intro to communism
My new friend Will is giving us a primer on what communism’s all about!
Callie: [00:00:00] Shouts out to Vicky, China, and Marianne for becoming new patrons this week and to Ozzie for a pledge increase this week. Thank you, friends. Love you lots. My name is Callie Wright and this is Queersplaining.
So if you were to ask me about my politics, I’m not sure I could give you a specific label other than saying I’m definitely a leftist of some variety. I’m not a capitalist for sure. Most of my politics center around the utter, inability and unwillingness of our current system to be a force for good for any, but the already wealthy and powerful.
I know that I heard a lot of folks who call themselves socialists and communists say stuff I liked, but I always reserved judgment because I was certain what I was taught at school wasn’t the full truth. I should spend more time looking into this stuff. And until now I just plain haven’t and that’s a failure on my part.
And that’s a failure I am beginning to correct this week, this week. You’re going to get an introduction to communism from a new friend.
Will: [00:00:58] My name is Will Nguyen. I go by he / him and I am a Marxist. I am, I’m on Twitter as a Star Trek communist. I’m a big Star Trek fan, and I am a communist as my Twitter handle makes very clear.
I think a lot of immigrant kids, like I’m an immigrant kid. I’m a second generation Vietnamese American. Born here in the United States. My parents came from Vietnam back in 82, 1982. And it’s a very similar story that you hear, with the, the immigrants that come here. And I think actually this is a perfect encapsulation of how someone becomes radicalized is, you’re grown, as you grow up, you want to assimilate as much as possible.
You want to integrate, you want it to be accepted and a very powerful tool of doing that is, Identity and assimilation. So a lot of that I went through was wanting to be accepted, wanting to live the quote unquote, American dream work, hard, that kind of stuff you hear all throughout these immigrant communities.
In fact, that’s the most easily and readily disseminated immigrant story. That’s the preferred immigrant story. I also came from a background that was very anticommunist growing up. and a lot of it has to do with just a misunderstanding of what communism is, what socialism is. And for a very long time, those were just kind of the two perspectives of how you became politically aware.
Right? It was either this very liberal perspective of almost, a Hamilton-esque assimilationist perspective, right. And over time you kind of saw that, that wasn’t enough to answer all those types of deep lingering questions in society. So is it better to be the model minority? Is it, is it better to kind of, have diverse faces in high places?
Is that the height of political involvement for an immigrant and over time you kind of saw that that wasn’t enough, actually. In fact, these identity politics, when use that liberal frame, really just, you know, cast a, diverse, paint scheme on inherently a fundamentally repressive system. So it doesn’t matter if there’s an Asian American, in high elected office, if the Island’s office does terrible things.
So I think over time, The limits of kind of politics, the limits of democratic party politics pushed me to kind of, you know, be towards more like a Bernie Sanders. And then from 2016 to now, I think 20, 20, there’s been an acceleration of understanding even further, how there’s been a much deeper class struggle.
Going, throughout history. There’s a great line in the communist manifesto where the history of class, the history of struggle is actually the history of class struggle in, in society and understanding how all those things tied together. How a lot of misconceptions about socialism and communism, Marxism have been deliberately put out there or distort what is the most important lever in addressing all this type of oppression and repression is, is a class analysis and maximum class solidarity. And so over time, I think it was just a combination of the failures of, of liberalism, failures of my, my generation, to the millennial generation. Now the zoomers, generation Z, are very much seeing the limits of capitalism.
The limits of, of, Obama, era politics really accelerated all those types of things. And then also just kind of rediscovering that, a lot of the answers to kind of these, the deep, problems we face down is in fact, not new. It’s been one continuous struggle, one unbroken thread. And that’s what led me to kind of start reading the Communist Manifesto and, and State in Revolution and all these other historical books that laid out the fact that this is actually in fact been one struggle because the working class is yet to come to power has yet to liberate ourselves. Now we still have those chains that we need to liberate ourselves from.
Callie: [00:05:13] Cool. And so that leads us to, talk me through what communism actually is, because I feel like that’s probably a fundamental misunderstanding that a lot of people have about what communism actually is like what that word means and what it entails.
Will: [00:05:29] So I think, you know, just for me, you go back to the basics, right? You go back to what it was described in the Communist Manifesto in 1848, a Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles. The idea that communism is truly a classless stainless society, where a state no longer exists because of state. A state’s function is to mediate between different types of classes, a ruling class in a working class, like in a state kind of intermediates between the two allows one class dominate over another class.
But if you have a truly classless society, there are distinctions between the haves and the have nots. I own, you know, X amount of cars. I live in a nice place. I get to hoard this wealth, generational wealth. There’s a, the end to that type of delineation. Then the, the need for a state, the need for the armed bodies of men, which what Lenin himself said is what the state really is and its final analysis.
That’s what communism is. And that’s an only be really achieved when there, when everyone’s needs are truly met, in terms of everyone has a roof over their head, everyone doesn’t have to worry where the next meal is. They don’t have to work, you know, paycheck to paycheck, hand to mouth, eking out an existence.
Healthcare, mental health care, education, all the necessities for humanity to really thrive, and really prosper, needs to exist there, a super abundance of those goods and services. that’s what communism is. It’s of course has never been achieved because it, we haven’t yet achieved the type of super abundance and the distribution of those resources.
We certainly haven’t eliminated classes or elimination of a state. Yet. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t revolutions that have taken on the mantle, socialism and communism, and there is a particular way to analyze those revolutions. We would consider them worker states, right where the working class comes to power, and they’re actively trying to build towards socialism and communism, but for a variety of reasons, were not successful.
I would also then say socialism is actually related to communism because it’s the stage in between capitalism and communism itself. Socialism is the establishment of a worker state, a workers government, where there still needs to be a state that needs to administer the transition from capitalism to communism and, and the workers need a state to, to, to preserve the gains of the revolution against a counter-revolutionary force because of course the capitalists, when they’re removed from power will not go away quietly.
They need, they need to be combated actively. And you know, the conditions for communism, that super abundance of, of goods and services that productivity of the productive forces have to be built up under. A planned economy that, meets human needs. That’s linked to workers control in terms of workers, democracy, the workers committees, factory committees, workplace committee phase, that’s a term, that’s where the term Soviet comes from.
Soviet is the Russian word for council, right? So the original idea by the 1917 Russian revolution, Bolshevik revolution was the establishment of. A worker state that was run by these councils, these workers councils, these soviets, that could administer the workplace, the factory, and then on a regional level, on a national level, on a federated international level.
And I think, socialism and communism by extension has to be international. It has no borders respects no borders because borders are artificial, right. Workers of the world unite. So I think that’s the very, very quick. Cliff notes version of how I define communism as a Marxist. How do you explain kind of a country is that assume the mantle of socialism and communism and how to explain?
I think, from a starting point, what these ideas mean, because for a lot of people, it just means, man, this just means, gulags and it just means misery. And it just means, you know, people don’t get to eat and all of these historical, misconceptions and lies probably or had been put off, put upon socialism communism in order to discredit any alternative to capitalism.
Callie: [00:09:52] Yeah. Well, and that’s initially where the argument always goes, right. Because any, at least that I’m aware of any, any state that has called itself socialist or communist, certainly has not ended up looking like the ideal that you have painted. And so I’m curious, like what — Help me understand that?
Will: [00:10:12] So I think a lot of it has to do with, how you look at, how material conditions, dictate our material conditions will necessitate social relationships.
that’s actually a fundamental facet of Marxism and socialism and communism is how two things can be true. And they’re oftentimes there are two opposing forces at play. So. what happened, with the Russian revolution and why we, we study it, so closely is that it was the first time to successfully displace the ruling class, the capitalist class, and then were able to withstand the counter-revolutionary forces of the ruling class.
People often forget that, right after October, 1917, you know, the Soviet union, the newly Soviet Republic was invaded by 19 foreign armies, including the United States, right. There was a brutal civil war on top of that. People forget that Russia itself was in a semi-feudal state. The czars were rapidly industrializing, but it was still based on a primarily, very backwards agrarian, rural state.
So that’s the central irony of this is that capitalism breaks. At the weakest link, oftentimes all, that’s not always the case, although, but many cases, it is, it breaks at the T breaks to the point at which, in a country where the economy is not a very developed, you know, there’s no literacy, there’s low infrastructure built out there’s low productive capability, ironically enough, oftentimes those low, conditions in terms of productivity and of infrastructure. It’s those environments that are also the ones that in the most conducive towards revolution, it can take on a socialist character down the road.
It’s, what’s known as combined and uneven development. And in a lot of ways, I think that’s a lot of the challenges you can kind of see emerge from, from developing a worker state, a centralized planned economy. On top of that, there was also the isolation of the russian revolution. The, the lack of the success of revolutions in Germany, in China in 1927, China. The revolutions in Hungary, revolutions in Italy, you know, the central concept of this is that socialism cannot be confined to national borders.
It has to be able to expand across national borders in order to sustain the revolution. If the revolution is, is surrounded, it’s under siege by capitalist forces and it’s already built upon a very low industrial basis. It allows for these conditions are saying, look, people are suffering, but realizing that, you know, it was already built on a low economic base, but there are still tremendous gains that are still made even on this low economic base there.
In fact, they were able to outpace many other capitalist countries because of planned economy. But the isolation of a revolution on national borders does emerge does allow for the emergence of a bureaucracy does allow for emergence of a privilege layer that could then be a damper, could be a active fetter on the full productive capability of a healthy worker state, which is what the Soviet union starts out with, started out with, being it started out as a healthy worker state with workers control through those factory committees. Just the committees over time after Lenin’s death in particular, you know, the rise of Stalin, the rise of a privileged bureaucracy, the delay of the revolution understates the idea, when we say, when I, when, when I say Stalinism, I mean the idea of socialism in one country, which is what Stalin and his bureaucrats on the later implement is that you can, you can build socialism in the national borders itself.
And that is contradiction of what, what, what Lenin originally had wanted in terms of spreading the revolution, allowing the gains to be made a lot of those connections to be made the resources of other countries to help, you know, support, revolutions on an uneven economic basis. I think that allows a bureaucracy.
It allows for oppressive state to emerge, and that is the origins of how you get those slanders of saying, Hey, well, you know, Communism is basically what you want [ inaudible] to look like and, the privilege cast in the USSR, when they gave up on, advocating for world war, world revolution, found common cause with capitalists who, were more than happy to make a deal.
With a bureaucracy that wasn’t a — that wasn’t bent on world revolution that wasn’t bent on overthrowing their rule. You know, the idea of peaceful coexistence is something that is counter revolutionary. I think emerge over time as a cohort developed and as the bureaucracy and the Soviet union solidified.
And you can see that happen in many other communist countries, or so called communist countries right there, bureaucracy would emerge a revolution would happen. taking on the popular mantle Marxism, but without the program or world revolution linking up these revolutions together, then the bureaucracy does emerge and that bureaucracy becomes own ruling class.
And that ruling class can then make deals with the ruling classes of other capitalist countries. It’s how you explain the Chinese state as it is right now, the People’s Republic of China and a lot of other states in that way. And I think a lot of people don’t really understand or see kind of through that initial stereotype or caricature.
Callie: [00:15:45] Yeah. That’s certainly the connection that I wasn’t making. cause I, I mean, I understand the existence of propaganda and know that like, like, yes, what I’m told is probably not true, but, and this is, I mean, it’s just a mistake mistake on my part that I’ve not put the time into learning, which is why we’re here.
Talk to me about what does a fully realized communist world look like. Like, like talk to me about some practical realities of that.
Will: [00:16:14] I think this is one of those things where, we can dare, we can dare to dream. Sure. Should we should there and think of, and think of those broad horizons, but there’s also a part of us that can only, we are also limited by our current conditions to imagine what is possible.
But I think that’s not a dodge. I’m not trying to say that there’s no way to extrapolate, but we can certainly say, you know, in a, in a state. In a truly communist world, right? Where there are no borders. There is no, there are no, nation states that would divide us. it would allow us to, I think, ideally collaborate on a much, fundamental on a much more fundamental level, providing for people’s human needs on a.
On a exponential scale would allow us to redefine social relationships. Right? If we didn’t have to necessarily live paycheck to paycheck, hand to mouth eke out an existence, saddled with debt saddled, with a wage labor, wage slavery, right? How much more in terms of, how much better would our social relationships be right?
People often say that, You know, human humans are inherently greeting. And I would say, if you look at the history of the development of human society, humans are inherently social creatures, right? We want to interact with each other in groups and communities. What have you, we instinctively are social beings that want to develop things together in conjunction with others, whether it’s artwork or whether it’s agriculture production, anything.
Right. That’s what, in a lot of ways separates us from the rest of the. The animal kingdom is that our, our higher mental abilities and our, which allows for a development of social relationships on a scale that, is not quite matched elsewhere in the animal, in the animal world in nature. Right. We have the ability to be really social creatures, create things on such an abstract.
We have the ability of abstraction, right? And develop these close bonds with other people, developing language and art, all of those types of things. Only through the imposition of artificial scarcity, right? The fact that there’s not enough food on the water, not enough shelter, not enough housing, not enough education.
Do people then become more, a hostile, they become more craven. All those types of things have a material basis. And as Marxists, we emphasize the material basis right now, none of this is necessarily pre-ordained inherently or intrinsic within people, but it’s, it is determined by a lot of the material conditions that we find ourselves in.
So a full communist world, I think, you know, a full communist world that Karl Marx envisioned that Lenin envisioned is different than a communist, whether we would envision now because the productive forces have so greatly expanded since, though there are times, right, they would have never dreamed of the internet.
They’ve never dreamed of, of technology, of being able to talk like you and me are talking right now. It’s amazing ability. Right? but in a lot of ways it’s contradictory this technology well, wonderful and great in the use of can be used to data mine can use, be used as surveillance, you know, email and automation should ostensibly make our jobs easier.
Our works or work life, much less stressful, but if anything. We’re on call more now, right? And your email is like hangs us, hangs over us all the time. And automation threatens our livelihoods, threatens our jobs as opposed to, it should really be the opposite automation should mean we should take more vacations.
We have more leisure time. Right. We don’t have to do the drudgery of certain things that can be made it. Right. so in a lot of ways, I would say, communist world in 2020, you know, I can only imagine, but it would mean that we would liberate ourselves from a lot of the day to day drudgery of, of wage labor, pushing paper.
A lot of, a lot of jobs in the 21st century world is letters pushing paper, moving numbers around, right. Nothing really productive in terms of society. How can we harness that technology, that technique, that automation to do the tasks that need to be done in society. And there are essential tasks that needs to happen in society.
But can we automate it? Can we do it in a way that allows us frees us the time to really actually do so many other things right. Flow? You know, for me, I think one of the greatest tragedies of all of capitalism is how many artists, how many poets, how many writers, how many sculptors, how many, how much creative potential is snuffed out?
Because we have the very real and very understandable need to pay the bills and very real understand what needs to feed your family, put food on the table, right? So they take jobs that push paper, or they take three or four gig jobs on the side. They don’t write that novel. They don’t develop the ability to learn multiple languages, play instruments, anything, you know, in terms of unlocking our creativity is hampered by the very real fact that if we don’t.
Sell our labor power in a way that the capitalist dictate to us that we don’t get to eat. So for, for, for me a communist world, I mean, I would say the broad outlines would probably be more for free leisure time for us to do so many other things, unlocking creative potential.
Callie: [00:21:32] I, you know, my response to people being greedy is, is almost, I, I think, it’s funny, you mentioned like, you know, the, the artificial scarcity and that kind of stuff.
And I think I, I. I kind of actually, maybe somehow came to that on my own, because my, my thinking on that was always that like, well, people aren’t greedy, people want like safety, security and social interaction. And in the society that we have built money is how you get those things. And that’s why people are greedy.
It’s not that they. We have this innate desire for material things, it’s that we have this innate desire for, like that’s the only way that we know to get that safety and security and like social clout and community connection. And that’s why we crave those things so deeply. You know what I think about and wonder about.
Is, you know, jobs that are necessary, but not desirable. And maybe this is different, you know, if we lived in a collective collectivist society where we were raised on the idea that like our. Our most important purpose is to contribute to the greater wellbeing of our community. Like maybe that would change.
Right. But like, what I’m thinking about is how we would, how we would accomplish those things that like the only reason people do them is because it’s a way to get a paycheck, like garbage collection or, you know, waiting tables, those kinds of things like jobs that like, I would say most people who do them don’t have a great passion for them and do them just for a paycheck.
Like, I mean, I worked tech support at a call center for internet and, you know, no fucking way I would do that if I didn’t need a paycheck. Right. And so I’m thinking about those kinds of things, and I’m just, I’m wondering your thoughts about that.
Will: [00:23:10] Yeah, so I think a lot of it does have to come with the development of combination of things, right?
Combination of, of, different, societal and cultural expectation. But I think more importantly, it comes from actually the development of the productive force in channeling productive forces in a way that actually can eliminate many of those types of jobs. I think earlier what I was saying, actually would tie into this, right?
So automation or an ability to kind of, use technology or technique is actually a tremendous human achievement, a tremendous human advancement, but under the control of the capitalist under the control of private property, that actually ruins people’s livelihoods. Right? There’s actually, we do have the technology to have self cleaning toilets.
We do have the technology to create garbage or sanitation disposal in a way that would minimize human activity or human involvement to the point where it could also sensibly at down the road become fully automated. If we directed the resources in a planned fashion in order to address those types of needs.
Right. But actually under capitalism, it’s far more profitable. Pay someone. dirt wages, slave wages, exploit their undocumented status in order to do these menial jobs than it actually is to develop the technology to make those jobs ultimately irrelevant. Right? Ultimately, that can be done by automation and because there’s no profit to be made in eliminating menial jobs for undocumented workers.
There is a lot of money to be made in selling an app that, you know, sells you something that’s useless or well, data mind you there’s profit to be made in that, but there’s no profit to be made, eliminating these types of jobs, but that’s only true if you operate under the logic of capitalism, right? The quarterly profits, what the shareholders have to make a return on.
But if it’s under a planned economy, right based off of human need and on the rational planning, what human society actually needs to function, then we say, you know, we need to figure out waste sanitation. We need to figure out, you know, the idea of, hospitality and all these other types of things.
And of course there are different, there are differentiations and, and, Different levels to this, right? The hospitality industry would still exist in a lot of ways. I think many people love to host or to, to be, in a social environment where they can kind of cater to people or serve food and, and those types of things, a lot of people that want to cook that want to be, you know, to serve drinks and that kind of stuff.
You know, you mentioned not bringing up star Trek too much, but you know, Star Trek is a great example of the existence of hospitality industry that’s not necessarily exploited on the wage labor level on that wage slavery level, right? That Joseph Cisco and deep space nine has a restaurant, but there’s no illusion to him being, you know, get him getting paid money, you know, him charging, you know, exorbitant amounts of money, him extorting, the workers that he, that worked for him.
He does it. out of the love of cooking Creole, food. Of cooking Cajun food, right? The love of that kind of stuff. The love of Picard’s who produce fine wines and stuff, Picard. If you will. you know, I think, I think a lot of those functions, right? In terms of food and wine and beverages and, and all those type music, right.
I think a lot of that will still exist. And in fact, we’ll probably flourish. I think. In a lot of ways. I push paper right now in my current day job, I used to be barista back in the day. I love being a barista. I hate being a Starbucks barista. Then I was actually good at making frappuchinos, you know, if you’re really good at making lattes.
And I think that desire to make that perfect drinker, great drink interacting with people will still actually be there if not elevated on a different level. If you didn’t have that, Damocles sword hanging over your head and say, Hey, if you don’t. You know, crank out, you know, X amount of frappuccinos.
You’re not gonna able to scrape together rent for this month, but it’s the love and the passion of doing those types of things that will still always be there and why you actually wanted to do that job in the first place. And so I think it’s a combination of those types of things that with, development of, of these productive forces and the lack of, of scarcity is basic human, human needs.
Then people will become. More, more caring, more empathetic. And on top of that, if you pair it with the actual productive technique, then the elevation of the productive capabilities of society, you can automate many of these types of really menial jobs. And then really allow for a flourishing of, of so many other jobs, hospitality jobs, and other things on a much more qualitatively better level than just kind of, getting paid minimum wage, to do it.
Callie: [00:27:55] Yeah. I think that makes a lot of sense. And, and I’m, you know, I’m, I’m certainly not the kind of person that thinks that we have to have like. A fully fleshed out a hundred percent Bulletproof solution to every single problem to like, understand that the way that we’re doing things now is wrong. Right.
And that’s, I think part of it is that I think as human beings, generally, we tend to have a bit of a status quo bias because unknown is scarier than known even if known sucks for a lot of people. But then of course there is the, you know, the massive propaganda campaign that has. Told us that any way that we do things differently towards, you know, away from capitalism or anything like that, like would spell disaster and would spell, you know, authoritarianism and poverty and all of that sort of stuff.
And, you know, there’s those forces sort of conspire to, to service the status quo. And I’m, I’m definitely not the kind of person that’s like, Oh, like you can’t answer this one question, therefore your whole premise is bullshit, you know? but I, I just, you know, I, I, it’s cool to think about, you know, if we just sort of collectively made the decision that human wellbeing was the most important thing.
Like what would that mean for all of us? Cause I was sitting there thinking like I was using, I was thinking about, you know, my own analogy, like who would pick up trash because that’s not a glamorous job. And a lot of people only do it because, you know, in terms of jobs that don’t need like a college degree, at least in my area, like.
You know, being a sanitation worker pays relatively well for someone who doesn’t have a college degree or something like that. And so a lot of people get into it for that reason. but then I was thinking about like all of the times that I’ve wanted to be involved in my community here, but I don’t because no one else does.
And no one else cares about it. And I was just thinking, like, I don’t know that I would care about a dirty job, like if it was an actual community effort and it was something that like a bunch of us got together to do for the good of everyone. Like, I wouldn’t mind that it was dirty or smell bad or anything like that because like, I would feel satisfied that I did something that benefited my community and the people around me and me along with it.
and so I guess I kind of refuted my own premise.
Will: [00:30:05] No, I don’t think it’s necessarily refuting, but it’s, it’s good to kind of talk through these things because it shows you the contradictions within capitalism, but also shows you that in a lot of ways, humanity has already solved these larger issues already.
Right? When we do clean up for a big house party or big social outing or a big social gathering, right. They’re oftentimes there and your jobs are unpleasant, but we do it because they’re family or we do it because they’re friends or part of the social club, or if we are religious to part of our club or mosque or what have you.
Right. We do those types of functions because we’re happy to do it. Right. It’s only at some point, does that become disconnected with the rest of society? Where, where that becomes far more undesirable and that’s all built in. That’s all, that’s all ultimately determined by capitalism to say, Hey, you know, this is an undesirable job and that kind of stuff.
And the idea to, to, to pit workers against each other, the whole skill workers, unskilled worker. That doesn’t mean there are some jobs that don’t require a specific training. Of course not. There is that differentiation, but the idea of pitting really workers against each other in that way really serves ultimately the purpose of capitalism, right?
To, to kind of just, you just exist to survive and consume. That’s basically it, it consume for our profits.
Callie: [00:31:31] Yeah. yeah, and I, I don’t know, I worked harder at a fast food restaurant than I ever did that I ever do as a podcaster. And so I just. And like, that just feels like that’s a thing that, to me, that like everybody knows, right.
I make part of my living as a podcast and it’s hard work. Sure. But like my worst day as a podcast is better than my best day as a cook at a fast food place. And I make more money podcasting,
Will: [00:31:53] I think, particularly with, with COVID-19 that pandemic, it shows you the tremendous disconnect between an essential worker and how an essential worker is, is viewed and compensated in society.
Right? So all of a sudden, all those grocery store workers, those warehouse workers, the people that deliver your packages. Right. They’re very essential. Right. And yet, Often they’re not paid very much, right. Or they were always considered, you know, Hey, you can always just stock shelves somewhere. Right. And all of a sudden they seem to you very, very essential.
And it shows you that is the tremendous disconnect. The contradiction within society, right. Is that in reality, those that make the money often only make money off of the hard labor of other people. And often through just the idea of private property and I just can command your labor just because I hold a piece of paper or whatever.
I may not be smarter than you. I certainly won’t work as hard as you, but just because I own this, I can, you know, expect all of your paycheck for rent. I can fire you at any time. Right. That’s the exploitation that more and more people are just saying, Hey, there’s gotta be a better way than just living to pay bills and then dying.
Callie: [00:33:09] So I’m curious, how do we, how do we navigate the stuff in everyday life? Right. Because I, I will say up until now, my politics have mostly been defined as just like, I don’t know what I am, but I know I’m anticapitalist because this is all horseshit. But obviously like, you know, the people with the power are capitalists.
And so like we have to figure out how to survive in this system, such that it exists. And, you know, I think about my place in this is like, you know, as a podcaster and a freelancer, I’m a small business owner. I don’t have employees, but I do pay people to do work for me from time to time. And, you know, I try to pay them fairly for the work that they do and that kind of stuff.
But it, and obviously this answer is probably going to be different based on like, you know, where you are in life, where your position is and that kind of stuff. Because my, like I said, my business is mostly me. so I don’t have, you know, employees to — or anything like that. but I’m, I’m, I’m just curious about like what, or to what extent do you find we can actually live these politics right now?
Will: [00:34:15] So I think it’s, It’s a question of power. It’s a question of which class is in power and gets to run society. And, until we resolve that question and it’s ultimately a question of how much the capitalist can, can still rule over us, there is, there is no way to kind of really carve out a, I would say, an ethical niche within capitalism because you still have the exploitation happening around the world.
It’s a inter — it’s an interconnected global system. And it can only be dismantled at a systemic level, can only be overthrown in a revolution. And a revolution is just a displacement of one class over another class. It had happened many times in other revolutions that weren’t socialists, they’re called Bourgeoisie revolutions, right?
The elimination of a feudal system to be replaced by bourgeoisie democracy, which is what happened in the United States. No longer King. Fine. We have a Congress, but it’s a Congress of wealthy white landowners. Right? But it was no longer feudalism. No, no longer. You were, you were ruled by someone that was born into it, or you work this plot of land because your family worked this plot of land three generations ago, five generations ago.
Whatever, you don’t ever change it. That’s a revolution. The change in social relationships that change in social classes, a social revolution really means the working class taking power. The working class, is the most powerful force in society. And right now in the world, the working class constitutes the vast majority of the world.
Right now, people work, they sell their labor power. They earn a wage to work in a factory. They work in an office building. They work towards the social production of goods and services. They have to work with each other. In order to produce something. Of course there are exceptions like yourself, who was more of a freelancer, although you still rely on or work with others.
A lot of people after work with others. Right. And that’s actually the, the, the, the, the strength of the working class is a social relationships and forges through the necessity of the production of goods and services that could only be produced. If we worked together as a team, a company, you know, what have you, right.
It can’t be done as an individual farmer, individual peasant, what have you. That’s what we mean when we say the working class has the revolutionary potential, because those connections that we forge, in our daily day to day lives is actually how we actually can run society. Right? All those functions of those factories at workplaces actually perform essential goods, performance, central services, and produce central goods for society.
We actually already run society in a lot of ways. Except that we actually don’t get to call the shots. We produce all that wealth that gets, that gets extracted as surplus value to the capitalists, the people that just collect the rent. So for us, it’s the question of as a Marxist and as a revolutionary socialist and someone that considers himself a communist is how do you take that power and actually propel things forward.
And I think for us, for me speaking, I’m part of a organization called the International Marxist Tendency, the IMT. And our perspective is we need to really build an organization that can connect with workers around the world and really help them understand their own power. To understand, Marxism, understand how society works.
The history of previous struggles in the past, because, previous struggles are very important. We need to learn how they were successful. How are they defeated to learn the lessons, how to move forward right now? Because it really is one continuous struggle. It’s still continuous. Cause we haven’t actually succeeded in the working class, taking power.
And we need to have a roadmap to understand how to, how to do that. They’re looking at previous revolutions and a theory, a theory is just the, for us, that generalize experiences of the working class, right? So all the best practices and things that you kind of gleaned from previous experiences apply it to the current situation.
So for us, we need to elevate with what I would consider. What we need to do is elevate. People’s understanding of why the world works, where it works, and then what can you do about it? And a lot of it has to do with the fact that we’re most powerful when we withhold our labor. We withhold our labor power, right?
There’s a great line, not a light bulb turns, turns on not a wheel turns. without the kind permission of the working class.
Callie: [00:38:37] And who was that quote from?
Will: [00:38:38] Ted grant? he’s a, he’s a Marxist theoretician in the UK. And, he was actually one of the founders of our organization, the IMT, but the idea that is basically the working class, has tremendous power.
It just doesn’t understand its power. Nothing really happens if without the workers moving goods and services and products. Teachers teaching, you know. Paramedics, you know, providing care. Nurses, providing care, you know. Grocery workers stocking shelves. All those types of things don’t happen. You know, electricians, plumbers, don’t, you know, they don’t go to work and do their tasks in society.
Society really does come to, to come to a halt. So it’s understanding that, if we withhold our labor. At these key moments, these key, these key choke points, we really have all the leverage and understanding how to use that power to really push beyond the limits of capitalism to say, we already run an organized society.
We know how to run schools. We know how to run a grocery stores. We know how to run tech companies. We know how to run an electric grid already. Many of the workers already know that, but they actually don’t have an input on how actually to run society based off of that. And our idea is that the workplaces and the committees, the factory committees, the workplace committees, the Soviets, if you will, or you call it a workplace committee nowadays, they have the ability for us to come together to decide the best way to run a workplace, the best way to provide goods and services.
So why don’t we extrapolate and use that power to actually run and plant society based off of human needs. If people don’t actually understand that full power, because in — we’ve all been taught that’s I think that’s, that’s our job right now. That’s what needs to be done.
Callie: [00:40:22] So I’m thinking about models and I’m wondering, like, indigenous cultures before colonization would, and I know like part of your definition of communism is that it’s borderless.
And obviously like 2020 is much different than, you know, very, very early on, And because, you know, the way long ago, the world wasn’t interconnected. And so I know definitionally, there’s probably problems with this, but, you know, pre colonization, I’m thinking about like indigenous peoples, like would some or all or most, or any of those societies be considered communist in any way?
Will: [00:40:58] Absolutely. I think, Mark’s when he was talking about, communism and, and talking about communism in the advanced industrialized countries, you talked about the, you know, he used a term primitive communism, but he only used that in terms to describe the motor production. Right? the, the motor production was still primarily, you know, a hunter gatherer.
It was still primarily on a town or communal basis. It wasn’t scaled up on a much larger level. Certainly you can never foresee how it would scale up to a global level.
Callie: [00:41:25] Sure.
Will: [00:41:25] But there were those exactly what you said. There were different social relationships that could be described as communism or communistic in terms of, of, not derived off of the extraction of rent.
The extraction of a profit, the extraction of surplus value of one’s labor power. Then, you know, you, you, you shared things collectively. You decided things on a collective basis, a shared basis, a somewhat semi planned basis, depending upon your town, your village, your law council, the community, absolutely.
Callie: [00:41:56] A criticism that I hear of modern. Leftism, at least in the United States. and this is a lot of the conversation about like Bernie Sanders, for example, and this idea of being class reductionist and sort of dismissing questions about racism or sexism or anything like that. And basically saying that literally everything comes back to class and those other things are, are less relevant or not relevant.
And, I’m curious, like where that fits in with your thinking?
Will: [00:42:31] Well, I would say we’re certainly not class reductionists, but we understand the fulcrum of which society moves and understand the folk of which history moves. but that does not mean in the history that, and that moves on a class basis, but that doesn’t mean that we ignore in any way.
a lot of the racial. sexual gender, you know, all of those oppressions that continue to exist and only exacerbated under capitalism. those definitely exist, right? So obviously right now in the heat of the moment and the heat of the time is right with George Floyd, and the murder of George Floyd, the black lives matter protests for all those types of things.
We definitely understand, the unique oppression that black Americans have faced historically this country and around the world. And you kind of see it, you know, the issue of, of that violence is actually international. It’s been taken up on, on an international basis because, you know, there’s that thing as Malcolm X quote, you can’t have capitalism without racism in a sense that racism is really utilized by the capitalists to divide the working class, to really pit one worker, literally against another worker in order to exploit them. Without understanding that members of a particular community will face unique oppressions, right. You know, the women’s oppression, LGBT oppression is very unique, oppressions under capitalism, exacerbated by those conditions. And we need to understand and link up with, those are those individuals that face those oppressions.
Cause that’s. Oftentimes their first and most important, entry point into struggle is that we are being oppressed because of our, of who we are, the color of our skin. Who we love, the language that we speak. We look different, you know, we are, we, we exceed the exploitation, we feel it, and we want to fight back against it.
And as much as we totally understand that, and we say the best way to fight back against it, the only way to fight back against it is to have the maximum class solidarity. In order to tackle the systemic cause and the systemic, origin of all of these problems, right? Th the, the final arbiter of all these problems and, and final arbiter in a lot of, a lot of ways of, of this type of oppression.
And it’s, it’s a capitalism, right? In terms of being able to help power over one’s lives, to be able to be discriminated against, to remove one’s livelihood, to deprive you of, of, of life under this system based off of, of your particular, your particular identity or particular community, I think is, is something that resonates with a lot of people.
Callie: [00:45:04] Rad. So if somebody, after hearing this conversation wants to, wants to take a deep dive, where should, where should folks start?
Will: [00:45:13] So they can definitely check out the, the website, my organization, marxist.com, which is our international, site. And also check out the U S site where houses the U S organization site, which is socialistrevolution.org, all one word.
We do a lot of, our training and our education here. talking about relevant issues are happy right now. And applying that Marxist method. To it. And then obviously you can find me on Twitter @bloomerniner. my handle is the Star Trek Communist. I’m pretty amazed at, you know, I only talked about star Trek, like twice in this podcast.
That’s pretty amazing. Actually,
Callie: [00:45:49] I am too given that I feel like you and I have a similar level of love for Star Trek. I just try to think about my target audience. And I know that lots of my listeners are star Trek fans. Lots of them are not, they come mainly for queer and trans content. but I thought this was an important conversation.
Cause I feel like I’m having a little bit of an awakening on my own. Cause it’s more like, I’ve just never. Put in enough time to really, really learn about it. It’s just like a lot of like, well, I’ve heard that person say they’re a communist and they’re saying a thing that makes sense to me. So maybe that’s what I, I’ve definitely been, you know, the last, I don’t know, probably four to five years of my life.
I would’ve put myself silently in the anticapitalist camp. And just like, I don’t know that I had enough like knowledge or anything like that to call myself what I am. but.
Will: [00:46:33] It’s a great place to start though.
Callie: [00:46:35] Yeah, yeah, yeah. well, and, and I think, you know, we all grow up handed a model and the first step kind of has to be understanding why that model doesn’t work before you can replace it with another one. So.
Will: [00:46:47] Absolutely.
Callie: [00:46:48] Cool. Well, thank you so much for your time. My friend, I sincerely appreciate it. And, I, I plan on doing more research myself and, yeah, and, and maybe we can do a Star Trek thing at some point because, cause I feel like, I don’t know. I feel like if we went down that road, we could do hours and hours and days and days with the Star Trek stuff.
Will: [00:47:09] I would look forward to it and that would be fantastic.
Callie: [00:47:13] Thanks for your time Will, and thanks for helping to begin my education on communism. I definitely plan to do more looking into this and more reading and maybe I’ll do more episodes like this with folks with other political philosophies.
I’d love to know more about anarchism, for example, like communism, it’s a thing I know the mainstream narrative is wrong about. And I’ve not taken the appropriate amount of time to find out what it’s really about to see what I think if you’d be interested in that sort of thing. Let me know. I can make that kind of thing, an occasional series on the show.
If enough folks are interested, if you want to help keep this thing going and help me keep the lights on, you can head to patreon.com/queersplaining and make a per episode donation to support the show. Any amount helps and is greatly appreciated. Thank you. Friends. Love you lots. Before I go, I want you to know that if you’re lost, you’re hurting, you’re scared.
If you feel like no one cares and no one understands, you need to know there’s a community out here that loves you cares for you knows that you’re capable of amazing things and that you are worthy of love. If you’re struggling, please, don’t be afraid to reach out until next time friend, my name is Callie Wright and this is Queersplaining.