27
Jul
09

How I Became a Communist

It seems that if you were born before 1990, you were born to one of two worlds, Capitalist and Communist. If you were born in the West, you were supposed to be a Capitalist, inherently opposed to any and all things leftist. If you were born in the so-called Marxist countries, you were raised to believe that the Communism, country, and party came before anything else. Life was simple: if you are A then you are against B, if you are B then you are against A.

I was born after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the stereotype of the Red Menace was trite and the US hadn’t picked Arabs to be the next bogeyman. Communism was dead (or at least, the Soviet Union was) and I was an American so I wasn’t expected to be anything other than Capitalist. While I had never been actually educated on the tenets of either system (most eleven year olds aren’t), I had a basic grasp of the two concepts. Capitalism- everything owned, Communism- everything shared. Again, being an eleven year old I didn’t spend too much time contemplating the subject until I began reading and old children’s book from the 70s. It was called The Girl Who Owned a City and it was, to the best of my knowledge, the event that set my down the path to Marxism. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where a plague has wiped out everyone above the age of thirteen, the hero of the story, a girl named Lisa, manages to keep her town safe from roaming gangs by creating an semi city-state in the local highschool. Throughout the story, the lesser characters complain that they want a say in how the “city” is to be run but Lisa simply states that it is her city, and that everyone else is only allowed to live there in exchange for their services. She makes the argument that eventually, Jill (her medically inclined friend) will be able to operate her hospital which will belong to her and no one else. Of course, the subtle Any-Rand style society that was advocated in the book was only part of the story, but it got me to think. A bad habit of mine is that when I read a story, I’ll go through a few chapters and spend the rest of the day putting myself in the place of the main character and trying to figure out what I would do in his or her place. As I read through the book I couldn’t help but feel that there was a major flaw in the arguments the characters made. “Sure,” I thought, “if Jill wants to be a doctor and there’s an abandoned hospital nearby then she could take it and make it her hospital and that’s all fine and well. But what happens when the hospitals run out? What happens when there isn’t any more canned food to go around? If I were in Lisa’s place, could I believe in this system?”. I would try to argue Lisa’s case from every angle I could imagine but I kept coming back to the same conclusion. In a world where everything is individually owned, there will be eventually a group of those who have everything and a group who have nothing, and the group that has everything will have no reason to give anything to those who have nothing, leaving the nothing-group to starve or turn into brutalized, thieving gangs. No matter what reasoning I applied, what rationale I used I found myself inevitably ariving at the same conclusion: Capitalism doesn’t work- there will always be someone left behind simply because he’s unlucky!

Naturally one can imagine it’s not easy for an eleven year-old to cope with the discovery that a major tenet his worldveiw is seriously flawed. For a breif while I looked for a better system, reading up on monarchies, dictatorships, anarchy, and theocracy (I even tried to create my own political system only to give it up once I found that the name I wanted to use had already been taken). No matter what system I looked at, it seemed that the problem (though I wasn’t sure what the exact problem was) would be either simply moved or exacerbated. I concluded- disappointed- that Capitalism as it existed now was as good as it was going to get. I didn’t give much throught to the subject again for three years.

When I was fourteen, I had my first formal introduction to the Capitalist/Communist conflict. My family was looking after a friend’s house and I, sitting upstairs in the ornate library/study, was bored out of my mind. To pass the time, I pulled to random books off of the shelf, determined to read through both of them before the day was over. Setting both tomes on the table in front of me, I flipped open the covers to see what I had picked: The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith and Das Kapital by Karl Marx.

It was probably one of the longest afternoons of my life. I poured over each paragraph, each word, measuring the arguments individualy and against each other. I read the biography’s of the authors in the back of the books, to understand their histories and biases. The Wealth of Nations wasn’t much of a read- I had gotten more or less the same philosophy from The Girl Who Owned a City, but Marx- Marx was enthralling. Whatever preconceptions I had about Communism, whatever images of Stalin’s Russia and dark police states, faded away. Here, I thought, was an actual solution to the problem- which I realized was property and the class system. While I had been becoming a leftist for years, it was on that day I became a Communist.

Naturally my family wasn’t exactly thrilled when I told them, but at the time I believe they thought I would grow out of it. As Otto von Bismarck once said, “Anyone who isn’t a Communist before eighteen has no heart, anyone who is a Communist after eighteen has no mind.” Whenever I told people I was a Communist I got the same condescending nod, the knowing smile, and obnoxious comment “You’ll change your mind when you’re older…”.

Obviously that hasn’t happened.

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8 Responses to “How I Became a Communist”


  1. July 28, 2009 at 3:45 am

    You read Wealth of Nations in one day? Forgive my incredulity, but printed on A4 paper, single-spaced, and in a twelve-point font, it’s around a thousand pages long. That’s two reams of paper. It’s not exactly breezy reading, either.

  2. July 28, 2009 at 7:58 am

    Then in order to finish by midnight, you’d have to have read over 400 words a minute for 14 hours straight. (And that’s not even counting Das Kapital.) I know this because I have Wealth of Nations on my thumb drive as a Microsoft Word document, and I did a word count. And my version has some abridgements– I don’t even have the corn laws in mine.

    I have Wealth of Nations on my thumb drive as a Word document because I am in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and the only way to get a copy was to piece it together from what’s posted here and there on the internet. I’m glad I read it, because Smith’s treatment of political economy sheds a lot of light on why Afghanistan is in the state it’s in. Having read it, I can say there’s no way somebody finished this book in a day.

    I don’t want to start an argument, but come on…

  3. July 28, 2009 at 8:32 am

    It is my view that “dialectical materialism” is the highest evolved way of thinking on the planet!
    Their would be more people on the left that would be on the same page if they understood this scientific way of thinking. I applaud your powers of perception! I am 84 years old and cannot understand how anyone that is truly a dialectical materialist can be anything but a COMMUNIST. I have never been a member of the communist party but I regard myself as a “Dialectical Materialist!
    The following is my latest post and the URAL of my BLOGS!

    The world of ignorant metaphysical nonsense is dying and a new world of scientific enlightenment will be born. THIS IS A FACT THAT HAS BEEN REVEALED TO ME by using the scientific method.
    The ANTICHRIST that will usher in this new world of scientific enlightenment are the human trash that cannot think for themselves because of “religious dogma” This ignorant dogmatic approach has rendered the religious dogmatic human brain out of touch with our objective reality.
    LONG LIVE THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD!

    The Scientific Method!
    The world of ignorant metaphysical nonsense is dying and a new world of scientific enlightenment will be born. THIS IS A FACT THAT HAS BEEN REVEALED TO ME by using the scientific method.
    The ANTICHRIST that will usher in this new world of scientific enlightenment are the human trash that cannot think for themselves because of “religious dogma” This ignorant dogmatic approach has rendered the religious dogmatic human brain out of touch with our objective reality.
    LONG LIVE THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD!

    http://despicable.wordpress.com/ http://blogdespicable.blogspot.com/

  4. August 5, 2009 at 3:17 am

    Scientists do not “BELIEVE!” True scientists either KNOW or they “DO NOT KNOW!” Belief is the absence of knowledge, that is why religionists have to have faith to support their belief. Science relies only on verifiable evidence and that evidence determines relative to the amount of verifiable evidence that exists, the degree of probability that what was not known is now known.
    Scientists that do not have an open mind when approaching a mystery that needs to be resolved is a scientist that is pre-judging and therefor not using the scientific method.

  5. 6 trotskyite
    August 5, 2009 at 3:31 am

    We get your point Comrade- unless you intend to actually comment or debate, please- no spamming…

  6. 8 trotskyite
    August 5, 2009 at 4:23 am

    Don’t worry about it, Comrade…


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