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Discussion Towards a Classless Society

The London (England) Region organized a workshop for October 26th and 27th on the theme, “Building a Classless Society.” Micheline Mason was the initiator and planner, with assistance from Dorann van Heeswyk. I was asked to lead over- all, and to lead the working-class caucus.  Sean Ruth led a middle-class caucus and Jo Saunders an owning-class caucus. Anna Hutton assisted me in the working-class caucus. All of the above, plus Su Edwards and Gillian Turner, comprised a question-and-answer panel near the end of the workshop. (Louise Fox was the organizer.)

I counted 262 participants at one stage of the workshop, and it’s possible that the total number went as high as 300. There was intense interest and discussion about the relationships be- tween us RCers of different classes. There was much interest in exploring the interaction of the subsidiary oppressions, such as sexism and racism, with the basic economic oppression. These discussions were very illuminating. I am sure they will lead to a great deal of new thinking in Britain. The following is some thinking that has resulted for me.

It seems clear that information about previous attempts to plan and establish a non-oppressive society are extremely valuable to us. The Paris Commune, the Russian October Revolution, and Chinese liberation must be studied and understood by us if we are to deal intelligently with the present world-wide collapse of our current societies.

The Paris Commune was destroyed by military force, with the French owning class allying itself with the invading German army to crush the Parisian workers.

The reversion to class societies in Russia and China seems to have been motivated by the persistence and resurgence of patterns from the previous societies in both countries.  Owning-class patterns of greed, exploitation, and oppression seem to have persisted and to have eventually taken over and dominated the policies of most of the Soviet and the Chinese “communist leaders.”

A widely expressed opinion at the London workshop was that the theory and the tools of RC are going to be necessary for any successful, permanent transition to a classless, non-oppressive society.

In thinking about the situation, I have tried to put some of my key thoughts in the form of conjectures, rather than conclusions. I invite your thinking and opinions as to the significance of these conjectures.

  1. The basic nature of human beings is cooperative and supportive to each other. Only with the acquiring of distress patterns does greed, fear of others, and harmful competition appear.
  2. As long as life was simple for human beings, in a hunting/food-gathering economy, any such patterns tended to disappear within a generation or two, in- stead of being passed on. Surviving with low technology produced no surpluses beyond the survival needs of individuals and families.
  3. Mastery of the environment (usually by agriculture or domesticating animals) beyond being able to satisfy individual needs made surpluses possible. Then these surpluses furnished an obvious motivation for greed patterns which could be perpetuated and reproduced by the kind of contagion which we see reproducing patterns under current conditions as well.
  4. The first class societies were slaveowner/slave societies. Enslaved humans were owned outright by slave- owners, and the slaves’ production was taken from them under threat of death. The organization of the production of value became more efficient than in the simpler relationships that had previously existed. Wealth was produced, and became the motivation for the persistence of the oppression, even though benefits of the kind we would call “human” benefits were not produced for either the slaveowners or the slaves.

Because they were fully human, slaves tended to rebel persistently against the oppression. Secondary oppressions (such as sexism, racism, and the oppression of young people) were invented or devised to divide the slaves against each other and divert their resistance against the slaveowners into oppressing each other.

All slaveowners were in intense competition or battle to enslave other slaveowners and capture their slaves or to avoid having it done to themselves. Every city- state of the society was pushed to war against every other city-state to conquer the others or avoid being conquered itself.  The slaveowner/slave system had these built-in contradictions as part of its essential structure. After about 6,000 years, these internal contradictions caused its collapse and its replacement by the feudal system.

The continual revolts of the slaves made the slave society unstable, but the societies collapsed on their own from the internal contradictions. The most successful city-states (Rome, Carthage) became top heavy and unmanageable. The cost required by the military op- pression of the slaves became too great to be borne. The military commanders became a new ruling class, and the former slaves emerged into the slightly less vicious oppression of serfdom.

There is no indication from what we know of human history that the revolts of the slaves alone were decisive in ending the slaveowner/slave society. That society collapsed on its own, from its internal contradictions.

  1. In the feudal societies, the principal classes were the nobles and the serfs. The nobles claimed and took for themselves most of the value produced by the serfs. The serfs worked either on the land or in handcraft shops. Feudalism allowed improved production and exploited the serf more efficiently than slavery had exploited the slave. No human benefits were received by either group. The motivations based on greed and fear continued.

Feudalism, too, carried a set of internal contradictions. Power resided in the nobles, but the exploitation of the serfs by merchants and guild masters was far more efficient than the nobles’ exploitation of  their  serfs.

The merchants and guild masters became a wealthier class than the nobles and, as a result, their power and ambitions increased.

After less than a thousand years, feudalism collapsed from these contradictions and was replaced by an owning-class/working-class society, usually called capitalism. The former serfs supported the rising capitalists against the nobles, in part because of the propaganda of the capitalists that the new society would bring “liberty, equality, and fraternity,” and in part be- cause even a little more freedom was desirable. What was actually attained by the former serfs was the “right” to be exploited by owning-class capitalists in- stead of by nobles.

  1. This owning-class/working-class society organized production and the accumulation of wealth more efficiently than previous societies had done. It exploits the wage worker much more efficiently than slavery exploited the slave, or than feudalism exploited the serf. The value produced by the working classes (including the “middle-class” groups of the working class) is all taken by the owning-class owners of the means of pro- duction (factories, railroads, farms), and only a portion of it is returned as wages, salaries, or “fringe benefits” to the working classes. The rest of the value is kept and divided among the owners, landlords, bankers, and armament budgets.

This current society has very sharp internal contradictions, the central one of which is its inability to allow the owning class to keep their profits and still furnish enough purchasing value to its central mechanism, the free market, to pay for the value that has been produced and brought to the market to be sold. (The auto workers, for example, have not received enough value as wages to purchase the cars they have produced. Even by going more and more deeply into debt, the workers cannot “consume” enough to keep the economy going.) Increasingly serious economic crises devastate the economic system periodically. After less than 400 years, the owning-class working-class society is collapsing from its internal contradictions.

This current society, now a world-wide system, is nearing its final collapse. As one indication, it is now plainly impossible to pay off the enormous national debts or even believe for much longer that they can keep increasing. Massive unemployment threatens the lives of a larger and larger portion of the world’s population. Desperate, senseless attempts to overexploit the environment endanger the entire ecology. Larger and larger numbers of people are “excluded” from participation in the economy. The world-wide system of capitalism is “coming apart” in every function which you examine.

Past political programs which have called upon working-class people to “overthrow” the present society miss the reality of the situation. These societies are “overthrowing” themselves through their misfunctioning and built-in contradictions. The responsibility of the working class and all other thoughtful humans is to prevent this collapse, while it takes place, from being allowed to damage large numbers of humans and the accumulated benefits of past human work through continuing unemployment, poverty, or lack of health care or educational opportunities, and our precious environment through further environmental damage. Our responsibility is to help it collapse gently and have the beginnings of a sensible structure widely explained and supported to take its place.

  1. Major attempts to build a non-oppressive, non-exploitive society to replace the owning-class/working- class society have been made in at least two large countries. Neither attempt has been completely successful. Partial successes were achieved in bringing the benefits of better housing, better transportation, and better education to the majority of people by the Soviet Union. The curbing of most natural disasters and the elimination of famine were achieved in China. Full employment was achieved in both countries.

In both countries, however, the leadership eventually re-introduced owning-class/working-class exploitation under various names, using various excuses. Regressing to the owning-class/working-class relation- ships has brought these two countries into the same general situation of societal collapse as all the other countries of the world.

  1. The abandonment of these attempts at a classless society in the Soviet Union and in China has been caused, not by new patterns which evolved because of the at- tempt at a new society, as far as we can tell, but rather by patterns evolved in the former capitalist societies and carried over into the new attempts at a classless society. These leaders had acquired these patterns either from their previous distress experiences in the old societies, or from older people who had acquired them in that way.
  2. Such patterns will show up and will persist, almost certainly, against any new attempt to build a classless society, but they can be taken apart and eliminated with discharge and re-evaluation. If a leadership com- mitted to building a classless society can be evolved which uses discharge and re-evaluation, a workable classless society can be built. Such a leadership will not only become informed about all the previous partial successes and the reasons for the failures in this field. It will not only understand the possibility of soliciting and eliciting the brilliant thinking of the rank- and-file population as the society progresses. It will not only have learned the necessity of being completely open and honest about all the affairs of the society while it is developing. In addition, it will understand and use the tools of Re-evaluation Counseling (under any name) publicly and openly as it leads. Under these conditions, building a new classless society will be- come an exciting, practical process.
  3. Knowledge of the insights of RC will be necessary in building a classless society.

We are beginning to develop techniques for discharging powerlessness patterns and allowing ordinary people to regard themselves as fully competent to take charge of the society instead of having to be “man- aged.” We are learning how to call people’s attention to the reality of the crumbling society around them and the resulting extreme hardship for ordinary people. We are learning to ask people provocative questions about the reality of their lives and their desires and to listen to them well enough that they begin to think in the areas where they have not dared to think before.

We have learned and are learning some things in building the RC Communities that will be applicable in building a classless society. We have learned in our counseling how to resolve irrational conflicts between people in ways that can be adapted to dissolve the resistance of people’s fears to changing the present society.

People can become interested in thinking about how wealth can be produced and distributed without harm to humans, how enough healthy food can be produced and distributed. People can become confidently interested in interrupting the danger of overpopulation. (It is already plain that when people feel secure and have access to information, the population drops instead of exploding.) People will support measures to preserve all present living species of life (while seeing to it that organisms that threaten our survival such as the small- pox virus, the malaria parasites, and similar dangers survive only in carefully controlled laboratory set- tings). A sensible society can easily and quickly eliminate the spreading of the HIV virus and AIDS as a threat to humans.

If we explain the insights we have achieved well enough, people in massive numbers will enthusiastically join us in seeking complete re-emergence and relaxed enjoyment of our world and our lives.

Last modified: 2021-10-01 19:19:11+00