Friday, April 13, 2007

Communism Chic revisited

I have received a relatively generous outpouring of opinion regarding my previous post about one of my students who came to class one day wearing a t-shirt with a big Soviet Hammer and Sickle on the front. Many of these commenters arrived at my post through the latest Carnival of Education, where that post was featured. I forgot to alert my dear leaders of the latest Carnival of Education which was released last Wednesday, but you can still check it out at its home site, the Education Wonks.

Many of my visitors who left comments disagreed with my revulsion at the sight of the Hammer and Sickle, and called me to task for comparing it to the Nazi Swastika. I began to write a response to my detractors in the comment section of that post, but I quickly realized that my lengthy retort requires a new posting. I will answer some of my critics' concerns via a Fisking style, and I also want to thank those commenters who all expressed their disagreements in a most articulate and polite fashion. Even though they are wrong , I truly enjoyed reading their comments. So away we go:

First there was Tinny Ray, but I'm still trying to figure out what the heck he was talking about.

Next, commenter Jeff had this to say:
Communism is a type of government. That's it. However you may feel about it, however it may have been flawed in past executions, the idea is not inheritly evil. People died as a result of botched attempts at establishing this type of government - partly because that's the nature of large-scale revolution, just like when the United States was formed, and some because of corrupt leaders and the difficulties associated with trying to make a new, radical idea reality. Completely aside from whether or not it could ever work, I don't think this shirt is offensive. To stifle it is to avoid conversation about a legitimate, if failed, philosophy.

Nazism, on the other hand, specifically targeted groups for extermination. It was evil from its birth, it was designed to be evil.
No Jeff, Communism is not simply a type of government. It is a political ideology that is slavishly followed by many people who are not a part of any government. Do they want to make it a part of their government? You bet. Of course, so did the Nazis. And please, please Jeff, please tell me that you did not just compare the Russian Revolution of 1917-21 to the American Revolution of 1775-81. The Russian Revolution, and every other Communist revolution for that matter, worked toward squashing anyone who stood in the way so that the end result may be a society where the people are slaves of the leviathan state, and where personal and economic liberty are anathema to the goals of the party elite. The goal of the American Revolution was to create a society of economic and personal liberty that had yet to be seen on this earth, and they succeeded. The United States became a country that not only worked toward preserving the freedom of its own people, but spent much blood and treasure ensuring the freedom of hundreds of millions of people around the world. Can you say the same of Communist societies?

Communism is "legitimate", Jeff? How is it legitimate to steal - by force - the fruits of the labor of one person and hand that fruit to another? Jeff, can I come over to your house, put a gun to your head, take your money, then hand your money to that homeless guy over there? Didn't think so. Since government only has the powers that we the people give it, how are we supposed to give the government the power to do something that we ourselves cannot do? Communism (and socialism, of which Communism is just an evolutionary stage) both fly in the face of human nature, and only oppressive government force can keep people in line.

Commenter Jack Phelps had this to say:
But there is a key reason that communism and socialism are given passes relative to national socialism--it's because violent racism was a fundamental party line of the latter, where the deaths caused by the former were rooted in economic and political rather than racial causes.
Jack is trying the old but-the-Nazis-were-racists-and-the-Communists-weren't routine. First, does it matter to the dead person that he was killed for economic and political reasons rather than racial ones? He is still dead! But I have more to add. Communism may not be known for being a racist ideology, but they still kill, imprison, and enslave based on other kinds of bigotry. Instead of certain racial minorities, Communists hone in on religion and social-economic class. Karl Marx himself called religion, the "opiate of the masses." In every communist society, religion is banned or restricted, and practitioners of religion are repressed and harassed. When the Soviet Union was formed, one of the first things that happened was that churches were burned and religious officials were killed or imprisoned. China still imprisons religious dissidents to this day. Just ask the Falun Gong. The other task that fledgling Communist governments complete is the subjugation and confiscation of the lives and assets of the hated Bourgeoisie. Private capital is confiscated by the government, and any dissenters are imprisoned or executed. Che Guevara shot them at La Cabana prison near Havana, and Pol Pot in Cambodia was so ruthless in his desire to eliminate anyone of means, people with eyeglasses were marked for death because it meant that they were probably educated. So please don't tell me that Communists don't mark designated groups of people for death like the Nazis did. Communists just target a different demographic.

And then there is Anonymous. Only someone who remains anonymous would give us the tired old canard about the United States being guilty of its own atrocites, so we don't have any right to criticize the excesses of Communism. Anonymous said:
Several million indigenous people were the victims of United States expansion into what are now the Western States. Civilians were abused, diplaced, subjegated, raped and murdered.

These extra stars on our flag can be seen to grace many a patriotic t-shirt.

Doesn't anyone who truly cares about history, as it seems that this blog does, acknowledge that the US was created through forced expansion and genocide?
You mean the United States isn't perfect? Stop the presses!!! Yes, we did some horrible things to the Indians, and the Chinese, and the Mexicans, and of course there is the issue of slavery. The difference is that since the founding of our country we have worked to make amends to those we have wronged. What is unique about the United States is not that we have committed atrocities; what is unique is that we have done so much to stop it from happening again, both here and abroad. We have paid reparations to the Indian tribes and granted them autonomy, we freed our slaves, we helped save the world from Nazi and militant Japanese fascism, we stared down the Soviet Union and kept them from extending the Iron Curtain around the entire globe, we give billions of dollars in foreign aid every year (I wish we wouldn't). Have we slipped up along the way? Yes. Is it our policy to enslave the world? No. You can't say the same for Communism. How can I prove it? People vote with their feet. How many people are busting their hump to emigrate to America every year? Millions. How many people have busted or are busting their hump to emigrate to the Soviet Union, Red China, North Korea, Cuba, and Vietnam? Nope, not many.

Sorry about the long post, but I wanted to make sure my readers get a detailed glimpse into the minds of just a few of the many people out there who are still willing to apologize for Communism. Again commenters, thank you for your thoughtful posts, but you are simply wrong, wrong, wrong.

Good Day to You, Sir


Jack Phelps said...

I am happy to continue here if you're interested in a discussion... I'm pretty sure that communism is a stupid belief about a way to manage scarcity, not a tenet that inherently discriminates on the basis of race/sex/religion/etc. If you want to have a debate about history, I'm sure you're probably right. If you want to have a debate about economics, I'm sure we'd broadly agree. But I think we're debating philosophies here (after all we're talking about a symbol that was in use before its presence on the soviet flag and that means many different things to many different people), and communism and naziism are quite different in that respect; separated from other beliefs of the individuals who espoused them, only one of them is basically as morally disgusting as anything can be (hint: starts with N and rhymes with Wational Socialism). I'm just saying: it's worth giving the kid an economics lesson rather than falling prey to Godwin's Law in the classroom.

John said...

Nowhere in the annals of communism (as an economic philosophy) did anyone advocate an authoritarian one-party system. It just so happened that so-called "communist" governments employed a Leninist party structure that universally led to the deaths of millions.

Are human rights and representative democracy antithetical to communism? I don't think so, but since "communism" has been inextricably linked to Leninism, it's impossible to argue otherwise.

If the hammer and sickle represents a one-party authoritarian rule with or without a communist/socialist economy (China, for example, has abandoned its command economy, but not its Leninist party structure or Soviet symbolism), then and only then will I agree that the shirt is bad, m'kay.

Darren said...

Communism is antithetical to human nature itself. That is why it requires an authoritarian structure to work.

Marx didn't create the authoritarian structure, but it's necessary for the rest of his ideas to be put into action.

Communism is a sickening concept.