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The Collected Works - [IC writings and other dev]

Moh Kohn

The Star Fraction
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Where Is Elysium Going?
Moh Kohn

First published in the May Day edition of “Red Star,” the RSF’s party newspaper, May 1st Y109



Introduction

The point of any Marxist analysis is simple enough; firstly, to explore how something developed historically by looking at the class forces present within it, and secondly (and unfolding from that) to lay out the perspectives for how it will then develop in the future.

Elysium’s class nature and general mode of operation puzzles a lot of people in Pandora, simply because they have heard it described as “socialist” or “quasi-socialist” due to its large public sector and the high degree of state control exercised over the economy through said sector. Shocking nobody, we reject this premise outright, but to explain why we should go over some basic definitions first.

Firstly, what do we mean by “socialism?” As simply as possible, we are talking about a situation where production for profit has been abolished, but class has not yet come to disappear entirely; the working class is in control of the economy and collectively owns the means of production. When class - and the state system that emerges out of class - has been entirely dissolved and production has developed to such a stage that there is no scarcity, artificial or otherwise, socialism gives way to a societal state that we call “communism.”

Similarly, what do we mean by “the means of production” and “class?” Well, by the first, we’re referring to the facilities and tools that are used to produce and distribute the things people need within society. Factories, chemical plants, hydroponics farms and bakeries, for instance, form parts of the means of production, as does a trade route between two planets or a shop in which the things that are produced can be bought and sold.

Who owns and controls these means of production then defines our second term, “class.” Ever since the emergence of agriculture, society has been divided into a series of classes to carry out certain roles within it, in a more or less complicated structure depending on the way things are produced. Under capitalism, the latest stage of sentient society, there are two major classes; those who own the means of production and exchange, and those who do not. The owners can make a living by selling what is produced; the ones who do not own those things must sell the only thing they do own, their labour-power, in order to live. We call the owning class “the bourgeoisie,” and the non-owning class “the proletariat” - or, if you prefer, the capitalists and the workers.

In a capitalist system, the arrangement between worker and capitalist seems a relatively free one when compared to, say, the system of serfdom or outright slavery that has existed and still does exist in certain parts of the world. The worker is hired on the basis of their skill; they are offered a wage as recompense for their time; at the end of the process the capitalist gains a finished commodity that they can sell, and the worker gains money with which they can buy food, lodgings, luxuries and whatever else their wage will stretch to.

In reality, of course, the relationship is nothing but exploitation. The capitalist class always makes sure to get more value out of the worker than they pay them in return - they couldn’t make any profit otherwise - and controls the lives of the worker entirely so long as the worker is in the workplace, so as to squeeze the maximum amount of surplus value (the value created by the labour-process on top of what is paid out in wages) from them. Increasingly, this control also exists outside of the workplace too, but that’s a topic that deserves its own document.

With these terms defined, we hope our readers will now be happy for us to delve into the real topic of this article - what is Elysium’s class basis, and what does the future hold for it?

The Class Nature of the Elysian State

All states have a basic class character. This defines how they produce goods, who does the work in producing them, and so on. From the economic base of capitalism, a wild variety of actual state-forms are possible: liberal democracy, oligarchy, free market economy, state-capitalist economy, authoritarian dictatorship, fascist state, etc.

That Elysium is most definitely a capitalist nation is pretty indisputable. The majority of business conducted in Elysium is done between private companies which accrue both profit and capital through the exploitation of their workforces as defined above. Surplus value enters private hands once it is created, and is then transformed into capital in the usual manner of such an economy.

What confuses people on this question is the existence of a large and heavily-controlled state sector, as well as the existence of state programmes designed to blunt the edge of capitalist exploitation by providing basic necessities to the working population for free or at low cost. At first glance, these measures do appear to be socialist in nature, or at the very least social-democratic; however, to argue that they represent anything more substantial than a simple cover for the actual nature of Elysium is to miss the point, perhaps deliberately depending on who’s making the argument.

A large public sector and high state control does not a socialist economy make. The key question in these circumstances, as always, is this: who owns and controls things? Upon what kind of production is the economy based? Having defined the economic base of Elysium as being capitalist production and ownership when you get right down to basics, we can then ask another question - what purpose do such measures serve, then?

In a system of production that has abolished capitalism and is developing towards socialism, such measures would be for the purpose of strengthening the quality of life of the working class, and for freeing up their time so that they could take a greater role in the governing of their own lives. They would go hand-in-hand with political measures to ensure this, such as neighbourhood and workplace councils etc. For the most part, that is clearly not the case in Elysium. Even the introduction of a form of presidential democracy has not served to seriously weaken the grip on power of the real rulers of the city-state - the capitalist class, and their agents in the Alliance. In fact, if you were to look at the business portfolios of some of the higher-up Alliance bureaucrats you might conclude that these two groups were in fact one and the same in many cases, but I digress.

In the conditions that exist within Elysium, state social programmes serve the purpose of disciplining the population; firstly, by offering the basic amenities at such a rate as to relieve the burden of the working class, Elysium’s state bureaucracy can dampen the tendency towards class struggle (but not remove it entirely as we’ll see). This is the “carrot” side of the equation, to use a human idiom. The “stick” part comes in the form of social control; when class struggle inevitably erupts anyway, the threat of withdrawal can be used against protests or economic unrest that gets a little bit too heated.

That the expenditure of such programmes is a burden on the state to maintain, and therefore a frustration to the capitalists who are kept out of state-owned industries they would otherwise profit from so that Elysium can use the value generated to pay off such expenditure, can’t be doubted. However, Elysium has little choice but to maintain these programmes, and therefore to maintain the state sector that makes them possible. To withdraw them permanently, or even water them down in any significant way, would be to invite a social explosion from below. While there is significant pressure from private-sector capitalists to do this anyway so that the process of privatisation can begin, the Alliance’s state functionaries understand the situation a little better. That is why there appear to be serious disagreements between the private capitalists and their siblings within the state; left to its own devices, an aggressively expanding private sector would inevitably cause the exact explosion the Alliance hopes to avoid.

There is a third measure of control here too which makes these state programmes absolutely indispensable, and that’s the Undercity. This area came into existence and developed because of the need to ramp up the acquisition of surplus value; it’s pretty revealing that many heavy industries are found in the Undercity, for instance, where safety regulations and inspections are far less common and the bill for social security programmes is nonexistent. Such an area allows for the more naked kinds of exploitation that capitalism thrives on and therefore the acquisition of super-profits. Meanwhile, the contrast in lifestyle between those able to get a job within the Upper City and therefore stay there and those relegated to the bowels of Elysium serves as a reminder to militant workers that, if they’re not careful, all the good things of the Upper City can be denied to them just like that.

Often, the two areas are talked about as if they are two entirely different cities, and you will often hear people talk as if the Alliance has nothing to do with the Undercity or has “washed its hands of it.” This is incorrect, however; a brief study of the top executives of mining, food production and waste management companies that operate large facilities in the Undercity reveals a who’s-who of Alliance bureaucrats or their relatives and friends. Even the activities of organised crime show this tendency to a degree; the top “oligarchs,” as they’ve been called, are often just as well known in the private clubs and high-class bars of the Upper City as they are in their personal fiefdoms down below. We are not dealing here with “One Moon, Two Systems,” but one unified system that operates in such a way as to provide comfort for the compliant workers at the expense of others - and should the compliant workers ever decide not to be so compliant, then the threat of losing that comfort can be deployed. It’s a particularly insidious case of divide and rule, intended to separate out any possibility of unified working class resistance.

In summary, then, we can only say that Elysium represents a form of advanced state-capitalism, a kind of dystopian social democracy that is used to cut apart potential resistance of the Elysian working class in several different ways while maintaining the profit margins of the large monopolies. Firstly this is done through economic compulsion, by offering workers access to state-granted homes, state “income” payments and other social programmes while keeping another section of the class away from access to such programmes in order to serve as a warning; secondly, the carving-up of the city itself into “have” and “have-not” sectors in order to sharpen the previously-mentioned divide in the working class into a geographical fact; thirdly the absorption of certain capitalists, including those of organised criminal backgrounds, into the running of the state itself, as the relationship between the Undercity’s oligarchs and the Alliance bureaucracy proves. Finally, if everything else fails, the ever-watchful security drone and the peacekeeper’s truncheon or bullet can be deployed.

Faced with such overwhelming state power, it almost seems like a hopeless task to even begin to reform the system, let alone overthrow it through united class struggle and install a socialist republic in its place. However, as mighty as the Elysian state is, it is not without its weaknesses, which we’ll now discuss.

Where will the struggle emerge from?

The methods of Marxist analysis teach us that any class-based system, no matter how sturdy it appears on the surface, is full of contradictory forces underneath that surface which work to undermine its stability in the long term. The major contradiction in capitalism is based around the fact that workers cannot buy back the value of what they have produced with the wages they’ve been paid to produce it, but there are other contradictions that create the unique conditions of each state or country we examine.

Our big clue as to what processes are working away under the surface of the Elysian state can be seen in the battles over democracy in the recent period. As we stated earlier, one of the key questions for any system of production is who owns and controls things - and in Elysium you are always very aware that the answer to this question is “not you.” The shifts in governance, from a form of democracy under Skywalker to dictatorship under Inilossum and back again under Jordan, have exposed the degree to which policy - and its effects - are more or less decided on a whim by the ruling class with no input whatsoever from the workers. The complete lack of power that the general population has over the situation is laid starkly bare for everyone to see, and the infuriation amongst ordinary workers becomes more and more apparent with each passing day.

In addition, the uprising against Inilossum, while ultimately necessary from the perspective of Elysian capital in order to remove a destabilising force which was making it increasingly difficult to profiteer reliably, has opened a Pandora’s Box (if our readers will pardon the pun). In endorsing the side of Hal Jordan in the hopes he would bring their much-desired stability, those capitalists that turned on Inilossum had to accept the character of the resistance, which was that of a huge popular uprising led by Jordan’s coalition. In short, they had no choice but to allow the masses of working people to feel their united strength for the first time - and a little knowledge is a very dangerous thing as far as that’s concerned.

That knowledge will not have gone away in so short a space of time. So far, people are broadly tolerant of Jordan’s rule as General Secretary, even if his increasing militarism and slide towards authoritarian rule makes them less trusting than they otherwise would be towards a hero of the Resistance. However, this will not last forever. Jordan’s current popularity relies on both his actions during the Great Rebellion and his promise to deliver democracy again to the peoples of Elysium. If he fails in this task, it will be seen as a provocation, a step too far for workers who have just become aware of the fact that they can influence the situation with or without a vote.

If, on the other hand, he sticks to his guns and delivers the chance to vote for our preferred choice of dictator every five years or so, even this will not stave off the resumption of the class struggle. This is because the fundamental lie that the capitalists and the Alliance base their rule on - that you can either have security or freedom, but not both - has been completely blown to pieces. In the Undercity stands the Free Elysian Commune, defying this lie with our efforts to build a new kind of society each and every day, and while the workers of the rest of the city might still be wary of sticking their heads above the parapet they are also not ignorant of the existence of this alternative and what it means.

As such, the Alliance is on shakier ground than it has ever been before. That many of the more entrenched bureaucrats and capitalist hangers-on are unhappy with Jordan stoking the fires of democracy - and with it the wider question of who actually runs society - is pretty clear from the sniping in the bosses’ press, but they are also aware of what an attempt to openly seize back control would likely lead to. As such, they’re caught in a trap of their own making. Either they allow democratisation to continue and do their best to direct it down safe channels, in which case the working population will grow more and more confident in its demands for control over their lives, or they unleash the sledgehammer of repression in order to regain control of Elysium’s steering wheel - in which case the workers will rise up again, exactly as they did under the dictatorship.

Unity is Key!

Either way, class struggle is on the horizon. It only remains to be seen how quickly it will emerge, and we all have to ask ourselves what role we must play in the battles to come. The existence of the Commune is already becoming a factor in the situation, as even Jordan acknowledges from time to time. Nevertheless, the battle is not even halfway won yet. The Undercity, home to the Commune, will play a decisive role in the struggles to come - but it is not mighty enough to overthrow a whole system on its own. We cannot neglect the top half of Elysium, where the hardships of daily life may take different forms but nevertheless represent the same basic exploitation.

This is the task for anyone who considers themselves a socialist in the next period. We’ve all got to do our part, and begin these conversations with our neighbours and comrades in the Upper part of Elysium. One of the Alliance’s greatest weapons is this artificial divide between our two halves; it must be broken down so that the spirit of unity we saw briefly when rising up against Inilossum can be reignited. If you are in the Upper City and you’ve found yourself agreeing with these ideas, I urge you to consider joining the RSF and helping to bring this fight to a victorious conclusion.
 
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Moh Kohn

The Star Fraction
Posts
177
Location
The Commune
Age
34
Gender
Male
Pronouns
He/Him
Species
Human
Height
5ft 11in
Occupation
Reluctant Leader
Profile
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Organizer
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Directory
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Character Development
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Transcript of a speech given by Moh Kohn
(Chairman of the Central Council of the Free Elysian Commune)
July 24th, Y109


Comrades, it was said a long time ago that there’s decades when nothing happens, and weeks where decades happen. We have just gone through two long, hard months that were made up entirely of weeks like that.

The Alliance has once again put their boot firmly on the backs of the people of Elysium. The election was a farce, a demonstration that even limited freedom would only be tolerated so long as the people made the “correct” choice. The capitalist class wanted a compliant figure in high office to wield the hatchet for them and to ensure that things remain just as they like them. An unjust peace, a stability built on the suppression of millions, and the protection of the major monopolies at all costs; that’s what they were prepared to smash up democracy for.

No doubt it’s a moment of triumph for the new General Secretary, who fills the role quite nicely. Perhaps she hasn’t yet realised that she’s been handed a poisoned chalice. Well, she’ll find out the truth soon enough - that she only has power inasmuch as the city’s real owners will grant it to her. Time will show exactly how long the leash is they now have her on. Either way, good luck to her.

If the Alliance expected us to simply accept this, though, then they’ve also proven something else - their stupidity. Our worker’s state, the first of its kind anywhere in Pandora, came into being during the fight against Inilossum’s attempts to crush the Undercity into something more pliable. The revolution we started then was only the beginning.

As of today, the Free Elysian Commune recognises no authority but its own. We declare that we are our own independent state, and we will take no orders from Alliance Square on any issue from this point forward. The monopolies and manufacturing facilities belonging to those who backed our exploiters are no longer theirs to profit from; they will be nationalised and placed under the control of their workforces as quickly as possible.

Workers’ Councils are being formed in every workplace and neighbourhood across the areas that have agreed to join the Commune. These will be the basis of our new system of government, and through these we will begin to map out our future together. We won’t allow the market to dictate people’s fates any more; instead we’ll plan production, choose what to build and where it needs to go, and ensure that sentient need and not profit is the driving force behind every decision taken.

The path we now travel upon is not going to be an easy one. We can’t claim any easy victories, nor can we ignore the difficulties we are likely to face. That said, the future looks brighter than it has in a very long time. In the Commune, the workers will decide what happens and when. Ordinary people have the power - and if we all pull together, we can build a new kind of society that will shine out like a beacon of hope across the whole Box and beyond.

To those ordinary people who are still in Elysium but not part of the Commune, I’d like to say this. You’ve not been forgotten about. We have no intention of sealing ourselves behind a wall and leaving you to your fate. The Alliance will lie to you about what we’re doing here and what we stand for, just as they’ve lied to you about letting you decide your own destinies during the election.

Nevertheless, we don’t imagine that you will turn to us automatically as an alternative, nor do we think the support of workers is our right simply because we say so. Our intention is to prove why our path is the correct one through our actions. We invite you to scrutinise everything we do, and to watch us very closely! If you then decide to join our revolution, then you can count on the Commune’s unqualified support and assistance - whatever may be necessary.

Comrades of the independent state of the Free Elysian Commune, I’ll end with this. We’ve now got a hell of a job ahead of us. Even turning the Undercity into a place fit for sentient habitation will be an enormous task, and I won’t patronise you by promising milk and honey in our immediate future. But the biggest obstacle to a truly beautiful Elysium - a truly beautiful universe - is those who benefit from things being exactly the way they are right now. We’ve won ourselves a space that’s free of such people. We can build our future without them, and we can show the way forward to others.

There’s never been a greater cause to fight for on this or any other world. Together, we can make this dream a reality!
 

Moh Kohn

The Star Fraction
Posts
177
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The Commune
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34
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Male
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He/Him
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Human
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5ft 11in
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Reluctant Leader
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PROBLEMS OF THE ELYSIAN WORKERS STATE

Issue #403 of Red Star, the newspaper of the Red Star Front
By Foria Spardex, Chair of the RSF

And so here we are, a full year and a half into our great undertaking and merely four months out from having declared full independence as a state – a state unlike any other in Pandora, a state where the working majority is actively engaged in the running of things. In what shape do we find ourselves, and where must we go now?

Firstly, let us be very clear about something. Our enemies in the Alliance, and no doubt we have plenty of those, will be looking for any admittance of weakness to point to in order to say to the other half of Elysium “look, we told you it wouldn’t work, we are your only hope for a peaceful life!” No doubt they’ll be trawling through this article the instant it comes out, hoping for just such a nugget to crow about.

They will be disappointed. While there are things indeed to discuss, the overall picture is one of glowing success. Production levels in all main industries, but especially the metallurgy, power and ferrocrete industries, have reached and even begun to exceed the levels they attained pre-Inilossum Calamity. This proves that the Commune has managed to get the so-called Undercity back on its feet despite everything, and we’ve done it in just a year and a half.

Throughout this month, construction teams have been hard at work building the new generation of Commune housing, homes that are fit to live in and actually correspond to the needs of the people who inhabit them. Five initial regeneration zones have been designated by the neighbourhood councils that run things on a local level, and we can report that three of these zones are on course to be completely regenerated by the middle of December. Once these are complete, we confidently expect to be able to carry on in this way until everyone in the Commune has access to a good-quality home.

I could go on. However, I think the point has been made – far from collapsing as our critics sneered, the Free Elysian Commune has taken on the challenges of independent statehood and excelled. This has been made possible through two avenues; firstly, the plan of production, which has eliminated the randomness of the market and allowed us to produce things that are needed and get them to where they’re wanted. However, this plan itself would mean nothing without the second aspect of our successes, and that’s the democracy of the workers’ councils that allow our people to control the forces of the state from the local level right up to the supreme decision-making of the Central Council.

So much for the doomsayers. We can confidently ignore their nonsense, and get down to the real issues knowing that their opinions matter less than the air they use up to speak them.

Naturally, the Commune could not be expected to solve all issues in the space of a year and a half, and so it has come to pass. We still struggle to produce the level of luxury goods that our people deserve, as most of the APM network is currently deployed to produce for heavy industry. While this is an unavoidable outcome, it is nevertheless something we must improve in the next six months.

In addition, there is the matter of defence. A war with the Alliance is unlikely, but that does not mean there isn’t a need to strengthen of this aspect of our state. In particular, the Red Navy is woeful. A handful of cruisers and patrol boat-class spaceships is not a serious form of space defence, and as the incident with Ork raiders proved just last month such a small force is at enormous risk from piracy and third-party attacks. A blockade could be easily enforced upon us; we must therefore either expand the Red Navy or find another way to render a potential blockade useless.

Finally, I would draw attention to the ongoing isolation of the Commune, both economically and politically. Comrade-Secretary Kohn has made the point a number of times that, in the end, the revolution must either expand or be suffocated. What we have right now, impressive as it is, is merely a holding pattern and not a permanent solution to the workers’ problems. Comrade Kohn makes the point that we have neither the resources nor the population to stand alone indefinitely. I believe he is right to say this.

As such, I would contribute to the debate around how best to break out of our isolation by saying this; we must redouble efforts to build up a diplomat service and despatch them to other parts of Pandora as soon as possible. Trade negotiations with bourgeois governments, as distasteful as their exploitation of their native workforces is, must be carried out in order to secure lifelines – resources that we cannot produce for ourselves here.

This needn’t be a permanent fixture of our foreign policy but it must be entered into honestly on our part, and that may mean making certain concessions in terms of our own economic development. That is, of course, not a matter for I or anyone else to declare from the top, but must be decided using our democratic structures. It may be that we see no need to concede a thing – after all, through such methods does capitalism come creeping back – but all I would say is that if we do take this road we must expect our prospects to be relatively limited.

There are no other workers’ parties with any real weight in the rest of Pandora, and very little in the way of trade union presence. As such, our ability to use revolutionary appeals to pressure said governments from below is similarly limited; nevertheless, it is also an option worth considering, especially as support from the Commune may help such groups as do exist to grow and become a factor in their own states.

These, I think, represent the most important political discussions for all workers in the Commune to consider, and I look forward to the robust debate we will have over these topics in the months to come. Whatever we decide, we can be confident in one thing – workers’ democracy has proven that it can not just survive, but thrive. The Commune’s future is one that will surely be as bright as the stars that adorn our flags. Workers all over Pandora look to us now to prove ourselves and put our fine words into deeds.

Comrades, let’s not disappoint them. Forward to the future!
 
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