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Tibor R. Machan's quandary about the intellectual appeal of communism seems contrived. Among other things:
There is nothing wrong with man building "on past visions while urging more modern methods." Intellectual man does envision a society where the monarchs, oligarchs, and robber-baron capitalists are not the only ones who can be individualists and exercise the right of property. Such a society is barely more than a vision; and, incorrect though it is, communism is, for the visionary, the most cogent social doctrine of our time. Unfortunately, anticommunists have little to offer except rhetoric such as Machan's. Good rhetoric though it may be, it has little intellectual appeal.
Though the appeal of communism for some men may be the altruistic pretensions of Marx, most men are attracted to communism precisely because it is an intellectual basis for egoism and authoritarianism. But certainly altruism is not bad because a pretended altruist developed an egoistic doctrine. Moreover, altruism is not necessarily a "moral imperative of individual self sacrifice." Altruism can be no more than the granting to others of the right to live their lives in peace. And it is altruism, not egoism, which is compatible with individual liberty in the political realm....
The most important intellectual appeal of communism is one which Machan either ignores or is ignorant of-dialectics. Dialectics is a profound intellectual, philosophical concept which is a fundamental part of communist thinking. Those who would oppose communism on a logical instead of a rhetorical basis need come to grips with that concept.
Bernard Curry Glendale, CA
Mr. Machan replies: The estimate of 250 million was made by Robert Conquest, noted Sovietologist. It is interesting that Mr. Rollins knows that this is a "grossly inflated 'estimate' of the number of victims of Soviet Communism" prior to checking out the basis of it. I found it incredible myself, but I examined the method of estimation, and my mind was changed.
Regarding Mr. Curry's letter: Visions, like "the brotherhood of humankind," are bad in any case but mainly because they are nothing but empty fantasies- visions. The rest of Mr. Curry's letter I am unable to follow.
The relationship between Marx and Stalin can be easily explained using the analysis provided by Robert Nozick in Anarchy, State, and Utopia. A theory of justice holds either that certain processes are just or unjust or that certain results are just or unjust. In libertarian theory, processes which involve the initiation of force are unjust. In Marxist theory, justice depends upon whether a particular result is achieved; it necessarily follows that process constraints, such as individual rights, which impede the attainment of that result, are unjust. In other words, one cannot have both freedom, a process, and equality, a result. Ergo, Stalin.
Richard D. Fuerle Monroeville, PA