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How I Became a Socialist

 

“Workin’ hard scarred my proletarian flesh
I used to go to sleep drunk every night depressed
Slavin’ for a check, a couple hundred at best
While the boss getting’ rich off my blood and sweat
And all the crumbs I get go to bills and rent
I ain’t workin’ all my life just to die in debt
Pass it off to my son but that’s all he gets
It’s fucked up but I guess it’s what they call success
And I’ma tell you in advance the last word that I said
Engrave it on my grave: Socialism or Death!”
— Prince Capone, “The Prince”

My conversion to socialism happened in stages.  It wasn’t like a religious conversion where the Holy Spirit seizes possession of you and transforms you all in one moment.  There were no rituals of initiation into the socialist creed: no baptisms or circumcisions.  I underwent a “rebirth” of sorts, but my metamorphosis took place gradually, over the span of many years, without the benefit of a priest to guide me.

Ironically, it was a spiritual experience that led me to the socialist path.  For much of my adolescence I was in and out of trouble, and by the time I was 15 I got expelled from high school.  Like many American youths, I was afflicted with a deep sense of alienation and nihilism.  My socialization had conditioned me to be an insatiable consumer whose sole purpose in life was material acquisition and obtaining the status that came with it.  But no matter how many things I owned and possessed, there was always a profound spiritual emptiness lingering beneath the façade of status I presented to the world.  This internal void caused me to lash out at everyone in a destructive manner, and I turned to drugs and alcohol to help me cope with the anguish I felt.

After being expelled from high school, I was sent to a boot camp in Oregon called Trex.  It was literally out in the wilderness, completely isolated from the trivial comforts of so-called “civilization.”  Naturally, at first I was angry and resentful that I had to be there, but over time I came to appreciate the serenity and solitude provided by the sanctuary of Mother Nature.  Being away from the city with all its distractions, I had the opportunity to start pondering the larger questions of life.  My mind had always revolved around the typical concerns of adolescence, like what clothes I was going to wear or what girl I was going to pursue.  But at Trex I started to consider the more existential questions pertaining to the meaning of life and what my purpose was as an individual.  In my search for meaning and answers, I immersed myself in philosophy, reading everything from Plato to Lao Tzu.

This newfound hunger for knowledge was just the beginning.  What really catalyzed my transformation was a spiritual experience I had there one spring morning.  Shortly after sunrise, I crawled out of my tent to witness the most majestic scene I had ever seen in my life.  It had snowed the night before and everything was covered by a thick powder-like snow.  There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky.  The sun was shining with blinding radiance, illuminating the snow so that it glistened like a sheet of crystals.  For that brief moment, I felt my individual self dissolve and merge with nature so that we became one entity.  It was then that I discovered the ancient secret of the mystics: all of life is intrinsically connected.

This revelation had reverberating effects on my thinking for years to come, and at the time, it had a profound impact on my world view.  Everything I had ever been taught about God and life was discarded, for I trusted my own experience more than some “sacred text” written thousands of years ago.  This awakening, although unknown to me at the time, was the first stage in my socialist conversion.  I had realized that all living things were one, and that human beings were part of nature, not separate from it.  I also recognized the fact that even though we were all one species with a common interest, everywhere I looked, humanity was divided: between rich and poor, white and non-white, Christian and Muslim — the divisions were virtually endless.

The next phase of my development involved rebellion.  I’ll be the first to admit that my rebellion was more instinctive than deliberate and hence more destructive than constructive.  After returning home from Trex, I started to rap and express myself through music, and that’s when I met Courtney (a.k.a. Moses Coleone; I went by Prince Capone), my partner in rhyme and crime.  The two of us would become inseparable, and together we would lead a criminal life out of absolute contempt for this society.  Courtney was a natural-born leader with a magnetic personality that attracted people to him.  Proud, black, and strong, Courtney was the spitting image of manhood, and, just like me, he didn’t take shit from anybody.  He never had a spiritual experience like I did, but he had a genuine love for people and an instinctive hatred for capitalism.  Our music conveyed the spiritual anguish and alienation we felt as a result of living in a society that places the prerogatives of profit over people, and we found many youths who could relate to what we were saying.  “We trapped inside this little home, livin’ like we cursed / Reminiscin’ gettin’ food stamps from my momma’s purse,” we rapped in one of our songs “Nuthin’ 2 Lose.”

We used most of the money we made from our album sales to buy large amounts of weed and alcohol.  We’d spend most of our time outside the studio, riding around in C’s broken-down Colt, trying to pick up new women, provoking fights with whoever looked at us sideways, or criminal enterprising in some way.  One of our favorite pastimes was harassing police officers, taunting them and calling them “pigs” until they reacted in a piggish manner.  We would always confront the law with uncompromising defiance and zealous hostility.  Eventually we recruited a few other hopeless youths into our ranks and formed a pseudo-criminal organization.  Reggie was the youngest one of us, and he personified the hopeless teenager most completely.  His mom was dead and his dad was a crack-head.  He was “raised” strictly by pimps and prostitutes, hustlers and gangsters.  This was the only life he would ever know.

In the winter of 2003, Courtney, two of our friends, and I decided to rob some rich kids who sold weed.  By then I was 18 and had already accumulated a quite extensive juvenile record.  C and I had been in and out of trouble, committing serious crimes for a few years, but we’d only been caught for petty stuff.  Our contempt for society translated itself into destructive acts that could only lead to prison or the grave; I would end up in the former and C in the latter.

Our robbery was not well planned and was poorly executed.  The drug dealers called the police and I was arrested three days before Christmas.  After a year in the county jail, I pled guilty to two counts of first degree robbery and was sentenced to 57 months in prison.  Courtney was able to post bail and get a better plea bargain and he ended up doing a year in work release.

In prison I was able to reflect on the last few years of my life since my spiritual awakening, and it became clear that crime was not a constructive form of rebellion.  The solitude of confinement facilitated the third and final phase of my conversion to socialism: reeducation.  I started to read again, this time going beyond philosophy and delving into history, economics, politics, sociology, and psychology.  I discovered the revolutionary writings of Marx, Lenin, Mao, Malcolm, Che Guevara, and Huey P. Newton.  These giants of history allowed me to understand how capitalism had created class divisions in society and extended them to a worldwide scale.  I came to see that the capitalist system alienates the human being from the earth, from his species, and from his own spiritual essence, and was the cause of my emptiness.  As my understanding of history and society increased, my criminal mentality dissolved in proportion.  I was slowly becoming a revolutionary.

I was released from prison in 2007.  By then all of my comrades were gone, and I had nobody to share my revolutionary insights with.  Reggie had been murdered by the police in 2005 and Courtney had been killed in a drunken car collision the year after.  To me, their early deaths signified the decadence of capitalism and the necessity of creating a socialist system that affirms the social nature of humankind.  Even both of my younger brothers had succumbed to the pressures of capitalist society, turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with their spiritual alienation.  As for myself, I knew that I would not return to criminal life.  My sole purpose became to overthrow the capitalist system and work toward the establishment of socialism.  When I look at the world today, the choice is as clear to me as ever: socialism or barbarism.


To correspond with Anthony Mustacich, contact Susie Day at .


 

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