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Communism is basically the control of everything by the state, to be dished out in equal proportions to the population. Following this logic, shouldn't it be possible, if not probable that a democratic government could and would form even if this ideal is widely accepted? Or is it too corrupt and open to individual dictators to take over? Is there any logic to the answers to the previous questions?

BACKGROUND

I am envisioning a utopian society and the original concept of Marxism seems to be the best governmental form for this utopian civilization.

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    $\begingroup$ Not exactly sure what you are asking for. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Mar 6 '15 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ Could a communist govt. have something similar to a representative govt? $\endgroup$ – JDSweetBeat Mar 6 '15 at 17:17
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    $\begingroup$ Are you talking about Scandinavia? Not communist but very egalitarian societies. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Mar 6 '15 at 17:29
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    $\begingroup$ I think the more relevant question in this case is can a system stay communist if it starts adopting democratic traditions? $\endgroup$ – James Mar 6 '15 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ I think the word you are looking for is socialism, in particular Democratic Socialism. $\endgroup$ – Turophile Mar 6 '15 at 23:22

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Actually, there is a whole lot of "communism" from biblical times, humans tried to implement more equal societies. Marxism is a specific form of communism applied to the industrial era. The idea that communism is necessarily the ownership of everything by the state is flawed. If you take South American Indians for example, they live in a communal society that might very well be called communism (primitive communism). There is no concept of state, so it does not follow that their communism was a kind of state ownership of everything, because there was none to be the owner of anything. So. Yes, its possible to have a democratic communism, but you need to root that into a specific historical moment in time.

During early apostolic times (the times of the catholic church founding) the apostles lived in a communal system where everything was owned by everyone ( According to Acts of the apostles.). This idealistic approach doesn't last long. There are multiple examples of communistic societies in history, and not all of them were totalitarian or oppressive.

If humanity reaches a post-scarcity standard, and we have - easily - everything that is needed to live for cheap or no value, capitalism won't answer the needs of such political-economical system. We might very well return to a communistic approach. When even cars have no value (because you can easily or cheaply get one) there's no sense in stealing, freeloading, selling or buying cars. There's no market in our current sense. So, if such society evolves from our current western democratic principles, we might very well have a democratic post-scarcity communism.

-- Edit ---

As the title was changed I must add some more.

The federal government of the United States of America is not one of the most democratic governments in the world. The current trend is not good for democracy either. During the USA foundation, the concept of democracy was not exactly equal to the one we accept today. For democracy the major example available to the founding fathers was the Athenian democracy. This democracy was a kind of near direct government from the people. The founding fathers wanted to avoid that. What ended up being created, while profoundly more democratic than the aristocracies of Europe, was a indirect democracy where people vote for a electoral college that votes for the president. This was done on purpose, because the founding fathers thought the direct election, with the risk of the "ignorant" and "emotional" peoples deciding the future of the nation, was unacceptable.

Electoral college or not, this is still democracy, even if not fully. But, the current trend is to remove rights from the people in the name of fighting terrorism and other immaterial threats. Sweeping scans of phone-line communications, internet activity etc does not bode well for democracy either. So, in other words, using USA as an example of democracy is a nationalistic romanticism that is far away from current reality. A much better example of democracy would be the Scandinavian countries.

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    $\begingroup$ Your edit does not add anything constructive; it sounds like you are just ranting. $\endgroup$ – KSmarts Mar 6 '15 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ You should have posted the edit as a comment on the question. While discussing what "ideals like the US" actually means is entirely valid, your answer doesn't really benefit from it. And in any case only the part that explains the ideals and the compromises founding fathers had to make would be relevant, commentary on the current state of democracy in the US is not. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Mar 6 '15 at 21:42
  • $\begingroup$ +1. USA was conceived as representative Republic, not DEMOCRACY. Founders trust power only to elite - property owners, excluding everyone else. Democracy would not have the split between presidential and parliamentary system, which is currently currently killing USA. In democracy, speaker of the house is Prime Minister and has responsibility to govern and deliver, eliminating these sad government shutdowns. $\endgroup$ – Peter M. - stands for Monica Mar 6 '15 at 22:55
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    $\begingroup$ @PeterMasiar a republic is a democracy by definition. The counterarguments to this are based solely on wilful misinterpretation and/or a refusal to acknowledge the changing (or broad) nature of words in English. $\endgroup$ – Leushenko Mar 7 '15 at 0:42
  • $\begingroup$ A republic is something where there is public ownership and private ownership. How so ? During the times of the kings, there was no such concept as public ownership. Everything was private property. Even the state was owned by the king. Oposite to that the concept of res publicus was developed. The state and its assets is not formally owned by a person or small group, but by everyone. Well, if you have a ditactorship that happens to respect the res-public - "Public things" from latin - and the private properties of the subjects, you might have a ditactorship in a republic. $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Mar 7 '15 at 0:50
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One major obstacle to Communism is Dunbar's number - the size of the average person's "monkeysphere" (from Cracked, so language is somewhat crude at times). In short, the monkeysphere is the group of people with whom you associate and readily consider as people. An example the Cracked article uses is of teachers:

Remember the first time, as a kid, you met one of your school teachers outside the classroom? ... Do you remember that surreal feeling you had when you saw these people actually had lives outside the classroom?

I mean, they're not people. They're teachers.

In the next paragraph, it talks more about how we react to people in our monkeysphere vs. those outside of it:

It's like this: which would upset you more, your best friend dying, or a dozen kids across town getting killed because their bus collided with a truck hauling killer bees? Which would hit you harder, your Mom dying, or seeing on the news that 15,000 people died in an earthquake in Iran?

It's hard to really care about people outside of your monkeysphere. This is where Communism runs into problems. As Cracked puts it:

some people in the distant past naively thought they could sit all of the millions of monkeys down and say, "Okay, everybody go pick the bananas, then bring them here, and we'll distribute them with a complex formula determining banana need! Now go gather bananas for the good of society!" For the monkeys it was a confused, comical, ... disaster.

Later, a far more realistic man sat the monkeys down and said, "You want bananas? Each of you go get your own." ... As long as everybody gets their own bananas and shares with the few in their Monkeysphere, the system will thrive even though nobody is even trying to make the system thrive.

Democracy actually runs into the same issue - why vote for something that only affects some people on the other side of the country when it will use money that could have been spent on something else that would have benefited you and your community?

So how can we get around this? Base your society around reasonably stable monkeysphere-sized groups! That would be a couple hundred people at most, so set up communal groups of 100-200 people. With good education on how to care about people they don't know as well, you could probably push that up to 500 people without stretching believability. That's enough people to have a stable community with a reasonable amount of occupational opportunity. There will be some people who want to engage in some occupation for which they would have to move to a new community (perhaps they want to be a doctor, but there are already enough in that community), but that will help prevent your community from becoming too... stale.

This actually lends itself to a representational form of government - each community designates someone to be their political representative. If your society has more than 500 smaller groups, there should be more tiers of representation. For example, if there are 2500 groups of 500 people, then rather than having 2500 representatives get together to make decisions you should have them meet in groups of ~50 representatives and have each of those groups send a representative to join in the top-level meetings. I'd suggest that which representatives go to higher-level meetings should change regularly (perhaps yearly?)

I'd also suggest that job training should be centralized. That way people will still have ties to those outside of their immediate communities, allowing them to build a professional network that will also help them to care about the other communities.

One of the most important things for your society to work will be diversity - if you know a doctor personally, you're more likely to be friendly and care about all doctors. If you know someone of a different ethnicity, you're more likely to have a positive attitude toward that ethnicity in general.

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  • $\begingroup$ FWIW, the scheme you describe for how to organize the decision-making process is fairly similar to how many large volunteer organizations (and some that aren't about volunteer activities at all) do it: get some people together, decide on a very small number of people to send as representatives to the "higher level", rinse and repeat until done. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Apr 18 '15 at 19:22
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Yes maybe. There are real-world examples of commie-lite countries which are both democratic, has a state in control of a lot and where people's salaries are more equal than elsewhere.

Some of the nordic countries were (and still are) what is termed "social democracies" which could be termed the democratic grandchild or cousin of communism. In the middle of the 20th century, (but no longer) you could find strong currents of "planned economy" in these countries, as opposed to market economy. This, as well as state-owned companies, is an example of the state controlling the economy. The nordic countries has also seen a smaller income disparity than e.g. the UK and the US. This would be an example of the "state dishing out in equal proportions" if only indirectly as a result of taxes, policies and industry ownership. The income disparity has been widening as the countries have embraced a more liberal market economy. The nordic countries have a low level of corruption.

Meanwhile, in Latin America, you can find nominally democratic countries which at one point nationalized industries. This is also the state controlling the economy and even dictating the price of goods. But apart from recent re-distribution of wealth to the poorest of the poor in Venezuela, I don't think there's a lot of equality going around, there's plenty of corruption and dictatorship is their middle-name.

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As user3082 has pointed out, communism was originally intended to involve elected councils ("Soviets"), and these were indeed set up. But it lacked two critical things:

  • civil or human rights for the individual. Communist theory operates entirely in terms of classes.
  • pluralism and "civil society". In a mature democratic society there's a spectrum of newspapers, pressure groups, unions, parties, etc. Communism assumes the proletariat has a single will not a legitimate diversity of opinion.

If there isn't room politically for a "loyal opposition", then the natural tendencies of every organisation to interpret dissent as treachery and pointing out problems as sabotage take over. (You can see these happening in bureaucracies, militaries, large businesses, churches etc all over the world whenever the organisation thinks it can get away with suppressing criticism).

Forgetting about pluralism is the usual problem with attempting to airdrop democracy into undemocratic countries. You can't build civil society overnight.

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I think it would help if you didn't try to use terms like Communism or Marxism because they are far too loaded with historical context and Cold War era stigmas. For example, Marx's Communism was supposed to be a revolutionary state overthrowing industrial era oligarchs and leading to Socialism. It's very difficult to discuss Communism correctly without a lot of education and agreement not to get into Cold War ideas about Soviet Communism and dictatorship and so on. (i.e. Soviet Russia and China have a lot of corruption because of their history/culture and the power structures that came out of their revolutionary groups.)

I would say it is certainly possible to have a community or nation which shares many of its resources in any variety of ways, which would also be democratic. It's more or less what humans naturally do in pre-agricultural societies, or in families which get along, or in various non-profit organizations, or in many modern intentional communities. I'd recommend a progressive form of democracy (see for example Sociocracy), and as few identity schisms as possible in each community unit. You need to have part of the intention and structure to not allow tyrants, corruption, or disenfranchised minorities.

(And if coming from modern Earth, you will want to deal with the network of banks that own most of the world's wealth, and the corporations and mega-wealthy elements who have been buying elections and so on.)

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If your goal is to do this at a small scale, something like this already happens within families. If your goal is to do this on a HUGE scale, yes, it's very possible. It would be very hard without "dehumanizing" most people though.

You'd probably have to genetically engineer the whole of humanity in order to achieve a high level of long term stability because our basic instincts force us to rally against perceived(not to be conflated with actual) "unfairness". This is particularly the case for people we perceive as dissimilar. This is not as much of an issue with ants where anyone with a reasonably close pheromone marker is your friend.

In market societies fairness is determined by two parties agreeing to conduct some deal. Perceived unfairness could come about at a micro-level where one individual is upset that they were not able to attain as good of a deal as some other person by means of some factor such as "luck" or social influence.

In perfectly implemented communism, everyone gets the same deal. Individuals, however, will have varying abilities. Some will feel this is unfair and that will cause harm.

There are economic issues with centralized planning though. Even if you engineered humans to not feel envy, it's hard for centralized bodies, especially democratic ones, to react to changing conditions quickly and measuring output is hard. An example of this would be in soviet quota systems. One measurement system had the state dictate that a certain number of nails be made by a factory. Microscopic nails ensured. Then they shifted that measurement to weight. 5 foot nails ensued. In a market system, entities would only produce things that they believe others are willing to make a deal on. The downside is that things don't always work out in a market system. Some people end up unlucky. In a collective systems failures are spread around - essentially EVERYONE is forced to take up a large insurance policy on everyone and everything whether they like it or not.

Good luck with your utopia. Let me know how your research into genetic engineering goes.

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  • $\begingroup$ I thought this was a decent answer....why the dv? $\endgroup$ – JDSweetBeat Mar 6 '15 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ I don't like part of it because I don't quite see why you have to resort to genetic engineering. But I, too, don't see why it's downvote-worthy. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Mar 6 '15 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ I added a bit to the original post which touches upon the thoughts of the post below. Essentially it's hard to scale up in size past a certain point. It goes against our instincts which are to like our friends and family and to distrust anyone who doesn't look like our parents. Communication is hard. Cohesion is hard. Information technology makes things easier but can only go so far when the underlying biology is a limiting factor to how large you can scale a group of individuals. $\endgroup$ – Canderson Mar 7 '15 at 2:40
  • $\begingroup$ Neither planned economies, nor any other centralised command structure, work well at large scale. To my mind, the application of cellular automation to the reduction of complexity is the sole redeeming feature of capitalism as touted by the wealthy. (There are other versions of capitalism that are a lot more likeable.) $\endgroup$ – Peter Wone Mar 7 '15 at 9:41
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You might want to investigate "socialism with a human face". Unfortunately for Dubcek the Russian Soviets didn't agree, and well, Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. One analysis by Viktor Suvorov said that the free press is mutually exclusive to the Soviet system. He seemed to be on to something, as with the first free elections everyone voted to bin the system.

That's not to say that you couldn't theoretically have a society which was founded on communist orthodoxy in economic terms: no private ownership of land or business, state control of industry. And yet this society had a freer system of governance, where perhaps the priorities of state industry are voted on in referendums. I don't see why the two ideas of individual civil rights and collectivised economics couldn't be mated. As mentioned the word Soviet derives from the council; the way the system was meant to distribute power. So you'd have to get rid of the orthodox Leninist-Marxist belief in a vanguard party to lead the fickle masses. Political candidates and referendums simply couldn't vote on the founding principles of economic collectivisation and anti-capitalism. Everything else would be up for debate however. Which allows a lot of choice about how the system should run.

The problem with this, is that it seems closer to a realisation of anarchist theory than communist. In either case it'd be considered far left and be anti-capitalist, banning private ownership of the means of production (which doesn't necessarily mean all private enterprise), but anarchists believe in truly grass roots politics and appointment. And if your system has elections freer and fairer than America, then the system will be more likely anarchist than communist.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism_with_a_human_face

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to World Builder inappropriateCode. That was a very thoughtful answer. $\endgroup$ – Jim2B May 20 '16 at 17:24
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Soviet Communism was democratic (as are most forms of Communism). Everyone voted, but there was only one party on the ticket.

So, please define tradition. Or democratic.

Heck, Russia is democratic now, of course it's not the democratic that most of us associate with 'democratic'.


As an aside, if you characterize limiting the candidates/parties on the ballot as equivalent to holding a metaphorical gun to the voting populace's head - you're certainly ruling out the US as a democratic nation. You're down to modern democracies like Europe.

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  • $\begingroup$ I mean one where the most powerful member is not holding a metaphorical gun to the voters heads. Free speech and all of those ideals are what I mean by traditions. Request clarification in the comments section of the question. -1 $\endgroup$ – JDSweetBeat Mar 6 '15 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ I've got to agree, though I don't think it's worth a downvote. He could specify, but the question was relatively clear in this regard. $\endgroup$ – Rowanas Mar 6 '15 at 17:50
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    $\begingroup$ It's not really a request for clarification. I'm saying Communism is democratic, for the literal meaning (you get to vote). You're talking about a Western tradition surrounding democratic traditions - which you've left nebulous. So, yes, Communism can be democratic - it already is :D $\endgroup$ – user3082 Mar 6 '15 at 19:46
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    $\begingroup$ Democracy is more than just having elections. Especially when the elections are meaningless or manipulated in a way that the ruling party has an unfair advantage. $\endgroup$ – Philipp Mar 6 '15 at 21:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Philipp You can say that all you want, but what definition are you using? Different people have different definitions. If you'll specify what you're talking about, then we can have a conversation about that. $\endgroup$ – user3082 Mar 7 '15 at 7:33
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First things first. Understanding the frailty of human nature. If you believe any one particular system can be design to avoid corruption, the sort of lying, cheating, stealing, nepotism, cronyism and or favoritism between a "closed" & "connected" individuals or groups. then you don't know the mind set of a hunter hunts it's pray. Any given system in any society have this frailty. this is one thing we all share. anyone who tell you otherwise believe our human "frailty" doesn't exist or are a part of the "corruption" themselves. So, from a social engineering point of view, ask yourself this. can your system avoid the "frailty" of human nature? can your system make it so that majority of the people have a fair share of "justices" can your system create a system, design to have "low" level or a "control" level of lying, cheating, stealing, nepotism, cronyism and or favoritism between a "closed" & "connected" individuals or groups? can your system support a justice system that is unbiased or impartial? can your system break up and cycle through powerful individuals on all level of government? can your system allow all voices to be heard? especially the weak and the frail. can your system deal with law breaker fairly? can your system create long term planning as well as short term planning for your people? accepting human nature and designing a system that allow all individual to be at their best is the key. the "flexibility" of the system to change regularly is part of that solution. can your system measure it's wealth from it's welfare and justice of the majority? the difference is measure in the corruption of the system. most system be it successful or not have this list. education, upward mobility, cultural diversity, social justices of past, present and future action of your sins is also a solid measure of your system i.e colonization genocide, mass murder. you can name it anything you want. It's just branding. but the result are like that in any machine. Where there is strength in your system there are weakness. and social engineer must be unbiased to those problems. which leads to this question. can enough good social engineer in a country make a country better? i believe so.

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    $\begingroup$ Your "human nature" might very well turn against capitalism. If those with more economical power use this power to corrupt those in the political power we get the sort of society that we have today. So, talking about human nature is not usefull. We are going to surpass the inequality with technology and social evolution, not with capitalism or marxism. $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Mar 7 '15 at 15:16
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Unfortunately, I have an answer for you, and from first hand. I was raised and lived through the 'systemic change' in the soviet block. What you are referring to as ' shouldn't it be possible, if not probable that a democratic government could and would form even if this ideal is widely accepted'. Unfortunately that is exactly what happened in the post-soviet countries. a SOCIALISTIC DICTATORSHIP was changed to a CAPITALISTIC SEMI-DICTATORSHIP. The reasons:

  1. There was no real 'systemic change'. systemic change would mean a complete change from dictatorship to democracy. And a complete change from socialism to capitalism. Together the two. unfortunately, only the latter happened. the dictatorship is still there, but now it is mixed with some sort of democratic values.
  2. The people in political charge were not really substituted with different/democratic people. The old ones, socialistic dictators were just too old and they gave power to their cousins, their cousins, people they trusted. Those had the money, the power and ran for election. wow, no surprise, they were elected.
  3. This system is now accepted by the US as a democratic system. why? because they are TAA compliant. and they trade US products and services. Moreover they are NATO members.
  4. This new system just like you say has changed to a democratic system automatically, but this new system is only seemingly democratic. The basic democratic ideas are still diminished.
  5. The only real change was that the former political elite is now a capitalistic elite. they use cronyism to appoint their friends, family members.
  6. You have a dream in your head where you say that they convert into some sort of democratic system. the truth is, you mean capitalistic system. that has happened. but the picture in your head about democracy is fake. In a real democracy, you could buy the same quality of legal help as the richest can. You could have your children go to a school that is in a same-safe neighborhood as the richest do. Your kids could have the same quality of education as the richest have. Your children could have the same equal chances at start of their lives as the richest do. That is democracy. This is capitalism.
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