by Susan Rosenthal
(Updated at: Are You a Communist?)
Who doesn’t love the idea of community? Community implies friends, neighbors, belonging, cooperation, and sharing. The term "communist" gets no such love. The question, "Are you a communist?" is equivalent to asking if a person is a serial killer, a wife beater, or a child molester. Why does society embrace the concept of "community" and revile those who want to create community by abolishing class divisions?
The answer lies in the difference between words and actions. The powerful people who run the world have no problem with the concept of community. George Bush and Condoleezza Rice frequently talk about the "international community," but it’s just talk. If they wanted a real world community, they would not invade other people’s lands or build walls along the U.S. border. To sustain public support, they must talk as if their intentions are honorable when their actions reveal otherwise.
The capitalist class has always lied to secure power. During the French Revolution, the capitalists were too weak to overthrow the aristocracy on their own, so they mobilized the working population to fight for Liberty, Equality, and Brotherhood. However, the two classes define these things very differently.
For capitalists, Liberty means freedom from restrictions on trade and commerce, Equality means an end to the privilege of birth (replaced by the privilege of money), and Brotherhood lasts only as long as it is profitable. For working people, Liberty means freedom from exploitation and oppression, Equality means no class divisions, and Brotherhood means a sharing society. None of these is possible under capitalism. Once the capitalists secured power in France, they called a halt to the revolution and slaughtered the workers who insisted on fighting for their freedom.
Real community threatens the ruling class so much that it will unite with sworn enemies to prevent it. During the Franco-Prussian war of 1871, as the Prussian army advanced on Paris, the French king abandoned the city and fled with his troops to Versailles. Determined to defend their city, the people of Paris organized the world’s first democratic government, the Paris Commune.
The Paris Commune was a government of the people for the people. During the two months that it existed, the Commune disbanded the police and armed the population. Abandoned factories were reopened under workers’ control, and plans were made to provide free education, equal pay for women, and day nurseries. The word "communist" was first coined to describe supporters of the Paris Commune. Around the world, the elite and their supporters spat this word with fear and contempt, while working people embraced it with pride and hope.
The French monarchy could not tolerate a people’s government in the capital city, so it made a despicable deal. France agreed to cease its war with Prussia on the condition that the Prussians allow the French army to enter Paris, destroy the Commune, and retake the city. Not anticipating such treachery, the Commune was crushed.
We must learn the lessons of history if we want a real world community and an end to war. Those who divide in order to rule are not threatened by talk of a sharing society. They will, however, try to discredit and isolate all who actually try to build it. That leaves us with the real question: Which side are you on?
For more on this subject see POWER and Powerlessness, Chapter 9, "The Lies That Bind Us" Available at www.powerandpowerlessness.com