The Shotgun Blog
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The existential drama of Canadian communists
This post could also have been called, "How Canadian communists must come to terms with history", or even, "Why I have to re-post more pursuant to Gerry Nicholls' post". According to an article in Epoch Times, plans to construct a monument in Ottawa to honor the victims of communism are being obstructed by due regard to the feelings of Canadian communists.
The ever-industrious National Capital Commission (NCC) wants to change the name of the monument from “Memorial to the Victims of Totalitarian Communism” to something that does not demean or tarnish the self-esteem of card-carrying communists in Canada. Initially, the monument was going to be called the "Memorial to the Victims of Communism", but NCC board members found it to be polarizing, hence the addition of the term "totalitarian". Now it seems no one is completely certain about the monument, the emotional states of Canadian communists, the value of historical memory, or whether communism really deserves the bad rap it seems to have earned over the past few decades.
There are exceptions to this Canadian confusion over communism. Tribute to Liberty, one of the groups trying to get this monument built, probably never anticipated so much controversy and stalling in the naming phase. After all, one would be hard-pressed to find honest individuals arguing against naming a monument to the victims of Nazism or fascism qualifying this description with the obvious, namely, "totalitarian".
Of course governments ruled under the ideologies of Nazism, fascism, or communism are totalitarian-- in fact, "totalitarianism" (as opposed to freedom, rule of law, or human rights) might just be their original contribution to political history. Name one communist country in the history of the world which has not been totalitarian. In fact, adding the word "totalitarian" to qualify communism is not just ignorant--it is blatantly false and dangerous. The refusal of communists and their defenders to admit the nature of communism should not prevent the public square from being the place where a spade is called a spade and the victims of communism are duly honored.
"Name one communist country in the history of the world which has not been totalitarian."
There has never been a communist country. There have been countries run by people who called themselves "communist", but that does not make them actually communists. Just as the fact that North Korea's official name is "The Democratic People's Republic of Korea" does not make them democratic. In fact, if the word "democratic" appears in a country's name, chances are it isn't.
Back in cold war days the USSR and the DDR were good buddies. The DDR was not democratic and the USSR was not communist, but both were totalitarian. Discuss.
Posted by: Fact Check | 2009-09-24 1:55:45 PM
FC, splitting hairs? Please discuss how communism is implemented other than by force and how it remains in force without being totalitarian.
If this were a monument to the victims of the Crusades, they would not have a problem. As always PC is selective.
Posted by: Alain | 2009-09-24 2:06:46 PM
As far as I can tell it is impossible to have true communist country because the whole idea runs counter to basic human nature. The only way to have communism is to impose it.
So in this case, I think FC and Alain are both right.
Posted by: Charles | 2009-09-24 2:16:56 PM
"Please discuss how communism is implemented other than by force and how it remains in force without being totalitarian."
Ever hear of democracy? Just as with any other political ideology, if enough people vote for it it becomes the system. The Communist Party in Canada remains a very fringe group (like the Libertarian Party) because most people think their ideas are pretty loopy.
BTW, it is worth mentioning here that libertarians claim that all taxes are imposed by force, so if imposition by force is sufficient for a system to be "totalitarian", then I guess Canada (as well as all other western democracies) are "totalitarian". In fact, by the nuttiest libertarian lights, since there is no libertarian country, all countries are totalitarian regimes.
Hey Terrance, skip the tattoos. We need bumper stickers.
Posted by: Fact Check | 2009-09-24 2:17:19 PM
Well, Fact Check, if there has never been any such thing as a communist country, even those founded by those calling themselves communists, it's fair to assume that the same would result if Canadian communists ever came to power. Charles is right; there is no way to implement communism but to impose it.
For the record, history's judgement is that the far leftist totalitarian regimes of Soviet Russia, North Korea, China, Cuba, and like regimes were, in fact, communist. Feel free to disagree but don't expect the world to change its entire understanding of the word or movement just to suit you.
In a country where monuments get erected to the memory of women murdered by men, thus giving offence to half the human race, there is room for a monument to the people murdered by communism. I believe it's close to 100 million.
Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-09-24 2:42:21 PM
Te NCC is likely infested with closet communists for starters.
If one is concerned about hurt feelings on a monument, I would say that many of Taliban Jack Layton's ND's and all of Gilles Duceppe's Bloc voters feelings will be badly hurt.
After all they both are essentially Canadian socialist / soft communists entities.
Hey, that could mean a lot of hurt.
Posted by: Joe Molnar | 2009-09-24 2:48:55 PM
Even if Canada voted for communism, would the country ever truly be communism? That's why I say communism is simply impossible. You'd have to impose it on every member of society and somehow enforce it. Fat chance ...
Posted by: Charles | 2009-09-24 3:02:25 PM
FC, while you're right about the claims libertarians make about the coercive nature of taxation (and the state), you've missed the point of what Alain (and Charles) were saying.
For example, let's compare two different political programs: Laurier liberalism and Bolshevik communism. Because Bolshevik communism claims a much wider scope for regulating the actions of individuals than Laurier liberalism, implementing the former (even if both were selected democratically) requires a much larger state and much more force than the former--in fact for basically any kind of communism a total state is required. Hence totalitarianism:
A political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.
According to Marx, the transition to communism requires the "centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State." The Marx stuff ain't just talk, this is part of the program the Bolsheviks (and all other communist regimes) actually went for. Is it hard to understand that it takes a lot less state coercion to manage, monitor and censor the press (and toss any counterrevolutionaries and traitors to the gulag) than to have a free press under private property?
The imposition of force is not sufficient for totalitarianism, and I don't think anyone here suggested it was. However, if you want a society to follow an ideology, like communism, which gives the state (or the people, or the workers, or the Dear Leader etc.) pervasive control over all the actions of all individuals, it can only be done so in a totalitarian manner.
Posted by: Kalim Kassam | 2009-09-24 3:03:01 PM
I think FC is under the delusion that if 51% of the population democratically chooses communism, then either the other 49% roll over and go along with it or that the state is only 49% totalitarian, because presumably everyone else just goes about redistributing wealth the way they should without central planning.
Posted by: K Stricker | 2009-09-24 3:49:02 PM
Face Facts, Communism is an ideal that must be enforced, even Karl Marx said so in the Communist Manifesto. Communism can never happen because it implies everyone is equal which is utter and total nonsense. Read Ayn Rand's We the Living. I would take the word of someone who grew up under a communist regime over some utopian thinker of what a world would be like under communism.
Furthermore what the hell is this worry about offending people. Some people need a dose of reality and the "right not to be offended" is not a human right. People who say it is should move to countries where there are real violations to human rights, ie where you could be executed for your religious beliefs, or voting or where they practice genetal mutilation. Give me a break!
Posted by: Doug Gilchrist | 2009-09-24 4:14:19 PM
"Because Bolshevik communism..."
Bolshevik??? Who said anything about "Bolshevik" communism???
"Because ... communism claims a much wider scope for regulating the actions of individuals than Laurier liberalism...
No it doesn't. It does not claim a wider scope than what we have today. The scope of what we have regulated today is just about everything. The difference is that communist regulation would be different in nature, not different in scope. And if the majority of people really wanted it, it would not be any more difficult to implement than any widely popular system.
"According to Marx, the transition to communism requires...."
Marx was writing 150 years ago. His ideas about how we get form here to there are out of date because "here" isn't here anymore. You might not have noticed, but "the means of communication and transport" have changed a lot since his time. Marx was also writing at a time when there were barely any real democracies. When The Communist Manifesto was published, the US still had real slavery, not just his metaphorical slavery of wage "slaves". Besides, even if nothing had changed since then, Marx could still be wrong about how we get there from here. so don't put too much stock in that.
"...totalitarianism: A political system where the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible."
First, that definition is incompatible with communism. Under a communist system there are lots and lots of things it is not legitimate for the state to control. Secondly, if you try to soften the strength of "no limits" and "every aspect" in the definition, you run the risk of making modern Canada fit the definition of totalitarian. The government runs or regulates most aspects of our lives - our schools, our health care, our financial system, our places of work, our homes, etc. They make rules about what we can and cannot say, they restrict the free and voluntary trade of property, and they even presume to be allowed to take property from anyone and everyone. So by libertarian lights, it looks like we are living in a totalitarian system. And it's all the worse for the sad sacks who complain that out elected representatives do not really "represent" us at all.
So what percentage is Canada a totalitarian country? Presumably any person who does not want to pay the taxes he or she is forced to pay is a victim of force, so I guess you think Canada today is at least 50% totalitarian, right?
You cannot claim that a democratically chosen communist system is totalitarian because some people didn't choose it unless you are willing to say all democratic countries are totalitarian so long as some people did not choose the current system. So you have to think every country is totalitarian. That's just nuts.
Posted by: Fact Check | 2009-09-24 4:44:03 PM
"Communism is an ideal that must be enforced...."
All political systems require enforcement. Even the libertarian idealists will tell you that in the ideally structured state there would be a place for a justice system to enforce laws. this is because it is crazy to think no one would ever try to violate the liberty of other people in such a state. So the libertarian state would have to be enforced, too.
"I would take the word of someone who grew up under a communist regime...."
Tell me when you find one, then. You are just not paying attention (or stupid... maybe both...) if you think Rand grew up under a communist system. As I said before, the USSR was no more communist just because they claimed to be communist that East Germany was democratic because they called themselves "The German Democratic Republic". Rand had first-hand experience living under a totalitarian regime, but not under a communist one. Nina Hagen had first-hand experience living under a totalitarian regime, but not a democratic one.
Posted by: Fact Check | 2009-09-24 5:15:12 PM
This monument is well-intentioned, but moronic all the same.
And likely inadvertently hypocritical. I understand it is to be mostly privately funded, but with tax credits? And is it not to be built on Federal Government stolen/owned land?
The motivation is also somewhat confused: a monument to the victims of communism, to be meaningful in any way, should be built in Moscow, or Berlin -- not in a country that has never been communist (tho not without trying ;-)) and where the bulk of the victims of communism don't live, did not suffer, and are not buried.
The whole exercise smacks of statism, anyway: why else build it in Ottawa? Why, if it must be built in Canada at all, not put it in the most populous city, Toronto where more people, and more immigrants will see it?
As a side note, I do tend to agree that communism is an abstract utopian fantasy that has never been because it can not be; what we had in actuality were totalitarian, fascist dictatorships under individual tyrants: Stalinism, Leninism, etc.,.
The only appropriate monument that ought to be erected in Ottawa would be to the victims of Canadian social democracy, and perhaps of British Imperialism; it should be built WITHOUT permission, on private land, with funds NOT approved through the tax credit system.
Posted by: John Collison | 2009-09-24 11:40:57 PM
And as for PC, try THIS one:
Would a monument to the millions killed by American Imperialism be approved in Ottawa?
How about a monument to the millions killed by the British Empire?
A monument to the victims of Napoleon (Hitler's hero) would likely also be nixed; as would monuments to the victims of the Roman and Greek Empires.
However, given the climate of the times -- and the PM in office -- we could certainly get monuments to the victims of the Persian and Ottoman Empires.
Posted by: John Collison | 2009-09-24 11:46:34 PM
Communism is what communists implement, e.g. Soviet, DDR, Mao-Chine, North Korea, etc.
Your whole argument seems to be that communism does not exist. According to which definition?
Besides, that's not the point here, is it? Communism (in the real world definition of the term) has created, and continues go create, a very large number of victims, victims murdered, raped, imprisoned, tortured, mutilated,..
I.e. communism is a fundamentally inhuman ideology, and hence all communists deserve to be condemned, ridiculed, and offended, as thoroughly and frequenly as possible.
A monument is therefore absolutely appropriate (although, as someone suggested, perhaps a better location would be Toronto).
Posted by: Johan i Kanada | 2009-09-25 1:42:59 AM
You're probably wasting breath, Johan. Even if Fact Check sees fit to regale us with his definition of communism and why Soviet Russia and others don't qualify, his pride won't let him climb down from the wall of rhetoric he's reared. Observe how he begins to hide behind a barricade of insults.
Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-09-25 6:51:01 AM
"Communism is what communists implement..."
By that logic, "conservatism" is whatever conservatives implement, and since both of the last two Canadian conservative governments have raised taxes, I guess "conservatism" is the political view that higher taxes is a good thing.
That's insane. There is nothing contradictory about saying that the "Conservatives" are not conservative, the "Liberals" are illiberal, the "New Democratic Party" are undemocratic, and the "Communists" are not communist. And, one more time (!), if just calling yourself communist means we have to agree that you are communist, then the same logic means that we must agree that the DDR and DPRK are democratic. Your Humpty Dumpty theory of language is insane.
"Your whole argument seems to be that communism does not exist. According to which definition?"
Well, around the time the term was coined, a couple of guys wrote some stuff that explained the ideas the term represented. Read a book. Hell, even the leaders and supporters of countries that called themselves "communist" could tell you what the term means, they just didn't practice what they preached. Kinda like "democractic" North Koreans and "conservative" Harperites.
Posted by: Fact Check | 2009-09-25 7:06:43 AM
Nope, I didn't think he'd tell us.
Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-09-25 7:54:11 AM
Small pockets of true communism work fine, as long as they're tolerated by the surrounding capitalists. Canadian Hutterite communes are growing at an alarming rate, and most Canadians think that's just fine. In some regions of Alberta, these communes are close to squeezing out socially functional farms. What gives?
I suspect atheism was the real downfall of 20th century communists. Trying to stamp out religion was a recipe for failure. If only they'd learned to hide behind religion, some of those regimes might have actually succeeded.
Posted by: dp | 2009-09-25 8:44:16 AM
Unfortunately, dp, communism was (and is) championed mostly by intellectuals, and we all know how much use intellectuals have for religion.
Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-09-25 8:55:11 AM
You still haven't defined communism.
And, yes, I have read a few books, even one by Marx.
Funny, Lenin & Stalin said they were communists, Mao said he was a communist, Castro..., et al.
So who are the communists that define YOUR version of communism?
Again, all your semantics is besides the point, which is:
Communism (in the real world definition of the term) has created, and continues go create, a very large number of victims, victims murdered, raped, imprisoned, tortured, mutilated,..
I.e. communism is a fundamentally inhuman ideology, and hence all communists deserve to be condemned, ridiculed, and offended, as thoroughly and frequently as possible.
Posted by: Johan i Kanada | 2009-09-25 9:52:43 AM
Actually, communism for all intents and purposes, IS a religion, e.g.
- Worship of the Great Leader
- The unfallability of the Great Leader and his Party (Church)
- Based on faith, and not facts & rational reasoning.
- Burning of heretics.
Posted by: Johan i Kanada | 2009-09-25 9:55:59 AM
Small pockets of communism work not because they're religious in nature, but because they are decentralized. They may have all sorts of irrational reasons in order to try to keep people in their communes but ultimately a communist within a free society is free to leave the commune.
FC, I don't think Canada is 50% totalitarian. I can still pursue a better life for myself through work, even if it is twice as much work to do so. Within communism that is impossible unless the central government says so. i.e. Total control of your economic life.
Posted by: K Stricker | 2009-09-25 10:15:31 AM
True, Johan, true. Those same attributes can be found in secular humanism as well. However, there is a definite step up from worship of humans and human institutions to acknowledging a supreme being. Such a leap of faith requires a measure of humility that I have seldom seen in the sort of intellectuals that pursue more secular agendas.
Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-09-25 11:47:34 AM
First, take the concept of an individual's ability to make decisions on how to spend his own money and raise his own children.
Then, compare to a ruling elite that believes it knows how to spend your money and raise your children better than you do.
Cut out the rest of the social issues BS and measure it in economic terms, the only measure that really counts. The higher the percentage of GDP confiscated by the state, the more the populace is enslaved to the state through taxation, the closer to communism.
The entire sales job and justification for this confiscation of an individual's labour about protecting the proletariat from the oppressor.
Communism rejects the ancient religious concept of free will and when the populace is ‘re-educated' it becomes more easily convinced it needs a wiser elite to run their lives.
This runs contrary to free market economics, which is the sum of the choices individuals make through their gift of free will.
Posted by: set you free | 2009-09-25 5:01:33 PM
@ Shane Matthews "Unfortunately, dp, communism was (and is) championed mostly by intellectuals, and we all know how much use intellectuals have for religion.
Here Dr. Flybait is saying something he has no proof of. Did he ask all intelectuals if they were Communists or Atheists, or is he spouting off his bullshit as fact again? And before you get all hot-headed like you usually do, let me point out that I'm neither a Communist or Atheist. Dr. Flybait should read his dictionary and find out the difference between communist and Communist.
Posted by: Doug Gilchrist | 2009-09-25 7:11:26 PM
Here Dr. Flybait is saying something he has no proof of. Did he ask all intelectuals if they were Communists or Atheists, or is he spouting off his bullshit as fact again?
Maybe he read some of things that the "intelectuals" wrote. You know...the way someone who graduated cum laude with a degree in the classics might have?
And before you get all hot-headed like you usually do, let me point out that I'm neither a Communist or Atheist.
Before I get hot-headed? That's rich coming from cum laude troller, whose screeds drip with the foulest bile and who has earned several reproofs for his mindless hate-ons. And I never called you either a communist or an atheist; insufficient proof to make a reliable determination. Evidence that you are a fake university graduate and failed journalist with delusions of literacy, however, is to be had in abundance.
Dr. Flybait should read his dictionary and find out the difference between communist and Communist.
Cum laude troller should read his dictionary and find out that "communist" and "atheist" are not proper nouns; hence no capitalization, unless they are part of the official name of a party or organization (which isn't the case here). Cum laude troller should also take his meds and stay away from sharp objects.
Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-09-25 7:39:23 PM
"And before you get all hot-headed like you usually do, let me point out that I'm neither a Communist or Atheist."
I take it you consider yourself an intellectual.
Posted by: dp | 2009-09-25 7:54:23 PM
Who IS Shane Matthews?
And how does one get hold of his manager, in order to book him for an Anger Management/Substance Abuse clinic charity?
Posted by: John Collison | 2009-09-25 9:54:07 PM
BTW -- is the Shane Matthews act consdidered stand up, or just spoken (shrieked) word?
Posted by: John Collison | 2009-09-25 9:55:19 PM
Do you have anything to contribute to the actual debate, John? Or, like Doug, did you just stop by to do some trolling on your time off?
Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-09-26 9:33:40 AM
I can't help wondering why, since Fat Chick understands communism better than Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky and Mao, he isn't famous?
Posted by: ebt | 2009-09-26 11:12:13 AM
He isn't, EBT. At least not that we can tell; he's not proud enough to give us his real name. Perhaps that's the reason for his attitude. Nothing says "bitterness" quite like "unappreciated genius."
Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-09-26 9:39:46 PM
Just came back to this post and read the comments from set you free which were spot on. Bravo!
Posted by: Alain | 2009-09-27 11:58:45 AM
I define communism as Engels does; "Communism is the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat." http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/11/prin-com.htm
I would consider anyone who believes themselves to be following such doctrines to be a communist. Of course, this presents difficulties, because wondering who really believed this is like trying to ask if crooked politician x is "really a Christian." Guys like Lenin and Mao, who each wrote several volumes of works on Marxism seem like they would fit to me.
The so-called "communists" and "socialists" and "Marxists" who treat communism as if it were a kind of New Jerusalem that just comes one day are more like the utopian socialists that Marx & Engels despised. Engels realized that authoritarianism was necessary to implement socialism / communism; " A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists." http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1872/10/authority.htm
Posted by: von | 2009-09-30 11:46:57 AM
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