Speculative presence – 6
I know, right? And we were getting along so famously until this point. Now you probably want to take a shower or some shit. But, hey, you can’t make an omelette without collectivizing the peasants and expropriating their eggs, can you now?
Besides, we were going to give them communism in return and drag them kicking and screaming away from the idiocy of rural life. Their kids would have thanked us. I mean, seriously, what teenager says, “I can’t wait to be a pig farmer, when I graduate!”
So, yeah, Stalin.
The guy has a bad reputation even among most communists, but I’m not here to defend him. Like I said, he adds flavor to the story. We have to keep Stalin somewhere in this speculative fictional alternative future communist society. Without Stalin, everything is just too neat and tidy. Without Stalin, dumb communists would start to believe their own heroic technicolor masturbatory fantasies about proletarian revolution.
Think of it this way: the American bourgeoisie has to face the flaws of its own heroes. Everybody knows Thomas Jefferson screwed his wife’s half-sister, who was also their slave. They had a regular Roman orgy going on, while he was penning declarations that all men were created equal, “except this slave bitch, who I have down on her knees, sucking my white dick, and her bastard offspring!”
Despite that evil shit, they built him a monument in Washington.
Jefferson didn’t get airbrushed out of American history and Stalin stays in this story, because the people who create communism are products of capitalism. We need to know that the proletarians who have passed through the bowels of this monstrosity to create communism were not necessarily very nice people. And we have no reason to expect them to start being nice the day after wage slavery is abolished.
As Marx put it in the Critique of the Gotha Program:
“What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.”
Initially, my speculative fictional communist society is going to be morally frightful because it is being created by people who are still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society; people have been renting themselves out in return for food and shelter for generations. Do you think that damage disappears overnight? The lid of the old society will come off and all sorts of monsters will emerge. We will discover shit that nearly makes us lose our faith in humanity — and may be even our lunch.
But there is a second, less negative reason for Stalin to stay in the story. Although it really has never been recognized by communists, of all the communists of the 20th century, Stalin had some pretty clever things to say about practical steps necessary to actually realize communism.
In 1950, Stalin realizes that once you start distributing basic necessities on the basis of needs, the world’s going to beat a path to your door. Have you seen the homeless tents lining the streets in San Francisco? Why are they there? They are there because people know the government will not stop them from living on the streets, yet has no plan to build housing to keep them from living on the streets. That’s why.
If the S.U. announces that henceforth basic necessities will be distributed based on need, they better be prepared to cope with the influx of tens of millions of proletarians fleeing the capitalist zone to enjoy their new lives in the commune, where all basic goods are distributed on the basis of needs.
Stalin, who, whatever you think of him, remained a practical person to the end, thought about this and said that if communism was ever going to happen, the S.U. need to be able to constantly expand social production, and moreover expand production of the means of production at an even faster rate. Unless it could do this, the S.U. could not constantly extend the scale of production as would be required by a system of distribution based on need.
Interestingly, however, even as Stalin was talking about the need to constantly expand social production and extend the scale of production to meet the requirements of a system of distribution based on need, he also proposed that the working day should be shortened to five hours. Clearly, Stalin did not believe that constant expansion of the scale of production to meet the requirements of of a system of distribution based on need would be achieved by the brute force of human labor.
It would be the product of the machine and that means lots of technological innovation. So Stalin proposes that the Soviet government introduce universal compulsory polytechnical education. He wants to turn technological innovation from a destructive force, as it is described in John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids, into a productive force capable of creating the material basis for a communist society.
Communism would be the creation, not of human hands, but of what Marx called “the general intellect”.