The only problem with Communism is that every time it’s been tried, millions of people die. Also, it’s just fucking stupid. Communists have various rebuttals to the first fact. “In theory,” they’ll say. “Not real Communism,” they’ll say. “Strictly a coincidence, all the starvation,” some will argue. “The tenets, my boy, the tenets were sound,” and if someone speaks to you that way, you may slap them in their beards. All efforts to defend the belief system lie in the academical, because the historical record of Communism invariably includes snipers on guard towers shooting people trying to leave.
Say what you will about corporate-influenced representative democracy combined with late-stage capitalism: you’re allowed to leave. The other countries don’t have to take you, but you’re still perfectly free to go.
Can people live in a communal fashion? Kinda. For almost all of human existence, it’s been the default setting: the tribe that lived in the Caveman Valley near Dinosaur Falls were close enough to quintessential communists. You had yourself a Big Boss or a Tribe of Elders, and they told everyone how much food to gather (as much as you can, I suppose) and stuff like that.
And then a couple million years or so went by and we invented the Industrial Revolution and boom: Communism. (That last sentence was a portion of my new book, A Short History of Communism. Actually, it was the whole book.)
Most of the ideas behind Communism are dumb category errors: there’s no such thing as the Proletariat, there’s just poor people. The poor people over here want different things than the poor people over there, and this leads to another flaw of Communism, which is that it isn’t scalable. To work together as a tangible community, in harmony and towards a shared goal, is possible in a Kibbutz. Not a country. People see what’s in front of them; people care about what they can hold.
And this, Enthusiasts, is the death knell for Communism: it is anti-human. Its precepts run counter to human nature. A command economy–or a command culture, which is what all Communist states turned into rather quickly–is absurd to anyone who’s ever met a person. I know very little for a fact, but I know this: people hate being told what to do. Now, people need to be told what they can’t do, but involuntary conscription into someone else’s bullshit is rarely welcomed.
Speaking of someone else’s bullshit, there is this:
What can be said about the Grateful Dead that has not been said before? They are on one hand somewhere below Coldplay and Nickelback on the list of hatred-objects for Leftists of who came of age between the late 80s and late 90s, signifying affluent frat kids tripping balls and hacky sacking, earnest liberals reading Sean Wilentz and taking bong hits, and so on and so forth.
That is the first paragraph of an article feebly attempting, and utterly failing, to link the Grateful Dead to various Commie nonsense. It is delightfully, deliriously, deliciously wrong. It is not even not even wrong, ignoring the Dead’s stated apoliticism and imparting magically obtained intentions upon them, intentions apparent to no one–not even the Dead themselves, who were all born into working-class families–but the author. Communists all! he says. Radicals, dontcha know? Here, read for yourself:
When they first started out, the Dead called themselves anarchists, at the time – some still do, in a qualified sense (check out the Netflix documentary on Bob Weir) – and were particularly close to an anarchist collective known as the Diggers, named for Winstanley’s 16th century movement, perhaps the first anti-capitalists. They had cordial relations with the Black Panther Party, playing numerous benefits for them. While they claimed to not be political, this was and is besides the point, given that they were embedded within a subculture in which having radical politics was common sense.
There’s the problem with your average Communist, right there in black and white, Enthusiasts: individual agency is beside the point. The grand narrative of the dialectic, or whatever the fuck Historical Materialism means, supersedes your expressed intention.
“No, no, you silly prole. You actually meant to say this, right?”
Did the Dead hang out with Commies? Sure, partied with them, too. And radicals? There were many backstage. But mostly the Dead surrounded themselves with Capitalists. You’ll find that most of the band, in fact, believed in the system of a well-regulated market economy, coupled with individual freedoms and an open ballot.
Anyway: fuck Communism. The Grateful Dead ain’t no goddamned Commies.
(Oh, plus the article contains every single one of my Grateful Dead Article Pet Peeves: apologizing for liking the band, bringing up that epic-length tribute album that everyone’s forgotten about already, retelling the Origin Story, dragging the poor Czech Spring into the matter. Take your pills before you read it.)