A Socialist Model for Survival?

One of the anti-socialist stories that has gone around the internet is that socialism has already been tried in the United States, by the settlers of the Plymouth colony. For the first two years production, specifically farming, and the results of that production, were supposedly shared equally. I say “supposedly” because while everyone was willing to share the results of their work equally, not everyone was willing to work equally to produce that harvest.

The truth of the matter is that human nature is not as altruistic as some would like to believe. People are much more willing to work, when they see that they will personally benefit from the fruit of their labors. If they are denied that, they are also denied the motivation to work industriously. Why work harder for others to benefit, especially when at least some of those others aren’t working all that hard themselves?

This is a large part of what destroyed the former Soviet Union. Being a communist nation, with a largely socialist economy, there was no motivation for people to put in the extra effort that is needed in pretty much any field of endeavor. The most productive farmland in Russia, was the tiny percentage which was privately owned. When the sun went down on those farms, farmers turned on the headlights of their tractors and kept working. On state run farms, people went home… often before the sun went down. One saying that has survived that old regime is, “As long as they continue to pretend to pay us, we will continue to pretend to work.”

I’m not going to go so far as to say that all poor people are lazy, as some have apparently said. There are many things that can bring one to poverty, such as health issues and the loss of a job, due to the employer going bankrupt. With the average family living on 110% of their income, it doesn’t take long for a loss of income to bring one to poverty; and in today’s job market, finding another job that pays comparable to what one was earning can easily take more than six months.

I will say though, that laziness is one of the faster ways to achieve poverty. Any truly successful person I have ever met has worked hard to get where they are. Oh, they might have had other advantages, such as high intelligence and/or an excellent education; but the deciding factor, in every case, was hard work.

What does this have to do with survival?

Many preppers today are part of a “survival team,” with plans that they will all work together to survive, in a post-disaster world. Each of them would take responsibility for one area of their combined survival, making sure they were the expert at that area, so that they could do it for the team, when they need to.

On the surface, that sounds great. There are a lot of different skills that can be brought into survival, more than any one person can reasonably learn. So, focusing on learning one or two areas, while leaving other areas for other team members to learn sounds like a reasonable division of duties. Each team member can do their part, ensuring that there’s enough of everything, for everyone.

I’ve talked with members of a number of these survival teams, feeling them out, to see just how their team is working together to ensure their survival. As I expected, things weren’t quite as rosy as the picture that they wanted to paint.

The first, most obvious, problem I saw, over and over again, was an unequal breakdown of duties. Some survival tasks, like growing food, are all-encompassing, requiring a huge amount of effort. Then there are others, which require hardly any effort at all.

My favorite “survival skill” to pick on for this is communications. First, I’ll have to say that I consider communications a secondary skill. While it is nice to have, it is not absolutely necessary. In the wake of a true disaster, there might not be a whole lot of people to communicate with and the government might not be intact enough to put out useful information. So, just what is a “communicator” going to do all day to help the team survive?

The worst part of this is that it seems like some of these people actually think that practicing their skill is a sufficient contribution to the team. It might be, if the team is big enough to actually afford a full-time communicator and there are enough people to communicate with, passing important information back and forth. But in a team of six to twelve people, having that much of your available manpower tied up, sitting on a radio, seems like it’s putting an undue burden on the rest of the team. Socialism would say they are doing their part; but their part isn’t really helping the whole enough to make up for the burden they are on the team.

As I mentioned earlier, some survival tasks take a huge amount of work, such as growing food. I would say that food production will take more of your survival team’s time and effort, than any other single task. In other words, it’s going to take the concerted effort of several people, perhaps the concerted effort of everyone in the team.

Another task that can require a lot of time and effort is hauling water, if you have to bring your water in from some surface water source. While that won’t require the efforts of everyone in the team, it could easily eat up a major part of the day for two team members. Is their effort, bringing water in for everyone’s use, equal to being the team’s medic, not doing any other work, but just standing by in case someone gets hurt?

Granted, a properly trained medic is a huge asset to any survival team. I am sure there are going to be many teams who will have to do without, simply because there aren’t enough people with the proper training. But, will that medic be busy all the time? I certainly hope not; and if they aren’t busy, does it make sense for them to just sit around, waiting for someone to get hurt?

There is no truly accurate way of determining just what a fair amount of work from each team member is. If you try to go by output, you’ll find that some team members will produce more than others, in the same amount of time. If you try to go by hours worked, you’ll find some team members who are quick to take time off, as soon as the work day is done, while other find tasks that can be done indoors, by lamp or candle light. On top of that, some skill sets are clearly worth more than others. I think most people would agree that the medic is worth more than the communicator.

Not all men are equal

This problem would be solved if we had perfect people; but that’s a commodity that has been in grave shortage, ever since the beginning of time. The settlers of Plymouth were all Christians, claiming Christian values; yet they didn’t all have the same work ethic. Some worked hard, while others took every excuse they could to get out of work.

Adding to the problem of getting everyone to do the necessary work, is the problem of getting everyone to prepare equally. Not everyone has the same family income, making it easier for some to stock up than others. But that’s actually not what I’m referring to. What I’m referring to is the cost of coming up with the necessary supplies to take care of their area of responsibility for the team.

Let’s take the medic as an example. Building a complete family first-aid survival kit would probably cost somewhere between $300 and $500. But that’s just enough for one family. Multiplying that to the point where the medic is adequately prepared to deal with the medical emergencies of an entire survival team, for who knows how long, could easily run into a couple of thousand dollars. Who is going to pay for that? Is the medic expected to? Or, is the medic going to compile a list of what everyone else is going to buy and expect them to do so? Either way, it’s a problem.

Another one I hear commonly in survival teams is that there is often one person in the group who is their hydroponics “expert.” This person is supposedly going to be an important part of the team’s food production, when they have to go into survival mode. Okay, but the question I always have for them, is just how big a hydroponics operation they currently have. The answer? About four feet square. That’s not even enough to feed their family, let alone ten families.

Don’t get me wrong, hydroponics is a great way to grow food; highly efficient. But it requires quite a bit of equipment to get it going, most especially the tanks and growth media. I’m not sure just how big a garden someone would need, in order to feed their family; but I’m guessing on the order of their entire back yard, not a four-foot-square test garden. But when I ask about their plans to enlarge their hydroponics operation so that they can feed their entire team, they never seem to have an answer.

How is that person living up to their responsibility to the team? Is the little the are doing adequate? Does that fulfill the socialist mantra of “From every one according to their ability and to every one according to their need?”

Balance is the way

While there is still merit to the idea of a survival team, it has to be based on something more solid than that mantra. Each team must come up with a way to balance both the work that they will do and the investment that they will make. This has to start now, long before they need to work together to survive. If the team can’t figure out how to work together now, when things are normal, they won’t have much of a chance of making it in a post-disaster world.

Written by

Bill White is the author of Conquering the Coming Collapse, and a former Army officer, manufacturing engineer and business manager. More recently, he left the business world to work as a cross-cultural missionary on the Mexico border. Bill has been a survivalist since the 1970s, when the nation was in the latter days of the Cold War. He had determined to head into the Colorado Rockies, should Washington ever decide to push the button. While those days have passed, the knowledge Bill gained during that time hasn’t. He now works to educate others on the risks that exist in our society and how to prepare to meet them. You can send Bill a message at editor [at] survivopedia.com.

Latest comments
  • Socialism NEVER works, long term. The early Christian Church was actually COMMUNISM. Is it now? No. It didn’t work. The average Christian is probably familiar with the story of Ananias and Sapphira. The early Christians were to sell all they had and give the proceeds to the Apostles, who would dole them out to the members as needed. Ananias and Sapphira sold a property. They gave MOST of the proceeds to the Apostles but kept some back for themselves. Who wouldn’t keep a “rainy day fund” to themselves? That didn’t work out well for them. They both died when confronted with what they had done. This is the problem with Socialism. All you need is ONE PERSON to keep something back, and the whole thing falls apart. If every person who held something back dropped dead at Peter’s feet, my guess is that Christianity would have died early on. History shows Socialism was abandoned by the Church, as the Vatican does MORE than its share of “holding something back.” It DIDN’T WORK. We can only expect the same thing to happen in a prepper group over time. A socialized system may work as a SHORT-TERM survival tactic, but it WILL fail eventually.

    As for the radioman or the medic cooling his heels while the farmer busts his ass, the military has the solution; COLLATERAL DUTIES. The radioman will stand his watch. He may also paint the exterior of the ship. He may also stand roving fire watches. The duties of a medic may themselves be a collateral duty. If his services are needed, well, he’s the medic. If they’re not needed, he’s helping the storekeeper or… painting the exterior of the ship. That’s the only way it works. I was a telecom tech in the Coast Guard. If I wasn’t busy doing maintenance on the teletypes or programming the phone system, I was aloft on the masts doing antenna maintenance for the electronics techs, helping them rack equipment, and standing in-port brow watches. This is the ONLY way this kind of thing can work! Anyone who’s not good with this shouldn’t be a part of your group!

  • Good article and good comments from Mr. McGyver. Communism/Socialism never works, there are always the lazy people, there are always those who physically aren’t able to do as much as others, there are some who have more savvy to do something much quicker and more effectively than someone else, natural skill in accomplishing a task, but I wholly agree, collateral duties is the only way to go if there’s going to be a group. Also the, “no work all day, no eat” rule works well. That will help to keep people engaged and motivated to work at multiple tasks all day long and produce the work that makes them beneficial and not a burden to the group/team.

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned hardly at all, if at all, in any of the food production portions of long term survival is having a stock of, and keeping a stock of sprouting seeds to grow all year long. A new harvest of sprouts can be obtained within a few days to a week. The seeds, properly stored, will keep for years and still be good for sprouting or growing in hydroponics, and yes, in good fertilized soil. I almost never purchase greens from the produce department of the stores any more because of the availability of sprouting seeds of multiple types. I’ve found growing some of these seeds has produced a wonderful ample supply of seeds, some for planting again though most are for sprouting. There are so many critically needed nutrients in sprouts/micro-greens that they are a tremendous source of needed nutrients in a meal and they can be grown year around. With the great varied varieties of sprouting seeds, they provide a great variety of nutrients the body needs. One thing I’ve learned is that when one harvests the sprouts/micro-greens, the water for rinsing them and separating hulls from the sprouts, is wonderful water to put on other portions of one’s garden/in planters, etc. No use wasting that water either. The hulls and broken seeds that don’t sprout will decompose and make wonderful fertilizer in the soil. So part of “gardening” could and should be the collection of seeds for future harvests, including an ample supply of seeds for sprouting to help keep people going, especially to give people fresh greens through the winter.

  • Communications value – good points! I’ll emphasize:

    Way back when the invention of the telephone new, skeptical reactions were typified by comments similar to this:
    “Why would we want to talk to people who aren’t here?”
    Today, I can get live lobster from Maine, fresh coconuts from the Philippines, Macadamia nuts from Hawaii, Fresh shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, salt from the Himalayas and all that and more just by walking a few feet in a grocery store.
    In the harsh times to come when traveling just a mile might have several ambushes of bandits, communications is mostly important with just your groups and neighbors.

  • Extrapolating on “division of duties,” nothing says communism more than imposed rationing!

    One group that I held back in participating had concepts of pooling resources and rationing. Socialism exactly! Not for me! I have my food storage. It’s mine. I worked and I bought it. I decided how much. I disagree with formulas such as a minimum calories to survive. I suppose it theoretically can be true IF you can stay in bed and not do anything for a period until you can be “rescued” by “authorities” and brought back to health with more robust care, but we certainly aren’t preparing for that fiction. In sharp contrast, we will need nutrition to support not only way more work, but for our wits and skills to be at their highest to survive harsh challenges. The harsh times to come is certainly not the time to compromise on your food fueled strengths and abilities including likely much needed high immune function. I’m a bicycle racer capable of a hundred miles in four hours. I eat seven thousand Calories a day and certainly expect such energy, strength and endurance to be quite a preparedness advantage, so I certainly don’t want to lose hard earned bicycle racing muscle to foolish rationing particularly since I’ve prepared to keep it by working and purchasing the food storage to sustain my remarkable health that is a top survival asset so many ways. I wouldn’t choose to relinquish that to anyone and certainly don’t intend to abide by the failed and erroneous mentalities of communists particularly when they intend to enforce their edict by force rather than agreement.

  • Friendships – I’m not saying it’s a societal structure answer and it’s likely not. Rather I’m presenting an account of one particular very long friendship. My friend asks for a favor and before he can specify and before I ask, I answer an enthusiastic YES! Yes as in that being a blank check of a favor. That has never entailed conversation of what’s in it for me. It has never been a trade. It’s gone the other way just the same. The value is far greater than what this friendship has already done for us as it’s greater value to us, with both of us quite independent and tending to be self-sufficient, is knowing we are able to count on our friend for when it will really matter! Our Bible contains much on friendship. Our Creator loves us. It follows that we should love our friends. Of course, on a broader social scale, it will be recognized that there is barter among those working in cooperation and enemies among those who would pose a threat.

  • Regarding: “… should Washington ever decide to push the button. While those days have passed …”

    Not really!