What It Means to Be a Communist

The most obvious part of being a communist means hating capitalism and its poverty, waste, violence, disaster, and disease. But hatred alone can’t fuel anybody forever; it eventually turns into destructive despair. For me, to be a communist also means to have a vivid imagination of what the world could be like.

We Marxists talk about how expropriating the means of production from the landlords and capitalists would develop production, but what does that mean, concretely? What could life look like if the global economy were democratically planned by the working class, instead of driven off a cliff by profit-hungry individuals?

Soviet retrofuturism Artseulov, Konstantin
Hatred of capitalism alone can’t fuel anybody forever. Being a communist also means having a vivid imagination of what the world could be like. / Image: Konstantin Artseulov, public domain

It could mean that not only every person has enough food to eat, but delicious, healthy meals could be drone-delivered at the push of a button. Then, before the drone leaves, we could attach our laundry bags, and expect our clean, folded clothes with our next meal. While we wait, we could think about the next mindless chore to automate, and sketch out some ideas to bring to work tomorrow.

It could mean that our jobs are so meaningful we are excited to go to work. We could develop technology like AI and nuclear fusion without worrying about profitability and grant funding, help people heal their psychological or physical wounds without insurance companies breathing down our necks, or tour in a band and perform on every continent. We could have real choice in how we spend our time and contribute to the betterment of society.

It could mean that we live in a brand-new city built from scratch, designed to be in total harmony with the surrounding landscape. Perhaps instead of cars, there are zip-lines between trees. Our houses are underground and totally camouflaged so that we can hear animals skittering around on our roofs. When we are tired of that, we can move to any country we want, and enroll in free lessons to learn the local language.

It could mean that disability and mental illness turn into simple differences in needs. Researchers could have all the funding they need to understand our brains and develop treatments that target causes, not symptoms. Anybody could go to a doctor and walk out thirty minutes later feeling optimistic, understood, and cared for. When someone is in pain, they could take a month off work with no questions, ride a train to a live-in clinic, and return with a new outlook on life.  Engineers could be freed from the “brain drain” of social media companies and instead work on expanding options for all people—organically grown organs, mobility machines, robotic personal assistants. Every person would have an opportunity to participate in life to the fullest, in their own way, free of shame.

It could mean visiting friends and then walking home alone at midnight, enjoying the stroll, and saying hello to strangers with no fear. It could mean hearing a gunshot and assuming some movie cameras must be rolling on the next street over.

It would mean the end of war, forever. We would tell young people about what life was like in “the early 21st century,” with all its mundane horrors, and they wouldn’t believe us. They’d get bored, politely wait for us to stop talking, and then run back to their inventions and artwork. Raising children could be joyful and cooperative, and getting older could feel like an upgrade every year.

To me, being a communist means having hope and acting on it. It requires sacrifice to be a communist, but I get much more than I could possibly put in. I get to trade some of my despair for connection—not just to other communists, but to the whole of human history. I get to help create a world in which humans have real freedom for the first time in our existence. Life would no longer be an endless slog to avoid death and pay the next bill. It would feel like the impossibly precious gift that it is.

Are you a communist?
Then apply to join your party!