Bluegrass Cosmonaut

Highly Technical and Complicated

I just finished reading the latest newsletter from the Tricontinental Institute and about halfway through, I had an insight: communists in the U.S. need to think in concrete policy terms.

What I mean is that we have a decent grasp on the rhetoric of our cause. Most of us can work ourselves into a towering moral rage at the drop of a hat, and it's easy to do. The capitalism that we inhabit is so grotesque and terrible that there's a superabundance of things to be outraged over.

In a sense, that might be the problem: expending too much energy, both psychic and intellectual, on merely seeing and describing the monster. Yes, we need to make people aware of it. Seeing it is the first step. But maybe that whole formulation of raising awareness is wrong. Maybe the forces arrayed against us, whose purpose is to pull the wool over everyone's eyes, are too strong to be directly opposed on their own terms. What if moral outrage is a blind alley?

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has around ten million members. They currently control the government of Kerala state, which has between 34-35 million residents. Not coincidentally, Kerala also has the highest UN Human Development Index ranking in India, a 96% literacy rate (the next highest in India is Delhi at 88%), and free education and basic healthcare. They have handled the COVID-19 pandemic better than any other Indian state.

They've been able to accomplish all that because they're serious about policy. Being serious about policy requires a lot of work, and it is frequently tedious and not necessarily interesting when broken into its component parts. It is, to circle back to the title, highly technical and complicated. But that's the way forward. The policies that a Communist-led government would seek to implement are broadly popular, even in the U.S.! Medicare for all consistently polls around 70% popular support. Florida passed a $15 minimum wage in the last election while going for Trump and Republicans down the ballot. It's easy to lose sight of the fact that the political consensus in this country is actually deeply unpopular.

Communists in the U.S. need to get serious about policy, and on a granular level. I know we're morally right, but that isn't going to make anyone's life better. Since I'm calling for us to be more specific and concrete, I'll say that there needs to be a think tank associated with the CPUSA, and it needs to be staffed by professionals who can translate the Party's program into white papers. It's a huge task, but it would change the way we relate to the masses of people for the better.

If we consider ourselves materialists, then we need to be able to advocate for specific material changes with the same clarity and conviction we have in condemning the rule of capital.