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    Thinking like a Marxist

    The Red and Black
    • Vol. 2
    • Iss. 8

    This text is adapted slightly from "Thinking Like a Communist," a contribution to the Educational Program of North Korea by Comradeland.

    I'd hazard to say that for most people stepping into socialism doesn't begin with theory, it begins with a feeling. A feeling that something isn't right in the world, the inequalities start to mount up and can no longer be ignored, the disparities in power and punishment start to glare. So you say to yourself, "Gee, things sure are unfair, I wonder why that is?"

    This is the first step on the road for most to Communism. But what does it mean to think like a Marxist? What is it like to see the world through Marxist lenses? Put into four words our thought process can be condensed down to "dialectically, revolutionary, scientifically, practicality".

    To start with, we see the world dialectically. This means we view life and history as a series of contradictory and opposing forces. Rich vs poor, landed vs unlanded, urban vs rural, the list goes on. These forces are opposing, and through their clashing of interest's history is advanced. We view all of history through this lens, with almost no room for "great men" to enact their will on history. Instead, "great men" are just the mouthpieces of dialectical forces moving in the background.

    A communist knows that there are eternal forces fighting against the advent of worker power. A liberal or conservative might say "Oh unions are weak now, shame that nobody cares anymore!" chalking the bulk of the responsibility to individual feelings. A communist on the other hand knows that the reason unions are weak is decades of attack from the capitalist class to degrade their effectiveness. Nothing happens without reason, people didn't stop caring about unions on their own, they were lead there by forces stronger and richer than unionized labor.

    Here's a simple way to begin thinking dialectically. Next time you hear something on the news like "People continue to protest the recent shooting in Charlotte", think about the forces that caused this. On one side you have a racist and oppressive police force that stands in defense of bourgeoisie capital, and on the other side you have a collection of oppressed minorities and allies. Rather than looking at it as "a bunch of angry people protesting", look at them as a part of the larger dialectical force of "the unsatisfied oppressed masses". If violence or looting happens, it's not an expression of a few rogue individuals doing what they want, it's the expression of dispossessed class anger. En-masse people are more expressions of class forces than their individual desires.

    Next, our mindset should always strive to be revolutionary. What this means is that we do not get caught under the wheels of trying to reform a broken system. To us, it is impossible to reorient the class structure without destroying it. In the same way you can't slowly explode a bomb, you can not slowly reform and rearrange classes.

    Having a revolutionary mindset simply means that we will not attempt to reform the system or accept it the way it is. Only a radical destruction of the existing class structures (banks, government institutions, businesses, ect) and rebuilding under the control of the working class is tolerable.

    This does come with a certain amount of acceptance on the need for eventual armed resistance. Communists know that the capitalist system will never give up without a fight, and will certainly never allow us to take over and destroy them without a fight. Ideas of peaceful resolution need to be discarded, no class is going to willingly allow itself to be destroyed, especially not the richest, greediest, and smallest class of capitalists.

    Thirdly, our approach to the world is scientifically. The basis of this is our belief in materialism. Materialism means that we believe everything that exists has an explainable and understandable reason. In this life, things like ghosts, a supreme being, superstitions, curses, voodoo, and other non-real things have no impact on reality. The world is a rational and understandable place, nothing in it can not be explained with science. The mind does not control or create objective reality. We believe strongly in learning from the examples of history, and by analyzing the forces at play much of social development can be made into a science. But unlike anthropology we primarily concern ourselves with the economic interactions between classes as the driving force for change.

    And lastly, our actions should always strive for practicality. We struggle to move the masses from where they are, not from where we want them to be. Our actions must always be guided by practicality, not by idealism. Here is an easy idealism to get lost in: "socialism is inevitable". There is nothing to prove this is true, history does not bear this out, and yet I always hear it from people. Society is not on some intrinsic path forwards to being more humane and equal, it must be brought there with hard work. We do not believe that thoughts and feelings on matters is good enough, or that our personal feelings justify incorrect courses of action.

    This is one of the greatest hurdles when it comes to socialists working together. Sometimes the compromises that have to be made for the practical situation upset the more puritanical book learned members of the movement. This is especially true in my experience of followers of Trotsky, who complain endlessly about the failures of various socialist movements yet have exactly 0 of their own successful revolutions to show. Things like Lenin's New Economic Policy, or Stalin's Socialism in One Country may not be the most puritan "correct" communist decisions, but they WERE the correct decisions for the materialist conditions they were made in.

    We do not believe that any reliable change ever arises from "good intentions". Reliable change only comes from having a practical stand against things that are directly causing oppression. For example, liberals love to talk about "good cops". And while the good cop narrative might appeal to people who want to feel good, or think that the individual matters as much as the system, it is practically speaking – false. Sure there are good individuals, people who tuck their kid in at night, kiss their SO before going off to work, and then plant their boot firmly on the necks of the oppressed. A communist does not care about how nice of a person the police man is, from a practical standpoint that officer is supporting oppression and an oppressive system, this is the only thing that matters about that person if you are fighting against oppression. So to me it hardly matters who that cop is, I must oppose him on the basis of practicality if nothing else. He stands against equality and my interests, thus he must be confronted and known to be the enemy.

    Communists do not believe that things like "moral character", "strength of will", or "optimism" are acceptable advancement methodologies. Simply believing is not enough to enact change!

    We do not believe in a liberal concept of "human rights". The idea that the right to education, healthcare, liberty, justice, and all that jazz just because you are a human is great in theory. However, as communists we believe that these things will never be secured if we rely on human's good will and intentions, especially parliamentary politics. Under capitalism the average person is degraded to the point they do not think they can effect change, their vacillitations in opinion at the ebb and flow of corporate media and money means that anything deemed a "right" today can be taken away tomorrow. The only method of guaranteeing effective human rights that can not be denied is to build a just system around them that guarantees them simply through its normal operating procedure. Not only that, but we must set aside a liberal concept of "equality" to remove those who are perpetuating inequality within our system. A liberal might say "A capitalist has as much freedom to earn money as you!", while a communist knows that nobody should have the power to oppress and exploit another, and that the liberals concept of "freedom" is just freedom for the slave owner.

    A communist economic system is this guarantee. It's not enough to say that all people should have a voice, you have to actually give them one by smashing the economic organs controlling media and voting. It's not enough to say that healthcare is a right and provide a "cheap" way to get it, it must be guaranteed in the constitution and social contract. It's not enough to say that you deserve a justice system that is fair, you have to destroy the corrupt for-profit system entirely. You can not legislate human rights, you can only guarantee them by making their guarantee a vital part of the social contract. Human rights flow from the system, not from individuals or "allowing" people to have them.

    Read the full article at Educational Program of North Korea
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