Manifesto For a Philosophically Justified Commune
by Michaelina Deneka and Alina Nakos
“The Commune” will be a community of individuals living and working in harmony, with all holding the interests of the community as their primary goal. From an economic standpoint, it will be primarily Marxist in ideology and structure. Through the establishment of a strongly held voluntary nature of The Commune, we hope to avoid a descent into totalitarianism, which has historically plagued communist states. Thus established, the good of the individual will be upheld. John Dewey eloquently illustrates the sort of community we hope to establish in Democracy and Education. Our goal is the realization of “a society in which every person shall be occupied in something which makes the lives of others better worth living, and which accordingly makes the ties which bind persons together more perceptible—which breaks down the barriers of distance between them. It denotes a state of affairs in which the interest of each in his work is uncoerced and intelligent: based upon its congeniality to his own aptitudes.” The Commune depends upon the individual just as the individual depends upon The Commune; this symbiotic relationship is the highest good, the founding principle of communal life.
We will attempt, in this manifesto, to outline a philosophical justification for such a commune. This is a necessary endeavor inasmuch as The Commune is to be derived from voluntary participation. While the contract theory proposed by Thomas Hobbes—that the only way to ensure the safety and protection of rights of the individual was to “confer all their power and strength upon one Man, or upon one Assembly of men, … to submit their Wills, every one to his Will,” and that this submission was the origin of the state—is an easily falsifiable theory historically speaking, it is still relevant in that it testified to “a growing belief that the state existed to satisfy human needs and could be shaped by human intention and volition.” When the state is seen not as “a necessary manifestation of some supreme and over-ruling principles,” but rather as something man-made, the care that must be taken in its making is self-evident.
All actions taken by members should be taken with consideration of the community as the first and foremost interest. Dewey’s claim that “a being connected with other beings cannot perform his own activities without taking the activities of others into account,” compelling justifies this precept.
The rights of the individual will be protected as much as possible, insofar as they do not conflict with the interests of the community. These rights include:
The fulfillment of basic human needs, defined by Abraham Maslow in his “Theory of Human Motivation” as physiological necessities such as food, water, and shelter—which will be provided as shared resources in The Commune—as well as higher-order needs such as a sense of belonging and of purpose, which will be achieved through participation in the community and recognition of each individual’s contributions.
The ability to express dissent and have their concerns met with due respect. We reject the Hobbesian notion that “he that complaineth of injury from his Soveraigne, complaineth of that whereof he himself is Author; and therefore ought not to accuse any man but himself.” While the governance of The Commune will derive from the people, we respect that situations may arise in which The Commune inadvertently acts in a manner harmful to an individual, and uphold an individual’s right to civil dissent in such a situation.
The right to leave the commune at any time; participation in The Commune is on a strictly voluntary basis. It is from the shared desire to participate in communal living that The Commune will attain its cohesion.
The ability to use free time for whatever purpose the individual chooses, insofar as it is not destructive to the community. As long as the individual has adequately contributed to the community (cf., section three, “Quotas,” under “Labor,” below), they are free to pursue personal interests.
The most severe punishment to be utilized in the community is expulsion from the community. Minor crimes—to be defined as any action which poses harm to The Commune—will be addressed by the Council on a case-by-case basis. Reparation for harm caused, not retaliation, will be the primary motivation for any penal actions; punishments will be enacted to restore the good of the community, not to harm or humiliate an individual. We agree with Hans-Georg Moeller’s position in The Moral Fool that the death penalty does not serve as an adequate deterrent to justify its use, and that the idea of retaliation through punishment adds a moralizing factor not necessary for an effective system of justice.
All members of the community should consider each other as family, necessary components of a larger entity. As such, no member will treat another member in a way that he or she would not consider acceptable for one’s own family.
There will be no sense of personal ownership in The Commune; materials and resources are to be shared by all. Should an individual accrue more resources than he or she has need for, they ought to be returned to the community so that they may be allocated to those who have need of them. Barter and trade are not allowed, as one may not trade that which is not one’s own.
In order to form a true communist society, certain premises enforced by the capitalist system will need to be undermined, and others will need to be put in their place. The following is a list of the fundamental ideological principles upon which The Commune will rest and, without which, it could not function.
1) The Individual’s Relationship with the Community
Capitalism has effected a dissolution of the individual: the pursuit of material goods as a goal of production makes those material goods representative of the people who work for them. The elision of heterogeneous individuals by the very systems in which they work has created a homogeneous consumer culture characterized by the production of “spectacle,” a term that Guy Debord, of The Situationist Internationale, employs to represent the process by which a society produces, and then consumes, the self-defining objects of its culture up to the point when the society works entirely to produce and consume its own image, erasing the (proletariat) individual who contributes to the production:
The spectacle presents itself simultaneously as society itself, as a part of society, and as a means of unification. As a part of society, it is the focal point of all vision and all consciousness. But due to the very fact that this sector is separate, it is in reality the domain of delusion and false consciousness: the unification it achieves is nothing but an official language of universal separation.
It is this fundamental aspect of capitalist society that we reject. Whereas individuality in capitalism manifests and proliferates itself as the production, possession, and semantic interpretation of objects that stand in for the self (thus replacing the self with an “image” of the self), The Commune fundamentally rejects the notion that production is intended for any means but subsistence. Thus, the individual is responsible not only for maintaining the one’s own well-being, but also (and foremost) is responsible for maintaining the well-being of the community. The Commune depends completely upon the universal acceptance and understanding of the individual’s role as contributor, where the contribution is not producing “a negation of life that has invented a visual form for itself,” but the communally recognized production of the necessities for subsistence. This basic understanding of each individual’s role as contributor establishes the basis for equality. As Dewey explains:
Equality does not signify that kind of mathematical or physical equivalence in virtue of which any one element may be substituted for another. It denotes effective regard for whatever is distinctive and unique in each, irrespective of physical and psychological inequalities. It is not a possession but is a fruit of the community when its action is directed by its character as a community.
Such “physical and psychological inequalities” have the potential to pervade even objectively contribution-oriented culture, and The Commune recognizes that the subjectivity of human interaction, even in a non-competitive sphere, may provoke conflict. As Hobbes keenly noted, “in the nature of man, we find three principal causes of quarrel. First, Competition; Secondly, Diffidence; Thirdly, Glory.” Accordingly, The Commune’s functionality rests on the understanding that it must internally mediate these issues. The fluidity of the governmental system, the essentiality of the quota system, and the community’s necessary complicity with “comfortable poverty” (relative to a capitalist existence) all serve to ideologically assuage and replace the capitalistic dependence on interpersonal conflict.
2) Relationship of The Commune to Capitalism
Marx understood the necessity of a communist society evolving out of the surplus of capitalism. “To establish a communal domestic economy presupposes the development of machinery, of the use of natural forces and of many other productive forces. … Without these conditions a communal economy could not … achieve more than a monastic economy achieves.” Therefore, The Commune will in part rely on trade with capitalist society for resources that cannot be sustainably produced within the community itself. Those resources will be limited to basic medical supplies, paper, and writing instruments.
The Commune is a small entity that does not presuppose a large-scale communist revolution. The decision to pursue small-scale communism was made in order to ensure a manageably-sized community within which direct democracy could feasibly take place. In large-scale communism, democracy quickly becomes anarchy; the only advantage to the larger scale is the appropriation of industrial means of production, the valuing of which over an effective political system is a purely capitalist phenomenon. Small-scale communism presents a material problem not addressed in Marxist literature, as it is typically assumed that all the economic means of production available to the capitalist society would also be available to the communist civilization. This is not the case, because The Commune is being formed of its own accord in order to separate from capitalist society, and will have limited resources at its disposal. It is understood that, at its conception, The Commune will have no means of making medicine or writing materials.
Capitalist society can be credited with making strides in medical care. Industrialization and innovation in the field of medicine has, for the most part, eliminated the need to fear basic maladies, such as the common cold, that would otherwise be fatal. In the interests of providing for the basic physiological needs of the members of The Commune, basic medicines will be necessary. The category of “basic” extends to antibiotics, items with which to treat injuries, and other items that can be utilized to cure short-term diseases. It does not extend to surgery, chemotherapy, or treatment for long-term conditions; these are valued highly by capitalist society, and therefore will be priced at a level that The Commune cannot afford. If a member of The Commune is found to have an ailment that The Commune cannot provide for, their return to capitalist society to seek medical treatment will be deemed acceptable.
Writing materials will be provided for members of the commune in the interests of education and documentation. As children of The Commune will be taught to read and write, materials will necessarily be provided so that they may practice these fundamental skills. Additionally, recording of personal history and pursuit of creative activities are encouraged by The Commune, so as to provide a record for future historians of this experiment in the communist tradition.
In order to provide for these necessities, the Council will supervise the appropriation of any surplus of materials produced by the community, and will trade them for money with the capitalist society. These materials can be the organic foods produced by the community farms, the handmade crafts and tools made by craftsmen, or any other item that the capitalist society would deem of monetary value. The money obtained in this relationship will be used to purchase the aforementioned necessities only when the need for them arises. Any addition to these assigned necessities must be gravely considered by the entire community, so as to avoid subscribing to the capitalist system of assigning product value based on monetary value. However, minimal trade with the capitalist world is acceptable, and peaceful coexistence with the capitalists is preferred.
3) Redefinition of Democracy
The Commune will exemplify the ideals of democracy, which are richer and more productive to creating harmony than isolated historical or current instantiations demonstrate. Dewey writes, “The idea of a democracy is a wider and fuller idea than can be exemplified in the state even at its best. To be realized it must affect all modes of human association. … As far as political arrangements are concerned, governmental institutions are but a mechanism for securing to an idea channels of effective operation.” Thus, The Commune may claim democratic ideals, without the necessity of preserving narrow political notions with which the term may be mistakenly be assumed to be synonymous.
In fact, such mistakenly understood “democratic” mechanisms often act counter to the true goals of democracy. The idea that “general suffrage, frequent elections of officials, and majority rule are sufficient to ensure the responsibility of elected rulers to the desires and interests of the public,” is a fallacious one, based on the existence of what Walter Lippmann termed the “omnicompetent” individual. For such mechanisms to be adequate, each individual must know what will be for his own good in making any political decision, a competence only possible if knowledge is taken as a function of the mind “which originated in individuals by means of isolated contact with objects.” Knowledge, however, is a function of association, communication, and shared experience. This epistemological point is reflected in the governance of The Commune: the entire community is responsible for defending individual good, not individuals themselves. This is to be actualized through a rotating Council form of government (cf. the section “Government,” below).
True democracy, the democratic ideal upheld by The Commune, is not an alternative to other principles of communal life—as political democracy may be distinguished from feudalism, totalitarianism, etc.—but the idea of communal life itself. For the individual, this means “having a responsible share according to capacity in forming and directing the activities of the groups to which one belongs and in participating according to need in the values which the groups sustain.” This idea found its expression also in Marxist philosophy, in the famous quote from his Critique of the Gotha Program: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” It is the active and conscious participation in this shared good that forms the basis of the community: “Wherever there is conjoint activity whose consequences are appreciated as good by all singular persons who take part in it, and where the realization of the is such as to effect an energetic desire and effort to sustain it in being just because it is a good shared by all, there is in so far a community.”
4) Encouraging Community Through Communication
It is necessary to actively recognize the individual’s contribution to the community in order to maintain high morale and underline the necessity of each field of labor. By joining together for meals, the community recognizes the laborers whose work has provided for The Commune’s sustenance. Furthermore, the joining of the community in one place on a daily basis fosters the opportunity for daily meetings, during which The Commune’s members may socialize and any issues may be conveyed to the governmental body and the community at large. Using an informal structure (excepting the process for the implementation of a decision as outlined in the section entitled “Government,” below), the meeting lasts as long as issues for discussion are raised. The daily opportunity to raise an issue at community meetings not only provides the opportunity to quickly address issues of ideological dissent and reform, but also prevents both long-term problems involving the distribution of resources and the possibility for interpersonal conflict. The Commune is able to subsist in part because of the fluidity and regular revitalization of its government.
As stated prior, the government of The Commune will not be a government in any traditional sense. Traditional governments advocate for the placing of individuals in positions of power over other individuals, which breeds resentment, hostility, and class divisions. In his preface to the 1883 German edition of The Communist Manifesto, Friedrich Engels states that “all history has been a history of class struggles, of struggles between exploited and exploiting, between dominated and dominating ….” The Commune seeks a new sort of history by nullifying the class system and validating the inherent worth and capability of every individual. As such, the government of The Commune will be Marx’s ideal “dictatorship of the proletariat,” in which the gap between rulers and ruled is reduced to its lowest possible level. All members of The Commune are of equal worth, and therefore are expected to be equally committed to the survival of the community. Therefore, all members of the community will be expected to participate in its leadership throughout their lives. This necessitation of leadership serves to reify the individual’s commitment to The Commune’s well-being.
The Commune’s government will consist of a Council of eight people, over the age of majority, which is sixteen. Compared to the minimum age set for governance in most nations, that of the commune could be seen as relatively low. This disparity is due to the commune’s view of immaturity as a positive capacity for growth, not a negative void or lack. “The primary condition of growth,” writes Dewey, “is immaturity.” The young are blessed with the power of plasticity, or the ability to learn from experience, with an open-mindedness too often lost in adulthood. Thus within the commune, young adults are to be held to the same standards of participation in the community as elder members, both to provide the stimulus and challenge necessary for growth, and so that The Commune may benefit from their newer and fresher input.
It is expected that, upon the appropriation of this gubernatorial method into the mental framework of members of The Commune, seeing the Council through the lens of traditional government will become less and less accurate. According to Marx, “when, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another.” The Council will, over time, begin to be recognized by members of The Commune as simply a tool to improve the overarching system as complications arise, with none of the suggested superiority/inferiority relationship implicit in a capitalist government.
1) Selection Process
The Council will be selected by single-draw lottery. Once a member of the community has served his or her term on the Council, he or she will not be eligible for another term until all members of the community have served a term. Once all members have served a term, the lottery cycle will begin again. Service on the Council is mandatory for every individual. Illness will be excusable, under the condition that the individual’s name is put back into the lottery.
2) Term Length and Rotation
Each member of the Council will serve a four-week term. Two members will be rotated out on a weekly basis, so as to prevent complete overhaul of the Council at any time.
The members of the Council who are in the final week of their term will serve as the Moderators during community meetings. It is a Moderator’s job to ensure that order is kept at meetings, and that all voices are heard.
Members of the Council will be relieved from their respective jobs during their time of service. Their quota will be evenly distributed among other workers in their field during their time in service, so as to prohibit any loss of productivity.
The function of a Council Member is to make his or her way through the community, observing every field of work, discussing working conditions with the workers, and asking members of the community what they would like to see improved. At the end of every week the Council will meet and discuss changes that need to be made to the community. These changes are not law in and of themselves. After a Communal Dinner, the Council will propose the changes to the community, who will then vote on the matter in whatever manner they find to be the most convenient and free from corruption. If significant protestation to any of the changes exists in the community, those opposed should make their way to and discuss their qualms with a member of the Council, who is then required to discuss the problem with the other Council members. If the problem is not resolved by communication between the Council and the protestor, the Council is then required to explain the problem to the greater community and require another vote. Unanimity is not required for the passage of any changes, but only a significant majority, which is understood to be two thirds. If at any point this number poses a problem to the community, it may be altered, but may not fall below 51 percent (so that the minority may never exercise dictatorship over the majority) and may not rise above 80 percent (so as to not draw out the democratic process to an unmanageable length).
The structure of labor in The Commune seeks to reduce that which is so problematic in capitalist society: alienation of labor. In a capitalist society, where goods produced by the worker must be exchanged for money, the creator becomes so far removed from his or her creation as to see it as a purely alien thing. Marx writes of capitalist society:
The worker is robbed of the most essential objects not only of life but also of work. Indeed, work itself becomes a thing of which he can take possession only with the greatest effort. … So much does the appropriation of the object appear as alienation that the more objects the worker produces, the fewer he can own, and the more he falls under the domination of his product, of capital.
Capitalist labor fails to necessitate the worker’s pride in the product or an understanding of how the individual’s labor is integral to the success of the whole. By simplifying labor divisions to two groups and distributing products equally among members of the small community, workers will be able to see their products for their true, non-monetary worth. Workers will be afforded all of the circumstances necessary to take pride in and enjoy their work, as is the natural inclination of all humans by very virtue of being human. As Marx wrote, “The first historical act of these individuals [humans], the act by which they distinguish themselves from animals is not the fact that they think but the fact that they being to produce their means of subsistence.” Humans tend towards activity and production; with the nullification of capital and consciousness of the value of their work, this tendency will be encouraged and put to use.
The following three points, developed by Étienne-Gabriel Morelly, will serve to summarize the basic principles guiding distribution of labor, the quota system, and the distribution of labor:
“Nothing in society will belong to anyone, either as a personal possession or as capital goods, except the things for which the person has immediate use, for either his needs, his pleasures, or his daily work.
“Every citizen will be a public man, sustained by, supported by, and occupied at the public expense.
“Every citizen will make his particular contribution to the activities of the community according to his capacity, his talent and his age; it is on this basis that his duties will be determined, in conformity with the distributive laws.”
1) Apprenticed Labor
Apprenticed labor refers to any labor that requires extensive training to be able to effectively complete. This can refer to craftsmaking, medicine, the town scribe, etc.. The terms “apprenticed” and “un-apprenticed” will be used as replacements for the capitalist terms “skilled” and “un-skilled.” The latter terms presuppose a disparity of significance and value between various types of labor and typically encourage a dismissive attitude towards any un-specialized fields. This classist mindset will be actively discouraged in The Commune.
Those who participate in apprenticed labor must show significant talent in their field. If a talented individual expresses an interest in an apprenticed position, and the current holder of the position cannot showcase his or her merit to be superior to the other individual’s, they may be removed from their position with the approval of the Council. It is necessary for both the individual and the communal good that those best suited to a particular position are those that fill it. “An occupation,” writes Dewey, “is the only thing which balances the distinctive capacity of an individual with his social service. To find out what one is fitted to do and to secure an opportunity to do it is the key to happiness.”
Apprentices for these positions are selected from among the children of the community at the age of ten. This selection process will be preceded by a year-long period of experimentation in different fields, in which the children are encouraged to make their preferences known to those who will be teaching them (cf. the section “Education,” below). Only a certain number of apprentices may be selected for any given position, which shall be determined by the current holders of that position.
Once a person is trained in a field of apprenticed labor, he or she will be expected to hold that position and fulfill his or her duties in that position until such time as this is no longer physically possible. If the holder of an apprenticed position is unable or unwilling to continue in that field, he or she may move to un-apprenticed labor after securing another member of the community to take over in that position. Once apprenticed in a field, an individual may not choose another field that requires training. This is to prevent the waste of time and resources, and to maximize the amount of labor contributed by a fully trained individual.
2) Un-Apprenticed Labor
Un-apprenticed labor refers to any labor that requires minimal training to complete. This can refer to farming, sanitation, etc.. Those who participate in un-apprenticed labor may become apprentices in another field if a spot is vacated and they show significant aptitude for that field. Unlike apprenticed labor, un-apprenticed labor is varied and rotates on a basis of where labor is most needed. Workers may request placement in particular fields of interest to them, but only with the understanding that absolutely no position is permanent.
The possibility of the advent of capitalist favoritism of one position over the other will be prevented at all costs. According to Marx, “The division of labor in a nation leads first of all to the separation of industrial-commercial labor from agricultural labor and consequently to the separation of town and country and to a clash of their interests.” This will not be allowed to happen in The Commune, due to the close proximity of community members’ workplaces and living locations, and an understanding that the traditional notions of product value are not applicable here. It must be understood that there is no class division—The Commune is sustained for and by a classless people. Food is equally important to community survival as are material goods produced for sale to the capitalist world. (Cf. the section “Ideology,” above, for what exactly will be conveyed regarding value, and “Education” for how it shall be enforced.) It will be understood that while only a select minority may participate in apprenticed labor, un-apprenticed labor is an equally desirable path of work, due to the boundless variety it affords.
Weekly quotas will be set for each individual. The individual, while required to meet the demands set by the quota, is encouraged to produce a surplus for sale to the capitalist world. (Once the demands of the quota are met, the individual may choose how to spend their spare time.)
Quotas will be initially set by those working in the field and by a purely democratic process, so that all may agree upon what is a reasonable expectation. These quotas are subject to alteration by the Council, which provides input on how much of any product is required by the community. Quotas may be altered on an individual basis in the event of injury or other malady, with the approval of the other members of the field.
In the event of prolonged illness in conjunction with a complete inability to work, the ill individual’s quota will be distributed evenly among the other workers in that field of labor.
4) Distribution of Resources
“Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriation.” Consistent with this assertion, the resources produced by The Commune will be distributed with exact evenness to each individual. Every member of The Commune is entitled to a food supply that amounts to 2000 calories a day, as this is the amount of food that the average human requires to sustain a healthy lifestyle. All additional products, such as tools and other crafted items, will be distributed on the basis of necessity. Those who need a specifically produced item will direct their requests toward the producer of that item. Any disputed claims of necessity must be taken to the Council.
There will be no form of currency in The Commune; as Marx so eloquently put it, “the complete domination of the alienated object over man is evident in money and the complete disregard of the nature of the material.” By creating a direct, personal relationship between the worker that produces an item and the worker that uses it, alienation of labor is further diminished.
In The Commune, education will not be regarded as something limited solely to formal schooling; as in John Dewey’s theory of progressive education, the process of growth within an individual is important—not an idealized notion of knowledge held as a fixed end. Formal schooling, however, still has a necessary place within The Commune. It serves two primary purposes:
Equipping individuals with a solid ground for continued education beyond formal schooling.
The assimilation of the individual into the shared life of the community, which is necessary for the continuity of The Commune itself.
1) Education as Growth
The system of formal education that will take place in The Commune may hardly be recognized as formal schooling by anyone holding the current American public school system as the golden standard. In the latter system, schooling and education is seen as its own end, isolated from practical experience. This is demonstrated by the growth of standardized testing, the outcomes of which fail to demonstrate connection to relevant life skills. The material of formal instruction has become “merely the subject matter of the schools, isolated from the subject matter of life-experience.”
In direct contrast to this ineffective method, schooling in The Commune will be largely practical, and primarily grounded in experience. Its purpose is not to promote rote memorization of fact, but to “insure the continuance of education by organizing the powers that insure growth.” The role of formal schooling will be to equip the youth with the skills necessary to flourish later in life and labor, and to continue to grow and develop once formalized schooling is ended in favor of the apprenticeship cycle at age nine. They will not learn the basic facts of biological life from a book, but from planting and tending to flowers—learning firsthand how seed grows into flower, the role of sun and water. They will not recite division tables, but learn to calculate how “x” peaches could be divided among all “y” members of the community. This is to ensure that there is no duality between the subject matter of school and the actual experience of life, the latter being that from which true growth is borne.
It would be relevant, then, to question the necessity of formalized education in the first place. To earlier cultures, Dewey claims, “it would seem preposterous to seek out a place where nothing but learning was going on in order that one might learn.” This claim has some validity, and it is for this reason that the commune will limit the extent of formal schooling; having been equipped with the tools and dispositions necessary for continued growth, they will enter into either an apprenticeship or un-apprenticed labor, where their education will be derived solely from experience and interaction with their surroundings. This type of education is, in fact, preferable to formal schooling; Dewey writes, “Education through occupations … combines within itself more of the factors conducive to learning than any other method. … It is a foe to passive receptivity. It has an end in view; results are to be accomplished.” Formal schooling thus serves as a necessary precursor to this sort of learning; it instills within the individual the basic information and mental capabilities that will promote lifelong growth.
2) Education for the Communal Good
Formal education is necessary, also, for communal life. For one, a community such as The Commune is “too complex to be assimilated to in toto.” The precepts of The Commune—the social standards and philosophical ideals that form the basis of community life—are complex, and often run counter to individual instinct; the earliest generations of The Commune, especially, will likely have lingering notions of egoism and individualism that education will have to overcome. These very capitalist carryovers are the justification for formal education: the passing down of values and principles that are too important to the community to leave their attainment up to chance.
To this end, formal schooling has a threefold mission. The first is to simplify the environment, to allow the young to assimilate into the community at a manageable rate. The second is to eliminate features of the environment that would be a negative influence upon the forming mentalities of the youth. Those assigned to the care and education of the young would be those most capable of teaching the precepts of the commune, and limiting exposure to the harmful remnants of capitalist ideology that will likely still be present among the adult population (cf. the section “The Elderly,” below). It is important here to note that this is not indicative of indoctrination or pro-commune propaganda; the end to this sort of purification is simply social good. “As a society becomes more enlightened,” Dewey writes, “it realizes that it is responsible not to transmit and conserve the whole of its existing achievements, but only such as make for a better future society.” In the case of The Commune, this means not passing down the ideals of the capitalist society from which The Commune has evolved, but only the precepts thus laid out, which will serve to better the community. In fact, education is undoubtedly the most powerful tool for the type of societal reform desired by The Commune. “We may produce in schools,” writes Dewey, “a projection in type of the society we should like to realize, and by forming minds in accord with it gradually modify the larger and more recalcitrant features of adult society.”
3) The Elderly
The Commune recognizes that over the course of an individual’s life, he or she will be unable to contribute sufficiently to meet the specified quota via manual labor. Thus, it will be necessary—for their sustainability—to allocate them resources to which they have not directly contributed. In his dialogue on Enlightenment thought, Denis Diderot recognizes that these specific demographics pose a drain on resources.
To ameliorate this conflict, elders will instead contribute by providing apprenticeships for children and young adolescents in one of their fields of specialization (for by now, elders will likely have been exposed to several areas of work). As Dewey writes, “A baby in the family is equal with others, not because of some antecedent and structural quality which is the same as that of others, but in so far as his needs for care and development are attended to without being sacrificed to the superior strength, possessions, and matured abilities of others.” By forging a working relationship between the elders and children (who cannot immediately contribute), The Commune ensures its ability to continue raising skilled contributors in subsequent generations by investing a portion of its immediate resources in its non-contributing members.
The societal model described above for The Commune relies on basic precepts and ideologies that have not been fostered in the capitalist world, and therefore will likely take several generations of cultivation before it will function with ease. The competitive capitalist mindset has been deeply imprinted on all who have been born into and participate in it, and has the entirety of human history to support its claim to the triumph of inequality. Therefore, this Manifesto is necessarily changeable, and will likely be subject to change as flaws in the communal system are identified and rectified. However, this is a document that relies on the scholarship of great thinkers, on the teachings of Marx, and on the intuition of its writers. It is a document with potential for success, an original prototype for a community the likes of which humankind has never seen before.
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