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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pondering communism

The topic of communism seems to come up quite often for me due to the fact that I grew up in the former Soviet Union, and many people ask me what it was like. What surprises me the most is how many misconceptions there are about what communism is, and how long-lived and persistent those misconceptions are.

What we had in the former Soviet Union was not communism. Nor is what they have in China, or in North Korea, or in Cuba. Ugo Chavez of Venezuela is not a communist - nor is Fidel Castro, nor was Joseph Stalin (nor Nikita Khrushvhev, nor Leonid Brezhnev, nor a handful of other Soviet Secretary Generals, including Gorbachev, much as I liked him).

Wikipedia has a good article on communism, and if you would like to avoid common errors in interpreting this societal structure, please read it. I received my first bits of information about socialism and communism from my father (I was about 6 or 7 years old at the time - yes, we start our education early). He summarized it briefly and - I thought - very well to demonstrate the difference between the two (and between them and what we had going on in the Soviet Union at the time).

The key principle behind socialism is "From everyone - by their abilities, to everyone - by their labor." In other words, everyone contributes to the society as much as he or she can, and receives back what he or she earns, which might or might not be enough to sustain their basic needs.

The summary of communism is "From everyone - by their abilities, to everyone - by their need." So, in theory, everyone in a communist society contributes whatever he or she can, and receives whatever he or she needs, regardless of their contribution. The assumption is that everyone is evolved to a point, where they would be able to determine how much they need to contribute and how much they can take, to avoid being a burden on the society they live in.

As you have probably already figured out, both of these concepts are not nearly as horrible as everyone thinks them to be, nor are they bad at all. Just because a group of world leaders took them and twisted them beyond recognition doesn't make them bad. (Think Christianity - the principles behind Christian faith are great, but look how many horrible deeds were done in the name of god.)

My dad - a very practical man in general - was and still is a romantic as far as communism is concerned. Don't laugh - it is possible to be a romantic when it comes to the society you wish you could live in. He grew up (and brought me up) reading the beautiful futuristic novels by Ivan Yefremov, where the communist society was described as a fair, balanced, flexible and conscientious one - constantly striving for improvement, constantly seeking new ways to inspire people. My vision of such society was enhanced by the Star Trek series (of all things): people being able to choose their occupations solely based on their abilities (and not based on their income or driven by desperation); great impact being placed on development of technology, while maintaining ecological balance; diversity being not just a matter of one planet - but a matter of galactic proportions, and even more important due to such enormous scale - the list goes on and on. That is my vision of communism. What we had in the Soviet Union was... pretty awful and definitely not it.

I am not trying to make revolutionaries out of you. I hate politics and don't meddle in it much. But I wanted to make this point to help you understand how important it is to educate yourself about things before you make judgments about them. One of the biggest issues in the United States is that too many people (some of them important and with a lot of power in their hands) jump to conclusions about things they don't fully understand and act upon that lack of understanding. I don't want that to happen to you. I've said this before, and I'll say it again - majority is not always right. Please, please, don't act on serious issues based on what everyone else says - follow your own path of knowledge.


The Jerseymooners said...

I never understood the idea of communism until last month when I read a really great book set in China & Russia. It made me sympathize with the people who were trying to make things better for themselves. I agree that what ended up in Soviet Russia, China, etc., is not communism... Communism is one of those ideas that is really great and theory but not so good in practice.

Bill Kirton said...

How refreshing to see the words communism and socialism written without the usual sign-of-the-cross and garlic necklace accompaniments. I can't begin to understand how the people who fulminate against them and what they think they represent are also (very frequently) the same people who whisper the name of their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ with awe and reverence. I've always thought he was an excellent example of my own vague general idea of socialism in action. And I say that as an atheist. (So I guess that disqualifies me from saying anything at all. I'm glad I found your blog, Maria.