When we think about communism, we (USAians, that is) have been greatly conditioned to think of the grey oppression and starkness of the USSR and Eastern Europe. But this kind of stark severity and austerity wasn’t the point of communism. Marx envisioned a world where all people were fully aware – and had the freedom to (in modern terms) self-actualize. To be the best and most true to themselves that they could be.
Mind you, to Marx that self-actualization was seen as synonymous with labor and production. One became fulfilled through one’s work. Therefore, selling one’s labor (and production) for another’s benefit was tantamount to prostitution. Clearly, the “communist” states of the twentieth century were nowhere near Marx’s ideal, even as they appropriated his words.
A relatively new utopian (or dystopian, depending on your temperment) vision is that of the Singularity. When we look at some of the speculative fiction that imagines post-Singularity environments (particularly Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow), there’s a post-capitalist sensibility explicit in their imaginings. Take Manifred Manx’s pronoaic memebrokering in Accelerando or the whuffie economy of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Both of these imagined post-Singularity environments more completely fulfill Marx’s ideal of having the freedom to be human (or post-human) than any system that explicitly calls itself communist.
And honestly, that kind of post-capitalist communism doesn’t sound all that horrible after all.
(Image of Marx from 23 de Abril, Día Nacional de Castilla’s Flickr stream)