Friday, May 14, 2010

The Venus Project versus Other Social Systems

Remember that Sesame Street song, “One of These Things (Is Not Like The Others)?” Well, as many of you may know, the argument or notion that The Venus Project or a Resource-Based Economy (RBE) is the same, or similar, to Communism tends to keep popping up. Although we’ve continuously addressed this misunderstanding with explanations as to how and why it’s monumentally different, the confusion continues. It came to my attention to write a blog on this subject when a fellow YouTuber simply asked if I think Jacque Fresco has influences from Peter Kropotkin, a late 19th Centry anarcho-communist, which I will get into later. First I want to start by highlighting some points from one of my prior drawn-out discussions with another user on this subject, which I think in fact summarizes what the “Communism” argument boils down to.

The first problem is that there are various definitions and understandings, mainly two, of the word communism. The first is fairly simple: 1 a : a theory advocating elimination of private property b : a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed. I think it is fair to say that an RBE does aim to accomplish that in some form, but it is not the premise of The Venus Project. In other words, it is not our goal to simply eliminate private property, and make goods equally available to all so that we, or our future generations, can simply enjoy some form of equal access. It is instead our goal to accomplish many other things, such as surpassing cultural and religious conflicts, eliminating wars over scarcity of resources, ending the exploitation of, and damage to, the earth and its resources catalyzed by the pursuit of profit, establishing clean and sustainable energy systems, improving education, reducing aberrant behavior and crime, etc. It just so happens that “eliminating private property,” and “making goods equally available to all,” are required in order to accomplish those things. To clarify, here are some of the core characteristics of a Resource-Based Economy, as outlined in The Zeitgeist Movement knowledge base:

1) No money or market system.
2) Automation to replace labor in every occupation possible.
3) Technological Unification of the planet in a systems approach.
4) No property - Universal Access.
5) Self-contained/Sustainable/Streamlined City Systems.
6) Science as the methodology for all social decisions, including the approach to problems regarding aberrant human behavior (or what we refer to today as "crime").

Number four alone, which could be described as “communism,” is a necessary ingredient, but not the ultimate goal or the entire premise. Some might argue that it makes no difference whether it’s one factor or the whole concept, because number four is necessary and therefore implied in every other ingredient. However, this difference between a ‘factor’ and a ‘foundational concept’ later proves to be a very important distinction between The Venus Project and other social systems, so keep it in mind.

The second definition is slightly more complex, and often capitalized as Communism: 2 (capitalized) a : a doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism that was the official ideology of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics b : a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production c : a final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably.

During the discussion, I’d explained that an RBE proposes no form of government, much less a totalitarian government that controls all property and means of production, so it is obviously not the same as Communism. The opposing argument was that the second definition (mainly a and b) is more accurately Socialism, not in fact Communism as it were originally intended, and as such, there has never really been true Communism. I argued that if Communism has only ever been attempted by means of Socialism, then it is still not the same as an RBE, since that is not our intention or goal. Still, the opposition maintained that since an RBE does ultimately regard resources as the “common heritage of all,” it is still the same as Communism, regardless of whether the premise or methodology is different, as long as the end result is the same – equal access to all goods.

The final opposing argument, in this particular case, was that Venus Project supporters should just admit that it is Communism, and that we prefer not to call it that, due to the negative associations with its history, and its resulting tendency to fall on deafening ears. This argument further concluded that anyone who’s read The Communist Manifesto should not have a problem with this, and would understand the difference between true Communism, and the distorted definition throughout history by means of Socialism.

This is where the difference between an RBE and Communism becomes even more evident. While I admit that I haven’t read The Communist Manifesto, I’ve read much about it and what it covers, and I’ve read other materials regarding the origins and history of Communism. The Manifesto confirms that Communism was based on class struggles, the idea that societies could only evolve through conflict. This concept is in large part described as Dialectical Materialism, which is in fact the opposite of what The Venus Project advocates - that societies and humanity as a whole will evolve through cooperation - eliminating conflict and most of its causes.

The rebuttal was that, although Communism was indeed based on class struggles, in the end, classes disappear, which is also the result of a resource-based economy. Of course, my response was that “classes disappearing through conflict or struggle” is not remotely the same as “voluntarily transcending artificial boundaries and working together,” thereby peacefully and effectively dissolving any class distinctions. So far, no one has refuted my response, or answered my question as to how one can legitimately consider The Venus Project an extension of “Communism,” and its idea of class struggles.

Regarding the question of whether Fresco’s work has Kropotkinian influences, I couldn’t say without asking Fresco himself. In any case, I am researching the issue on my own, and so far I have found some of Kropotkin’s studies to involve similar philosophies, such as the idea of cooperation as a survival mechanism, rather than competition. From what I can tell, much of this was based on the study of species in general, and not so much the social engineering aspect regarding humans, and the need to elevate all to their highest intellectual, emotional, psychological, and physical potential. He also proposed an economic system of mutual exchanges, which aimed to eventually abolish money or tokens in exchange for goods and services. However, the system focused on local production and the self-sufficiency of each country, without any apparent means to inventory, or equally allocate, all resources efficiently, and obviously no means to automate nearly all labor. There is a large enough gap in the time period to suggest that this was due to the lack of necessary technology, but even so, I have not yet located an understanding similar to that of The Venus Project, which states that: “All social systems, regardless of political philosophy, religious beliefs, or social customs, ultimately depend on natural resources like clean air and water, arable land, and the technology and personnel to maintain a high standard of living. This can be accomplished through the humane application of science and technology using a global systems approach.”

In conclusion, it seems that most comparisons between The Venus Project (or an RBE) and other social systems rely heavily on the simplistic and unjustifiable notion that “it doesn’t matter if there are differences in the premises, differences in methods of implementation, or if some of the goals may vary; as long as the intended result is the same, it is the same social system. In other words, “an RBE is the same as Communism because it aims to eliminate private property.” “An RBE is the same as Anarchism because it aims to eliminate government.” “An RBE is the same as Technocracy because it uses science and technology to make decisions.” “Never mind the differences; the end result is the same.” This is like saying that “borrowing a book from the library or doing research online, learning about how to grow and manage your own garden or vineyard, investing in the tools, time, and energy to set it up, and eventually enjoying homegrown fruit, vegetables, or wine” is the same as “stealing fruit, vegetables, or wine, by any means necessary” because the end goal is the same - to enjoy fruit, vegetables, and wine, free of charge. I think we can all agree that that is a ludicrous comparison and conclusion. In the latter example, the person hasn’t learned anything of value, the person has also deprived someone else of their fruit, vegetables, or wine, and the person cannot sustain the goods and would therefore have to continue stealing them. The Venus Project has invested a great amount of time, energy, and effort into making sure that the methodology is not only viable, but in everyone’s best interest, and that the combined outcomes are in fact a global-resource-based economy, in which all resources are regarded as the common heritage of all the earth’s people, in which there is no need for a government, and in which science and technology are used to arrive at decisions. The fact that we have not yet accomplished all of those combined things as a globe, proves that no other past, present, or future social system can be compared to The Venus Project and what it aims to achieve.