Communism and the Summer

August 1, 2011 at 8:46 pm (Uncategorized)

Simcoe Day   Named for the first Governor-General of Canada, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada,  but in the course of doing some reasearch for this post, I discovered, today is sometimes called Emancipation Day because slavery was abolished in the British Empire on August 1, 1934 (although Upper Canada, now Ontario, abolished slavery  in 1793) . As good a day as any then, and perhaps better than most for this post. to

Summer time is sometimes what I imagine communism to be.Yes, actual communism, not that state-cap stuff that used to be passed off as the worker’s paradise. 

I work in a sector that means I don’t really work in the summer, so I’ve been, erm, underemployed for about a month now, and while that means I’m short of cash and I do have to spend some time thinking about work, it means I have a great deal more freedom.  

I usually wake between 530 and 6:30. When I was working, I got up around that time to let the dog out and get ready for work.  Now, the dog, whose name is Lester,  doesn’t know it’s summer time, so he still likes to get up early. But you know, getting up at 5:30 when it’s light out and the day is not too hot is not such a bad thing.

I get up, let the dog out. Feed the dog. Have a cup of coffee and breakfast. Then walk the dog.  Come home, have another cup of coffee, read the paper and do the puzzle (a morning ritual there even when I’m at work). I check my email. Do a little writing. etc. Do some work around the house. Think about what I’ll need to get to cook dinner.

Then it hits me. This is what unalienated labour is like.

Let me give an (imaginary)  example.

One weekend, I get up early to do some gardening. I spend my Saturday engaged in fairly monotonous toil, but at the end of the day, my lawn is weed-free and my seeds have been planted. My back aches, my neck aches, and I’m fairly sure that I’m in for some form of skin cancer, but I’m happy.

My next door neighbour looks over at my garden and asks if I can do the same for her next week. I agree and she insists she pay me. I refuse, but eventually accept some token payment. The pattern repeats, and at the end of the day, my neighbour has a lovely garden while I have the same aches and pains and some small payment.

Which made me happier? Which would make you happier? Not hard is it? Without delving into complex economic or philosophical theory, I was happy the first time because I controlled the product of my labour, whereas in the second example I didn’t.

Now, I don’t want to suggest that the answer to life’s problems to start your own business, and then you’ll be happy.  The problem is that my example breaks down when you enter into market relations. And unless you want to live a la Robinson Crusoe you end up in operating under the law of value ( co-ops and ‘the islands of socialism’ argument will have to be dealt with another time) .  

For now, I’ll say, you can’t really escape the law of value; it, it must be abolished.

And the summer is when I get more of that time to see the little cracks. Sure, we see examples of a big scale during moments of the class struggle (the recent events in Greece spring to mind), but  

I’m sure some that read this will dismiss the argument saying communism is tyranny. Well, if you mean the old regimes of Eastern Europe, you won’t get any argument as to their tyranny. Communism? No, I think not; instead a rather backward capitalism.

Others will say, communism isn’t in human nature – we’re greedy. Well, people do all sorts of unselfish things. In my gardening example above, I really wouldn’t have accepted any money. Just like when we sweet our neighbours steps in the winter. Firefighters, teachers and many other professions involve a huge amount of work that is not rewarded. people do it because it’s necessary. And Marty Glaberman and other compiled a huge amount of documentation of how workers help each other in the workplace. 

So why not? From each according to ability; to each according to need.

On a hot summer’s day with a glass of cold beer, I’ll drink to that.

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1 Comment

  1. Schalken said,

    And so what if we’re “selfish?” What could be more selfish than not wanting to throw your life away for the benefit of some capitalist fat cat? What’s more selfish than doing with your life what you want to do with it?

    And that’s what communism is all about. To paraphrase some wit, we don’t have communism not because we’re selfish, but because we’re selflessly worrying about the fucking bosses’ property.

    (This isn’t to praise selfisness or denigrate selflessness. I just don’t think communism has much of anything to do with altruism..)

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