One of the hottest topics when it comes to a Resource Based Economy is exactly how close is it to communism, how they differ and whether or not they’re essentially the same thing. This has been the subject of much debate and has produced some rather heated discussions in more than a few online forums. Some of which you’ve probably been witness to if you’ve been around the community for any decent length of time. Since communism can be a very passionate subject for many individuals (and with good reason, considering its attempted implementation has literally killed millions of people in the past) we figured we would try to clear up a few things. And with the amount of misinformation out there regarding this subject, it’s about time someone gave a definitive, informative, and honest answer to this question.
So, the million dollar question – Is “Resource Based Economy” just a fancy, new-age way to say “Communism”?
Short answer: Yes and No
Slightly longer answer: It depends on who you listen to, what specific definition/form of communism you are talking about, and even your interpretation of some things.
And for those of you who simply have to know all the details…
What Exactly Is Communism?
While the idea of Communism itself has been around for quite some time, tracing its history back literally thousands of years, it became popular in modern day through the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who both lived around the middle of the 19th century and wrote the well-known, widely circulated “Communist Manifesto.” It was in this document, as well as a few other lesser-known works they produced around the same time, that the general ideas we understand as modern communism took shape.
It’s important to note however, that this was only the beginning of what was about to take place. While they outlined the ideas of what communism was, how we might get there and the events that could possibly transpire, there was a great deal of room for individual interpretation and implementation, which has consequently made the subject much more complex. Their ideas were so widely adopted, adapted, debated and built upon that between what exists only in theory, what has existed in the past, and what actually exists today, there are about as many different forms of communism as there are different makes of cars on the highway.
This is why it’s difficult to pinpoint a single meaning of communism and exactly what it implies. It really depends on where you look and who you ask. Even the definition of the general term “communism” varies, simply depending on which source you go to, and it’s not easy to get a straight answer on exactly where they all come from. You almost have to be a scholar to understand all the details of this subject.
Go to one site and it sounds like an altruistic utopia. Read a bit further and it sounds like something out of an Orwellian nightmare.
For instance, take just what’s found on Dictionary.com
“1. a theory or system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state.2. (often initial capital letter) a system of social organization in which all economic and social activity is controlled by a totalitarian state dominated by a single and self-perpetuating political party.”
And it continues…
“British Dictionary definitions for communism
1. advocacy of a classless society in which private ownership has been abolished and the means of production and subsistence belong to the community
2. any social, economic, or political movement or doctrine aimed at achieving such a society
3. (usually capital) a political movement based upon the writings of Marx that considers history in terms of class conflict and revolutionary struggle, resulting eventually in the victory of the proletariat and the establishment of a socialist order based on public ownership of the means of production See also Marxism, Marxism-Leninism, socialism“
I could list many more short definitions from other sources that all sound different, but I think you get the point.
And this perfectly highlights one of the main differences between communism and a resource based economy. You understand why you get so many definitions when you understand…
“Communism, The Theory” is not the same as a “Communist Society”
And both of these are vastly different from the currently practiced “communist-state” – a variation of Marxism/Leninism.
This is the “ah-ha moment” you’ve been waiting for.
The main difference between a resource based economy and communism is that the idea of communism itself is a theory of progression of a society, and many varying details have to do with exactly where a particular society is along that progression, and also how exactly it ends up at eventual, complete communism, or what is known as a “communist society.”
In reality, when most people refer to communism, (especially when they say it still uses money, government, or social class) they are actually referring to a communist-state. This is what China, Cuba, and Vietnam are currently ruled under today. The problem with the communist-state is it lends opportunity for its leaders to take advantage of and abuse the system, and consequently, the modern communist-state is often characterized by massive corruption, poverty and wealth inequality, with the few in charge reaping most of the benefits.
In reality, this is simply more of a government-run form of capitalism, which is nothing like the actual “communist society” that the theory of Communism and the communist-state are supposedly aiming to achieve (and still haven’t, and probably never will – simply because of the inherent flaws in the communist theory’s design to begin with).
The Actual, Theoretical “Communist Society” is Very Close to a Resource Based Economy
– just with less actual planning, and the fact that the original idea was thought up over 150 years ago, so there are some different emphasis…
The endpoint of the theory of communism, aka the “communist society” – a classless, stateless, moneyless society, is pretty close to what could be envisioned as the idea of a resource based economy today.
And yes, this is one of the generally accepted definitions of the communist society. While this definition is never stated verbatim by either Engels or Marx as far as I have seen – please correct me if you’ve seen it – it is generally outlined within their documents, as described quite nicely in this Reddit post:
“From Chapter II of The Communist Manifesto,
When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organize itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.
In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.
Engels writes on the stateless aspect in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific,
As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection; as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon our present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from these, are removed, nothing more remains to be repressed, and a special repressive force, a State, is no longer necessary.
The first act by virtue of which the State really constitutes itself the representative of the whole of society — the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society — this is, at the same time, its last independent act as a State. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production.
In Section 18 of Principles of Communism, Engels addresses the moneyless aspect,
Finally, when all capital, all production, all exchange have been brought together in the hands of the nation, private property will disappear of its own accord, money will become superfluous, and production will so expand and man so change that society will be able to slough off whatever of its old economic habits may remain.”
That sounds pretty close to a resource based economy to me.
And from Wikipedia:
In Marxist thought, communist society or communist system is the type of society and economic system postulated to emerge from technological advances in the productive forces, representing the ultimate goal of the political ideology of Communism. A communist society is characterized by common ownership of the means of production with free access to the articles of consumption and is classless and stateless, implying the end of the exploitation of labor.
Communism is a specific stage of socioeconomic development predicated upon a superabundance of material wealth, which is postulated to arise from advances in production technology and corresponding changes in the social relations of production. This would allow for distribution based on need and social relations based on freely-associated individuals.
The term “communist society” should be distinguished from the Western concept of the “communist state“, the latter referring to a state ruled by a party which professes a variation of Marxism–Leninism.
“Superabundance of material wealth”
“Advances in production technology”
“Corresponding changes in the social relations of production”
“Free access to articles of consumption”
Though… There Are A Few Differences
The differences may be viewed as trivial by some, and huge by others. Some say that both social constructs are great and either one is fine, while others say the differences don’t matter and either one of them will bring about untold suffering and misery. Others argue that some of the RBE ideas were intended/implied in communist society, but were simply not voiced, while others say that those differences are what make the two systems completely different. Either way, it’s interesting and informative to look at a few of these ideas.
The main (and indisputable) differences between the two economic systems, for the most part, are how this futuristic, post-scarcity society would be achieved. Many of the transitory systems that were implemented to try and reach the end-point of communist society resulted in disaster. Corruption, greed, forceful execution, the fact that the societies still had to interact with the capitalistic world at large, and the lack of a solid vision or plan as to what the communist society end-result would entail doomed the system before it even had a chance.
Eloquent as always, Peter Joseph sums up the flaws of the communist-state and its workings quite nicely, as seen in this short video.
In the earlier stages of the progression toward communism, many things are advocated to be literally implemented by force and all-out “class warfare” is said to be utilized to literally eliminate (even by armed violence, if necessary) the status of the elite (the bourgeois) and achieve the endpoint of the eventual communist society. Obviously, this would be completely against the principles of a resource based economy.
Straight from the Communist Manifesto, here are some of the possible steps toward achieving a communist society:
- Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
- A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
- Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
- Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
- Centralization of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
- Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
- Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
- Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
- Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
- Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labor in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production.
Confiscation of property? Heavy income tax? Abolition of inheritance? Industrial armies?
Are you kidding me? No wonder this was a complete catastrophe…
Did they think people would simply willingly hand over all they own and tell the government to put them to work in the fields until that mythical day when a communist society magically comes to life?
Another main principle of communism that seems a little different than a resource based economy is “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”
According this rule, if taken literally, if society deems your utmost contribution to be sitting behind a desk, programming computer algorithms for resource distribution, you could very well be forced to work at this position, hypothetically speaking. And this, technically, could be an aspect of one of the stages that the theory of communism would use to reach the hypothetical communist society.
“To each according to their needs” probably wouldn’t include 24/7 access to jet-skis or unlimited round-trips to Tokyo, but in a resource economy at its pinnacle, not only is this possible but it is expected to be a general principle. In an RBE this phrase would probably resemble something more like “From each, a contribution of their desire; to each, according to their needs and desires, within the reasonable capabilities of our resources and production methods.”
However, for clarification, in a fully-developed communist society, you are free to pursue your passions and realize “self-actualization,” or in other words, you are free to pursue your own ambitions and desires, as described in Marx’s Theory of Alienation.
Another minor difference between communist society and a resource based economy that some have said exists, although this one may be debatable, is that in a resource based economy there seems to be more of an emphasis on utilizing the planet’s resources in the wisest ways possible to create access to all goods and services, not just based on needs, but on individual desires as well. It’s noteworthy that in Marx’s time, resource scarcity was not anywhere near as pressing an issue as it is today, and this is truly one of the hallmarks of a resource based economy, especially given our current dual plights with peak oil and global warming.
A couple other things to consider when comparing the two are the facts that the technology wasn’t yet available for much of the automation that Marx and Engels had envisioned in the communist society. Computers that could control and distribute resources via algorithms were science-fiction, electricity was in it’s infancy, communication was slow and laborious, and cars hadn’t even been invented yet, so there was no real plan as how this society would actually operate, or even be designed. In contrast, today we have all of this technology and more, giving us the capability to draft out and even implement such a society, designing in advance everything we could possibly think of, down to the types of materials that the walls of our 3D printed homes will be made of. We are much, much, more capable these days… to say the least.
Another aspect of the mindset that came with the communist platform to thoughtfully consider is the fact that it was written before the occurrence of two world wars, and before millions of people died under the rule of communist leaders, so there was far less of a concern with forcefully pushing communism on the world and what effects it could possibly have. Back then, people were used to forcing their will upon others, especially in a societal sense, which is quite different from today, and the goal was viewed as more important than the means by which it was achieved. Now the complete opposite is true. Due to the neglectful actions of past leaders, many individuals are terrified of communism and see its only possible outcome as a completely totalitarian state that emerges after the unnecessary deaths of millions more – and with its history, they have every right to think that.
So, the RBE community and Communists/Marxists may have roughly the same end goal in mind, but given the negative history associated with communism now, and how much fear and hatred exists surrounding the subject, we need a vastly different approach of how to actually get there, and a complete overhaul of the theory of what will actually work as a transition period.
How Will A Resource Based Economy Make The Transition?
For the most part, the main proponents of a resource based economy advocate a top-down approach. They say world leaders would come together some day in the future and agree (possibly after the general public is well-enough informed and demands it) that this is the best way for humanity to live and begin to implement a system such as this for all individuals to follow. Unfortunately, it has also been said that this will most likely only come after a total economic collapse, after which the transition to a resource based economy isn’t guaranteed (or even likely) and could be instead supplanted by a one-world government or New World Order. Doesn’t that sound nice?
Aside from not much getting done, the problem with this sort of implementation is that when you have leaders dictating what sort of economic system the world is to follow, not only will you have many people who will fight tooth and nail against it and do everything in their power to fight the system (especially those against communism, most likely resorting to violence and even possibly war), but you also have world leadership telling the general population what to do, which is by its very nature completely contradictory to the general idea of a resource based economy.
Therefore, the only way to transition into an actual resource based economy is completely and utterly voluntarily, from the ground up, and nothing else will work. Otherwise, it wouldn’t truly be a resource based economy to begin with, and there would be so much backlash during the actual transition period that it would be doomed from the start, just like communism. Leaders may come together and suggest it, but they cannot force it. To do so would violate one of the main principles of a resource based economy to begin with – voluntary participation.
Furthermore, our leaders probably wouldn’t even suggest it until they see that society is capable of working together and cooperating in ways much more harmoniously than the present, which is why we must do everything we can to build and implement as many aspects of a resource based economy into our lives as we can. To demonstrate that it is possible. To show there’s a better way of life. To wake people up and help them realize that they do have other options, that they have the power and wherewithal to turn them into reality, instead of the mindless zombie ritual of our 9-5 existence that is simply called life for so many of us.
While I know this post will anger some individuals, I also hope that it can help bridge the two communities, with a call for us to work together. Ultimately, even though there may be some minor differences in the end-goal of the two, I believe that many “true” Communists and Marxists have the same visions for a future society as the Resource Based Economy movement. And I also hope that this article can provide a forum for people to discuss and engage in ways to build this bold, new world.
In reality, it’s only by understanding each other’s point’s of view, overcoming our differences, building on our strengths and similarities, compromising where we must, cultivating and practicing these principles through living and working together, and building something greater than ourselves, that we will eventually be able to build a society that resembles an actual resource based economy.
This is why we are being called to build sustainable communities, powered with their own green technology, that produce their own food and water with technologies like FarmBot, aquaponics and permaculture. We must go local in production with many things, utilizing 3D printing, Contour Crafting, waste recycling, and further developing open source designs such as the Global Village Construction Set. Examples of places like Regen Villages and Tamera can be used as a blueprint and their successes built upon. It’s time to share our ideas and openly work together to achieve the highest good of all, practicing principles such as those that One Community Global has laid out. Much progress will be made when we start collaborating more via platforms like TheTransition.org, and supporting each other in our business endeavors to develop new technologies and work together in cooperatives like Mondragon and Evergreen.
The information and technology we need to do this is there – it’s combining it into solid ideas and living it in our own lives on a daily basis that will make the difference. There’s no time like the present to do this. The tools and resources we have been given in our present world are unprecedented in the history of our planet, and we no longer have any excuses to not create the world we desire.
As an end note – if there’s anything that you find to be incorrect about this article, please let me know by commenting below or sending an email to [email protected] Please provide references to investigate, and I will do my best to revise it as necessary. However, I won’t change it just because somebody simply disagrees and say’s I’m wrong without any documentation to back it up. It is my goal and intention for this document to be as accurate, honest, and up-to-date as possible, and it’s definitely not here to simply please everyone.
So let us heed the warnings of our fathers and learn from their mistakes, but also let us not discount our true potential and stay stuck in the past, especially at the cost of our own peril, when we need to work together – now, more than ever.