Friday night, I spoke with a self-described communist.
I have done considerably more than flirt with communism, socialism and anarchism. I often describe myself as an anarcho-syndicalist, tho' I suspect that is much less true than when I was in college and had these kinds of conversations quite frequently. See, nowadays, I don't let ideological purity get in the way of the practical nuts and bolts of human society.
My fall-out with communism occurred, for instance, when I noticed that every attempt at a communist government had collapsed into a cult-of-personality military dictatorship and never really left it in a way that could be described as communist. Mostly, they stay military dictatorships, or become regular capitalist democracies.
So the socialist lacuna between the people's revolution and the withering of the state became troubling for me. It seemed to me that on one side you had the worker's revolution and on the other side, across a bottomless pit, you had this wonderful utopia but no one knew how to build the bridge attaching the two. So the primary question became, for me, "How do we fill the chasm or build the bridge?"
I have considered the question, off and on, for years . . . and no solution is forthcoming. No one seems to know. The practical nuts and bolts of building a better society don't seem to be very interesting to most people - the utopian fantasy seems to move them.
(Of course, this is just as true of radical capitalism. Anarcho-capitalist fantasies are splendid but to get there we're just supposed to trust that megacorporations are going to let their power go to fit the ideology of Miltonian economics? Preposterous. Just as preposterous as imagining a communist dictatorship will cede its power to some ideal stateless society. The reality of power and control make this nearly impossible to imagine.)
Which as both a writer and a sausage maker is unsatisfying. Books are great, but they aren't the creative frenzy that, well, artists sell as the artistic process. There's a lot of stuff that isn't obsessed dudes at typewriters spilling their heart and soul. There's a lot of research and then a lot of editing. The finished product is the result of a lot of hard work.
The same with sausage. We all love sausage, but to get there requires pushing meat through a grinder. It's sticky, messy, cold work. The end results are great, but there are practical issues in sausage making that need to be performed before you sink your teeth into its utopian pleasures.
Finishing a big project is best accomplished with a solid, concrete plan. If you don't have that plan, you'll end up with a shoddy product (the USSR), nothing at all (any failed revolution the world over) or you'll never start (dreamy eyed middle-class communists). Without that concrete plan, don't expect most people to get worked up over your ideology. Don't expect the revolution to happen if you don't know what that even means.