Communism is a controversial topic to many people. Ever since the red-baiting xenophobic “Red Scares” of the 1920’s and 1950’s, most Americans have looked upon Communism with great distaste and fear.
Before I speak further on the topic, one must understand Communism in base form, as if approaching the ideology for the first time. According to Merriam-Webster, Communism is
a : a theory advocating elimination of private property
b : a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as neededThese are inherently “Anti-American” Ideals, our Government was founded on Locke’s Natural Rights, and Limited Government*.
However, once these immigrants came to the United States in the early 1900’s, many found themselves stuck in dangerous and unsafe jobs, working long hours just so that the rich owners of their company could get fatter and fatter off of the labor of the masses. These laborers often worked small roles, just a tiny cog in a vast machine. This led to discontent, and strife, as workers thought their contributions to be meaningless. Karl Marx called this “Entfremdung,” or Alienation.
America is the place where you get to be what you make yourself. Subjugating the individual under the iron boot of profit is not what the Founding Fathers would have wanted.
As with everything, Communism should not be rejected in entirety. However, it is not without faults.
Before I begin to speak on this subject, one must understand a few things. When Communism came into being in the late 1800’s, there were two main branches. Scientific Socialism and Utopian Socialism. Scientific Socialism is what we know about from nations such as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the People’s Republic of China. Utopian Socialism never gained ground in any particular country, however some elements of it were displayed by the Paris Commune of 1871, and by the Spanish Popular Front in the Spanish Civil War, or even as early as the French Revolution.
Regardless of the history behind the ideas, one must understand that you cannot equate all of Communism with Stalinism or Maoism. That would be like equating all of Capitalism with Monetarism, that would be ignoring other important branches like Keynesian Economics.
But to continue, because of American Propaganda, Communism is equated with repression, mass executions, and authoritarian states, which certainly happened within its history, but does not give you the full scope of the ideology.
Karl Marx believed that everyone should be given equal opportunity, and everyone should be able to enjoy their lives. He believed that the lowest in his society are equal to the highest of Kings. Does this sound un-American to you?
My economic beliefs are primarily rooted in Keynesian thought, however what I am trying to say is that Marxism, and Communism as a whole, can have a real impact on our society if we choose to understand it and learn from it with an open mind.
Those who blindly view Communism as “evil” are foolish, close-minded, and ignorant, and I firmly believe that while ideas are not inherently evil, some, such as eugenics or White Supremacy, are morally wrong, and irrational.
Communism in the United States has a complicated history, and one that must be taken seriously. While the Communist and Socialist Movements have never been able to influence public policy in their favor, the US Government used the rise of Bolshevism and the Soviet Union as an excuse to crack down on “radicals,” immigrants, and many left-leaning groups.
Conflicts between left-leaning groups and supposed “Patriot” Groups have been frequent, the most notable being the Centralia Massacre, where the Revolutionary Industrial Union the IWW fought against the American Legion, resulting in 6 deaths.
In 1917, President Wilson and the US Congress passed the Espionage and Sedition Acts, which made it illegal to speak out against the Government and the war effort. This was used to jail Communists, Socialists, “Radicals”, and many other groups, like Suffragettes. The Palmer Raids of 1919 led to the unjustified and illegal search and seizure of property, as well as the illegal deportation of hundreds of immigrants.
This is not an antiquated practice either. The word “Socialist” is still a dirty word in American politics.
Regardless of your opinion of Communism, one cannot simply ignore it, or dismiss it as impractical. In order to build a more successful United States, we must fix the inherent deficiencies in Capitalism, and part of that is taking inspiration from the Socialist/Communist Ideology, by improving workers rights, funding Social Security, and bringing back massive public works projects to provide labor to the unemployed, like a modern CCC.
We must understand the past in order to build a better future, and learning about this ideology, and knowing it’s history is an important part of that process.
We must not allow ourselves to be inherently biased, by viewing unemployment as bad, or by dismissing those who do not hold a single profession.
To be a better human being is to open oneself up to new ideas and points of view. This is just one example out of many.