Over the last two weeks, I’ve found myself over-exposed to communism, I managed to get my hands on the communist manifesto and somehow got trapped in what appeared to be a communist rally. Only one of those things was actually intentional, but it has made me think about why this ideology is so attractive to people. There have been roughly 46 attempts at communist states If you count ex-USSR ones. All 46 have slowly failed in their aim of providing a glorious life for their people except for China which is kind of a socialist-capitalist hybrid and maybe Cuba even though no state has never really hit pure communism.
So what is communism? Often what is required under communism is a wealth equality of all workers and the uniting of the “wealth classes” When Marx and Engels attempted to lay out their plans for the proletariat the aim was to make everyone equal and have a fair say in society. Our society has three distinct classes; Upper, Middle and Working. These classes, according to Marx needed uniting to form a single class by destroying the dominance hierarchy of slave and master that he hated so much. If you want a good summary of communism and socialism check out this video, but essentially communism is the aim towards a moneyless, classless, stateless society. Some say “Capitalism assumes people are bad while Communism believes people are good” which has never sat quite right with me because Communism assumes people are cooperative by nature and always desire to take pride in their work not that everyone is “good”. Capitalism assumes that people will want to survive comfortably, society defines what a great product is and pays handsomely for it, so, to live well you must produce both quality and quantity to meet demand Capitalism in the extreme forms also assumes cooperation. (No general assumption of everyone is quite correct even capitalism)
From the perspective of the working class who want some power for themselves, you can understand the appeal. The bourgeoisie “Has taken all pleasure from work” they turn “Family into a money relationship”. It is convenient to draw anger to towards one group and to the downtrodden this hierarchy seems self-evident, they feel oppressed in one way or another. To unite and to make everyone equal would be to destroy the bourgeoisie and spread the wealth. The problem is that wealth will always be divided unequally without complete cooperation from everyone in society, It only needs one who takes more than their fair share for the Communists efforts to be in vain. Communism often defers to utopianism to solve this problem whereby people who refuse to cooperate are “forced out of society” in one way or another. If you wanted everyone to take part in this new Communist society without discrimination, you would need almost unlimited resources to distribute evenly, so Utopianism is inevitable. You can’t expect everyone to conform.
Stalin and his “Great Purge” is a product of a combination of his extreme paranoia and Utopianism. With Stalin’s own interpretation of Communism, he saw fit to kill those who threatened his leadership or spoke out against his message, between 600,000 and 3 million would die for being “Bolshevik old guard”. Stalin would even strike out at those who produced what he deemed too little for society in his infamous “Dekulakization” where it is estimated that from 700,000 to 6 million people were executed. An often used defence for this is that this isn’t “True communism” and so isn’t to blame, but communism is almost magnetically attracted to this behaviour because it often expects equality of thought and output from its citizens to make advances in standards of living.
Karl Marx himself said that countries with weak industry would struggle to implement communism and this is probably why we’ve had such massive failures in communism to sustain everyone. The more socialist you become, the more resources you need to support everyone. Imagine 99 people have 10 coins and 1 has 1000 coins the standard of living is 200 coins, the 99 revolt against the 1 to distribute the wealth evenly, they now all have roughly 110 coins and all are still poor, before taking the money you first have to know whether the money that is being distributed will actually sustain everyone. It’s not unfeasible to maintain low levels of socialism at all, giving support for the working classes and improving standards of living is generally a good thing. Both Capitalism and Communism in their extremes make the same incorrect assumption of cooperation, for example, a business owner would pay for the running cost of business by paying his worker’s slightly less money than what the labour they do is worth. This does not account for the fact that business owners can exploit workers so, often what is required is an injection of socialism into society to protect workers rights, we need a balance to achieve the ideal. The problem is you can’t stray too far either way as Socialism often stagnates growth and slows the increase of living standards while Capitalism can sometimes be too exploitative and leads to an extremely uneven distribution of wealth.
So how do we advance society? Let’s take a look at the coin analogy again. The standard of living is roughly 200 coins and really what we want is for that number to stay around the same or go lower while the quality of life improves, this is often done by diverting people to jobs that are necessary to push society forward like engineers. So back to communism.
Communism assumes everyone can acquire a job that they are really passionate about and want to succeed in but we know that this isn’t always the case, some people would rather not work at all, and plenty of individuals are interested in the same things. There are some jobs almost nobody wants to do like toilet cleaning so we cannot find an even distribution of employment that everyone is passionate about (which is the aim of communism) while helping to improve the condition of everyone’s lives at the same time by advancing society, in fact, the most extreme socialist states never seem to progress quickly technologically for this very reason. Someone has to take a job they are unsatisfied with so we can make people’s lives better, it’s hard to find plenty of people who thoroughly enjoy cleaning toilets but it needs to be done, and you could argue that if not everyone enjoys their job, then communism has failed.
All of this together isn’t really the main spear in the side of Communism, Democracy is the final nail in the coffin. The main aim for communism, of course, is a stateless Democracy that all citizens have a fair say in. Communists would argue that Democracy is more compatible with Communism, they’d be right but the only form it is indeed consistent with it is direct Democracy, while Democracy isn’t properly compatible with capitalism as people with more money often have more sway under Capitalism than those that don’t. Direct democracy requires the general public to be politically engaged almost continuously and not only that but educated in politics, but this is less of a problem nowadays with modern technology. My main issue with direct democracy is the over politicisation of society, all it does is separate the minority from the majority and not groups of people with logical thoughts and feelings, it only perpetuates the utopian mindset. We saw this effect during the Brexit Referendum in the UK, everyone was poorly informed with maximum emotions. No room for a sensible debate even with all our technology. No room for actual discussion. No chance to engage. Direct democracy can cause chaos when tensions are high. You may say “why don’t we just make communism a representative democracy if this is an issue?”, It wouldn’t be Communism.
Over the last 100 years, the most dangerous people in the world have all been utopians, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Mao and it’s no accident, the more you try to change a society the more push back you’ll inevitably get. These are all terrible people, but even if you can get the kindest man in the world to implement utopia, there will always be someone waiting in the wings to stab him in the back. It comes back to that old adage “47th times a charm?”.
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