It is truly baffling how any clear minded and reasonable individual could ever come to the conclusion that the corrupt and disjointed ideology of communism is not only viable, but a preferable system of governance.
The Baffling Thought Process of Becoming a Communist
For as long as I can remember, I’ve puzzled about why people become communists. I have no doubt about why someone would stop being one. After all, we have a century of evidence of the murder, famine, and general destruction caused by the idea. Ignoring all this takes a special kind of willful blindness to reality.
Even the theory of communism itself is a complete mess. There is really no such thing as common ownership of goods that are obviously scarce in the real world. There must be some solution to the problem of scarcity beyond just wishing reality away. Perhaps ownership and trade? Slogans and dreams are hardly a suitable substitute for a workable program.
But how communism would work in practice is not something they want to talk about. They just imagined that some magical Hegelian shift would take place in the course of history that would work it all out.
So if there is no rational case for communism as such, why do people go for this stuff?
The Red Century
The New York Times has been exploring that issue in a series of remarkable reflections that they have labelled Red Century. I can’t get enough, even the ones that are written by people who are—how shall I say?—suspiciously sympathetic to communism as a cause.
The most recent installment is written by Vivian Gornick. She reflects on how her childhood world was dominated by communists.
The sociology of the progressive world was complex. At its center were full-time organizers for the Communist Party, at the periphery left-wing sympathizers, and at various points in between everything from rank-and-file party card holders to respected fellow travelers….
When these people sat down to talk, Politics sat down with them, Ideas sat down with them; above all, History sat down with them. They spoke and thought within a context that lifted them out of the nameless, faceless obscurity into which they had been born, and gave them the conviction that they had rights as well as obligations. They were not simply the disinherited of the earth, they were proletarians with a founding myth of their own (the Russian Revolution) and a civilizing worldview (Marxism).
While it is true that thousands of people joined the Communist Party in those years because they were members of the hardscrabble working class (garment district Jews, West Virginia miners, California fruit pickers), it was even truer that many more thousands in the educated middle class (teachers, scientists, writers) joined because for them, too, the party was possessed of a moral authority that lent shape and substance, through its passion for structure and the eloquence of its rhetoric, to an urgent sense of social injustice….
The Marxist vision of world solidarity as translated by the Communist Party induced in the most ordinary of men and women a sense of one’s own humanity that ran deep, made life feel large; large and clarified. It was to this clarity of inner being that so many became not only attached, but addicted. No reward of life, no love nor fame nor wealth, could compete with the experience. It was this all-in-allness of world and self that, all too often, made of the Communists true believers who could not face up to the police state corruption at the heart of their faith.
Sounds fascinating, if bonkers (Marxism is hardly a “civilizing worldview”). It sounds less like an intellectual salon of ideas and more like a religious delusion. Those too can be well intentioned. The key here is a dogmatic ideology, which serves as a kind of substitute for religion. It has a vision of hell (workers and peasants exploited by private-capital wielding capitalist elite), a vision of heaven (a world of universal and equal prosperity and peace), and a means of getting from one to the other (revolution from below, as led by the vanguard of the proletariat).
Once you accept such an ideology, anything intellectual becomes possible. Nothing can shake you from it. Okay, that’s not entirely true. One thing can shake you of it: when the leader of the cult repudiates the thing you believe in most strongly.
Continue reading HERE.