Utopian Socialism: Proyect's Hutterites

Ms jr Carlsen jcarlsen at operamail.com
Sat Apr 20 04:25:20 MDT 2002

> Primitive Communism: Proyect's Hutterites
> When reviewing Joel Kovel's "The Enemy of Nature", Louis Proyect took
> an interest in the following quotation:
> They are also known as "Hutterite" Kovel finds them interesting because
> they are "radically non-capitalist." He writes:
> "The 'value' added on to and extracted from their learning aids
> derives from the capitalist market at large. Surplus value from the point
> of production does not figure in this picture. No value is added from
> their own labour, for the plain reason that the Bruderhof are communists.
> In the enterprises from which their money is made, they are all paid the
> same amount: nothing. Nor is there any hierarchy within the factory;
> there is division of labour, of course, but no boss." ------
> Proyect could find 'only one quibble' with this. They buy up land
> from his beloved Herculean Blackfoot.
> There are more issues than one that should be pointed out here. First,
> the description is inaccurate. There are 'bosses' in anabaptist communes
> just as there are in any other association of sentient beings. There is
> no fixed hierarchy, nor anything resembling the caste organization that
> preceded class societies, nor even the vicarious ownership found by
> Sahlins in the big man societies.
> There is charismatic leadership nonetheless. Being the daughter of a
> woman who who married out of the community, I can tell you that life is
> no more an egalitarian paradise under bible communism than it is under
> primitive communism. There is extensive discussion available on the
> internet on the breakdown of one of the longest-running experiments in
> bible communism - the Oneida community - , which can be found simply by
> searching on 'bible communism', J.H. Noyes, or Oneida.
> My mother could never quite tell me how elders get to be elders - they're
> just 'there', a force of God. Her inability to explain the workings of
> community consensus reveals the insidious nature and borg-like quality of
> the inter-group dynamics which Engels designated as having a 'leveling'
> effect in primitive communism. The ineluctable fact is that in any group
> of individuals, differences exist. The suppression of such difference, in
> the name of an amorphous and undefinable group unity, excacerbates and
> sharpens such difference, all the while proclaiming the sacredness of
> harmony. As we saw in Sahlin's _Stone Age Economics_, pre-class society
> found a solution to this problem in the process of fission, which is to
> say: when the community becomes too large to practicably contain discord,
> part of the group moves on even though the resources of the communal land
> have not yet been exhausted. It is plain that this fission, and not some
> much vaunted respect for nature, is the actual secret of indigenous
> ecological success. Where differences are suppressed, it is because
> subsistence level economies cannot afford to indulge in life-style
> experiments. Marxists are not idealists and, therefore, have no interest
> in turning this necessity into a virtue.
> In utopian experiments, on the other hand, diversity is routinely
> suppressed for ideological reasons. In most cases, where there is no
> formal power structure, conformity is enforced through the agency of
> moral suasion, backed up by the charismatic power of unelected
> leaders. One can see examples of this anywhere ordinary people gather
> together on a routine basis for the purpose of socialising: in the
> pool halls and bowing alleys, and pubs and union halls, cliques form
> and the 'Big Man on Campus' phenomenon can be observed. Just as the
> big man at the pub must be generous with the drinks, and the big man
> at the bowling alley must be generous with bowling tips, leadership
> is always a two-way street. This, boys and girls, is the secret of
> the potlatch and of other examples of chiefly generosity so cherished
> by Craven, Hunterbear, and Proyect. The potlatch was essential to the
> maintainance of caste in the tribes of the Pacific Northwest (an
> inequality which Hunterbear now acknowledges, although why he didn't
> figure that out last summer when Maya caste was being discussed is
> beyond me.)
> In the absence of material power, moral suasion is effective only where
> consensus already exists. If awkward questions are possible, the spell is
> broken. Moral precepts must be presented as Absolutes: 'The word of God
> is written on your heart." In tribal society, we have 'rule by dead
> people' because every moral precept, every community standard, every
> required ritual, is presented as a requirement of the fictive 'dead
> ancestors', They Who Must Be Obeyed.
> In utopian experiments, on the other hand, community standards are agreed
> upon prior to the setting up of the community. In some cases, there is a
> formal, written constitution; in most cases, there is not. The
> Anabaptists, and most other bible communitarians, 'have no constitution
> but the bible'. As we've seen in my Vampire Christ post, the bible is a
> most unreliable document upon which to base human conduct. Nonetheless,
> there is an urban legend going around stating that there is some kind of
> exemplary message to be found at the core of this tome; and most
> experiments in bible communism attempt to live up to the precepts of this
> mythic core message. Anyone familiar with the Thomas Jefferson Bible can
> see how much influence bible communism exerted on at least one Great Name
> influential in the forming of the American national consciousness.
> Since Anthony has reminded us of the inequalities enshrined in the
> first draft of the American Constitution, I have to wonder if people
> such as Madison were filtering what they saw of inequality that did exist in
> the Iroquois societies, (as described by Wallace, a Louis Approved
> Anthro(Tm)), through the rose coloured spectacles of Christian
> pastoralism.
> The problem with morality, as I've pointed out before, is that the human
> soul cannot be hauled out onto a table and measured as you would a yard
> of cloth, giving the whole affair an irrational and surreal dimension;
> and when the standards by which such measurement would be conducted are
> also unknowable, and there are in fact no rationally determinable
> parameters, there are in fact no standards, moral or otherwise. This
> gives the moral arbiter virtually unlimited power, which, in the case of
> religion-based communes, often turns into sexual and other forms of
> personal abuse. When this moral power is bonded to secular power, as in
> the case of theocracies, we end up with witch hunts. This, of course, is
> why secular democracies depend on a strong wall of separation of church
> and state.
> What it boils down to, in Mennonite communities, is that anyone can be an
> elder, provided that he memorize sufficient quantities of biblical text
> and learn to project a sufficiently godly affect in the process. And
> because the scripture has no core message, we are dealing with an
> unwritten code of morality, with all the potential for abuse already
> discussed. The power of these elders is tempered to a considerable extent by
> the fact that they function as an informal collective, with no officially
> recognized cult leader. While there are some reports of sexual abuse by
> elders, it is not the rampant problem one finds in more formally
> instituted churches. A much bigger problem is the high incidence of
> depression being reported within, for instance, the Amish communities.
> Women are typically passed over for these leadership roles.
> Turning briefly to the various types of hippie and anarchist collectives
> I've observed over the years, one can see a similar group dynamics. Last
> fall someone posted part of a discussion by anarchists reconsidering
> tactics, post-Genoa. This individual was describing what he called a
> 'hierarchy of bravery', which belied the official lip service paid to
> egalitarianism and diversity of tactics. Obviously, the principle of
> personality substituted for serious political analysis, with moralism
> being the mechanism by which standards are enforced. This is often
> the case with young people becoming socially conscious for the first
> time: they tend to substitute anti-authoritarian feelings for
> politics. While these student radicals typically tend to have
> impressive amounts of research into the evils of capitalism, they
> tend to lack an analysis of capitalism, relying instead on feelings
> of moral outrage to carry the day.
> The second problem is that there is, indeed, uneven distribution of
> resources within Anabaptist communes. I'm not familiar with the Hutterite
> arrangements; but, in Old Church Mennonite communities, it is not at all
> uncommon to find that men are allowed to make use of labour saving
> devices such as tractors, whereas women are allowed much less relief from
> drudgery, making do with far fewer kitchen gadgets and appliances.
> There is also some variance in distribution according to individual
> worth, as judged by the community's unwritten code. Because the code
> is unwritten, no honest examination of inequality is possible. The
> result is sniping, backstabbing, the development of personality
> cults, and internicine intersect strife. This results in very deadly
> and very serious contests of dualling proof-texts as a cover for
> character assassination.
> There is increasing attention being paid nowadays to studies
> suggesting a higher rate of incidence of depression in Anabaptist
> communities. While most of this evidence is anecdotal, I believe it
> is reasonable to postulate such an outcome as the result of the
> anti-rational ideology typically found in in bible-believing
> communities. I mentioned a few such examples in my Vampire Christ
> post. (Mark 13:11, for instance). Lee Salisbury takes up the problem
> of religiously induced psycho-pathology in an article 'Answers to
> Prayer', posted on the infidel net:
> Is prayer the panacea? If the solution could be solved by prayer
> Christians would have resolved these problems long ago. No, the
> difficulties will persist as long as there are Christians. Why?
> These afflictions continue because the Christian thought-processes
> reject objective, rational, critical thinking. Since these thought-processes
> are done independent of God or the Bible they are considered
> to be ungodly. The Bible teaches Christians to avoid objective,
> rational, critical thinking, for this would be leaning on their
> own understanding (Prov. 3:5). It would be utilizing the wisdom
> of the wise, the understanding of the prudent (I Cor.1:19), the
> wisdom of this world which is foolishness with God (I Cor.3:19).
> It might cause them to question their religion. This dilemma
> for many otherwise intelligent capable Christians is the crux
> of the problem.
> ------
> Faith as defined by the Bible requires the suspension of basic
> human thought-processes which are necessary for the functioning
> of a healthy mind. For example, in order to be a candidate for
> becoming a Christian each person must accept that they are sinners.
> Why? The historical facts as recorded in the Bible state that
> some 6,000 years ago a person named Eve, who, after being made
> from Adam's rib while he slept, was spurred on by a talking snake
> to seduce Adam into the sin of eating from the tree of the knowledge
> of good and evil. All objective, rational, critical thought must
> be suspended to believe this story. But, once this story is accepted
> (swallowed), the process of naive, exploitable, child-like faith
> and cognitive dissonance become the standard operating procedure.
> ------
> In fact, biblical Christianity undermines a person's ability
> to think by using self-deprecation as the hammer to convince
> people of their depraved, sinful state. The acclaimed Protestant
> theologian John Calvin declared "We are nothing but mud and filth
> both inside and outside." The Roman Catholic Ignatius of Loyola
> stated, "We are mere dung." Once people are persuaded of their
> degenerate sinful state they are then continually warned of their
> carnal natures lest they backslide into thinking for themselves.
> Instead of empowering people, Christianity in fact weakens people's
> ability to think, thus accentuating self-doubt, fear, exhaustion,
> helplessness, as well as all the other conditions expressed in
> the prayer request.
> --------
> Biblical faith's substance is not only of things "hoped for"
> but depends on the evidence of things "not seen" (Heb.11:1).
> This faith rejects reason, critical thinking, or contrary evidence.
> It effectively shuts the door to any inquiry or consideration
> that a healthy, productive mind would deem important. In practical
> terms, what are the implications of Biblical faith-based reasoning?
> Can anybody name a vocation in which success corresponds to things
> " hoped for" and whose validity is based on things " not seen
> "? How many brain surgeons succeed at removing tumors with hands
> guided by things " hoped for"? How many architects draw high-rise
> building plans based on engineering laws "not seen"? How about
> a lawyer prosecuting a case or a journalist writing a story based
> on "the evidence of things not seen"? In practical terms, Christian
> faith-based reasoning is in fact an oxymoron.
> -------
> In contrast, objective rational thought put forward by the likes
> of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, Newton, Darwin, Paine,
> and, other reputable scientists and academics have catapulted
> us forward to advances in science, the arts, democracy in government,
> and human rights barely if ever imagined in religious history.
> Religious, faith-based thinking has resisted these advances at
> every turn. Its devotees both Roman Catholic and Protestant impose
> Bible doctrine at every opportunity in opposition to these advances.
> End Quote
> Although these remarks apply specifically to conservative Christians,
> the general argument can be applied to a greater or lesser degree to every faith-based
> community. And, yes, that includes kin-based affiliation fundamentalism.
> The third problem, of course, is that value is indeed added any time
> raw material is transformed into something usefull through the agency
> of human labour. I'm surprised Proyect didn't catch such a glaring
> error.
> But, then, of course, Proyect has his mind on other things.
> The Comrad Who is Not at All a Social Darwinist


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