Before 2022, I basically didn't have any political opinions. No, I mean, I wasn't all "politics are boring, they don't matter", but I simply didn't have a fully formed worldview. Many people stay at this level for their entire life! Their worldview is formed by mass media around them, and they stay within those bounds, actually delving into politics? That's for politicians, let me instead hate on this new enemy the media told me to hate. I did lean left, but I didn't even properly understand what is the difference between left and right besides "the right hates gays and the left doesn't". I thought anarchism and communism were kinda cool, but utopian. I recognized all Russian political parties as rotten to the core, and noticed a similar pattern in other countries (say, France or USA). I hated fascists like a normal human being, and self-identified as a liberal - because fascists tend to talk about hating them the most, and I figured if I disagree with fascists and fascists disagree with liberals, guess that makes me a liberal? Part of the problem is that I used the American political definitions which don't make any sense, part of the problem is that I didn't bother to learn myself.
Well, not anymore! The recent events forced me to delve into politics properly. As a Russian, it's simply impossible to ignore what's happening in front of my very own eyes, and I doubt it's easy to ignore that from other countries. So, I became... a communist! Yep, that's right, more specifically - a Marxist-Leninist, or ML for short. Well, at this point you can either close this article and swear never to interact with me again as I'm a delusional tankie, or you can read on to learn about my political journey.
In the first place, what do you know about communism? Well, maybe you are on the advanced end and know that it's a movement that aims to establish common ownership over the means of production and abolish classes and state oppression. What do you know about Marxism? Maybe that Marx was a communist? Doubt you know much else. To be on the same page, let me also mention socialism is the movement that aims to establish workers' ownership over the means of production, not whatever Nordic countries are doing right now. But I digress.
As the war went on, the initial shock passed and I could look at the situation more objectively. Namely, Ukraine does sadly have a Nazi problem, it sadly is heavily dependant on the Western countries, even though Russia isn't likely to help either of those problems. It would have been pretty hard to ever learn about that if I didn't live in Russia, but facing an issue head on forces you to learn all about it. By ignoring half of the facts, you might still get by in your friend group, but whenever you meet someone from the opposite side you will get destroyed "by facts and logic", and all you can do at that point is claim those facts are in fact fake and propaganda. At the same time, I stumbled across socialist subs. Their position actually made sense for me - they condemned Russian aggression, while recognizing the issues in Ukraine. They didn't say "Russia was right to attack", they said "Russia and Ukraine both suck". While some might call that "both sides", that would make you ignore the actual arguments socialists make. "Both sides" refers to people that don't care about politics, in other words, the so-called "enlightened centrists". "Well, both sides have a point, but I'm too lazy to figure out who's right, bye". It's different from when you say "both sides are actually lying, and I'm taking a third side". Socialism encompasses a wide spectrum of beliefs, so there's room for most people on the left on subs like that. To remind you, before, I thought "well, communism would be cool, but sadly it's impossible". I didn't have an alternative worldview - the leftmost things I could say were probably "too bad we can't completely abolish intellectual property" and "well, we should probably implement UBI or something". When I got exposed to a wide range of people that thought in roughly the same direction, it was incredible - finally I didn't have to be this politically inert person, I could actually somewhat name my beliefs, I could learn from people who share them! As such, I immersed myself in it. I learned "liberals" doesn't, in fact, mean "based people", but actually specifically means "those who believe in the free market". I learned about a bunch of contemporary and historical issues. And, most importantly, I learned about Marxism.
In the first place, what is Marxism? To put it simply, it's a materialist method of historical analysis. You can immediately see that it rejects historical views based on spirituality - spirituality might have a role in how the society is organized, but it doesn't affect history in a "the people of X couldn't progress because they were just that dirty and stupid HA" way.
Marxism is based on economic analysis. It asserts that economics, in fact, affect all other areas of life. While Marxism is based on ancient history too, not just modern one, what Marx is obviously most known for is "Das Kapital: A Critique of Political Economy" - a book in which Marx deconstructs the economic views of his time. It doesn't mean he strictly disagreed with them - his theory is heavily based on previous, foundational works in capitalism, in fact just chapter 15 of the first volume has 245 references. By analyzing capitalism, Marx came to the conclusion that the inner contradictions of capitalism will only become more apparent with time, that capitalism isn't in fact the best socio-economic order humans can possibly achieve. At the same time, Marx recognized capitalism's place in history - it's a clear step up from feudalism, because feudalism was hindering efficient production, and to progress, you had to abolish it. Similarly, it now becomes more and more obvious that to progress, we must abolish capitalism. Automation is cool, but instead of cool machines, people see evil machines that will make them lose their job. We face economic crises like every 10 years, as well as constant wars for resources with no end in sight (and don't pretend Russia suddenly broke world peace - there are many more wars at this very moment). Western countries are rich, African countries that actually produce stuff for them are poor. Some have to survive on minimum wage and can't earn much more, some own billions and can't spend that much. Every now and then, capitalism produces too much for us all to buy, and enters a recession. America invading countries for oil happened so much it became a meme. Companies centralize and become monopolies because it's that much more efficient. Climate change shows no signs of stopping. Etc. Most people actually hate the current system. Some say it's "crony capitalism" or whatever. In Marxism, it isn't. It is actually the logical conclusion of capitalism that Marxists predicted a long time ago.
According to Marxists, your social standing is determined by your relationship to the means of production. Namely, if you work for hire - you're a worker. If you solely live based on rent - if you own a company, or if you're a landlord - you're part of bourgeoisie. If you're something in between, you're part of petite bourgeoisie (for example, if you earn a living as a youtuber). The class on top of society determines the state's general direction. If it's the bourgeoisie, like in most contemporary countries (otherwise known as dictatorship of the bourgeoisie - meaning workers in general get oppressed by bourgeoisie in general), then the bourgeoisie defines the policies. They might ask for a tax loophole, ask to keep the minimum wage low to the extent workers won't rebel, and all in all generally maintain the current system that allows them to exploit workers. They obviously aren't interested in giving workers power - so there's no way to displace them within the confines of the system they control, the only way forward is to break the system completely via a revolution.
Now entering: Leninism. Well, just like Marx didn't call himself a Marxist, Lenin didn't call himself a Leninist. If you call yourself an ML, it just means you think his works are foundational to your worldview. What did Lenin do? Well, besides the revolution he led to success?
Lenin's foundational works are "State and Revolution" and "Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism". The former analyzes the state within the Marxist framework. I roughly summarized the Marxist outlook on state above. Lenin even wrote the very first paragraph of the book as if it was meant as a jab towards the current Russian regime, and the Communist Party of Russian Federation in particular:
During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred, and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their deaths, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, so to say, and to hallow their names, to a certain extent, for the ‘consolation’ of the oppressed classes, and with the object of duping the latter, while, at the same time, robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge, and vulgarizing it. Today, the bourgeoisie and the opportunists within the labour movement concur in this doctoring of Marxism. They omit, obscure, or distort the revolutionary side of this theory, its revolutionary soul. They push to the foreground and extol what is, or seems, acceptable to the bourgeoisie. All the social-chauvinists are now ‘Marxists’ (don’t laugh!). And more and more frequently, German bourgeois scholars, only yesterday specialists in the annihilation of Marxism, are speaking of the ‘national-German’ Marx, who, they claim, educated the labour unions, which are so splendidly organised for the purpose of waging a predatory war!
Furthermore, Lenin asserts that an immediate communist revolution is impossible, like anarchists suggest. Just because a revolution was done, doesn't mean the bourgeoisie won't try to take their power back (the USSR is a living... well, dead proof of that). To that extent, it's necessary to establish the arch nemesis of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie - that is to say, the dictatorship of the proletariat. What this means is, to put it simply, that capitalists will be repressed to the extent they pose a threat to the workers' control over the state, just like the bourgeoisie represses any worker that poses a threat to their state. Note that this is a collective dictatorship, and a dictatorship by the majority at that (after all, most people have to work), it is far different from the concept of a "dictator", as it is different from the bourgeois dictatorship of a minority. He asserts that it is simply impossible to progress without repressions - otherwise, capitalists will just take power back.
In "Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism", Lenin analyzes the more modern capitalist economy with constant wars and national monopolies. It's important to understand the nature of modern wars, but perhaps I'll leave it at this, research it yourself if you want to learn more.
So, we established that, as much as we'd like to abolish oppression, a single revolution can't end it. So what? Didn't insert communist country do far worse atrocities than capitalist ones?
Uh, actually, no, none of the communist countries has done nearly as much bad things as to counter the sheer ineptness of capitalism. And no, I don't mean it in a "actually, communist countries were and are perfect" way, just look at the current war started by capitalist Russia, look at the past wars started by capitalist countries, look at the genocides they've done. In fact, from some point of view, you could call fascism a form of capitalism - after all, it retains the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, the term "privatization" was even coined for describing Nazi Germany policies!
And no, even though communist countries aren't perfect, it doesn't mean they're bad. To quote Einstein (yes, that Einstein) on Stalin:
By the way, there are increasing signs that the Russian trials are not faked, but that there is a plot among those who look upon Stalin as a stupid reactionary who has betrayed the ideas of the revolution. Though we find it difficult to imagine this kind of internal thing, those who know Russia best are all more or less of the same opinion. I was firmly convinced to begin with that it was a case of a dictator's despotic acts, based on lies and deception, but this was a delusion.
Or to quote the CIA:
The Western idea of a dictator within the Communist setup is exaggerated. [...] Stalin, although holding wide powers, was merely the captain of the team [...] There is now no organized opposition, [... as the Soviet People] see it, there is a grave outside menace.
When you look at USSR's position up until 1945, it's far from desirable. First a civil war and a Western intervention and a Polish-Soviet war, then a march for industrialization nececciated by a coming war with Germany and the overall extremely hostile relationships with capitalist countries. There were a lot of enemies both inside and outside, so it's natural the repressions had to be ramped up, and the more repressions there are, the more innocent victims appear. Nonetheless, it's remarkable how much of the anti-communist works of that time are, to put it simply, written by fascists. Some of them made its way to the current Russian ideology!
After Stalin, the dictatorship of the proletariat was officially abandoned, and the USSR slowly declined to the point the "communist" party decided it would actually like to make the switch to liberalism completely. The capitalists won, so clearly the notion it must be fought to preserve socialism was based in reality.
Similarly, when other countries do something bad, it is not enough to condemn it, you must learn why it happened in the first place. "Crazy dictator" might be a convenient excuse, but it doesn't really answer anything at all - the real question is, "whose class interests does this situation benefit?". So many people take CIA's word for what's happening around the world without critically analyzing the situation.
Communist governments have faced constant Western aggression and demonization. The kneejerk reaction you may have is to accept all of the alleged issues as a fact. However, when actually delving into history and analyzing it in a Marxist way, it offers three possible conclusions - either it didn't happen at all, it was justified, or it happened due to a misjudgement and wasn't justified. Either of those possible cases offer opportunities to learn, and it'd be foolish to dismiss them.
To conclude, the world can't always be explained with "black and white" - however it can be explained with class interests. It's important to keep track of everyone's interests, to make sure you don't support the opposing class in the class war. When someone makes mistakes, you must learn what led them to make the mistake they did - otherwise you don't actually even recognize why it is a mistake. If you want to debate me, I'm always open.
P.S.: The war in Ukraine is an inter-capitalist war to make Ukraine dependant on either Russia or the West. There's no place in there for the proletariat. I truly am sorry for the millions of workers that will suffer from this war, and I assert that the only real way to stop imperialist wars is to abandon capitalism altogether. Capitalists are the enemy - not Russia or Ukraine. No war but class war.