Don’t panic. I am not a communist. I’m a patriotic American, and I fully believe in the freedom and opportunity of the capitalist system, in which hard work, motivation, and diligence gives way to success.
I did, however, just finish reading Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ Communist Manifesto, with (I hope) an open mind.
Let’s face it: nobody agrees about everything. We’re all constantly trying to convince each other that our opinions are the right ones. But we shouldn’t make the mistake of automatically dismissing other beliefs. Instead, there are several key reasons why you shouldn’t disregard someone else’s ideas before hearing them out:
1. They might be right—or at least, partially right. It would be a mistake to allow pride to keep us from learning from others. Ever heard the saying, “Every lie contains a grain of truth?” The people who disagree with you feel just as strongly about their ideas as you do about yours.
Take the Communist Manifesto, for example. Most capitalists think communists want to take away freedom. In the Manifesto, Marx writes, “Rightly so. The abolition of bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom is undoubtedly aimed at.”
After reading an admission like this, it’s easy to balk. But Marx is trying to solve a very real problem. He thinks society is fundamentally ill because the rich no longer care about the laborers, but only about profit. And he’s right—the consumer world is often heartless. I just don’t think Communism is the right way to go about fixing the problem.
2. By understanding their view, you can better understand your own. Automatically dismissing Marx’s ideas as crazy and impractical doesn’t formulate a better solution to the problem. Instead, I should work through why Communism is a bad idea, because it will help me truly understand and appreciate capitalism.
This is why we study history. We’re hoping to learn from the dead and not repeat their mistakes.
3. You have a better chance of convincing them your opinion is right. This works two ways. First, you’ll understand their argument well enough to refute it properly. If you’ve done the work of understanding their side, you can reasonably show them why your view makes more sense.
Second, “You get more flies with honey than with vinegar.” A shouting match will only offend your opponent. If you aren’t willing to listen to others, they won’t listen to you.
Honestly, after reading the Communist Manifesto, I’m amazed that Marx was able to convince anyone to follow his views, let alone revolutionize entire countries. He makes large, generalized statements that are untrue, unresearched, and unfair. Yet he gets away with them because he is so passionate about the subject.
But I’m glad I read it, because it has given me a more charitable view of Marx. It’s not that I agree with his views, but I no longer see him as an evil villain, conspiring to destroy human happiness. He was a humanitarian, a visionary who saw a problem and dedicated his life to finding a solution, even if that solution turned out to be flawed.