Post by wordswordswords on Jan 15, 2005 16:36:10 GMT -5
That is an interesting article.
This may be one of those obvious observations that the author thought not worth mentioning, but it seems to me that one reason Fascists and Communists often get lumped into the same category is that the Communists used the same strategy as the Fascists found useful--that the ends justify the means.
It's a way of thinking that people who are fiercely attached to an ideology often adopt, especially when the ideology is promising a world that will be a great improvement over the current one.
I hope the time will not be too long in coming when public opinion will differentiate between Stalinism and Marxism. Here in the States during the ‘20s and ‘30s many of our better minds were, out of love for liberty and humanity, associated with the Communist and Socialist movements, believing them to be acting in the spirit of Marx’s thinking. Most bailed out of the party when Stalin and Hitler signed the non-aggression treaty, leaving Hitler free to attack and subdue Northwestern Europe and Britain.
In my opinion Stalin simply used Marx as a handy “ism” in order to acquire personal power, and to assuage his own paranoia. The tyranny he established in his USSR was of course as grim as that of any Tsar. None of this had anything to do with what Marx envisaged.
Read on his own, without reference to the later perverse misapplications of his thinking, Marx’s “Capital” has some ideas well worth consideration. First to mind are the effects of the means of production on the political and social structure of a nation and ultimately the dialectical process that is human history. Also important is his economic notion of the relative value added by labor and its organization in the transformation of raw materials into useful goods and services.
I believe that I can see that some applications of his ideas have been made both in the Old and New Worlds, with the organization of labor, the institution of social welfare and social security programs (the same ones that Bush is now so manfully trying to destroy) and the establishment of some fair play rules limiting the competitive games of big business.
You will please forgive my pragmatic view of things. Blame it if you must on my engineering background. The fact that these "Socialist” schemes have actually worked to help our recovery from the great depression and to help alleviate poverty in an otherwise affluent nation, I think is of more importance than the theoretical implications they might have on someone’s notion of an acceptable “ism”.
I don't let communists off so easily. For me, to admit to being a member of the party is no better than saying that you were once a Nazi. Only difference between the two is the category of individual slated for extermination. Why the Left resists the association of Communism and Nazism I can't imagine. By body count alone Stalin made Hitler look like a piker. Mussolini and Franco were absolute bush league. Keep in mind too that much of Hitler's killing, by his own strange way of thinking, was an emergency war measure. Until the war he'd maybe been responsible for a few thousand murders. Communism, even before Stalin and continuing after, killed millions as a matter of course. Comparison falls down though. Hitler was crazy. Stalin wasn't. I don't think, however, goes on the credit side of Stalin's moral ledger.
Both ideologies are the product of a few good ideas, stretched until they break -- every other alternative explanation excluded; every other input rejected with common sense; theory elevated into an alternative to reality. Communism is socialism gone crazy. Doing something to help the poor becomes eliminating class enemies, forgetting that not everyone poor doesn't deserve it, and ultimately defining the 'poor' essentially so that it means 'those who agree with me'. There are few more abhorrent ideas than the socialist notion of 'false consciousness' -- a term usually employed by a parlour pink. Looks like a working man; talks like a working man. Thinks he's an American Methodist. Why? Because he's too ignorant to accept my truth. Nazism is the idea of organic community gone crazy. All of us vs. all of those outsiders. Nothing wrong with being attentive to kind, but alas, it can so easily become bullying -- and bullying is a poor principle of government.
Incidentally, I found it interesting that the author of Robert's piece defended Communism as the natural child of enlightened ideals, and then blasted fascism as the bastard product of the 'counter-enlightenment'. Counter-enlightenment . . . I think that means the 'romantic movement' eh? Why the ideals contained in the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum are less edifying that the nonsense we see in Rousseau, I can't imagine . . . but then again, not having been a Communist, I don't find it necessary to defend youthful indiscretions of this nature.
Nope. I'm with Robert Conquest and Richard Pipes. A person admits to having being a communist without any sign of I'm-so-sorry-what-the-hell-was-I-thinking: must-have-gone-off-my-medication regret and I just stop listening. They can't have anything to say worth listening to.
Last Edit: Jan 19, 2005 10:02:31 GMT -5 by Wyndham
Robert, I think that Wyndham’s last post serves to some extent to answer your question,”why”.
Rather than offering to apologize for the dictatorship foisted by Stalin on the USSR in the name of “communism”, I was suggesting that it would be beneficial to separate that from some of the ideas that Marx had in regard to economics and history. These had some merit, sufficient at least to merit some scrutiny and discussion.
Yes the works of Hitler and Stalin can be compared in the negative sense that National Socialism had no more resemblance to ideal Socialism than Stalin’s communism had to the thinking of Marx.
We are still suffering the cold war confusion of this. Many in this country are apparently successful in lumping together “Commie” and “Liberal” with some evil bogeyman who hides in your closet or, perhaps under the bed waiting to leap out and inflict the ideology of Spongebob Squarepants upon your innocent children.
Post by RobertGraves on Jan 23, 2005 19:09:25 GMT -5
I take it for granted that Marx' theory is useful and Stalin's (limited) application was bad/evil. How liberal and commie are synonyms are beyond me (as we have oft discussed) but they just are in many parts of the USA.
It is interesting that so much writing of history in the 20th century - and my education in that subject - was influenced by Marxist thought. No text is neutral and one of the great challenges for teachers is to have students understand this. Often they lack the cultural knowledge and backgrounding to issues and find it difficult to understand the concept (and basically ideology, period). Objectivity is the impossible goal that we must continue striving for endlessly.
I've found that studying advertising is a good place to start though (with teenagers) and it leads to other discussions about apparently authoritative, neutral texts. 'I saw it on tv it must be true' is a surprisingly frequent refrain. Maybe I should do a study of SpongeBob...or maybe not.
A few thoughts here that need fleshing out but I have to run...
I think you're right about Marxism Robert. Love Djilas's assessment: Marx was a scientist. He often changed his ideas. Many of them are part of 'common sense' now. We're all followers. Its when 'what Marx wrote' became 'Marxism' (a fixed, unchanging religion) after he did that the trouble started.
Last Edit: Jan 24, 2005 12:07:35 GMT -5 by Wyndham
An excerpt: 'Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington shows that of the roughly 35 cases of democratisation between 1974 and 1990, only Grenada and Panama came about through direct US military intervention. Both were small countries right in the US's backyard and neither became a robust democracy. In the other 33 cases, democracy was largely the result of internal developments in those states.
The US is so powerful that it can probably topple other authoritarian regimes, as it did with the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, and impose elections on those countries. But because they lack the requisite institutional and cultural foundations, neither Afghanistan nor Iraq will likely become stable democracies. And weak and unstable democracies usually suffer from serious internal problems and are more likely to go to war than non-democratic regimes.'
I can't imagine what the US has to invade Iran with! My understanding is that all of its combat power is in, or warned for Iraq and Afghanistan. Invasion of Iraq would be no easy thing. There would be fewer allies than even during Gulf Storm II. An invasion would probably entail, as well, rebellion in Iraq among the Shi'i and some of the Kurds. From what I can see, as well, these are about the only people, right now, not shooting at the occupation forces. This too could change, particularly if Iran were ever threatened (www.walrusmagazine.com/article.pl?sid=04/06/09/165252&mode=nested&tid=1).
From what I've read, the only military option would be bombing, probably Israeli and American, but the Iranian program is dispersed, secret, and much of it buried.
I can remember reading once, that the first, and greatest signal that you are faced by sheer flumoxed military incompetence is the advice that the only way you are going to win the war you're not winning is to get yourself a bigger war . . .
God save us, too, if the Iranians actual have the bomb (and they might). I don't think the Mullahs would think too many times about using it, if attacked.
Last Edit: Jan 26, 2005 11:47:48 GMT -5 by Wyndham