Saturday, December 03, 2016

This is Free Access

Free access communism is a form of "generalised reciprocity" par excellence, a “gift economy”, which as the term itself suggests denotes the absence of any kind of quid pro quo set up.

1) The amount of work that needs to be done by comparison with today will be much less because of the elimination of all that socially useless labour that only serves to prop up the capitalist money economy - from bankers to tax collectors and a thousand and one other occupations. Less work means a much reduced per capita workload on average which, in turn, means less resistance to working since our attitude to work is partly conditioned by how much time we are required to do it. If you only have to do 2 hours per week on a boring job you are going to regard it differently than if you have to do it for 20 hours

2) A volunteer economy means that we are not stuck with just one job but can try a variety so there is a labour reservoir in depth for any particular job - even the most onerous or boring - and to an extent that is simply not possible under capitalist employment.

3) With free access to goods and services, there is only one way in which you can acquire status and the respect and esteem of your fellows - through your contribution to society. Conspicuous consumption and the accumulation of private wealth would be rendered meaningless by the simple fact that all wealth is freely available for direct appropriation

4) The terms and conditions of work will be radically different without the institution of capitalist employment. It is often these terms and conditions - in particular the authoritarian structure of the capitalist workplace - that are the real problem rather than the work itself

5) Without the profit motive, there will be far greater scope to adapt technology to suit our inclinations. Some work might be subject to greater automation; other work might be made more handicraft or skilled-based

6) In a socialist society, our mutual interdependence will be much more transparent and the sense of moral obligation to give according to one's ability in return for taking according to one's need will correspondingly be much more sharply defined and enhanced as a motivating factor

7) A communist society cannot be introduced except when the great majority understand and want it. Having struggled to achieve it can it seriously be maintained that they would willingly allow it to be jeopardised? The reductio as absurdum argument

8) Work, loosely defined as meaningful productive activity is actually a fundamental human need, not simply an economic requirement. Try sitting around for week doing nothing and you will soon find yourself climbing up the wall out of sheer boredom. Prison riots have been known to break out on occasions when frustrated prisoners are denied work opportunities and even under the severe conditions they have to contend with.

9) Even under capitalism just over half of the work that we do is completely unpaid and outside of the money economy. This is by no means just confined to the household sector - think for example of international volunteers such as the VSO - and it gives the lie to the capitalist argument that the only way you can induce people to work is paying them to do it

Since you don’t have a quid pro quo set up with free access communism, individuals are free to do whatever work they chose. What work needs to be done as explained can be readily communicated through the appropriate channels such as job-centres, online facilities or whatever. You don’t have the same kind of divided conflicting view induced by a quid pro quo set up which pits your self-interest against the interests of others. So social opinion become becomes a much more powerful force in society. Work that needs to be done most urgently and is not perhaps being done to the extent required - e.g. garbage collection - gains in status to the extent that it remains undone. People work for all sorts of reasons not just because they "like it". This is why we find the usual objections to free access communism being trotted out to be simplistic and reductionist. Labour at this higher stage is no longer co-erced labour in the sense that an individual's access to goods (via their "income") is made dependent upon his or her contribution. On the contrary, the labour of freely associated individuals becomes life's "prime want". It becomes entirely voluntary labour, freely offered. The compulsion to produce without which human life could not continue will then operate exclusively on the social plane and not directly upon individuals who, nevertheless, will have realised their fully social nature in a communist society and respond accordingly to the requirements of society to produce and reproduce its own means of existence. This is what constitutes the essence of communism - the realisation of our true social nature and of the need to contribute to society's maintenance and well-being