Where do we go from here? What can I do? These are what I constantly asked myself for a long time when I first realized the things I have discussed in this book. It’s frustrating to realize that society has gone so wrong, and not have any cause actively working to right this great wrong. So that is what we need to do: build that group.
That begins by simply talking. Make Communism, and critiques of Capitalism, regular conversation again. Talk to everyone who will listen, and organize discussion groups. That is the only way to accomplish anything; dismantling Capitalism is a societal effort, so the first things we need to do is build networks to directly confront the forces and ideas of Capitalism. The seeds of such a movement are planted by holding open discussions.
Start by simply talking to friends, when you convince enough of them, hold formal discussion groups. Advertise them, and encourage anyone and everyone to join them. When these grow large enough they can branch out, other chapters can be started in other neighborhoods and cities. Eventually the scale will be large enough that they can be transformed into a network of confederated assemblies which can begin to work in their communities to make people’s lives better, and eventually to directly confront the existing Capitalist Governments, syphoning political power from them, and eventually replacing them and taking control of the means of production.
But that is very long term. Right now you, and every other Communist, simply needs to build a network of support for each other, and to work constantly to raise the class consciousness of those around you. “Democracy dies in darkness” the liberals like to say. Throw this at them when they scoff at criticism of Capitalism. If they love discourse so much, to the point that they are willing to “hear out” fascists, then why do they shut down dialog when we attempt to talk about the immoral nature of Capitalism and Class-Society? Dialog must be open and constant on this, push every oρortunity to point out the flaws of Capitalism and Class-Society, and Constantly bring the discussion back to Democracy, because that is what Communism is about: Democracy finally realized.
But when you are talking to people, even other Communists, keep what I call “the Robin Hood Effect” in mind. I am not talking about the concept in economic and political circles of “taking from the rich and giving to the poor.” What I am talking about is the effect of a past person being seen more favorably by people later on, and perhaps even taking on symbolism for ideas that the historical figure may have even been opposed to.
I call this “The Robin Hood Effect” because the actual historical figure called Robin Hood is perhaps the earliest and best documented figure for this phenomenon to occur around. You see, the actual Robin Hood was simply a common bandit, or perhaps several different bandits. (Some historians believe that Robin Hood was a title given to the leader of a group of bandits, rather than a single person.) This person didn’t care about the plight of the poor, and would rob and kill them as much as the wealthy, perhaps even more so due to the poor being easier targets. Attack the poor and the Feudal lord won’t care. Attack the nobility and you’re likely to face down an army that’s come to kill you. And yet, despite this, only a few years after the disappearance of the real Robin Hood, we see romantic tales being told about the champion of the poor who “stole from the rich and gave to the poor.”
It is that image of Robin Hood that has endured, not the real one. No one cares about how the real Robin Hood was horrible towards the poor, and they don’t think anyone is a monster for idolizing Robin Hood. Because it’s understood that no one idolizes Robin Hood the bandit that robbed and killed anyone. They idolize the image of Robin Hood the champion of the poor and the oppressed.
This phenomenon didn’t Stop With Robin Hood, it even continues today with more contemporary figures. By far the most well known and controversial, is Stalin. Whether or not Stalin committed the atrocities he is accused of is no longer relevant, because those who look to him do not see that, nor support anyone doing such things. Indeed, they don’t believe Stalin did them at all. For them, Stalin is that champion of the poor and the oppressed, an advocate of democracy and justice. People who look to Stalin for inspiration do not advocate for mass-murder, homophobic oppression, or suppression of criticism towards the Government. In fact they are, in the vast majority of cases, staunch opponents to all those things. Many of them are even LGTBQA!
In a person’s life, their actions and beliefs are important. What living people an individual looks to for inspiration matters, because those people are still alive, they still lead groups and take actions. But what dead leaders a person looks to for inspiration doesn’t matter at all. These historical figures can come to represent anything. All that matters is what inspiration an individual finds in that historical figure, what ideas the individual advocates as a result of their admiration for the historical figure. Don’t recoil from someone because they admire an historical figure that you think was a monster, or allow the conversation to get caught up on what that figure did or didn’t do. Instead, listen to the ideals and principles that the person advocates, because that’s all that matters.
Spreading class consciousness is a slow and often agonizing process and it’s likely that we will never see Communism realized within our lifetimes. But we must begin that process, we must plant these seeds. They will take many years to germinate, but no Communist ever promised that this would be a fast process. I stumbled upon a poem that spoke to me on this subject just the other day. It is by Josiah Gilbert and titled “Gradatim:”
“Heaven is not gained at a single bound;
But we build the ladder by which we rise
From the lowly earth to the vaulted skies,
And we mount to its Summit round by round.
I count this thing to be grandly true,
That a noble deed is a step toward God-
To a purer air and a broader view.
We rise by that are ‘neath our feet;
By what we have mastered of good and gain;
By the pride deposed and the passion slain,
And the vanquished ills that we hourly meet.
We hope, we aspire, we resolve, we trust,
When the morning calls us to life and light,
But our hearts grow weary, and, ere the night,
Our lives are trailing the sordid dust.
We hope, we resolve, we aspire, We pray,
And we think that we mount the air on wings
Beyond the recall of sensual things,
While our feet still cling to the heavy clay.
Wings for the angels, but feet for men!
We may borrow the wings to find the way-
We may hope, and resolve, and aspire, and pray,
But our feet must rise, or we fall again.
Only in dreams is a ladder thrown
From the weary earth to the sapphire walls;
But the dream departs, and the vision falls,
And the sleeper wakes on his pillow of stone.
Heaven is not reached at a single bound:
But we build the ladder by which we rise
From the lowly earth to the vaulted skies,
And we mount to its summit round by round.”
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Communism will take even longer. Because we are not simply trying to evolve the existing socio-economic system into another form, as Feudalism did to become Mercantilism, and then Capitalism. Instead we are proposing a revolution; we seek a complete change to something else. That takes patience, and determination. “Heaven will not be reached at a single bound, But we must build the ladder by which we rise.”
That ladder to Communism is built by talking, by talking often, and by helping each other. “The propaganda of the deed” is powerful. If we can build Communist assemblies in every city that improve their Communities, as groups like the Black Panthers did, then we will have a power that the Capitalists never even thought to tap into: the power of Solidarity, of mutual aid, and of mutual love.
Capitalists maintain power through fear. Fear of arrest, fear of homelessness, fear of hunger and poverty. But fear is a weak motivator. Make a man afraid of you, and he will do what you say only as far as is necessary, beyond that his contempt will make him look for a way to defeat you. But work to make a man love you, and they will gladly throw themselves upon the gates of hell for you. We must cultivate that kind of love with each other and with our Communities.
This is how we build the ladder to Communism. With each word spoken to raise class consciousness, another rung is added. With each homeless person sheltered and fed, another rung is added. With each meeting held to teach about Communism, another rung is added. Slowly and gradually we will build our ladder, until one day the people will gladly raise the red banner above every rooftop, and we can finally greet each other as equals in a Democratic Society.
“Workers of the world, unite.”