Archives for posts with tag: communism

Society exists in two forms.
One in which the individual members have a certain amount of respect towards their peers.
And another one, where John Doe doesn’t give a damn about anybody else. Or even hates everybody else.

The first kind evolves. People talk – and listen, about their problems. Then find solutions.
The second experiences revolutions.

When too many individuals have never had anything ‘substantial’ on their name, and feel they have no chance of improving their lot – because ‘everything’ has already been appropriated by a small minority, that society has a marked tendency towards communism.

Sometimes, too many individuals see their fortunes go down the drain, for no matter what reason. From there, only God knows how, those fortunes go straight into somebody else’s pockets. Any society which experiences something similar has a marked tendency towards fascism.

The problem with both communism and fascism being that they have always failed. Crumbled from within before being pushed into the precipice by those who has seen the situation as an opportunity. As an opportunity too good to be wasted.
Then, if neither had ever survived for long, why are so many people who continue to profess either? So many intellectuals who try to convince their audience that …

Well…, first of all, because ‘intellectuals’ are nothing but regular people. With a twist! Not only that intellectuals have the same ‘passions’ as the commoners – ‘greed’ being the most intense, but they also have a very good opinion about themselves. Hence too many of the intellectuals consider that they are the ones who should be in charge. That they are the ones who know what everybody else need to do if they want to live comfortably.

In a nutshell, too many intellectuals fall into the trap of considering themselves infallible. And ‘deserving’!
Hence those would do everything needed to get what is rightfully theirs.

If a society is ripe for communism, one/a bunch of the ‘intellectuals’ I described above will, for sure, drape themselves in a communist flag.
If another society is ripe for fascism, in a similar manner, one or, probably, more ‘intellectuals’ will drape themselves in a fascist flag.

It’s up to us, who’ve experienced at least one of them, to blow the whistle.
And it’s up to the rest to listen…

How does it work and what are the consequences.

To cut a long story short, some 25 years ago I started trading on the Bucharest Stock Exchange. The market had been freshly reinstated after the fall of the communist regime and most of us so called investors were quite naive. Due an incredible amount of luck and a small but very useful spark of intelligence I made a fair amount of money. For that time…
In an attempt to maximize my profits, I went back to school.
Where I learned the difference between fundamental and technical analysis.

I’m not going into details. It’s enough for you to know that no matter how different they are, both fulfill the same psychological function.
They ‘clean up’ the slate. They help the decision makers distance themselves from the objects they have to decide upon.

What?!?

A stock – or any other tradable item, is no different from a bicycle.
We, human beings, become attached to things we already have in our possession. We find it harder to divest ourselves from something than to buy into something new. We tend to procrastinate when having to choose between multiple opportunities to buy and to ‘defend’ an already made decision. An already acquired possession.
Fundamental and technical analyses do nothing but bridge these two ‘chasms’. Help us across.

OK. But has any of this to do with propaganda?

Well, market analysis is a tool used by the decision maker himself.
Propaganda is a tool used by somebody who intends to influence the decision maker. Using the same psychological mechanisms.

While market analysis attempts to clear the ‘sentimental fog’ which distorts the factual information available to the decision maker, propaganda works its way in the opposite direction.
Facts are presented in such a way as to ‘smuggle’ them, below the radar, into the minds of the intended targets.
While market analysis is meant to help decision makers overcome their biases, propaganda is meant to fine tune those biases towards ‘encouraging’ the decision makers into adopting the decision coveted by the propagandist.

Somebody sent me this picture.
See how things work?
Most people consider themselves as being free from racism.
Also, most people consider that other people – namely the politicians and the journalists, have ‘vested’ interests. And that these ‘other’ people use ‘divide and conquer’ to maintain their grip on power.

The key word here being ‘other’. It’s the others who engage in such heinous acts. Never ‘our’ people.

But do you know what bothers me most?
I’ve been subjected to communist propaganda for the first 30 years of my life.
I’ve never dreamed it would take me another 30 years – and a stint of daily trading on the Stock Market, to figure out how propaganda works. Only to find it being used by people who declare communism to be the scourge of the Earth.

Well, since communism actually is a scourge, how about we NOT using the same tool as those who try to infect our minds with it?
For no other reason than propaganda yielding communism having been a complete failure….

Until thirty one years ago, the Eastern half of Europe was self isolated behind the Iron Curtain. Which had suddenly disappeared in a matter of months.

Nowadays, when SARS-CoV-2 has forced each of us to shelter in place and our nations to self isolate behind the borders, we have not only the opportunity but also the obligation to re-evaluate our take on many of the things we took for granted.

The most important one being our Weltanshauung. The way we see the world.
The fact that we have convinced ourselves – simply because our lives have been good enough, that we’ve been doing things the right way.

Marx’s communists had been convinced that dialectic materialism – supposedly backed up by science and a generous political doctrine, was the way in which humankind was going to built its future.
Not the best way, the only way!
For which reason, no transgression from the official line was allowed.
Solutions were to be found only where the official doctrine mandated that answers might have existed.

Communism had fallen. Mostly from within.
Which has prompted those on the other side of the fence to consider that their vision had been better. Which was obviously true.
Slowly, people on both sides of the previous fence have started to convince themselves that their vision was the only correct one. The only alternative had proven itself to be a failure, didn’t it?
Which seems also true. I know of no better alternative. For us. I know of no alternative which would be more helpful for us. Only the fact that I’m not aware of an alternative doesn’t mean much. The alternative might as well exist. Or not….

And here’s the problem.
Marxism had failed for no other reason than those who followed it behaved as if they were convinced that Marxism was perfect. They were implementing the Marxist doctrine by the letter. Not that its spirit was any good… long discussion. My point being that arrogance was built in the Marxist spirit. Marx had actually given carte blanche to his adepts to impose communism, by force, to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, the last 30 years had convinced me that many individuals belonging to the dominant culture, to any dominant culture, have a hard time keeping their cool.
Too many of them reach the conclusion that ‘theirs’ is the best way. That all the rest are wrong.
Which conviction has a malignant consequence. It makes them deaf. They no longer consider any other option but theirs.
They no longer hear anything but their inner voice.

For all it may be worth, here’s what I learned about liberty during the last 30 years.

Liberty as breadth.
Liberty is the breadth of the opportunity field where we might search solutions for our problems. But no matter how large that breadth might become, we’re never ‘out of the woods’.
Liberty is but an opportunity, never a guarantee.
We are the ones still responsible for the solutions we pick. For the simple reason that we’re going to bear the brunt of the consequences.

It is easier to search for solutions in a freer environment. Hence better solutions might become available sooner. But it’s still our job to look for them. To experiment. To widen our scope.

Liberty as a form of social interaction.
We can relate to freedom in at least two manners.
As an individual goal – ‘I want to be free’/’I want freedom for my people’, or as a ‘manner of doing business’.
We are free, together, because we respect, and trust, each-other. We are free, together, because generations and generations of us have build a social arrangement based on mutual respect. A social arrangement which includes certain mechanisms which attempt to bring things back on track whenever disturbances appear.
Some of which mechanisms have been put into formal law, while others have remained in the ‘public domain’.

When we put these two visions together, the ‘binocular’ image starts to develop ‘depths’.

A social group may enjoy freedom – a wider opportunity field, only as long as its individual members – all of them, enjoy their individual freedoms. For only as long as all individual members are free to roam the entire opportunity field discovered/maintained by the community.
And as soon as some individual members start to corner portions of the opportunity field for themselves… the whole social mechanism will grind to a halt.

Sooner rather than later.
The more intense the desire of the individual members to increase their ‘own’ individual liberty, the narrower the aggregated opportunity field becomes.
Each of the individuals guarding their plot means each of them staring at their feet. Individuals become more interested in guarding their fences rather than in raising their eyes to the horizon.

People obsessively defending their past will never be ready for the future.
Meanwhile individuals charging ahead with no consideration for the rest of the team will soon find themselves stranded on thin ice. With no one around to help.

“Friedrich Engels in a thinker’s pose
The four-meter-tall bronze sculpture of the other philosopher of communism, Friedrich Engels, is a bit smaller than the planned Marx statue in Trier. This Engels monument in his hometown, Wuppertal, was also made by a Chinese artist and offered by the government of China in 2014.”

I grew up under communist rule.
We studied marxism in school.
At some point, I was about 16, the teacher asked us about the relative merits of the different brands of materialism he had mentioned during his classes.
My answer was ‘dialectic materialism is better than all others because those who apply it into practice constantly gouge the consequences of their (political) decisions and fine tune policies accordingly’.
Some 15 years later the communist lager had imploded simply because those who were supposed to act in a dialectic manner had failed to put the principle in practice.
Coming back to the original question, ‘was Marx a determinist’, the answer is yes.
Marx’s dialectics is only a procedure. Meant to help the communists exercise the dictatorship mandated by Marx in the name of the proletariat. And dictatorships are determinist by definition.
Why mandate one if you are not convinced that things can be ruled?
For the long run and in a comprehensive manner?

Well, you don’t.

You just don’t do such a thing.

For the very simple reason that by attempting it you validate the concept.

Let me start it anew.

Both the communists and the nazis had attempted to ‘bring about’ people’s minds. To create a ‘new’ man. One who was meant to behave as their creators saw fit.

We all know the consequences.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

Isn’t this a better way than ‘making’ somebody do as you think they should?

‘But won’t we end up like Bishop Myriel? Doing good deeds and hoping that all villains will ‘turn around’ like Jean Valjean did? After all, how many Jean Valjean-s have you met in your life?’

First of all, Myriel was a fictional character. Victor Hugo might had been inspired by a real bishop when he had created Myriel but this doesn’t alter its fictional nature.
Secondly, wouldn’t this world be a far better place if those who have the chance to encounter the likes of Jean Valjean would be wise enough to act like Bishop Myriel?

‘You still don’t make much sense. And what if the guy I meet isn’t Jean Valjean? Or if I’m not wise enough to recognize his Jean Valjean-ness, whatever that might be… What should I do then? Treat him like I’d like to be treated if I was in his place? Allow him to rob me?!?’

I guess you just answered your own question. No thief would allow another to steal from him, would he? Why would you?

But all people appreciate when treated respectfully!
So why don’t we do it, on a regular basis?

Why are so many of us who consider they know better how others should behave? What others should do?
And who consider themselves above the fray…
Remember the doctor who told you to quit smoking? While having a pack of cigarettes in the breast pocket of his white coat?
The journalist who writes for ratings rather than to inform you?
The politician who…

The voter who allows himself to be fooled? Knowing very well he had voted a conman? Only because he had made all the right noises?

If you live on the Moon, or if enough time had passed since I’ve written this, click on the picture to read Jonathan Spyer’s excellent rendition of the facts which have driven me to post this.

Or you may proceed.

For me, there is a striking resemblance between what’s going on in Iran and what would happen in a hardcore libertarian society.

The mullahs are concerned only with spreading/enforcing their faith and consider everything else will take care of itself.

The extreme libertarians are concerned exclusively with upholding their understanding of liberty and consider that everything else would take care of itself. By itself.

And I’m convinced that everything will indeed take of itself!
After all, life has continued after communism had failed.
The communist leaders had been professedly concerned exclusively with enforcing their understanding of equality. And convinced that everything else would had taken care of itself. If only that equality could have been instated…

Yet I don’t think communism will be missed.
By those who had experienced it hard enough to understand it…

People may find themselves in three situations.
‘Coasting’, trying to climb back up to their former position or hitting a glass ceiling.

All societies – past, present and future, were, are and will forever be composed of various mixtures of ‘coasters’, ‘back climbers’ and ‘glass ceiling hitters’.

Please note that I’m dealing in self-referentials here. This is about how individual people describe themselves when speaking to themselves.
The coasters enjoy the life they had designed/expected for themselves.
The ‘back-climbers’ attempt to regain the position/status they believe it was rightfully theirs but had been robbed of in circumstances outside their control.
The ‘glass ceiling hitters’ are… busy hitting the famous glass ceiling.

If a society is composed of a ‘healthy’ number of coasters combined with a manageable number of ‘back-climbers’/’glass ceiling hitters’ then the frustration felt by the latter – which tends to tear apart the social fabric, can be compensated by the sheer mass/inertia of the joy experienced by the former. Hence the society can be described as being ‘stable’.

Whenever the ‘back climbers’ or the ‘glass ceiling hitters’ get the upper hand, things start to unravel. Or to fall apart…

To understand what I’m driving at, please consider the pre-revolutionary Russia and the German society after WWI.

Russia was an extremely hierarchical social organism. The birth-place was ‘definitive’. And most of them led to very unpleasant lives. The vast majority of the population, from muzhiks to intelligentsia, could not break through the glass ceilings allocated to each of them, at birth.

The defeated German population had found itself in a very unpleasant situation. After having been told they had been instrumental in preserving order in Europe – as the back bone of the army who had defeated Napoleon Bonaparte and kept in check Napoleon III, they found themselves at the receiving end of history… After their fathers had witnessed the Parisians eating their zoo animals during the 1870 siege, the Germans were reduced to hunting food scraps themselves.

A horse being butchered on a Munich sidewalk in 1918 or 1919.

Hence the difference between communism and nazism. Both equally authoritarian in nature, each of them springs from completely different social circumstances.
Which explains why ‘progressives’ have such a high tolerance for communism…

While the ‘back climbers’ attempt only to reinstate the order they were accustomed to – order which has already been proven dysfunctional by what had happened, the ‘glass ceiling breakers’ are always attempting to open new roads. Very enticing from the ‘progressive’ point of view…

Fact is that both communism and nazism/fascism are artificial.
Figments of frustrated intellectual imagination.
Both ideologies have been put together by thinkers and only followed by ordinary, desperate people.

Reading this excellent article by James Poulter, BBC Three, I was reminded of Marx. Karl, not Groucho.

“The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie, to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history. If by chance, they are revolutionary, they are only so in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat; they thus defend not their present, but their future interests, they desert their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat.”

 Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1848.

The XX-th century had been torn apart by two totalitarian lines of thought. Communism and fascism/nazism.
The communists had backed their claims on Marx’s class struggle while the fascists/nazists had used a plethora of other authors as pretexts. Despite the differences, the results had been the same. Callous spin doctors had used popular discontent to get uncontested possession of the political levers. And kept playing with them until entire countries crumbled under their own weight.

But what was it that made some nations destroy themselves on the left side of the authoritarian spectrum while others have done the same thing but on the right side?

The nature of the popular discontent!

At any given point, the majority of the people living in a country might see itself as being in one of the following three situations:
– Leading a relatively comfortable life and having a decent perspective to improve its lot or at least to maintain its present status.
– Having always led a bad life and finding absolutely no perspective of improvement.
– Having led a relatively good life for a while, lost that status and finding no way to resume it.

According to Marx, the first situation would have necessarily led to the third and, eventually, to communism.
According to history, people living in the second situation had always been manipulated into communism while people struggling in the third have been led into fascism/nazism.

Meanwhile, people living in the first situation have remained there for as long as they maintained their social cohesion. But that will be the subject of another post.

 

Are you done laughing?

It isn’t funny?

Well, it wasn’t meant to be funny… only illustrative for the way in which some people understand freedom… ‘they’ being free to impose their will upon others while all the rest are free to obey. Or else.

My point being that freedom is nothing more and nothing less than what we make of it.

In order to make myself understood I have to mention that there are two kinds of liberty and that, historically, there have been two only apparently conflicting visions on whether freedom is real or not.

Freedom, like most things human, is both a concept and a reality.
We think about it, hence it is relatively simple to accept ‘freedom as a human concept’.
If you find it hard to accept that liberty is also real… when was the last time you took a dog to a park where you can unleash it? To a meadow where it can run its heart out without you being afraid of the city warden? And no, I’m not thinking about the joy experienced by the dog…

We have ‘internal’ freedom – the manner in which each of us relates, in their heads, with the concept, and ‘social’ freedom – the vectorial sum of all that the members of a certain society put in practice about freedom.
It’s a matter of ‘obvious evidence’ that these two may swirl in two directions.
Form a virtuous circle – the natural evolution of humankind, from slavery to feudalism to democratic capitalism, sometimes interrupted by ‘vicious’ epicycles –  the last two being fascism and communism.

Before discussing whether liberty is real or just an illusion let me poke another wasp nest.
How big is this thing we call ‘freedom’?
How big can this ‘vectorial sum’ be?

Infinite? Nobody can live that long, anyway…

Then where does it stop? At the ‘tip of our collective nose’?
It’s up to us to decide? Through constant negotiation? Always keeping in mind that all ‘imperial’ endeavors have failed, sooner or later? That no human being has ever been able to survive alone for any considerable length of time, let alone to grow up by him/herself?

Communism and fascism being only the last two examples of what happens when too many of us forget the most important lesson history teaches us?

One more thing. I still owe you an explanation about why I consider the conflict between the ‘promoters’ and  ‘deniers’ of liberty to be a false one.
Currently, most people agree – even if most of them only implicitly, about ‘your liberty to swing your fist ending where my nose begins’.
From time to time various ‘hot headed’ individuals have contested this.
Either philosophically – Nietzsche, Marx, or practically – Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Pol-Pot…
The most interesting aspect of all this being that there still are ‘philosophers’ (?!?) who continue to argue one side of the argument against the immense historical evidence which keeps growing. Not only ‘against’ the immense… but also producing fresh pretexts for the ‘willing practitioners’ to try for yet another time. And to continue to increase the mountain of evidence…

‘But what are the arguments marshaled by the ‘freedom deniers’?
What if they are right, after all, only the ‘practitioners’ have not yet been able to ‘do it right’? You, of all others’ – that would be me, ‘should remember that “Critics of early steam-spewing locomotives, for example, thought “that women’s bodies were not designed to go at 50 miles an hour,” and worried that “[female passengers’] uteruses would fly out of [their] bodies as they were accelerated to that speed”!
And, even more importantly, who are you to tell us that freedom is real?’

OK.
As I mentioned before, there are two categories of deniers.
‘Relative’ and ‘absolute’ deniers. The ‘Nietzsche-s’ and the ‘Marx-s’.
The ‘Nietzsche-s’ argue that freedom is up for grabs, that it can – no, actually that it should – be cornered by those having the strongest “will to power”. ‘Finders keepers, losers weepers’.
The ‘Marx-s’ argue that freedom is nothing but an illusion and that everybody must observe the implacable laws which derive from the world being made of nothing else but matter. Hence, according to Marx, the ‘communists’ – those who have understood the ‘scientific’ nature of the world/society, have the duty to take over the society and to take it, forcefully if needed, to its ‘scientifically’ determined destination.
‘Quite a Platonic vision of the world, don’t you think?’
‘Well… I’ve already covered this subject…’
Coming back to the apparent conflict between the promoters and the deniers of freedom, it is now rather simple to observe that ‘Marx’ is nothing but ‘Nietzsche’ dressed up in ‘scientific’ garb – don’t be fooled by the fact that Nietzsche was way younger than Marx, they had been kindred souls, while ‘Nietzsche’ had been a very focused ‘freedom fighter’ – focused exclusively on ‘his’ freedom, that is.

A petty conflict about ‘who has the bigger one’, hidden under pretentious make-up…

‘And were does all this leave us?’

At the conclusion that being free means, before and above anything else, being responsible?
For one’s own fate and for at least some of what’s going to happen in the (near) future?

 

Recent developments have resurrected a Soviet era concept.

Whataboutism.

 “Whataboutism refers to the practice of deflecting criticism by pointing to the misdeeds of others. Oxford Dictionaries defines it as “the technique or practice of responding to an accusation or difficult question by making a counter-accusation or raising a different issue.”
Essentially, it’s an appeal to hypocrisy ― a logical fallacy also known as “tu quoque.” Instead of proving that your opponent’s claim is wrong on its face, whataboutism argues that it’s hypocritical of the opponent to make that claim at all.”

The current bout of whataboutism came about when Trump and his supporters tried to deflect the public condemnation of neo-nazi activism after a young woman had been killed by a white supremacist.

So, which is worse?
Communism or nazism?

I’ll make a small detour here and ask myself ‘what’s wrong with the spell checker? Why insist that nazism should be written with a capital N? Is it a nation? It’s OK for communism to start with a lower case letter, same thing for all other political denominations… what’s so special about nazism?!?’

Back to business.

One way to answer the question would be to asses the damages incurred as a consequence of each of them being put in practice.

Easier said than done. There are a lot of similarities between these two but also a huge difference. Precisely that which makes it very hard to compare the consequences of each of them having been experimented.
Nazism and communism have evolved in totally different social environments and have been fueled by closely related yet different public feelings.

This is why I’m going to change tack.
Why attempt to establish a relative hierarchy on the axis of evil when they can be studied together?
As the left and right wings of the same carrion eating bird which feeds itself on the countless societies ruined by authoritarianism?

After all, any attempt to determine which is worse does nothing but normalizes ‘whataboutism’ itself, doesn’t it?
Regardless of which wing flaps first….

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