Mythological Story for Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

If human beings stole fire from the gods, as the legend of Prometheus tells us, are we capable of taking that fire and lighting our own way or shall we give fire back to the gods?

For most of history this was not a choice for humanity. People in hunting and gathering and simple horticultural societies were content to work as little as possible and live off the land. Slowly their populations rose, their resources were depleted and they had to work harder and longer to support themselves.

With the rise of states, agriculture and the division of labor between mental and physical labor, there arose the first of a long series of contradictions. On the one hand there was greater abundance in the way of food, greater control over ecological uncertainties and a specialization of knowledge. On the other hand, there arose the first social classes where life was good for about 10% of the population and very bad for 90%. These 90% produced enough food and other necessities to end the conditions of social scarcity. However, like a sleeping giant, they did not realize their own power.

For the first time, the legend of Prometheus became an issue for humanity. Between the rise of agriculture 5000 years ago to the dawn of capitalism in the 16th century, for the most part, the vast majority of humanity continued to renounce its own power and gave it back to the gods in the form of kings, aristocrats, and ecclesiastical elites.

With the rise of capitalism, more and more of those in the galleys began to feel their own power. Some of those in the middle of the class hierarchy even turned on their masters. The results were mixed. To some extent working conditions got better and for brief moments of rebellion those at the bottom felt their power, but due to lack of material resources, lack of confidence and lack of organization they continued to give the fire back to the gods.

At the same time capitalists themselves faced a unique set of problems. On the one hand they wished to accumulate as much wealth as possible while enforcing submission on the lower classes. But on the other hand, they had to teach the lower classes creativity to problem-solve on the job. Capitalists have never been able to control how these workers used their creativity, especially when they used their creativity to organize against those same capitalists.

The 19th and 20th centuries were the first time that workers took fire from the gods and ran with it. The Paris Commune, the Russian Revolution and the Spanish Revolution involved hundreds of thousands of people. They stole the fire and ran with it for weeks, months and even years.

Since the second half of the 19th century the capitalists have faced increasing economic instabilities. Like all ruling classes, they were incapable of managing the systemic crisis they created and like most people so far, they could not think beyond the next generation. There is now raging an epic battle between the world capitalist class, incapable of ruling, and an erratic lower class caught between wanting the Promethean fire for itself on some occasions and renouncing it on other occasions.

To summarize, the history of humanity can be understood as a long spiral (our logo). The anarchist, Fredy Perlman, waxed poetically that humanity once was much and had little (tribal societies); had much but was little (life in agricultural and capitalist societies); and we have the possibility of having much and being much (communism under abundant conditions. Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism aspires to be a flicker in the fire of Prometheus which will take the fire from the gods and light our own world, having much and being much!