Some of you may know that there is an atheist concept known as ‘Last Thursdayism’ - an idea intended to mock and satirise creationists who claim that the world was created 6,000 years ago with the appearance of it being billions of years old. According to this logic, the idea goes, you could just as well claim that the world was actually created ‘Last Thursday’ rather than 6,000 years ago based on the same reasoning.
Of course, it’s an amusing satire of the idiocy of creationism, but it got me thinking, particularly in conjunction with a quote by Murray Bookchin in his legendary essay, ‘Listen, Marxist!’:
When the hell are we finally going to create a movement that looks to the future instead of to the past?
Bookchin was mostly attacking Marxists, as well as some anarchists, who constantly look back to previous revolutions as guides to how revolutions ‘should’ proceed. However, I believe his words have a more important message than that; let’s build a society where we live in the present and in the future, not to the past. This is where ‘Last Thursdayism’ comes in – if your entire system of social relations is dependent on things that were started and finished longer ago than Last Thursday then you’re doing it wrong. If we want a free society, our reasons for relations must be in the moment.
To pick an easy first target that also makes the concept simpler to explain, the propertarian concept of ‘homesteading’. Under the logic of this theory, being as authoritarian as you like on your own property, even to the extent of acting exactly like a state is totally OK, as long as you ‘homesteaded’ it. The state doing the same thing on it’s territory isn’t OK because it didn’t. This fails the ‘Last Thursday’ test pretty conclusively. If the entire world was actually created Last Thursday with the appearance of being older, then no-one has ‘homesteaded’ anything. Yet we’re in the exact same situation.
But I’m not just bashing the propertarians here, this goes for everyone. Specifically, it goes for the many anarchists who unfortunately have picked up the propertarians’ bad habits. While the propertarians claim that human relations regarding objects is a black and white issue (i.e. something must be ‘private property’ with the proprietor holding the right of absolute and exclusive control over it, or ‘unowned’ in which no-one has any right of control over it), many anarchists now play the ‘possession’ card against them. This basically claims that ownership relations can be either of the two already mentioned, but also a third category, known as possession, which basically just means private property but without the economic exploitation of surplus value, interest, rent, etc. But this is still too rigid and restrictive. It’s replacing black and white with black, white and one shade of grey in between. There have always been shades of grey throughout history, such as the ‘Right to Roam’, which existed as convention long before it was enshrined in state law. What a truly free society must be able to have are infinite shades of grey. Rights regarding things must be flexible, always with the potential for exceptions due to need.
But let’s link this back to Last Thursdayism. You might have thought while reading this that capitalism actually corresponds fairly well to the idea, as wage labourers are by definition the people who don’t accumulate capital, and so do indeed live with regard to the present. But no. Even if we ignore the importance of debt to keeping people as de facto serfs through wage labour, the reason workers are in the situation they are in is capital accumulation. Capitalists, while always seeking to accumulate more and so looking to the future, must always look back when they get to that future, in order to justify their position. So if we live true to the ‘Last Thursday’ test then accumulation must go out the window too. And to the mutualists: if we’re going to get rid of capital accumulation and non-labour income, why on earth would we want to keep the market system that enables it? If ownership is to be based on use, how can one ‘buy’ anything, given neither the seller nor buyer can be the exclusive and absolute owner at any time?
A society based on Last Thursdayist principles means a society where people live in the present, not in the past. If something can be put to use then put it to use now. We live in a world where we have millions of unemployed people (not to mention those employed in useless bureaucracy) and millions of uninhabited houses. Where overproducing companies are actually incentivised by the market to destroy surplus goods rather than give them away. Where the state routinely spends up to 5% of GDP on weapons, something with the sole purpose of destruction. And yet people still talk about ‘scarcity’?! When all productive facilities are utilised, when everything that can be used to satisfy wants is put to that use, then we’ll find out about scarcity.
Now, some of you might be a bit disappointed reading this, as what I’m advocating here just seems to be communism, a gift economy. And yes, you’d be right, that is what I’m talking about. But why do we want communism? Is it because we think it is more ‘efficient’? Possibly, though probably not, as communistic societies do not have the drive for constant unending growth that capitalistic ones have. Is it because we value community? Possibly, but there are those that want to keep themselves to themselves, and communism must accomodate them as well. Is it because we think it to be the ‘freest’ form of society? Yes, but what does that mean? Freedom means your freedom to your everyday life. To be able to live for then, no need to justify your freedom now based on the past. So what better an idea than to base it around the idea that, for all we know, there may be no past, and so we should live as such?