Get Your Zizeks Out

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The interesting blog Fenimore Cooper's Daily Excesses points toward an interview with Slavoj Zizek in The Believer that touches on a question of continuing conversation on this site: Why is Nazi Germany (rightly) seen as Evil with a capital E while the Soviet Union, which in the long run killed more people, is sometimes seen as quaint and kitschy, or even worthy of emulation in sort of new and improved way (if only that Stalin hadn't taken over!)?

Zizek says

To put it in simplistic terms, Fascism is relatively easy to explain. … In Stalinism the tragedy is that its origin is some kind of radical emancipatory project. … for me, the key phenomenon to be accounted for in the twentieth century is Stalinism. Because again, Fascism is simple, conservative reaction gone wrong. The true enigma is why Stalinism or communism went wrong.

Zizek, who has been working to revive Lenin as a model for intellectuals, is wrong here and his error helps answer the question above. Stalinism wasn't in any way emancipatory (the fact that he focuses on Stalin rather than Lenin, who got the CCCP ball rolling, is itself a telling elision); and to the extent that it claimed to be, so was Nazism. Both offered utopian visions of society that ultimately (and explicitly) were predicated upon the eradication of whole classes of human beings. If that's emancipation, then I don't want to be free.

Buying into the fiction that if only Lenin–a murderous thug in his own right–or Trotsky (ditto) had stayed in control the Soviet Union would have been A-OK is deluded idealism of a particularly left-wing sort (as is the idea that National Socialism was simply or clearly a product of the "right"). Stalinism and communism went wrong for a host of reasons (including an ignorance of basic economic laws) but the main error that led to the gulags was an unwillingess to buy the basic liberal tenet that human beings are ends in themselves, not means to someone else's ends.

More Zizek on Hit & Run here and here.

And while we're at it, check out this Reason piece on the reissue of The God That Failed and this one on Martin Amis' Koba the Dread.

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  1. Gary,

    Mona can speak for herself. I have repeatedly posted that Kerry campaign folks have said that he was ‘near’ Cambodia and not ‘in’ Cambodia, and you are not addressing that point.

    When Kerry campaing clarified the issue, how can YOU tell us Kerry could have / might have been IN Cambodia on a secret mission or whatever?

    Why should only they demonstrate their case? (actually when Kerry campaign ‘corrected’ the claim that he was ‘near’ Cambodia, their claim was demonstrated). Why not Kerry demonstrate (at the least, tell us clearly in yes/no terms) if he was IN Cambodia or not? I didn’t know your fetish for demonstration was so one-sided! Or, are you also blinded by idealogy?

  2. The USSR operated in total secrecy for decades while the Nazi’s documented everything on film and were then defeated militarily and exposed.

    Plus the Nazi’s have pitbull Jews that aren’t going to let anyone forget about what happened either. The dead Russians don’t have anyone to stand for them and say “We Remember’. Well, except Charles Allen Kors that is.

    ?The West accepts an epochal, monstrous, unforgivable double standard. We rehearse the crimes of Nazism almost daily, we teach them to our children as ultimate historical and moral lessons, and we bear witness to every victim. We are, with so few exceptions, almost silent on the crimes of Communism. So the bodies lie among us, unnoticed, everywhere.??Alan Charles Kors

  3. ‘Communism sounds good in theory but it just doesn’t work out as good as they hoped’ is the mantra I heard in public school history class from sixth grade on.

    The sole exception was my seventh grade history teacher who had the incredible courage to stand in the chaos of 1956 Budapest photographing the Russian tanks, troops, and the civilians fighting back against incredible odds. Surprisingly, she then managed to escape Hungary with the camera, film, and her life. For two weeks our class was dead silent as we saw one horror after another projected on the screen at the front of the class. I haven’t forgotten those images to this day, which may be why I never bought into the idea that communism sounded good in theory.

  4. Jason L.

    I am not sure if I qualify as ‘local’ – but your question can also entertain the “means & ends” argument. If we see the “desired” ends, can we justify whatever means to get us there?

    The LP cadre (based on my limited observation) seem to attach more importance to ideological purity than to practicality. The fact we can’t seem to even consider a pre-emptive war (and still be considered Libertarian) speaks for this.

    The ‘means’ we choose certainly depend on the situation. One example would be Gandhi (or MLK) trying to achieve their ends via non-violence (relatively speaking). Gandhi went so far as to suggest he would rather not have independence than to fight the British in a bloody war. That was OK then, partly because of who the British were. They had a checks/balances govt which ensured to a large extent that the non-violent protestors were not butchered by the police/soldiers.

    Imagine the Jews doing ‘civil disobedience’ in Nazi Germany. Gandhi had in fact suggested they do so!

    It is one thing to deal with the fellow members of the society (who have agreed to certain norms) using libertarian principles; but how can that work with someone who states he wants to kill you? Can you have a ‘contract’ with another person who didn’t sign it? To me this is the biggest shortcoming of LP.

  5. zorel,

    Mona can speak for herself. I have repeatedly posted that Kerry campaign folks have said that he was ‘near’ Cambodia and not ‘in’ Cambodia, and you are not addressing that point.

    And then they retracted that statement. That seems pretty fucking obvious to me. But here, if it makes you feel better, I’ll just write here: they retracted that statement. Ta da!!!!

    As to your other points, I think I’ve made myself pretty clear; I suggest that you go look at those past statements.

  6. Jason:

    “Would we be as critical if this were a failed libertarian revolution?”

    I would. If the L revolution succeeds, and everyone proceeds to do drugs and suck their thumb, causing the GDP to drop like a stone(d), I’ll have bad words for Mr. Sullum. Not that I predict this outcome.

  7. zorel,

    Why should they have to demonstrate their case and not Kerry? Because they’re the ones making the claim that Kerry has obfuscated, dissembled, etc. Forcing Kerry to demonstrate that he did not obfuscate, etc. is in other words perverse. Sorry, but the ball remains in the court of the accusers, not vice versa; just as it does with those accusing Bush of being AWOL, a deserter, etc.

  8. zorel,

    BTW, that’s my last word on the subject until something significant occurs; if you don’t like that, then tough titty kitty.

  9. Gary says,

    “Ahh yes, useless pop psychology and sociology”.

    Curious, but I suppose it’s better than sudden flash of gaudy terms, follow by a dash to the change of subject.

    Indeed, exceptions exist, but is Reason really going to be your libertarian sample population?

  10. Gary,

    I know you won’t say anything else until there is a major development. I like it! I also liked it the last time you said the same, but you jumped in with the same tired requests for URLs and demonstrations.

    I don’t know who retract the statement. The Kerry campaign guy (Johnson?) was on TV telling everyone that Kerry was ‘near’ Cambodia. So, unless you give me a URL demonstrating the ‘retraction’ AFTER the above interview, there is no ‘Ta da’ there.

  11. Jason,

    What do the idealistic libertarians have to say about “defense” (the whole use of force to defend ‘our’ society/way of life thing)?

    I am not well-read w.r.t the LP principles. I read Frederick Bastiat (Law) and thought he made sense. He notes that force is a necessary thing and so is govt. There is not much confusion about the use of force (& role of govt) within the nation (among libertarians). What about external threats?

    Is it possible for a Lib to advocate libertarian principles at home, but be aggressive (pre-emptive) in addressing potential threats from outside our nation/society?

  12. Interesting insight about battlefield defeat, Grant.

    Very good post, Umbriel.

    I have to disagree with Nick on one point here. “Stalinism wasn’t in any way emancipatory.” Read the line that produced Nick’s dissent: “In Stalinism the tragedy is that its origin is some kind of radical emancipatory project.” He’s not writing about Stalinism, but about Stalinism’s roots, where were in the 19th Century’s labor rights struggles – the ones that produced in this country the 8 hour day, the weekend, safety devices on machines, insurance for injured workers, etc etc etc. These roots were very much emancipatory. Communists today continually refer back to, and take credit for, these achievements. For fascism, there really is no comparable “good fight” to harken back to.

  13. zorel,

    Well, apparently I need to simply let you bark at the moon for a while and eventually you’ll shut up about it. And, BTW, it was you who pursued me to a WHOLLY UNRELATED thread to discuss these matters, and not vice versa. Now simply respect my request. 🙂

  14. tetrodotoxin,

    You get the cart in front of the horse I am afraid; you have to actually demonstrate that the rule exists before you can start claiming that there are exceptions to it. Libertarians are a pretty varied bunch, and I’ve never witnessed the sort of singularity of focus that you claim.

  15. Shannon Love,

    Thankyou for repeating much of what Nudnik already wrote.

    BTW, the notion that the intellectual was foreign to fascism is just patently absurd; fascists approved of certain classes of intellectuals – which is why folks like Heidegger so aptly adopted fascism.

  16. I’ve seen a number of WW2 movies, and zee Cherman offizers vere alvays solitary eenteelectualz.

    Unlike the proletarian, team-oriented Americans.

  17. Shannon Love,

    George Bernard Shaw, Ezra Pound, Charles Lindbergh, etc. all had fascism on the brain at one point or another.

    Its hard to underestimate just how popular fascism was in the 1930s. As I always liked to point out to students when I was in graduate school, a lot of Polish officers and soldiers who died fighting the Nazis in 1939 where part of a Polish fascist party.

  18. “Is it possible for a Lib to advocate libertarian principles at home, but be aggressive (pre-emptive) in addressing potential threats from outside our nation/society?”

    It depends on who you ask. I am not considered libertarian by many true believers because of my, er, aggressive understanding of ‘self defence’. Some libertarians look like Gary Gunnels, some look like me, some look like Rick Barton. It is a matter of what your hot button issues are. I perfectly sympathize with most of the issues that Gary indicates drive him to vote, but my hot buttons happen to be on the other side of the aisle. I would speculate that he views me as callous to big civil liberty violations, while I feel he is not concerned enough about redistribution and self defence. Rick thinks we are both loons and should tune into antiwar.com more often.

    If libertarianism is a sundae, the icecream is ‘the government is too damn big,’ but we choose our own toppings. Or something.

  19. Note to Shannon:
    I totally agree. Communism’s image had major PR help from academia for most of the 20th century. I suspect the reason Western intellectuals have such a fondness for central planning is that in such a utopian world, THEY would have privileges and power denied to them under capitalism. In such a thinker’s paradise,never again would an Economics professor be asked by some tiresome student, “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?”

  20. It’s simple. If you kill another nations people you’re evil. If you kill your own people no one cares.

  21. Jason Ligon,

    That’s one of the funniest things I’ve read all day; and that’s on a day when when we’ve seen some pretty funny things posted.

    Susan,

    Maybe because the economics professor doesn’t want to be rich? One person’s utility is another person’s nightmare.

  22. On Stalinism vs. fascism I think posters who have pointed to periods of alliance with US / UK are closest to the mark.

    I can’t agree that Marxism never had anything going for it though, or that it was identical with Stalinism. I have a feeling I’m not going to win this one, but how about:

    You’re a peasant in Russia, 1917. Peace, Land and Bread – sounds good to me.

    You’re in the colonial world. Lenin is the clearest voice making the case for fighting for self determination. (Do people here believe that fighting colonial rule is legitimate use of force? I’m presuming the critiques aren’t based on pacifism.)

    For those who think Marxism never sounded good, who said “the end is justified if it leads to increasing the power of man over nature and to the abolition of the power of man over man.”?(When you give up, you can ask Google)

  23. “You’re a peasant in Russia, 1917. Peace, Land and Bread – sounds good to me.”

    You know what I’ve never been able to figure out, though? Why does Latin America fall for it over and over again? They don’t get to eat, at least not for long, and they always wind up with another kleptocratic party, but every time there is economic stress, it is frikkin’ Guevarra time again.

    I know that that privitization schemes haven’t worked out, but they are never anything other than crony capitalisms anyway. It is so frustrating to watch over and over again …

  24. “You’re a peasant in Russia, 1917. Peace, Land and Bread – sounds good to me.”

    You know what I’ve never been able to figure out, though? Why does Latin America fall for it over and over again? They don’t get to eat, at least not for long, and they always wind up with another kleptocratic party, but every time there is economic stress, it is frikkin’ Guevarra time again.

    I know that that privitization schemes haven’t worked out, but they are never anything other than crony capitalisms anyway. It is so frustrating to watch over and over again …

  25. “For fascism, there really is no comparable “good fight” to harken back to.”

    Other than as a response by a people burdened by a humiliating peace settlement that contributed greatly to a crushing economic depression, you mean.

  26. Shannon Love,

    Fascist turned their back on the enlightenment. They rejected the idea of universal reason.

    Many elements of the Enlightenment are perfectly in sync with Fascism – such as naturalism, notions of human perfection, secularism, many of Voltaire’s notions regarding a benign state, etc. The point here is that the Enlightenment was a very varied historical and intellectual period and is not quite everything we think that it is. Indeed, even the notion that “universal reason” was a sole binding idea of the Enlightenment is a bit silly given what writers like Diderot wrote on the subject of emotion, and how emotion was suppose to be the primary force of human action. Are you now saying that Diderot was not part of the Enlightenment? If so, I’d count ya as pretty damn odd.

    In Fascism, the role of an intellectual was not logical analysis but articulation and expression of the volkgiest.

    So? That hardly means that Fascism rejects intellectualism; it merely embraces one type of intellectualism over another.

    I can just ignore the rest of your comments because they merely repeat the above the assertion.

  27. Shannon Love,

    BTW, if you think that the Enlightenment was all about “universal reason,” the you ought to read Rousseau’s Julie, ou la Nouvelle Heloise (Oh fuck!!! I wrote in French!!! Damnit it thoreau!!!) – which was one of the MOST POPULAR works of the Enlightenment (at least for folks who lived during the Enlightenment), is all about emotion, and rejects as corrupt notions like “universal reason.”

  28. Sorry ’bout the confusion, Pawn. What I meant was, “For fascism, there really is no comparable “good fight” to harken back to when seeking to appeal to Americans.” The question, please recall, is why fascism has a worse reputation among Americans.

  29. all about emotion, and rejects as corrupt notions like “universal reason.”

    indeed, rousseau was one of the first of the enlightened to see (reasonably) that people do not solely consist of reason. in making this simple observation and following through by applying what he had learned from voltaire et al, he wrote ‘heloise’, alienated himself from the age of reason and sparked romanticism.

  30. gaius marius,

    I always found it highly ironic that Rousseau’s Confessions was banned in the U.S. (1929) prior to its ban in the USSR (1935).

  31. What I meant to write was that Fascism was a “…nationalistic response…” (Jews being seen as foreign.) My point being that nationalism should appeal to Americans, American nationalism having accomplished so much. For example contributing greatly to the defeat of Fascism and Communism.

    At any rate I don’t know if yours or Gillespie’s reading is better, but I think that the appeal of communism remains, as someone posted earlier, its insistance that it is an egalitarian movement, and intellectuals are still very much enamoured of egalitarianism.

    If the intellectual classes start regarding egalitarianism as “a bad thing” becasue of its effects, the same way nationalism is regarded as “a bad thing,” communism will lose them as supporters. You can see on this thread, those that don’t accept egalitarianism as a good in itself, don’t understand why communism isn’t as reviled as fascism. They probably aren’t as confused as to why the 8 hour work week is popular.

    At any rate I don’t think the historical roots of it have anything to do with its popularity in the sense that you are talking about.

  32. Anybody else who checks out Hit and Run fairly regularly ever notice that Gary Gunnels is kind of like the science or computer wiz kid in school who ALWAYS finds a way to criticize another person’s opinions, but never seems to come up with any of their own?

    Gary, you often inject some valid rejoinders and correct some factual errors by others, but sometimes, your responses seem to indicate that you’re just trying to show that you’re smarter than everybody else (or maybe that everyone else is dumber than you). For example, is the phrase “I can just ignore the rest of your comments because they merely repeat the above the assertion” actually necessary? Is that what it means when one selectively criticizes another’s comments? I had no idea… thank you for enlightening me!

    Lighten up, dude, and, every once in a while, try responding to the original post with your own original thoughts instead of prowling for some hapless schmuck who didn’t happen to have every detail exactly right.

    [I now brace for the onslaught of corrections and chiding that using words like ?always? and ?never? will surly bring. May I go to Hell and die for insinuating a rule without proving it beforehand.]

  33. Communism failed for their was only one person to vote for at every election.

  34. The reason that we sneer at Fascism but laugh at Communism is that Fascism was defeated on the battlefield after a relatively brief stint of dominance. It is easy — indeed obligatory — to sneer at your Designated Enemy in wartime.

    But Communism had more staying power than our national sneer, and it became necessary to learn to laugh at it. The sad fact of the matter is that Communism works, and works far better than Fascism. It works with death and misery and bleak inhuman waste, but it does work. It could not be defeated by force of arms. It could only be defeated by being reduced to something small and risable in the minds of free people, kitsch on the national mantlepiece rather than the roaring stuffed head of Fascism. A small and risable Stalin is simply the price of victory.

    Indeed, if we had never learned to laugh at Communism, we would have failed: War only works against enemies with little staying power, but a little humor and its companion common sense can defeat even a thousand-year-old tyrrany.
    –G

  35. I should add that my living-room is full of old Soviet propaganda posters. These whiskey-priest icons of heroic workers and glorious revolution are the very soul of humor: The powerful, revered, and ubiquitous made ridiculous by a change in context and interpretation.

    The foremost people for whom Communism’s immense self-importance and incredible hypocisy are not funny are those who believe in it or live under it. We should all laugh in joy at being neither of these.
    –G

  36. Perhaps it’s because there is nothing inherently evil-sounding about the basic Communist phrase “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” whereas “Let’s kill all the Jews and non-blondes in the world” is a bit more extreme. Communism at least sounds good in theory; Nazism is rotten to the core.

  37. The main reason for the difference in the way view Communism and Fascism today is the support that each of these ideologies received. While Fascism was quickly reviled by all except a few cranks, Communism was almost universally supported by the intelligencia and the “opinion-makers”. Even during the depths of Stalin’s purges and mass murders, many journalists, professors, and other assorted left-wingers continued insisting that Stalin was a great man and Communism was the enlightened future for all the world. These “useful idiots” managed to convince many that Communism was not evil and that it was not the intellectual and practical evil of Fascism, despite clear evidence to the contrary.

  38. Grant,

    You touched on something important about facism being defeated on the battlefield. Soviet Communism’s demise has been a long sad decay. I believe there is little to find threatening in an enemy that, in a way. died of old age and tooth decay. Now, Nazi-ism appears much more threatening in retrospect by the very fact that it took great external force to terminate it.

    Jennifer,

    I cannot agree that,

    “there is nothing inherently evil-sounding about the basic Communist phrase “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,”

    Even without the evidence of that phrase’s manifestation, one can reason just what that means; and it is indeed frightening! One would ask, “‘ability’ determined by whom, ‘need’ determined by whom?”

  39. “but the west *did*, in the end, adopt proudhon’s and marx’s basic views — that the prole has the right to be empowered and emancipated too, and that the upper castes are to be ignored and spat upon. and so has our once-aristocratic parliamentary government devolved into plebiscitarian madness — government by gallup poll.”

    Pardon Gaius, first a note, Joe L. is from a Proletrian family, of ditch digers and milkmen, are you saying that the Proles did NOT deserve emancipation and empowerment? Ah mean, were we supposed to continue to knuckle our foreheads/tug our forelocks an’ say, “Right you are Guv’nor” “Whatever you say Guv’nor” “Thenkee kindly for the alms Guv’nor?”
    Am I to take it, Sir, that simply because a man, and lets be honest the era you invoke WAS SEXIST so it would be a MAN, am I to take it, then, that because a man graduated from Eton or Andover, got a degree from Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, or Oxford and cvame from the right sort of people, that man should govern? That that man and his family should have a disproportionate share of the wealth? A share based on his heritage, not his accomplishments?
    Excuse me, explain to me why the Proles should have to accept this arrangment? Are you saying they’d be better off? that our betters would have ruled us and made our lives BETTER? “I say there my good man, don’t bother your head with the stuff of governance. It’s all far to much for a man of your simple breeding. Don’t worry I shall make sure you get what you need and deserve.” Sorry Guv’nor but after the first day of the Somme and Paschendale we Proles don’t really believe that the “toffs” HAVE a better idea and we’ll just take our share of the power and the pie, thank you very much.
    Peddle that CONSERVATIVE Clap-trap elsewhere. I’ve read enough history, Roman and European to see thru it. You can tart it up with big words, but if you look at the Upper Classes you’ll see that they are no better, or worse than the Proles.

  40. Wellfellow,
    I’m not arguing that Communism was a good thing; I am simply saying that a philosophy which claims that everybody will be taken care of and nobody will be expected to do more than he is capable sounds, at least on its surface, friendlier than a philosophy which outright demands the death or enslavement of the majority of humanity.

  41. I don’t think there’s anything at all “more workable” about Communism than Fascism. In places where Fascism refrained from invading its neighbors or getting drawn into a larger conflict(Spain, Argentina) it endured substantially longer. Arguably China has been evolving from a Communist state (based on the unifying principles of class identity, and complete economic control) to a Fascist one (based on the unifying principles of national/ethnic identity and looser, pseudo-feudal, economic control). Fascism “works” at least as well as Communism, and arguably better, since it has a more limited economic agenda. Nazi Germany may very well have been able to hang around for decades had it existed within the same cold war/”balance of terror” dynamic that the Soviet Union enjoyed.

    And it’s not Fascism, in any event, that is necessarily viewed as _E_vil, but the particular brand of it known as Nazism. Mussolini is certainly still viewed as a fairly comic figure today. To the extent there’s any menace at all associated with the Duce, it’s chiefly due to his association with the F?hrer.

    The contributing factors I see to the popular image disparity?

    1) Nazism/Fascism is by definition insular. It invites the enmity of its neighbors. In fact it’s driven by it. Communism is a much “bigger tent”. Being class driven, reaches out to its enemy’s underclasses, offering them the illusion of power and utopia. Fascism’s only real means of expansion, and its preoccupations, were population growth, and conquest. Communism is a much more infectious meme.

    2) By singleing out the Jews for horrific abuse, the Nazis ensured that there would be a group (with a long cultural memory to begin with) particularly interested, for generations to come, with memorializing their Evil.

    3) Germany’s startling military accomplishments in dominating most of Europe made them particularly “scary”. The Soviet Union, in contrast, worked to broaden its sphere primarily though more insidious means, involving the appeal to the underclass mentioned above. It’s direct military interventions were mostly limited to suppressing rebellions in nations it had intitially dominated through subversion (or conquered at the end of WWII when it was nominally a “good guy”).

  42. Gary Gunnels,

    Your interpretation of the Enlightenment as not being about the replacement of faith and authority with empiricism and reason is, uhmmm, interesting, I guess I will say.

    In any case, I believe you misunderstood my use of “universal reason” I didn’t mean “reason everywhere” but “every human can use reason.” The Enlightenment destroyed the idea that who a person was counted for more than how they reasoned when determine the truth of proposition they put forward. After the Enlightenment, “Because I belong to group X” could not be used to end an argument.

    The Fascist reverted to the pre-enlightenment standard of intellectual argument. Basically using “It’s an > thing, you wouldn’t understand” approach.

    In any case, my main assertion still stands unchallenged. The Fascist envisioned a substantially different role for the articulate intellectual within their society than did communist. The communist vision was more intellectual friendly and spanned across all ethnic groups. That is why so many intellectuals look upon communism with favor.

  43. Fascism’s time in the realm of authority was brief, it’s true believers limited and most eventually slaughtered or jailed. It was thus relegated to the obscurity of fanatics in short time.

    Communism’s time in authority was longer lived, continuing today though not in as many places or as triumphantly. Even in it’s defeat in the Soviet Union, it was relatively peacefully deposed, leaving many true believers there and abroad, intact. Further, it’s extended time on top gave it increased numbers of believers abroad. These are not generally considered fanatics today, but professors and thinkers. It will take at least another generation to die off and likely more for their message to dissapate.

    Looking to the future, what will be the cost and subsequent view of the third sin, Islamism? It’s time in authority is much more extended (to what degree is apples for schoolyard fights), it’s still uncertain defeat will likely be more extended than that of communism and bloodier than that of fascism.

  44. Another excuse to link to The Mystery of Fascism.

  45. I’m feeling obstuse this morning. Question for the locals:

    Suppose you believed that a truly libertarian society of drastically limited government were possible, but only through the literal elimination of entrenched interests. You realize that such an action would be horrific and bloody, and you even realize that some of the interests you would be attacking are not bad people per se, they are simply complicit in a system that rewards them with plunder.

    It is important for the sake of this thought experiment we assume that A) you don’t believe there is any other way realistically to attain a free society and B)you have high confidence of positive freedom outcomes if you were to execute your plan.

    Do you go to war?

    The question I’m getting at here is, Was communism’s key failing in the value it sought to promote (equality) rather than the methods it employed if you take the perspective of a People’s Revolution True Believer? Another way of asking this is Would we be as critical if this were a failed libertarian revolution?

  46. A lot of this has to do with the fact that America and the USSR did have a period of “friendly” competition – indeed, both states encouraged this “friendliness” to a degree with cultural exchanges, etc. Furthermore, the USSR served as a foil or as an “other” in a lot of cultural productions; and this role was often played in campy, kitschy, etc. ways.

  47. Libertarians have a difficult time seeing beyond their front door. They are generally against going to war unless some one is kicking their door in. They lack the ability to recognize the complexities of the long term self interest of trying to rearrange the cesspool of the middle east now rather than deal with the higher cost of dealing with each state individually after it has been directly connected to some one who kicks in the door later, or more so waiting until much of it is under one leadership and the whole damn front of the building is kicked in.

    Libertarians would also never start such a war because even if they could view a possible long term benefit, they couldn’t gather the numbers. Their party will be lucky to gather 0.75% of the popular vote this election, the majority of that coming in states that aren’t very hotly contested by the R/Ds.

  48. D Anghelone:

    I have somehow never seen that article before. It is very insightful. Thanks for the link.

  49. tetrodotoxin,

    Ahh yes, useless pop psychology and sociology. To be frank, there are quite a number of libertarians here who have no problem going and re-arranding the Middle East, or agreeing with Niall Ferguson’s notions of America’s role as imperial state.

  50. Hi Gary,

    I posted a link on the Swiftboat thread about Kerry’s Cambodia X-mas. Since you might not visit there, I thought I should do so here again for your benefit. This one is different and is from the Telegraph.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/08/12/wus12.xml&sSheet=/news/2004/08/12/ixnewstop.html

  51. I think the main reason for the disparity in perception in relative evil is that Nazism/ Fascism resulted in the slaughter of tens of millions of people within a single generation, as well as impacting the lives of many more people around the world. Communism/ Stalinism also killed millions of people, but they were almost all (>99.99%) within the borders of one country, and the effect of this evil was spread over several generations.

    Jennifer, I think you are mostly correct when you say “there is nothing inherently evil-sounding about the basic Communist phrase ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,'”. This sounds not-inherently-evil to most people because most people (> two thirds) have ability that is very average, i.e., within one standard deviation of the mean (assuming a normal distribution, of course).

  52. zorel,

    Oh, how kind. 🙂 Anyway, the article in no way undermines my central thesis – that those accusing Kerry have yet to demonstrate their case. And, BTW, the article does not state what I clearly asked Mona for (and she claimed existed); a statement by Kerry that denied his presence in Cambodia.

  53. Gary Gunels,

    My argument is in not related to the views of any particular set of thinkers in the Enlightenment but instead is based on the the change in cultural/social standards for evaluating the truth of assertions. That is, if person A asserts x and person B asserts not-x, how does person C believe he should choose between the two. Different types of people gain or lose power when the criteria for testing assertions change.

    For example, if during the medieval ages person C wanted to know the shape of the path a cannon ball took in flight he could ask sagely priest/monk/teacher and he could ask a cannoneer. The sage would say, “Well Aristotle says the ball flies in a straight path until it exhaust it’s impetus and then it falls straight down.” The cannoneer would say, “It travels in an arch shaped path until it hits something.” Person see would think believe the sage because (1) he quoted a classical source and (2) he was of higher social status than the cannoneer.

    In a nutshell, pre-enlightenment who made the assertion was the most important factor in evaluating the assertion’s truth. Post-enlightenment, an assertion had to stand on it’s own entirely divorced from the person who made the assertion (I’m speaking in ideals and broad generalities of course)

    Communist were children of the Enlightenment in this sense. They believed in their future utopia all assertions would be tested by experimentation and logic. Nothing inherent to an individual making the assertion would be considered relevant to evaluating the truth of the assertion. If person A could best person B it was exclusively because they could reason better. In fact, having got rid of all other forms of social competition, a persons ability to reason and argue would be the only means of social differentiation left. It’s clear why so many people who loved the life of the mind gravitated towards a philosophy that valued their strengths above all other.

    Fascism however, returned to a variant of argument by authority. Who made the argument trumped every other form of proof. If persons C and A were Aryans and person B was a Jew then person C would believe the assertions of A over B regardless of the any evidence or logic B could offer.

    Fascist did not believe that intellectuals had a better claim to the truth than anyone else of the volk. The unique skill of a Fascist intellectual was not reason but articulation of an inner racial truth. Any member of the volk could actually know this inner truth even if they could not articulate it. In terms of social status Fascist did not imagine a special role for the intellectual. The imagined evolution of humanity did not terminate with everybody being an intellectual.

    Operationally communist converged on the Fascist model substituting ideological indoctrination for racial identity in the granting of authority status but in the idealism of communism that attracted people to it in the first place, it presented a much different and ego enhancing world view for the intellectual than Fascism did.

  54. Excuse me, explain to me why the Proles should have to accept this arrangment?

    joe L, i come from a family not far (if at all) removed from its prole roots — so i’m not exactly waging class warfare. just so we both know. 🙂

    but i am saying that — and you know this as well if you’ve read as much history as i have, and i’ll bet you have — that majoritarian democracy is tyrrany, and shortly not to be democratic at all. that is the lesson of proles empowered, regardless of the fact that it empowers you and i. in truth, the blossoming democracy is a historical rarity of the first order — those that do blossom quickly die.

    aristocratic systems — not monarchic, but aristocratic — are by far the more historically prevalent systems of government, from tribal times on. and there’s a reason for that. we’re all very thoroughly propagandized in modern america on the desirability, indeed the very need of democracy and freedom and so on — to the point where anything else is heresy. i instead would choose to cite plato and aristotle and burke in making the case that, as history teaches us, the emancipation of the masses such as we have had in the late 19th and 20th c is the fastest path to dictatorship.

    and that is why proles should accept aristocratic rule: if they don’t, the lesson of history is that they’re going to get tyrannical dictatorship instead.

  55. Shannon seems to associate the elevation of reason associated with the Enlightenment with a necessary preference for liberty.

    Much as it pains me to do so, I have to agree with GG on this one. 😉

    The rise of the technocratic authoritarian is as much a product of the Enlightenment as is the dismissal of the ‘divine right’ authoritarian. To make myself feel better, I will go on to suggest that the connection to the Enlightenment doesn’t really tell you very much about lineage. It is kind of like saying that a person who reasons that liberty best serves humanity and a person who reasons that humanity must be chained to be preserved have common intellectual ground – they both try to use reason.

    To make myself feel even better, I will go on to snark that the French enlightenment thinkers were almost uniformly the scary authoritarian ones. Rousseau has done more harm than most.

  56. Shannon Love,

    Your interpretation of the Enlightenment as not being about the replacement of faith and authority with empiricism and reason is, uhmmm, interesting, I guess I will say.

    Who said anything about “faith?” And as to authority, have you ever actually read Voltaire or Rousseau? Voltaire (one of the most celebrated figures in the Enlightenment I might add) championed a benign monarchy based on the Chinese empire goodness sake! And of course we already have the example of Rousseau’s famous Julie, ou la Nouvelle Heloise, one of the most popular books written during the Enlightenment which argued that “reason” was a prison that shut out the true means by which to discover truth – sensibility (emotions in other words). The book was wildly popular and made Rousseau into the figure that he was in the 18th century. Many currents ran through the Enlightenment, and your failure to recognize this demonstrates your absolute ignorance in this area of historical study. BTW, its not a particularly unusual or novel notion; anyone who spent half a day studying the Enlightenment knows that your hagiographic version is hogwash.

    In any case, my main assertion still stands unchallenged. The Fascist envisioned a substantially different role for the articulate intellectual within their society than did communist.

    That was not your main assertion originally; indeed, your main assertion originally was this:

    Fascism imagined no special role for the articulate intellectual. Indeed, it viewed the intellectual as alienated from the volkgiest.

    Sorry, but changing your fucking story.

  57. My dad spent the Winter of 1944-’45 trudging through knee-deep snow in Belgium, trying very desperately to not get his ass shot off, and wondering what the f*ck a ‘bulge’ was. For icing on this nasty little cake, he was honored to be a death camp liberator in 1945. Many fathers and grandfathers in the US had similar stories that they brought home and inculcated in their children. Nazis were the root cause of this.

    Many families on the home front, of course, lost their sons in Europe. Nazis were the root cause of this.

    Most of Europe was laid waste in the first half of the 1940’s. Nazis were the root cause of this.

    As dreadfully vile as the Communist/ Stalinist bastards were, they just didn’t have the same INTIMATE, EMOTIONAL impact on the lives of so many people in this country and Europe in the latter half of the 20th Century as the Nazis did. Their most powerful emotional impact was almost entirely contained within their borders.

    ‘chilly’ above crystallized it “It’s simple. If you kill another nations people you’re evil. If you kill your own people no one cares.” How many people in this country really care about genocide that happens seemingly every other month in some Third World nation or another?

    If we had lost hundreds of thousands of young men defeating Stalin and freeing the gulags, I have no doubt that Communism/ Stalinism would be as reviled as Nazism/ Fascism.

  58. Joe L, shout it out, bro. What a lot of libertarians don’t seem to realize is that the things they love so much about the free minds/free markets society – the opportunity, the class mobility, the physical mobility, the decentralization of cultural and economic leadership, the recognition of the right of every single individual to live in dignity and be treated as the equal of every other person – are the consequences of the fights that the labor left and intellectual left have been waging for two centuries.

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