History

Why May Day Is a Dark Day

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The folks from Catallarchy remember the dark, bloodstained legacy of May Day:

Welcome to our annual Day of Remembrance. In past years, it has been held at our previous blog Catallarchy. This year, we were able to have our new project The Distributed Republic up and running just in time to host it here. Our goal is remember the plight of those lost lives to an ideology which promised to free the workers of the world but did the opposite.

Go here for details.

In a Reason vein, here are some stories worth rereading on May Day:

Rose-Colored Glasses: What even disillusioned Marxists missed, by Alan Charles Kors. Looks at the legacy of The God That Failed.

Memory Hole: Why the left wants to forget Uncle Joe, by Charles Paul Freund. Haunting review of Martin Amis' Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million.

Hollywood's Missing Movies: Why American films have ignored life under communism, by Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley.

NEXT: Taxpayers Demonstrated Preference: No Public Financing of Campaigns

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  1. But Nick, you left out that it is now Mexican Flag Day in the USA. Just turn on the news and wait 10 min. to see the latest protest gaggles.

  2. The pain he’s feeling is almost palpable, isn’t it?

    Enjoy, H&Rers!

  3. I miss the Soviet Union. It was always great to have them bring out all their big phallic symbols and parade them through Red Square on my birthday.

  4. Does Today Suck seems to think today was pretty nice.

  5. Lunch – hell, travel through Yurp today!

    Although there’s a dearth of phallic symbols, that’s made up for by vapid slogans painstakingly affixed to little sticks. And spray paint. Also the organizers have attained pure androgyny!

    In honor of Mexican flag day, we’ll have a drink to the Italian flag that our neighbor across the way sports (she’s from there). Since we’re allowed to in America.

    Interesting thing, that freedom. Interesting.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY LUNCHSTEALER!

  6. I’ve sometimes thought there should be a lock out day.

    …participating employers could lock their employees out, without pay, for one day.

    Capitalists of the world, unite!

  7. Unionism catapulted a lot of us into the middle class. American Communists were big union activists. Things aren’t so black and white.

  8. Unionism catapulted a lot of us into the middle class. American Communists were big union activists. Things aren’t so black and white.

    Amercian Communists were always a fringe group… even more so than Libertarians. What a tiny fringe group with almost no popular standing or political power did in one of the most anti-Communist countries of the world, during one of its most anti-Communist periods, has little bearing on Communism as a social movement.

    Communism should be judged by the governments that followed the philisophy, not by the actions of a handful of marginalized people in a country that spent trillions to fight Communism. The Soviet Union, Cuba, North Korea, Maoist China, etc., are good examples of Communism. The angry kids trying to get their parent’s attention by becoming dirty reds is a bad example of Communism.

  9. Thank you, good Sir Moose!

    Yeah, the vapid sloganism just isn’t as impressive as great big rumbling missile launchers and tanks.

    But you take what you can get.

    Oh, well, there are still all the fertility rights and May “Poles” that all the young maids dance around. Plus the added benefit of pissing off the fundies who get all hot and bothered about the paganism of it.

  10. Actually, it’s pretty lazy to rely on the experiences of the Soviet Union et al to dismiss communism. That’s like the shrill urban lefty who says that W’s failure after Katrina indicts “limited government.” W ain’t limited government any more than Joe Steel was Communist, even though both claimed to be.

    Having said that, communism as a political philosophy isn’t much more than straw men and parlor tricks and shouldn’t be taken seriously by anyone ever anyway.

  11. The problem with the “Stalin wasn’t really a Communist” idea is that every society that attempted to go Commie has ended up becoming one form of totalitarian nightmare or another.

  12. Stalin didn’t match Mao in total numbers, and he didn’t match Pol Pot in percentage of population.

    He was a freaking piker by Communist standards!

  13. But every society that has “attempted to go Commie” has explicitly followed the Marxist-Lenninist ideology.

    There aren’t any countries in which the revolutionaries replaced the government with a collection of workers’ councils. There aren’t any countries that were taken over by Trotskyites.

    The Soviets made sure of that, using their material support for communist groups to enforce doctrine and pick leaders.

  14. The Paris Commune didn’t devolve into a hell hole.

    Then again, it lasted about 14 minutes.

  15. Stalin didn’t match Mao in total numbers, and he didn’t match Pol Pot in percentage of population.

    He was a freaking piker by Communist standards!

    Environmental damage?

  16. Unionism Capitalism catapulted a lot of us into the middle class.

    Fixed that for you.

    Unions don’t create wealth. Unions can’t do jack without a capitalist society to the create wealth that they help to, um, redistribute.

    Do unions help some people get a step up? Maybe. However, the kind of involuntary redistribution that is the stock in trade of unions is not noted for increasing the wealth of society as a whole.

  17. Yeah, my guess is that pure Marxism may be too vulnerable to ruthless bullies which will steer them towards Stalinism and Maoism.

  18. The British Labour Party started out as a Marxist party. It was only a few years ago that they got around to removing “the eventual elimination of private property” from their platform.

  19. Capitalism remained intact in Nazi Germany. Chinese communists are now playing the capitalist game very skillfully. Capitalims (there is more than one) can accomodate a lot of thuggery; some forms of socialism (e.g., Scandanavian) are pretty successful at mixed economies and offer a rather elevated quality of life. Things are always more complex than ideologies make them out to be. Blogs like this offer an escape from complexity and its headaches. Marxism does the same thing.

  20. Yeah, my guess is that pure Marxism may be too vulnerable to ruthless bullies which will steer them towards Stalinism and Maoism.

    Pure anything is usually too fragile to last. Capitalism included.

  21. There aren’t any countries in which the revolutionaries replaced the government with a collection of workers’ councils.

    I’d say the early days of the USSR fit the bill, at least to some degree. As to Trotsky, he supported the idea of the “vanguard party”. And that goes to the heart of why Marxism would never work.

  22. I’d say the early days of the USSR fit the bill, at least to some degree.

    Ah, the days of War Communism and deliberate famines.

  23. Capitalism remained intact in Nazi Germany. Chinese communists are now playing the capitalist game very skillfully.

    Totalitarian regimes sometimes recognize that capitalism is more productive than communism and therefore manage capitalist systems within their totalitarian states. You seem to think that this somehow adds support to the argument that “it’s pretty lazy to rely on the experiences of the Soviet Union et al to dismiss communism.”

    Have I got that right?

    Maybe what you are really saying is that there are many more reasons to dismiss communism than Stalin and his ilk alone. Well, no debate from me on that point.

  24. Pure anything is usually too fragile to last. Capitalism included.

    The U.S. has never had pure capitalism. We came close toward the end of the 19th century. It’s been a mixed economy ever since. It’s a mixed economy that is most fragile, as the most dangerous part of the mix is government intrusion into the marketplace.

  25. Never said we did. But, if we were to try it then it would be just as fragile, as the lack of protection against monopoly and exploitation would lead to the creation of an oligarchy during the implementation. Just like the attempt at the implementation of pure communism leads to oligarchy.

  26. Purity is the stuff of ideologies and always turns nasty. Haven’t we Americans been blessed by a sort of immunity to absolutist ideologies? I like to think that we’re entering a post-ideology era: what counts is what works, not what conforms to the rigid priciples of this or that overarching worldview. The Chinese seem to be getting on that track. We’ve always been on it, and that’s why we’ve prospered.

  27. Haven’t we Americans been blessed by a sort of immunity to absolutist ideologies?

    In the past, yes. But nowhere is it written that it will last forever, especially in an age where they can bash down your door and lock you up without a trial.

    I also hope you’re not arguing that we’re moving to pure utilitarianism and it’s a good thing.

  28. “The U.S. has never had pure capitalism. We came close toward the end of the 19th century.”

    Which was also the period of the most violent labor unrest, and the housing and sanitary conditions that inspired “How the Other Half Live.”

    The reason why we don’t have this system anymore probably has something to with its inherent instability. People are no more going to put up with that than with the long lines and empty grocery stores of 1989 Russia.

  29. “There aren’t any countries in which the revolutionaries replaced the government with a collection of workers’ councils. There aren’t any countries that were taken over by Trotskyites.”

    If you read much about Trotsky’s activities during the revolution and civil war you will find that he is just as much of a murdering thug as Stalin or Lennon ever were. He just got pushed out before he could do more damage.

  30. Chinese communists are now playing the capitalist game very skillfully.

    Meh. Capitalism for some, repressive totalitarian regime for everyone else. To anyone who still thinks China knows what it’s doing, I recommend this good article over at City Journal.

  31. Now that communism is gone, how about we repeal the creepy “Loyalty Day” and “Law Day” holidays?

  32. I’d like to note that terror was part of Bolshevike policy from the very first days following their rise to power.

    joe,

    The Paris Commune didn’t devolve into a hell hole.

    Actually it did. Oh, and it lasted ~two months.

  33. Amercian Communists were always a fringe group… even more so than Libertarians. What a tiny fringe group with almost no popular standing or political power did in one of the most anti-Communist countries of the world, during one of its most anti-Communist periods, has little bearing on Communism as a social movement.

    A fringe group with plenty of Soviet funding and guidance. Perhaps looking up a little link, like Ramparts magazine supplying USisan Communists with press credentials to mee their Soviet handlers in Hanoi and Havana might fill you in a little better. Might want to look up some data on “Red Diaper Babies” too, like that Bernstein fellow.

  34. Capitalism remained intact in Nazi Germany.

    No, that was National Socialism, just like in Fascist Italy.

  35. Now that communism is gone, how about we repeal the creepy “Loyalty Day” and “Law Day” holidays?

    How is Communism “gone”? Haven’t you read DailyKos or Ezra Klein and their ilk lately?

  36. joe defending Communism? Say it ain’t so!

    Sheesh…

  37. I just finished Kenneth Lloyd Billingsley’s overly-long, one-sided, borderline demented piece trashing Hollywood for “ignoring life under communism.”

    Maybe there’s some slight truth behind his piece but I suspect he’s was so in a lather to spank a hollywoood that pretty much hasn’t existed for some 50 years that he’s forgotten movies like The Killing Fields, Torn Curtain, White Nights, Letter To Breshnev, Moscow On The Hudson, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, The Last Emporer and almost every film produced over the past 40 years that features anything about Russia, Cuba, China or Vietnam.

    With the exceptions of Reds, there is a running theme in Hollywoood movies (the one that were actually seen by people rather than the obscure chestnuts called out by Billingsley, anyway).

    In case Billingsley missed things like Rocky IV,The Experts and Firefox when he was sleeping through the 80s, there has been precious little admiration in Hollywood for Communism or communist governments.

    To be sure, many of the films I mentioned were hardly masterpieces. And precious few went into much detail or drama or even attempted to be great storytelling. But then how many films do that anyway. They did, however, do plenty to showcase fear, oppression and lack of liberty inherent in communism. They went a long way toward planting a negative view of communism in the minds of most Americans.

    Want to understand some of the things that helped get the Reagan revolution started? Go watch Stripes.

    Billingsley’s peice was just more stilted crap…the kind of crap that’s got me visiting here less and less. This place used to be a pretty amazing board. Not so much with poory researched trash like this.

    The editors here need to wake up and start giving a shit about quality journalism instead of giving every moron a soapbox.

  38. madpad,

    Remember the movie Gotcha?

  39. madpad,

    The most memorable lines from that movie:

    [Jonathan has just crossed from East Berlin to West Berlin and is meeting with an American MP]

    Jonathan: Am I in West Berlin now?

    M.P.: You sure are.

    Jonathan: [looking back at East Berlin and giving it the finger] Fuck you!
    [looking back to the M.P]

    Jonathan: Good night.
    [heads off]

    M.P.: [looking at Jonathan, then looking at East Berlin] I’ve been wanting to do that for the last six months.

  40. Whoah, Grotius….out of the archives. Yeah, I remember that one. Anthony Edwards vehicle back when he could carry a whole movie.

    But the Russian chick turns out to be a fake…in actuality an American agent. What a let down.

  41. Yeah!….I remember that line. You’re takin’ me back…in a good way.

  42. madpad,

    I remember the movie just because of those lines.

  43. How is Communism “gone”? Haven’t you read DailyKos or Ezra Klein and their ilk lately?

    Hell, I saw a copy of Revolutionary Worker in a hipster coffeeshop recently. Chairman Bob Avakian was calling for proletarian solidarity with the people of someplace or other.

    But as an international movement posing a serious threat, communism is gone.

  44. Hunt For Red October

  45. If you read much about Trotsky’s activities during the revolution and civil war you will find that he is just as much of a murdering thug as Stalin or Lennon […]

    ?You say you want a revolution?
    Well you know
    We all want to change the world
    You tell me that it’s evolution
    Well you know
    We all want to change the world
    But when you talk about destruction
    ?Don’t you know you can count me out?

  46. ?You said you wanted evolution
    The ape was a great big hit
    You say you want a revolution, man
    And I say that youre full of shit/?

  47. Ah, the days of War Communism and deliberate famines.

    I’m talking 1917-18, not 1932. The “Soviet” era of the Soviet Union only lasted a few months. Of course, one could argue that it was really just a sham and that Lenin had total power from Day 1 of the regime. Either way, mostly a historical footnote now.

  48. John,

    “If you read much about Trotsky’s activities during the revolution and civil war you will find that he is just as much of a murdering thug as Stalin or Lennon ever were.”

    Trotkyism isn’t defined as “a government run by Leon Trotsky.” It was a different model of a communist government.

    rob,

    It ain’t so. But hey, why actually think when you can smear?

    Chris O,

    “I’d say the early days of the USSR fit the bill, at least to some degree.” Almost as soon as the Bolshies got control of the national government, they undid the workers’ councils. They were never a replacement for the national government.

    Ah, as you later mention.

  49. joe – Maybe you can explain how claiming that Communism has just never been appropriately implemented is not a standard, canned, “right from the talking points” defense of Communism?

    You know, like you do here, on this very thread:

    “joe | May 1, 2007, 3:13pm | #
    But every society that has “attempted to go Commie” has explicitly followed the Marxist-Lenninist ideology.

    There aren’t any countries in which the revolutionaries replaced the government with a collection of workers’ councils. There aren’t any countries that were taken over by Trotskyites.

    The Soviets made sure of that, using their material support for communist groups to enforce doctrine and pick leaders.”

    How exactly is that different than the common defense of communism and socialism, which is that if only they were correctly implemented they’d result in a workers paradise?

    Surely I can’t be the only one on this thread who sees your post in this light…

  50. joe and rob’s tete a tete has me wondering…

    Lots of capitalist states exist and it seems no two are exactly alike. Most of Europe, North America and much of South America are largely capitalist democracies with varying degrees of socialism…or, if you prefer, ‘welfare state.’

    But if there were any other way to launch a communist society other than Marxist-Leninist. you sure wouldn’t know it.

    Why is that?

  51. madpad – Yeah, funny how that seems to be the case, isn’t it?

    It makes you wonder if, in a Bizarro World alternate reality where capitalism always leads to totalitarian rule by mass murdering tyrants, the last argument being made by descredited, clearly morally bankrupt right-wingers is that “capitalism has just never been appropriately implemented…”

    In that world joe is probably lecturing me that such an argument is clearly as morally bankrupt as encouraging someone to jump off a skyscraper by telling them that their magic feather will make them able to fly and all the dead bodies at the bottom of the building were just people who didn’t “implement” the feather right.

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