New cuss-word for leftists - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-12-2007, 04:41 PM Thread Starter
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New cuss-word for leftists

Party politics
Robert Service

Published 07 June 2007

Communism destroyed millions of lives, but its critics are now branded "neocons". Why has the left's poisoned love affair with it endured?

Communism, like nuclear fuel, has a long afterlife. In country after country across Europe - from Russia to Albania - it has been discredited for its record in power. No government in Africa or the Americas subscribes to it except the Castro regime in Cuba. In Asia, the communist flag is waved in Vietnam and China without anyone denying that the economic future lies with capitalism; only North Korea stands by the basic precepts of Marxism-Leninism.

What happened in the October 1917 revolution in Russia was an ideological bank robbery. Its leaders were nothing if not daring. Lenin and his party took over a state and then declared that no other kind of socialism was worthy of the name. They instituted a red terror. They seized hold of an entire economy, persecuted all religious faith, imposed a one-ideology media and treated society as a resource to be mobilised on their whim. These are historical facts that no communist in the 1920s sought to deny. Quite the opposite: the facts were advertised by the Communist International as the only way to do away with "bourgeois rule" and induce the birth of true socialism.

A minority of socialists around the world accepted this case, formed communist parties and joined the Communist International. None of these parties, except for the Mongolian one, stood a serious chance of coming to power until after the Second World War. Geopolitics changed after 1945. The Yugoslav communists had won supremacy in wartime. The Soviet army, being the occupying force elsewhere in eastern Europe, imposed a communist state order east of the river Elbe. In 1949, China experienced a communist military and political take-over. Ten years later, Cuba went the same way.

In doing the research for my book Comrades: A World History of Communism, I tried to find whether there was a basic pattern to the regimes that resulted. The conclusion was a stark one. In all cases of durable state communism, there was some approximation to the Soviet "model". A single party kept itself in power without concern for electoral mandate. A nomenklatura system of personnel appointment was introduced. Religion was harassed. National traditions were emasculated. The rule of law was flouted. The political police was ubiquitous and ruthless; labour camps were established. Foreign travel permits were made hard to come by. Radio and TV broadcasts from abroad were banned. A prim public culture was installed.

This was the pattern despite the many national differences. Popular music in Cuba remained lively and beautiful even though its exponents could not take themselves and their instruments to other countries. In Poland, the Catholic Church was allowed to function in the open. In China, there was some pride - except during the cultural revolution of the late 1960s - in those emperors who had governed a unified nation.

The new communist states, like the Soviet Union before them, undoubtedly engineered rapid industrial growth. The exception was Cambodia under Pol Pot, who emptied the towns of their entire populations. The same states fostered programmes of mass education. They also facilitated the promotion of people who had previously suffered from negative social discrimination. Reading and numeracy flourished. While capitalist economies failed to solve the problems of unemployment, everyone could find work under communism and had access to free health care and cheap housing.

All this I mentioned repeatedly in my book, but it was not quite what one reviewer, the Guardian's Seumas Milne, wanted. He denied that I stated that communist leaders unleashed a drive towards industrial and cultural modernisation. Next, he alleged that I followed a "neoconservative" agenda. He also maintained that the so-called "revisionist" school of Soviet history was not getting a fair wind in the western media.

His Stalinoid form and content of argument involved deliberate misrepresentation. It would seem that Milne and his like consider it fair game to denounce anybody who comes to a considered anti-communist standpoint as a neocon. This is a shoddy way to handle a serious political discussion. If this farrago had not come from the editor of the comment pages of one of our national newspapers, it would not be worth bothering about. What is more, Milne is typical of a more general trend that retains a nostalgia for communism, and it is a trend that ought to be repudiated.

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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-12-2007, 04:41 PM Thread Starter
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Milne rails against people who describe Stalin's Soviet Union or Mao's cultural revolution as totalitarian. His preference is for the alleged even-handedness of the "revisionist" school. What he has in mind here is the body of work written since the 1970s which stresses that not everything in communist politics was controlled by the supreme leadership. It would be ludicrous to claim that Stalin or Mao directed and controlled every aspect of thought and behaviour. I know of no one who does this. Communist states were indisputably very far from a condition of total regulation from above. In fact, they were more chaotic in many ways than are most liberal democracies.

The reasons for this have long been obvious. Liberal democracies, despite all their faults, have lots of advantages. They have a pluralist culture and free media. They have an independent judiciary. They allow competition among political parties. Such features provide mechanisms for the correction of abuse that were largely absent under communist rule. The result is that such democracies have possessed more orderly societies than communist ones. Work discipline was generally poor under communism. Apathy about politics was widespread. Bureaucratic ineffectiveness was rampant.

What is more, it was no coincidence that durable communist states maintained a heavy load of repression. Millions of citizens always wanted things that incurred official disapproval. They hated the disrespect for national traditions, culture and religion; they were attracted by non-communist ideologies. In order to hold on to power, the communists used the secret police and labour camps. Some leaderships were more brutal than others. Life was different under Brezhnev and Andropov from what it had been under Stalin. And Cuba has held a smaller number of political prisoners as a proportion of its population than was true of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, all communist states were dictatorial, and it was no coincidence that they practised radio and TV jamming and made it difficult for their peoples to travel abroad.

The proof of the pudding came in 1989-91 in eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The old cultural and political controls were loosened. Free public discussion and organisation were permitted, and in country after country there emerged a challenge to the ruling nomenklatura. Wherever contestable elections were held, the state order of communism fell apart.

Some "revisionists" denied that the savagery of the great terror in the Soviet Union or the cultural revolution in China was attributable to Stalin or Mao. Several of them supported ridiculously low figures for the number of deaths and arrests. There was also an endeavour in some quarters to lay stress on the positive economic and educational achievements of regimes, rather than on the persistent repression.

The United Kingdom, of course, never had a communist revolution. Only a handful of communist MPs were ever elected. The Communist Party occasionally did well in local elections, but it never won more than a tiny proportion of the vote in national elections. We now know just how closely it was supervised from Moscow. It received money on a regular basis. It received guidance on policy, and there was trouble for those British communist leaders who stepped out of line until the 1980s. By and large, the Kremlin used the party as an instrument for propaganda in favour of Soviet foreign policy. There was no serious effort to turn it into an insurrectionary force.

But what if the CPGB or any of the small anti-Soviet communist groups were to have attracted greater support and come to power? What would have happened next? By no stretch of the imagination can one imagine that communism's political opponents would have folded up their tents and withdrawn from the field. The communists would never have enjoyed universal popularity. Without force it is hard to imagine how a British communist regime would have lasted very long if it disrupted the usual workings of the economy and offended social and religious sentiments. Communist ministers would then have faced the same choices as presented themselves to previous communist regimes elsewhere.

The point is that repression was not some aberrant phenomenon under communist rule around the world. It was ideologically condoned in advance; it proved also to be a practical necessity for the consolidation of communist states. Communists from the 1920s through to the 1940s were frank about this: they eulogised dictatorship. Subsequently, they avoided debate on the matter or else contended that they would break with the models provided by historical communist states. They never explained how they would introduce communism except by massive force. The ghosts of the victims of all those bloody purges cry out for us to reject the printed apologias for the communist past.

Robert Service's "Comrades: A World History of Communism" is published by Macmillan
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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-12-2007, 11:16 PM
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Apparently some writers still get paid by the word, whether there is a point or not.

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Being smart is knowing the difference, in a sticky situation between a well delivered anecdote and a well delivered antidote - bear.
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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-13-2007, 08:03 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcbear
Apparently some writers still get paid by the word, whether there is a point or not.
Apparently some people, unable or unwilling to expend effort on analysis, count words in lieu of using reason, and consider that niggardly effort a substitute for wit.
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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-13-2007, 08:09 PM
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bot is a neocon
How's my Urdu insult?
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-13-2007, 08:14 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drewprof
bot is a neocon
How's my Urdu insult?
Expectedly pedestrian.
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-13-2007, 08:15 PM
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Here is the definition. Guess the word.

Quote:
1. a false or baseless, usually derogatory story, report, or rumor.
2. Cookery. a duck intended or used for food.
3. Aeronautics.
a. an airplane that has its horizontal stabilizer and elevators located forward of the wing.
b. one of two small lifting wings located in front of the main wings.
c. an early airplane having a pusher engine with the rudder and elevator assembly in front of the wings.

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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-13-2007, 08:18 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GermanStar
Here is the definition. Guess the word.
Great puzzle!

"Quackery"?
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-13-2007, 08:31 PM
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Good guess, but not quite...

"If spending money you don't have is the height of stupidity, borrowing money to give it away is the height of insanity." -- anon
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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-13-2007, 09:17 PM
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Hmmm.....Ideologically condoned repression.

Sounds spot on for Bush/Cheney neocon sinking ship of shame.

Even the current Republican runners do not want to be associated with that.

Let them rot with Maio and Stalin.

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