Walls Come Down
Today is the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. On that date, Nov. 9th, 1989…I was a nine year old who loved My Little Ponies, botany, Greek Mythology, dinosaurs, drawing, and singing. My best friend was Libby. My mother was in college at St. Scholastica, studying teaching. As I recall, she did an art project about the Berlin wall. In this art project, she pasted black construction paper silhouettes of people onto brown sandpaper. The paper was also decorated with colorful chalk graffiti.
Today, 11/9/2014, I am studying teaching at St. Scholastica through a graduate program. I had class all day today. I still like dinosaurs, drawing, mythology, and botany. I could probably even watch episodes of My Little Ponies. And, although communism collapsed around me when I was a child, I am a communist. I also think that in many ways there are also Iron Curtains and Walls in my life. These walls are constructed by anxiety and social ineptness…..as well as the fact that I am a horrible friend. My best friend is not Libby. She moved away long ago and had a family. I could talk to her, as there is no ill-will, but like many people in my life I am content if they stay beyond the walls.
To begin, it is important to explain this communism thing. Firstly, I am a Trotskyist and have been for about 12 years or so. As such, I am a member of a party called Socialist Action. Also, as such, I am not a supporter of the dictatorships of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, despite the earlier reference to the Berlin Wall. Generally speaking, these are viewed as degenerated forms of socialism. This distinction is important only inasmuch as I don’t want to appear too crazy.
I am mindful of appearing crazy. I am a Marxist, which is critiqued from many angles. On one hand, it is critiqued as an old idea that was proven to be unworkable by historical events. (The age of an idea does not correlate with its validity and the exact malfunction of former communist countries can be pinpointed to a variety of social factors, not the least of which was a concerted effort of capitalist countries to destroy the alternatives). On the other hand, it is critiqued as dogmatic. While Marxism is a principled approach to social change and socio-economic analysis, it is not without debate and contention (hence the numerous parties and long debates within and between them). Of course, it is also critiqued as godless, amoral, evil, etc.
Beyond these critiques are the notions that those who become involved in communism must be psychologically damaged, unthinking, conformity or non-conformity seeking types.
I became a socialist in college, when working on my first bachelor’s degree. The more I learned about the world, the more I saw problems and themes. One theme was that the United States did not play a benign role in history, but actually thwarted democracy and human rights. This was evidenced by my growing knowledge of U.S. involvement in the overthrow of democratically elected governments (such as in Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Democratic Republic of Congo, etc.). Another issue was a growing awareness of the great problems of the world, such as the fact that most of the world was quite poor, with lack of basic access to clean water or medicine. This problems were go great, that humanitarian efforts, charity, the UN, NGOs, fair trade, micro-loans, or whatever polite, nice, liberal solutions I was presented with….didn’t match the scope of the problem. These solutions, while sometimes well-meaning, did not address fundamental problems with capitalism. Perhaps all those socialist leaning leaders that the U.S. thwarted we on to something….
I became a socialist while studying abroad in Ireland. I was probably a socialist before, but until visiting Ireland….I didn’t think that socialism was a viable solution. I thought it was either crazy or a dead idea. But, in Ireland there were socialists! People talked about socialism with less disdain! Of course, the socialism I encountered was not revolutionary socialism, but it was enough to open me up to self-identifying as a socialist.
When I returned to the U.S., I was a changed person. I think I underwent the largest changes of my life there. Away from the influences of my family and those I knew, I could explore myself and open up to new ideas. That fall semester, I checked online to see if I could find any local socialists. I happened upon Socialist Action, which was involved in Commie Soccer. It was a dream come true. Beyond My Little Ponies, I like playing soccer! So that is how I joined.
In this narrative, I was not looking for a family or friends. I was also pretty mentally healthy having returned from a great semester in Ireland. Therefore, I don’t frame my journey into communism as a descent into madness.
Of course, since then, some of my comrades are dear friends. Two of my dearest friends are Adam and Mike, two comrades. Being a Bolshevik with others certainly builds bonds. Each week there are usually at one or two political events to attend, organize in an endless cycle of struggle against capitalism. Last week was Palestine and Pro-Choice, next week is a socialism educational, Pro-choice picket, anti-war picket, and juvenile justice meeting. This is not a flavor of the week approach to politics, but simply because of the inter-relatedness of these issues and their roots in capitalism.
In conclusion of this blog post, I want to blog because I want to break down my walls just a little. I am reluctant to open up and share myself. So, I have opened up to you about my relationship with communism. But remember….hitherto, this blogger has sought to blog about her world, but the point, however, is to change it.