentions and conditions of production. That is, to decide in commonly conducted processes of coordination, what, where, how and how much is to be produced and where to draw the limits of socio-ecological risks or damages. It should be obvious, that these possibilities (of eco-communism) cannot be developed without expending the possibilities of free speech, research, communication, movement instead of blocking them.
- Whoever heads for future attempts of socialism might be tempted to flee their responsibility for the historical faults, mistakes and crime, by avoiding the terms „communism“ and „socialism“ or by cleaning „socialism“ from any relation to „communism“and may chose other terms. That is understandable and perhaps this is going to be necessary. However the intended recovery of historical innocence or the presumption of historical innocence might as well turn into a boomerang. The victims of Stalinism urge us to be careful with any thought on cleanings. Every political orientation has its hidden dispositions of totalitarianism. It is always one of the noblest tasks of any effort to improve living on earth, to identify the hazard potential of one’s own good intentions in time.
Hans-Hermann Hirschelmann, Dipl. Sociologist, Berlin