Interview with a Marxist

A Comet’s Tale Writer Interviews Ethan Cisler, a Grand Ledge Student Versed in Marxist Theory


Photo by Harper McNamara

Ethan Cisler talks to Matthew Faccio, a fellow student, about Marxism. Cisler has an online presence on YouTube, where he often debates those who disagree with him.

Harper McNamara, Staff Writer

Q: What is communism?


A: There is quite a bit of confusion regarding what communism means, especially given the Cold War-era efforts to suppress the content of Marx’s works, an effort that still permeates our discourse today. Your average person will probably define communism as “when the state does everything” or something along those lines, which couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, Marx and Engels regarded the state as an instrument of the ruling class which would be abolished under communism. Communism, in actuality, is a stateless, classless, moneyless society in which the local community democratically decides what is produced, for whom things are produced, and how things are produced, based on what’s useful for society rather than what makes a few billionaires profit. 


Q: Why is communism necessary in the current era? 


A: Communism is necessary because we live in a mode of production that is in a state of decadence. Let’s look at two of the biggest examples of the contradictions of capitalism making themselves known: climate change and imperialism. According to the scientists who operate the Doomsday Clock*, the two biggest existential threats to humanity are climate change and the threat of nuclear war (which is a product of imperialism). What many fail to see, however, is that these are both direct products of capitalism. Climate change and imperialism are both products of the fact that capitalism a) necessitates infinite expansion at any cost and b) is concerned with acting on account of what is profitable rather than what is beneficial to humanity.


Q: How would you respond to people who oppose your call for communism by positing that it has never worked historically?


A: This is a very common argument that holds very little weight logically and historically. Mainly, the proponents of capitalism who tout this argument, in asserting that failure in initial implementation means that a mode of production is unachievable, ignore that this is simply how modes of production emerge throughout history, and that failure in initial implementation is not specific to communism. In fact, capitalism failed numerous times as it began emerging out of feudalism before it became the prevailing economic system- for examples of this we can see France, Northern Italian city-states, Spanish and Portuguese colonies, etc. similarly, feudalism failed numerous times as it emerged out of slave society before it became the prevailing mode of production. We can see historically that as modes of production emerge out of each other, they fail numerous times and struggle before eventually succeeding- to point out that the same principle is true for communism’s emergence out of capitalism is not an argument against communism. Moreover, people who point to communism continually failing to ignore external influence. For example, the crippling embargos, sanctions, western imperialist backed coups, etc. which are imposed upon any nation attempting “socialism”, because global capitalist powers can’t profit off of trade with a nation attempting socialism. 


Q: How would you respond to the critique that communism goes against human nature? 


A: The idea that there is one, rigid construct of human nature is a flawed one. The dialectical truth which has been validated by countless modern studies and an objective overview of history is that human nature is contradictory, fluid, and context-dependent. In fact, as evolutionary biologist Kropotkin analyses in Mutual Aid: a Factor of Evolution, it’s mutual aid (the basis of communism) and cooperation, not competition and this selfish “survival of the fittest” idea of human nature, which can be seen as the driving force of our evolution, and which has been the basis of social organization for countless successful civilizations. 


Q: What would you say to people who claim people would have no incentive to work under communism?


A: Work is bad under capitalism because it is alienated and exploited, but once work becomes something voluntary that you get to choose and do for the community and personal fulfillment (as it would be under communism once the alienation of capitalist society dissipates), we have no basis with which to make such a claim as “people wouldn’t work”. Moreover to assume that work is intrinsically bad and would also be under communism is an ideological mystification that transposes the features of one mode of production into another. 

*The Doomsday Clock is “a design that warns the public about how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making.” More information on the Doomsday Clock can be found at