I am a communist; I think communism is a really cool idea and we should try to make it happen.
Unfortunately, the way many people understand that word, it probably sounds like I’m saying I want everyone to live in poverty, wear the same government-issued clothes, read really boring books about political theory and support a totalitarian government that’s going to censor them for speaking out, so I would like to address a few of the popular misconceptions.
A lot of people think “communism” describes the economic systems of countries like China and North Korea. For that reason, it is often associated with heavy state surveillance. Not only is this inaccurate, but communist state surveillance is actually impossible; states can’t be communist.
A communist society is actually a utopian society with no class divisions between people, no money and, very specifically, no state. Any nation with a centralized government is not communist.
One important component of communism is socialism, an economic system where the means of production are owned communally, rather than having businesses owned by small groups of people like we do now under capitalism. For example, if The Alestle were a socialist organization, it would be owned by the reporters, photographers, secretaries and editors that make it function.
The term “communist state” is often used to describe states controlled by Marxist-Leninist political parties. These governments will say they are working toward communism; however, achieving communism would necessarily involve removing these governments.
Unsurprisingly, none of these Marxist-Leninist governments have attained communism so far. The most famous examples usually don’t even get close to having socialist economies. For instance, despite its rule by the Communist Party of China, over 60 percent of China’s GDP comes from privately-owned businesses, according to Forbes. While it uses communism as an aesthetic, China’s economy is mostly capitalist.
North Korea uses a command economy, which means the government controls and regulates production and development, similar to the former USSR. Almost all of the means of production are owned by the government.
Most North Korean citizens also participate in an illegal market people have created to provide resources the government doesn’t give them. There is unfortunately little data as to how this illegal economy functions, although I like to think a lot of socialist organizations would pop up in that environment.
When I say that I am a communist, that does not mean I support any of the governments that claim to work toward communism. To me, although not to every person who calls themselves communist, it actually means the opposite. I don’t support any of those governments, or any governments at all, because governments make communism impossible.
What I actually want is to replace institutions owned either privately or by governments with worker-owned collectives. I want everyone to have their basic needs met whether or not they work, and I want that to give people enough freedom to pursue work they enjoy without having to answer to a boss. If that happens, we can make private businesses redundant and offer better working conditions and better services without ads, data tracking or in-app purchases. Eventually, yes, I also want robots to give us everything we want for free. I am a communist because I want those things to happen.
I encourage everyone to do their own research on this topic, although it can quickly become overbearing if you dislike reading political theory like I do. I don’t dislike fact-checking in the same way, so I watch a lot of YouTube channels that cover this stuff in an entertaining way.
For anyone interested in that, I especially recommend the channel “Thought Slime” as a starting point. For everyone else, I absolutely think you would benefit from having at least a basic understanding of communism and socialism, especially as leftist ideologies continue to become more relevant to the political climate. There has never been a better time to learn.