When Communism Works Well

Painting by Je' Czaja: "Cider-making Day"
Painting by Je’ Czaja:
“Cider-making Day”

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Sounds fair. I mean, what’s wrong with that?

You may recognize that it is Karl Marx’s slogan, and therefore it must be bad, but think: Karl Marx probably said “The baby needs a clean diaper,” at some point in his life and that was true, so why not “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need?”

The more you study communism as it played out in real nations the less it looks like what Karl Marx said. Communism as it played out was, of course, “godless” in that more traditional religions were rejected in favor of the new religion. An organized religion is a power center, like trade unions or freemasons. Communism wanted to be the only power center and it jailed, tortured and executed believers with even more zeal than the Inquisition.

I often wondered what would have happened if communism had grown up as a Christian movement. After all, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” is quite compatible with Jesus’ teachings. In fact, there were streams of Christian communism and socialism and some gained quite a bit of momentum.

But the ideological “winners” In Russia and China chose science as their god, a popular deity at the turn of the century, and they would tolerate no other gods. Those who blame organized religion for the sufferings of mankind are dead wrong, unless they acknowledge that Atheistic Scientism is also a religion.

So what about “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need?” I grew up on a farm in a large family. We operated on this maxim and it worked well. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors operated on it and it worked well. The early Christians operated on it and it worked well.

In pre-Mao China, the peasants were hideously oppressed. They had ¾ of an acre to grow all the food for their largish families. By very clever farming they managed to stay alive on what amounts to a good-sized suburban lawn. When Mao did a land reform, each family got three whole acres! They were excited, though here in the USA, five acres is considered the bare minimum needed for survival.

Many peasants voluntarily combined their plots with their neighbors and found that they all could eat much better; pigs on a couple acres, grains on several acres, a one-acre orchard. They even had some surplus. Then Mao decided to collectivize the farms-no one really owned anything and no one had a choice what to grow. This was pretty much a spectacular failure.

But why? The peasants had voluntarily combined their plots earlier. But it was voluntary and it was their property and it was on a small scale with people who they knew all their lives. Those conditions are the same found in the early Christian communities, on our farm and in any successful co-op today.

When does communism work well? When it:

  1. Is voluntary
  2. Allows property
  3. Is Small scale
  4. Participants know each other

And then, by the way, it works REALLY well.

How to Start a Cooperative

Food Co-op Initiative

Resources for Starting and Operating a Cooperative



  1. Socialism works well with high level of automation and once all jobs what people wont do voluntarily is automated away its only communism what will work. (Imagine what will happen in capitalism if there is no need for human labor and most of people will be without income)

    1. I imagine there will be less and less need for “the proletariat” which Marx considered to be mostly factory workers. Naturally, considering what he saw during Industrial Revolution, he thought there would be more and more factories forever. He pretty much ignored the peasants. There will always be a need for human beings to get things done, but the things that need to get done will change.

      Since OVERproduction (and falling profits) is part of capitalism, seems obvious they could make a four hour day, still pay people enough to live and solve a lot of problems. But the profits will be down, so they can’t seem to do that! IMHO a mixture of economic schemes is probably best and that would vary from one country to the next. But I do insist it is the job of any government, at the bare minimum-to keep its citizens alive.

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