(The first years of communism)
The farms were enormous. We had decided long ago that divvying up the land into small, personal, but sustainable lots, had become a burdensome time sink. So, those who wanted to do farm work did that part of our necessary, collective labours to accomplish what we needed from agriculture and what we needed was food and drink. Still, sustainably produced, to be sure. The land was important. It had to be taken care of, like an old friend. As a result of going large, our productivity grew and our free time increased.
Yes, the farmers were in charge of beer production, from the beginning of the cycle, to its end in bottles, for home or just available, fresh on tap from the various pubs which dotted our communities. Parties were spontaneous then. Wherever they occurred, there was always plenty of fresh beer to quaff and well tended marijuana to toke. The farmers' product was ours and the products of our labour time were theirs. Common ownership was understood by all.
We knew that we had to work. That was necessary and sometimes even, what we wanted most to do with our time. But, most of us relished our free time, away from necessary labour. In any event, every moment was lived in all its sensuous glory, even when we spent time doing what we all knew was necessary namely, producing food and drink. We were farmers. Of course, there were slackers, ones who didn't apply themselves to the tasks at hand. They were shunned and ridiculed for a time. Most of them came around to seeing that their lives could be more richly rewarded, if they just did what was needed. It was their choice as to what task or activity that might be. In other words, if they did what was needed, they would not be cast outside our association or made poorer, in any significant way, than their neighbours. The others, the ones who refused to apply themselves to the effective labour time required of them to remain in the community were eventually left to fend for themselves in the wild. Community pressure was too much for them. We did not condone stealing personal possessions from one another and that included stolen time. If someone refused take their tasks seriously enough to get them accomplished, with the best quality they could provide, we all knew it. By quality, I don't mean perfectly, but just doing the job as best an individual could. And if they didn't, we'd eventually make that person so uncomfortable that they would leave and perhaps, try their luck with another community, although, to be fair, this was unlikely to meet with much success as that community would have very similar standards. As I said, most everyone thought that their free-time was a core measure of fulfilment.
We had it good. We could go to the store and pick up what we needed and still have time left over to acquire things we never really wanted, things beyond our needs. Online catalogues displayed a thousand choices and all you needed was time to get them. It was great! You'd never have known that dresses or tools took so little time to produce as we did when we were using money. Using time-credits, we got what we needed and even more, much that we wanted beyond our immediate needs.
Anyway, being yourself was the greatest thing you could do. What did they call it? Living without dogma? Yes. That's it. No veil of tears or puritanically inspired notion over your mind. You do what you want during your free-time and try as much as possible to combine pleasure with the work which you do in your necessary labour time. Not everyone does the same job every time. No need for that anymore.
We all had homes. Some of us actually preferred to live in apartments, concentrated in cities. But most spread out and lived in the small houses which peppered the countryside. Of course producers who could do plumbing were necessary. But that's fine. Some like to do a little plumbing every once in a while. Need met with skill was paramount. What's needed is what's necessary and that is how we design our time.
Organic? Yeah, all our agricultural produce was farmed organically after the revolution. The principle of living in harmony with the Earth meant that poisons and non-organic fertilisers couldn't be used anymore.
I get it, naw. That other hour went to those who couldn't contribute anything communally useful.
Family was whomever you loved. I had a dozen husbands and a couple of children, four fathers and ten mothers. Of course, they all had brothers and sisters. The children were brought up where they they felt most wanted at any particular time and there were plenty who wanted, indeed, needed them around. Of course, when they were babies, all of us went to them and took care of their needs and made sure the others would be around all the time to make sure they didn't get themselves into dangerous situations, like being too close to a solar boiler or electric stove. Yeah, all of that came naturally and if it didn't, there were always others around, including those contributing their socially necessary labour time in nurseries and kindergartens.
Yes, formal education was still important for us. Formal just took on another shape. With the advent of common ownership, the means were there to provide each child with time in school until such a time when students would graduate at whatever level they wanted and were capable of attaining. Supporting this, was all part of what working that fourth hour was about. Hell, in terms of labour time, it only takes a social minute to make a decent beer.
We blissfully met each other and if we had desires, we fulfilled them right there on the spot. It wasn't uncommon to see couples making love, although most preferred the privacy of some secluded spot. I always did. Which is not to say that there weren't those encounters on those long electric train trips....
I remember reading about the history of State/religiously sanctified monogamous marriage under class rule during my formal education period. What a mess it turned the lives of so many into. Many suffered decades of silent desperation. Not that there weren't some good marriages and very successful monogamous relationships then or when we were living during the first years of communism. Once we established common ownership of the land and the collective product of our labour, the conditions became ripe for love, for what undermined love before were deeply embedded notions and practices concerning property which put a brake on our desires.
Women and children were treated as property of the father in marriage for millennia, all the way back to the time when chattel slavery was the norm. Of course, this plague on our sensuality also damaged polygamous marriages. Whole societies were permeated with myths about what was 'natural' for how human beings should to relate to each other. You can see it within their cultural expressions from comedy to tragedy, from novels to painting and film. It's all there: the history of how fucked up we were. Fortunately, that was changed by us changing the way we related to each other. No longer was a relationship a power play. This factor added a deep, ongoing, life/libido changing movement to our lives which carried over to how we thought about the environment and even the non-humans with whom we lived. Life truly became sacred.
Ben reflects on the end of alienation
Loneliness was impossible; but privacy was always respected. That's the way I remember it the first years of communism.
You see, back in the days of prehistory, we often got very lonesome or so, the literature of the time tells us. Richard Yates was always on about it. Of course, there were others, many, many others. Whether they knew it or not, they were describing something which sprung from the roots of loneliness.
It was in the painting as well. Edward Hopper's work is a great introduction. And the psychological imbalances it caused. My, my. Loneliness was the silent killer of the era.
In the years after we established common ownership of the wealth we produced. We began to breathe more freely than ever. We also left loneliness behind. We opened up public space by de-privatising what had been commodified. Truly, the end of commodification meant the end of bourgeois notions of freedom. No longer were we tied to the mast of the ship of fools, we were able to go out at any time of day or night and enjoy ourselves at public gathering places. Nobody was afraid of losing their job or losing the respect of their peers by being themselves. If one person didn't like another, they just associated with someone else. Ah, the chimes of freedom were not only flashing, they were positively blazing.
And yet, we could always retire to whatever level of privacy we needed. For the first time in history, we all had homes. As all the human race was being well housed in those first years, the cities, as they had been, began to disappear. We discovered the need for them had been embedded with the needs of class dominated civilisation. We had no need for 'financial centres' nor had we a landlord class anymore with their petty needs to jack up rents and property prices for their own enrichment over non-property holders.
Zane relects on the end of nationalism
Butler was a 1930s' Republican. He himself was conservative. But he was also firmly committed to the sort of democracy the U.S.A. had during his life. He recognised the imperialist drive inherent in ruling class control of tremendous amounts of wealth. That drive could only be satisfied with the acquisition of more wealth and with it political power over more people. Fantasies of empire are dreamt up within the matrix of these sorts of drives.
The point is that nationalism is only important these days as an historical subject. Today, we live without borders. The Earth is our home. The world is classless, democratic and free. The sovereign individual is where the power lies. The sovereign State, which sublated the Sovereign monarch, is dead. Class rule remained.
Cultural variety, far from being suppressed, through our sublation of the nation with its borders, has flourished for, with the end of the nation State, the end of commodity production and sale also occurred. It's not that culture was absent during prehistorical times. Sure, there was plenty and its best expressions are still regarded as worthy of attentive time. Why, I'm reading DON QUIXOTE right now. Last week, I watched a performance of THE DEATH of a SALESMAN, recorded, I believe, in the mid-1950s.
The desire to possess the latest thing was mostly a result of the commodification of everything during prehistory. Commodified society put a premium on cheapness. To gain market share was one of THE driving principles and that could, most efficiently be accomplished through increasing the speed of life. Thus, the latest thing could actually be cheaper in constant currency than it had been before. The question which occurred to many a subconscious was, "Was it worth it?" And the answer was mostly yes during the last stages of prehistory. However, this acquiescence had psychological consequences of the sort related to what many see as inauthentic behaviour by some individuals today. I mean, a sort of generalised malaise was being felt; but one didn't know quite why it was being experienced.
Now, we consciously enjoy what we desire regardless of age but with regard for others and the health of the Earth. Doing harm to either is considered bad form and yes, we still have to segregate some people away from our communities because of their sadistic behaviours. There is no reason to get physically aggro with another person. We have what we need and we should realise that we can never possess another free individual. After all, we have no slaves, no bondsmen, no servants. We are all free from any material dependency structure, other than our own mutual need for each other to participate honestly when putting necessary labour time into the production of good and services for our own use.
Now, we get what we need from the social stores of goods and services. But right after we abolished the State, we still hadn't developed the trust we have today in each other. Back then, we used logged in labour time during necessary tasks, operations, services and so on. By 'logged in', I mean there was tracking system in which how much labour time you put in, was put into an account which you drew from when you visited a social store for material goods or received a service. Most people were able to contribute something for the use of all. The ones who weren't able to produce anything useful were taken care of on the basis of their needs as much as any average producer was. Nobody had a lot; but some had more than others because they put more productive time into the social store. All labour time wasn't equal either. Those who worked in more dangerous and physically exhausting jobs were allowed to count their single hours as e.g. two hours. More free-time was the incentive and the average work day was the norm-- 4 hours 3 days a week or a 12 hour day per week or 4, 3 hour days. Time was left to the individual.
Authority was changing. We dealt with it all the time back then. The leftovers of the old social relations kept cropping up. At first, rape still existed. Yes, even after we'd established a communist society. Still, the psychology of dominance and submission was within many of us. And, many of us were passing it along. Loyalty to the authority in order to prevent chaos. This had been the sine qua non of class society's rationalisation for the authority of the authorities as long as their domination became embedded in our own sense of justice. What an ideal, 'justice'. All sorts of contents can be shoved into that category and with political power, it becomes all that more convincing.
As time passed and all the dependency structures which we had participated in, both mentally and physically, started to melt away, the more irritated we became with them. The authoritarian shibboleth began to crumble. The very idea that a freedom could be based on dominance was absurd, especially when you began to realise it in everyday life. People you met no longer thought of you as a rival for your job, you place, your status in short, for what you thought of as being, 'your possessions'. What a blessed relief this was.
One of the main things people used to think about communist society was that it would be boring. Everything would be the same, flat, grey and without definition. As it turned out over the first few years, we became even more defined as individuals. As individuals, we finally had power over our needs and wants. Gone were the ads telling us that we could be all that we could be if we just purchased this or that. Gone were the amplified voices who served the ruling class. Instead, everyone's voice was expressed and heard at the same level. This was the negation of domination not the initiation of boredom.
When one was saying something sensible, others who agreed would use the counsel given well in their own discourse with others. As a result, we became more, not less, our own selves as individuals. Oh not in the sense that we saw others as rivals for our freedom. Our freedom was guaranteed by our power to control what we produced and determine what the nexus of need and our own expended labour time was for, whatever we felt we needed, we would have to help put in the time necessary to produce whatever it was.
We revelled in our free-time; but as the years passed, many of us became more and more enamoured with spending our time doing things which would push us outside our Earthly pleasures and into the hostile environment of outer space. Projects, we called them. The main project was to terra-form as many planets and moons of our solar system as possible, leaving the others to small colonies of those who would devote time to gathering scientific knowledge about the planet, moon or asteroid. Some were quite into that.
Jack Andersen comes to mind. He became fascinated with Europa's global oceans of water. Spent years there, with about fifty others, examining, experimenting and publishing his observations in "The Solar Journal".
It just occured to me that I drink beer to be closer to my father. No, not through genetic testing. I knew who my father was because I was brought within a monogamous family. I don't think my parents crossed the sexual line with others after they were married. In fact, I'm confident of it. But that's another story.
My father drank beer. I can still remember him swishing around in his mouth before swallowing his beer. Have you ever done that?
I do it sometimes. That reminds me of my father too. And, the practice does lend the palate a greater variety of flavours to savour. Works with wine too. Swishing and chewing your wine, maybe not all the time, but every once in awhile, especially when trying a new vintage will bring out more to be appreciated.
An increased sensuality emerged after the revolution. We began to really taste life. No more did we feel obligated to spend our lives figuring out the tax system or even doing our taxes. Some peoples' jobs, thus their labour time, were tied to advising and accomplishing feats of wonder with the tax system. That's how absurd life had become.
After the revolution, there were no taxes to figure out. One hour of our time at work we gave gratis to support the services we all depended on, services which did not directly produce wealth; but which helped us remain healthy, educated and entertained. Whatever other time we put into necessary labour, we decided ourselves,for that time would allow us access to the social store. What a revelation it was to know that only two seconds were socially necessary to produce a fine ale. Our productivity had finally been turned into free-time for ourselves.
See that concrete pier out there in the ocean?
That used to be where the coast guard boats tied up between rounds of performing their duty of keeping the borders secure.
The borders--what were they?
We were insecure then. This was before the revolution and even after it, we were a mess, still dominated by many of the insecurities which plagued us before the State was abolished and with it, borders. Politically owned territory became Terra, our planet. The same was true for all of the former political States. The Earth was ours because the social product of our labour was now ours to control, to plan and to distribute.
That goes through my mind as I gaze at that now unused pier. It's not totally unused. A very few people are always fishing from it.
The fog comes in, blanketing the coast. The air grows cold. Night descends. The fog horns still bellow, out there in the grey mists, "Waaarrrrrrrrrrning. Coastal shore close by."
I live in the geographical space of the state formerly known as North Carolina. Marines and Coast Guard personnel were stationed here, once upon a time. We no longer live cooped in political States needing to protect borders. We live on a borderless Earth.
We are classless, as we have been since we made the revolution. Now we see each other as human beings. There are no illegals as there are none of the old legalities when it comes to citizenship of a particular area of the planet, designated by its ruling class as a State. No, we are all citizens of this planet now. We are all Earthlings.
You ask me how things changed after the revolution in relation to Patriarchal monogamy. Well, the revolution changed our conception of love. Love is everywhere, we all share it. I knew this before the revolution, but it was hidden by Capitalism. Loads of people used to think that humans were mostly nasty and selfish. After the revolution, the meaning and the practices of love changed, and we all had doubts about how it should be…
During the first few years, I was busy building the theory and the praxis of Communism. Well, I wrote loads of propaganda and theorized a lot, I enjoyed it and made me feel useful. But the main changes came from the day-to-day praxis… Like Anarchists have always said.
It happened with Patriarchy. I thought it was deeply ingrained in us, particularly in my culture, in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean… I was wrong. Self-management of resources meant that everybody was involved in decisions and actions; chauvinism, like classism, just faded in a few years, as everybody got a voice and the community applied reverse hierarchy dominance…
Yes, I didn’t question things back them. I was seeing the good of it everywhere. Feeling free from Patriarchy, I didn't have any trouble with sex and partnership. I had regular or occasional sex with many. Most young people did quite a lot of this, I think. In a way, the regularity of the sex was an expression of the closeness of the relationship, though not always…
Generally, our society extended the idea of what “romantic love” was: the “romantic” connotations decreased and the “companionship” or “fun” connotations became stronger, something like that. Romantic love got dissolved in the general “brother/sister” relationship. Sex lost some of the implications that it used to have, not when it came to emotions (expression of emotion increased), but in relation to strings and obligations. Stuff like “exclusivity” and “for life”, so important to “love” “Hollywood style” (as we used to call it as a critique to Patriarchal love)… Well, most people felt very strongly that these should change, but everybody seemed confused about how. Many of the people who were married stayed married, others split up...
Looking back, I think that we just started applying the old rules in a more flexible way. This was easier with self-management as a daily practice… and the extended family being already part of who we were as a community. I mean, before the revolution family was not just a couple and their children, it included all close relatives. Also, we used to marry more than one person in our life, or we would live with them, and they became part of our families, often even if we split up. This was normal already. We were officially monogamous , but we used to cheat on our partners, both men and women; it was supposed to be bad, but it was also common sense that people, couldn't help but to do it, only angels could.
It still makes me laugh, yeah, we would make a lot of drama about it, but most people would still do it quite happily. Friends would help with the hiding of affairs, of course. So, in a way, it was a relief to everybody that we could just “sleep” with whomever we wanted, and nobody would have the legitimacy to be upset about it. As the requirement for “having” a partner also faded, all the upset people became much more chilled about it, I believe. Not everybody wanted to go having sex with different partners all the time, anyway. Most people stayed with one main sexual partner most of the time, for shorter or longer periods of time, very much like in the old times.
Children were taken care of by the extended family, as they used to. But now, more in a relaxed way, since nobody was into stress by lack of food or security. So, people wouldn't stay together because of the children or out of a sense of duty… These pressures eased for everybody once the new conceptions were generally accepted and practices in decision making and social relations changed. Our natural ecosystem was favourable and we didn't have the problems of a densely populated society… Things were smooth.
Now, I know it’s more open, but back them, we were also quite open, because the idea of what was good for yourself and others had changed: no person or animal could be private property any more… They were our companions in the management of our relationship with nature. Still, monogamy as “companionship” prevailed. Most people would do, as in the old times, “serial monogamy”, and their old husbands or wives or boyfriends or girlfriends would remain part of their families, and the families even increased their members more than in the old times, because people changed couples more often and would stay close to their old partners more often, so more people became the second, third, fourth partners…, who they would still love so much, and every one of them would be accepted as a new member of the family and didn't have to stop being so. Same with the uncles and aunties and cousins that were your closest friends and your blood brother’s closest friends, and that kind of thing… It all was what we used to do, but more of it, so the concept of family got extended, and that was very healthy I think. This settled the foundations for what we do today.
Not that I don’t have criticism to the way we understand love and sex these days. I think that people still wanting to marry is a sign of the old religious and property rules. Yes, we are free regarding to who we have sex with, but still we engage on a “sanctioned love” ritual. Nonsense, in my opinion. I mean, I had some sort of “husbands” myself, not really any wife, I mostly like men… But I didn't call them husbands. I didn't believe that anybody or anything should make me live according to their rules: I rule myself well, thank you very much. I didn't need a ritual, a social sanction, for my love of nature or society or family or comrades, or a partner. I rather performed the daily rituals of love in relation to all of them, creating them every day, also questioning and changing them all the time.
I believe that there is still a sense of self-sacrifice in the concept of marriage, a sacrifice to something higher, starting with society. I believe that marriage is still a possession ritual. It also establishes a separation from the rest of society; people who marry tend to do fewer things independently within the community than those who, instead of marrying, just “are” together in different ways.
On the other hand, the fact that we all live in big, dynamic, changing extended families makes partnership easier to “break” and easier to maintain than it was in the old times. Surely the link between sex and companionship has changed a great deal. This makes sex much more egalitarian and fun than it used to be! It also makes changes and conflict easier to face (there are many advisors and mediators in the houses and in the community!). Things are so much better than before the revolution…
I once thought that the nature of love would never be understood… Now, I am sure that we understand it much better than before. More importantly, even if we still need further change (change is all that is permanent, as they say), I believe that we share much more love than we had in the last millennium. A huge improvement!