The Future of Modern Leftism

5

February 5, 2009 by Gsmith

hegemonyIt’s always interesting to wander around the internet and meet new people. One of my favorite weblogs of late is this one. I think it was originally meant to be more of a family site, but at some point it became dedicated to progressive political discussions.

It often comes as a surprise to talk to other Mormons about political matters, and experience the sort of awakening to the similarities between Mormonism and socialist praxis. As children of Orderville we’re in a unique position, at least compared to the average citizen of Mexico or the U.S., to envision what practical communism might entail in the future.

Most Latter-Day Saints don’t have to think too far outside the box to envision a world divided up into localized autonomous collectives. We might call them wards, for lack of a better term. Each ward would elect someone to act as a sort of general secretary, from among the people. We might call this person a bishop. The ownership of all the real property would pass into the hands of the ward. By that we mean that all the land would be owned collectively by the people who work and improve it, rather than by various banks, corporations and other interests foreign to the ward.

A certain measure of redefinition would need to take place. Terms we use today, like work and ownership would come to signify different concepts. Work would no longer include endless drudgery at some job one hates. It would gradually take on a different meaning. To own ones own home would likewise be a different concept. In theory the ward would own all the homes, but in practice there would be rights of survivorship and the freedom to paint one’s own house or tend a garden or whathaveyou, which would be fairly commensurate with the concept we know today. Compared to some of the nitpicky rules of some of these homeowners associations, one might well have more freedom on the property she calls home than she does in the capitalist framework.

The bishops of each ward would be responsible to the people, and their job would include acting as liaison to central authority in a hierarchical structure. It would be nice to imagine that every ward would be geographically able to grow enough food and produce enough goods to make it truly autonomous, but in practice this would rarely be the case. A certain measure of central planning would take place, with an emphasis on remaining as localized as possible.

Small businesses would be encouraged to compete with state-run enterprises in order to keep things as efficient as possible. Lenin idealized this concept in his Новая экономическая политика (new economy rules) and there was a practical reason for it. At the same time, private business would be subject to the rules of the ward and would be apportioned to prevent a Wal-Mart style race to the bottom.

To imagine that these ideas are impractical is to deny history. All these things did happen, not just in the Soviet Union, but in a place called Orderville. The only real barrier to a practical eruption of the new society today is our own insecurity and social inertia.

Thoughts?

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5 thoughts on “The Future of Modern Leftism

  1. Tod Robbins says:

    I think a huge obstacle to any reformation of daily life is how large the current system is; it is global. Localized communities are indeed the future and the past (Orderville, Jeffersonian America), yet a lot depends on how hostile and aggressive current systems would be to autonomy within say, a state or nation.

    Umm… more thoughts later…

  2. Ron Madson says:

    Gregoire:

    What an enjoyable and thoughtful post! thanks for sharing your vision or how lds communities can and should be. One advantage of a total economic collapse would be the necessity of finding local solutions—a return to community based economics. I remember Hugh Nibley stating that the only long term stable and secure economies are those that have a agricultural base that allows the community to be self-reliant when it comes to food. I have learned a great deal from your posts and introduction to thoughts and authors I had not considered. thanks.

  3. Grégoire says:

    Dear Ron,

    What an enjoyable and thoughtful post! thanks for sharing your vision or how lds communities can and should be.

    Thanks for reading! I guess I’ve been a bit defensive (in a good way) about the criticism of late, both of Mormonism and of religion in general. I think criticism is good, but I also think we (Mormons) have some useful ideas to offer the wider world, even people like my friends who think we’re a little bit weird.

    One advantage of a total economic collapse would be the necessity of finding local solutions—a return to community based economics.

    I’ve been re-reading my journals from 10-15 years ago, and I look back at a guy who used to wish for a total economic collapse. Now I don’t know. Lenin was all about letting things get as bad as possible; but he was dealing with a certain set of conditions which don’t really exist any longer.

    Marcuse talked about people waking up not due to hardship and necessity but with the help of work which appeals to the aesthetic dimension; and reading your articles (and The Radical Mormon’s, among others) suggests that the LDS Scriptures, and other examples of LDS art (Sterling VanWagenen’s films, and musicals like _The Order Is Love_) might serve as an examples of the necessary antithesis which can shatter our one-dimensional society. I had never before thought about this, so you’ve taught me a lot too, and I appreciate it.

    Nibley is a guy I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read. He’s a relative of some sort (I think he’s my grandma’s cousin?) and I should probably do some research. If you have a suggestion about reading material feel free to hit me with it.

    One guy I do really admire is your current prophet, which I’ve found makes many leftish Mormons gasp, but he gave a great speech in St. George once which Lenin, Marcuse and The Barefoot Bum would have liked… believe it or not.

    Dear Tod,

    I think a huge obstacle to any reformation of daily life is how large the current system is; it is global. Localized communities are indeed the future and the past (Orderville, Jeffersonian America), yet a lot depends on how hostile and aggressive current systems would be to autonomy within say, a state or nation.

    The current system can remain global, provided people are empowered at an economic level to take control of their lives and destinies. Orderville was part of a larger structure, and it wasn’t perfect, but I think it serves as a good example of people working together for the common good, seeing the earth as a common storehouse (the stewardship idea, which was discussed earlier) and solving real problems through peaceful means rather than plundering their neighbors.

    I think people in the wider society could learn a lot from an exploration of this model. That doesn’t mean I want to impose religious Mormonism on anyone, only that we have something useful as part of our collective history that others might be able to take some inspiration from in the future.

    Anyway, thanks so much for reading my stream-of-consciousness article.

    G

  4. Forest Simmons says:

    Grégoire,

    Try “Approaching Zion” and “Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints,” my two favorite Nibley books on social issues.

    The first of these was as important as the Book of Mormon in my wife’s conversion from agnosticism to Christianity. It gave her renewed hope that religion could have relevance, and an understanding that Mormonism was most relevant to our modern condition.

  5. Ron Madson says:

    Forest,

    Ditto as to “Approaching Zion.” That book more than any other gave words to what I had always thought and desired…Zion…Brigham Young Challenges the Saints is a great followup. I used to give away Approaching Zion’s like missionaries give away Book of Mormons.

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