Using Communism for Kids as a Jump Start
Resources for Further Study
James Herod, June 2017
(Compiled for use by a reading group.)
What is Capitalism?
How Did Capitalism Arise?
The best history of what capitalism is and how it originated that I am aware of is by Giovanni Arrighi, The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origin of Our Times.
I've included a review of the book in the packet.
The best brief account of how capitalism works, its internal dynamics, is by Immanuel Wallerstein, Historical Capitalism
What is Work?
There is a whole bookcase full of books about work in the Lantern Library. This chapter is about work under capitalism, that is, wage-slavery, when masses of people find themselves in a position that the only way to survive is to sell their labor-power to capitalists for a wage. Wage-slavery is a key foundation /definition of capitalism, along with the market. It is discussed throughout most communist, socialist, and anarchist critiques of capitalism.
You might consider examining Ken Coates, Beyond Wage-Slavery.
Also, I have a 2-hour lecture on wage-slavery (actually three talks combined) up on YouTube, James Herod, Wage-Slavery.
What is the Market?
A good place to begin is with David McNally, Against the Market: Political economy, market socialism, and the Marxist Critique. (Although, given recent research on Proudhon, McNally might be mistaken about Proudhon being a champion of market socialism.)
What is Crisis?
There are hundreds of books about the cyclical crises under capitalism. For the best book about the recent (2007-2008) crisis, see John Bellamy Foster, The Great Financial Crisis: Causes and Consequences.
More generally, see John Bellamy Foster and Robert McChesney, The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation an Upheaval from the USA to China.
Wallerstein has also written extensively about crises under capitalism in essays scattered throughout his collected works. Crises are also discussed by Arrighi, in the work cited above.
One theme throughout these chapters has been about the rule of things. This is known as commodity fetishism, after Marx, who made it a central theme of Capital. (See "The Fetishism of the Commodity and Its Secret," pp. 163-177 (Vintage edition), a section of Ch. 1 of Capital.
One of the best discussions of fetishism by a contemporary author that I am aware of is by John Holloway, Change the World Without Taking Power, Chs. 4-6.
Ch. 4, Fetishism: The Tragic Dilemma
Ch. 5, Fetishism and Fetishisation
Ch. 6, Anti-Fetishism and Criticism
This trial is about social democracy and the welfare state. Most of the criticism of this option comes from the right-wing. Left-wing critiques are much rarer. But see, for example, Ashley Lavelle, The Death of Social Democracy: Political Consequences for the 21st Century.
This trial is about workers control, workers co-ops, anarcho-syndicalism. There is a vast literature about these topics. I've included a bibliography in the packet. (It is also available on this web site.)
This trial is about the command economy, the state planned economy, for example, what existed in the Soviet Union. This is quite a complicated case. Once again, the main criticisms of the command economy have come from the right-wing, from free market fundamentalists, like Friedrich Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises. The anarchists rejected the Bolshevik revolution almost immediately. See Emma Goldman, My Disillusionment with Russia, and Alexander Berkman, The Russian Tragedy. So did the German and Dutch left communists (council communists). See Herman Gorter, An Open Letter to Comrade Lenin. But their repudiation of the Bolsheviks was not necessarily mainly because of the command economy. It was based on other concerns. There was a famous debate in the 1930s about the possibility of economic calculation in a state planned economy, provoked by Oscar Lange's On the Economic Theory of Socialism. (Google Oscar Lange for details). In 1965 there was a study by Andrew Shonfield which showed that capitalist countries themselves were evolving toward a command economy. See Modern Capitalism: The Changing Balance of Public and Private Power. But this was before capitalists launched their counterrevolutionary neoliberalism campaign around 1970 which has shifted power substantially over to the private sector. Some Eastern European scholars wrote works on how to get out of a command economy without reverting to capitalism. These works include critiques of the command economy. See Ota Sik, The Third Way, Branko Horvat, The Political Economy of Socialism, and Janos Kornai, The Road to a Free Economy: Shifting from a Socialist System: The Example of Hungary. Somewhat more recently, critiques of the command economy have been written by market socialists. See Alex Nove, Economics of a Feasible Socialism; David Miller, Market, State, and Community: Theoretical Foundations of Market Socialism; and Pat Devine, Democracy and Economic Planning: The Political Economy of a Self-Governing Society. A trenchant critique of Soviet Society was written by some scholars of the Budapest School, Dictatorship Over Needs, by Agnes Heller, Ferenc Feher, and Gyorgy Markus. The social nature of the USSR has been endlessly debated.
This trial explores what happens when machines do all the work, i.e. full automation, although it doesn't mention the problem of where people would then get money to live.
Here is a book which discusses many of the issues: Stanley Aronowitz and William DiFazio, The Jobless Future: Sci-Tech and the Dogma of Work.
This trial is about Luddism, breaking the machinery.
You might want to examine Kirkpatrick Sale, Rebels Against the Future: The Luddites and their war on the industrial revolution: Lessons for the computer age.
See also, David Noble, Progress Without People: In Defense of Luddism
This trial is about a future built around the internet and bringing everyone into the decision making, which has come to be known networking, and also as P2P organization.
Check out (google him) Michel Bauwens, the founder of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Foundation. He has written extensively about this model for a society after capitalism.
There is a European theorist who has made networking the central focus of his work. Manuel Castells, The Network Society. He has many other books.
In the epilogue, after reviewing various theorists who claim that we can't really say much now about what communism will look like, Bini Adamczak argues instead that it is critically important to envision in more concrete terms what communism would look like. The absence of such a plausible picture of a different kind of society essentially blocks efforts to get out of capitalism and into something better. Sadly, her book, like the Marxist left in general, does not put forward such a positive portrayal. Significantly, and tragically, she did not include anarcho-communism as a possible definition of communism, although it got an actual historical trial in the great Spanish Revolution. It is only now that anarcho-communism is finally on the historical agenda in a serious way for the first time. Too bad she didn't even think of it, or consider it, even if only to reject it. I've included in the packet several items on Imagining Anarchy.