Communism and Human Nature | Dissident Voice

In a world becoming more atomized and misanthropic by the day, where it seems sometimes that you have only to be a raving degenerate in order to achieve fame and power—witness Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, or, in a different way, Milo Yiannopoulos (whose degeneracy, though, has partly caught up with him)—it is useful to be reminded of the other side of human nature. The institutions of modern capitalism happen to reward depravity, first and foremost in the economic sphere, but since the maturation of mass society generations ago, in the cultural sphere as well. One is constantly confronted, therefore, by moral and intellectual filth—the depths of human vulgarity on television and the internet, mad lusts for power and profit in politics and business, collective slavishness to mainstream norms in intellectual institutions, self-deception on a virtually heroic scale among the hordes of objective servants of power. One feels hemmed in by forces of delayed social implosion; one feels claustrophobic in a society whose categorical imperatives are but to privatize and marketize, to impersonalize, bureaucratize, and stupidize, all for the sake, ultimately, of accumulating capital.

Fortunately there are avenues of momentary escape from the decadence. One such avenue is to follow a particular train of thought that David Graeber pursues in his bestselling Debt: The First 5000 Years, as well as in this paper. It provides a conceptual antidote to the knowledge that Trumps and Bannons exist.

Namely, Graeber reminds us that fundamental to human nature, more fundamental than the debaucheries thrown up by late capitalism, is the tendency that he dubs communism. On a deep level, we are all (or nearly all), to some degree, communists. For if communism means “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” as Marx defined it, then it simply means sharing, helping, and cooperating—giving to others in need what you’re able to give them, even…

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