In modern capitalist society we are separated from family, friends and neighbors. Sometimes I get the feeling that people don’t really seem interested in getting to know each other. Do we view other people as important resources in our life?

We spend a ton of time at work and in front of the TV. Many people, while they watch movies with nostalgia about a time when communities were closer, don’t seem to work to remodel their lives to create more community time. What is it about us that creates a yearning for social interaction, but fights against actually realizing it? I think this topic deserves discussion.

Is it the mythical American romantic individualism? Some blame westerns, the lone gunslinger and the hero. Some blame corporate media. In fact, some blame it on a million things, but the Marxist concept of alienation never seems to come up in the conversation.

It is a basic Marxist-Leninist concept: The separation of workers from what they produce in turn produces workers who are separated from other workers and the world in which they live. This idea is as valid today as it was in Marx’s time.

I always find that the classics of Marxism give essential perspective in dealing with the problems of today. So, dust off your copy of the “Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844” and jump into the fray with renewed vigor.

Marx wrote:

“The object that labor produces, its product, stands opposed to it as something alien, as a power independent of the producer. The product of labor is labor embodied and made material in an object; it is the objectification of labor.”

“In the sphere of political economy,” he wrote, “this realization of labor appears as a loss of reality for the worker, objectification as loss of and bondage to the object, and appropriation as estrangement, as alienation.”

That wonderfully succinct quote gives us the basis of alienation as a Marxist theoretical concept linked to the act of production, the time we spend working.

Marx continued, “An immediate consequence of man’s estrangement from the product of his labor, his life activity, his species-being, is the estrangement of man from man. … What is true of man’s relationship to his labor, to the product of his labor, and to himself, is also true of his relationship to other men, and to the labor and the object of the labor of other men.”

What this means, said Marx, is that “each man is estranged from the others and that all are estranged from man’s essence.”

Thus alienation from our brothers and sisters is a direct result of the capitalist mode of production. We produce for profit, not people. It is our duty to bring forward this insight.

It’s not just that workers aren’t getting the surplus value they create. The capitalist system has another inherent evil — evil that doesn’t just hit our pocketbook, but infects the way we interact with everyone around us, and keeps us from forming better personal and community relationships.

The war on alienation begins at home. It’s time to put communists back in our communities, and communities back into communism. Get to know your neighbors. Join the neighborhood association. Be a resource to the people in you neighborhood. Is there a block captain on your block? If not then call the neighborhood group and volunteer. Howard Zinn once said we need a neighborly socialism. I couldn’t agree more.

This article reflects the collective thinking of the Missouri/Kansas Communist Party education/ideology committee. Glenn Burleigh, co-chair of that committee, is an organizer with the Communication Workers union.

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