The Case For American Communism

Taksh Gupta ’25 in News | May 28, 2023

It’s fair to say that communism is not popular in the United States. The official United States Communist Party has just 5000 members—a miniscule figure compared to the 80 million members between the Republican and Democratic Parties. In fact, the United States Government has gone to great lengths to stop the spread of communism, vilifying communist ideology, supporting anti-communist dictatorships, devising military coups to topple communist regimes, and assassinating prominent communist and socialist candidates running for office in foreign countries. 
Throughout its history, America has failed to recognize the flaws in its capitalist society—particularly the starkly unequal distribution of privilege and opportunity. For this reason, I have decided to make the case for implementing communism in the United States. I want to note that I do not consider myself a communist, or even a socialist for that matter, but I do believe that there exists value in examining beliefs different from my own. As someone largely educated in the American public school system, I also want to examine communist theory to combat my own biases and those I may have been taught. With all that said, I present the case for communism:
A capitalist nation does not work for the vast majority of its people. Industrial capitalism tends to create vast inequalities in wealth and access to resources between citizens. The disparity in wealth distribution in the United States is especially staggering. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the top ten percent of households own 76 percent of all wealth in the U.S., while the bottom 50 percent of households own just one percent. This disparity will only continue to grow over time, with an report showing that the richest one percent of the world gained nearly twice as much money as the bottom 99 percent of the world combined since 2020. The top percentile of Americans has increased their share of America’s overall wealth from 24 percent in 1989 to 32 percent in 2021. Despite this massive increase in wealth for the rich, we still live in a nation where one in ten people live in poverty (a statistic that has stayed largely the same for the last 50 years), and half of Americans continue to live paycheck to paycheck. We have a few people living in extreme excess while a significant percent of the population struggles to obtain the fundamental necessities for survival—with a slowly shrinking group in between. Business owners make billions off of pharmaceutical patents while it is estimated that nearly half of Americans do not have enough in savings to afford a medical emergency, the average cost of which is between $1000-2000. We have people buying megamansions while others sleep outside because they cannot afford basic shelter. We have widespread obesity and food waste at the same time that 34 million Americans suffer from food insecurity. These are not issues of resources, as they may have been in the past, but rather of distribution. America has chosen an economic system that funnels billions of dollars into the pockets of the uber wealthy, and by doing so, fails those disadvantaged by this system as well as the nation as a whole.
Capitalists often profess that their system affords everyone an opportunity to gain wealth as people are eventually rewarded for their hard work. But how could this claim possibly be true when, in America, the far best predictor of one’s success is the wealth of one’s parents? (I use wealth and success interchangeably here because wealth is often the marker used to measure success in a capitalist society). The rich are not simply “working harder” than everyone else in America, instead they receive the compounding advantage of their wealth that leads to more wealth and opportunities. Having wealth gives people the ability to obtain loans and make investments necessary to produce more wealth while lacking wealth prevents people from obtaining the capital necessary to compound their wealth. Thus, it is extremely rare that people themselves are successful, but rather they are placed in an environment that produces successful people. As a result, to remedy this inequality, a nation must act on an environmental scale rather than the individual. Attempting to reform on an individual level—such as through a progressive tax system—may move an economy closer to equality in the short-term, but will do little to address long-term disparities, as the compounding advantage wealth provides will inevitably increase inequality in the future. Instead, to create broad societal change, a nation must fight inequalities at their source. Luckily, there are economic systems that do just that. 
Marxist Communism functions by giving the citizens who work control of the means of production and the profits of that production. Citizens can then distribute this wealth amongst themselves equally. This system does not necessarily entail everyone being paid the same wage, as payment may depend on a citizen’s needs and abilities. Placing control of industry within the hands of the people removes the vast economic and class barriers that exist in a capitalist society. Under the ideology, wealth is deliberately distributed to provide each citizen with basic necessities such as food, water, shelter, and healthcare, resolving the inequality of capitalist distribution. Although communism advocates for the abolition of private property, the definition of private property in a communist state is different than in a capitalist one. The abolition of private property under communism does not mean that citizens in the state cannot purchase and own products; rather, it means that anything used to make money will become the property of the society rather than an individual. In a truly communist society, no private businesses exist, so the success of any one business directly benefits everyone in the society. 
This economic structure has a multitude of benefits. In addition to the fulfilling of basic needs mentioned earlier, communism provides truly equal opportunities for everyone, rewarding those who are truly talented and hard working rather than those born into wealthy families. And while Americans have the perception that communism, when implemented in a nation, creates a dysfunctional society, historically communist and socialist states have been more organized and more equitable than their capitalist counterparts.
Under communism, more people are provided a complete education. For example, Cuba, a socialist state, has a literacy rate well over 99 percent compared to the United States’ 79 percent literacy rate. Greatly increasing accessibility to education allows a nation to maximize the potential value and skill sets of its citizens. One issue in America today that has received a lot of press is the funding deficit for public schools in low income neighborhoods compared to those in wealthier ones. Under communism, this gap would be erased, allowing for equal opportunity for all students. The centralized economic planning under communist and socialist governments allows for the efficient allocation of resources to schools and other institutions, with distribution exclusively focused on the well-being of the citizens rather than maximizing profits.
This last point represents a key difference between a capitalist and communist framework. Under capitalism, the key incentive of businesses and individuals is to maximize monetary gain. Although a system focussed on individual monetary gain may provide for the wants of the people, there is no guarantee that the system and will of the people will align exactly. However, once you give control of resources to the people themselves, every decision will undoubtedly be in the citizens’ best interests, as there is no reason that people would make decisions harming themselves. Take the issue with artificial intelligence (AI) for instance. Under a capitalist society, the profits of a business go directly to the owner of the business. As a result, with the integration of AI in the workplace, business owners would lay off employees as soon as robots can do their jobs for them in order to lower production costs. However, a communist society would move in the opposite direction. Since all workers will be receiving an equal share of the increased revenue generated by the more productive AI, workers would likely be able to work fewer hours while increasing wages for themselves. In a capitalist society, businesses exist as an entity to grow and earn money. Under communism, a business exists to efficiently provide for its employees and the society as a whole. 
There is also the question of innovation, or rather if it is possible to have an innovative communist society. However, much of the innovation that takes place in our current capitalist nation is already state-funded. Take the example of medical research. All 210 new drugs approved by the FDA from 2010-16 received some level of public funding from the National Institute of Health during their development. Vaccines for diseases such as the Flu, Hepatitis B, HPV, and Covid-19 would not be possible without taxpayer dollars. The importance of public sector funding stretches far outside the medical field as well. Everything from microchips and touchscreens to GPS and the fabric of the internet was made possible through extensive government funding. Such innovations would not have been possible in a completely free capitalist market, as they require great risks and may not be immediately profitable. However, they were able to come to fruition through government spending. A communist state would encourage much more of this innovation to take place, with great opportunity for the most ambitious and innovative projects the citizens of the nation want to pursue. 
Yet, despite these benefits, communist societies haven’t seemed to work out in the “real world”. Many argue that although the idea of economic equality under communism looks good on paper, it is not practical to implement on a national scale. Furthermore, history has repeatedly shown prominent communist countries devolve into totalitarian regimes, which contradicts many core principles of the ideology. 
However, the reason communism has been unsustainable in the past century is the constant resistance of capitalist nations fearing communism’s expansion. Capitalist nations’ repeated invasions and harassment never allowed Communist nations the time or security to develop peacefully. The United States has repeatedly rigged foreign elections and backed anti-communist, dictatorial candidates if a nation such as Italy in 1948 seemed likely to democratically elect a left-wing leader. The United States has gone as far as sending troops to intervene in the Russian Civil War against Russia’s Bolshevik government and infamously attempting to overthrow Fidel Castro’s government in Cuba through operations such as the Bay of Pigs.
In the face of capitalist opposition, infant communist nations often had to create totalitarian regimes as in the Leninism and Stalinism of the USSR. However, there is nothing intrinsic in communist philosophy that leads to a dictatorial consolidation of power or limitations of political freedom. On the contrary, communism represents the dispersion of power to the highest possible degree, but the circumstances in which historic communist nations—Cuba, the USSR, the CCP—have formed have led to this unfortunate stereotype. 
Communist governments have often formed in the face of decades of economic stagnation and oppression—such as Russia under the last Tsars and China in the early 20th century—so the economic advances they do make are often overshadowed by the lack of wealth in the region. The world has never seen a properly implemented democratic communist state free from the attack of capitalist states, but it is likely that such a state would be much more successful and prosperous than any other. The United States also has another unique advantage over all of these nations: its immense wealth. Although the median US income is just under $70,000,  the average income is close to $100,000, once again showing how much the greater population could benefit from redistribution of wealth. Imagine a Communist America, with every worker making roughly $100,000 per year. Added with subsidized housing, food, education, and healthcare for all citizens, the standard of living for Americans would be very high even if wealth was completely equally distributed. 
The failures of capitalism require us to consider alternative economic systems. Under capitalism, widespread inequality is inevitable, and disparities in wealth grow larger year after year. Capitalism, by definition, encourages the exploitation of workers as companies will never pay wages equal to the output the worker produces for the company. It creates a society of excess and poverty, a society that can provide for all of its citizens but chooses not to, an unnecessary zero-sum game that most of us will become the victims of. Communism gives power and wealth back to the people working in the nation. The ideology allows the working class, as well as the nation as a whole, to choose to invest in institutions that may not be monetarily profitable but are pursuits (healthcare, shelter, food, medicine, scientific research, etc) that increase the well-being of the society as a whole. In such a case, a profitable business model will no longer be a necessity for innovations, greatly expanding technological development. Communism eliminates competition, allowing for collaboration and the sharing of secrets or proprietary information between firms to provide the best possible product for consumers. The communism system encourages innovation that benefits the citizens of a nation in exchange for the innovation that exists solely to turn a profit. 
History has been a fight for the dispersion of power to the people, for the increasing of fairness and equality, from monarchies to capitalist governments and business owners. However, saying that capitalism is the best we can do is what happens when we give up on fairness as a core principle of our society. The next step is the completion of this process: implementing the fairest and most equal society possible. The spread of communism is much like the original spread of enlightenment democratic ideals in Europe in the 17th century. Old monarchies feared the spread, and declared war on nations transitioning to democratically held governments. The same process has taken place across the world for the past seventy years. Countries have repeatedly tried to transition to communism, but capitalist nations fearing the expansion of the philosophy have attacked and meddled in these nations. This transition is so difficult because it is capitalists in power that have everything to lose, and therefore have no incentive to create a just society. This generational hierarchy is why the idea of communism has been smeared to a nearly unsalvageable level in this country. It is why I felt the need to explicitly say I was not a communist at the start of this article, in fear of the immediate judgment and backlash I would face when taking such a stance. We Americans live in a culture where rather than thoughtfully discussing ideologies that are not beneficial to those in power, we have been taught to ridicule and attack them. We use buzzwords and half baked ideas to dismiss anything that contradicts what we have decided to be our world view. We must take a step back and carefully consider whether America is currently the type of country we want to live in, or if there is a better way that allows us to provide the best for all.