Political Ideologies 101, Part 2: Communism and Anarchism
This series’ previous article, “Political Ideologies 101, Part 1: Liberalism and Conservatism,” discussed the differences between liberalism and conservatism and how they are a part of the five main political ideologies. This piece will be discussing the final two that are applicable to the American political system: anarchism and a subset of socialism which evolved into communism. As in the first part, this article will also discuss how these ideologies have evolved, their histories and how they play into modern day elections.
Many people today loosely throw around the saying “communist socialist state” or proclaim “these new laws will lead to pure anarchy” when things may be different than what they are accustomed to; however, both of these statements are wrong because they contradict the actual meanings of the ideologies. The history of socialism began a few decades before the concept of either communism or anarchism existed. Depending on the subtype, socialism can be either anti- or pro-market, as well as can range from both far right to far left depending on the policy being implemented. The socialism that we see in government today is called democratic socialism, which advocates for a classless society, but still supports electing a leader through the democratic process and maintaining a sort of free market. These democratic socialists renounce any sort of immediate change to help the cause of collectivism, however they have achieved a welfare state that aids those who are poor or unemployed. The concept of socialism is the base idea for both communism and anarchism.
*Communism is a very versatile ideology in which there are multiple combinations of theories and ideologies, such as anarcho-communism, Maoism and Marxist-Leninist communism. For our purposes, we will solely be reviewing Marxism.
There are many misconceptions about communism and Marxism, so understanding what they actually are is vital. Marxism is a socioeconomic theory which analyzes the relationship of the material condition and economic fulfillment to maintaining human happiness. Its creator, Karl Marx, stated that economic fulfillment, also known as mode of production, is used to influence all social phenomena, and those who adhere to Karl Marx’s theories are often referred to as Marxists. Marx observed in his book, The Communist Manifesto, that under these modes of production it is inevitable that there will be some sort of class struggle. This theory is the basis for communist theory. Communism is a political and economic system which tries to create a classless society in which all means of production are ruled by the public. This is often considered to be a more advanced form of socialism in political ideology; however, it is not the same. Under this ideology, there is no government, private property or currency. Communists’ main critique of society and goal for change is to abolish any sort of capitalism which the ruling class would use to exploit the working class. They believe that those in the ruling class, also known as the bourgeoisie, will use their monetary power to exploit the workers, or proletarians, by any means necessary to gain more profit.
In terms of Marxists’ relationship with the American political system, they generally want to abolish any sort of government because of three main reasons. For one, politicians usually come from families who have obtained a lot of capital, meaning that politicians are a part of the capitalist class and will always defend the capitalists’ needs rather than the working class’. It is also examined how those who are running for office are usually funded by private companies, and within these private companies they fuel the media so that they can influence the working class. They refer to this as “capitalist democracy,” in which they state that those who have wealth are the ones who truly experience democracy while the working class live under a dictatorship of exploitation. Using these bases of theory, Marxists currently use the example of how politicians in America have opened up the economy during a pandemic to assert that they have shown the world that they will defend the capitalist class instead of taking care of the people by providing benefits to them, as other countries such as Vietnam have done. Marxists believe all politicians are part of the same capitalist class and therefore do not idealize or support politicians from any party.
As for the upcoming election, Marxists were not surprised that Joe Biden was nominated for the Democratic Party. In a Twitter thread written by user @queersocialism, they contend that the reason why Joe Biden is seen in liberal eyes as a savior is solely because he is not Donald Trump. They also say that Biden is a puppet who will still defend the capitalist class if he is elected. In their other thread, @queersocialism speaks briefly about how Trump is truly not as bad as some people make him out to be, because the U.S. has always been the way it is and Trump is just bringing these flaws to light. Overall, communists do not participate in elections, support politicians or expect anything from the government because of the capitalistic tendencies that they hold, which will never truly liberate the working class.
Anarchism is often misconstrued as a state of complete chaos or the demise of any sort of structure in society. People may think of an apocalyptic free-for-all when they think of anarchism. It typically has a negative connotation because it is widely misunderstood. Many anarchists are pacifists and call for nonviolence even in revolution. There is a plethora of eloquent writing and sophisticated essays detailing how anarchism could be implemented. Anarchists view all forms of government as inherently oppressive; therefore, they reject any form of government at all.
Anarchists emphasize the moral grounds of individual liberty because of their skepticism of authority’s justification. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, anarchists aspire to live in a utopian society in which all are able to support one another in a community-based environment. Anarchists criticize what they term “the state,” meaning any type of political power system. Anarchism rejects the almost universally accepted idea that individuals need to be led by other individuals who have been arbitrarily given power. To anarchists, no person should be given the authority to rule over other people because all people are equal and rational enough to make decisions for themselves. They believe that there can never be total liberation with a political or governmental system in place, and citizens will always be subordinate to those in power.
Most societies fear and discount anarchism as a political ideology because it seems so foreign. The concept of government has been around for ages, and it is difficult to imagine what the world would look like without it. However, the same fears and criticisms arose during the American Revolution and the birth of the United States as a democracy — giving power to ordinary citizens was seen as irrational and dangerous. It was an idea that was frowned upon so much so that it was not even fully implemented in the United States. Many groups have been historically disenfranchised and silenced politically, and many groups still have an unequal say in government today.
One of the criticisms of anarchism is that it relies on people to be reasonable, ethical and to hold themselves accountable for their actions. It requires all people to adhere to moral standards that resemble the utilitarianism described by John Stuart Mill. This concept holds that humans are intelligent beings whose happiness is derived from sophisticated endeavors; as evidence, Mill describes the difference between what would make a pig happy versus what would make a human happy. With this in mind, actions that promote the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people are moral. Anarchism relies on society to wholeheartedly embrace this branch of ethics; however, many people do not. While it may not be possible to actually implement anarchism in society due to many people’s greed, hunger for power and immorality, it is a compelling ideology with attributes from which the United States could benefit today. The central principles of anarchism are liberation and the rejection of hierarchies and centralized power systems. Anarchists place a focus on human development and education, as well as the betterment and progress of humanity by allowing people to choose how they want to spend their time and energy. It is an ideology that places importance on the greater good. These are just a few of the characteristics of anarchism that could be particularly useful in today’s world.
Though communism and anarchism may seem similar in that they both reject the idea of class and hierarchy, they are also significantly different. It is important to remember that though these ideologies are different from what many people in the United States may deem as “democratic,” it should be remembered that these ideologies are an important part of other countries’ political processes. These radical ideologies have also significantly helped our society to identify when inequality within our system has reached its peak. These ideologies are helpful today because they remind people to see what they are truly capable of and to fight when all else seems useless. As for elections that are coming up, rather than judging those that decide not to vote because of their political ideologies, it would be helpful to ask them what they are doing to help their community. These practices value community effort rather than the state’s help; it would be wise to accept their beliefs and practices as they do with yours.
By Sofia Gomez, Podcasting Director, and Mia Shelton, Contributing Writer