April 21, 2017
Bini Adamczak’s Communism for Kids is panned by cheerleaders of an economic system that is destroying civilization
by Simon Reichley
The MIT Press recently published a children’s book called Communism for Kids by Bini Adamczak. Unsurprisingly, this has made a lot of grouchy American reactionaries very angry. Let’s investigate.
The book was originally published in German by Unrast in 2004, and translated by Sophie Lewis and Jacob Blumenfeld. A slender fable, Communism for Kids explores the conceptual underpinnings, historical failures, and future prospects of—you guessed it—communism! This excerpt, first published in The New Inquiry back in 2014, gives a pretty good sense of what it’s all about:
Now there’s nothing left. No factories, no machines, no sheet-metal or nails, and no iron-making people at all. But there are vast piles of irons that nobody needs. Although no terrible disaster has occurred—no earthquake, no war, no visit from the pope—all of a sudden, everyone is sitting around, bored stiff and hungry to boot. Some try to turn the irons into marmalade, but this proves mostly fruitless. “We’re in a real mess now,” the people say. “If only we hadn’t listened to that factory!” And one person adds: “You know what? It’s all these things! We make them in the first place in order for them to serve us, but then, they start getting uppity and we have to serve them. Now we’re stuck hanging out with all these damn irons!” And another one, someone really angry, adds: “I knew it! I knew it! It’s these stupid objects, it’s this god-damned ob- … ob-… objectification! I knew it!”
What’s the solution? How do we escape the misery of global capitalism? Through communism, “the society that does away with all the evils people suffer under capitalism.” It’s a no-brainer!
Of course, not everyone would agree. As documented by Alex Green in Publishers Weekly, the book’s publication has put a giant red bee in the too-tight bonnet of the American right. Critics at Breitbart, the National Review, and elsewhere have called the book hypocritical (because it is for sale?), dangerous (because it threatens capital’s stranglehold on the proletariat?), and creepy (because it features black and white illustrations of children building a truly just society of equals?). And, according to Amy Brand, Adamczak’s publisher at MIT, the author herself has received threatening and anti-Semitic messages. Which is a great look for people defending capitalism as the humane alternative.
It’s not really news that American conservatives would get their panties in a wad over the publication of a book not slavishly devoted to the miracle of the free market. Nevertheless, Brand and MIT are standing by the book, which they assert “builds on a European intellectual tradition” and attempts to “build bridges between ideas and people — to inform, to encourage conversation, and to develop greater worldwide understanding.” This might terrify the crusty acolytes at the Cato Institute, but is great news for parents who don’t want their kids to grow up like these two assholes.
Simon Reichley is assistant to the publishers and office manager at Melville House.