So I watched Trumbo the other day. It’s about a blacklisted writer who stood up for what he believed in and used his writing to do that–right up my alley. But there’s a scene early on where he explains what communism is to his daughter, Niki.
NIKI: So, are you a Communist?
DALTON TRUMBO: I am.
NIKI: Is it against the law?
DALTON TRUMBO: It is not.
NIKI: That lady with the big hat said you’re a “dangerous radical.” Are you?
DALTON TRUMBO: Radical, maybe. Dangerous, only to men who fling Cokes.
NIKI: You don’t want to overthrow the government?
DALTON TRUMBO: No, we have a good government. But anything good can be better, don’t you think?
NIKI: Is Mom a Communist?
DALTON TRUMBO: No.
NIKI: Am I?
DALTON TRUMBO: Well, why don’t we give you the official test. Mom makes you your favorite lunch…
NIKI: Ham and cheese.
DALTON TRUMBO: Ham and cheese. And at school, you see someone with no lunch at all. What do you do?
DALTON TRUMBO: Share? You don’t tell them to just go get a job?
DALTON TRUMBO: Ooh. You offer them a loan at six percent, ooh, that’s very clever.
DALTON TRUMBO: Ah, then you just ignore them.
DALTON TRUMBO: Well, well… you little commie.
But I’m here thinking “It can’t be that simple.” What happens the next day, when the kid doesn’t have his sandwich again? And the next day? And the next? What happens when the kid realizes he never has to make a sandwich again because someone else is always going to make it for him.
There are times where Trumbo seems to be a pro-communism movie. I guess that’s unavoidable when your protagonist’s story revolves around him standing up for his beliefs. There’s not much effort by the movie to truly define what Trumbo was fighting for vs. what America was fighting for. But maybe I’m asking for too much. That’s not what the film is about. It’s about a writer fighting for his rights, even if it’s a right to be wrong.
I can’t quite tell if the movie is portraying it so positively because A) it’s trying to show Trumbo’s optimistic view of communism B) the movie is trying to tell us why Communism is good or why people joined the USCPA. Either way, it unsettles me. My point here is, if this is how you define communism, I think it’s a gross oversimplification.
I asked my wife, who’s a social studies teacher, and she said Trumbo’s parable is pretty accurate, but that it’s not so much you giving the sandwich, but the teacher coming along and splitting your sandwich in half. It doesn’t address that one of the things communism needs to work is a super-strong government. And it’s hard to have a super-strong government that’s not fascist.
The fundamental flaw to communism is that when you get paid the same no matter what, nothing motivates you. If nothing motivates you, you don’t work hard. If no one works hard, you don’t produce anything of value. Which means the value of what you produce goes down. Without competition, there’s no self-enforcing quality control. That might be fine if you weren’t in a global market, but those days are long past. Everyone can make ovens. But can you make a good oven? The best oven?
In communism, I have no reason to work a crappy job, get money to get a degree, use that degree to become a scientist, spend countless years to make a discovery that changes the world to get prestige and riches. There’s no Pixar in a communist society–no one would sleep under their desk without Steve Jobs, George Lucas, and Disney offering opportunities.
The “communism craze” would have burned itself out after a few years. But it was certainly no reason to go after the writer of Sporadicus.