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No Thanks, You Can Keep Them

On the radio the other night, I heard a fellow being interviewed -- I believe it was Paul Robeson II, the son of the legendary black communist singer and actor. Mr. Robeson was discussing his father's embrace of communism and Stalinism, and putting it in a "proper" historical context.

His notion is that Stalin was a creature of the right-wing, an imperialist and an heir to the Tsars. Likewise, Mao was also a right-winger and a modern-day Emperor -- and both were traitors and perverters of Marxism. As evidence of his theory, he cited how both the Soviet Union and Communist China had very strict regulations of immigration, both in an attempt to keep themselves not only ideologically but ethnically pure.

Um... no.

I'm no great political scholar or historian, but my own casual acquaintance with both fields (and their confluence) tell me this guy is talking out of his ass.

Both Stalin and Mao were outspoken opponents of nationalism, urging it be crushed and defeated for communism. And Mr. Robeson's description of their immigration policies far better fit their emigration policies -- both of them put huge restrictions on their people's ability to "vote with their feet" and get out of their respective "worker's paradises."

Also, it's worth noting that both dictators built their empires on Marxist practices and principles. While they might have "perverted" Marx's ideals (I think that "Marxist ideals" is one of the most perverse and disgusting oxymorons), it was those principles that let rise to tyranny.

In fact, it's becoming more and more apparent that Marxism seems to lead, almost inevitably, to tyranny and oppression of the absolutely worst sort. And for an ideology so concerned with equality and The People, it seems to generate an awful lot of "leaders for life."

And while they were alive, Stalin and Mao found their support in the West from the left, while it was the Right that produced their most rabid enemies.

I'm not saying that the Right doesn't have its own set of problems, its own rogue's gallery of thugs and dictators and mass murderers masquerading as statesmen. I'll grant Mussolini and Imperial Japan as being, by and large, right-wing. (Not Hitler, though. Hitler combined the worst of both worlds, taking the worst of both wings and blending them into his unique brand of evilness.) But you can't put Stalin and Mao on the Right. They came from the Left, they wrapped their crimes against humanity in the language and ideals of the Left, and they were championed and lionized by the Left of their time.

You own 'em. Deal with it.


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Comments (38)

I am always amused by the '... (Below threshold)

I am always amused by the 'tolerant' leftists who think they should embrace Marxism because they consider themselves anti-racist and pro-environment.

Stalin was a chauvinist who rejected his Georgian heritage, and liquidated many non-Russian nationalities. He was also an anti-semitic jew baiter. He was a complete racist.

Mao Zedong outlawed homosexuality - as does North Korea today.

So much for tolerance!

As for being green . . . the red countries were and still are abysmally polluted places. Anyone remember Chernobyl? Anyone out there been reading about how the Communist government in China literally poisons its own people to churn out greater production?

Communism was and is the greatest step backward ever taken by mankind.

Let it rot.

You both should work a bit ... (Below threshold)

You both should work a bit on understanding the history of the regimes surrounding the rise of both tyrants that gave rise to their political/social movements and the times they lived in to understand why they were popular movements at the time.

It's not like the existing regimes were a bed of roses as these guys started out. They (Stalin & Mao) took advantage of excesses and flaws in the reigning systems to mobilize the masses and then took control.

I don't like what they've become either (although I am amazed that capitalism is sweeping communist China. I can remember as recently as the 90s people saying capitalism could not exist in a communist nation, yet China is booming--mostly a sign of loss of control of the central party, I think). But you both skip over a lot of history of how and why they began to get to condemning what they've become.

After all, after a couple of centuries, we're not exactly what many of the forefathers envisioned, either.

Jefferson thought we'd might become a nation of gentleman farmers, reading the classics in the original Greek during the evenings and that Christianity was a bit of a fad and, at worst, we'd all be Unitarians.

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.--Sinclair Lewis

As for the pollution of China, it occurs to me that all we've done here in the west is export the pollution we used to suffer here. Certainly an unforeseen and unintended consequence of globalization.

"And Mr. Robeson's descr... (Below threshold)

"And Mr. Robeson's description of their immigration policies far better fit their emigration policies..."

The communists didn't build a wall to keep people out. It was there to keep people in.

I always felt that if you t... (Below threshold)
lunacy:

I always felt that if you traveled far enough to the right or far enough to the left, you would end up at the same tyrannical location.

Rick, I think you are the o... (Below threshold)

Rick, I think you are the one who needs to brush up on his history.

The Bolsheviks, for example, did not come to power at the head of a 'popular movement' - they took over control of Russia via a coup d'etat in 1917, and then promptly went on the wipe out their competition (the Mensheviks, mostly). They went on to cause massive famines, and waged a civil war that killed millions. Right out of the gate they instituted evil policies, it was not something that developed later on as you seem to claim.

Whatever the flaws of the prior regimes, Stalin killed an estimated 20 million of his own people - bloodshed on a scale not even imagined during the reign of the Tsars. Mao Zedong killed an incredible 60 million. The prior Kuomintang regime was a kindergarten by comparison.

Nice stab at trying to whitewash the communist history of horrors.

As for Sinclair Lewis . . . he is still wrong, isn't he.

Just as the far-left Nation... (Below threshold)
alacrityfitzhugh:

Just as the far-left Nation magazine constantly faulted Bill Clinton for being "too conservative", the wackos on the extreme left always see themselves as "centrists" and everyone they disagree with as "right" of them!

Is it worth pointing out th... (Below threshold)
Mark L:

Is it worth pointing out that Nazism is not "conservative" either. It is the photo-negative of Communism. Where Communism is internationalistic extreme socialism, Nazism is nationalistic extreme socialism (The full name of Hitler's party was the National Socialist German Workers Party).

The picture was the same for both Communism and Nazism -- only the colors were reversed.

Actually the Soviets became... (Below threshold)

Actually the Soviets became chauvinistically nationalistic as well. Stalin instituted his 'socialism in one country' program and showed no interest in exporting revolution. Then, during WWII, a lot of the communist jargon was dropped in favor of a whole program of 'Mother Russia' and a rehabilitation of prior great Tsars (including Ivan the Terrible, even).

Nationalism was not the exclusive province of fascism, which makes the case that both fascism and National Socialism were in fact left-wing ideologies.

Considering that real rightwingers believe in liberty, that is correct.

The Bolsheviks, fo... (Below threshold)
The Bolsheviks, for example, did not come to power at the head of a 'popular movement' - they took over control of Russia via a coup d'etat in 1917, and then promptly went on the wipe out their competition (the Mensheviks, mostly).

Oh no, they were quite quick out of the gate. But they too, took advantage of a failed (failing) monarchy, lack of a large and prosperous middle class, and widespread desperation and hunger of the populous. You're certainly not claiming that they came to power at the flowering of Russian civilization and power (which, I suppose, they may still be waiting upon).

In both the Russian and the Chinese history of the early to mid-1900s, there were a number of factions, movements, and groups that vied for power, one surging over another, often pitted against one another between 1900 and today.

I was just objecting to the easy leap in the original article over a lot of history in both nations to criticism of their current situation.

As for Lewis, he didn't predict a date. So I'd prefer, not yet happened. Eternal vigilance.

Nazism is national... (Below threshold)
Nazism is nationalistic extreme socialism (The full name of Hitler's party was the National Socialist German Workers Party).

Well, names are names are names. (I live in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a quasi-socialist concept on the surface).

I think one point that significantly alters your critique is the strong support of industrialists and the business community for Nazism, something not found in the Russian experience.

The German business community was, understandably, quite frightened of the Russian Bolshevik experience as well as the communist model and gave Hitler and the party a good deal of support, often complaining of the frying pan / fire choices they had.

(When you think about it, an awful lot actually changed very quickly in Russia between 1917 and the rise of Hitler--less than ~20 years; quite remarkable and rapid changes for such an emense and largely backward nation)

It is one of the most succe... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

It is one of the most successfull marketing campaigns in history how the left has made dictatorships synonymous "right-wing". There is not such requirement.

However, you can't have communism without a dictatorship. And, well you can pretend benign dictators can be counted up, but power corrupts sooner or later.

I'm no great polit... (Below threshold)
I'm no great political scholar or historian, but my own casual acquaintance with both fields (and their confluence) tell me this guy is talking out of his ass.

If you have a deep need to believe that your own father did NOT lend active support to monstrous regimes committing monstrous acts, there's no end to the nonsense you'll embrace (cf. Tony Hiss).

There is a lot more authori... (Below threshold)
kim:

There is a lot more authoritarianism in sharia than any presently wrapped in the American Flag or the Cross. Who are you trying to kid?
=================================================

Oh no, they were q... (Below threshold)
Oh no, they were quite quick out of the gate. But they too, took advantage of a failed (failing) monarchy, lack of a large and prosperous middle class, and widespread desperation and hunger of the populous.

Actually, what happened was this: The Bolsheviks did not overthrow the old Czarist order, that was done by a mildly socialist coalition of different factions and I believe Lenin may have had his Bolshie boys sit it out. The head of the new government was a revolutionary named Alexandr Kerensky, but it was weak and disorganized, and Kerensky was a lousy leader. It wasn't six months before Lenin decided to strike, and the Bolsheviks were victorious. This was the famous (or infamous) "October Revolution".

Kerensky went into exile, and died in New York City in 1970.

There is a lot mor... (Below threshold)
There is a lot more authoritarianism in sharia than any presently wrapped in the American Flag or the Cross. Who are you trying to kid?

Well, to be fair, he was quoting Sinclair Lewis, who, in regards to politics, was a fool.

I guess what I really objec... (Below threshold)

I guess what I really object to is taking Robeson out of HIS historical context. When I heard that (or a similar interview--Robeson II has been on book tour and on nearly every station in the world, it seems) he was explaining his dad's point of view.

We tend to think that our form of government and economic arrangements were a foregone conclusion, but a very interesting and little discussed aspect of American history of the late 20s and early 30s (the dust bowl and depression years) is the search for a political and economic system that actually worked for the greatest number of people in, what was then, a primarily agrigarian economy.

Remember that this was also a period of great immigration from Europe, so they brought many of their ideas and experiences with them (the second rising of the KKK was from Kokomo, Indiana, during this period and targeted immigrants and Jews rather than exclusively focusing on blacks, in opposition the the influx of foreigners).

You can see this particularly in the history of the plains and midwestern states (where the maximum price of kerosene was even written into the original Kansas constitution at the insistance of farmers and ranchers).

One can still see remnants of quasi-socialist institutions, such as grain, cotton and cattle feedlot coops, as well as leftovers of the Grange movement everywhere on the plains (the means of production owned by the people, with profit divided equally after expenses--sound familiar?). I grew up on a cotton farm in the Texas panhandle and never made the connection growing up. We were Coop people and wouldn't abandon our neighbors to deal with the commercial cotton gins, even if we had to wait months for the coop to gin our cotton.

The Texas Railroad Commission (now mostly concerned with gas and oil) has it's roots in a socialist-like movements that sprang up in many states to take control of the rail lines--after they were built, of course--away from the rail barons (who abused plains and midwestern state farmers and ranchers horribly, back before good road systems and when rail was the only means of getting large crops to good markets).

In fact, much of the New Deal and all the Farm bills since FDR (FDR's AAA was the first national farm program) can be understood in once sense as attempts to defuse alternative social/political movements in the US.

Wow a leftist who percieves... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

Wow a leftist who percieves something in a way that is 180 degrees from reality?

Shocked I am!

Not.

Stalin killed more people t... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

Stalin killed more people then hitler did and left-wing journalists for the New York Slimes WALTER DURANTY lied about stalin and left-wing actor EDWARD ASNER is a stalin fan

Birds of a feather, rule to... (Below threshold)
kim:

Birds of a feather, rule together. That bundle of sticks is for eggs.
===========

Putting the state above the... (Below threshold)
Cincinnatus:

Putting the state above the rights of individuals leads to mass murder, period.

When fascism comes to Ameri... (Below threshold)
Jeff Blogworthy:

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.--Sinclair Lewis

Yet to be proven. Probably never will be. Rather, it appears to be materializing as wrapped in environmentalism (Gaia worship) and carrying The Origin of the Species.

Nice sound bite for anti-American code-pinkers though.

Actually, Rick, many of the... (Below threshold)
SPQR:

Actually, Rick, many of the FDR administration economic advisors admired Italian fascism's economic ideas, and much of the original "New Deal" legislation - such as the National Recovery Administration and other price fixing and cartel measures that were struck down as unconstitutional - were inspired by Italian "corporate socialism".

Robeson is using a very com... (Below threshold)
SPQR:

Robeson is using a very common left-wing tactic, and that is to simply redefine everything that they disagree with to be "right wing". Marxists did this with German national socialism and Italian fascism - ignoring the fact that they were actually non-marxian socialist movements in origin.

This tactic continues to this day.

To assign Paul Robeson's (t... (Below threshold)

To assign Paul Robeson's (the Elder) communist ideology to some fad of the '20s and '30s is historical revisionism worthy of Stalin.

Robeson never repudiated communism, no matter what atrocities were committed.

~~~~~~~~

Kerensky and the Mensheviks were no brilliant leaders, it is true, but their problems stemmed more from the economic devastation facing Russia in the wake of Czar Nicholas' ill-fated decision to enter WWI. Lenin and his Bolsheviks were a relatively small band of thugs, but they had weapons and understood propaganda, and were absolutely ruthless.

I guess what I rea... (Below threshold)
OregonMuse:
I guess what I really object to is taking Robeson out of HIS historical context. When I heard that (or a similar interview--Robeson II has been on book tour and on nearly every station in the world, it seems) he was explaining his dad's point of view.

Somehow I can't imagine that if some neo-Nazi came to your area to give a speech, you would be as quick to accuse his critics of "taking him our of his historical context" and that all he was doing was "explaining Hitler's point of view."

After all, eugenics did command widespread support among the American and European intelligentsia back in the decades of the 20s-30s.

Actually, Rick, ma... (Below threshold)
Actually, Rick, many of the FDR administration economic advisors admired Italian fascism's economic ideas, and much of the original "New Deal" legislation - such as the National Recovery Administration and other price fixing and cartel measures that were struck down as unconstitutional -

That's true, but perception is also a moving target. Modern capitalist critique would put all of the New Deal programs in that same category now,not just some.

were inspired by Italian "corporate socialism".

Which shared many of the same tenets and underlying political philosophies with the German system. As I said, many immigrants inserted European ideas into the American political debate.

Regardless of the origin, however, the net result was the same, what was enact was enacted to quiet social unrest in the nation that many, particularly industrialist and those in urban areas, feared would lead to a push for a more socialist form of government.

re: corporate socialism. In most political science/political philosophy circles, corporate socialism is the feature that delineates the definition of Fascism from Socialism.

Interesting point to ponder, now that you bring it up, is whether the US has gone far enough down the road of corporate socialism to qualify as a emerging fascist state.

Maybe Sinclair Lewis was right ;->

>To assign Paul Robeson's (... (Below threshold)

>To assign Paul Robeson's (the Elder) communist ideology to some fad of the '20s and '30s is historical revisionism worthy of Stalin.

Robeson never repudiated communism, no matter what atrocities were committed.

I never said he did. My point was that he was a product of his times and his place. I don't recall saying that he ever repudiated communism.

Even Karl Marx lived long enough to see how "communism" was be implemented in his name. His comment was, if that's Marxism, then I am not a Marxist. (not quoted, because I don't have it in front of me).

Some have speculated that Jesus would say the same thing about Christianity.

Somehow I can't im... (Below threshold)
Somehow I can't imagine that if some neo-Nazi came to your area to give a speech, you would be as quick to accuse his critics of "taking him our of his historical context" and that all he was doing was "explaining Hitler's point of view.

I think you know this is a non sequester in relation to the topic. R II was explaining his father. That is much different than trying to explain away a social movement.

left-wing actor ED... (Below threshold)
left-wing actor EDWARD ASNER is a stalin fan

your point? Is Asner actually running for something where he has the ability to shape policy? There are nuts everywhere, left, right and center. What's your point? Besides, isn't he dead yet?

Speaking of Stalin... (Below threshold)

Speaking of Stalin

for WW II history buffs, there is a really good new book out "the greatest battle" by Andrew Nagorski.

It details the battle for Moscow in 1941/2 but is recreated from the files of the NKVD and other eastern european security and military archives as well as interviews with the few (very few) soldiers and civilians involved in the fight--the four planes and a train standing by to save Stalin if he retreated, the rioting, looting and death squads roaming the streets of Moscow, due to caching all of the weapons on the western front (which was quickly over run) soldiers going into battle with one rifle for every 10 men and them following around the men with rifles to pick it up if he got killed, the "reinforcement" line behind the main line to machine gun down Russians soldiers who tried to flee.

It particularly makes Stalin out to be an inept military leader and, if not for the Nazi blunder of turning to take the Ukraine first, Moscow would have fallen under his command.

Certainly puts the lie to the USSR "Great Patriotic War" and it's principle hero. Lots of good and new details.

It's a fast and compelling read. I'm about 3/4 through now but so far well worth the read.

Putting the state ... (Below threshold)
Putting the state above the rights of individuals leads to mass murder, period.

Actually, extremes of the left or the right tend to turn out about the same way; they just take different paths to the graveyard.

What we may be about to find out is how putting corporate power above the state and the individual works out.

Or raw, unchecked capitalism above the state and the individual, such as in China.

It's very exciting times.

Interesting point ... (Below threshold)
Interesting point to ponder, now that you bring it up, is whether the US has gone far enough down the road of corporate socialism to qualify as a emerging fascist state.

Maybe Sinclair Lewis was right ;->

Again Rick, your understanding of history and politics leaves something to be desired. The fascist concept of corporativismo was about civic organizations similar to unions and guilds, and had nothing whatever to do with the American concept of capitalist share-holding businesses.

Yet another reason to call fascism leftwing instead of rightwing.

kennerly,First of al... (Below threshold)
SPQR:

kennerly,
First of all, China does not have "unchecked capitalism", as while the economy has increasing amounts of private enterprise and increased use of market forces to allocate resources, the economy is still controlled by the communist party. Indeed the bulk of enterprise remains state enterprise.

Secondly, "corporate socialism" in Italian fascism did not mean that corporations ran the economy - that's a false assumption based upon mistaking the title for the actual ideology. "Corporate socialism" meant that the government controlled the economy through the use of cartels of corporations. I suggest Walter Laqueur's book "Fascism" for a more detailed explanation. There were actually key differences between Italian fascism and German national socialism in the theory of this area - although they were probably closer in practice.

Certainly little about modern american capitalism has anything in common with Italian fascism - with some major exceptions. And those exceptions are the heavily regulated realms like the FCC, large portions of the FDA and the health care industry.

"Corporate sociali... (Below threshold)
"Corporate socialism" meant that the government controlled the economy through the use of cartels of corporations.

And who was controlling the reins of power at the government end? By and large, in the Italian model, the corporations represented on the boards and commissions sitting as secretaries and ministers of government. In the end, it was the power of money provided by the corporations to the government that allowed this to get started. Of course, once the Mussolini consolidated his power...

There were actually key differences between Italian fascism and German national socialism in the theory of this area - although they were probably closer in practice.

Something we've run across a lot on this list. I tend to be more attuned to the actual outcome of the event/regime when I label it rather than be swayed by the theories or rhetoric they spew as they take power.

I'd disagree about the present American experience, however, as the examples tend to be in the negative. Such as industry insiders appointed to head agencies that are supposed to oversee their own industries, who then turn a blind eye toward their agency's regulatory responsibilities.

We seem to be having a grea... (Below threshold)

We seem to be having a great deal of difficulty with definitions, which is understandable because a lot of European political movements do not fit neatly into the American understanding--which is kind of where I was going when I jumped into this thread; a study of political movements has to be understood in context of their time and place).

Frankly, I don't know corporativismo and don't find an English language translation. Still, since SPQR suggested it, I thought I'd pull a few quotes from:

Walter Laqueur's book "Fascism"

"In both Germany and Italy, the Nazi and Fascist seizure of power was greatly facilitated by the leading figures of the old order in Germany by the Conservatives and Hindenburg's entourage and in Italy by the Conservatives and the monarchy. Hitler was the leader of the strongest parliamentary faction, and based on the constitution, a case could be made in favor of inviting him to be the next chancellor. Aware of their own weakness, the Conservatives assumed that it would be possible to rein in the Nazis and make them behave "reasonably." The pressures in Italy eleven years earlier that had brought about the Fascist takeover had been similar."

"Fascism was, above all, nationalist, elitist, and anti-liberal."

(It's not a pdf and is on a communist site, but it's the only full text rendering I could find on line right now.--although I find a lot of scholar criticism over at google scholar)

http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Society/Fascism_PPF_WLaqueur.html

The fascist concep... (Below threshold)
The fascist concept of corporativismo was about civic organizations similar to unions and guilds,

I thought your definition was too narrow. Note the bringing in of Steel Corporations, as an example, to set national prices and wages.

Okay, from Wikipedia: corporativismo

"Historically, corporatism or corporativism (Italian: corporativismo) refers to a political or economic system in which power is given to civic assemblies that represent economic, industrial, agrarian, social, cultural, and professional groups. These civic assemblies, known as corporations (not necessarily in the same sense as contemporary business corporations) are unelected bodies with an internal hierarchy; their purpose is to exert control over their respective areas of social or economic life. Thus, for example, a steel corporation would be a cartel composed of all the business leaders in the steel industry, coming together to discuss a common policy on prices and wages. When much political and economic power rests in the hands of such groups, then a corporatist system is in place."

"In Italian Fascism, this non-elected form of state "officializing" of every interest into the state was professed to better circumvent the marginalization of singular interests (as would allegedly happen by the unilateral end condition inherent in the democratic voting process). Corporativism would instead better recognize or 'incorporate' every divergent interest as it stands alone into the state "organically", according to its supporters, thus being the inspiration behind their use of the term totalitarian, perceivable to them as not meaning a coercive system but described distinctly as without coercion in the 1932 Doctrine of Fascism as thus;

"... (The state) is not simply a mechanism which limits the sphere of the supposed liberties of the individual..." & "...Neither has the Fascist conception of authority anything in common with that of a police ridden State..." but rather clearly connoting "...Far from crushing the individual, the Fascist State multiplies his energies, just as in a regiment a soldier is not diminished but multiplied by the number of his fellow soldier."
...
This prospect in Italian Fascist Corporativism claimed to be the direct heir of Georges Sorel's anarcho-syndicalism, wherein each interest was to form as its own entity with separate organizing parameters according to their own standards, only however within the corporative model of Italian Fascism each was supposed to be incorporated through the auspices and organizing ability of a statist construct. This was by their reasoning the only possible way to achieve such a function, i.e. when resolved in the capability of an indissoluble state."

Of course, like every system that tends toward the totalitarian, the corporativismo system was perverted and coopted as the war went on.

First of all, Chin... (Below threshold)
First of all, China does not have "unchecked capitalism", as while the economy has increasing amounts of private enterprise and increased use of market forces to allocate resources, the economy is still controlled by the communist party. Indeed the bulk of enterprise remains state enterprise.

My reading in the popular press indicates that the party has lost effective control over many of the provinces, particularly when it comes to economic development. This is true because the massive payments to the party coffers from the outlying regions. At first the party officials were glad to have the operating cash, but now they've found that the price of the money was more autonomy for the provinces, particularly in business matters.

While their party apparatus is still in place, local officials are easily bought or corrupted. As long as the local party keeps shipping money to Beijing not much is said, until there is a problem.

Gee, sounds more and more like China in DC.

A liberal will come wrapped... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

A liberal will come wrapped in the green and white eco-freak flag and carrying EARTH IN THE BALANCE and preach this earth is our mother poppycock bull kaka




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