Burning Man

Ulysses Alvarez Laviada
6 min readAug 7, 2018

The perfect communist parody of a deluded gleeful Capitalism.

Homeopathy is a system of belief of alternative medicine based on the doctrine of like cures like. It champions the idea that a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people.

In capitalist societies you get cured of communism by dispensing small dose of its ill. Burning Man, the big festival in the Nevada desert each year, is the perfect example of delivering communism in homeopathic ways.

There is, however, the reverse process of this homeopathy. It means, capitalism being delivered in homeopathic ways via the absurdity of a “State capitalism” in a socialist society. You can find another article I wrote on this particular topic in relation to Cuba at this link:

Capitalism and communism in homeopathic ways have a lot in common, but they also differ in crucial elements. The fundamental difference is that while in capitalism government can effectively own some economical assets, in communism, or socialism for that matter, private ownership of economical assets is not effective since the Communist Party has veto to change government legislations at any time. In other word, real communist cocoons can exist in capitalism, but real capitalist cocoon cannot exist in Socialism.

Let’s concentrate in the communist cocoon that is Burning Man. The festival co-founder Larry Harvey wrote its Ten Principles in 2004. They were created not as a dictate, but as a natural evolution of the community’s ethos since its beginnings.

Let’s go through each of the principles as stated by the festival organisers.

Radical Inclusion
Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

Radical Self-reliance
Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

Radical Self-expression
Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

Communal Effort
Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

Civic Responsibility
We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

Leaving No Trace
Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.

Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.

And that’s all, the perfect communist paradise for two weeks in the summer after which life resumes its natural capitalist course.

OK, let’s ask a couple of preliminary questions.

How communism failed conceptually or, should we say, philosophically?

It never learned to be a closed system within an open system.

How communism failed in practice?

It tried to define society by its government. It pushed its agenda in a too explicit manner and it forced its citizens to one dominant political and moral idea made law.

Capitalism has never really won. It has just learned how to fail in heomophatic ways. It has learned to errase itself from within in scattered atomised manner. That has allowed it to sprout back in rhythmic cycles. It has done so not exclusively by agency but by incentivising naturally cells an pockets of disruptions.

Communism still believes fundamentally in agency, Burning Man too, it just happens to be a joyful parody of it.

Radical inclusion in Burning Man means: If you manage to make it there.

Gifting is possible according to how much you don’t gift back in the real world.

Decommodification works as a jovial playground in the desert after relentless hours of commodification excesses in the urban spaces.

Radical Self-reliance looks great, specially when we have a view of a desert crowded with motor homes.

Radical Self-expression means that even if you fart and some shit comes out, you can still instagram it without the smell and with special filters. Creativity is everywhere.

Communal Effort means, communism is possible as a jolly ghetto-lab open plan experiment in the desert of a capitalist system.

Civic Responsibility. We should be Burners with manners and political correctness. Hasn’t urbanism taught us that? It shouldn’t make any difference if we are in the desert.

Leaving No Trace. What a better expiation of guilt from the city than leaving no trace in the desert when we bring all our rubbish into it?

Participation. Even the Martian Rover is participating in Burning Man through remote viewing. Immediacy is when you are there even if physically you are not there.

Immediacy. Well, this one is a little bit challenging. You have to live in the now, but hours are too long and minutes might make you hesitant. You have to live rushing through the seconds in pure nirvana.

Have you ever thought of a Libertarian Communism? Such phrase is a social oxymoron, but it fits perfectly Burning Man. If Ayn Rand could be useful these days it would be to call Burning Man Atlas Stretched-Jacketed in a Shrugged Dusty Desert.

Instead of the stupid question: Who is John Galt? we got the tantalising question: What is Burning Man? Call it what you like, ethical egoism or rational selfishness, communism has never been so good within the global framework of a constant outpouring of capitalist handouts into La Playa.



Ulysses Alvarez Laviada

Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights. Friedrich Hegel.