The Black Blog of Communism

The good folks over at the Volokh Conspiracy have been discussing liberal (or, rather, leftist) apologia for communism.

What surprises me, as someone who was only nine-years-old when the Soviet Union collapsed, is that I am intimately familiar with this phenomenon. This means that my familiarity does not stem from interaction with pre-1989 apologists, but rather, interaction with those who have witnessed the collapse, and then gave post-hoc rationalizations for their continuing communist sympathies. Some of these people take the moderate leftist stance: communism is good in theory, but doesn't work in practice (I would argue that it isn't even good in theory). Others argue that the Soviet Union wasn't actually communist at all (despite it's own claims and the claims of the left prior to its collapse).

As a case in point, a few days ago, I criticized the author of the blog Jewschool for including a hammer and sickle in his masthead. His reason for including it was because

jews were the primary founders and developers of communist philosophy, and all i'm doing is invoking a reference to the red diaper babies and other secular commie jews that are a very prominent and well-known part of our culture.

I then asked if, theoretically, it could be demonstrated that many (self-hating) Jews helped found and develop Nazism, would he also include a swastika in his graphic? Communism, after all, led to the deaths of far more innocents (and perhaps far more Jews) than Nazism, yet Jews like him continue to subtly defend this atrocious ideology. Communism is nothing to be proud of, and neither is Nazism.

His response:

there is nothing wrong with socialism as a political ideology whatsoever. nor is there anything wrong with communism. kibbutzim, which were the cornerstone of israeli society until the modern era, are, in effect, communist entities. and, in fact, israeli society was driven by socialist ideology until the modern era as well (hence the prominence of the israeli labor party). communist dictatorships, on the other hand, are contrary to true communist ideology, because they are driven by the whims of dictators, as opposed to the will of the people. if socialism intended to benefit all participants within a society, communist dictatorships deviate from that goal, as they intend only to benefit the party and its leaders. thus, it was not communism nor socialism as an ideology that killed jews in the soviet union, it was evil dictators who merely paid lip service to communism, as dictators in the middle east merely pay lip service to islam, as opposed to living in accordance with the faith.

This is a convenient - and typical - response from hardcore lefties. They disavow any and all crimes committed by communist regimes with the claim that, by definition, a truly communist regime could not commit human rights violations, else it would not be considered truly communist.

One begins to wonder why, after numerous attempts at implementing communism as a state ideology and achieving the same terrible results, communists and their apologists don't realize that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Communism, if it is not universally adopted by all of its participants, requires force in order to maintain, and this force requires absolute political power.

Bottom line: communism has not been fully rejected by the left, and until that day comes, we who have learned its terrible lesson must continue to teach those who refuse to accept its economic and moral failure.

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Perhaps the most frightening

Perhaps the most frightening delusion of modern leftists is that Marxism "has never been tried." What this means in practice is that legions of intellectuals still exist who would cheer the very next attempt to "try" communism. And the one after that. And the one after that. And so on. Each failure, each Gulag, each mountain of skeletal corpses will be taken as evidence of the urgent need to try, try, try again.

This evinces a downright pathological commitment to socialism as an ideology. The idea is that socialism simply cannot be wrong--it's impossible, just as it is impossible for 1+1 to equal five. Therefore, anything that fails in the implementation cannot be socialism.

The intellectual and moral debasement reflected in this mindset is nothing short of horrifying. It is totalitarian logic taking hold in the minds of the clever and the gullible, and one can watch it on any given day in any given city of the West.

(Note well, one can also claim that capitalism, democracy, or the UN has never really been tried, and some do claim exactly this.)

One begins to wonder why,

One begins to wonder why, after numerous attempts at implementing communism as a state ideology and achieving the same terrible results, communists and their apologists don't realize that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Communism, if it is not universally adopted by all of its participants, requires force in order to maintain, and this force requires absolute political power.

socialism does not necessitate the existence of government; nor does socialism require the institution of force. libertarian socialism--aka, modern anarchism--is an ideal that should be awakened in others, not something they should be forced into at the barrel of a gun. that this notion is lost on you is simply demonstrative of your own compulsion towards forcing your ideology on others.

"Love and coercion can never go together; but, though love cannot be forced on anyone, it can be awakened through love itself. Love is essentially self-communicative: those who do not have it catch it from those who have it. Those who receive love from others cannot be its recipients without giving a response which, in itself, is of the nature of love. True love is unconquerable and irresistible and goes on gathering power and spreading itself, until eventually it transforms everyone whom it touches. Humanity will attain to a new mode of being through the free and unhampered interplay of pure love from heart to heart." -- meher baba

communist dictators did not send people to the gulag for the benefit of the people; they did so for the benefit of their own power. thusly, they did not practice socialism. why is that so hard for you to see?

sage--when american industrialists call for free markets, and then use their ties to government to influence trade policies that impede competition by giving them unfair advtanges over their competitors--that's not a free market, and it's not really capitalism. it's the tyranny of the dollar.

honestly, i'd love to see both an anarcho-socialist and an anarcho-capitalist society exist, so i can see which really works to the benefit of the people once in place. but since we really have never seen either of those things in their true forms, we continue to be at the mercy of the whims of the powerful and the elite.

mo1 - suppose that the

mo1 - suppose that the result of a stateless society is an unequal distribution of wealth, in which some individuals have far more wealth than others.

Would you advocate using force to create a more equal outcome?

i, personally, would not,

i, personally, would not, no.

tho i would try to be the most righteous person i could be, and be such an inspiration to others in the life that i lead, that they would be inclined to redistribute their own wealth for the benefit of the society in which they live.

lead by example, not by coercion.

i, personally, would not,

i, personally, would not, no.

tho i would try to be the most righteous person i could be, and be such an inspiration to others in the life that i lead, that they would be inclined to redistribute their own wealth for the benefit of the society in which they live.

lead by example, not by coercion.

I applaud you for your respect of others' rights.

I think that in a stateless society, due to the subjective nature of economic value, there would be some individuals who would become very wealthy.

Yes, many wealthy people (and corporations) often use state power to violate others' rights. But this problem can only be solved by doing away with state power, not using more state power to fight existing state power.

If you are not willing to use coercion, I think you are more in line with market anarchism, not anarchosocialism.

you should really read more

you should really read more about anarcho-socialism before you draw that conclusion; tho i might add that some of my friends who lean a little further left than i call me an anarcho-capitalist, perhaps for this reason.

Thanks, I've read quite a

Thanks, I've read quite a bit about anarcho-socialism, and think market anarchy is much more congruent with the subjective nature of value and the role of private property in economic calculation.

Mo, I apologize for

Mo, I apologize for mischaracterizing your views. I didn't realize how committed you are to peace and non-coercion.

However, I still must question the wisdom of the hammer and sickle on your masthead. Even though it is historically accurate that Jews were heavily involved with the creation and perpetuation of the Soviet regime, it is nothing to be proud of.

jon, i tend to think that

jon, i tend to think that when we look at life and society in purely economic terms, we dehumanize each other, simply replacing our personage and that which makes us truly human, with dollars and material goods. i value anarcho-socialism, not because it provides a blanket of material success to the individual, but because it demphasizes the importance of materialism, rather substituting it with community and mutual aid. it devalues the dollar, and revalues the human spirit.

i know that's ridiculously idealistic, but i'd rather fight for something i believe in, than accept something i disagree with.

micha--you are wholly

micha--you are wholly entitled to your opinion, as am i. that's what it means to truly be libertarian--to be tolerant of others positions only that they can extend the same courtesy likewise.

i still disagree with your point, however--i do not think communism is something to be ashamed of. i think stalin should be ashamed of himself, as, to an extent, should lenin. but i don't think, for example, that trotsky had anything to be ashamed of.

i think it's fine to be a communist and to believe in the ideal of communism. it's not cool to kill people however, particularly to advance your political agenda, no matter how idealistic it is.

thus i put the hammer and sickle there for nothing other than an illustration of our positive communist "heritage", and certainly not to glorify our death at the hands of so-called communist tyrants.

i value anarcho-socialism,

i value anarcho-socialism, not because it provides a blanket of material success to the individual, but because it demphasizes the importance of materialism, rather substituting it with community and mutual aid. it devalues the dollar, and revalues the human spirit.

But what if materialism is a core value for me? What if the dollar revalues my human spirit?

Are you willing to deny that my DVD player and my dollar is mine, because you don't believe in property? Are you willing to use force on me to take those things away?

Incidentally, Mo, I quoted

Incidentally, Mo, I quoted Trotsky in a post a few weeks ago.

I can understand why one might believe in the ideal of communism without endorsing coercion. However, it seems to me that the symbol of the Soviet Union represents the latter, not the former. To each his own, I guess.

But what if materialism is a

But what if materialism is a core value for me? What if the dollar revalues my human spirit?

well, in the case, i'd presume that you were a horribly misguided and shallow individual who mistakenly believes that material wealth will plug the hole in his soul that's been gouged out of him by corporate tyrants who use advertising as a form of mind-control. "you will die alone unless you buy our product!"

of course, that's just my opinion.

Are you willing to deny that my DVD player and my dollar is mine, because you don't believe in property? Are you willing to use force on me to take those things away?

certainly not. however, if in your pursuit of your dvd player, you force others into slavery, indentured servitude and/or destitute poverty (as demonstrated by the actions of the world bank, the imf, the gatt, the g8, etc.) then i will fight you tooth and nail, every step of the way, in order to ensure the freedom of others, and their right to a living wage.

fair enough?

micha, you mean "from each

micha, you mean "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need," right?

kidding, kidding!

well, in the case, i'd

well, in the case, i'd presume that you were a horribly misguided and shallow individual who mistakenly believes that material wealth will plug the hole in his soul that's been gouged out of him by corporate tyrants who use advertising as a form of mind-control. "you will die alone unless you buy our product!"

Why I am misguided for trying to pursue my ends (material wealth) but you are not misguided for pursuing your ends ('sufficient' wealth)? Am I misguided even if I am not influenced by corporations? Or are the only valid ends the ones you decide are valid?

And I think you don't give individuals enough credit when you call advertising "mind control". If I physically plug a remote control device into someone's head which allows me to control his mind without his consent, that wouild be mind control. Are you saying that when Loreal advertises its shampoo on TV, that those viewing are hopeless automatons unable to make their decisions and choices? Are they just robots?

If that's the case, isn't your blogging also a form of mind control?

certainly not.

So then you cede property rights.

however, if in your pursuit of your dvd player, you force others into slavery, indentured servitude and/or destitute poverty (as demonstrated by the actions of the world bank, the imf, the gatt, the g8, etc.) then i will fight you tooth and nail, every step of the way, in order to ensure the freedom of others, and their right to a living wage.

I don't believing in forcing, and by that I mean using aggression, to pursue my ends. If someone is willing to voluntarily give me a dollar or DVD player in exchange for something that allows him to pursue his own ends, then the two of us are better off in our own lights. That is the free-market, and it has nothing to do with corporations or mind-control or living wages.

Indentured servitude is

Indentured servitude is highly underrated. Plus, you get to wear a cool earing! [Inside Jewish joke, folks. Move along.]

right to a living wage

Bad choice of words. I just posted on that topic a few minutes ago.

Jonathan, I think what Mo is

Jonathan, I think what Mo is saying is that it is a lifestyle choice. Anarcho-socialists, for aesthetic (and in their eyes, moral) reasons, choose to live a spartan lifestyle, whereas us godless capitalists at catallarchy like to look at the shiny objects. :)

Why I am misguided for

Why I am misguided for trying to pursue my ends (material wealth) but you are not misguided for pursuing your ends ('sufficient' wealth)? Am I misguided even if I am not influenced by corporations? Or are the only valid ends the ones you decide are valid?

like i said, this is just my opinion, not any mandated form of authority nor stated political ideology of philosophy to which i subscribe. i don't speak for all anarchists nor libertarian-socialists when i say this; i speak for myself as a an anti-corporate activist.

And I think you don't give individuals enough credit when you call advertising "mind control". If I physically plug a remote control device into someone's head which allows me to control his mind without his consent, that wouild be mind control. Are you saying that when Loreal advertises its shampoo on TV, that those viewing are hopeless automatons unable to make their decisions and choices? Are they just robots?

advertising agencies are reknowned for employing subliminal tactics to advance their marketing agendas. the use of memetics, semiotics, and other forms of subtle mind control is a part of every marketing & advertising student's curriculum.

read "coercion" or "media virus" by douglas rushkoff or "no logo" by naomi wolf. or see rushkoff's frontline documentary the merchants of cool.

If that's the case, isn't your blogging also a form of mind control?

only if i employ the same subtle tactics used by advertisers.

Jonathan, I think what Mo is

Jonathan, I think what Mo is saying is that it is a lifestyle choice. Anarcho-socialists, for aesthetic (and in their eyes, moral) reasons, choose to live a spartan lifestyle, whereas us godless capitalists at catallarchy like to look at the shiny objects. :)

Well, I wanted to make sure he means it when he says he wouldn't use coercion. I love shiny things, gadgets, portable electronics, computers, cars, the internet, houses on the beach, good food, and fancy speakers. Those are my subjective ends, and somehow I am 'immoral' for voluntarily pursuing these ends. Yet, mo1 is willing to put a hammer and sickle on his blog, the very symbol of those who in times past saw my values as decrepit enough to make me their slave for the "greater good".

It always starts out as an emphasis on community, yet it ends in tears. Every communist despot in history has tried to implement the "real" Marxism, not what Lenin did. They all thought they would be "moving beyond" the bad history to the true roots of Marx, and it inevitably lead to massacres - Stalin, Kruschev, Mao, Castro, Kim, Castro, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, Tito, Ortega, and on and on.

Each of these guys said that they were going to do it the right way, yet the 150+ million found out just how wrong they were.

Marxism is a seductive dream that needs to be put to rest. It's been tried. It's been really tried. It's been This time for real tried. It's time to put the anti-human symbol of tyrants and killing-factories, the hammer and sickle, away for good.

Damn, I can't argue with

Damn, I can't argue with that Jonathan. However, I do think that Mo is one of the good guys, in that he rejects coercion. True, neither you nor I believe that communism is even a good idea in theory, but I don't think we are going to change mo's opinion of that, at least not any time soon. Perhaps, with enough subliminal tactics, he will eventually see the light.

just two quick

just two quick comments:

communism cannot be fully rejected by the left, as it IS a fine ideology on paper. the fact that it has never worked stems from the flaws in humanity, not in the system itself. that said, i don't think those flaws will ever be truly removed from humanity. reject the past consequenses of communism all you won't, but don't reject the idea, as it is something to be studied and learned from.

secondly, I ask that you revise your quote. " power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" is, and always has been shortsighted. a better quote would be "absolute power corrupts the corruptable, absolutely". therein lies the human flaw that makes communism as a practice unmanagable.

Richie, how could a social

Richie, how could a social system which necessarily depends upon human action be fine on paper if it completely ignores the nature of those it purports to control? That's like saying that my economic theory works fine on paper, as long as humans can learn to flap their arms and fly. Well, no, that doesn't work on paper.

And I agree that we should study and learn from communism's failure, if only to learn what not to do. I don't see any reason not to reject the idea communism if we as decent people are willing to reject the past consequences of communism. How many more failures and deaths are necessary before everyone rejects this horrible idea?

And no, absolute power does not only corrupt the corruptable; it corrupts everyone. Why? Because we are all corruptable in some sense. I know its silly to use a fictional story to make a point, but Lord of The Rings demonstrated this point well. Even the noble heroes of the story either rejected the ring's power or became corrupted by it. The same is true of political power.

to use my own fictional

to use my own fictional story to retort: which is why we should only put into power those who are reluctant to take it, and only under circumstances which increase that reluctance. not all things corrupt all people. but i digress. i'll let the rest of you continue your argument.

But why put anyone into

But why put anyone into power? Why not just control your own life and let other people control their own lives?

if you think that'll work, i

if you think that'll work, i have a bridge that i'd be more than happy to sell you.

Well, richie, I'm always

Well, richie, I'm always willing to discuss the merits and demerits of anarchism. More than a few of your fellow jakeneckers consider themselves anarchists, so you might want to sell them a bridge as well, assuming of course, that you have more than one bridge for sale.

The cold war is not over,

The cold war is not over, children.

Anyone believes that it was about submarines and ICBM's is quite foolish.

First of all, i read

First of all, i read everything and just have some general comments.....can someone tell me about a type of government that worked well both on paper and in it's manifestation?(a sincere and sarcastic question)... you put the power of the word into individuals and the word as blunt as it may be has turned into 1000 different facades of gray in which the government can manipulate and taint to the best of it's ability, i have never seen an individual with power who hasn't abused it...Can you further tell me on the subject of media, something on television besides comedy (comedy being that which passifies our dicontent, the "relief" from other frustrating media) that doesn't fall under the category, "Be scared and Consume".... and i would also say that the TV has us hooked simply in the fact that we are "tuned in "to it...it has made itself the subjects of our conversations, the catalyst to spending money, and the instrument to which we are able to shut out the rest of the world...and not deal with it for that matter....

Micha: to me it always comes

Micha: to me it always comes down to human nature. Again, I don't feel that it's power that corrupts, but rather that power attracts the corruptable. The reason anarchy won't work (imo) is there will always be a human with both the desire and the means to come to power. I cannot see this changing. As long as there is a route to power, or a way to make one, someone will be on top, whether it be publicly or privately. i would rather have a structure in place to moniter those in power than delude myself into thinking no one is, while they pull the puppet strings behind my back.

Well, I agree that power

Well, I agree that power attracts the corruptable moreso than others, but even if you believe that power does not corrupt everyone, the result will still be the same. The corruptable will still seek power, so any system of government will eventually become corrupt.

i would rather have a structure in place to moniter those in power than delude myself into thinking no one is,

There is already a natural, undesigned structure in place for this: competition. Voting doesn't provide any check to power, because

A) It is irrational to vote
B) Those in power can purchase votes by offering various benefits in exchange
C) There is little difference between the two political parties, so political choice is a myth

i am not arguing in favor of

i am not arguing in favor of the current system, nor in defense of another. merely stating an opinion on the premise behind your argument. there are others on the 'neck that are much more politically informed and active than myself, so i'd rather let them take up/continue this.

Ok, no problem. It's been an

Ok, no problem. It's been an interesting discussion.

There's an old philosophers'

There's an old philosophers' joke about this--a fictitious journal response:
"My opponent endeavors to refute my argument by means of several alleged counterexamples. But he has clearly not read my argument as I intended... for I intended it to have no counterexamples."

[...] a swastika, but to

[...] a swastika, but to each his own. Anyway, in Mobius’s new post, he links back to an old Catallarchy post of mine from a few months ago. In the comme [...]