I recently completed writing my novel about an old man accidentally starting his own country. While the book is more of a folksy tale about how fate sometimes steps in and makes your actions more than you intend them to be, I put a lot of effort into the reality of attempting to start your own country/government. I haven’t spent a lot of time starting governments in my life, so I did a fair amount of research into modern theory on how one might go about the early days of starting a new country.
In the end, a lot of the research I did didn’t end up on the page, but it certainly moved me forward in some of my own thoughts on how I wish the world were run. And quite possibly one of the most influential pieces I read during this time of research for putting me where I am today (as well as where the government in the book I wrote ends up), was the Communist Manifesto.
Look, this is an ancient text by this point and a lot of what is there is related to things that are only kind of true today. Even Marx had time in his life after publishing it to note that it needed a modern overhaul. Considering what all has happened in the world since the mid 1800s, it’s understandable that any political ideology requires some hefty changes.
That being said, there’s still a lot of great commentary about the world. About how capitalism isn’t really all that different from feudalism. About how the worker is still abused by the new lords and ladies of the bourgeoisie and how the only real answer for the worker is to rise up and break down the enslavement of the class system.
It’s solidly pieced together and a logical look at how, basically, the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.
Marx’s primary complaint is one I can certainly agree with. Even within a democracy, the people, or the workers, don’t have the power. It’s the people with the money. The heads of corporations. The politicians. People who have interests that are far and away from the needs of the common man.
But, while I’m on board with the basic premise, it’s his plans for how to move forward which cause me the most pause. The concept of relinquishing ownership of everything to the government is my first issue. While I get the idea that this ideally means everyone owns everything, the reality feels a bit more scary. While the lack of private ownership of anything is difficult enough to understand while living in the capitalist world we live in, we’ve also seen how the government itself can become a feudal system through its ownership of everything by looking at many of today’s Communist countries. What I see here is just putting the power directly in the hands of the government, instead of in the hands of the people.
Again we’re back to a country which is run by a small few, who abuse the workers, living fat off their backs while the workers stand in bread lines hoping for food. I feel like I need to bring up how many dystopian novels live off this very idea, but really, there are enough examples in reality that I don’t know whether it’s even worthwhile to bring fiction into it.
Because the reality is that no matter what system we develop, there will be people who abuse it. I’ve always liked the more socialist ideals, but at the same time, I know how terrible people can be, and if there’s a way to abuse the system, someone will find it.
Interestingly enough, our country started with a rather socialist state of affairs. The early pioneers relied on each other to make sure all of their needs were met. When coming to a new land, you simply can’t expect everyone to be able to get their own food. Some have to build, others have to tend to the sick, and each person needs to be focused on their own tasks so that as a whole the community can thrive. Sure, there were those who would abuse the system, which is why we get such Biblical gems like “If a man will not work, neither will he eat” cropping up in our country’s early narrative, but the truth is, our country really only exists because our pioneers were willing to work as a community.
This concept of America’s pioneers is where I found myself developing my concept for a solid government. The idea of a commune where everyone has to work to make the whole thing better. Where everyone feels like they have an ownership over what they are doing, and because of that ownership, they will work to improve things to the best of their abilities. Of course, this is the basic premise of communism.
So why, then, do I find the Communist Manifesto so terrifying when the reality is that I still think there is so much good to be found there?
I think the issue comes down to the government’s involvement in the whole thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an anarchist. I believe communities need rules to survive. But I think the very concept of government has been tainted by the feudalistic measures so many of them still use today. We still have defined leaders who ultimately make all the decisions for all the people. We may technically place them there as representatives of ourselves in America, but how many of us truly trust our representatives to work in our best interest?
The reality is that we have lost trust in each other. This is why a government doesn’t work. This is why we fight so much against each other in the first place. And ultimately, this is why it’s so easy for our governmental leaders to abuse us. They use that distrust and they place it between the workers instead of between us and the leaders.
A huge portion of our country views unions as bad. Unions, a way in which the workers within an organization can band together and fight for respect within their organization, whether through better pay, benefits, or occupational safety, is something we see as being bad. This should tell us something. The primarily way in which the common man has found to exert their power is something so many of us, the common man, view as bad.
In fact, every time the common man finds some way to get strong enough to rise up and make their demands, we’re told it is somehow bad. Because it’s pretty darn scary to see people band together when they are ready to fight for themselves. When they are ready to better their position in life. When they recognize they are being abused.
Heck, even God was afraid for what man could do if they only could work together, which is why he brought about all the different languages of the world at the Tower of Babel. Because when we work together, we can do anything.
So why aren’t we?