Among the fallacies Americans have come to accept regarding communism, one of the most prevalent is the notion that communism is anti-American and threatens the “sacred foundations” of our presumed American freedom. During the Red Scares and the era of McCarthyism, hatred for communism was perpetuated through a sense of xenophobia and anxiety toward what was considered foreign and/or a threat to American culture. The call for labor reforms, womens’ suffrage and even reformist policies made by presidents such as Roosevelt were viciously attacked and identified as “socialist” by the fear-mongering bourgeoisie. This was because they supposedly undermined the “American way of life.”
In truth, communism most certainly does oppose the American imperialism system, but it is important to understand the reasons why, and to do that, one must examine it. We are opposed to American Exceptionalism as a detrimental form of ideology and national chauvinism. We are also opposed to American imperialism, which has led the imperialist and capitalist camp since after World War II. This does not mean communists are against the workers of America, if that is what is meant by “anti-Americanism.”
We do, in fact, place great value upon the working class citizens of America, and wish for nothing more but their emancipation. Whereas America touts itself as the land of the free and of democracy, the communist knows that the “freedom and democracy” of America is not real freedom or democracy in the least. We, however, endeavor to create a society in which “freedom and democracy” for the proletariat is secured, unlike the American bourgeoisie whose “freedom and democracy” is a mask concealing their hegemonic power. Now, let us examine communism in its relation to the principles of American Exceptionalism, which was a tool in the hands of McCarthyite reaction and still retains it’s place in the hearts and minds of millions of working class citizens.
Freedom to Criticize
One such claim of American Exceptionalism is that there is the right to criticize freely; this includes the so-called freedom of speech and the freedom to protest, which are supposed to be constitutionally protected by the state. It becomes sheer irony however when an American citizen then attempts to violently criticize suspected political dissidents of the capitalist system who have themselves criticized the government. Historically, this meant going so far as to imprison and execute those who spoke out against the poor working conditions and those who realized the extent of exploitation and imperialism that was plaguing the Earth.
But do communists oppose the right to criticize freely? Certainly not! Leninists have always favored criticism, from both the people and the government itself. For example, Lenin is noted for responding to arguments against Bolshevism in Pravda, the newspaper publication of the Soviet Union.Stalin had also established “inspections” of the workers and peasants in which the officials and working class worked together to better determine how to meet the needs of the working class. This not only included freedom of criticism, but it even included the ability of the working class to punish state officials who were acting poorly in their work. An emigrant of the Soviet Union interviewed in the 1950s is himself noted for saying: “Honestly, I have to say that the People’s Court usually rendered just sentences favoring the workers, particularly with regard to housing cases.” Another Soviet interviewee said: “Anyone could complain in a formal way, especially when he had the law behind him. He could even write to a paper, and in this way let the higher officials know about his complaint.”
“Precisely in order to develop self-criticism and not extinguish it, we must listen attentively to all criticism coming from Soviet people, even if sometimes it may not be correct to the full and in all details. Only then can the masses have the assurance that they will not get into ‘hot water’ if their criticism is not perfect, that they will not be made a ‘laughing-stock’ if there should be errors in their criticism. Only then can self-criticism acquire a truly mass character and meet with a truly mass response.” Criticism helps protect the state from excessive bureaucracy, disorientation, and corruption.
Freedom of Dissent
The right to hold unpopular beliefs is another principle that American Exceptionalism prides itself on, yet look how wonderful this principle has turned out in America! During the socialist stage of development in a revolutionary state, there can indeed be criticism and opposition, so long as this opposition does not take particularly violent form of counter-revolutionary activity. But just as well, as mentioned, the “right to hold unpopular beliefs” is liberalism of sorts, and that is furthermore to say that this principle can be interpreted in a variety of ways. As any well rounded Marxist knows, liberalism is an opportunistic ideology that calls for unprincipled peace bringing about political degeneration within society. This liberalistic principle of “freedom of speech,” or the idea that everybody is able to be wrong, is in itself wrong. When it comes down to it, there is no place for mere opinions in relation to scientific doctrine, and in some societies, these “unpopular beliefs” may be a matter of life and death.
Do Nazis deserve to remain free simply because their beliefs are “unpopular?” A level of repression is always necessary, and even the capitalist understands this. He just applies it in different, more repugnant forms. In further reference to America itself, “unpopularity” changes over time; as would be the dialectical analysis of history, where everything is in constant motion, essentially changing and evolving.
The level of “popularity” a set of beliefs has is more in correlation to specific classes of society and it is not necessarily a nationwide principle. But to conclude, the liberal notion of “equal rights to expression” can prove to be detrimental to society, and as such, communists must combat against such liberalism where necessary. At any rate, when will American chauvinists respect the “unpopular beliefs” of communists and why then, should we communists ever bother adhering to their hypocritical, liberal bourgeois beliefs? And what of the scores of communists and suspected leftists imprisoned or ridiculed for their “unpopular beliefs” or even today’s rampant Tea Party movements? Americans need to better examine the contradictions within their imperialist system.
Independence of Thought
Another principle of the American Exceptionalist idea is the right to independence of thought. How ironic for capitalists to be calling for “independent thought” while bombarding the working class with propaganda campaigns dedicated to molding the perfect, hollow shell of a consumer, devoid of any thoughts at all, further creating petty divisions among us! The beauty of Marxism is that it attempts to grasp and understand society in its entirety rather than as mere individuals independent from one another. Therefore, in communist society, the people do in fact retain independent thought, but thought itself is more grounded in collectivism; that is to say that the people are united and apply their talents, creativity and thoughts together to solve problems and better improve society. Today in a world of capitalism, the capitalistic economy in itself is based on interdependence and it is foolish to think that economics, let alone society can function through total independence.
Furthermore, just as the world’s economy under capitalism is inherently uneven and exploitive in its development, an excess of individualism leads to uneven development in society as well. This is to say that when “independent thoughts” remain excessively prevalent in society, there becomes further division among the people, problems remain unsolved, and the solutions attempted to solve the problems are generally insufficient and ultimately dedicated to saving capitalism from being crushed under its own weight.
In order for society to properly function, much like an engine, there must be many components each working in unison, in action and thought, and without the arrogance of petty-bourgeois individualism to hinder progress in development. But this sense of unison is not established through coercion, but through open education, spearheading class consciousness and understanding of Marxism. In the capitalist system, “independent thought” is often wasted on lackluster attempts to solve trivial problems that will always arise under the material conditions created by capitalism itself, and therefore when one calls for “the right of independent thought,” they must specify to what extent and what they mean precisely, and independence must furthermore be kept in limited quantity; unity and collective action and thought is far greater to society. Also as mentioned, it is silly for Americanism to call for “independent thought” while the television rages on inciting massive consumerism and creating slaves to the popular, trivial culture, and the merciless free market system. If Americans truly had the independent thought they wish for from the bourgeoisie, they would have ideally realized just how exploitative this very system is.
I have covered communism’s relation to the main principles of American Exceptionalism, but there are still the pressing issues of democracy and freedom to cover, so of course we must get right down to it and begin by explaining how communism does in fact call for democracy and freedom, but in their true form. Before understanding how democracy and freedom work in the communist system, it is imperative to understand how they operate in capitalist society, that is, if democracy and freedom in capitalist society operate at all in capitalist society! In fact, capitalism is not able to create democracy, at least not democracy “in general,” that is for all, because capitalism deamnds the people be divided into classes. Many capitalists themselves, especially the more radical libertarian-leaning who seem to reject democracy itself, often base their assumptions upon the unfortunate example of “American democracy” (dictatorship of the bourgeoisie) rather than true democracy. In the words of Lenin on “capitalist democracy,” or bourgeois democracy: “The most democratic bourgeois republic is no more than a machine for the suppression of the working class by the bourgeoisie, for the suppression of the working people by a handful of capitalists.”
“The workers know perfectly well, too, that even in the most democratic bourgeois republic “freedom of assembly” is a hollow phrase, for the rich have the best public and private buildings at their disposal, and enough leisure to assemble at meetings, which are protected by the bourgeois machine of power. The rural and urban workers and small peasants—the overwhelming majority of the population—are denied all these things. As long as that state of affairs prevails, ‘equality’, i.e., ‘pure democracy’, is a fraud.”
“Freedom of the press” is another of the principal slogans of American imperialism. The workers know – and socialists everywhere know too – that this freedom is a deception because, as Lenin said, “the best printing presses and the biggest stocks of paper are appropriated by the capitalists, and capitalist rule over the press remains – a rule that is manifested throughout the whole world all the more strikingly, sharply and cynically. The capitalists have always use the term ‘freedom’ to mean freedom for the rich to get richer and for the workers to starve to death.the best printing presses and the biggest stocks of paper are appropriated by the capitalists, and while capitalist rule over the press remains—a rule that is manifested throughout the whole world all the more strikingly, sharply and cynically […]” then there can be no freedom. In capitalist usage, “freedom of the press” means privately-owned press only. “It means freedom of the rich to bribe the press, freedom to use their wealth to shape and fabricate so-called public opinion. In this respect, too, the defenders of ‘pure democracy’ prove to be defenders of an utterly foul and venal system that gives the rich control over the mass media. They prove to be deceivers of the people, who, with the aid of plausible, fine-sounding, but thoroughly false phrases, divert them from the concrete historical task of liberating the press from capitalist enslavement.” Freedom in capitalist society always remains about the same as it was in the ancient Greek republics: freedom for the slave-owners, democracy for the rich.
Clearly as we can see, the “democratic freedom” proposed by the capitalists is no real democracy at all. The government merely exists to dictate the interests of the bourgeoisie, and “democracy” is merely used as a label to keep the working class in line in accordance to the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. No amount of liberalism or reformism can fully change this fact, and the supposedly “socialist interventions” the democratic administration has used is merely done in order to save capitalism from being destroyed from the inside out.
Even the social-democrats exist to defend capitalist exploitation, merely wishing to “improve conditions” and essentially buy out the working class in advanced capitalist countries, diverting class consciousness and thus enabling the bourgeoisie to remain in their seats of unchecked power. But whereas capitalism enables the bourgeoisie to dictate society, socialism calls for the dictatorship of the proletariat; working class unison and power led by a revolutionary vanguard movement. The dictatorship of the proletariat is not a “dictatorship of an individual” or a “dictatorship” in liberal bourgeois terms, but it is the application of democracy in its true form; the establishment of a society with a far greater democratic process than any Western bourgeois government could ever have. And through balancing this democracy with centralism, democratic-centralism ensures that society will remain healthy and free from capitalist exploitation until the need for a state and for social classes is no more, and along with the state, democracy as a way of inherently imposing majority rule over the minority, withers away, as there no longer exists class struggle to impose such rule.
1) J. V. Stalin, Report to the Seventeenth Party Congress on the Work of the Central Committee of the CPUSU (B.) Pravda, No. 27, January 28, 1934.
2) V.I. Lenin, First Congress of the Communist International, Lenin Collected Works, Volume 28 (p. 455-477), March 2-6, 1919.
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