Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The first Communism, 144 years later.

These weeks we commemorate the 144th anniversary of the Paris Commune, the first ever Communist regime, radically democratic and the reference that Marx and Engels adopted as model for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Naturally the reference work is Marx' The Civil War in France, including the very insightful prologue by F. Engels.

But for those with the inclination for the video format and the patience to watch a long movie, a most interesting take is Peter Watkins' La Commune (Paris, 1871), which, using the anachronistic narrative device of introducing television in the 19th century, reenacts the events:

Also, for those who understand Spanish, I believe that this debate in Escuela de Cuadros (Cadres' School, TeleSur program) is a very interesting complement:

Now, maybe more than ever before we need to retake the concept of Communism and restore it to its originally radical democratic nature, democracy that cannot be just restricted to elections every X years but that, as in the Paris Commune, must imply the election of all offices and their revocable nature. It also cannot be restricted to mere political democracy but must imply economic democracy, that is the collectivization of all means of production and livelihood - property is an unbearable privilege that must be abolished in favor of true democracy.

We shall prevail because Capitalism is unable to face the catastrophe it has created, only an organized and conscious People, Humankind, can do that. Revolution or extinction!


  1. FWIW, while many aspects of the Bible may be inaccurate, the gist of the New Testament's description of the early Christian communities sounds very much like a communist commune, and it would be very fair to call them the first communists and the Paris Commune merely the first "modern" communists.

    1. Were they democratic? Did they actually share property and work? I'm not too knowledgeable on the reality of the first Christians but they just seem another Jewish sect to me, just that more open to European mentality.

      In any case it is very correct that the Paris Commune can only be called "the first communism" in a modern sense of the word. Primitive communism among hunter-gatherers and even some early farmers probably is a much older reality and the real cause we are so dissatisfied with inequality, injustice and the hierarchical society in general. However a return to the tribe is not possible, so there is a need to innovate if we are to restore communism in a modern reality, with many more people and, especially, with a much more advanced (and dangerous) technology.

  2. The early Christian church was radically about foresaking all property for the collective and sharing work, although they didn't work all that hard because they thought the world was going to come to an end soon anyway. They wouldn't live up to modern standards of democracy, but were radically more dispersed in power and religious authority than the sects that the broke away from.

    Another early example of modern communism, although very niche, was the economic and political organization of Caribbean pirates.

    1. They would not even live by the ancient standards of democracy, it's not like the concept of democracy is modern at all: the word itself comes from ancient Athens.

      I have the impression that's totally an idealization. I don't remember much of the Acts and Epistles, which are the basic documentation about Early Christianity, but looking at Wikipedia it seems that all that is said about early Christian "communism" is wishful thinking: just one line and just one reference, which is modern (but not modern enough as to be post-Christian). It reads: "Early Christian congregations apparently provided members with a strong sense of community, with mutual religious and material support". Totally vague.

      Otherwise early Christians, even if reformed relative to traditionalist Judaism, showed continuity in the core of the ancient Jewish patriarchal practices, largely excluding women, having a non-elected hierarchy, etc.

      In fact one of the issues why I think the Catholic Church (and surely most other faiths) should be declared illegal, as well as corporations, is because they don't stand up to the necessary democratic requirements that every association of people must meet. I don't see why we have to accept that associations exist that are not democratic.

      As for Caribbean pirates... it's another case of idealization. Many analysts would consider them extreme-capitalist, in the "capitalist-libertarian" sense that some dream of without realizing it already exists... in Somalia.

      Pirates were capitalist partners who invested their lives (and in the case of the captain the ship as well). Profit was also not shared equally (captains and other officers took several parts) and their "equality" did not apply outside their gang. Often victims were pressed to become pirates and their looting for profit is so much reminiscent of Capitalism that some consider them to be the very origin of Capitalism, particularly in America. Many of the most famous pirates were privateers, i.e. their activities were legal within their state, and anyhow if you read the most informed historical book, which is the one by Defoe (under the pseudonym of Captain Charles Johnson), you can only appreciate how ruthless and selfish those pirates were. Defoe tells of only one exception, Captain Mission, but it's widely believed that this particular pirate, of whom there's no other record, is fictional (anyhow he operated in Madagascar).

      So I have to disagree. There were indeed some reformist social attempts before Paris 1871 but they lacked the quality of empowerment of the people (and by the people) that Communism is about. In fact one can (and should) also accuse the USSR of betraying this ideal by turning the communist democratic power structures that were originally the soviets into mere bureaucratic extensions of a totalitarian state (until their dissolution by Yeltsin).

      Even if a monastery or hippie commune would be truly democratic and communist, it'd be an isolate instance of private enterprise and not the action of real democratization of society as such. Such instances can be tolerated and even punctually encouraged by other ideologies (for example kibbutzim under Zionism, which used them to rob Palestinian land) but that's not communism as revolutionary change of society.

    2. BTW, off topic, have you noticed this: ?

      It'd seem that dark energy is less than believed, that measures that led astronomers to believe that were just wrong. Ultraviolet measure by Swift shows it's not the case, although there's not yet a revised amount of universe's "inflation" or "acceleration", and hence of dark energy.

      Also mapping of dark matter:


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