Communism Versus Nazism

Finally, somebody said it:

One of the interesting after-effects of the left’s domination of the West’s film and entertainment industry has been an intentional dulling down of the awareness of the evil of Communism and the magnitude of the atrocities it commited in the 20th century.  Call someone a Nazi and people gasp.  Call someone a Community and they chuckle or mutter something like “McCarthy”.  Wave a swastika and people scream, the hammer and sickle – not so much.  Fascism is certainly more famous and when you want a smirking villian in a movie you’re more likely to get a reaction from a guy in an SS uniform than someone with the hammer and sickle on his chest.

Aside from the meaningless attribution of the responsibility for this phenomenon to Hollywood, the author of the quote is making an important point. Among good, decent folks there is a consensus that Nazis were monsters. There are neo-Nazi groups on the margins of most Western societies, but nobody walks around with a copy of Mein Kampf and introduces oneself as a fascist during scholarly conferences if one has any hope of having a career and being a respected member of society. Spoiled kids from rich families don’t try to bug their mommies and daddies by worshiping Hitler nearly as often as they do it using Mao and Lenin. Che Guevara T-shirts, backpacks and jewelry have become mainstream and sell everywhere. Franco’s face is not in vogue. OK, Franco was indescribably ugly. But Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, the founder of the Spanish fascism, could have given Che a run for his money in the looks department any day of the week.

So why is it that every normal person agrees that Nazism is evil while Communism still attracts so many good, decent, albeit ignorant and misguided, people?

Unlike the author of the post I quoted, I don’t tend to look to the US (or, more specifically, Hollywood) as the cause of everything that ever happened in the universe. There is life outside Hollywood and even – gasp! – outside of the US.

One of the most important reasons behind the difference in the attitudes towards Communism and Nazism is the behavior of the victims. You are not going to find many Jews who will tell you that, “Of course, Hitler was not completely perfect but you have to recognize that he did a lot of good things, too.” You will, however, encounter many such folks among the victims of Stalin. The Communist USSR remained in existence for way too long for the Stockholm Syndrome not to set in. It’s easier to see the horrors of a system when you remember how things used to be before that system came about. If, however, the system in question is the only thing you have ever known (and so did your parents and grandparents), rejecting it completely becomes a very hard thing to do.

Nazi criminals were put on trial in Nuremberg and their actions were defined as genocide officially. In the countries of the FSU, nobody was put on trial. People who murdered and tortured during the Soviet times (and now their descendants) are still in power and are doing very well for themselves. The Holocaust survivors became heroes while the victims of Stalinism turned into losers.

Since the victims of Communist regimes never managed to convince anybody that they were, indeed, victims and that their suffering deserved respect, it became easy for Communist sympathizers to adopt the egregiously offensive motto, “Soviet / Cuban / Chinese / Korean / etc., etc., etc. Communisms were not real Communism.” Such people discard the simple idea that if you try establishing a system time and again in different historic, geographic, ethnic, economic and linguistic circumstances and the result is ALWAYS genocide, then it is just possible that something is wrong with the system.

Communist sympathizers want to be outrageous, different and subversive, especially when it costs them absolutely nothing. They want to sit in their comfortable capitalist countries and shed crocodile’s tears for the imaginary downtrodden when, in reality, they shit on the suffering of actual victims if that suffering does not serve the correct ideological purposes. They roll their eyes and sigh, “Here she goes again harping on that boring Holodomor and the GULAG, which is beyond outdated” in a way they would never dare to do if the subject of my harping were the Holocaust.

Such people suffer from extreme intellectual laziness. They don’t even attempt to abandon the Cold War rut where Communism is the shining and paradisaical alternative to capitalism. Now that we all know how irredeemable Communist systems everywhere have been, it would make sense for our rebellious, anti-capitalist comrades to start looking for an alternative. Something completely different, something new, a set of ideas that falls outside the tired Communism versus capitalism dichotomy is in order. But who needs to do all that hard work when it is so much easier to pretend that the last 100 years of world history never happened?

49 thoughts on “Communism Versus Nazism”

  1. Well I want to preface this by syaing that I am also Ukrainian so I am very aware of Stalin’s evil. Stories of Stalin’s atrocities haunted my childhood. But I think that another difference between the “appeals” of Communism and Nazism is perhaps textual. You push at Nazism and you get terrible eugenic texts by Galton and others. It’s (thankfully) hard for most teenagers to get behind eugenics. And I will admit that I haven’t read the _Communist Manifesto_ but I have read another important “communist” text: Engel’s _The Condition of the Working Class in England_ (1845). And to me, _Condition_ is a perceptive text that rightfully critiques unregulated capitalism and is also a text that has been claimed by many Communist leaders. So I think that some of these founding “communist” texts appeal to people who actually believe in the possibility of a better world. (And of course these people are mostly ignorant of how such regimes actually operated.) I really agree with you here by the way: “Something completely different, something new, a set of ideas that falls outside the tired Communism versus capitalism dichotomy is in order. ” It’s hard for people to think outside this box though. But yeah, just including my thoughts. 🙂

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    1. I see the difference in the texts that you are talking about. But it’s also true that most of the pro-Communist kids out there haven’t read a word of Lenin or Stalin. So it’s not like they could see the difference with their own eyes. 🙂

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  2. Actually, people have been saying this for a while. But for some reason anti-communism no longer can take hold of the public imagination. Maybe in this country at least it’s that we associate communism with big, intimidating conglomerates like the USSR that seemed (to us) to be obsessed with us (and thus we responded to this flattery with like obsession), but Russia is just seen as just another foreign country. I’ll bet you now there are American kids who aren’t quite sure where Russia is on the map and have no idea it was once part of a greater country called the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” and what that even meant. The big, scary enemy is now “Islam.”

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  3. I agree with most things that you explain here, especially the diminishing of Communist regimes’ crimes. However, coming from a country where fascism was treated exactly the same as Communism in the Soviet Union, and where Communism sympathizers were systematically exterminated, the whole perspective changes. Mind that the hundreds of thousands of Communist sympathizers that I’m talking about were just people in Spain who were just trying to survive in a extremely authoritarian system. You could be accused of being a “red” (rojo, meaning communist) just for having leftist ideas (which will grant you death or a horrible life o suffering).
    I don’t think you did it on purpose, you are trying to defend your argument, but that’s pretty much what your post seems to be doing with anybody that, for example, can see some good in what Che was trying to do in Latin America.
    Talking about Che, I would never justified some of his methods, but comparing the goals of Che to those of Hitler is as wrong as justifying Stalin’s. (I know you didn’t say that, but that’s what you can infer)
    Again, I know those were not your intentions, I just wanted to let you know how some of your comments may be perceived.
    To finish, one last comment, if there is still somebody that believes that Communism is the alternative to Capitalism, they just should try and look at our society. Human nature makes Communism an utopia.
    That said, I still can see in Capitalism the corruption and promotion of “stepping over thy neighbor’s head” as part of the game. Opposing this does not make me a Communist, but if I try to go against the wrongdoings of Capitalism, I will be accused of being a Communist, or asked to propose another system. Do you see what I’m saying?
    In any case, let’s have a coffee an talk about it!

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    1. “However, coming from a country where fascism was treated exactly the same as Communism in the Soviet Union, and where Communism sympathizers were systematically exterminated, the whole perspective changes. Mind that the hundreds of thousands of Communist sympathizers that I’m talking about were just people in Spain who were just trying to survive in a extremely authoritarian system. ”

      – Yes, Spain was stuck in an untenable situations between two monstrous regimes, each of whom just used it and then threw it over. I’m now reading the history of the PCE and it’s fascinating.

      “Talking about Che, I would never justified some of his methods, but comparing the goals of Che to those of Hitler is as wrong as justifying Stalin’s. (I know you didn’t say that, but that’s what you can infer)”

      – Che never managed to retain power anywhere. We can’t know what he would have done if he had. His record of summary executions of many people is not a secret, though. From what I understand, one of the reasons why Castro threw him out of Cuba was that Che was too radical and bloodthirsty.

      ” Human nature makes Communism an utopia.”

      – Hear, hear! 🙂

      “That said, I still can see in Capitalism the corruption and promotion of “stepping over thy neighbor’s head” as part of the game. Opposing this does not make me a Communist, but if I try to go against the wrongdoings of Capitalism, I will be accused of being a Communist, or asked to propose another system. Do you see what I’m saying?”

      – I see what you are saying but I do think that we urgently need to start coming up with an alternative to both.

      “In any case, let’s have a coffee an talk about it!”

      – As soon as I get better!

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  4. Why is it also OK to be so pro US — this being a pretty bad and murderous country if you aren’t / weren’t white or are from one of the ones we take over in one way or another?

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  5. Or more to the point – in US, Spain, etc., Communism *was* that stigmatized when the USSR existed.

    In US though, a Nazi or neo-Nazi is more likely to commit a hate crime than a Communist.

    But I think in US it was at one point more important to teach people that Nazis were bad, because

    (a) they were our enemy in WWII and USSR was not, and

    (b) they had a lot of sympathizers here / a lot of Americans essentially shared their values, so this had to be controlled for the war effort and also to keep local ones from running around as brownshirts and creating mayhem.

    There’s more to say or speculate about but as Evelina suggests above — how many respectable / interesting Nazi intellectuals are there?

    I haven’t met a US Communist or “fellow traveler” since my grandparents and people of that generation died. These are the people who didn’t live the kinds of middle class lives you and I do, and who struggled and gave their lives so that people like you and me could have livable working conditions. Don’t malign them – be grateful.

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    1. “I haven’t met a US Communist or “fellow traveler” since my grandparents and people of that generation died. ”

      – I’ve met many. They are all super spoiled kids of extremely rich parents. A couple I know are children of VERY prominent Republican politicians in the US. Obviously, this is not the same generation as your grandparents. This is my generation and younger. Maybe a few are a little older than I am.

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        1. “Where do you meet these people?”

          – Need I remind where I went to grad school? 🙂 There was also a charming community of activists I used to know in Montreal. None of them had to work for a living a day in their lives, which is why they despised all of those “corporate robots” who worked for a wage. Easy to be rebellious when you’ve got a huge trust fund, of course.

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            1. “But that isn’t serious. I am talking about actual working people.”

              – I am yet to meet a single working person, especially of proletarian origins who’d have any interest in communist ideas. Communism is the favorite toy of upper middle classes. Sometimes, middle classes. But real workers or, God forbid, peasants? I’ve never seen anything like that.

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      1. I mean card carrying, as was said in McCarthy’s times. I don’t mean, just reading Marx or exploring Hardt/Negri. I mean not just willing to say something in an academic conference – I mean willing to walk to the wall. Does one truly find such persons today?

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      2. My comment below gives an example of two. I cannot remember the gentlemen’s names, but they were both a little older than I. We met in the spring of 1980 while I was on Sabbatical travelling around the U. S.

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  6. Also in US, you have various serious socialist and communist heroes, like this: http://griid.org/2011/06/30/this-day-is-resistance-history-%E2%80%93-eugene-debs-and-the-espionage-act/

    …can’t say we had any virtuous Nazis like that.

    I also suspect, and this is just my suspicion now, that we had to hate the Nazis officially the way we do because so many of us were so anti-Semitic. It had gone out of fashion and we just had to cut the connection.

    Finally, I think we have to have them as we do because we and our politics resemble them more. We have to try not to go *that* far.

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  7. I’d say it’s partly a backlash to the McCarthy years when (as I’ve heard it) just about everyone involved in labor unions or civil rights groups was accused of being a communist at some point. I think it kind of diluted the meaning of the word for a lot of left-leaning Americans.

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  8. …the other random thought I have is: there were decades and decades of anti Communist propaganda and school curricula, and decades and decades during which we fought wars against alleged Communists in various parts of the globe. It is of interest to be able to read what some of those theorists and their predecessors actually said. Also: look at the current panorama, where we’re searching for Muslims, random terrorists, and narcos; lump those all together and ratchet up the paranoia quite a few degrees to say the very least; there you get the anticommunist atmosphere in which many of us were raised; it got really boring and also exasperating when just anyone who didn’t toe US line was “Communist,” so maybe we’re just a bit exhausted from the OD on fear of “Commies” … that would be why you hear the wry jokes about McCarthyism and so on.

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  9. And another musing – reading about Bolivia and Viet Nam all day, this may be coloring my perspective somewhat –

    Perhaps we can resoundingly revile Fascism because we have found ways to use and implement the parts of it we want, so can safely reject some of its trappings as outmoded or vile.

    But, because of the variety of strains of utopian thought that go into anarchism, socialism, Communism, and their use in liberation struggles, and a rich intellectual tradition, there remains interest despite USSR.

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  10. Last snippet of thought for this hour: US academia actually *does* revile Communism. Economics departments are often in Business schools; left thought is ignored by most, not even on their horizon (they consider “left” something that wouldn’t be elsewhere); for a long time you couldn’t work in many US universities as a Communist or accused one; hard to publish along those lines as well; hard to justify putting on syllabus except as something to revile; we had to sign paperwork reviling Communism to accept our TAships in the U of California system; etc. So it adds up to a whole lot of anti-Communism, really.

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    1. ” for a long time you couldn’t work in many US universities as a Communist or accused one; hard to publish along those lines as well; hard to justify putting on syllabus except as something to revile”

      – Today, it’s just the opposite, though. I don’t know about Economic departments, but the Humanities? There was a Communist discussion group at Yale. But there wasn’t an anti-Communist discussion group.

      I haven’t found a single opportunity to discuss the Ukrainian genocide with other academics without immediately hearing “Yes, but. . .” My experience of mentioning anything about my country’s history is that of being dismissed within two seconds.

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  11. One thing about capitalism with regards to its various problems is that it isn’t so much that capitalism is a “good’ system, it’s that it is simply the system that functions the least badly out of the alternatives.

    And capitalism, in its raw form, can be just as bad as communism, socialism, fascism, and so forth. If I start a business in say some Third World country where I can bribe the government and obtain a monopoly and force all the workers to work in unsafe working conditions, that’s capitalism. Cartels that engage in drug trafficking, the sex trade, identity theft, etc…that is all capitalism too, just immoral and illegal capitalism.

    Capitalism isn’t so much a “system” as it is the natural way of humanity (i.e. engaging in trade for goods and services). This happens in all systems, even if officially socialist or fascist (in the USSR there was a black market and trade of goods and services occurs in prisons, which are miniature communist systems).

    When we refer to “capitalism” or “capitalist countries,” we mean countries that combine capitalism with a market (market capitalism) and things like rule of law, protection of private property, human rights and freedoms, and so forth, which results in an economic system that, while still plagued with things like evil corporations, corrupt corporate executives, results in the system that functions one heck of a lot less badly than what systems like the USSR were.

    Same with the government. Do the democratic systems of government in the Western liberal democracies have their share of corrupt politicians? You bet 🙂 However, in comparison to various dictatorial governments found elsewhere throughout the world, they function one heck of a lot less badly.

    Democratic government combined with market capitalism creates the society that just functions the least badly. And in the end, that’s all we can create, because of human nature. If humans were naturally good, we wouldn’t need government. Government is there so that humans have ways of living with one another and not killing each other. Systems like communism are utopian. and as such, completely unrealistic (one person’s utopia can be another person’s nightmare).

    The people who criticize capitalist societies don’t realize that you can’t just overthrow such a system and create some mythical “perfect” system. Communism in many ways is a religion, albeit an atheistic religion (and the religion of choice for many atheists who otherwise laugh at conventional religions, although they don’t realize their hypocrisy). It’s god is the State and it promises a utopia here on Earth. All people who stand in the way must be converted by force or slaughtered.

    What really gets me is the sheer arrogance of many communists. They will oftentimes know nothing about economics or how society works at all and oftentimes have accomplished really nothing, but oh they are 100% positive that if only they were to be given the power and authority, that they could find the magical formula needed to create a better society than the current free societies we have today.

    Yes, attempts have been made, by much more intelligent and knowledgable people than they in the past, at creating such a society, and all have failed horribly, but they are absolutely certain that they could be the ones to do it. It is a level of arrogance and ego in the extreme.

    In terms of economics as a profession, yes economics is a bit different from the other academic professions. No one frets if you are anti-communist in modern economics. It used to be considered a radical position to be anti-socialist and all for free-market capitalism in economics, but nowadays, it isn’t. However, many of the liberal arts professions unfortunately do still contain their share of communists.

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  12. Socialism, as distinct from communism, seems to work pretty well, as in Sweden. When I was in Poland in the 1970’s, some people told me that Sweden was a more socialist society than Poland, and was closer to the ideal. Some people have told me that this is true, but is possible only because Sweden is a racially and culturally homogeneous society. This sounds wrong to me, but I don’t know how to argue logically that it is wrong.

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    1. Strong social services do not equal socialism, as we discussed before. Socialism entails collective ownership of the means of production. Sweden is a fully capitalist country with a strong welfare system. I would not want to live in such a society. The welfare system I’m seeing in Quebec is much weaker and the negatives outweigh the positives by far.

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      1. Collective ownership of the means of production is what we have in some measure here in the U. S. Some corporations have no stockholders with as much as a 1% stake, according to what I was taught as a child. I am assuming that this is still true.

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      2. A welfare state can have a socialist component, but only in the sense of such a welfare state being created on the idea of many on the Left that it is unfair that some people have gotten wealthy while others are not. They therefore want to tax the wealthy to “redistribute” the wealth (implying that the wealth used to belong to society but was then removed by those who are wealthy, and now said wealth must be redistributed back to society). That’s not how a market economy works though. In a market economy, people create wealth. Only a socialist believes that wealth exists as some fixed pie and that in order for one person to have more, someone else must have less. Market economies, with voluntary cooperation and free trade, allow exchanges in which both parties become richer (otherwise, the trades wouldn’t occur). If you start and build a business that employs hundreds of people and makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and thus you are able to pay yourself millions of dollars a year and are very rich because the business is valued highly, you have created wealth. You have made society wealthier via the products and services that you provide, which people trade you money voluntarily for. You haven’t shorted society of anything. It is for the above reasons that many on the Right, in particular in the United States, accuse the European nations that have strong welfare states as being “socialist.”

        So the proper argument for having strong social safety nets would be for humanity purposes, i.e. tax away some of the income of the higher earners, more than is necessary to run the basic processes of the government, so as to create social safety nets so that the regular people have security in the event that they end up losing their job due to a bad economy or whatnot, so that the elderly are secure when they cannot work any longer, and so forth.

        Taxing the income more highly of the rich business owner to provide for a safety net versus taxing the income of the business owner more highly because some socialist thinks that person has stolen wealth out of society and needs to put it back, are two separate things, although they are often lumped together. It’s the difference between the middle 80% and the richest 10% voting to tax themselves in order to provide safety nets for the bottom 10%, versus the bottom 10% and the middle 80% voting to tax the richest 10% in order to distribute the wealth to themselves (this would be wrong).

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  13. I met two Communist party members in Oregon in 1980. I shared a table with them at a crowded cafe on the campus of one of the major universities in Oregon. (I do not recall whether it was Oregon or Oregon State.) One was a piano tuner who owned his own business and assured me that that was perfectly OK so long as he did all the work himself and did not employ anyone else (who would thus have been exploited.) He had a large enough income that he owned his own airplane, which he had flown to Cuba to meet with Fidel Castro. I found out they were Communists since they were trying to get the Communist Party on the Ballot for the 1980 elections in Oregon.

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    1. “One was a piano tuner who owned his own business and assured me that that was perfectly OK so long as he did all the work himself and did not employ anyone else (who would thus have been exploited.) He had a large enough income that he owned his own airplane, which he had flown to Cuba to meet with Fidel Castro. I found out they were Communists since they were trying to get the Communist Party on the Ballot for the 1980 elections in Oregon.”

      – Yes, this is the kind of people I’m talking about! 🙂

      When the very first Russian communists tried to enlighten the masses and explain to them the joys of communism, the masses beat them. This is why Lenin had to make the decision to conduct the revolution without waiting for the recalcitrant masses to show any interest. The working people were expected to get all enthusiastic later on. We all know how that story ended.

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        1. “The point is that the piano tuner was working and supporting himself and not living off anyone else, either a trust from his relatives or someone he employed.”

          – He was some Communist if he didn’t understand how very anti-Communist his existence was. 🙂

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    1. You are right. It is impossible. It is not like we can make observations under different conditions and derive some conclusions. No siree bob. And even if we could, where are we going to find enough of these “humans” you speak of?

      We should rather return to our academic ivory towers where we can speculate about the nature of humanity. Yes, that would be so much better.

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      1. My country has paid with millions of human lives and a completely destroyed culture for the experiment that has demonstrated conclusively that collective ownership of the means of production translates into famine and destitution because human nature is such that people stop working when what they do does not belong to them.

        All of these people died. My entire culture is dead beyond any hope of recovery. I hoped, at least, that this has served a purpose of showing the world that the Communist dream was a huge mistake. But people tell me that our suffering has been useless. The cannibalistic dream is still alive and kicking.

        I don’t know what else needs to happen for people to abandon this dead dream once and for all. Until it is abandoned, we are stuck in this hopeless capitalism versus Communism dichotomy and nothing new gets explored.

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  14. I’ve noticed that many Western leftists are in fact trying to replace old fashioned communism with new left identity politics, which is a thousand times more insidious, in that the social and logical boundaries determining new left agitation are not defined. Such acts of psychological terrorism can occur anywhere, at any time. So it is that in a left wing organisation Mike was a part of, three people began to attack him and anyone else who was doing any administrative work, whilst condemning them for setting up a “white male hierarchy”. It was pointless for Mike to protest, “But I don’t identify as a white male.” To refuse to be identified as what you’re labeled by your given label is taken as a sign that one harbors evil intentions. It just makes your situation worse the more you protest.

    I’m convinced the new left identity politics gives far too much leeway to the mentally ill to wreak havoc and revenge on those parts of reality that don’t conform with their beliefs.

    You can look at history and see what actually occurs, and recognize that we are all contingent products of history, or you can invent some puerile dogma about good and evil, so that you can hunt down anyone you’ve labeled as evil. The immature people prefer the hunting down of others. However, it is all projection. Their low self esteem can’t be rectified by making others feel bad.

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    1. ” To refuse to be identified as what you’re labeled by your given label is taken as a sign that one harbors evil intentions.”

      – They feel personally undermined by the idea that their labels might not be a useful tool of exploring reality.

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      1. I think it gives them too much credit to say they want to “explore” reality. They have no desire to explore any aspect of it. Rather, they want to change reality. They want reality to get the hell out of their way.

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          1. When I was much younger, I didn’t realize that so much of the way people behave has to do with a certain level of craziness — a desire to push an agenda.

            Now, I find such people much more easy to spot because they always accuse others who resist them of having an agenda. In some ways, it’s an immature form of consciousness, that maintains there is nothing to learn about the world, just different “agendas” to combat.

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    1. This has absolutely nothing to do with Communism or socialism. No communist system in existence has respected the 8-hour working day or the weekend. These are guaranteed rights ONLY in capitalist systems.

      Do I need to explain why any true Marxist can only be opposed to the 8-hour day?

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  15. As I am using it, it is synecdoche for any form of reason.

    Haymarket anniversary is coming up! 1 May 1886! Half a million joined the funeral for the martyrs 11-11-86!

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  16. Fantastic blog, Clarissa. You wrote it so deftly and truthfully that your critics on this subject don’t even know how to start.

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