I Don’t Get Communism
I mean, I get what it is so far as you can understand a moving target. Like with any other ideology, it seems there are as many forms of communism as there are communists. I simply mean – I don’t get the appeal of communism. On its face it doesn’t seem to make sense as a system in our current times.
I get communism in the 19th century. I get why Marx’ powerful ideas about the control of the capital by very few caused atrocious human rights conditions. The debasement of workers globally during the industrial age needed a voice – a strong voice – to swing the economic pendulum at least a tick in the direction of the laborers. So, I suppose I get communism as an advocacy movement, but I don’t get it as a state or governmental institution.
Communism as governmental policy, to me, seems antithetical to what the spirit of communism is actually about – giving resources and power to the people. This has always been the problem with communism: that it does not translate from a cultural, grassroots, ideological movement into governmental policy. Somewhere in that journey it goes from a necessary liberal voice of the people and turns into right-wing ideological suppression machine.
Yes, I said that, communism as a state policy is completely right wing, as much as the terms left/right mean anything politically. Never has the “old boss is the new boss” cliche ever been so apt as when a group of leftist radicals in the name of communism turn into right wing ideologues stepping on the same people they purported to to be advocates for. It seems rather self-evident that communism is a right wing ideology once it’s institutionalized, but I never hear it condemned as such from the left.
Communism finds itself in this Catch-22 because to have common property among the people, there has to be a mechanism to distribute and control such property. By definition, if that mechanism is the state, then there is longer an even distribution that communism seeks, because the value of power can’t be overlooked in the distribution of property. Control from the state level inherently forces a secession of power from the people to the state as it controls and distributes common stock which is supposedly owned by the people. Once this move is made then the communist ideal crumbles in practice. Not only does the equal distribution ideal disappear, but the people find themselves in less of a power situation than when they started!
Communism has been a valuable tool for conscious raising on socioeconomic issues, and has, at its best, politically fought for human rights. But it is effective as only that: a tool to keep the powers in check. Once communism becomes the power structure itself, the whole ideological purpose reverses itself and the people no longer have advocacy against the state. The communist states cannot be omniscient in the complexities of economics nor what constitutes “fairness” or “justice” from the top down. It’s absurd on its face to think that a minority of people in the power at the top can properly distribute property and the idea that this is possible has been proven to be miserable time and time again in practice.
State Communism seems to suffer from two inescapable faults I abhor as someone who is pro critical thinking, skepticism, and anti-ideology and anti-totalitarianism: 1) There is no mechanism for distribution of property in communism and so the state claims itself as the final solution with the knowledge of what is “fair” and “good” and “just” for all. This is untenable and disastrous in practice. 2) Instead of empowering people – which I think is a maximally worthy ideal – communism robs people of power and freedom because of the inherent problem with converting from a social theory to state control.
Here in the U.S. we do not live in a libertarian situation – what I would consider the communist inverse. We are not purely capitalistic, we are not purely anything. There is a hodgepodge of governmental structure that makes a complex system that pushes and pulls over time. Over the last century and a half communism has effectively crept in to how the U.S. government functions. In this sense we are quasi-communist in nature and the ideological victories of communism are seen in practice every day in our labor laws, our shared investment in public education and public works, and in our welfare and social programs. The communist ideal is alive and well in our country, but try and keep that under wraps because communism is a nasty word around here.
Despite my vilification of communism as a state practice, I value it as a social tool that should be continually advocating for workers’ rights and all human rights, and we effectively have many shades of communism running through our current system. I say, keep communism as a strong tool and principle for the people while keeping it far away from a state institution which will inevitably lead to less freedom and totalitarianism.
Looking forward to those Cuban cigars…