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Star Trek into Socialism: or Who Deserves the Future

Literate Machine

Release Date: 04/12/2023

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What does comedic science fiction television show The Orville tell us about how capitalism will end? How did Germany go from having the largest and most powerful socialist movement in the world to finding its movement gutted and its country given over to fascists? How did Eduard Bernstein, despite his best intentioned, upend the Marxist movement and provide cover for those who wanted to destroy it? And was he actually right all along? All this and more will be answered! The previous video, Star Trek into Socialism, is not necessary for appreciating this one, but the two inform each other:...

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Does Star Trek show us what socialism looks like? What would it look like if we organized society democratically instead of allowing a few people to control most of the resources?   Bibliography and Further Reading * Obviously, the work of Marx and Engels is key to this piece. Particular texts I drew on here include The Civil War in France (1871) (modern editions contain the first draft and the address on the Civil War) and The Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875). Marx's "La Liberte" speech (1872) is where he proposes that some countries might transition to communism peacefully:...

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Does Star Trek show us what socialism looks like? What would it look like if we organized society democratically instead of allowing a few people to control most of the resources?

 

Bibliography and Further Reading

* Obviously, the work of Marx and Engels is key to this piece. Particular texts I drew on here include The Civil War in France (1871) (modern editions contain the first draft and the address on the Civil War) and The Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875). Marx's "La Liberte" speech (1872) is where he proposes that some countries might transition to communism peacefully: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1872/09/08.htm

* One of my chief inspirations for this piece and in general is the book Socialism: Past and Future (1989) by Michael Harrington, founder of the Democratic Socialists of America. Socialism does a good job of summing up the history of socialism, the rise of democratic socialism, the problems we faced in the 20th century, and where we might go from here.

* The Preconditions of Socialism (1899) (also published in English as Evolutionary Socialism) by Eduard Bernstein is a fascinating book by the father of the democratic socialist movement and the idea of achieving socialists goals through gradual reform. A controversial figure both in his time and today, both with orthodox Marxists and modern democratic socialists, his story is one I find endlessly fascinating. Much as during the Social Democratic period of the mid-20th century, when Preconditions was first published, it seemed as if gradual socialism was working in Bernstein's native Germany. Then of course the First World War brought Germany to its knees. Bernstein himself, who'd become a member of the Reichstag, would die three weeks before Hitler came to power, undid all the achievements of his party, executed its leaders, and most of the members of Bernstein's ethnic group. While researching this piece, I also drew on The Dilemma of Democratic Socialism: Eduard Bernstein's Challenge to Marx (1952) by Peter Gay, and the excellent introduction to the English translation of Preconditions from 1993 by translator Henry Tudor.

* For the history of the Russian Revolution, I highly recommend China Mieville's October (2017), a highly readable retelling of the story of the revolution and the events around it.

* I am highly indebted to the work of Richard Wolff, whose Democracy at Work (2012) and associated website and YouTube channel opened my eyes to the possibilities of worker cooperatives as a tool for workers to control the means of production within a capitalist society and so create a mechanism not only to improve the lives of workers in the near term, but to build up worker power and control in the long term.

* I'm also indebted to the continued work of Cory Doctorow in and out of his Pluralistic project, with too many useful and informative pieces to list here. For example, Pluristic turned me onto how municipal broadband providers are the only ones with consistent customer satisfaction, or his piece in Boing Boing about how the notion of the "tragedy of the commons" is based on lies and fraud. Other important pieces include "What Comes After Neoliberalism" and "Excuseflation".

 * Carlos Maza's excellent video essay "The Pay for It Scam" is essential for understanding the ways in which only programs for the social good are ever asked "how will you pay for it", while corporate subsidies, tax cuts, and the military budget piles on the debt.

 * For more on the "primitive communism" of the Iroquois and other native tribes, I recommend The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity (2021) by David Graeber.

* Most of my research on Gene Roddenberry comes from the book The Impossible Happened: The Life and Work of Gene Roddenberry, Creator of Star Trek (2016) by Lance Parkin

 * More on how modern corporations actually show the power of a centralized economy, a piece inspired by the book The People's Republic of Walmart (2019): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRepEvmCCIg

 

A larger bibliography can be found at: https://literatemachine.com/2023/04/11/star-trek-into-socialism/#paragraph