The term “communism” in imperial America is equated in the public imagination with the state-capitalist regimes that formed in the 20th Century in Eurasia. It is identified with atheism, which is certainly unexceptionable if one subscribes to the democratic notion of freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion. Yet communism did suppress open religious expression in some, but not all of its political units: a non-theocratic theocracy if you will.
America hopefully will be communist and the current order transformed through peaceful, non-violent social tumult as was evidenced in the final days of the Cold War and in other areas of the Russian “near abroad.” By “communist” and by embracing a communist America I am referring to the term in its purest context. Community, decentralisation of power, the absence of class exploitation, the purging–recognising the Stalinist emotive overtones of the term–of the odious features of unbridled, senseless, irrational competitive capitalism as it emerged in 18th century Britain.
Karl Marx’s notion of communism would be wondrous for America in some but not all manifestations of the concept. Marx was quite utopian in his call for an association of things that would replace the brutal state of industrial capitalism. His call for a withering away of the state is actually a non-revolutionary notion of an evolutionary reduction in state bureaucracy that would gradually unfold after the proletarian revolution. I concede I never quite understood the logic of this sequence between revolution of the industrial reserve army followed by a slow evolutionary diminution in the role of government but as a theory I know what Marx was suggesting. He believed that humankind could live in peace and justice without the devastating impact of social class and without requiring ruling elites that were derived from bourgeois control. Essentially the architecture would be the same as under laissez-faire capitalism, minimal state, no command economy, extreme decentralisation of power but without the savage, brutal results of unbridled, unregulated capitalism.
For Marx, communism was NOT a coercive system but a voluntary one, again an “associative one” where individual freedom would reign, the absence of class or governmental tyranny would vanish and humankind would be transformed into cooperation and not competition. I am not entirely convinced that the absence of state power or governmental responsibility is compatible with freedom–or more precisely with the notion of equality–but I believe many of the communist views of Marx, while subtle and suggestive, are worthy of implementing in America. I think a communist America, or at least many of the characteristics of communism as developed by the great Marx would be useful to implement as social policy in the United States.
Of course what is the appropriate balance between freedom and equality? Communism subscribes to the notion that absolute freedom will emanate from a transformed human consicousness emphasising equality. That is beautiful, utopian and wonderful for America. I am not sure that I would trust humankind to establish equality and eliminate the death sentence of class stratification without some polity establishing limits to freedom. Yet as a concept, it is worthy ruminating about and incorporating into the public dialogue on how America can be transformed from its current violent, ruthless, aggressive posture into a more irenic nation that sees the value of economic-distributive justice.
I will say more about this in due course as we pursue academic freedom, the need for critical thinking and appreciate the value of open dialogue on issues that may prove controversial.