One of our tangents from the symposium the other day has kept me thinking these past few days. Dr. J’s question about the compatibility of democracy and communism was really a new idea for me. So often, people, probably those who don’t even really understand what communism really is, portray it as the most evil of all evils, the greatest imaginable threat to democracy. It’s an incredible idea to imagine a system in which the two are not mutually exclusive and, in my opinion, this idea deals with some of the main complaints against communism quite nicely.
One of the first arguments against communism that pops up in any debate is the problem of incentives. People won’t work (at least not efficiently) if they don’t have something to gain from working hard, unless their very survival depends upon it. This argument, however, is entirely the product of capitalist logic. Admittedly, most people in our society would avoid work if they could enjoy their same quality of life without it. The only reason work is such a burden, though, is that the system of capitalism alienates it. We are so enshrouded in capitalism that we might not even be able to envision a world in which the true satisfaction of free conscious labor drives people to produce instead of desperate self-interest, but I’m sure we’ve all experienced this phenomenon to a smaller degree in that feeling of pride you get after finishing some kind of project.
The next common initial complaint is where the potential for the coexistence of communism and democracy really comes in handy. In practice, so many of the attempts at communism have fallen into the traps of dictatorship and tyranny. The association between the two, communism and the complete elimination of the voice of the people, is deeply ingrained but essentially unnecessary. Communism only truly demands the elimination of the corrupt and abusive capitalist economic system. The representative system of government we prize could remain and thrive in this new system, free from the cruel reigns of capitalism. Aren’t the ways capitalism most blatantly interferes in our government the things that bother us the most, the lobbying power of big business, the way corporations are valued over (and even considered) people?
I’m pretty well sold on this communism thing. And if the Occupy Wall Street movement is any kind of real indication, so are a lot of people. Are you?