By Cedrus Deodara
On My Life Before Joining the Party
Long before the onset of the COVID pandemic, I was struggling with my political identity. I had been disillusioned with the mainstream political sphere for many years at this point. Witnessing the 2008 recession and living through the aftermath which continues to this day, now that I’m in my late twenties 13 years later, has been a formative experience for me. As with most people born in the United States and raised in the public school system, I grew up learning about how communism was a failed ideology, that it bore nothing but genocide and poverty, and more than anything that it deprives people of their most basic human rights and freedoms.
Even with this indoctrination from an early age, I, growing up in a blue-collar family, always knew something was wrong in society. It was only natural for me to gravitate towards a more worker-oriented political ideology. However, as with many communists today, my political journey started with the radical liberal tendency that is social democracy. This is often masked as “Democratic Socialism” to entice people away from socialism into a form of “capitalism with a human face”. At this point, I was empathetic to the working-class struggle, but my politics focused more on economic equity, access to quality education and healthcare, racial equality, anti-war sentiments, and, of course, environmental degradation. Once the pandemic hit, all of these issues became so magnified that it became apparent that the electoral system either was never going to correct these issues or, if it did, it would be too late.
On Individualism and Collectivism
As I made my journey down a more radicalized path, I became more and more frustrated that my friends, family, and peers who all joined in complaining about how society is decaying were not willing to do any work to change it. Most of them would speak of the need for a more equitable and representative society but when the time came to build such a society, most would withdraw and say we need to focus on our own lifestyles and successes. This individualism made my blood boil. How could they not realize that it was the capitalist system and those who pull the strings of society that were creating these crises and not the working-class individuals? To answer this, we need to understand what liberalism fundamentally is: the individualistic tendency to compartmentalize the individuals and families in society as units living in a vacuum. Liberalism is the doctrine of placing the individual in the center of society. If inequities and poverty exist, it is always the individuals who are lazy and unintelligent who are to blame. If there is corruption in the government, it is always the bad-faith actors and not the nature of government to serve the capitalist class. If there is ecosystem collapse and global warming, that was due to the wasteful consumer who is simply trying to get by and not due to the economic system that relies on infinite growth in a finite world.
Collectivism, on the other hand, has become a taboo word in the capitalist west. When the word collectivism is mentioned, the first thing that usually comes to mind is an authoritarian dystopia much like the one depicted in the stories written by authors like George Orwell. His novels, such as Animal Farm and 1984, serve to paint collectivism as antithetical to humanity. What is collectivism then, if not dystopian? To answer that, consider what humanity has been striving for its whole existence: a better society. Throughout history, society has generally moved in a direction of collaboration, realizing that humans do better together as a species than we do as animals living in the wilderness. So collectivism is the collaboration of humanity in order to collectively build a better world. The direction of humanity is to ensure that we live longer, healthier lives. It is to be able to work towards building technology and infrastructure that minimize the amount of labor we individually need to contribute. Collectivism is the future, and that is a good thing, not a bad thing.
On Social Media
Feeling like my immediate circle was not as concerned with building a socialist society, I moved to the online community. I joined “Leftbook” groups, sent friend requests to self-proclaimed communists and anarchists, and started viewing videos from “Breadtube”. In each of these communities, I noticed a defining characteristic, and that was undisciplined individualism. Leftbook is particularly a good example of individualism with collectivist aesthetics. It contains people who love to call themselves socialist, who love the symbols, who love the memes, who love the debates, and who love the catharsis of getting likes for performative posts. I cannot blame them completely because being a part of a community makes you feel wanted, a feeling that is often in scarcity under the alienation of capitalist society. Another defining characteristic of Leftbook that I became acquainted with was that of rejecting or at least being apathetic to joining a true communist party. The online leftist community did get me more acquainted with theoretical concepts of socialism, but, ultimately, I grew out of these communities.
On Joining the Party
When I began searching for a party to join, up until then, I had never heard of the Party of Communists USA (PCUSA) and was looking to join CPUSA or PSL instead. I applied to each of these parties, but it took months to finally hear back from either of them. When I finally learned of PCUSA, I applied, and within a week I received a very comradely welcome. I was contacted by a member of the local club. I was then instructed to call up the General Secretary of the party. I was very nervous. Here I am, a person who is new to the movement and had only read a few theoretical books up until this point, about to speak with the General Secretary, who has been a devout communist for his whole life. It was certainly overwhelming, but when I called, my stress went away as Comrade D’Angelo answered and instantly cut the formalities. I went in feeling like I was at a job interview but soon felt like a working-class comrade. It took a couple weeks of onboarding, but in the meantime I attended my first classes at the People’s School for Marxist-Leninist Studies, and I thoroughly enjoyed what was being taught and the comradely discussion throughout. Since joining, I was instantly integrated and felt like a valued member of the party. I joined mass organizations and commissions I felt most passionate about, and after only a couple months I met some comrades in person at the American Labor Museum in Haledon, New Jersey. This was the first time in my whole life I met people in person who shared the same political passions as me. From there, my life in the party was cemented. My life feels like it has been completely changed. I feel more motivated to get out of bed, and I feel like my purpose in life has been renewed.