Definitions

Communization

Communization

[kom-yuh-nahyz]

Communization is the process of the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production, which, in societies dominated by the capitalist mode of production, are "owned" by individual capitalists, states, or other collective bodies. In some versions of communist theory, communization is understood as the transfer of ownership from private capitalist hands to the collective hands of producers, whether in the form of co-operative enterprises or communes, or through the mediation of a state or federation of workers' councils on a local, national, or global scale. In these accounts, communization means that the multitude or humanity as a whole, directly or indirectly, takes over the tasks of planning the production of goods for use (not for exchange) and according to socially-determined needs. People would then have free access to those goods rather than exchanging labor for money and then exchanging labor for goods as in less advanced phases of socialism.

The Paris Commune was moving toward such an arrangement, but could not immediately abolish wages. While communization was made famous and viable by the Paris Commune, it has roots in systems such as the Russian obshchina and the various forms of so-called primitive communism. A variety of models have been proposed for communist administration of production and distribution (centralist, federalist, etc.), but all of the latter programs insist that, if class and class struggle are to be truly abolished and humanity to be truly liberated from wage-slavery, neither the means of production nor the products themselves may be "owned" by anyone (whether individuals or collective bodies), and goods must be distributed entirely according to "need" as defined democratically (not according to amount of labor input, for example). The quality and quantity of minimal compulsory labor, moreover, would be determined for each individual through democratic planning, with the goal of eventually dissolving the distinction between "work" and "play" so that productive labor becomes entirely voluntary.

Note that communization in this latter sense was never attempted by either Social Democratic or Leninist "Communist" regimes (USSR, PRC, etc.), although it has been tried on various occasions - not only in the Paris Commune, but also in Left Anarchist societies such as Makhnovist Ukraine, in anarcho-syndicalist Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War, and by some Chinese Ultra-Left tendencies during the so-called "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution." This is not necessarily to denounce Social Democracy or Leninism, which arguably improved life for many people relative to free-market capitalism; it is merely to point out the difference between communization and the various forms of historical "socialism".

In response to liberalist critics such as Friedrich von Hayek, who argue that only a market in which property is defended by a state can adequately satisfy people's needs, communists point out that:

  • humans, like other animals, survived and in some cases thrived for millennia through communal production and distribution, even without modern technology;
  • modern technology makes communal production and distribution much easier, even on a global scale;
  • the market, far from satifying people's needs, has in fact functioned primarily as an ideological fiction covering up the state-supported violent capitalist expropriation of formerly communal resources, leaving people who formerly lived on those resources forced to sell themselves for a fraction of the wealth they produce (which is appropriated by capitalists as "profit"), a fraction usually insufficient to satisfy their needs - so the "labor market" is not really a market, but neither is the "market" of products, since capitalist firms maintain monopolies through state support (intellectuals property rights, etc.);
  • according to Marxist analysis, the capitalist mode of production cannot avoid generating various forms of economic crisis, such as the Great Depression, and in fact, because capitalist accumulation has now saturated every corner of the globe, we have already entered a state of permanent crisis of which so-called terrorism and the so-called War on Terrorism are only two of the first symptoms; according to this theory, communization is the only way to avoid humanity's self-destruction through either ecological disaster or global civil war.

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