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Can Dead Commies Be Good?

My son Matt has very strong views on communism. He went through a two-year period in which he was deeply interested in Soviet Russia, and read everything he could get his hands on about Soviet history, including Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. A kid who will read The Gulag Archipelago at 14 is bound to be strong-minded.

He is deeply bothered by the double standard our contemporary culture has regarding Nazism and communism. He’s like me in that way. When I lived in DC in the early 1990s, a new bar opened, the theme of which was Soviet kitsch. I went there once with friends for a drink, but found I couldn’t stay. The ideology that the bar made celebrated ironically was responsible for the deaths of tens of millions, and untold human suffering. The Cold War was over, but this was still not funny, and never should be. That was my view.

That became Matt’s view too, not because he heard it from me, but because he read deeply into Soviet history. And Matt, because he had read so deeply, trying to understand how something like that could have happened to Russia, had vastly more facts to draw on to reach that conclusion than I did. Not too long ago, he was in a t-shirt shop looking around, and was so offended by the Che Guevara shirt and other communist kitsch on sale there that he left the store. I was talking to him about it afterward, and he was genuinely upset, saying that he did not understand why it’s okay to traffick in symbols of communism, but not Nazism. In his view, if we don’t see communism as equally evil as Nazism, we are not seeing it clearly, and we do a great injustice to its victims.

I told him I believe he’s right about that. I explained that the main reason for the double standard is that the left dominates the news and entertainment media, and therefore cultural framing of issues like this. You won’t find many of them endorsing communism, but by far the greater sin is anti-communism. They are less bothered by going soft on Stalin than by going soft on Joe McCarthy. Besides, there are a lot of liberals who would agree that communism went too far, but forgive the Soviets because they think their hearts were in the right place. They just wanted a better world for all (goes the thinking). I think this is morally obscene sentimentalism, but that’s how a lot of people are.

Which brings me to the case of Max Edwards, a 16-year-old Englishman who made a name for himself with a precociously written blog, The Anonymous Revolutionary [1], in which he expounded insightfully on the many virtues of Marxism. There was not the slightest bit of irony in this kid. Excerpts:

The USSR believed it would reach ‘true’ communism by 1980, yet was proven wrong. China, sixty-seven years after the revolution, still asserts that it’s at the beginning of the road to equality (as if it was ever on it in the first place). This is very much a final conclusion, and will certainly not be achieved with ease. Yet the communist project is not a simple, and often not a glamorous one, but one both inevitable and necessary. In the words of Fidel Castro, ‘A revolution is not a bed of roses. A revolution is a struggle between the future and the past’.

If we applied this reasoning, reaching a completely equal society in the relatively near future may not be beyond our grasp.

And this credo:

I am a Marxist, Leninist, Bolshevist and internationalist. I’d consider myself a Marxist in the 31H6tzfox4L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_ [2]orthodox sense, which is to say that I uphold the traditional view that the tyrannies of capitalism shall only be quashed through class struggle. In that sense, I’m also an anti-revisionist and am opposed to tendencies like Post-Marxism.

To develop a more in-depth understanding of the ideals I hold, you can look at writings by and about individuals such as Marx, Engels or Lenin. I’d recommend the free online source Marxists Internet Archive to do this.

Additionally, my posts provide some of my own ideas and theoretical contributions to Marxist theory, although my views have changed significantly over the course of writing this blog, meaning that they may not be a reliable account of my current opinions. For example, I once referred to myself as a Trotskyist. No longer the case.

He even shared my son’s astonishment at the commercialization of communism [3]. Excerpt:

Yet what really puzzles me is how the capitalist world can endorse communist imagery in such a way. Yes, it’s joked about, but not in a way that seems nearly sufficient given what the industry is actually doing. It also seems as if, by promoting the ideas of revolution, even in the shallowest sense possible, the capitalists are advertising the struggle against capitalism itself, yet I think the manufacturers (who would probably rather view themselves as someone simply building their own business and making a living, rather than a link in the global capitalist network) are probably too short-sighted to care.

In any case, I certainly believe that whoever has managed to pull this off deserves a reward. Nothing in the communist world, not even the Stalinist regime of terror and political repression, claiming to act in the interests of socialism – and thus humanity – has managed to get away with such blatant irony. Those behind the manufacturing of these products have exemplified something fascinating: they have clearly demonstrated capitalism’s remarkable ability to sell you absolutely anything, even the face of its greatest opposition.

Later, Max Edwards wrote, “Long live Bolshevism.”

Well. Grigory Zinoviev, one of the top leaders of the Bolshevik Revolution, said in 1918:

To overcome our enemies we must have our own socialist militarism. We must carry along with us 90 million out of the 100 million of Soviet Russia’s population. As for the rest, we have nothing to say to them. They must be annihilated.

And Lenin, once in power, telegrammed to Bolsheviks outside of Moscow, ordering them to engage in “mass terror.” One of his telegrams, concerning the liquidation of the kulaks (prosperous peasants) read:

“Comrades! The kulak uprising in your five districts must be crushed without pity … You must make example of these people. (1) Hang (I mean hang publicly, so that people see it) at least 100 kulaks, rich bastards, and known bloodsuckers. (2) Publish their names. (3) Seize all their grain. (4) Single out the hostages per my instructions in yesterday’s telegram. Do all this so that for miles around people see it all, understand it, tremble, and tell themselves that we are killing the bloodthirsty kulaks and that we will continue to do so …

Yours, Lenin.

P.S. Find tougher people.”

This was Max Edwards’s hero. Hey, a revolution is not a bed of roses.

Adam Jones, a genocide scholar at Yale University, has written [4] that aside from Maoist China and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, “there is very little in the record of human experience to match the violence unleashed between 1917, when the Bolsheviks [5] took power, and 1953, when Joseph Stalin died and the Soviet Union moved to adopt a more restrained and largely non-murderous domestic policy.” Robert Conquest [6], the great scholar of Stalinism, estimated that the number of victims of Bolshevism is 20 million, and in no case is lower that between 13-15 million.

As John J. Walters wrote a few years ago: [7]

The 94 million that perished in China, the Soviet Union, North Korea, Afghanistan, and Eastern Europe easily (and tragically) trump the 28 million that died under fascist regimes during the same period.

During the century measured, more people died as a result of communism than from homicide (58 million) and genocide (30 million) put together. The combined death tolls of WWI (37 million) and WWII (66 million) exceed communism’s total by only 9 million.

And yet … Max Edwards.

I used the past tense to write about Max Edwards, because he died a few days ago at the age of 16, from cancer.  [8] In a piece [9]published in The Guardian a week before his death, Edwards wrote:

Finally, I feel it has helped to process the whole issue selflessly. Some people might find it helpful to know that they are loved, that people care about them and that they won’t be forgotten when they die. I can understand this and I see how it’s comforting, but I also find it consoling to take the opposing view: stop dwelling on personal suffering and carry on as before.

This approach seems to help deflate the hype that terminal diagnoses carry. Pity, grief and sympathy are all natural emotions, and they certainly have their place, but I’ve found the message of “Stop whining and get on with it” far more effective. Stoicism, I feel, is more effective than grief: a simple reality-check helps to set my perspectives in place.

It helps to remind myself that even if I’m dying, it’s not all about me. At the end of the day I’m one in seven billion, a number that – like my cancer – will continue to grow and multiply over the coming months and years. While my life may be all I know, I’m nothing more than a dot on this planet. When you take into account the dozens of people I know, the billions I don’t, the thousands of miles that separate us, and the ever running river of time on which we all finitely float, you may come to the inevitable and strangely comforting realisation that we are all going to die: me, you and everyone else. Get over it.

That is both astonishingly brave and ice-cold. I could imagine the young man who wrote this saying the same thing to the wife and children of the kulak he ordered to be shot for the sake of Bolshevism.

Still, Max Edwards was a beautiful boy, and it is a terrible thing to die at 16. He was loved by his parents, who are suffering the worst thing a parent can suffer. God help them. Max recently published a book of his communist writings [10], which, unlike the pensées of whiz-kid fascists, is available in bookstores all over England.

Max Edwards was the same age as my son. I told Matt about Max Edwards last night, and about his death. Matt detected in my voice a sense of sorrow. He said, “Let me ask you: if he had been a teenage Nazi, would you feel the same way?”

It was a very good question. As a parent, it’s impossible for me not to feel sorrow at the death of a child, so yes, I would have felt sorrow for the dead boy’s parents, and for him, having wasted his short life propagating an evil philosophy. Besides, it’s not unheard of for smart teenagers to get obsessed with comprehensive ways of thinking about the world, to fall so in love with the ideal that they fail to see the human cost of that ideal in practice. Idealism is both the blessing and the curse of youth. Max Edwards, so far as we know, never hurt anybody. May he rest in peace, and may his family be comforted. As a Christian, I see Max as a beloved child of God, a God in Whom he did not believe, and I hope that God received Max home safe.

But I take Matt’s point: if Max Edwards had written an equally intelligent blog called, “The Anonymous National Socialist,” he would not have had a book deal, and he would not be remembered fondly in the pages of The Guardian, or any newspaper.

This is wrong. This is deeply, horribly wrong. And this is not Max Edwards’s fault. It’s the fault of our hypocritical society.

Here is a link to a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago, quoting survivors of the Rumanian gulag [11]. In truth, this the world our young Bolshevik saint, Max Edwards, extolled. I suppose those who survived the communist dungeons should just “get over it.” Take a look at this 33-minute documentary on the horrors of the Rumanian communist prison camp called Pitesti.  [12]

This is what we honor when we play with the symbols of communism. Max Edwards dedicated himself to an evil that was no less wicked than Nazism. Why won’t we recognize that?

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234 Comments (Open | Close)

234 Comments To "Can Dead Commies Be Good?"

#1 Comment By Aleksei On April 1, 2016 @ 5:21 am

Oh, so see that some commentators start to bring good old western trick – “at least people they murdered were not from their society”. So,is it better to kill million of Indians than million of white people?
The truth is, if you look at the situation through the prism of nation-based states, then killing people of other nation is less evil than killing people of your nation. But you should remember that USSR was not created as a nation-based state, it would have been class-based state. So when you look through the prism of class-based state it’s LESS evil to kill people of your nation but from another class, than kill people from another nation but of your class. People of another class (capitalists, owners of property) were considered as enemies instead of people from other nations. So it’s just two different paradigms what people should be considered enemies.

#2 Comment By Aaron Gross On April 1, 2016 @ 5:25 am

Randal, I’ll reply to the only part of your comment that’s worth replying to: that Genya Ravan wasn’t a punk.

Fair enough, [13]. I won’t argue over definitions, so I’ll just quote from her Wikipedia article instead (emphasis added):

The Dead Boys Cheetah Chrome said:

“Oh at first we were kind of confused as to why Hilly Krystal recommended Genya as our producer, he was right, she fit right in right from the beginning she had a great attitude. She wasn’t you know impressed by us. She wasn’t afraid of us at all, it turned out Ravan wasn’t just tough, she knew her stuff and was a punk herself.”

Having Genya Ravan produce their debut album, Young Loud and Snotty, didn’t make much sense to most of the Dead Boys. Stiv knew who she was and was thrilled. He had said to Genya, “I used to read about you in Teen Magazines”. “Here was this loud nihilistic punk band from Cleveland, trying to make a name for itself in the gritty New York City scene that prided itself on confrontation and frenetic energy, and a girl group veteran from the 60s was going to be the one that extracted that from them? The violent sound they were looking for? No way would that work. Were they surprised. That’s exactly what Goldie Genya comes from.

#3 Comment By Aaron Gross On April 1, 2016 @ 5:38 am

And speaking of whether someone Genya Ravan’s age could be a punk: One thing I liked about Please Kill Me is that it didn’t talk about “proto-punk,” as lots of people do. There was just punk.

“Punk” includes Lou Reed, who was on the first cover of Punk magazine. That’s the magazine that gave punks their name, and which was founded by one of the co-editors of Please Kill Me.

Just punk, not “proto-punk.” If Lou Reed wasn’t too old to be “punk,” according to the people who actually coined the label, then neither is Ravan. I like that definition, though I won’t argue that it’s correct.

#4 Comment By Colonel Blimp On April 1, 2016 @ 8:46 am

@Siarlys

“Leninism is a failure on its own terms, without regard to bourgeoisie propaganda about how evil it was.”

So you don’t think Leninism was actually morally evil, merely a technical failure? Is that what you honestly believe?

#5 Comment By M_Young On April 1, 2016 @ 11:45 am

“Apologists for the empire proclaim that these famines were accidents, or merely bureaucratic bungling, or even more awfully, faults of the Indians themselves, as after all no british person can do bad things.”

Because there were no famines in what is today India before the British, nor famines afterwards. Right?

#6 Comment By Joys-R-Us On April 1, 2016 @ 8:01 pm

“@Joys-R-Us you are aware that the British were ruling India at that time, something that Churchill was very proud of and very reluctant to see change? If we can’t call Churchill a sociopath that what can we call him?”

The people Churchill was ruling in India were not British, they were Indian. Hence, of a different society. Call it racism, since that’s what it was, but for Churchill and virtually the entire British nation, Indians were not considered a part of British society. Neither were the Irish for that matter. Or any number of subjects of British colonial rule. So while Churchill’s attitude towards them was bigoted and racist and cruel, it was not sociopathic in the basic sense of the word. In fact, it was a common assumption within British society that Indians were subhuman beings who deserved to be ruled by their betters. That’s certainly a sign of delusion and pathology within that society, but that’s my point. Churchill was simply a representative of his society, not a de-socialized sociopath. If he had applied such policies to his British subjects, then the term would apply.

#7 Comment By KS On April 1, 2016 @ 8:18 pm

@M_Young

Because there were no famines in what is today Ukraine before the Soviet Union, nor famines afterwords. Right?

#8 Comment By Joys-R-Us On April 1, 2016 @ 8:24 pm

“Oh, so see that some commentators start to bring good old western trick – “at least people they murdered were not from their society”. So,is it better to kill million of Indians than million of white people?”

If you’re a European leader, it certainly is. Likewise the opposite would be true if you’re an Indian leader. Political leaders are responsible for the society they lead, not other societies, especially ones they dominate through colonialism. I mean seriously, the whole point of Britain’s colonies was to exploit and dominate those societies and their people. Churchill was doing his job, and not caring much about the fates of the Indians was a part of it. That’s how British society was structure. It’s inhumane, certainly, but not socipathic, unless you expect Churchill to subscribe to some ideal of a universal brotherhood of man. Which would be nice, but that wasn’t the ideal the British EMpire was built upon.

“But you should remember that USSR was not created as a nation-based state, it would have been class-based state. So when you “look through the prism of class-based state it’s LESS evil to kill people of your nation but from another class, than kill people from another nation but of your class. People of another class (capitalists, owners of property) were considered as enemies instead of people from other nations. So it’s just two different paradigms what people should be considered enemies.”

This is quite true, and I think you’re getting at the core distinction between communism and modern totalitarianism altogether, and previous form of tyranny, and also why they failed. In short, they tried to completely change the nature of society, even by re-defining who was a part of society and who was not. And then killing or imprisoning the out-class to brutally enforce the distinction.

Using class distinction to re-create society simply doesn’t work. It’s classically sociopathic, because it tries to destroy the existing society, and the elements within it that resist that. Nazism is really very similar in that respect. Jews and other impurities to the system were to be destroyed, even though they had been a major part of the social fabric for a long time. So that’s an important element of the equation, and why I would suggest that Nazism and Communism tended to fall into sociopathy quite easily, whereas other forms of government, like the British Empire’s, did not. Britain was not trying to remake its own society, it was simply trying to enrich and protect it. It wasn’t even trying to remake the world in its own image so much as simply dominate it for the purpose of that enrichment.

Bolshevism, however, was a highly evangelical community, trying to remake its own country and the rest of the world according to a radical new order. And yes, it certainly did see those outside of its order as enemies, not part of the new society, who were therefore to be treated as outsiders, with the same indifference that Churchill had for starving Indians. But one must recognize that just because such people were suddenly considered social outcasts, this did not make it so. They were still Russians, or other elements of the centuries old Russian Empire, who had gotten along within the old social order. Ignoring that reality was a sociopathic form of dissociation which came back to destroy the USSR. And even worse, the forms of terror used against these outcasts were also used against everyone in the country, even loyal activists in the Revolution, who were executed with even more enthusiasm than capitalists. It would be one thing to impose this kind of state terror upon a colony, it’s quite another to victimize one’s entire populace, even the ruling class, in so brutal a manner. That is a ferocious and unsustainable form of sociopathy, when it is directed at one’s own society, especially an ideal one that is supposed to embody one’s own true goals and aspirations. So I would suggest there’s a huge difference between that and what Churchill’s British Empire was up to.

#9 Comment By KS On April 1, 2016 @ 10:13 pm

@Joys-R_Us

However you slice it, however you dice it, call it sociopath or not, what you describe is morally repugnant, and makes Churchill a monster, a characterization I presume you are in agreement with.

Unless your logic is a way to find Churchill morally good and pure. I hope not, but it would be par for the course and is very much the anglo-puritan way. Others are monsters, we are pure, and we’ll just write the rules of the logic to make it so.

#10 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 1, 2016 @ 11:02 pm

So you don’t think Leninism was actually morally evil, merely a technical failure? Is that what you honestly believe?

Colonel Blimp, the short answers to your questions (two questions) are, no, I don’t, and no, I don’t. That is, I don’t believe Leninism was “actually morally evil,” and I don’t believe it was “merely a technical failure.”

When I said it was a failure on its own terms, I meant, that tight discipline and centralization do not, after all, guarantee fidelity to founding principles. They only guarantee fidelity to whoever is at the top of the greasy pole. This was driven home by seeing the world’s largest extant communist party running the world’s most ruthless capitalist economy, and, seeing an international socialist organization turned into a national socialist organization by Slobodan Milosevic, at the stroke of a pen.

Further, the communist party framework (out of power) does not provide the most effective means of fighting the political police. Rather, it tends to make the organization easily accessible to the political police… which is not to say that I am endorsing Rosa Luxemburg’s polemics against Lenin either.

We must carry along with us 90 million out of the 100 million of Soviet Russia’s population. As for the rest, we have nothing to say to them. They must be annihilated.

This is also a mislocation. Class struggle is real enough, and liquidating the bourgeoisie AS A CLASS would be of great benefit to humanity… only individuals don’t fit neatly into class pigeonholes. Consider Pu-Yi, the last emperor of China. His class was thoroughly liquidated… I don’t think we will ever see scions of the former Manchu dynasty holding fancy dress balls and celebrating their own anticipated return to power. But, Pu Yi himself lived on, and was a very conscientious gardener, and peaceful and productive law abiding citizen of the Peoples Republic of China.

Lenin probably believed that there was a class of blood-suckers in the countryside who were roundly hated and despised by 90 percent of the peasantry, and that taking them down would rally the 90 percent to the Bolshevik cause. There probably was SOME truth to that… but real life was more nuanced and messy, and orders like those Lenin gave tend to get out of hand. For one thing, anyone with a grudge can yell “Kulak” at the object of their grudge.

But I also remember that Lenin saw himself picking up where the Commune de Paris left off, and Karl Marx’s The Civil War in France documents that the Commune faced mobs of disgruntled bourgeois holding “peaceful” protests and, when dispersed by grapeshot, leaving behind them a collection of swords, pistols, clubs, etc. suggesting intention to employ violence. Lenin was not going to go down like the Commune, he intended to hold onto power, and liquidate the ancien regime before it liquidated him.

The argument is a bit academic in that we live in a world where an uprising of the sort Lenin engineered is virtually impossible, and if it occured, would probably destroy 90 percent of productive capacity, leaving more than half the working class dead of starvation and infectious disease.

#11 Comment By cka2nd On April 2, 2016 @ 12:47 am

[NFR: Do you know anything at all about the eugenics movement in the early 20th century, in America? It was a heavily Progressive thing. Look it up. — RD]

Rod, I did not deny this and don’t know where you got the idea that I did. In fact, I noted that left-wing and women of color feminists have themselves spoken out against the reproductive aspects of eugenics for a long time. To be more specific, such activists fought to get single-issue abortion groups to address sterilization abuse in the 70’s and 80’s.

Let’s also remember that just as liberal and conservative mean different things than they did 100 years ago, so too does progressive.

#12 Comment By cka2nd On April 2, 2016 @ 1:36 am

I don’t see any real distinction based on killing one’s own people or killing foreigners, natives, etc. Heck, rulers have had no problem slaughtering tens and hundreds of thousands of peasants when they rebelled, or gunning down hundreds of strikers and their families, or disappearing activists whether they engaged in violence or not, or using the justice system to grind down one class but not another. A ruling class will always use force to defend its position. What I was getting at when I questioned the characterization of Lenin and Trotsky as monsters is what specifically did they do IN CONTEXT that warrants that description?

So much of the vilification of Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks is simplistic – “they preceded Stalin and therefore were responsible for his crimes” or “what they did laid the groundwork for what he did so they are equivalent in quality if not in quantity” – and ignores the very different contexts in which Lenin and Co. were operating on the one hand and Stalin and Co. on the other. At the most basic level, governments behave differently in wartime, especially during civil wars, than in peacetime, and what may be excusable in wartime cannot be forgiven in peacetime. And when assessing the actions of individuals or governments, one should consider how others acted in comparable situations.

What seems undeniable to me – and I freely admit that while I am not an expert on the Russian Civil War, I do have some general knowledge of it, military and revolutionary history in general, and the first 25-30 years of the U.S.S.R – is that the barbarous acts of Stalin in a Soviet Union at peace dwarfed the barbaric acts of Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolsheviks at war in both size and substance. What also seems undeniable to me is that analogues to what the Bolsheviks did during the revolution and the civil war can be found in many other revolutions and civil wars, while analogues to the crimes committed in the course of Stalin’s forced collectivization and the purge trials are a lot harder to find in nations at relative peace, and setting aside specifically those nations ruled over by revolutionary movements corrupted by their association with Stalinism.

#13 Comment By Dr. Diprospan On April 2, 2016 @ 12:15 pm

More then 200 comments!
Mr. Dreher you have chosen an excellent topic for discussion.
Many thoughtful, emotional comments indicate that the issue is still alive.
You care about the people who died in the Soviet era? 10, 20, 50 million?
If the entire Soviet Union and its 350 million inhabitants are gone, after 200 -300 years except historians no one would have thought that it existed. Refresh your memory on the statements of the world elite of the planet’s demography.
Imagine that you participate in a car race: crumpled iron, broken glass, bent wheels, but you need to go as you can. We went as we could, and we came here is not clear where.
Now you have to look around. Where a person extracts a psychic energy?
For what he does things for which he donates his time, possessions, sacrifice health and life? What idea inspires him? The desire for the prosperity of the society in which he lives, love, the idea of the inevitability of death? Man is a contradictory or he would not be human. On the one hand a person wants to stand out from the crowd, and the other he wants equality. Both desires are able to provide a powerful incentive to action.
Communism and the Soviet Union, fascism and Nazi Germany – is the contradictory nature of man in the 20th century. In the 25th century, things may be different.
Now we need to decide on how much we need people on the planet to move forward into the future. Personally, I agree with those who believe that at least 100 billion.
It is necessary to explore the desert, the ocean floors, underground space – the environment can accommodate billions of people. If you agree with this figure then you are more likely the Communist than Not.
Mr. Dreher If your son is still interested in Soviet literature, I recommend your son to read a good translation, or better still in the original the book of writer Nikolay Nosov “know-nothing” Reading only Dostoevsky, Lenin and Solzhenitsyn, he can get a very distorted view of Russia.

#14 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 2, 2016 @ 2:31 pm

The moral evaluation of “eugenics” depends on what “inferior” characteristics it is aimed at eliminating, and the methods by which it proposes to “improve the race.”

To write off whole demographics as unworthy of saving and incapable of ever amounting to anything, whether that refers to Jews, Slavs, Italians, or lower social classes, is dubious for all kinds of reasons, including the fact that the most amazing geniuses can emerge from populations supposedly only good for hewing wood and drawing water.

On the other hand, if a disease is caused by a genetic condition, and if that genetic condition can be identified, then it is entirely reasonable to suggest that the gene concerned should NOT be inflicted on future generations. First choice would be a voluntary decision by a person carrying that gene NOT to conceive a child.

Further, I would absolutely be in favor of sterilizing people with a severe genetic condition who are not only incapable of caring for a child but are highly likely to conceive a child with the same condition.

Mandatory abortion? I just don’t trust the state with that power, even if one insinuates it would only be used for good reason as a last resort. Who trusts government to even have a consistent understanding of what those words mean? Anyway, in this country, the state has no jurisdiction to mandate abortion — it would violate Roe v. Wade.

#15 Comment By Stan On April 2, 2016 @ 3:24 pm

I think more kindly of American supporters of the Soviet Union than of American supporters of Nazi Germany because most of the American supporters of the Soviet Union were self-deluded rather than evil. By contrast, after Kristalnacht American Nazis knew what Hitler intended in broad outline even if they couldn’t have guessed that he would try to kill every Jew in Europe. For the same reason, I think better of the religious right than I do of the Wall Street Journal crowd. Both support a party dedicated to grinding the faces of the poor, but evangelicals are motivated by religious zeal rather than greed. Or at least I think they are.

#16 Comment By Carlo On April 2, 2016 @ 9:00 pm

Joys-R-Us:

you missed my point: not that liberals have become pro-Communist, but that the focus of the “revolution” has shifted, from proletarian revolution to techno-sexual revolution, and liberals have fully rejected their own philosophical traditions in order to embrace this type of post-Marxist revolutionary utopia.

#17 Comment By Joys-R-Us On April 3, 2016 @ 5:00 am

Carlo,

I don’t know quite how you’ve segued from a discussion of communism to one of “techno-sexual revolution”, but I think you are continuing to magnify your misunderstanding of liberalism. Liberals were never advocates of communism or a proletarian revolution, so there’s no “shift” from that to even discuss. They were in favor of incremental improvements in the life of the working class, such as the 40-hour work week, social security, OSHA, labor unions, that sort of thing, but not even John Lennon supported “the revolution”.

If you are talking about the American far left, that’s another matter. But the far left’s shift has been to social democratic movements and eco-activism, for the most part, not sexual politics. The sexual revolution happened in the 60s and 70s, and it was won not by the left or liberals, but by the working class itself, which simply abandoned the old sexual moral rules and decided to get laid without sneaking around anymore. You didn’t have to be liberal to do that, you just had to have working genitals. Virtually everyone but the fundamentally religious tossed all that overboard, and decided to live how they wanted to. Turns out, not many wanted to be wanton hedonists. They just wanted to live like your average Frenchman.

Liberals have no interest in some post-Marxist Utopia. They’ve become terribly pragmatic and non-ideological. Like most people, they want “the good life”. Which in their view requires a lot of social responsibility, even prudence. Not sexual libertinism.

#18 Comment By Joys-R-Us On April 3, 2016 @ 5:20 am

KS,

I have no interest in finding some sort of purity in Churchill – or any other politician or leader. All of them have blood on their hands. What I object to about the “monster” characterization is precisely that it tends to lump all into one basket. It doesn’t add to our understanding unless we define what a “monster” is. Hitler is one example, but I’ve also seen people describe a woman who’s had an abortion without regrets as a “monster”. Even if you’re radically pro-life, do those two really belong in the same category?

I think the distinction between a pathological sociopath and someone who is a rather heartless war leader is an important one. Neither Lee nor Lincoln were sociopaths, even though both pursued policies that led directly to hundreds of thousands of deaths and a devastated nation. Churchill, for all his great faults, was not a sociopath. He may have reveled in the bombing of German civilians, and been indifferent to the deaths of millions of distant Indians, but within his own society he was a rather decent fellow. He created national health care for England, for example. He didn’t initiate a terror by which to round up and execute his political opposition after losing an election. Instead, he retired to write books. Not really the sort of behavior one expects of monsters.

Churchill was morally complicated, to be sure, and many things he did were repugnant. I don’t think he deserves to be lionized as many on the right do. But I don’t think he’s a monstrous sociopath either. He’s simply too well adjusted.

The other important factor I mentioned was that Churchill was a part of an immense historical tradition of Empire that he didn’t initiate, but became the leader of for a critical time in that history – it’s end. He didn’t invade India, he merely continued British rule there. Rather haplessly, it turned out, in that he also presided over it’s leaving the British Empire. Many thing about that long episode of colonial rule were evil, but there were also many good things about it too. It’s complicated, once again. But however you want to characterize that, it wasn’t the same as the Nazi occupation of Russia, say. It didn’t employ the methods of the Bolshevik terror either. In fact, in its own strange way it’s responsible for the creation of the nation of India, which never existed before, despite numerous criminal bunglings along the way.

KS says:
April 1, 2016 at 10:13 pm
@Joys-R_Us

However you slice it, however you dice it, call it sociopath or not, what you describe is morally repugnant, and makes Churchill a monster, a characterization I presume you are in agreement with.

Unless your logic is a way to find Churchill morally good and pure. I hope not, but it would be par for the course and is very much the anglo-puritan way. Others are monsters, we are pure, and we’ll just write the rules of the logic to make it so. British rule over India wasn’t monstrous in the way that King Leopold of Belgium’s rule of the Congo could be said to be monstrous. All these things require a bit more than one category to be lumped into if you want to understand them.

#19 Comment By Joys-R-Us On April 3, 2016 @ 5:30 am

Kirill,

The Russian Army self-destructed long before Lenin’s coup. The war was a disaster for Russia from beginning to end. Lenin merely put it out of its misery. To say that Russia was ever, at any point, “winning” redefines that term in ways that not even Charlie Sheen or Donald Trump would find acceptable.

The first world war was indeed a “world war”. Meaning a collection of many different wars, each with their own agenda and purpose. The Russian war with Germany had its own purposes, many of which had little to do with their “alliance” with the western powers of France and England. Lenin merely grasped that none of those purposes were worth pursuing, much less attainable, especially for the proletariat of Russia, who found his peace accord with Germany much to their liking, since the alternative was bloody and senseless death on the eastern front. In the Civil War that followed, at least Lenin offered them the chance to die for a purpose.

#20 Comment By cka2nd On April 3, 2016 @ 10:43 am

Siarlys Jenkins says: “Further, I would absolutely be in favor of sterilizing people with a severe genetic condition who are not only incapable of caring for a child but are highly likely to conceive a child with the same condition.

“Mandatory abortion? I just don’t trust the state with that power, even if one insinuates it would only be used for good reason as a last resort. Who trusts government to even have a consistent understanding of what those words mean?

Siarlys, please picture my head whipping side to side really fast, as in a Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck cartoon. Okay? Thank you.

So, you DON’T trust the government to mandate abortions but you DO trust the government to mandate sterilizing people!?!?! HUH!?! I don’t even trust the state to assist with suicides. Hell, I don’t trust most professionals to assist with suicide (thank you, Nat Hentoff).

Nope, sorry, absent civil war-like conditions in which the state must make MANY difficult and horrible decisions, questions like abortion, sterilization and suicide should be handled by individuals and the support systems around them; if that includes professionals and agents of the state, so be it, but that should be at the instigation and choice of the individual involved.

Note to Bill Maher: My upbringing and continuing partial respect for the Catholic Church is in part responsible for this revolutionary socialist and atheist’s strong stance for individual rights above, you single-minded boob.

#21 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 3, 2016 @ 10:47 am

I think Carlo is reading a “shift” into disparate phenomena that have little or nothing to do with each other. He is most on point when discussing liberals, who have indeed abandoned their traditional commitment to “progress” through capital investment, industrialization, and the wholesome socialization of dirty illiterate peasants via the discipline of wage labor.

#22 Comment By Joys-R-Us On April 3, 2016 @ 8:27 pm

Yeah, Siarlys, I agree. If liberals have changed, it’s in abandoning their sympathy for working class and poor people in favor of a neo-liberal Clintonian world of meritocracy, and if you lack merit, you deserve whatever you get. But that merely points out that liberals have splintered on this and many other points. Many would not even consider Clinton a liberal, what with his deregulation, reforming of welfare, free trade policies, etc. That’s one reason a lot of liberals are turning to Bernie Sanders. It’s similar to how many in the GOP are turning to Trump.

#23 Comment By Carlo On April 3, 2016 @ 10:50 pm

Joys-R-Us:

You keep missing the point. Obviously the shift was not from Communism but from classical American liberalism, which generally speaking was associated with the large mainstream Protestant denomination (which, not coincidentally, are disappearing, since the descendants of the old liberals are largely atheistic). I suspect you don’t have a clear grasp of the links between politics and religion.

And yes, the whole idea of the permissive society is utopian, even though many people do not realize it.

#24 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 3, 2016 @ 11:05 pm

cka2nd, in the abstract I might agree. But I have in mind the sad case of a woman who bore a child with Down Syndrome, raised her, the child was never able to leave the mother’s home, could not function on her own, could not hold any kind of a job, but was capable of forming a romantic attachment to a boyfriend, and of longing to have a baby. The mother, the capable one, who bore the daughter who now wanted a baby, sought a court order to have the daughter’s tubes tied. The daughter insisted “it should be our decision.” The mother candidly told a reporter, I’m almost 70 now, my daughter won’t be able to care for the baby, it will all fall on me, I’m too old for that, and further, the baby will almost certainly have the same Down syndrome, which will make it even harder.

I fully sympathize with the mother. Generally, I believe that if a person is capable of asserting in court that they are competent to make their own decisions, that should create a rebuttable presumption that they are indeed competent to make their own decisions. In this case, I think the mother has adequately rebutted the presumption. Absent the miracles of modern medicine and the vast resources we pour into medical treatment, the daughter would probably have died of natural causes long before conceiving a child anyway.

#25 Comment By Joys-R-Us On April 4, 2016 @ 2:01 pm

Carlos, you’re certainly correct that much of liberalism has gone universal and secular, rather than remaining confined to Protestantism. But that’s true across the political spectrum as Christianity in all its forms has declined in America. Nonetheless, there remain wide swaths of religious liberals, and not just Protestant, but a lot of Catholics too.

Forgive me for not grasping why you segued from communism to sexual politics to make this point. As for Utopianism, that’s only for a certain type of person in any group, and that includes Christians. What is the Benedict Option but the yearning for a Utopian Christian community? I suppose if you confine your view of liberals to a certain kind of young collegiate idealist, you will find Utopians among them. But in general, no, liberals aren’t looking for Utopia. Just something better. There’s nothing inherently Utopian about permissiveness. In fact, it’s a very realistic approach, which points out that no amount of suppression of our basic impulses and needs, including especially sexual ones, is going to eliminate them and make us into what Christianity idealizes as the “right” sexual expression. It’s the Christian sexual order that is idealistic and Utopian, and impractical as well. Nonetheless, even the liberal secular sexual morality says go for it if you like, just don’t expect the whole of society to go along with you. And that’s pretty realistic, because religious people aren’t going away just because their beliefs and living habits don’t make sense to others. And vice-versa.

#26 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 4, 2016 @ 2:50 pm

If liberals have changed, it’s in abandoning their sympathy for working class and poor people…

On that, we disagree. What sympathy for working class and poor people? Ebenezer Scrooge was a classic liberal. Those people soliciting a fund to buy the poor from meat and drink were traditional conservatives.

Ronald Reagan was a classic Gladstonian liberal.

#27 Comment By Joys-R-Us On April 4, 2016 @ 5:21 pm

Ebenezer Scrooge became a liberal after his night of revelations. That’s Dicken’s point, after all, that becoming a liberal is a kind of religious conversion.

#28 Comment By cka2nd On April 4, 2016 @ 6:22 pm

Siarlys, there are going to be anecdotes on both sides but if we open the door to state-mandated sterilization you and I both know full well that it will mainly be poor people and people of color who will be sterilized. In the case you brought up, child protection laws and agencies are the imperfect answer. Of course, the Bolshevik response might have been “that’s why we need community creches, child care and kitchens to replace the nuclear family.”

#29 Comment By cka2nd On April 4, 2016 @ 6:24 pm

BTW, Siarlys, are you as surprised as I am that no one has taken me up on my request for proof of Lenin and Trotsky’s monstrosity?

#30 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 4, 2016 @ 8:30 pm

Well cka2nd, I didn’t expect anyone to offer proof of Lenin’s or Trotsky’s monstrosity, because most people who hold strong views along that line take it on faith. It doesn’t require proof. They haven’t studied things that closely.

Those of the Russian feudal classes who escaped with their lives, of course, hated the Bolsheviks for obvious reasons, but hardly objective ones. Major capitalists who felt threatened by the possibility that the workers of the world actually could seize state power, were glad to see the experiment degenerate, the better to discredit it before someone did a better job. I think it was in the movie “A Very British Coup” that the head of MI6 told Prime Minister Perkins “You’re my worst nightmare. You could actually make it work.”

As an act of friendship, I won’t go into Trotsky. I read Isaac Deutscher’s three volume biography, and at the end realized that Leon just wasn’t a hero at all.

I think we can have criteria for sterilization that are considerably more precise than Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s “three generations of morons are enough.” If there is an identifiable genetic trait that makes it entirely impossible for an individual to function independently of supervision at any stage of maturity, and is transferable to subsequent generations, should leave out almost all poor people, and remove people of color as a criterion. But we’d still have to keep a sharp eye on it. People in positions of authority to indulge in bold faced lies.

#31 Comment By Colonel Blimp On April 5, 2016 @ 7:42 am

cka2nd

Perhaps because it is bloody obvious that they were monsters. The telegram from Lenin that Rod quoted in his article is only one of many. You can find more if you can be bothered. As for Trotksy, I am sure the the Kronstadt sailors could have testified to his benevolence if any of them had survived the firing squads and labour camps he arranged for them. He wrote a book called “In Defence of Terrorism”, which is a bit of a give-away. Among other gentle homilies therein, he asserted

“As for us, we were never concerned with the Kantian-priestly and vegetarian-Quaker prattle about the “sacredness of human life”. We were revolutionaries in opposition, and have remained revolutionaries in power. To make the individual sacred, we must destroy the social order which crucifies him. And that problem can only be solved by blood and iron.”

Similarly, soon after the October Revolution he stated that “there is nothing immoral in the proletariat finishing off the dying class. This is its right. You are indignant … at the petty terror which we direct at our class opponents. But be put on notice that in one month at most this terror will assume more frightful forms, on the model of the great revolutionaries of France. Our enemies will face not prison but the guillotine.”

Nor were these mere abstract musings, but the governing philosophy he employed within the Red Army and within the civil administration of the 1920s USSR. Perhaps you would like to be governed by people who think and act in these ways? I really couldn’t say.

#32 Comment By Eugene On April 5, 2016 @ 1:03 pm

According to readily avaliable declassified data, about 1,6 millions people died in GULAG over the time of its existence. May be 20% of them at most were political prisoners, the rest were just regular criminals. In contrast, 20 millions of Soviet people died during 2nd World War. And among other things, they were dying to free Europe from Nazies and end the Holocaust. I am not trying to say that Communism was good. It was horrible. But please, tell your son to get real. What equality?

#33 Comment By Kirill On April 5, 2016 @ 4:20 pm

Joys-R-Us,

Thank you for your point of view. I have to admit that a part of the Russia’s society fully shares it. However, I should also tell you that there is another part of society that has a really strong objections about the narrative that you’ve just used. Unfortunately, my knowledge of the English language does not allow me to fully set these objections here. Hopefully in the future, people, more prepared than I, shall participate in such discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the Russian Empire and its army, as well as the behavior of the allies of my country in the framework of the agreements, as well as the actions of the other great powers of this era. I hope that eventually it will help establish a strong and mutually beneficial relations in the near future between a descendants of those powers. Have a nice day.

#34 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 6, 2016 @ 3:29 pm

To make the individual sacred, we must destroy the social order which crucifies him.

Those are not the words of a monster. Anyone who has the GOAL of making the individual sacred has some good in them. One can argue over method, one could even say that the Soviet desire to exterminate anyone who got in their way as they tried to destroy an admittedly evil social order was morally operating on the same level at Torquemada, who thought it right to torture heretics in order to save their own souls, as well as society. (Thomas More burned heretics for more or less the same reason).

Its true about Trotsky and the Kronstadt sailors. I have toyed with the notion that Putin’s Russia is “Commissars without Communism.”

There is indeed nothing immoral about finishing off the dying class. But I cherish the thought that we could put George Soros and Larry Summers and Tim Geithner and the Koch Brothers to work as gardeners and railway workers and data entry workers, liquidating the class without liquidating the sacred individuals. Still, there are times when one doesn’t have that luxury.