The capitalist system is deeply founded in individualism. Even at its best, it puts the one above the many.
For instance, take the Bill of Rights in the US constitution. All of the rights listed are primarily intended to protect a single person. When the word “people” is used, it refers to individuals as a group, and not to the community. The 10th amendment mentions the states which make up the United States, but that is a political entity, and doesn’t mean “the community.”
As communists, we take community seriously. The word communist springs from the same root as community, commonality, communal, and so forth.
A person who acts primarily on their own interest, who makes decisions on the basis of what’s best for her/his own ego, bank account, or control over others, is not a communist however much they may quote Marx or Lenin.
To put yourself above all else is to maintain one of the structures that underpins capitalism. It is a bourgeois attitude. Only an individualist can say “this pipeline is good for my bottom line regardless of its impact on the environment that we all live in.” Only an individualist can say “it’s that person’s fault that they are poor, they just make bad decisions.” Only an individualist can say “I want to keep people of color out of my neighborhood.”
In the New Communist Party our structure is one of groups of collectives working together for common goals. When we are part of a collective, we have the opportunity to cast aside those old bourgeois ways of thinking and acting, and start to think about how we fit into a larger context.
This doesn’t mean a person has no worth outside of the common welfare. Each person has her/his own set of experiences, talents, and skills. Each of us has our own roles that we play in our families, workplaces, neighborhoods. We each bring something unique. But with that understanding, we know that we are all who we are, not in a vacuum, but in relationship to the people and environment in which we live.
Centuries of bourgeois propaganda, glorifying the individual above all else, is not easy to overthrow. Not in society, and not in our own minds. We need to be aware of it when we do it, and to help each other to change it.
Come the revolution, there will have to be work camps for people who undermine society by fighting for those old bourgeois ways of thinking and acting. They can’t be allowed to poison society. Just as bourgeois society understands that freedom of speech doesn’t mean that you can yell “Fire” in a crowded theater, freedom of speech in a communist society will mean that you can’t promote greed, patriarchy, homophobia, racism, or other ways of thinking that divide the community against itself.
These work camps will not be designed to be punitive. They will be remedial projects that teach by example how to learn to live as part of a collective and not as an egotist. Communist justice will be restorative justice. When these people have discarded bourgeois ways of thought and learned to be part of a collective, they’ll be welcomed back into society.
Of course, being taken from one’s familiar life and put in a camp will involve the pain of disruption. Ask any of the migrants who have left their homes to seek asylum in the developed world, and they’ll tell you how hard it has been for them.
Meanwhile, the rest of us will be enjoying a new freedom, a new set of rights for the whole community: freedom from oppression, freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom from violence.