Is Communism On the Up?

peterchristopher's picture

I just read an interesting post by a former  EU election observer.  I found the reference in the comments to a piece about Chavez's Role in Venezuela, which I was reading in trying to understand a little more about that country.  It made me wonder, what is it that makes so many people who grew up in the west so friendly towards dictators, even (maybe especially) those who steal and abuse power?  It seems part of it is that everybody likes to believe - and a victim story is sometimes so charming.

What's the historical perspective on it?  Is this attraction and appeasement and apologism for the Communists something new?  I don't think so.  We've had this element in our intellectual culture for over a hundred years.  Is it recently more popular?  My gut reaction says yes.  Maybe it's a bubble, though - Obama's presidency might represent the peak of this phase of the Communist embracement in the US.  Maybe we will learn our lesson that Communists really are thieves - liars who will take what you worked for and put you in jail for complaining.  Maybe we're coming back to earth soon? At least let me believe too. 

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I don't see socialism or communism as any more of a threat

than capitalism. We tend to live in a bubble in capitalist environments, where we only see the surface. As I have explained in another post, all three political systems have "dictators" and "thieves" within their politicians. No singular system has a better moral significance. I also think people tend to confuse socialism with communism.

Is it on the rise? Possibly. Why are so many people from the West lenient towards it? Maybe we've seen the failures of capitalism and feel there must be a solution that lies between the two ideologies. For me, it is because of seeing the failure of American capitalism and the effects it has had on the taxpaying citizens. I think Marx once said, “Class struggle is a central element in the analysis of social change in Western societies.” When you look at the U.S. today, this has proven true. The top elite have suffered very little from the economic crisis in the U.S., but when you look at many average taxpaying citizens today, you will find the largest foreclosure ratios in the middle class. You'll see our nation's elderly struggling to exist after years of investing in retirement funds and bonds that were sent spiraling in losses because of corrupt banking practices. You'll see entire cities with empty blocks of businesses, destroyed by policies aimed to help huge corporations grow and smaller businesses to sell to them. You'll see the average person paying for the business failures of the rich through bail out monies. You'll see our political system has been corrupted by corporate lobbyists who buy legislation from politicians who are supposed to represent the interests of their constituents.

I see very little difference in that type of dictatorial governing, than having a few depots at the top skimming the cream off the milk and putting it aside for their own personal use. So for me, it is very easy to see the health care and education levels in countries run by these people, as opposed to the lines of people asking for free medical care because they have no health insurance and need medical treatment they cannot afford having been laid off; and think maybe something better would work.

I also think after the U.S. destroyed so many economies during the 50's and through the 80's, many Latin American countries want to empower themselves against the U.S. policies that destroy their economies. And I believe those of us with families from some of those countries, forced to flee right winged dictators with death squads, never want that to happen again. So in a way, the U.S. has driven these countries towards everything that we fear. We've caused civil wars that murdered hundreds of thousands of our relatives and then denied our immediate family members the right to move to the U.S. with us to spare their lives. We've pushed our currency, the dollar, on them, tying their financial outcome to ours...so that when we now suffer a poor economy so do they..as in the case of El Salvador. Also with this economic globalism, many Latin countries aren't seeing a great deal of benefit to their countries from economic global policies, so they turn left to find a sense of equity.

Leftist leaders know they have to increase investment in social programs and this helps raise people's satisfaction and improves social stability. In countries that have struggled for any sense of stability for years, this has a huge appeal. To Westerners like me, it does too because I still have family in Latin America and will be moving there soon. I certainly don't want to live with the fear of right winged death squads threatening my existence.

Hi Roger

It does seem that our differences in perspective are more than semantic.

I wouldn't characterize my own perspective as "nature" not "nurture", however: it seems not to be about nature vs. nurture, but rather about whether "to each according to his need" is embraced or not.  I think that the more you embrace the free lunch, the more that an individual and society become dependent. 

You say, "what I am getting at is that it is not realistic to have have just one set of rules and its breakdown through a particular familiar perspective that doesn't take into account all the variables and multitude of perspectives and interrelated functions that go on in a natural system of any sort." This is well-articulated as well as a point where I would not share the perspective.  I believe that to have as clear and simple and universal rules and norms for society is valuable.  Fairness isn't giving everyone the same assets to begin their adult lives, but fairness is that we all have to play by the same rules with whatever assets we have been given and accumulated.

It is, however, a matter of degree (not of clear lines) to what extent a given society embraces self-responsibility vs public responsibility: I'm not going to argue for having every Citizen maintain his own highway system.

Has any predominantly Communist society ever boasted progress in well-being, measured in social, economic, or ecological terms? 

So, I see we have a couple

So, I see we have a couple different perspective tendencies when in comes to our objective view of the human behavior and politics, etc.

What you bring up in the issue about wanting to learn is valid and we should foster that type of dedication and intrigue in individuals. However, I wouldn't get to the point where we exclude those who do not fall in line with a certain program and learning ability. To tell you the truth, I am not very impressed with anything I read and saw from Dr. Ben Davis. He seemed a bit self centered and self wroshipping like I was describing Chavez. Basically, it's either his way or the highway. I have no problem with anyone doing what he is doing, I am sure his programs do offer a lot of benefit but I wouldn't use it as a model for societies or public education because it will basically abandon many students and individuals who might not be capable or ready for that style of learning. The point I am also getting at is that we have to be mindful of the nature versus nurture psychological dilenma.

The points you've just raised supports mostly a nature prespective. You state as a matter of fact that there are people who don't want to learn, who want the cake and not work for it, etc. Yes they do exist. However, I tend to understand that most of those people are that way because of lack of proper education, guidance, example, or maturity. Some people are just not at that level at a certain time in their life and others have different personalities that need different learning styles and different types of intellectual, artistic, and/or hands on stimulation. Some perform better in group settings, some individually, some at their own pace. This Dr. works more from the authoritative angle. It works for many students and especially certain age groups but I would not say it is universal.

In the case of Latin America and most of the world for that matter, most people do not have the means to understand a global perspective on things. Most of the world lacks basic literary skills, and basically survival through their limited understanding of their surroundings is what governs their life. That type of upbringing will undoubtedly raise a great many misdirected individuals however sometimes undereducated people also have certain value systems and a high level of  responsible attitudes due to their harsh realities.  If you acknowledge that we all share this world together and that we are much more alike and linked than not, then we too have a responsibility to help improve the education and relation to society and the natural world of all people in the world. If we worlk in a collaborative effort we can improve our understanding and better equip ourselves to solve problems that affect each one of our standards of living (health, environment, safety, and community).

As for the campesino farmer who sold his land rights to a Multi-National corporation, I think we need to consider that the corp. had much more knowledge of the subject matter that the farmer. The farmer and his community's lives are based on subsistence living. When he is offered money for use of his property, he is basically making simple math. But do you think he was really properly informed about the toxic metals that can end up in his children or neighbors, through polluted rivers, and basically irreperable land that he inhereted from his family. His grasp of the situation came when he saw a natural spring dry up for the fist time ever in his ancestral land. He knew that was not worth the money or incentives he was given. Without water you have no life, bottom line. He was capab;e of understanding that. So the argument is that the mining corp is abusing the lack of understanding by others. It is in the interest for the Mining corp for those communities to be uneducated about the toxic pollution or the threat to their water supply. If enough people democratically oppose such an industry where they live they simply will not function. So the miners are looking for ways to keep the community in the dark and create loyal workers(/mercenaries) who justify their work by providing an immediate source of income and food for thier families. The pratice is not sustainable for the community.

Basically what I am getting at is that it is not realistic to have have just one set of rules and its breakdown through a particular familiar perspective that doesn't take into account all the variables and multitude of perspectives and interrelated functions that go on in a natural system of any sort. 

Nice background, Roger

I appreciate the ecological side you add to this question.  

I actually responded to your original post but it looks like I messed up and didn't submit it properly, because it's not here.  

It's unfortunate that it's so, but most people around the world seem to get the government they deserve - most people in fact don't like learning, and want to have their cake and eat it too.  So they get leaders whose appeal is decreased by anyone with perspective about the world and history, and leaders who (either through stupidity or dishonesty) tell the people they can have their cake and eat it too.

 

 

I was just reading some excerpts from Crazy Like a Fox: One Principal's Triumph in the Inner City by Ben Chavis.  It has some of the spirit that for me comes from the best approach to the victim mentality:  Look, if you want cake, you've got to work for it!  No excuses!

Common Sense & Useful Learning at AIPCS by Dr. Ben Chavis

1.         The school facility is open daily from 8:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., except   Saturdays,   Sundays,   and.   all   holidays   known   to mankind.

2.         The staff of AIPCS does not preach or subscribe to the demagoguery of tolerance. Adults not willing to follow our rules will be sent packing with their rags and bags

3.         Squawkers, multicultural specialists, self-esteem experts, panhandlers, drug dealers, and those snapping turtles who refuse to put forth their best effort will be booted out.

4.         Bootlicking or self-promoting is not allowed by any politician who enters our classrooms. Politicians should beware: teachers are on duty!

5.         We do not believe standardized tests discriminate against students because of their color. Could it be many of them have not been adequately prepared to take those tests?

6.         The staff does not allow students to wear hats, gold chains, or ear-bobs in the building. Adults are not allowed to use cell phones, beepers, and other gadgets in our school.

7.         Dr. Chavis does provide psychological evaluations to quacks and Kultur specialists on a sliding scale. See him immediately for such rates.

8.         All solicitors should note the nearest exit upon entering this institution of learning. We view such alley cats with a fishy eye.

9.         No more than one psychologist or school administrator is allowed in our school at a time. This rule is part of our commitment to high academic standards.

10.       Photographs of the director or staff are on sale at the front office. Payment must be made in advance. Cash only! The photographs will be sent to you by Pony Express.

11.       The staff of AIPCS is of the first rank. We request that you do not flirt with them. They will accept your cash donations!

12.       Visitors are welcome daily. Due to the time it takes to reeducate university visitors, we are limiting their number to a maximum of four individuals a week.

13.       It will be difficult for our staff to meet with those educational experts who "know it all." We are willing to meet with such tomcats on Halloween night.

14.       How does anyone convince a billy goat or taxpayer that school administrators possess above-average intelligence? How will we address this educational dilemma?

15.       Our staff does not subscribe to the back swamp logic of minority students as victims. We will plow through such cornfield philosophy with common sense and hard work!

16.       If you wish to share any suggestions regarding this list, our commonsense committee accepts suggestions from 8:30 a.m. to 8:31 a.m. each holiday.

Of course, the other problem with that kind of an attitude is that you might end up throwing out all the people with the worst problems - which is one criticism indeed brought up against Chavis.

 

The video you posted was interesting.  The video clearly only shows one part of the story, maybe because a "Canadian" company didn't return calls, maybe the reporter didn't make much of an effort, as there was no rounded perspective whatsoever from anyone else either.  Even so, the farmer admits he sold the mineral rights.  Now he wants to take that back?  I don't know the whole history of the situation, and maybe I contribute to the problem with our quarter of an ounce of gold in our wedding rings, plus whatever is in my computer and in the industries I own indirectly through stock.

So what is the right solution in El Salvador?  Do you know the whole story? 

Unfortunately for much of the world and most of Latin America due to their lack of interest in learning they are unlikely to ever resolve these issues.  The big question that for me stands next to your important environmental one, is whether apologizing for ignorance makes it better or worse.

related read....

related video:

Observations and critiques

So is "Communism on the Rise"?

I don't think people are really claiming to be communists and taking power. The left and center left as a whole in latin america are, however, enjoying more  of a populist momentum. I think the smaller social movements have gained more recognition and organizational skills and those are the pockets of support that leaders like Evo Morales have been able to benefit from. Every country is different, though. We shouldn't try to over gereralise the situation. But I think this applies to nations most recently joining the left swing (like Ecuador, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and other small countries) Chavez is much more complex I think. He runs a petroleum financed social agenda, that seldom, if at anytime recognizes the dilenma that that causes, and rather enjoys its riches to power in the form of self worship and obedience by others. Some of his programs deliver a lot of immdediate help to his nation and allies but he is not on the path of national political debate or petroleum independence. Other nations put up with adoring his personality in order to enjoy some of his control on energy resources. The smaller groups of social movements and countries where there is no idolizing of "leaders" are more true to the unselfish ideals that are meant to charectirize the left. By those I mean, the indeigenous rights movements and movements against mining and ecological devastation, as well as small farmers and conservationists of healthier traditional lifestyle alternatives, for them Chavez represents the opposition to the same interests that they are having to confront but ultimately I think Chavez model will have to be confronted as well if left unchecked.

It seems like the more Chavez lets go of absolut control and establishes plural regional collaboration, the higher the potential for stablishing a viable alternative to the traditional market driven economic model. Together with moderate power houses like Brazil, Argentina, and Chile he is much more balanced out and their power can offer a regional balance and self depencnece that can potentially finance its own progress rather than the blood sucking that was going on under imf and world bank controls for so long. Which is where the majority of the exploitative abuses of Latin America root from and where the shift in politics in Latin America took hold by seeking an alternative. That type of bloc is what will really heed Washinton's attention and could offer some good innovations (and maybe some more mistakes to learn from).

Lets also not confuse that capitalism has been on the rise in so called communist nations like Cuba for some time now. China is another. Really what we are seeing is that the ideologies are adapting to the necessities of material sustenance, production (plus import and export), and global positioning. That's why a nation like Venezuela is internally moving in the direction of government control but continuesto be externally dependent on a capitalist market driven model.  To be honest, whether its socialist of capitalist, in both places what preodominates is that very few people have most of the power over their shared resources.

What troubles me the most about Latin Politics is the Caudillo tradition which in effect hampers freedom of the thought and plural representation of government. This exemplary image is what Chavez mimicks in Castro and his fantasies of "us against the enemy mentality". The Latin Left does not engage in enough self-criticism form the left to recognize its own short comings. It needs more open freedom of expression, and a continual renewal of different political representatives in government and the debate that it brings. In actuality, the Latin American left many times falls into the category of Conservativism, you can't critcize them or suggest that someone else should take their place. The traditions, inspirations, and intellectual understandings are, however, present and under the right circumstances can lead to certain alternatives that can very well provide a lot of benefit, not just to themselves but to the whole of developing sustainable social models.

 These tendencies are like pendulum swings and sometimes they concentrate on one side more than the other. The underlying problems still occur under both swings and people will have to realize that it's not one or the other but rather the abuses of power which lead to our common destruction. Since leftist movements have been resisted for such a long time they have seldom been left to freely swing back to their opposing swing. So for the time being there is a tendency in Latin America to be in a sort of honeymoon mentality whereby the left can claim to never have had the power and or opportunity to govern. Once they establish their hold such as Chavez is doing people from the left will hopefully begin to realize that no one person has all the answers and that just because one claims to represent the poor or unselfishness doesn't justify their actions or mean that they are so resolute as to truly practice those ideals on an individual basis.

I think the times are starting to ripen right now in the direction of some of the ideals for the right wing as well. By those ideals I mainly mean, freedom of expression, respect for democracy, respect for hard work, signaling government corruptiontion and insiders, and independence form overseers and unecessary red tape.

Debate and criticism. Not thinking in absolutist language or expectations or characterizations can help us move into the common goal or our development. Ultimately what we need to strive for is sustainability. Sustainability is rooted in our use of resources and ecological health, not just profits or continual linear growth in one direction...

Definitley way too many

Definitley way too many generalizations and veiled inflammatory language in the first post.  It wasn't really geared at discussion, rather a statement of one side with insinusations thrown in.  The last comment was much more informative and thought out.

I think it was well said

I appreciate your desire to build on common goals rather than pointing fingers.  I admit sometimes my natural reaction is overly finger-pointing.

I acknowledge, there is an appeal in the ideal of helping those who are underprivileged, and to some extent disproportionate contributions economically from those who economically benefit disproportionately thanks to a harmonious society.

socialismo

I agree that most who call themselves communists are dictatorial, abuse power, and in some form or other "steal". However, the same can be applied to so called capitalists. In reality there is no pure capitalist or communist. I think what appeals to people are the ideals more than the leaders themselves. Communism professes admirable and  unselfish ideals (seldom practised by those who claim to be such), and on the other hand capitalism employs  more egoistical ideals but which perform very intrinsic social fiunctions such as responsibility, innovation, and practicality. The truth of progress actually lies somewhere is between. Sadly, however, the human condition is largely bent on corruption and the ideals of both models are thwarted and in effect sabotage the ideals that are difficult to implement by either side. Furthermore, political absolutists then say that eachother is the culprit of all that is wrong and thus they become obsessed with an "enemy" mentality when in fact they need to complement one another and keep each other in check and continually improve the other (the social and private sectors).

This conclusion falls in line with the ideals of socialism (in the objective sense, not in the self adoring  21st century socialism claim of people like Chavez). I would rather support this viewpoint and make this the premise and basis for any discussion on the subject of criticizing one side or the other. This is an attempt to be objective and instructive.

 

Peace

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