1917: what could we learn ?

Picture: Bundesarchiv,
Bild 183-J0908-0600-002 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

History ought to progress from failure to success. Since it usually doesn’t, it requires a deliberate attempt to make it so. The Revolutions attempted in 1917 where a reaction to the apparent failure of the Capitalist economy (a failure for many people at least), and the failure of Parliament to address the poverty and suffering of many. In other words: the rich and greedy where viciously exploiting the population, while too many politicians made a priority of becoming rich and greed.

The realization had set in that nobody can be trusted with power. We would have to be able to depose them the moment they went astray. How to accomplish such a feat, on the impressive scale of society at large ? It is now apparent that the effort eventually failed. What went wrong in the Revolutions of 1917, and how can we do better ?

From what I could gather, the failure had at least two main components:

① The system in 1917 was not worked out almost at all, and not in enough detail. It may not even have been an idea, but a result of a practical situation. People standing together becoming a constituency, the need to send a messenger becoming a person they elected.

This lead to a ‘voter-group’ to first be of an already large 100-200 men size, to later larger and larger to many thousands, even tens of thousands. At least I think this is large, because being one person in such a group, it is difficult to be heard. At a certain point of scale, the right to replace your representative and have a close contact with him or her becomes a right on paper only.

② … The failure by the Communists to want everything be run by the State. This might have been more of a the problem in Russia than in Germany, since in Russia they rammed through a radical program of centralisation..

Hence: a thinly structured system, with which there was no experience, was given the impossible task: manage everything there is to manage, down to the last nut and bolt production, its price, the management of every single worker, even down to the way people should live in houses.

③ As a third point we could add a lack of experimentation, education, training and experience with a new mode of Governance, as contributing to the failure. This lack then expresses itself as (worsening of) aforementioned points ①, and possibly also point ②. If you have no experience with something, your first attempt will probably not be your best. You may over estimate your ability.

Hence my plan is to have a well thought through plan, which is hopefully both robust enough in its main mechanisms, and detailed enough to prevent mass confusion (market.socialism.nl).

For example: I know about some weaknesses in my model¹, which are inherent due to a certain trade off. Precisely that is an example of why it is important to think things through beforehand, so that any weaknesses can be identified and strategies invented to remedy them, or at least coped with them as best we can. We see the problem coming from a mile away. That will help. It could lead to aborting the attempt and going back to the drawing board. Since we are now thinking about these things before there is even an experiment, we are at the drawing board at the moment. It makes sense to me to work this way, according to the Dutch proverb: “First thinking, then acting.”

The resolution of point ① (lack of planning and experience) in my ‛market socialism’ proposal, is to set up political parties on this State voter-group election model (called a Council Government or Räterepublik in German). There can be a swarm of smaller ones, which can co-operate to prevent power centralization. This gives the necessary experience and experimentation.

Secondly the new State system — the Revolution proper if you will — would begin as humbly as starting a good cause upon this model of organization, open to anyone according to its rules. Only once more people are in it than are in another system of State, can one start to think of taking over the Sovereignty, and to absorb the remaining useful elements of the old State in the new model (the electable elements, that is).

The resolution of point ③ was addressed in the original posting about a democracy school.

There are also other issues at play with the failure in Germany and Russia. For one I think that the overall theory of the radical left who ran these Revolutions (in Russia apparently financed by the western Capitalists themselves), was poorly developed. Its people where not united on a common objective, other than the urgent need to defeat the enemy (which was more than understandable).

Their poor theoretical development (anarchists, various flavors of socialists, communists, others, usually struggling with each other …) must have lead to scepticism in groups who would view such a Revolution with suspicion in any case. What is a small independent business men or free worker with his own worshop to make of the idea that there would be a “dictatorship of the proletariat” and a planned economy ? (point ②). It seems to be a potential problem to have the small independent business man against you. What is he other than a free worker ? This than is a point ④ of the failure: not being united, not making a whole lot of sense to too many people in society. All these problems are related with each other.

This problem of a lack of logic and broad appeal is hopefully addressed a little better in ‛market socialism’ (as I am proposing it now, which I was only able to do thanks to the struggle of the Socialists, Communists, Anarchists, (left) Libertarians and others in the past).

The small business man, or the free worker (both are the same, merely addressed differently to the taste of either the political right or left) is made the center of the model I am proposing. Free land to start up a business. Removal of the undue competition by mega corporations; who tend to take over the State. Mega-corporations do take over the State, as they have achieved once more since 2008, since 1913 in the USA, or whenever one likes to see their overbearing influence grow. Strong levels of democracy in ‛market socialism (.nl)’ can keep dangerous policies at bay, such as a routine State debt which threaten hyper inflation in the end.

More democracy seems to help the so-called proletariat, because it gives them more rights as well, also in their role of employees. In the short period of Dutch general democracy (1919-1940), a critically important policy was enacted: affordable housing for the poor, who sometimes had been in make shift huts or even under a tarp in the center of the city (!). This policy continues to this day, thanks to which I can write this to you now.

The system I am proposing is argued into every detail with clear logical arguments. Not merely “it feels good to have free land” but: pricing in an economy is and should be dependent upon human effort, which is a mechanism that is not proper for the raw land itself, since land is not produced by human effort. Nobody can start producing a second or third 10×10 km² of ‛place’ in a workshop, and sell it depending on demand. You can make land (the place) fit to a certain purpose to a degree, or even a great degree, but at the root that is part of the work people need the right te perform in freedom, in order to produce products and services for the market and themselves.

A well working economy requires all participants to have the same opportunity, so that they may rise and fall depending upon their efforts (the meritocracy of the market). Raw land is that opportunity. It does not require much imagination to see that giving everyone the same value in raw land, the ability to swap for another piece from a public buffer, to engage in land renting from each other as well as swap trading and a prohibition to passively own (not rent, but own) more than their value share, has to result in an economic meritocracy, which is one of the key components of a well structured economy. It also puts a bottom in poverty.

Having free land as an inalienable right, so free for all generations, would make people generally be free in an economic sense for the first time in thousands of years. Having “a free country” would no longer be a limited truth — or a hollow propaganda slogan to rally murderers to the next Imperial slaughtering campaign. It would be de-facto true. It would also be true politically.

What are we going to learn from the failures of: Feudalism, Capitalism and Communism ? The markets in land have lead to repeated disasters, even when it may have seemed to be a simple solution to the question of land. Sell the conquested lands to whomever, and allow them to do the same. Earn some money in the process. What will happen in the long term ?

Such events took place a few centuries after the Feudal system was overthrown in the Netherlands (a system which also allowed for land sales, another land ownership market). The land was again put in a market system. Where once the exploiters of the people called themselves ‛Knight’ or ‛Baron’, now they where called ‛Lord Farmers’ in my area (Dutch: Heren Boeren). They didn’t sport armor or swords, but they shared the one thing that mattered: they owned the land, where others did not. They lived in magnificent farmhouses with large barns, which still dot the landscape here. The landless serfs where huddled in villages. The situation was quite terrible.

America became great, thanks to its people having access to free land. This presumably has lead to the American people having great faith in what they call the free market. The problem seems to be that they have not noticed that their country is no longer free. They failed to make sure future generations would also get their share of the land for free. Now the Americans are again brought to heel, under the power of those who own it all, those who own the Capital goods that is (land).

The economic and State problems we have had, should — in my view — be seen as part of the experience and experimentation we have engaged in together thusfar. They where not failures in that sense, they where succesful in being experiments, yielding important insights for the future. What I propose we do is the continuation of our experiments, adding to our experiences and hopefully refine our society. Once the failures of my proposal have become apparent, we can remedy them just like we can remedy the failures in our past.

Conclusion: with these proposed efforts taking shape over decades, there can be some hope that …

① + ③ … a detailed system of democracy is operational before attempts are made at being Sovereign;

② … the reformed State is going to engage in a task which should be achievable (managing a limited² State: public budgeting, simplified taxation gathering and law making), and the economy can run itself for the most part, better than it can do now;

④ … the system overall can count on broader support from different sectors of the population, including: small business people / free workers, the ‛proletariat’ and all people of good will with a minimum of intelligence, creativity and the bravery to want to be free, in order to be good people in all ways.

Freedom means: the freedom to be good in peace. We may be better able, with a so more balanced, creative and power spreading society, to defeat those whose interpretation of ‛freedom’ is the interpretation by Pirates: to do whatever one pleases on a whim, including violence, theft and murder. Perhaps then there will be a little less suffering on Earth, and a little more sorely needed happiness.


¹⁾ One worrying weakness in my proposed voter-group model is at the same time its strength: people are free to make their own voter groups. This can lead to a problem of a voter group being spread out all over the Nation, with no obvious place for its Delegate to participate in a certain local Council. Now that we know and foresee this issue, we can think about it for years and even see the issue play out in practice, before having to put this system to the ultimate test: becoming Sovereign.

²) The proposal for a limited State: not in the sense of the American extreme right, so that Billionaires can reign as Sovereigns, but a State which is not all powerful. A state of an adequate size. A State which exists in a balance with the free people in the economy. This is the traditional role of a Government, which is the commission of the population assigned to implement its common decisions.

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