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Those Wacky Stalinists!
August 7, 2005 9:01 PM   Subscribe

What A Revolutionary Laff Riot. Something I found interesting, even comical to contemplate, while clicking around: "Earlier in the day, we joined one of the feeder marches, chanting, "Soldiers Turn Your Guns Around, Shoot The Profit System Down!" While march organizers argued with the cops about what street to take, we made speeches linking the war to inter-imperialist rivalry and calling on students, teachers, workers and soldiers to destroy this system with communist revolution." And no, that does not mean I'm a PLP supporter, nor am I urging U.S. troops to mass mutiny (any more than I'd urge pigs to fly). I mean, hey, can anybody seriously picture "Petrograd 1917" happening in today's America?
posted by davy (48 comments total)

 
People in America are fat.
posted by kuatto at 9:08 PM on August 7, 2005


At this point, aren't the PLP and their ilk in roughly the same category as Civil War reenactors?
posted by eatitlive at 9:27 PM on August 7, 2005


Hah!
posted by maxsparber at 9:28 PM on August 7, 2005


At last! the real left wing , sad that it is funny.
posted by hortense at 10:06 PM on August 7, 2005


On the other hand...

(But no, I'm not an R&R supporter either; I just like it that somebody's keeping track of the Gestapo trend, though given the RCP(USA)/R&R!/NION's Maoism I think that's just due to "sibling rivalry".)
posted by davy at 10:08 PM on August 7, 2005


People in America are fat.

kuatto's remark hints at a deeper truth: Unless and until you see outright desperation and panic on millions of American faces, it's unlikely to have a February-1917-style revolution here in the States. If there were utter, sudden economic collapse, that might do it -- it's been quipped elsewhere that the average American is two paychecks (or welfare checks) away from homelessness and starvation. Here in America even the poor generally have enough to eat and are distracted from seeing revolution as an answer to the status quo. Give 'em empty bellies and take away their NFL, Paris Hilton and crack cocaine -- their bread and circuses -- and people might notice they're unhappy and start wondering what to do about it.
posted by alumshubby at 5:29 AM on August 8, 2005


*sigh*

Quit making fun, make a better movement.
posted by By The Grace of God at 6:23 AM on August 8, 2005


Unless and until you see outright desperation and panic on millions of American faces, it's unlikely to have a February-1917-style revolution here in the States.

And that revolution worked out so well, it's a shock Americans don't want to imitate it.

/sarcasm
posted by jonmc at 6:37 AM on August 8, 2005


Heh.

Overall, this was an important victory because we took our revolutionary line into the mass movement and challenged the bosses and fake leftists for political leadership. We left with high spirits and new potential comrades who saw the differences between our line and the rest of the so-called "left."

I wonder if they have this as boilerplate they can insert into each story with a single keystroke?

If we do have the February Revolution here, I want to be Prince Lvov: "shy and modest, gentle and withdrawn, and quite incapable of commanding people by anything other than a purely moral authority," in the words of Orlando Figes. And Lenin thanked him for his "sober appraisal of the class struggle"!

jonmc: Are you by any chance thinking of the October Revolution?
posted by languagehat at 6:58 AM on August 8, 2005


I couldn't tell ya, languagehat, but truth be told, what's the difference? All revolutionaries end up as heretics or oppressors in the end, as a wise man once said. The world would be a better place without ideologies.
posted by jonmc at 7:03 AM on August 8, 2005


jonmc, there was a big difference. The February Revolution got rid of the tsar and put in place a liberal government that would have had a decent shot at finally bringing the common people a few rights and opportunities if they hadn't foolishly insisted on continuing the war (Paul Milyukov, I'm looking at you), thus eroding their credibility and opening the way for the Bolsheviks. The October Revolution put Lenin in power and instituted murder and repression for the next seventy years. It's all very well to say "the world would be a better place without ideologies," but what exactly would you have people do when they're under the thumb of an autocratic tsar who treats the people as cannon fodder and is ruining everyone's lives? It's nice that you have the luxury, as a modern American, of enjoying life and not worrying about ideologies, but most people in most places have had to take sides or get crushed.

Also, do you think the American Revolution was a bad idea? If not, why was it OK to rise up against King George but not against Tsar Nicholas?
posted by languagehat at 7:14 AM on August 8, 2005


George Washington, Oppressor.
Mahatma Gandi, Oppressor.
Nelson Mandela, Oppressor.
Whatever, Jonmc.

In the future, could we please dispense with the lazy rhetoric?
posted by Chrischris at 7:18 AM on August 8, 2005


If not, why was it OK to rise up against King George but not against Tsar Nicholas?

Well, to state the obvious, our system (as flawed as it is) is far better than what the Commies came up with.

And the linked newsletter..what a load of crap. They sound liked fundamentalist Christians, except they've replaced theology with ideology, making it even more tedious.
posted by jonmc at 7:21 AM on August 8, 2005


in the end, it's still true..
posted by jonmc at 7:23 AM on August 8, 2005


It's nice that you have the luxury, as a modern American, of enjoying life and not worrying about ideologies, but most people in most places have had to take sides or get crushed.

"It dosen't matter what uniforms the men with guns are wearing, you just want them out of your village." - John Sayles.
posted by jonmc at 7:26 AM on August 8, 2005


"can anybody seriously picture "Petrograd 1917" happening in today's America?"
Yep. About the time our troops start draining the alcohol from their tank hydrolics just to get a buzz.

Or what alumshubby said.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:39 AM on August 8, 2005


Well, to state the obvious, our system (as flawed as it is) is far better than what the Commies came up with.

Bullshit. The ideology of Communism is far better than that of a Capitalist society. The execution was flawed, that's all.
posted by twistedonion at 8:53 AM on August 8, 2005


The execution was flawed, that's all.

Keep telling yourself that. In terms of body count, it was the most murderous ideology in history. So that's a pretty big fucking "flaw."
posted by jonmc at 8:56 AM on August 8, 2005


The execution was flawed, that's all.

Actually, they had the execution part down.
posted by eatitlive at 9:02 AM on August 8, 2005


The ideology of Communism is far better than that of a Capitalist society

LOL. I love shit like this. Please give us more. And let the other people on the workers collective know we will trade perfectly good chickens and goats (or whatever y'all use in place of dirty dirty money) for whatever other previous gems you can come up with... er... you DO live on a collective and not use our filthy tainted capitalist currency, right?
posted by tkchrist at 9:04 AM on August 8, 2005


tkchrist, my man, after Soviet Russia, the Berlin Wall, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, The Berlin Wall, Tiananmen and everything else, I'm amazed there are any western Communists left. I just assume they're delusional.
posted by jonmc at 9:07 AM on August 8, 2005


Well, to state the obvious, our system (as flawed as it is) is far better than what the Commies came up with.

jonmc, did you even read what I wrote? The February Revolution was not Communist. It put in place a liberal government that was overthrown by the Communists. If we've got that straight, can you explain to me what was wrong about overthrowing the tsar and putting in place a liberal government?
posted by languagehat at 9:32 AM on August 8, 2005


jonmc. Remember when we thought irony was dead?

I admire ol' Karl as much as the next lefty what with the obligatory three semesters of Marxism and all. I came to find out a few things about what my Commie brethren REALLY feel about the exercise.

Wealth redistribution to the Cafe Commie Set really means OTHER peoples wealth: "Hey. I'm not rich, even though I have more leisure time than any other group in human history and Mom and Dad paid for my college, I own a car or two, a couple of TVs, maybe a couple of PCs and stuff my fat face whenever I feel like it. Fuck no. Don't take MY stuff. I ain't rich. Take the MAN's stuff."

I got news for you commies. You ARE fucking rich. You ARE the man. Unless you are living in the third world or some agrarian collective that uses barter or something. You live here. You participate HERE. You get educated here. You work and consume here. You are the man.

I work my ass off 60 hours per week owning a small business employing 10 people. And my commie friends - many who work for goddamned Microsoft or corporations like that - have the gaul to lecture to me about social politics and why I should vote to raise "corporate" taxes so then later I can layoff two of three "workers".

And have you ever met a group with MORE contempt for the "worker" in your life? I sure as shit have not. The purest snobbery about art, music, culture and politics.

Yes Jon. Marxists are the economic equivalent of Trekkies. They like to fantasize and role play and theorize a great deal but don't really have anything substantial.
posted by tkchrist at 9:44 AM on August 8, 2005


tkchrist, my man, after Soviet Russia, the Berlin Wall, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, The Berlin Wall, Tiananmen and everything else, I'm amazed there are any western Communists left. I just assume they're delusional.

I'm kind of surprised at that comment, jonmc. I mean, it's pretty generally known (or so I thought), that none of those things accurately represent true communism. Those were all totalitarian governments using the language of marxism. I'm not one to say that communism is better than any other system, or even if it's possible in the real world, but that statement is illustrative of and proves nothing.
posted by psmealey at 9:52 AM on August 8, 2005


If we've got that straight, can you explain to me what was wrong about overthrowing the tsar and putting in place a liberal government?

Nothing's wrong with getting rid of a tyrant, but if you're going to overthrow something, you better have something to replace it with, and the will and ability to defend it, otherwise you run the risk of facilitating something as bad or worse.

And have you ever met a group with MORE contempt for the "worker" in your life? I sure as shit have not. The purest snobbery about art, music, culture and politics.

That's generally been my experience, too. They tend to hold in contempt the very "people," they claim to champion.

But as I told a freind recently: most ideologues hate people but love humanity. I hate humanity but love people.
posted by jonmc at 9:54 AM on August 8, 2005


that none of those things accurately represent true communism

If THAT is true then why can it not be said that the present US and European systems do not represent true capitalism?

See. Neat game to play. That fact is these systems seem to naturally evolve INTO something. And communism seemed to evolve into something dysfunctional, unworkable, terrible and oppressive. While capitalism seems to evolve into something deeply flawed, sometimes oppressive, yet workable.
posted by tkchrist at 9:59 AM on August 8, 2005


If THAT is true then why can it not be said that the present US and European systems do not represent true capitalism?

It certainly can be said. It would be true too.
posted by Jenga at 10:46 AM on August 8, 2005


If THAT is true then why can it not be said that the present US and European systems do not represent true capitalism?

It can, because they don't. At a snarky level, what we have is socialism for the likes of Halliburton and Exxon, and capitalism for everyone else.

That said, nothing ever naturally evolves into anything. It's always pushed by those empowered to push it. It completely depends on the personalities of those people implementing the system. Think about how profoundly what we call capitalism changed (and it was extremely oppressive and deeply flawed in the 1890s and 1920s) between the Hoover and FDR administrations, simply as a matter of interpretation and ideology put into action.

Look at the different "interpretations" of marxism among Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Krushchev, Pol Pot, Mao, etc. They very widely and broadly from one another. The only thing they had in common was the vocabulary of ends/means justification. Otherwise, they were all totalitarian governments

Soviet communism was as flawed and corrupt as anything, the difference there is that they didn't have quite as robust a set of laws and checks and balances that the founding fathers set up in 1789 that we did. So however far the extremes of left and right can push it, it hopefully won't deviate too far.

I don't think that ideologically capitalism is superior to communism, what that came about had more to do with implementation than anything else.
posted by psmealey at 10:48 AM on August 8, 2005


Look at the different "interpretations" of marxism among Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Krushchev, Pol Pot, Mao, etc. They very widely and broadly from one another. The only thing they had in common was the vocabulary of ends/means justification. Otherwise, they were all totalitarian governments

Marx really does not belong in this category. Marx did not advocate centralization of political authority at all, actually. In fact, his vision of communism was more directly limited to collectivization of the means of production (this does not mean the end to private property in the sense of 'personal property,' but an end to privately owned means of production), but does not lay out a specific scheme for the administration of the new system. In fact, the vast majority of Marx's writing does not concern his vision of communism, but the factors inherent in capitalism that undermine its long-term profitability as an economic system (Capital, v. 1-3, Grundrisse). The view that he was primarily a 'utopian' thinker derives from his appropriation by Lenin, et al.

And could everyone please stop throwing around the word 'ideology'? I swear. Most misused word in the English language...
posted by Dr_Johnson at 11:59 AM on August 8, 2005


does:do
posted by Dr_Johnson at 11:59 AM on August 8, 2005


"If THAT is true then why can it not be said that the present US and European systems do not represent true capitalism?"

"It can, because they don't. At a snarky level, what we have is socialism for the likes of Halliburton and Exxon, and capitalism for everyone else."

Actually "corporate welfare" fits this system okay too. Is this news to anybody? One might also try searching Google in English for "corporate welfare" and follow a few links.

And Dr Johnson said "Marx did not advocate centralization of political authority at all, actually." Who wants to field that one? My lunch is getting cold.
posted by davy at 12:11 PM on August 8, 2005


Quite right, Dr. J. I started that sentence on a different idea, and meant to go back to edit and remove Marx. My bad.
posted by psmealey at 12:29 PM on August 8, 2005


Ah, good old fashioned "look at the silly Maoists" type anti-communism. Of course, the Stalinized degeneration of the USSR had nothing to do with the failure of an international proletarian revolution after the October Revolution. Nope. And that wicked, nasty Lenin never said:

"Either revolution breaks out in the other countries, in the capitalistically more developed countries, immediately, or at least very quickly, or we must perish." - V.I. Lenin, Third Congress of the Communist International

Socialism in the USSR died young, and the corpse that used its name for the next sixty-odd years always had trouble looking like the real thing. As for Stalin's dictatorship - good old-fashioned Bonapartism, the counter-revolution in the clothes of the real thing. It's just a shame that what Hal Draper rightly called "really existing crap" on the USSR side of the fence discredited the original as well.
posted by graymouser at 12:30 PM on August 8, 2005


And could everyone please stop throwing around the word 'ideology'? I swear. Most misused word in the English language...

Point taken, but actually, in the political context, I think 'patriotism' is the most frequently misused word in the English language. In other words, putting a magnetic ribbon/flag on your car isn't patriotic, it's... [finish this sentence].
posted by psmealey at 12:32 PM on August 8, 2005


Who wants to field that one? My lunch is getting cold.

From the Manifesto:

When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organise itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.

(Ital. mine)

From the 1847 manuscripts:

What will be the course of this revolution? Above all, it will establish a democratic constitution, and through this, the direct or indirect dominance of the proletariat.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 12:46 PM on August 8, 2005


in the political context, I think 'patriotism' is the most frequently misused

Yes, your right. I suppose 'ideology' dropped out of the race following the fall of the Soviet Union.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 12:51 PM on August 8, 2005


That said, nothing ever naturally evolves into anything. It's always pushed by those empowered to push it.

Lol. A distinction without a shred of difference. You think it was an accident Mao and Stalin were able to co-opt the "Workers" Revolution? If you do I got a bridge to sell... er... collectivize for you.
posted by tkchrist at 1:37 PM on August 8, 2005


There's a pretty huge difference, tk. Or none it all. It really depends on how much of an impact Hegel made on you.

I may be reading your argument all wrong, but you seemed to imply that capitalism was inherently better than communism, and that proof of that is in the outcome. My contention is that how it's all develoed all one great big accident of history, and that no political framework can be superior to another. It's just about execution. Or do we agree. I can't even tell anymore.
posted by psmealey at 1:47 PM on August 8, 2005


sorry... Hegel
posted by psmealey at 1:47 PM on August 8, 2005


and that no political framework can be superior to another. It's just about execution.

Oh? What about Fascism, or a slave-based Imperial society such as that of ancient Rome? A political framework isn't just about execution. If the idea is bad, the result will be bad.
posted by unreason at 1:52 PM on August 8, 2005


If the idea is bad, the result will be bad.

From a purely back-ward looking, subjective standpoint, granted. But for better or for worse, that's also a matter of perspective. From one point of view (until the non-stop making of war brought it to its knees) fascism was presumably good for the people that supported it just as it was horrendously bad for those that were oppressed and murdered by its practioners.

By the same token, American Democracy hasn't exactly been a boon to the people of Panama, Peru, El Salvador, Chile, Haiti, and so on.

I'm not trying to pick a fight, as the point is well taken given the narrow bounds of the assertion, but arbuably most French were better off under Louis XIV, then they were under the First Republic, just as the Prussians were better off under Frederich the Great than they were later under Weimar, and who can argue that democracy is not inherently superior to despotism?
posted by psmealey at 2:02 PM on August 8, 2005


unreason:

Uh - Rome wasn't "bad" unless you were a slave. Rome was a huge success. If you want to make equal opportunity the primary judging point, then Rome definitely fails badly, but then by that same standard America looks pretty awful too when compared to countries with a bit more socialism in their mix. (It wasn't so long ago that the American economy was slave-based either, and to some extent even today key industrys are founded on illegal workers that have fewer rights and can be safely underpaid and abused)

I'm don't really buy into the relativism of "no political framework can be superior to another", but I think a lesser point probably holds true; the superiority (or inferiority) of any political framework is considerably less important than the implementation. A superior ideology can easily result in an inferior state if done poorly, and vice versa.

Unless it's being argued that the framework IS the implementation (ie that a fascist state can't have checks and balances or it ceases to be facist enough to earn the title), but that's just semantics, and only of interest to people who intend to continue discussing the topic, which does not include me :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 2:25 PM on August 8, 2005


In fact, recently I saw a study or book in passing recently that made this exact case - that democracy, historically, creates cesspit nations, because the implementation of a nation is far more important and needs to be gotten right BEFORE introducing getting all poncy over the political system. Eg, all those countries that adopted democracy in Africa that fell to ruin and military coup, compared to some of the more successful and stable recent democracies from the same or similar regions, that worked on the fundamentals first, often via "benign dictator" kind of thing, and thus became successful nations of happy people first, and only then introduced democracy (ie upgraded their political system), thus it didn't ruin the nation like it normally does.

Haven't read it, or criticism of it, just saying, the idea is out there, and a case can be made for it.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:34 PM on August 8, 2005


There's a pretty huge difference, tk. Or none it all. It really depends on how much of an impact Hegel made on you.

What we have here is a failure to communicate. I've never read Hegel, and I probably wouldn't be capable of comprehending him if I cared to take the time. And the people you'd have to sell a "revolution," to have, for the most part never even heard of him. This is why coversations on these subjects is often unproductive. It's yelling across a cultural chasm.
posted by jonmc at 3:01 PM on August 8, 2005


that democracy, historically, creates cesspit nations, because the implementation of a nation is far more important and needs to be gotten right BEFORE introducing getting all poncy over the political system

This point is hardly new, however. In fact, before we started to fetishize democracy as an absolute, irrovocable, and sanctified good, there was quite a nuanced understanding of the preconditions that would make it work and those that would make it fail. For all those currently busy lambasting communism as a great evil, remember that revolution into democracy has been known to make its own great evils- notably the terror and the new republic. Tocqueville quite effectively outlined the dangers inherent in the democratic system, and described the process through which it could naturally tend to despotism of the Napoleonic type if not checked by a greater love of liberty. Something to consider in a society that is quickly becoming more concerned with addressing its fears than protecting its freedoms.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 4:46 PM on August 8, 2005


(I meant 'First Republic.' Although some might argue that the New Republic qualifies).
posted by Dr_Johnson at 4:51 PM on August 8, 2005


Well, to state the obvious, our system (as flawed as it is) is far better than what the Commies came up with.

Not to lob in the obvious snarky reply, but do you really judge the right of a people to revolt against oppression by what system ends up ruling/governing them next?

...arbuably most French were better off under Louis XIV, then they were under the First Republic, just as the Prussians were better off under Frederich the Great than they were later under Weimar, who can argue that democracy is not inherently superior to despotism?

&&

...that democracy, historically, creates cesspit nations, because the implementation of a nation is far more important and needs to be gotten right BEFORE introducing getting all poncy over the political system.

I often wonder: Do the people who long for authoritarianism not appreciate the freedoms they have in a liberal democracy, or is it that they believe that they would rule given a change to authoritarianism?

I think I can answer that for the Bush Administration, for example. I can't answer for most other people.

From one point of view (until the non-stop making of war brought it to its knees) fascism was presumably good for the people that supported it just as it was horrendously bad for those that were oppressed and murdered by its practioners.

As a professor said to me (well to the whole class, to be completely honest) [paraphrased]:

"Totalitarianism is utterly positive. The Nazis were completely positive, they were making the entire world new, and saving humanity from all of the ills that had befallen them

Hitler was so positive he was a vegetarian! He loved his dogs!"
(he was on the verge of laughing, I think, he found this contradiction so darkly funny)

His point was that authoritarians are not necessarily "Dr. Evil" types, lurking in their layers hatching evil schemes. his contention was the on the contrary they are largely "positivist" in their outlook, and convinced that they are doing "good" or the "right" thing.

Totalitarianism by it's definition is in the "best interest" of the people it rules. The only quibble I have with it is that it doesn't give a care to what those people think or want, and it rejects/jails/exiles/murders those who dissent or exhibit otherness in any way (not to mention a bunch of other things).
posted by illovich at 8:43 AM on August 9, 2005


illovich: great points. You could make the same observation about supposedly communist totalitarian regimes, such as China, where the absolute rulers do everything in the name of, and for the supposed benefit of something called "The People", a curious grouping whose membership is claimed to be universal and yet which in practice does seem to extend to any actual persons. "The People" is one of those words which was for official purposes emptied of meaning and turned into a slogan for its opposite. Rather like "Freedom" is in danger of becoming here.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:38 AM on August 9, 2005


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