I am up with card-carrying communists

BY: José Santiago| December 2, 2020
I am up with card-carrying communists


A recent article in the American Conservative features a photo of me holding my membership card below the title “Down with Card-Carrying Communists.” The author, Rod Dreher, opens with ad hominem attacks on young people who consider themselves communists, calling them “ignorant” and lacking in “moral seriousness.”  Referring to me, he writes, “If he’s lucky, the young man above, with his party card, will one day come to see that image as the most shameful thing he’s ever done.” I am proud and will always be proud of what I do to help and fight for working-class individuals.

Dreher claims that there is a decrease in socialist popularity, yet according to a 2019 survey, “US Attitudes toward Socialism, Communism, and Collectivism,” commissioned by the anticommunist Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, “70 percent of Millennials say they would be ‘somewhat likely’ or ‘extremely likely’ to vote for a socialist candidate. The percentage of Millennials who say they would be extremely likely to vote for a socialist candidate has doubled (from 10 percent in 2018 to 20 percent in 2019).” This statistic demonstrates an increase in class consciousness and in the popularity of socialism. This organization is not alone in their assessment. The American Prospect cited a 2018 Gallup poll showing that,

while 53 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of capitalism, an equal 53 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of socialism. The following year, Pew finds that 49 percent of Americans (not just Democrats) under 30 have a favorable view of socialism—three percentage points higher than the share that has a favorable view of capitalism.

The question implied in Dreher’s article is an enduring one: Is socialism ethical? I do think that socialism is ethical, based on its collective nature. Nemmy Sparks, a Communist Party leader, in his 1947 pamphlet entitled What Is Socialism writes:

Socialism is a Planned Economy where the means of production are owned by society as a whole. Contrary to common misconceptions, socialism cannot be achieved by some attempt just to change the system of distribution in society. Marx and Engels, the founders of scientific socialism showed that the system of distribution of goods in society depends inescapability on the system of production . . . socialism is, therefore, not a system of sharing out.

Sparks demonstrates that socialism is a collectivist system in that everyone owns the economy. This system does not negate individuals’ needs, and because it also doesn’t negate the collective, it benefits the entire society. He does negate, however, the conception that socialism is a system based only on sharing, meaning that it’s this utopian version of society that everyone shares with one another.

Willis Truitt goes in depth into the negativity of individualism in his 2005 book entitled Marxist Ethics:

And discussion of rights ought to begin with a consideration of individualism. For Marxism this is crucial because since the fall of communism many conservatives and reactionaries feel confirmed in their belief that the bourgeois version of predatory individualism has proven to be a permanent and indestructible feature of the world and as the essence of human nature: that egoistic individual, self-seeking, driven by pecuniary interest, possessiveness, owing nothing to society.

For Truitt, socialism doesn’t focus on a few singularities of individuals; it focuses on the collective masses. Ironically, Christian ethicist Simone Weil also agrees with collectivism by sharing that we must be Christ-like and collective, not individualistic, as God gave up his glory to come to earth. Duncan Richter writes in his 2008 book Why Be Good:

On the contrary, one should desire to have no self at all. Weil believes in putting God and God’s creation so much before oneself that one’s own will is, as near as possible, extinguished. Jesus taught that a man could have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. Weil seems to go even further and to advocate a destruction of the self. By this I do not mean literal suicide, but a death of individual will.

While I disagree with the “death of individual will,” I also object to the kind of extreme individualism which supports the unethical system of capitalism.

Lastly, I disagree with Dreher politically, philosophically, and academically, but one thing I disagree with the most is this quote from his article: “A collective loss of historical memory — not just memory of communism but memory of our shared cultural past — within the West is bound to have a devastating effect on our future.” In criticizing young people’s “loss of historical memory,” Dreher bases this memory on false assumptions about communism. Moreover, he doesn’t concern himself with the mistakes and crimes of capitalism. And if we are going to look at the “memory of communism,” we should expand our view to include the historical materialism and ethics of communism. These ethics are aptly described in the Bible: “Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.”

In a time of gross economic and social inequality, the destruction of the environment for the sake of profit, and the waging of wars for natural resources, it’s no wonder the ethics of communism appeal to so many of us young people. For it is we who face the bleak future brought about by capitalism.



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