March 3, 2016

Meet the Communists on McMaster campus

Ajit Singh & Mike Van Arragon

While tabling on campus, and being active in the student movement, the YCL Hamilton noticed that some students have unfounded anti-communist prejudices.

At the same time, when engaging with students the comrades in Hamilton found that many students are concerned with many of the same political struggles as the young Communists; against climate change, war, inequality and exploitation, racism, sexism, transphobia and homophobia, for example.

This opinion piece was prepared for the student press in order to fight anti-communism on campus and give the YCL Hamilton a space to describe themselves in their own words.

The following article is republished from McMaster’s student newspaper the Silhouette.

Meet the Communists on campus

Who are the McMaster Young Communist League and what do they want?

We are certainly the odd ones out at clubs fest. Sitting in front of a big red banner, the words “Communist” and “Socialism” loom over our little table. A force field of political distrust seems to glow in this corner of the Student Center; and we’re wondering what does it mean to be a Communist at McMaster? Somebody approaches us with the question: “What are you guys? Like, Hitler?”

For the record, we aren’t anything “like Hitler”, however, we continue to hear the word “Communist” used as a pejorative on campus. One example was during the MSU Presidential election, making it clear that many still see Communists as mysterious boogeymen. Unfortunately, this is not surprising given the long history of anti-Communist hysteria, including the recent proposal for a monument to the “Victims of Communism,” envisioned in a particularly frightful moment of opportunism by former PM Stephen Harper. Due to the confused and, at times, hostile, buzz about our presence on campus, we think we owe our peers a proper introduction.

Communism is an ideology and movement that seeks to establish an egalitarian society without classes, “from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs.” Generally, Communists see capitalist society as a global system with a key feature: separate classes with conflicting interests. This results in a class struggle between the few, the propertied or “bourgeoisie” (think: CEOs and bankers), and the many, the property-less workers or “proletariat” (think: teachers, nurses and retail workers). Since the proletariat control no property (technology, machinery, and materials) of their own with which to meet their basic needs, they are forced to sell their labour to the bourgeoisie in order to survive. Communism seeks to establish a society where there is a collective ownership of property in order to direct the economy towards common interests. Ensuring clean air, housing, healthcare, food, and education for all, before thinking about more frivolous things. We believe that such a society can only come about through a complete transformation.

While it is true that Communist societies have not been without their problems, they have continuously faced persistent aggression from Capitalist regimes (including the invasions of the Soviet Union, Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba). This must be accounted for when evaluating the development of Communist states. In spite of this aggression, Communism has raised the living conditions of millions of people worldwide. While facing an illegal blockade since 1960 and a militarily occupation since 1898, Cuba has achieved an average life expectancy which exceeds that of the United States.

Influenced by Karl Marx, modern Communists believe that various oppressions, including gender-based violence, sexism, transphobia, racism, colonization, criminalization of the poor, ableism, religious bigotry and stigma surrounding mental health are actually relationships of exploitation, which emanate from and cannot be done away with in class-based, capitalist economies. Built upon colonialism, slavery, and other forms of labour and resource exploitation, capitalism creates inequality, accumulating wealth in the hands of a few. According to Oxfam, 62 individuals are as wealthy as half the world’s population). To ensure this constant accumulation, military and economic wars are waged to open up and control the “free market” and bring into submission any societies which resist. Factories and mines rise up on lands stolen from indigenous peoples. Their sovereignty and dignity seen as an intolerable extravagance. The surviving working class lives precariously, as Capitalist governments privatize and cut social services and environmental protections to accommodate big business. Last year the CBC reported that corporate profit margins in Canada were at a 27-year high, yet we are inundated by talk of recession, balanced budgets and the need for “belt-tightening.” Why is it always the working class that has to pay the price?

When Communists are told to be patient, to wait for the “right actors” to come into parliament and change things for the better, we point them towards the recurring crises of Capitalist democracies. For some reason, whether Liberal, Conservative, Democrat, or Republican, no Capitalist government is able to ensure that the environment is protected and that the entire population has adequate housing, food, education, and health care.

Confusing conversations aside, our experience at clubs fest demonstrated that people do care about the big issues. As the past month’s election campaign has shown, students care about politics and are seeking to create change. Fortunately, if history tells us anything it is that things are always changing, but it’s up to us to choose the right way forward.

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