Dead Poets Society Director Hates Commies

Australian filmmaker Peter Weir, director of Dead Poets Society, Master and Commander, and The Truman Show, tells Radio Free Europe about his new movie, The Way Back (reviewed in these pages by Kurt Loder), a film tells the story of three prisoners of the Soviet gulag who escape to India. Asked about the anti-communist politics of the film and why there were so few films detailing the horrors of communism, Weir offered a few theories about why anti-communism is still considered gauche, despite its horrifying track record:

Because for my generation growing up through the '60s, when you're a part of, particularly, the antiwar movement in Australia, and as it was in America, you came to distrust your own side's version of what was going on.

And in some ways obviously you came to realize this had been the result of clever dissembling on the part of communists or communist sympathizers or apologists, and partly because of the ineptitude of the McCarthy hearings, with the House un-American Activities [Committee] -- that might as well have been a communist organization, it so brilliantly turned people against them -- that you grew up really thinking it wasn't as bad as it was made out to be. And that's a shock. I know many of my friends from that period -- we were all vaguely leftish as all young people often are -- idealistic. I can't believe how gullible we were in looking back

I think in the world of creativity and even in the academic world to a degree, those who had their leftist sympathies when they were young, or communist sympathies, and the romance of it, found it very hard to give it up. They still sell the Che Guevara T-shirts like he was John Lennon or something. No one really wants to criticize Castro.

We do! Weir should watch this Reason.tv classic, “Killer Chic.”

Weir says that he did a significant amount of reading about communism in preperation for the film (he references Anne Applebaum's brilliant book Gulag); enough to notice that the old Stalin-betrayed-Lenin's-legacy, the standard pre-1991 argument about Soviet totalitarianism, is bullshit. 

It's almost impossible for a lot of people to admit that this experiment of communism went so disastrously wrong and face the facts. Whether its Stalin or Lenin, for that matter, I can't let him off the hook, he was all for the terror. Through to Pol Pot, through to North Korea. What can you say? It's just dreadful, appalling.

But there's still resistance. I've noted that, even amongst friends to this day. When I said I was making this film and what it was about, there was just that moment, just that flicker across the face: "Oh, you're going along a right-wing road." And that fascinated me that that was still possible, to have held onto that romance from youth.

Way back in 2000, Ken Billingsley explored why American films have ignored life under communism.

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  • ||

    Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot--what's the difference?

  • ||

    Hitler was the best singer, but Gandhi was the best dresser.

  • ||

    I'm okay with Gandhi. Hitler, not so much.

  • ||

    Guess which one slept with his niece?*

    *trick question

    @PL, inre the wine debate:

    I have thought about it and you are correct; I truly am a luddite minimalist. I am considering moving into the woods after reading the twitter story posted today and my horrendous/stressful week.

    If I stop posting it means that I am sitting by a campfire eating deer on a stick, and working on a terrible neckbeard.

  • alan||

    With the government shut down that is how you want to spend your life? No popping radscorpians with your Red Rider or riding the highways with a group of Outcast?*

    *I just assume the nuclear plants will get extremely careless without the tight federal oversight.

  • ||

    @PL once again:

    Sorry that was SF, you people all look alike to me.

    @alan

    As soon as the govt shuts down I am going out and buying a post 1986 machine gun, and a shark...with wheels, and a PBR trucker hat(for the shark).

  • ||

    I was mildly confused. I debate no wine before its time.

  • Jim||

    I honestly think...and I have nothing with which to back this up except my own intuition from having read books by people who knew these persons and were involved with their gov'ts...that Lenin & Hitler were both what may be called believers. They justified doing horrible things because they genuinely thought that they were going to make a better world, and that this world is so worthwhile a goal, it's no matter to achieve it across a sea of corpses.

    I'm much more cynical when it comes to Stalin. The entire history of his rule indicates more of a standard-issue paranoid dictator, than a bloody visionary. The way he turned first on the left, and then on the right, wings of his own party, and then had icons made of himself, suggests more of a "I'm going to kill people because I want power" type, instead of the "I need to take power so that I can mass eliminate all the people standing in the way of the perfect society". Stalin latched onto communism because it was a way he could become powerful, and not out of sincere ideological conviction. If he'd been born in Italy, he'd have thrown in with the fascists, etc.

    Functionally of course there's little if any distinction, because dead is dead, and the murdered don't care why they were murdered. But that's my 2 cents on the psychological profiles of them.

  • Paul||

    The way he turned first on the left, and then on the right, wings of his own party, and then had icons made of himself, suggests more of a "I'm going to kill people because I want power" type, instead of the "I need to take power so that I can mass eliminate all the people standing in the way of the perfect society".

    Stalin was allowed to exist because the "we're building a better world" people created the space for him to exist.

  • Jim||

    Oh absolutely; Lenin created a system which allowed Stalin to do the things he did. I'm not excusing any of it. Just giving my sense of the difference in personalities involved. Lenin's secret police and implementation of wartime appropriations killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions (apart from direct fighting in the civil war). His hands are in no way clean. I just think he honestly believed it would be worth it in the end, where as Stalin didn't care about the end, or what that end looked like, as long as he was King Shit of it.

  • Paul||

    To me, this is the fundamental difference between libertarianism and communism (and almost all other isms): Libertarianism at least attempts to create a space where no power exists, whereas almost all other isms claim they will create and use their power for good-- all that's required is we just give it over to them.

    You can see this in so many debates between libertarians and 'others'.

    The others: I'm for freedom of speech but...

    Real libertarians generally believe in letting liberty flow, and letting the chips (both the good and the bad) fall where they may- and voluntary, spontaneous, and free relationships and associations will work best in countering the negative effects. But even if imperfect, we prefer that system.

    The progressive, be he/she conservative (right) or liberal (left) always want some form of monolithic control and power to make the better world.

  • Jim||

    Agreed. A completely benevolent dictator or a really awesome king seems great...until he dies and that position of power is then filled by somebody crazy. As long as the position of power exists, therein lies the problem.

  • Paul||

    Agreed. A completely benevolent dictator or a really awesome king seems great...until he dies and that position of power is then filled by somebody crazy.

    Which brings us back to Stalin. This thread rulez.

  • CatoTheElder||

    The problem is that there has never been a benevolent Marxist dictator. The ideology is essentially one of revolution with the proletariat ultimately destroying the bourgeoisie. Obviously, this expropriation and destruction of the boureoisie involves violence, death, and destruction. Gotta break a few eggs, you know.

    Once the revolutionary political class, the vanguard of the proletariat, demonstrates that it is unable to run a functioning economy, its leaders must continue to seek out, and manufacture if necessary, wreckers, sabateurs, traitors, and counter-revolutionaries to shift blame for the ultimate economic failure of Marxism in practice. This is the scientific history of Marxism, which is quite predictible using the theory of dialectical materialism. Marx didn't expound much on this extension of the theory because the masses were not ready to accept it. However, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot did a great job at demonstrating its validity.

  • Tony||

    Libertarianism at least attempts to create a space where no power exists

    But its problem is that it doesn't recognize that there is no such space. It's the mother of all can openers. Suck power from centralized government, and it inflates somewhere else. You can't expect all people to be so appreciative of their freedom that they don't bother trying to assert control over other people. It's not how we are in our genes.

  • mofo||

    Paul is actually talking about anarchism. Libertarians believe in liberty and freedom and just enough government to protect same.

    Limited govt =! no govt

  • gramercy||

    Too true.

  • ||

    Tony, power is like uranium. If you let too much of it accumulate in one place, catastrophic results are inevitable.

    There's a world of difference between your local city council shitheads harassing you if you don't separate your aluminum cans out of your trash, and central government shitheads kicking your door in and shooting your grandma because she smokes pot to treat her glaucoma.

    -jcr

  • ||

    And, in Russian, those enablers might have said, "he's a sookin syn, but he's our sookin syn."

  • Jim||

    I think it'd be "sookee" instead of "sookin", but it's been quite a few years since my college Russian, so I may be getting my cases wrong.

  • ConfederalRepublicBy2030||

    It's "sookyn", meaning "bitch's". Prosypaysya, tavarish. Capitalism ubivaet mir!. :P

  • Jim||

    Spaceeba, tvareesh. Or cnacuda mvapuw, if you prefer. I was using the wrong case.

    Ya oocheel russkava yezeeka va tekhaskom teknologeecheskum universetyeye, va Lubbockye.

    God, I wish I could download the Cyrillic typing program on this computer.

  • Ted S.||

    If it's a PC, can't you just go to the Control Panel and install the Russian keyboard driver? Granted, it's in the old Soviet keyboard layout, so you'll have to hunt and peck. (There are some layouts that are roughly phonetic to the QWERTY keyboard, and in theory you could make one yourself, although I don't remember offhand how to do it.) Alternatively, you could use the character map to find the Cyrillic letters, and then cut and paste.

  • Jim||

    Can't do it at work, is what I meant. I work 2nd shift, so I'm still there.

  • ||

    They justified doing horrible things because they genuinely thought that they were going to make a better world

    Yeah, they were both so batshit crazy that they believed that murder was a good thing. May they burn in hell.

    -jcr

  • ||

    Men who have utopian dreams or ride the wave of other people's utopian dreams are extremely dangerous. The means to achieve these utopian goals tend to be seen as infinitely justifiable, and simple concepts like morality and ethics are brushed aside as weak-minded and primitive.

  • peachy||

    In some way, the brutal pragmatist is easier to deal with than the true believer - you can always hope to buy him off, or persuade him that you're too mean to fuck with.

  • ||

    Only popular ideas can be dangerous. I worry about the people with utopian dreams who have popular followings (progressives, socialists). I don't worry about ideologies that have no popular following (neo-Nazis).

    As far as I'm concerned the formula is:
    Utopianism + Populism = Mass Murder.

    And this is nearly universally true.

  • Paul||

    Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot--what's the difference?

    You forgot Bianca Jagger.

  • ||

    I thought she was revealed to be Pol Pot.

  • Beezard||

    Hitler killed less people and invented cooler stuff.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    "Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot"

    Add to that Mussolini and Roosevelt.

  • CatoTheElder||

    It took a Truman to drop atomic bombs.

  • e||

    No one cares about Che except a few privileged college students in Berkeley living off their rich parents..

    http://louisproyect.wordpress....../#comments

  • ||

    There aren't a lot of movies about fascist Italy, totalitarian-Shinto Japan, or Bismarckian war-capitalism either; does that mean Hollywood is full of fascist sympathizers too?

  • In the question is the answer.||

  • ||

    Tulpa, you don't have to play the devil's advocate all the frikkin' time.

  • ||

    What can I say, the prince of darkness pays well.

  • ||

    I thought that you were a college professor...Oh wait

  • ||

    My proctologist always says it's a good idea to have a separate trade to fall back on.

  • ||

    I feel bad for the poor guy since you have previously indicated that you like to eat at those Indian/Thai food trucks in Oakland.

    BBBERRRFFT, sorry doc I had garlic noodles for lunch. *doc decides on new profession, perhaps architecture*

  • Paul||

    Pan's Labrynth immediately came to mind.

    But I'm not sure if you're making the correct point.

    How many movies out there lionize Fascist Italy, Shinto Japan or Bismarckian war-[capitalism]?

    I can name a dozen films romanticizing communist or communism in general.

  • ||

    Since the revelations about Soviet atrocities in the early 1990s? I dunno. Enemy at the Gates is the only major film I can recall during that time about the USSR that was at all positive about it, and even that film showed a little of the brutality of Stalin's regime.

  • ||

    That's really not the case. It was well known that the Soviets had committed atrocities galore. The documents revealed in the 90s were just confessions of the same and provided more detail.

    I was quite young when I heard about all the people Stalin killed in the Ukraine. The only difference in the 90s was that the estimated number grew, but it was already believed to be in the many millions.

    The fact that some people refused to accept the evidence of Soviet totalitarianism says more about those people than anything else.

  • Jason||

    The Holodomor has been know since Malcolm Muggeridge and Gareth Jones uncovered it in the 1930s.

    Even the photos of mass graves in Ukraine do not convince some people...

  • GSL||

    The Motorcycle Diaries and Goodbye Lenin come to mind.

  • ||

    I don't think 'Goodbye Lenin' really lionized communism.

    It had no real ideological message, it was just a lighthearted comedy that resonated with a bunch of people's nostalgia for the food products of the old east germany (i.e. the particular taste of the pickles made by the state pickle company).

  • ||

    I don't think 'Goodbye Lenin' really lionized communism.

    It had no real ideological message, it was just a lighthearted comedy that resonated with a bunch of people's nostalgia for the food products of the old east germany (i.e. the particular taste of the pickles made by the state pickle company).

  • ||

    Tea With Mussolini. Also, there are a few Korean/Chinese films about Japan's "adventures" into those area during the 30s/40s.

    Bismarckian "war-capitalism" never systematically rounded up and exterminated people (plenty of Jews served in the WW1 German military). Not as interesting; also ceased to exist after 1919 - too far away.

    Shinto-Japan: Since Japan is and was a relatively closed society with little to know minority communities, once again, the obvious symbolism of totalitarianism and the absolute state aren't there. Same thing with Mussolini: He did pass laws barring jews and minorities from universities, goverment, military, etc., censorship and thoughtcrime, etc... but he just never went as far as Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, etc... Not only that, but the Communism/Fascism dichotomy were the intellectual lines drawn in the aftermath of World War 2, and still remains pretty entrenched in the popular imagination. However, as others have pointed out, one side of this debate has been routinely demonized, while the other has been routinely lionized, in popular culture.

    That is all.

  • mofo||

    Bridge over the river kwai was pretty sympathetic to the whole Japanese mass murder thing, I thought

  • mr simple||

    If your talking about Bridge on the River Kwai starring sir Alec Guinness, I can only surmise that you haven't seen the movie.

    Unless that was sarcasm; it's been a long week.

  • ||

    Mussolini didn't pass laws restricting Jews until he had lost the war and Hitler made it plain that he had to comply with Germany's race edicts to get any support.

    Up until that time he had actively courted the Jews' political support and, for the most part, they delivered. After all, as propertied people they didn't want communism any more than anyone else did.

    In fact even into the forties he was giving speeches condemning antisemitism as crude and bigoted.

  • Jason||

    Japan has minority communities, including the indigenous Ainu and Ryukyuans. Japanese treatment of minorities in Japan is still a sensitive subject.

  • ||

    I think it's less that the can't give up with love of communist or socialist ideals, and more that they can't give up their hate of capitalism.

    Their ideals are gone, but their enemy is still there. That's gotta hurt.

  • Don't know, Hazel||

    There are a lots of Stalin and Mao apologists alive and well in the mainstream progressive-liberal world.

  • ||

    I've heard people on the left call for implementing a one child policy.

  • ||

    I saw it here once, now that I remember!

    http://reason.com/blog/2010/04.....tcontainer

    That's Mao logic if I ever saw it!

  • ||

    i read a post on a liberal blog (call me a masochist) that criticized carter for... wait for it... being anti-communist.

    that pretty much says it all

  • ||

    A few. Don't think they are the majority. I don't think many progressives are driven by ideals, socialist or communist. They are a lot more animated by hating on FOX and "baggers". And corporations and capitalism.

  • ||

    I see lots of differences between Stalin, Hitler, Bush the Impaler and Barack Obama, but they all have one thing in common--their cheerleaders all tried to justify the reprehensible shit they did by saying their intentions were good.

    Good intentions don't excuse anything.

    Youth doesn't excuse being a cheerleader for genocidal maniacs either. If you were cheering for the communists even as they were slaughtering the Cambodian people and torturing and murdering hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people in reeducation camps? Youth doesn't excuse that.

    Youth might be an explanation, but it's not an excuse.

  • ||

    A lot of the Soviet atrocities weren't widely known about until decades after they occurred, so it's not really fair to paint communist sympathizers of the 1960s as advocating mass murder. Compare that to the Nazis, whose dirty deeds were discovered only a few years after they were committed.

  • alan||

    Many 60's New Left types distanced themselves from the old left precisely because of the atrocity interconnection. At least that's what the old tweeds at the alma mater tell me. Your tweeds may be more evil and culpable than mine.

    Neither Jesus Nor Marx ring a bell?

  • ||

    Just last year I needed an international history course to satisfy a requirement for my FUCKING CHEMISTRY DEGREE, so I took a post-revolution Russian history class. The professor, on the first day, basically told us that Stalin was a great and wonderful human but that we as American youth have been convinced by western propaganda that he was evil.

    I went home and dropped the class.

  • Fuck, Tulpa||

    Come on now, a lot of that was just willful ignorance!

  • ||

    I'm seeing Stalin's assessment undergoing extensive revision.

    Check out this recent one from NYRB...

    http://www.nybooks.com/article.....lled-more/

  • Lowdog||

    That sucks - I've had to take a class in environmental justice for my BS degree in Earth and Space Exploration, which was very "left"-slanting, but I also got to take a course on Adam Smith. In addition, I've been pleasantly surprised that many of my teachers aren't as far left as I might have anticipated.

  • Surly Chef||

    I do some work on the side for a university. Had to go into a econ professors office and I was pleasantly surprised to find an entire bookshelf, a big one, of Hayek and Mises. First thing I look for in econ offices, out of 20 or so it's the only one though.

  • Fuck, Tulpa||

    The Stalin mass murders were known before the '60s. Mao's were still occurring. Can't claim ignorance as an excuse.

  • ||

    And what about the Boat People? There wasn't any secret about what the Vietnamese were doing after we left!

    What the Khmer Rouge was doing in the mid to late '70s wasn't a big secret either. The Vietnamese had to go in and shut that down...it was such an embarrassment to communism.

    Che Guevara's role as an executioner of political prisoners and asn overseer of a prison for political prisoners where they tortured people wasn't and isn't any big secret either.

    People knew what was going on--certainly by the late '70s. They just rationalized it. If they cheered for the communists despite what the communists were doing, then that's what they did. If they haven't repudiated it, then that's who they are.

  • X||

    take it easy guys. Tulpa didn't know about The Great Famine until the 1990's.

  • ||

    as even john lennon admitted... in his line about carrying a picture of chairman mao...

  • cynical||

    1923 is early? I'm pretty sure no less an ardent right-winger than Emma Goldman wrote about Bolshevik atrocities back then.

  • Walter Duranty||

    I didn't know. I REALLY didn't.

  • Jim||

    Again, just giving personal opinions on the matter, but I think even if people know on an intellectual level what the communists were doing, they're softer on them because egalitarianism appeals to people.

    By that I mean, we may look at intentions and say, "they don't matter, people are still dead, so it's just as horrible." That's certainly how I, and many libertarians, think. But a lot of people look at the history of communism, and say, "Well it's awful that they did that, but they were trying to make a better place for the workers", or, in the Third World variety (ala Vietnam), "they're fighting against western imperialism."

    I think people respond to the "underdog" mentality of either the workers, or repressed 3rd World peoples, more than they do to the Germans, because the Germans stated straight up that they weren't fighting for equality, they were fighting for superiority. They don't want the workers of the world to be equal, or for brown people to be free of imperialism. They want racially undesirable workers liquidated, and for brown people to be colonized by Aryans.

    In this context, communism seems like a tragically flawed noble ideal, whereas fascism / nazism has no pretensions whatsoever: it is a belief system based explicitly on "I'm superior to you and it is right for me to use force against you to demonstrate my superiority".

    Again, just my 2 cents on the subject. I could be completely wrong, but I've given this very question a lot of thought, and that seems like a logical conclusion to me. It's just another example of people having emotional responses to intentions, rather than looking at the factual outcomes of the actions (which our political system is also heavily based on).

  • ||

    Jim, you're tearing up this thread.

    Good job.

    You should read the Gulag book mentioned in the article, it's long and brutal but paints a very enlightening picture.

  • Jim||

    I was a Russian minor in college, so I've read a lot of the materials, talked to a few guys who were on the inside (Soviet, not Nazi ;P ), and done a lot of research on these very topics. The split between Stalinists and Trotskyists fascinated me, and for awhile, I even fell under the spell of the "Stalin betrayed the revolution; if only Trotsky had come to power, none of this would have happened" crowd.

    Don't worry, I've been fully re-programmed since then, but it's a powerful narrative that allows a lot of people to cling to beliefs that any reasonable person would have to reject based on the horror that's been wrought in the name of that belief. The ability of people to self-delude knows no bounds.

  • ||

    It's a shame too, because Russian history and language are fascinating but if you want to study it you run into the inevitable apologists(from my experience and schooling).

  • Jim||

    You're absolutely right. Thankfully, out of 3 of my profs in that dept., only 1 was an apologist. The other two were married, and actually also spoke Uzbeck and Turkoman (and frequently visited those countries), so I think they understood what happened to minority populations in the Russian Empire, then later in the Soviet Union, more than most ivory tower types.

  • Jim||

    Though I confess to being bored out of my mind when we had an entire week dedicated to learning the differences between the Novgorod, Pskov, and Muskovite schools of icon painting. I mean, holy hell man.

  • ||

    ime, you are least likely to run into apologists amongst those who live here and who formerly lived UNDER such communist scum. i deal with ukrainians and russians a lot in day to day travels, and NOBODY hates communism more than these people who lived under it, or had parents/grandparents who did.

  • mr simple||

    Idk, I have a friend from the Ukraine who is a

  • mr simple||

    Damn touchscreens. Anyway, she is a socialist. I asked her how she could be a socialist when her family had to leave Ukraine to get freedom and opportunity. She said they just retained their socialist beliefs. Fucking living in denial.

  • ||

    @dunphy

    One prof was an American dude that actually spent time in Russia and remarked how swell everything was. It was never even pondered whether or not the experience he had was staged for his benefit as a sympathetic westerner that taught naive American kids. I guess you could call his type the "useful idiot".

  • alan||

    One prof was an American dude that actually spent time in Russia and remarked how swell everything was.

    Did'ya ask him if it was all underaged Ukrainian prostitute slaves provided by internal security apparatchiks and expensive potato hooch that made it so swell for him?

  • ||

    @dunphy

    Actually it isn't hard to find people in Russia who defend Stalin and communism. They aren't in the majority but there are plenty of them.

    I'd say the people you run across who I assume are immigrants, are not a fair sample, immigrants tend to be outliers.

    Here in the Czech Republic, there's a lot less of it, because the current system is working fairly well, but the communist rallies still gather plenty of old folks.

  • ||

    i agree. it's not a peer reviewed study, and it's certainly not a fair sample. i am just saying the ukrainians and russians i run into here in the seattle area, seem to generally loathe communism with every fiber of their soul

  • Miku||

    Every Russian I have met loves Stalin and Communism. The people I have met from any other former SU country all hate Communism.

  • ||

    Every Russian I have met loves Stalin and Communism. The people I have met from any other former SU country all hate Communism.

    I think this is probably a byproduct of the fact that it's much nicer to be the oppressor than the oppressed.

    Or at least be of the nationality of the oppressor nation, even if you only benefit marginally.

  • alzabo||

    Not sure that's inevitable though. I had a girlfriend for a while who had done Russian at Wesleyan (she was more attractive than that makes her sound, I'll add.)

    She wasn't out in the streets protesting Stalin, but she knew how I felt about the Soviets, and didn't disagree, IIRC. I think she didn't care much- she just liked to party. My kind of girl.

  • ||

    The part that really bothers me about it is that they excuse their own complicity in those crimes by saying, "At least my intentions were good"...

    ...and then they go on to be cheerleaders for ObamaCare or Bush's neocon adventure. And if those turn out to be unmitigated disasters, they say, "When I was cheering for them, at least my intentions were good."

    At some point? Their "good intentions" become part of the problem. And most of those fools haven't given up cheering for anybody who can sell them on good intentions yet!

  • Jim||

    Oh of course I completely agree with you; I was just giving an amateur psychological analysis of the pattern of belief that allows these people to delude themselves.

    There's just something inherently more appealing to the cry of "workers of the world unite!", than to shouts of "Juden! Kill it!"

    On the one hand, I think that's a good thing; people instinctively seem to value the ideal of cooperation over a violent racial agenda. On the other hand, that "value" clearly can become so twisted in the a communist nation as to render any objective difference between itself and facism mute.

    A pro-commie argument I heard once was someone who basically admitted that the Soviets massacred people (esp. in the early days), but said, "You know what; you could always give up all your wealth and join the communists". And indeed, before Stalins wacky liquidations, there were some number of nobles who saw what side their bread was buttered on, and joined the reds. But you can never not be a Jew, so under nazism, you have no chance whatsoever.

    I replied that while that (rather weak) equivalence may hold true as long as a rational actor is in charge of the communist nation, look what happened as soon as a raging lunatic like Stalin took over. No matter how good a "communist" you were, it was no defense. And then explained to him a tenent of libertarianism: no matter what the intention, the existence of a power structure will always attract people who seek power, and such people are rarely to be trusted.

  • ||

    Part of it also may be the fact that Soviet oppression is perceived as being against those who committed certain "crimes", rather than the Nazi oppression which was directed against people based on their ethnic background. If you didn't make trouble for Stalin, the story goes, you weren't going to the gulag, while there was little a Jew could do in Nazi Germany to avoid the camps.

    Of course, reality is that people were frequently sent to the gulag for random inscrutable bureaucratic reasons, not some subversive activities against the state...but that's not the perception.

    And I'm not trying to apologize for leftists' excusing Stalin or communism in general, but it's unhelpful to just say that leftists are evil and stupid and leave it at that, which is what a lot of commentary on H&R has been doing the past 2 years. If you want to bring people over to your side you have to figure out what wholesome reasons they could have for holding their mistaken beliefs, and try to redirect those wholesome reasons toward correct beliefs.

  • Jim||

    I pointed this same argument out in an earlier post.

    The immutability of your race (as opposed to be able to "join" the red faction if one so chose), as well as the difference implied in their respective slogans ("Workers of the world unite!", v. "Yo - fuck the jews") are the two main drivers, IMO, of modern communist apologetics.

    Fun fact: "Yo - fuck the jews" was floated around the Nazi marketing dept. for awhile after "Heil Hitler" was thought to be wearing a little thin. It never caught on with focus groups however, leading to the now familiar, "Nazism - Its Wunderbar!"

  • Robert||

    I thought "Heil Hitler" was replaced by "Go to Hell" -- the latter meant in the nice way, of course.

  • ||

    Of course, reality is that people were frequently sent to the gulag for random inscrutable bureaucratic reasons, not some subversive activities against the state...but that's not the perception.

    As the old joke goes:

    "How long are you in for?"

    "15 years."

    "What did you do?"

    "Nothing."

    "You're kidding, everyone knows that for nothing you only get 10 years."

  • ||

    I never cared whether Stalin betrayed Lenin's dream or Lenin consciously promoted a nightmare that Stalin merely brought to some sort of fruition. Either way, Communism was crap. The idealism of it was crap. The implementation of it was crap. The romance was the romance of two lovers eating steak with no thought at all of the last moments of the steer in the abbatoir.

    Don't get me wrong. I am no vegetarian (and anyway, plants must die for vegetarian meals), but having been raised on a ranch, I know the source of food, and I just can't see the romance. Given that Communmism blithely, unapologetically feeds on the people who devote their lives to it, I similarly fail to find the "inherent" in it.

    Prefer the Addams family motto: "We gladly feast on those who would subdue us."

  • Paul||

    Prefer the Addams family motto: "We gladly feast on those who would subdue us."

    Communism's threats most often come from within, when people eventually (and predictably) rebel against it, so... gulags for counterrevolutionaries are a natural outgrowth.

  • ||

    xxx "inherent" romance in it

  • ||

    Weir is also brilliantly anti-war. Gallipoli is absolutely brutal. The last scene with Mel running to stop the charge over the line...

  • ||

    ...was fucking hilarious.

  • ||

    You mean the part where he slipped on a banana peel, right? Comic genius.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Weir has a pretty awesome filmography, in which it looks like Dead Poets Society may be the only stinker. But it also looks like The Way Back was a pretty substantial money loser. That's often the answer to "Why don't they make more movies about X" questions.

  • J||

    It lost money!? Crap, that was my favorite movie of the last couple of years. First America votes Pia off, now this!
    Ken Billingsley? Is that a pseudonymn for Ben Kingsley?

  • alzabo||

    Didn't he do "Incident at Hanging Rock," or whatever it was titled? I wouldn't call that a stinker, exactly, but it was a pretty odd movie. Very good on a technical level, but left me a bit unsatisfied.

  • J||

    "Picnic at Hanging Rock." I loved it, but I think you had to be in the right mood for it.

  • ConfederalRepublicBy2030||

    My grandfather was a colonel in the Soviet Army. I have experience with socialism, and everything that I have ever accumulated in the annals of knowledge and observation have made me aware of one unequivocal and certain fact - socialism is bad in every possible sense you could view it, and from every perspective and aspect you could possibly consider it--practically, morally, logically.

    Social democracy/social justice comes right behind it, and sucks almost as terribly.

    I hope Sean Peen and Del Toro get to spend a few months in a North Korean concentration camp. They'll be willingly and gladly giving Nick Gillespie blowjobs after their release.

    I don't know if you guys would agree, since I don't know whether you're radical enough, but the motto we should live by is "Live Free or Die" - if we did, the world would be an infinitely better place.

  • GSL||

    I don't know about the whole "good intentions" thing. Even if you can say that the Leninists were the true believers, much of their rhetoric was intensely hateful. They viewed their opponents and the bourgeousie in much the same way the Nazis viewed the Jews (i.e., as morally inferior, evil people who needed to be exterminated), and it showed in their rhetoric.

    And I can't say I don't see it in some of the lefties I know these days. To me, "good intentions" are a way for people to excuse themselves for harboring thoughts that are far too hateful to otherwise be comfortable with.

  • ||

    To me, "good intentions" are a way for people to excuse themselves for harboring thoughts that are far too hateful to otherwise be comfortable with

    Yes. Very much so.

  • G Mc||

    Similar to how conservative's "good intentions" as to reducing big gov't or big law's assistance to the needy is really just cover for race/class discrimination?

    I don't believe that, but you seem to.

  • sevo||

    Of all the books that deal with the end of Communism, one of the best (my opinion) is "Post War" by Judt.
    There is no doubt that he hates capitalism, but he's entirely too honest an historian for his own good; the facts related in the book simply force him to draw the obvious conclusions:
    On early '50s West Euro 'peace' activists: "...[they] were feted and honored for their support [of the USSR]; behind their backs, they were derided as 'pigeons', a new generation of Lenin's 'useful idiots'."
    On East Germany: "..the regime was efficient in the manufacture and export of bogus data..."
    Criticizing the 'progressive' anger at attacks on Communism: "...What begins with centralized planning ends with centralized killing..."
    He spend many pages trying to duck and weave around these sorts of statements, but only ends up contradicting himself.

  • ConfederalRepublicBy2030||

    There are three types of "progressives":

    1) Self-deluded, well-meaning useful idiots.

    2) Malevolent, power-hungrey ball-gobblers.

    3) Rich kids whose parents buy them everything and once went to a rally for some fat black whore running for the local city council.

    There aren't any intelligent and knowledgeable liberals, simply because people who have intelligence and knowledge can't possibly justify advocating any of what "progressives" wish upon the world.

  • Jim||

    To be fair, one can be intelligent and also self-deluded. Communist movements had mass enthusiasm in many places throughout history, and I can't believe that they're all just stupid or power-hungry (the average person in the mob, I mean). I think the power of self-delusion can overcome almost any obstacle, including intelligence.

    Case in point, I was a fire-breathing socialist in college, until I discovered Austrian economics, and then libertarianism. And I don't mean democratic party socialist...I mean the Progressive Labor Party. I think I fell in with them, because they were the first people who said what I'd felt for a long time; the problem is that both democrats and republicans are two sides of the same shitty coin. They were the first people I encountered who thought and acted outside the two party dynamic.

    Of course, once I undertook serious studies of economics I saw that while they got part of the problem right (entrenched two-party rigged system revolving around crony-capitalism), they were completely wrong in their solution. So people can learn, and change.

  • ConfederalRepublicBy2030||

    Yeah. I can name a few dozen communist intellectuals just off the top of my head.

    I was throwing around general insults, to be honest; playing on the "intellectuals are actually retards" jab, but good point.

    Who knows? Maybe at some point in the future, self-delusion subsides and we achieve our goals.

  • ConfederalRepublicBy2030||

    *As for the average member of the mod, I'm sure you're right. In some nations, the entire educated population would be swayed by the romanticism and appeal of socialism and communism, and the utopias the purport to develop.

  • ConfederalRepublicBy2030||

    *mob.

  • sevo||

    "So people can learn, and change."

    What's amusing in "Post War" is that Judt *doesn't* change. He cites the horrors of Communism, the idiocy of those who defend it, and *still* tries to find (I guess) a 'third way'.
    He's obviously not stupid, but his self-delusional capacity is a sight to behold.

  • Tony||

    So academics are overwhelmingly liberal... and academics are by definition supposed to be the smartest people around. Gigantic conspiracy perhaps?

  • sevo||

    You never disappoint, Tony.
    If there weren't strawmen, lies and innuendo, you'd be out of ammo.

  • cynical||

    "academics are by definition supposed to be the smartest people around"

    Priests are supposed to be the holiest people around. Especially if you ask a priest.

    Intelligence manifests pretty objectively in hard science and engineering -- your theory holds up to new observations or it doesn't, your device works or it doesn't. The intelligence of liberal "academia" tends to be more a measure of social approbation (consensus, if you prefer), and social approbation in such an ideologically inbred environment likely has an inverse correlation with intelligence, since anyone who comes up with anything insightful enough to be worthwhile will probably piss enough people off to derided as a fool.

  • The Ingenious Hidalgo||

    I don't think that's the definition.

  • cynical||

    I think understanding how good intentions can go horribly awry because of the numerous flaws in society and human nature is more a question of wisdom than intelligence. Notice that the latter seems to be much more fashionable today than the former.

  • G Mc||

    This is the most ridiculous perception that libertarian's have - that somehow Communism isn't derided and considered "bad." Where is that argument being put forth? By crazy left-wing wackos? Why do they matter?

    There are some academic analyses with which libertarians may disagree, but they are far more nuanced and are generally not addressed seriously.

  • sevo||

    G Mc|4.8.11 @ 9:17PM|#
    "This is the most ridiculous perception that libertarian's have - that somehow Communism isn't derided and considered "bad." Where is that argument being put forth? By crazy left-wing wackos? Why do they matter?"

    Uh, I'd suggest reading that book I referenced. Judt never quite "justifies" Communism, but his ducking, weaving, hinting, and nudging all suggest that he hasn't quite come to terms with the bankruptcy of the concept.
    And, no, he's not considered a 'whacko'; I think he teaches at Harvard.

  • Esteban||

    Oh how about how there's plenty of college kids who wear hammer and sickle tshirts. Why aren't the hammer and sickle as universally reviled as the swastika? Plenty of people I've met say communism is a good idea, but it was never carried out properly.

  • ||

    The results of nationalizing any given industry are a lot like the results of nationalizing healthcare too.

    The longer things stay nationalized, the worse people are going to suffer too.

    Most of those college kids were all for ObamaCare. And I'm sure they'll say the same thing when they see all the people who've been hurt by effectively nationalizing healthcare.

    They'll say it was implemented wrong, and then they'll go on and condone some equally horrible prescription elsewhere because it massages their "good" intentions.

  • GSL||

    In Cambridge, MA, there's a Soviet-Union-themed bar called the People's Republik. No joke.

  • invisible furry hand||

    can go you one better

  • JD the elder||

    You SugarFree'd that link, furry. Perhaps you were talking about the KGB bar?

  • alan||

    There are some academic analyses with which libertarians may disagree, but they are far more nuanced and are generally not addressed seriously.

    'Nuance'. I keep seeing that word offered up by leftist as a criticism of libertarians and libertarianism. Someone pointed it out the annoying repetition of this the other day as well. But I see so little evidence of it in practice from them. It is a vanity and an affectation they never seem to actually incorporate into their thought processes but use solely for rhetorical purpose.

    Don't use the word until you actually display it.

  • Esteban||

    Honest to god, I had a debate on facebook a few days ago where the dude I was arguing with claimed that the US is as equally flawed as Romania was under Ceaucescu. I didn't realize that the were still communists left in the US

  • Alan||

    I can't speak for Russia or China, but I work with some guys who grew up in Yugoslavia under Tito - and they sometimes sing the praises of communism. Sure, they say, there were abuses, but as long as you didn't get involved in politics you had a good life. Everything was taken care of for you - you didn't have to worry about being able to afford food or housing.

    They contend that the nations of the former Yugoslavia are in worse shape now than 30 years ago.

    Now, in material terms that is certainly wrong - but in terms of a "good life"? I don't know. How does one come up with the value of a carefree existence? Is it even a positive?

    I don't know, but I don't think there is a simple formula to find out, and while I am glad that the abuses of communist totalitarians have come out and I think these nations have a much brighter future without communism, perhaps there was some value there that our value system does not recognize.

  • ||

    I have no doubt that being on the good side of a dictator like Tito could be a really good deal. It's sort of like listening to overpaid UAW workers talk about what it was like to be overpaid to screw in lug nuts all day. I have no doubt that some people were better off when they were overpaid to do very little. But what about the rest of us?

    Add to that, if I were comparing life before the end of communism to the horrors of balkanization that came afterward, it might make somebody think of the days before the Yugoslav wars as the good old days. I can see that.

    There are a couple of things I always want to mention to people who've been though stuff like that though. One of 'em is that it's important not to pretend that one of the choices is to go back in time. Going back to the days of Tito just isn't one of the options.

    The question is always in the present tense. It's not about how much better life would be if communism had never fell; it's why in the world would anybody want to rebuild Soviet communism now?

    Hasn't the former Yugoslavia been through enough already? If communism was unsustainable, and you'd have to go through balkanization all over again after it fell apart under a dictatorship again, then why would anyone want to sign up for that now?

    Even if it were one of the options?

  • Scruffy Nerf Herder||

    There is a direct correlation between how well people lived under communism during its heyday and what we are doing here in the United States.

    They were spending money that did not exist. Government was motivated to do everything in its power to maintain the status quo include running the printing presses. Always remember that when most of the Soviet Bloc fell, it did so under the weight of its economic malfeasance. I have some Yugoslavian 5 billion dinar notes as a reminder of that in my desk.

    And having been to Serbia, I respectfully disagree about former Yugoslavians being enamored of living under Tito. Most I spoke to, recall that they were being ruled by former peasants that had no clue what they were doing, but were loyal Party apparatchiks. Apparatchiks with a sincere thirst for power.

  • alan||

    Sure, one generation gets to eat the seed corn while the next several get the privileged of starving. That is socialism in a nut shell, and no better illustrated in the example of Yugoslavia. Scarcity exist and communism is the worst means ever devised by the mind of man to deal with it.

    Tito kept them in a state of infantile denial with the cradle to grave welfare state making all their decision for them. They could indulge in hating one another instead of developing mutual interest and systemic cooperation that went beyond Tito's gun barrels. He created a system where they could continue their tribalist loyalties when the rest of Europe mostly left that useless shit behind.

    It was a mere detente where Tito's tribe reigned supreme so long as Tito was alive. He did them no favors, and their lives could not in any way measure positively compared to Western Europe. Slap those bitches and tell them to snap out of their decadent nonsense.

  • A Serious Man||

    There is no creature more dangerous and insididious in their belief than a Marxist intellectual. Just look at Jean-Paul Satre. During the 1930s he knew about the Great Purge and Stalin's gulags but didn't condemn it because he, "didn't want to discourage the proletariat in Paris."

    20 years later him and Bertrand Russell are conducting a mock trial condeming the US for war crimes while pardoning the much more brutal excesses of the Viet Cong and NVA since they were fighting for "liberation." To them the ends always justify the means and the intelligent factions opposed to them are to be either "reeducated" or eliminated entirely. So I guess what I'm saying is that beneath every Marxist intellectual in a non-communist society is an ardent lover of totalitarianism. That says enough about why collectivism is the most horrid conception ever loosed upon mankind.

  • ||

    I think France had some weird psychological stuff going on with the communists forming much of the meaningful opposition to the Nazis when France was under occupation (especially after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union). The Communist Party in France during that period practically was the French Resistance.

    Anyway, if you ever read Jean-Paul Sartre's short essay "Existentialism: What is It?", it reads like a libertarian primer. Much of his work is about how we're "condemned to freedom". That we're essentially free and responsible for our freedom regardless of whether we want to be.

    There were some people who identified with the communists who were right on a lot of other things. I think Sartre was one of them. I think having fought with the communists against the Nazis, he thought the French Communist Party (rather than the Soviets) was the best solution to the problems of the poor in France. I understand he repudiated the communists--even in France--after the Soviets invaded Hungary in 1956...

    Like I said up top, it's one thing to make mistakes in your youth--because of your lack of experience. Quite another to make mistakes in your youth--and refuse to acknowledge them as mistakes and to keep making the same mistakes that hurt other people in your old age. ...over and over again.

    You can't talk about Sartre's work, however, without talking about freedom. His work is all about freedom. The idea that we're all free to choose our own essence, and that the restraints other people supposedly place on us are actually self-imposed and made of plastic...

    That's about the most libertarian idea I can think of. Anyway, I think there's a difference between someone who was rooting for the communists in the late 1970s and someone who once thought communism was the solution for France but later repudiated communism in 1956. And I think the guy gets extra-credit for spending his life working on the road from leftist thought to what we call libertarianism now.

    I haven't always known everything I know now either.

  • ||

    The Communist Party in France during that period practically was the French Resistance.

    I'm sure that's what the commies claim, but they have a habit of lying to make themselves look good.

    -jcr

  • ||

    There isn't a lot of disagreement about that from anybody.

    Anyway, Sartre fought the Nazis under occupation alongside his fellow French communists.

    I think it's natural to imagine that the only answer to one extreme, like that of the Nazis, is the other extreme--especially if the other extreme is more or less the only organization in France that was actually fighting the Nazis.

    What they did during World War II is a big part of the reason the French Communist Party continued to have fairly broad support until about 2002. The extent of the right's support--popular support--for Petain is often underestimated.

    Supporting an occupation government on partisan grounds--you have to pay for that kind of treasonous partisanship for a long time. I think the French Communist Party is still enjoying some measure legitimacy all these years later because of it.

    The rest of the plebs in the west often make fun of the French for supposedly surrendering so quickly; it only natural for some people to rally around the main organization that didn't surrender.

  • ||

    Should be very interesting to see how that turns out. Wow.

    www.Anonymous-Toolz.tk

  • RyanXXX||

    Another horrifying aspect of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot's legacies is that the very people their bullshit was "meant to help" - workers and farmers - suffered the most.

    Stalin despised the "kulaks", who were really just lower-middle-class farmers, and Mao and Pol Pot both wreaked havoc on the countryside of their countries.

  • RyanXXX||

    I'm waiting for the inevitable ideology that advocates "fuck it - just kill everyone." It will be so much simpler, not to mention egalitarian

  • ||

    All true, but Weir made much better films in his younger, deluded days. Which goes to show that correct politics and art have about as much to do with each other as fishsticks and shoelaces.

  • ||

    I watched 'The Way Back' last night.

    I have to say that like many of Wier's films (the last one i saw was Master and Commander), it doesn't really stick with you.

    The most interesting character in the party is a guy with Lenin and Stalin tattooed to his chest, and he drops out halfwayv through the film.

    Then they process ro pass up numerous interesting opportunities to add conflict and drama to the story.

    For instance, in one scene, some Mongolian tribesmen arrive to ask the party what they hell they are doing crossing the Gobi desert on foot.

    I was certain that they were about to offer to sell them five horses in exchange for the girl, but no.... instead a Mongolian boy drops a waterskin and rides off with no further appearances. End of encounter.

    They find a well, and no locals show up to try to kill them for drinking the water without permission.

    They steal food from a villiage and run up to ask stray villiagers questions, and no villiagers alert the police to their presence in the woods.

    Possibly true to life ... but in terms of filmmaking ... BORING!

    The only real tension occurs when they are starving and one of the guys starts discussing who is most likely to die first so they can eat him.

  • ||

    Er Then they PROCEED ro pass up numerous interesting opportunities to add conflict and drama to the story.

  • ||

    You're supposed to write "SPOILER ALERT".

  • ||

    There aren't any real spoilers in there.

    You're supposed to know going in that it's about a long trek from siberia across the himlayas to India.

    One might infer that some villages, mongolians, and food/water problems are involved.

    Well, unless you want the supense of wondering when they will actually have some hostile interaction with some other people preserved.

  • ||

    I'm gonna sue.

    For maintaining an attractive nuisance or something.

  • Big pony||

    nice work.come on..

  • JB||

    Nearly all Leftists = delusional fucks.

    The sooner those retarded fetuses are dealt with, the better.

  • small toy||

    All true, but Weir made much better films in his younger, deluded days.

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