No Minister

It’s Class Warfare Jim, but not as we know it!

In looking at where American Socialism might be going in the future I came across a quote that surprised me.

It came from, The Guardian, and it was talking about someone I thought was a fully reconstructed Leninist: the Labour MP and Corbyn acolyte, John McDonnell.

[John] McDonnell believes there are limits to how far the left can increase taxes and government spending. In his view, many voters are unwilling, or simply unable, to pay much more tax – especially when living standards are squeezed, as now. He also believes that central government has lost authority: it is seen as simultaneously too weak, short of money thanks to austerity; and too strong – too intrusive and domineering towards citizens.

Wait! What? That’s my line!

I don’t know how the hell McDonnell and friends reconcile that outlook with the big-spending plans they had for Labour in government, but it at least seems to acknowledge that the old ways of implementing Socialism are being re-thought even by its most ardent believers. One of McDonnell’s more well known comments was a desire for “socialism with an iPad“.

An iPad from a newly nationalised Apple? Nope. What McDonnell is alluding to here is dealing with the same problem being faced by American Leftists:

… our post-industrial economy is more geared to individual autonomy than ever in history, as anybody using Tinder and Spotify could attest. Those are not corporate entities that any of the “youf” want to tear down or nationalise in the name of class warfare, even as the same economy pushes them into the non-unionised “gig economy” of Uber and Lyft, which rely on the same basic model of connecting individuals.

“… money doesn’t exist in the 24th century“.

Aside from desperate measures from some cities around the world to simply ban Uber, while also holding out the carrot of them unionising their workforce, the Left so far has had no real answers to these very real problems. Networked decentralisation of work just doesn’t seem solvable with unions, set wage rates, and work-to-rule practices.

But this 2019 British article, Fully Automated Luxury Communism, looks at some people who think they may have found a way around this, although they start with a past thought from Mr Marx himself:

[Marx] argued that the relentless search for profit would lead to capitalism’s demise, a process that would be accelerated by mechanisation. In its wake, he predicted, would rise a leisured communism in which a man could, “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.

A century-and-a-half later and the world is mechanised beyond Marx’s dreams. Yet there are record levels of low unemployment in the UK. On the surface it would seem that, for all his commanding insights into capitalism’s inherent contradictions, Marx underestimated its ability to reinvent itself. In any case, his vision of the leisured Renaissance man seems more like the product of the opium pipe than scientific analysis.

Basically what this new way comes down to is a future Socialism that may finally resemble Marx’s opium vision, made possible when every household has its own Star Trek Replicator.

Sarkar, who attributes her own political awakening to Marxist theory, disagrees. Marx was right, she contests. It’s just we haven’t developed enough yet. But according to her, that point of digital reckoning is fast closing in on us. As she put it in a short film she made for BBC2’s Politics Live: “Imagine if technology meant you didn’t have to work any more: fully automated luxury communism.”

That’s Ash “I’m literally a communist, you idiot!” Sarkar.

Ash Sarkar

A vivacious 26-year-old of Bangladeshi heritage, Sarkar is a photogenic gift for the selfie generation. She’s given to wearing luridly bright nail polish and defines herself as a Muslim woman who, according to her Twitter profile, 

“Walks like a supermodel. Fucks like a champion.”

In your face, Babushkas!

Although I thought that supermodels were simply another representation of the degrading excesses of capitalism, who will be put against the wall when the Revolution comes?

It would seem that in the same manner of those American Bohemian-Bolsheviks, Ash is a new type of commie far removed from the old in more than just appearance:

That sassiness is a clue to the appeal of this new communism. Back in the day, communists were called names like Harry Pollitt. They were trade unionists, white, male and walked like they were leading a picket line. They were not people whose sexual habits anyone ever wanted to consider. Sarkar, who also ghostwrites memoirs for grime artists, looks about as far from the old stereotype as it’s possible to be.

In times gone by, a 26-year-old woman like her would have been sent out for the cause to sell hard-left propaganda sheets such as the Morning Star or Socialist Worker. But in the age of social media, every good communist knows that the collective takes a back seat. This is the age of the outspoken individual.

Ah! Individualism again. Pity that Communism is not the best system for individuals to both cooperate and compete with each other: that would be a system of free enterprise and markets.

As she told the Guardian, “It’s about the desire to see the coercive structures of state dismantled, while also having fun. It’s not about driving everybody down to the same level of abjection, but making aesthetic pleasures and luxuries available to all.” 

Communism in this guise has nothing to do with coercion and repression. All those issues of how to confiscate private property, redistribute wealth and forcefully ensure equality were, it seems, a historical misinterpretation of Marx.

I’ve heard that one before.

See Also:

Class War
Middle Class Warfare
The Pandemic Road to Serfdom
American Socialism and its Discontents

Written by Tom Hunter

June 23, 2020 at 12:01 pm

6 Responses

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  1. It appears you have malfunctioned to the extent that you are randomly cutting and pasting large chunks of loosely inter-related think pieces from the internet with no real point to make, and then squawking “viola! Aren’t I clever? I suspect you need to get more exercise.


    June 23, 2020 at 7:09 pm

  2. Doesn't automation (Star Trek replicators) make communism extinct?Individual effort will still be rewarded, but the argument for redistributing that reward to the lazy evaporates.Class divides will broaden, as those that choose work will become another hated (at least by the socialists) elite.What that technology does offer is the opportunity for people who's passions might not have previously been financially viable to pursue them. They'll either join the hated working class or become another type of hated class.


    June 23, 2020 at 7:39 pm

  3. I found this too long to read on a tablet, a shorter simpler version would probably have more reader appeal. Oddball


    June 23, 2020 at 9:50 pm

  4. This one is so far over the top, I wonder, did Tommy use a ladder? Or a cherry picker?IMHO, he needed both – a ladder to go over the top and cherry picker for his cut n paste.Give up, Tommy. The Cold War is over. There are no communists under your bed. (or are there?). And what thick as pig shit Americans think of as communism is simply the system that operates here and now in NZ.

    Rex Mundi

    June 23, 2020 at 10:41 pm

  5. @ RexAre you so incapable of having a discussion about such theoretical things that you just have to default to thinking of it as political hit-piece?As the article makes clear there are actually real communists still around who are not the old Cold War communists but a new breed who think that future developments in high tech will enable \”real\” communism.Now I think that this is all overblown nonsense, but it's clear they don't, and it's also clear that they're regaining some lost ground in the public space so I don't think they can just be dismissed.And who knows: perhaps they're right about the future?Discuss.

    Tom Hunter

    June 23, 2020 at 10:57 pm

  6. @OddballYou're correct. I've split it in half and will post the other half tomorrow.

    Tom Hunter

    June 23, 2020 at 10:57 pm

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