The struggle between communism and individualism in the United States


Where capitalism says “every man for himself,” communism directs us to leave no man behind.

In the United States, it’s no secret that the word “communism” is highly stigmatized. The Cold War, an accompanying Red Scare, and a decade’s worth of baseless accusations at the hands of Senator Joseph McCarthy all contributed to this stigma, but we’re still left with the question: what is it about communism that the U.S. is so afraid of?

Though there’s a multitude of complex differences between capitalism and communism, there’s one in particular that challenges the entire capitalist culture of the U.S. – that being communism’s collective nature. The system entails the people’s ownership of the means of production, abolishment of private property and universal welfare systems made to support each and every citizen. Where capitalism says “every man for himself,” communism directs us to leave no man behind.

Such factors contribute to the equitable nature of communism and require a certain degree of empathy and selflessness from the people. Citizens of a communist state must accept their role in establishing a network of mutual aid for all members of society, including those unable to perform traditional labor — something unheard of under capitalism.

Our detachment from the rest of the world is palpable to all, our own people included. United States citizens who have traveled to other countries have doubtlessly perceived the difference in our culture from others. The U.S. holds a very individualistic mindset, meaning that we highly emphasize individual rights and freedoms.

This phenomenon is rooted not only in our country’s establishment, in which we sought to seek independence from Britain’s autocratic monarchy, but also in the resulting framework of our guiding documents, such as our right to freedom of speech as stated in the Constitution. This is not to say that other countries don’t have individual rights, but rather that these rights are much more of a key component to U.S. culture.

England, for example, is often seen as a close relative of the U.S. despite our extensive history of clashing. In reality, our similarities don’t extend much beyond the sharing of English as our predominant language. If an uninsured U.S. citizen was in England and needed an emergency inhaler, they’d be met with a charge of less than $15, the majority of which serves as a tax.

In contrast, that citizen may purchase the same inhaler for upwards of $50 in the United States. The reason for this is that England has a socialized medicine program called the National Health Service (NHS), which is sustained by taxing the people. Though England is far from a communist state, it – like most other European countries – recognizes things such as healthcare as fundamental human rights, an esteem on par with our emphasis of free speech and other individual rights.

Income plays a huge role in an individual’s health in the U.S., both in their ability to afford insurance and pay copays, the two of which are interdependent on each other. Since the NHS survives on taxes, for a similar institution to be established in the U.S., our taxes would need to increase. This prerequisite is unlikely to be met due to the individualism that can be summarized by U.S. economist Murray Rothbard, who said “Taxation is theft, purely and simply,” with no exceptions.

The words of our experts reflect our ideals – ideals that alienate us from the rest of the Western world. Our individualistic mindset has continued to develop over the years, making it difficult for many citizens to even envision a state in which they are not only allowed shared ownership of their resources, but are also expected to take a larger part in supporting their community, which includes taxation.

Willingly giving up part of one’s income for the greater good directly contradicts all that we’re taught to believe in the United States. It’s no coincidence that we’re raised on the idea of always striving to be the best — growing up in a culture that rewards winning over playing fair — as it’s all designed to instill in us the competitive nature that capitalism requires.

Our most competitive is seen as our most productive, and our most productive results in the most profits; it’s a sequence of manipulation that directs money right into the capitalist’s pockets. There’s no room for compassion, as our energy is seen as being best spent on ourselves and our superiors. This portrayal of individual success as our ultimate goal not only divides the people, and inevitably leads to the exploitation of our citizens, but also preys on those unaware of the invisible strings the system is pulling. The inequity is right under our noses, but we’ve grown too accustomed to its scent.

Our emphasis on productivity is also a reflection of the ableism in the U.S., as we’re trained to base our self-worth on our ability to do work. Author James Truslow Adams best encapsulates the unfortunate design of the “American Dream”, saying that “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”

This directly contradicts the statements of Karl Marx, the widely known Father of Communism, who says “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” The intolerance of ableism is just one of many examples of how communism aims to create equity through its very configuration; the intersections of capitalism and oppression run deep, and it would take all of the words in the world to identify every link.

Communism isn’t scary; rather, we as a collective have been trained to associate this system with loss of autonomy, financial security and freedom. The capitalist U.S. system we’ve known for generations wants you to continue to believe such things because it feeds off of our continual exploitation and division. If we were to move beyond our individualistic mindset and work together as a collective, we would be able to achieve where the state has repeatedly failed

It is capitalism that fuels our individualistic mentality, and it is capitalism that tears down the individual. The only path in which we’ll discover the professed justice of our government is one that leads us to a new beginning, under a system that’s intrinsically anti-oppression. We must come together to actualize true unity of the states.

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Maria Walls
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