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  • Writer's pictureMadeline Kim

Real communism only sounds ideal to those with privilege

Updated: May 11, 2022

Privilege — a word we’ve all become acquaintanced with. We are constantly told to check how aspects of our lives, many of which are outside our control, give us societal advantages and blind us from potential hardships others face. White privilege, male privilege, class privilege... we have heard about those. It is important to keep this dialogue going and understand how our privilege can shape our perspectives so that we can better understand those from varying backgrounds. However, there is one that is not discussed but probably should be, especially in light of current events such as the current political climate in Venezuela, which is currently heading toward a dictatorship.

The privilege of not having dealt with the impacts of communism is the one we will be discussing today.

I am privileged in this sense, too. The only exposure to communism that I have faced was reading about it from a safe distance in the comfort of the school’s classroom. I could read and stay up studying for my exam on the Cold War, but I understand that learning about the facts in such a sheltered environment could not fully convey the human costs that communism bore.

I can fully understand why one may find communism appealing, especially in this political climate. In a time when job prospects look bleak at best and the gap between the economic haves and have-nots increase, people want change from the status quo and will be more willing to risk venturing off to an economic policy that promises a chance for equity and overall well-being for all, not just a select few.

It is worth stating that every economic ideology has flaws. A pure laissez-faire economy is another extreme end that is not sustainable, and economists will generally agree that some government intervention is necessary to ensure a fair economy. One of the ten principles of economics states that “governments can sometimes improve economic outcomes.” By stimulating the economy when the market is not running smoothly, government can stimulate an otherwise struggling market and give it the boost that it needs to pick back up again.

Thus, we find ourselves in the middle — a relatively free market that provides some subsidies as a safety net to provide for the poor. Services such as food stamps and unemployment benefits attempt to close the gap between those who are and are not struggling socioeconomically. However, many could argue that society is not doing enough and that the people deserve a much more radical change — specifically, breaking away from capitalism and straight into communism.

To some extent, this seems logical. If something is failing — in this case, our economic policies — try to implement a change in input to get a change in output. However, we cannot dismiss history or contemporary events while we make our decisions. To be able to dismiss the hundreds of lives affected by China’s Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) or the rising death toll in Venezuela now as “not real communism” is to display one’s privilege and complacency. Perhaps these were horrible implementations of communism, but it is worth noting that one of the problems with communism is that people are virtually incapable, if not completely, of transforming this utopia into reality.

This was seen here at Carnegie Mellon on Sept. 13 in Porter Hall 100. English professors Kathy M. Newman and David Shumway discussed communism through differing lenses. Professor Newman used the visual arts, which illustrated Marx as if he were a pop icon instead of a theorist, and Professor Shumway used reasoning to explain the logistics behind communism. The artwork could be universally agreed to be aesthetically pleasing regardless of politics, and the wish for communism was logical. No sound person would be able to object to a society where liberty and equality reign, yet the actual implementation of Marx’s utopia is not nearly as simple as verbally advocating freedom and equality. Yes, capitalism has heavy flaws, and people from all areas of the political spectrum must converge to create a society in which we can ensure the well-being of our people and our society as a whole. However, forcing a radical economic change, especially one in a short amount of time, is catastrophic at best.

Perhaps Karl Marx had his heart in the right place, and perhaps he would have been appalled that his ideology was used to defend the regimes that claimed to center around his vision. However, the fragility between life and death is merciless and does not bow down to intention. Che Guevara, who originally wanted to end class struggles and emotionally expressed it in his autobiography The Motorcycle Diaries, ended up claiming lives in order to progress his ideology. Fidel Castro, whom Justin Trudeau infamously considered a "friend", had a drastically different perception by Florida senator and Cuban-American Marco Rubio, who felt the impact from a far more personal level.

Not having been impacted by communism is not the issue at hand. Willfully ignoring the blood on communist regimes’ and rulers’ hands is.

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