Realistic Communism

Means of Production

Probably the most well-known communist mantras is “Seize the means of production!” This is a reference to one of the core tenants of communism and socialism—social ownership of the means of production.

But to seize the means of production, one must first know what they are, who owns them now, and who should own them.

What Are the Means of Production?

The means of production are everything used to produce goods and services. They’re the realty, tools, and ideas that people use to do their jobs.

The classic ideas of the means of production are factories, farms, and tools. In a feudal society, all the farmland is owned by the lords, and the serfs are forced to work the land for its owners. In a capitalist society, people can own their own means of production, but many people are still merely employed by people or companies who actually own the means of production. You may work in a factory, but very few people will ever actually own a factory beyond some miniscule share through the stock market.

The means of production also include more modern types as well however. Things like intellectual property—patents, copyrights, trade secrets, etc.—can be considered a means of production. Capitalism rewards inventors and artists with timed exclusivity to production of those things. If someone invents a new drug or writes a new story, he’s the only one allowed to continued doing so for so long. In a true communist society, there would be no such restriction. Anyone would be free to copy anyone else’s work however he likes.

Owning the Means of Production

Currently in most countries, the means of production are owned by the people or companies who paid for them, whether they paid to build them or just bought them after the fact. That is why capitalism is called “capitalism”—because the means of production are owned by those with capital.

Communism and socialism, by contrast, disavow the ownership of any means of production. Instead, they are just owned by society as a whole. The workers then would just freely use whatever tools, land, or ideas they needed.