Bob Goupillot’s article on progress in E&L 2 was illuminating. The nature of the communist society of the future is not a matter of crystal ball gazing but, for materialists, should be a matter of some urgency. It will not develop organically if we just let it grow but is there to be determined and shaped by our human, revolutionary or reactionary actions. Bob’s views open up for communists, a debate on both the shape of a communist world and a vision of how we get there. What if capitalism had been halted in its tracks at one of the points of resistance in our past? That would, to some, have been a non-progressive act. Yet surely the revolutionary resistance to the dehumanising horrors of capitalist expansion must have been causes that we would fight for?

Take the Highland Clearances. I have heard comrades declare that these murderous acts of ethnic cleansing were ultimately progressive, in a sense inevitable, in the making of the proletariat and the industrialisation of the country. Of course these comrades would condemn the brutality involved, the senseless replacement of working crofts with sheep, which ultimately destroyed the land and the enforced emigration of a people. But, they accept that as part of the process from feudalism to capitalism to communism, these sacrifices while regrettable were essential.

So today, non historic peoples, peasants and farmers have the capitalist stage to look forward to – and all the misery that that implies – before they can throw off their proletarian slavery and join us in the socialist revolution towards communism. I think I would find this orthodox version of Marxist development a wee bit difficult to sell to tribal people and indigenous people across the planet. Come and join us as communists! We promise you the alienation only found under capitalism, which will destroy much of your culture, land and population. But do not worry; liberation will come which will make it all worthwhile. There are no short cuts for these orthodox Marxists only their essential stageist approach to human history which was discredited by the Russian revolution itself which failed to follow the model. Bob’s article looks at a different way forward and one, which certainly makes the orthodox view seem not only ridiculous but in essence, anti communist. Bob looks to take the socialist revolution from where people are without the necessity of first becoming an industrialised proletariat.

I strike a cautionary note however. I always get wary when people speak of a golden age of communism in the distant primitive past. The vision of being part of an undeveloped tribe struggling to survive does not fill me with any great desire to return to the land. No matter how egalitarian the distribution of labour it was still a bloody, hard and short existence. And it still is for millions of people on this planet. I know I see the world from a Euro centric western standpoint but the communist future cannot be the denial of the scientific, medical and technological advances we have achieved. Rather we must cherry pick without of course the all-consuming profit motive as our slave master. Let us by all means question what is progress and let us look with fresh eyes at what is good, valuable, and progressive in so called “primitive” lifestyles. Our communist world will require us to have the ability to constantly think in a revolutionary way. Even if that means critical re-evaluation of Marxist orthodoxy. Only thus will it be rich, diverse and fully human.

The simple life is not for me nor I suspect for the industrialised masses. The abandoning of commodity driven lifestyles will lead to greater expression of ideas and in a sense more individuality in a positive sense. Not driven by the dictates of fashion, people will display a diversity, colour and imagination denied by the mass conformism of the fashion moguls.

I have no time for comrades who fantasise about the good life technology free existence. We want decent housing, food, clothes but with all the mod cons too. I watched my mother and grandmother bend under domestic drudgery. We surely do not want this for our sons and daughters. I am keeping my central heating no matter how ethnic the log-burning stove may look! We can all see the advantages of the Iroquois Indian over the alienated wage slave but workers have from wage slavery created many advances for human kind and these intellectual, technological and scientific achievements should not be thrown away.

But as Bob points out, communists need to be open-minded as Marx himself was. The ologies must not be dismissed as bourgeois deviations or we will ignore so many truths about ourselves as human beings. What so many of these studies show is that human beings are not innately greedy or self seeking or driven by ambition. So-called human nature is determined by our society. It is the nature of capitalism to be greedy self centred not the nature of people.

It’s the old bread and roses thing. We need to stop thinking of art music poetry etc as luxuries. They are expressions of our humanity and as that grows under communism so will our culture. In a state of abundance, people will have time and energy to be creative as technology is used to enhance the quality of life for everyone not just the privileged few.

Mary Ward