From a discussion on the Heterodox Forum started by John Faithful Hamer:
John Faithful Hamer: WHY IS COMMUNISM STILL COOL?: “Why is it still acceptable to regard the Marxist doctrine as essentially accurate in its diagnosis of the hypothetical evils of the free-market, democratic West; to still consider that doctrine ‘progressive’ and fit for the compassionate and proper thinking person? Twenty-five million dead through internal repression in the Soviet Union (according to The Black Book of Communism). Sixty million dead in Mao’s China (and an all-too-likely return to autocratic oppression in that country in the near future). The horrors of Cambodia’s killing fields, with their two million corpses. The barely animate body politic of Cuba, where people struggle even now to feed themselves. Venezuela, where it has now been made illegal to attribute a child’s death in hospital to starvation. No political experiment has ever been tried so widely, with so many disparate people, in so many different countries (with such different histories) and failed so absolutely and so catastrophically.”—Jordan B Peterson, preface to the new edition of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago (2018)
Questions like this call for real answers, not comforting ones -- they need steel-manning. (Did you coin that term, John?)
Simple. Communism offers righteous struggle. The ideologies of liberal democracies do not.
(And it is STILL cool, because the struggle it proposes burns on beyond it's regularly updated objectives, until everything has been consumed by it)
Quentin MontagneReminds me of Orwell's 1940 review of MK:
"He has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all ‘progressive’ thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security, and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life, there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won’t do. Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags, and loyalty-parades. However they may be as economic theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. The same is probably true of Stalin’s militarized version of Socialism. All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their peoples. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people ‘I offer you a good time,’ Hitler has said to them ‘I offer you struggle, danger and death,’ and as a result, a whole nation flings itself at his feet."
Obviously Orwell is talking about fascism here, but he even says the same thing applies to socialism.
Hard pill to swallow: Because the core values of Communism overlap a lot more with the core values as well as vectors of Liberalism than any Liberal (which includes JBP, whether it is prefaced by "classical" or not) would ever care to admit.
The general explanations which are echoed above (no true Scotsman, teachers' conspiracy, ignoring economics, overemphasis on Utopia etc.) are pertaining to the methods by which sympathizers wash Communism's feet and present it in a good light. This however, does not explain the pervasiveness of the ideology- so much so that it has not only survived its incarnation in the USSR, but some might argue it currently thrives, albeit under different guises - as well as the extremely high degree of acceptance it receives in the West, especially among highly educated elites. Why is the same not happening to even a remotely similar degree to Fascism which everyone (all Liberal, be it of the "classical", libertarian or socialist persuasion) agrees is pure evil despite having killed far fewer people, if we go strictly by the numbers (in a purely Utilitarian fashion)? After all, the Fascist ideology also has about 1000 years of Utopia in store for everyone on board with its tenets. Fascism glorified elites to the expense of everyone else. Fascism also doesn't require extensive reading of economy or history to grasp its core tenets. Shouldn't elites at least love an ideology glorifying elites? Apparently, no. Why?
Simply put, because the core tenets of Fascism are at odds with both the core tenets as well as opposed to the vectors of Liberalism, while the Communist ones are not. This is why so many "wide eyed idiot youths with no knowledge of history or economics" gobble up Communist ideals, because they are simply an extension of the oppression-fighting egalitarian-seeking society that their (classical?) Liberal great-great-grandfathers fought to create. The same ideals they are taught ever since they can walk that are good and just and true. That men are all (created? What happens if we remove the God that creates?) equal, that each person should be free from oppression, that everyone should fight tyranny, that all systems of government that centralize power in the hands of the few (or a single person, even worse) are pure evil because power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. These are all normal values which are to be expected in a largely Liberal society.
Communism only overly exaggerates the egalitarian aspect which it deems the only true moral aspect to the detriment of the libertarian aspect of liberalism which is thrown down the wayside because it is seen as both selfish and elitist - both epithets associated with the tyrannical monarchy and the plutocratic aristocracy which Liberals, again, fought so hard to overturn a couple centuries ago. This also, partly, explains why Liberal elites try so hard to appear as if they are anything but elites.
This isn't a value oriented comment, it simply seeks to answer the original question: Why is communism still cool? In my view, try its hardest, liberalism cannot shake Marx's grim prediction: That it will inevitably lead to Communism or at least something very similar. The core liberal values are certainly pointing towards that direction if stretched towards a puritanically egalitarian extreme.
By appealing to unselfishness , vanity and ego.
This isn't all that difficult to answer. Now before anyone starts frothing at the mouth, Stalin and Mao killed more people than Hitler; the following is not a defense of communism as practiced in history or today.
The THEORY of communism is actually quite attractive to people who desire a caring more egalitarian society. "Let's govern ourselves in a manner that is egalitarian and flat structured where everyone gets a voice and is respected. Let's ensure everyone is cared for, valued and can live decently with proper housing food and clothing."
There is nothing wrong to preferring that ideal society to an individualist, capitalist, winner take all and devil take the hindmost society.
Please refrain from citing Pol Pot's killing Fields, Mao's great leap forward or the Holomodor under Stalin -- I am aware.
It is normal for idealistic young people (and old ones) to look at our western capitalist societies and yearn for a more humane system that helps everyone flourish not just the richest/most powerful/most able/most successful. A system that also crushes huge swathes of the population.
The problem with THEORETICAL communism is it doesn't account for human nature and communism in practice and in history.
And yet, there are instances of communist movements (which were in fact more socialist) in the developing world that did in fact increase education, literacy, women's equality and ability to learn and work while also combating government corruption. Such movements sent bright young village girls in Indonesia to the Sorbonne in Paris to study at University. It's not ALL a human rights disaster. But US foreign policy was to snuff out those political parties by any means necessary during the 1950s and 1960s - even if it meant funding and arming foreign regimes and militaries that would ruthlessly kill and disappear tens of thousands of people in mass terror operations. Who knows whether Indonesia wouldn't have been better off as a secular socialist democracy rather than living through the brutal Suharto regime and a current government now under the sway of Islamists? [Source:. The Jakarta Method, Vincent Bevins]
In my limited experience, the main driver, keeping people on board who otherwise should know better, is the belief that wealthy, privileged interest groups are actually waging an ongoing war against the rest of us, actually killing people sometimes with direct violence, other times by disease, famine, impoverishment, disenfranchisement ... . For most people, when you're in an actual war, the values of democracy and civil liberties become secondary, command and obedience are necessary as a matter of life and death, and you evaluate everything primarily by how you think it affects the war.
I think people inherently want an easy way out. Thats why fad diets and get rich quick schemes work so well.
Intrinsic theories of values and peoples general acceptance of altruism and self sacrifice as some kind of moral standard are the main reasons.
I've always heard that Communism works great in India's Christian state, Kerala, and that it's been Communist ever since independence. That may be a cruel myth, but it's worth checking out.
Then check it out and let us know.OK, it looks like they are officially communists, but in practice, they're a shining example of truly democratic socialism. And in politics, as distinct from economics or culture, they're liberal. It's hard to say if their economic model works in the very long run, because it's so interconnected with the rest of the world -- people get great educations and then earn their livings in the Gulf, the UK, the US ... . But it's hard to say if any real-life economic model works in the very long run, if it has one. (And personally I'm a hard-core libertarian.):
[Letter to the Editor published in Washington Post ca. Dec. 11, 1993. I was at a conference of libertarians near Washington on the day it was published, but none of them mentioned it to me.]
There is no factual basis for E. J. Dionne's charge that libertarians are "utopians." ["Libertarian Lure," op-ed, Dec. 6] It is an easy label to slap on anyone, and Dionne will get away with it because few readers are familiar with us, but no one who has even glanced at our publications could believe that we ignore "messy realities." Most libertarians think that because reality is so irremediably messy, voluntary cooperation under a strong, impartial common law system is the most practical, flexible way to deal with it. Unprovoked threats, force and extortion tend to have socially mischievous effects, and we think it is foolish to expect better results when well-intentioned governments use them than when private citizens do.
Unlike utopians, we don't hope to transform humans into angels or to make them cogs in some wonderful new system. We simply want governments to stop doing harm, and to let society manage its own problems by lawful means. Human societies have always had ways of looking out for children and old people, helping the poor and making people be responsible. For example, to adapt to the massive changes of the late 19th century, all sorts of voluntary mutual help groups, insurance and pension funds developed. Governments supplanted these (and outlawed some) not because they failed, but because of a Utopian faith in technocrats and large monopolies.
It will take a few years for society to wean itself from government, because much of its immune system, its shock absorbers, its lubrication, its ability to adjust, has been taxed and regulated away. As Meng-tzu observed 2200 years ago, "When taxes exceed 10 percent, the very old and the very young are rolled into canals and drainage ditches." It's especially hard to be generous and tolerant when nothing we own is secure, and everything is up for grabs by one political faction or another.
It seems that when libertarians aren't being called utopian or euphoric, we're accused of being cynics. Actually, we are squarely in the middle on the question of human goodness: we believe that people are pretty much good enough to govern themselves, but not good enough to govern each other very much. That is the view of human nature upon which America's system of government is founded.
"In his new book The Property Species, Chapman University law professor Bart Wilson offers a strikingly original look at the origin and meaning of private property. Unlike scholars who argue that property is a 'social construct,' Wilson argues that property is a deeply and uniquely human practice. Incorporating insights from history, linguistics, law, and his own laboratory experiments, Wilson illuminates the means by which our ideas of private property originate and gain their moral and legal force. In this conversation our Teleforum will examine how the institution of private property marks human beings as 'the property species.'" LISTEN
The American Revolution is why slavery ended in the North. It also redistributed property, the W.E.B. DuBois homestead reminds us.
From a comment to a post by Peter Wood on the substantively misleading and procedurally ridiculous 1619 Project:
When incorporating was a privilege, only the privileged got to incorporate and do business. Do we really want to go back to that?
By WALTER OLSON at cato.org, citing
Country Mice Rebounding After Chaste, Stressful Summer
By John Crouch, in the Amicus Curiae, College of William and Mary
Copyright John Crouch 1992
The nondescript jumble of buildings just beyond the Gradplex looks like the place where lawn mowers go to die. Actually, it is the place where Professors C. Richard Terman and E. L. Bradley explore a question of growing urgency to mankind: How do populations control their numbers?
The Laboratory of Endocrinology and Population Ecology is no typical lab. Its genetically diverse mice live off the land in woods around Williamsburg, mingling freely. Though provided with nests, they prefer to build their own. And though they live in what Dr. Terman calls "a mouse welfare state" where their population might be expected to expand exponentially, certain natural forces, not yet understood, induce them to limit their growth non-violently.
Dr. Terman is an animal behaviorist and a population ecologist. His interest in populations was sparked by lemmings. He wondered how most species avoid doing the lemming thing, and whether some species may meet similar fates as they increase. He found that when he released a few mice in a large enclosure and provided unlimited amenities, they did not increase to the point of suicide, fratricide, or cannibalism. They became inhibited.
More formal experiments with deermice in the "Pop Lab" established that this asymptote, or population plateau, occurred while much living space was still unoccupied. They also revealed that there is no particular density or absolute number at which population levels off. Four populations in identical cages stabilized at 7, 13, 29 and 47.
Nearly all mice stopped reproducing or failed to experience puberty, for no apparent reason. The few newborns were mothered so enthusiastically that it just wore them out. The celibate mice spent practically all their time in one huddle, as if trying to lose their individuality.
Dominant females from the populations' founding pairs began hoarding food, though Dr. Terman always provided more than enough. Three or four handmaidens helped stock the hoards. Any mouse could dine there, but the hoarders fiercely berated those who tried to carry food away.
Dramatic though these results were, their relevance to life outside laboratories was unclear. So for the last ten years, Dr. Terman has moved his research into natural environments, where he has observed the same trends.
Populations of white-footed mice around Williamsburg do not level off permanently, but they stop breeding from May to July, a time of plentiful food in which a pair of mice could have a litter every 25 days. Each offspring could be a parent after 45 days.
Instead, the mice's reproductive organs remain minute during these three months. If they are taken to the lab, however, they quickly develop and reproduce. Dr. Terman has not yet discovered what change in the mice's environment triggers the asymptote. He tried providing surplus food, but it produced no effect. Nor does the chastity result from the weather, because in August and September all their organs swell tenfold and do what they were designed to do. And just as in the early experiments, there is no typical population density at which breeding stops.
Dr. Terman and Dr. Bradley, an endocrinologist, suspect that the mice are sexually stunted by adrenalin which they produce in response to stress. In each population, one or two dominant, fertile mice seem somehow to induce stress in the others through subtle signals which do not even appear aggressive to human observers. Dr. Terman thinks that these cues are given primarily by touch, rather than by odor, sound or visual body language. He has put pairs of inhibited mice in cages where they can see, hear, and smell their neighbors, but not touch them, and each time they have developed and reproduced.
Key questions about the phenomenon remain unanswered. Why does this happen from May through July? How exactly do the mice stress each other out, if indeed that is what they do? More importantly, what kind of natural selection has favored the evolution of this behavior?
Dr. Terman stresses that his project is "basic research," and discourages law students and other humans from directly comparing their plight to that of his mice. His research reminds mankind, on the one hand, that scenarios in which trillions of future humans live in hives or die in droves may make for exciting science fiction, but they are poor science. There will be no millenarian Malthusian apocalypse, because individual people, like Terman's mouse colonies, hit the Malthusian wall in small ways every day.
Terman's work further discredits the notion that prosperity automatically produces overpopulation. On the other hand, it also warns us that species limit their numbers by countless and unforeseen methods. To Dr. Terman, the question is not whether human populations will be limited, but how.
Monumental exploration of working class "voting againsts its interests" totally begs question, what econ policy IS in its interests?
I'd only add that his beliefs were deeply sincere, and not self-interested. He really thought a pro-business meritocracy would be better for everyone.
The party created to oppose consolidation of power by bankers and elites can now openly embrace the man who unapologetically advocated for it.
(where you can also read how Hamilton's economic and immigration policies were pretty much the same as Trump's!)
Slavery. Necessary for the safe existence of the African race in America. Beneficial to both races. Authorized by "the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations".
"Slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization."
Free speech, press, and association (against slavery): "They have, through the mails and hired emissaries, sent seditious pamphlets and papers among us to stir up servile insurrection and bring blood and carnage to our firesides."
"Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection."
Politicking (against slavery): "By consolidating their strength, they have placed the slave-holding States in a hopeless minority in the federal congress, and rendered representation of no avail in protecting Southern rights against their exactions and encroachments."
"In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color-- a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law."
Electing an antislavery President who says a half-slave nation cannot last.
"The party of Lincoln, called the Republican party, under its present name and organization, is of recent origin. It is admitted to be an anti-slavery party. While it attracts to itself by its creed the scattered advocates of exploded political heresies, of condemned theories in political economy, the advocates of commercial restrictions, of protection, of special privileges, of waste and corruption in the administration of Government, anti-slavery is its mission and its purpose. By anti-slavery it is made a power in the state."
Economic policies: protectionism, corporate welfare, monopolies, pork-barrel spending, etc.:
"In the first years of the Republic the navigating, commercial, and manufacturing interests of the North began to seek profit and aggrandizement at the expense of the agricultural interests. Even the owners of fishing smacks sought and obtained bounties for pursuing their own business (which yet continue), and $500,000 is now paid them annually out of the Treasury. The navigating interests begged for protection against foreign shipbuilders and against competition in the coasting trade."
"Congress granted both requests, and by prohibitory acts gave an absolute monopoly of this business to each of their interests, which they enjoy without diminution to this day. Not content with these great and unjust advantages, they have sought to throw the legitimate burden of their business as much as possible upon the public; they have succeeded in throwing the cost of light-houses, buoys, and the maintenance of their seamen upon the Treasury, and the Government now pays above $2,000,000 annually for the support of these objects. Theses interests, in connection with the commercial and manufacturing classes, have also succeeded, by means of subventions to mail steamers and the reduction in postage, in relieving their business from the payment of about $7,000,000 annually, throwing it upon the public Treasury under the name of postal deficiency."
"The manufacturing interests entered into the same struggle early, and has clamored steadily for Government bounties and special favors. This interest was confined mainly to the Eastern and Middle non-slave-holding States. Wielding these great States it held great power and influence, and its demands were in full proportion to its power. The manufacturers and miners wisely based their demands upon special facts and reasons rather than upon general principles, and thereby mollified much of the opposition of the opposing interest. They pleaded in their favor the infancy of their business in this country, the scarcity of labor and capital, the hostile legislation of other countries toward them, the great necessity of their fabrics in the time of war, and the necessity of high duties to pay the debt incurred in our war for independence. These reasons prevailed, and they received for many years enormous bounties by the general acquiescence of the whole country."
"But when these reasons ceased they were no less clamorous for Government protection, but their clamors were less heeded-- the country had put the principle of protection upon trial and condemned it. After having enjoyed protection to the extent of from 15 to 200 per cent. upon their entire business for above thirty years, the act of 1846 was passed. It avoided sudden change, but the principle was settled, and free trade, low duties, and economy in public expenditures was the verdict of the American people. The South and the Northwestern States sustained this policy. There was but small hope of its reversal; upon the direct issue, none at all."
"All these classes saw this and felt it and cast about for new allies. The anti-slavery sentiment of the North offered the best chance for success. ..."
"They have impoverished the slave-holding States by unequal and partial legislation, thereby enriching themselves by draining our substance."
- "It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst."
- "It has enlisted its press, its pulpit and its schools against us, until the whole popular mind of the North is excited and inflamed with prejudice."
- "It has made combinations and formed associations to carry out its schemes of emancipation in the States and wherever else slavery exists."
- "It seeks not to elevate or to support the slave, but to destroy his present condition without providing a better."
- "It has invaded a State, and invested with the honors of martyrdom the wretch whose purpose was to apply flames to our dwellings, and the weapons of destruction to our lives."
- "It has given indubitable evidence of its design to ruin our agriculture, to prostrate our industrial pursuits and to destroy our social system."
Not cooperating with return of fugitive slaves.
"In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia."
"They have sent hired emissaries among us to burn our towns and distribute arms and poison to our slaves for the same purpose."
U.S. not protecting us from attacks of "savage Indians" and "Mexican banditti."
Some states have given citizenship to certain people in violation of the Constitution, and their votes helped turn the federal government against slavery.
Our original ratification said we could revoke it when the U.S. government's delegated powers were perverted to our injury and oppression, and now it's oppressing all the "Southern Slaveholding States".
With our neighbors seceding we must choose a side.
"Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England."
I notice that now that the chronic con artist Brianna Wu is running for Congress in the Boston area, the New York Times seizes the opportunity to define Gamergate as simply an Internet harassment campaign -- no debate necessary, I guess -- and CNN casually describes Gamergate (inaccurately) as a movement that believes there should be no women in gaming.
Disturbingly, the establishment left is perfectly willing to just ride out the storm and then carve its lies in stone once everyone's attention has moved elsewhere. I'm not sure how people interested in telling the truth can match that relentless, tireless evil.
That's how they do. That's one of the parts of politics that I learned on the playground: people's reality is what they start repeating because it's what people are saying and what they think people want to hear them say.
The greatest example of this silent switcheroo that I've witnessed is how in the early 90s, the Soviet Union fell, a wider swath of policymakers and educated people learned about market economics, and everyone conceded that socialism didn't work. Democratic President Bill Clinton proclaimed, "The Era of Big Government is Over." Newt Gingrich took over Congress and for a couple years, no one in Washington told him he wasn't the best and the brightest. Ever since the backlash from his hubris in the 1995 government shutdown (which White House chief of staff Leon Panetta later bragged about orchestrating on NPR), the GOP has been afraid to make public arguments for why free markets work, fearing to scare away some fraction of its precarious majority coalition. In that vacuum, leftist academics, writers and politicians rushed back in like the tide, teaching whole generations that market economics was totally disproven. Not by actually engaging with what free-market economists and philosophers actually taught, but just by sidestepping it and repeating that all of that had been discredited at some point.
Willingly or not, Bill Clinton presided over mildly free-market policies and welfare reform. The federal budget grew during his time but shrunk as a share of the economy. Federal deficits were reduced, then eliminated and turned into surpluses. He was enthusiastically for free trade. His very early attempt at an artificial "stimulus" was defeated, with money instead going where it was actually wanted, needed, and productive of things consumers valued and could afford. Hillary is rejecting all of that, as we saw in the first debate, Peter Suderman writes in Reason: