Archive for September, 2009

29
Sep
09

Communism, Capitalism, and Patriotism

The word “Patriotism” is used a lot these days. Some people understand patriotism to be the unconditional and unquestioning support of the government, others hold that patriotism is the defense and advocacy of certain values, and still others maintain that patriotism is any participation in the process of government. But what is true patriotism? At its most basic level it’s simply a love of one’s country- but what does that mean exactly? Who is being patriotic, the person who supports the war in Iraq or the person who opposes it? Who loves their country more, the person who opposes high taxes or the person who lobbies for them? In reality, you can’t attach patriotism to any one side of the political spectrum- after all, a person who believes that strict gun control is right for the country is being just as patriotic as the person who wants as little gun control as possible (provided his motivation is a desire to do what is right for his country).

Sadly, the word “Patriotism” is often misused to the point where its meaning changes altogether, resulting in what we would call “Jingoism”- the belief that one’s government is right in all things. We see this on both sides- people are labeled as unpatriotic (even anti-American) for protesting the war in Iraq and people are labeled as unpatriotic for refusing to support Obama’s policies. If patriotism is “the love of one’s country” then jingoism is a dangerous obsession.

Communists have experienced this more than others- indeed, the 1950s government detachment for investigating and combating the Communist ideal in America was called “The House Un-American Activities Committee”. Now were several problems with the committee, primarily that its creation was a gross violation of the constitution, and also because of the assumption it made that Communism was somehow unpatriotic and anti-American.

Now this raises an interesting question- which of these two world views is more patriotic? Capitalism or Communism?

Well, firstly let us investigate the ideals of Capitalism. As has been stated many times by now, the purpose of Capitalism is capital– money, which is to be obtained through the buying, selling, and general exchange of goods and services. Government regulation is equated with corruption, and tariffs and subsidies (created primarily for the purpose of benefiting the country’s local infrastructures and citizens) are deemed to be nothing more than hindrances to the economy’s growth. So is Capitalism patriotic? Absolutely not. If the purpose of Capitalism is the acquisition of money, then the Capitalist’s loyalties are not to his country but to the markets- and a country is made up of people, not economies. For example, a person in one country could attempt to acquire money through selling products- this is Capitalism. However, if the products he is selling are the country’s natural resources, or even sweat-shop labor, then this- while Capitalist- is far from patriotic. Or take for example the selling of faulty or shoddy products. If a person sells products decorated in lead-based paints, then he- while fully following the creed of Capitalism- is damaging the public and the country.

So what about Communism? Well, the primary purpose of Communism is an attempt to improve society by creating justice and equality through the abolition of the class system, private property, and currency, and the establishment of a free, democratic government. Simplified by Chairman Mao, the Communist’s primary goal is to “serve the people”. Now as stated above, a country is not comprised of its wealth or markets or economy but of its people. What could be more patriotic than a system where serving the public is the end goal?

In short, in a contest between the two, Communism is by far more patriotic than Capitalism can ever hope to be.

22
Sep
09

Communism, Capitalism, and Culture

In film and literature, Communist (or at least, Communistic) societies are often portrayed as dark, Spartan places where variety is almost non-existent. Indeed, Communism is sometimes portrayed as espousing complete and utter uniformity- and perhaps this is understandable. After all, Communism does demand a single class where all citizens are equal without exception, and Soviet city-planning and architecture tended to be more than slightly lacking as far as aesthetics go.

However, as has been repeatedly stated throughout this blog, Soviet Russia was not a true Communist country and as far as equality goes, “equality” doesn’t mean “identical”. For the average foundry worker to live in an equal society, the rest of society doesn’t have to be average foundry workers- they must simply have the same rights, responsibilities, and opportunities. Within equality lies endless variety- more so than can ever be achieved in the Capitalist society.

Now this statement may seem to be based on faulty reasoning, after all, if Capitalism presents opportunity for anyone and everyone to sell their own product or service, then there will be an unending fountain of culture, technology, art, music, and so on. Now if Capitalism were only the opportunity of every individual to sell his own product or service, this might be true. In reality, Capitalism doesn’t quite work that way. You see Capitalism based heavily on competition- the struggle for dominance over others. In order to attain Capitalism’s end goal- capital (money)- the individuals selling their products and/or services forced to compete with each other for the customers. In short, if there are two tailors in one town, they are going to be at war with each other for customers. “But surely this would cause their quality to increase, their prices to drop, and the variety of products to expand!” You might retort. Now this is partly true- and only temporarily so at that. As much as the competitors will try to undercut each other’s prices, there is a point they will not drop below to ensure a profit is still made. Eventually, one of the competitors, either through poor planning or just bad luck, is going to lose and the moment that happens, the winning competitor no longer has any reason to keep prices low or variety wide. In a free, Capitalist society, this is what inevitably happens- the weak are killed off and devoured by the strong until eventually, one company reigns supreme and becomes a monopoly. We can see this battle of giants all around us- Pepsi versus Coke, Apple versus Microsoft, Nintendo versus Xbox versus Play Station 3, and so on. Do we actually imagine this to be some sort of dualistic system- that these companies will forever be locked in a fight for dominance? No- eventually, Pepsi is going to fall to Coke or Coke will fall to Pepsi or both of them will be conquered (somehow) by Jones Soda. “But this will never happen- there’s always going to be some fresh competition to challenge the old dinosaurs. Monopolies are impossible.” Really? Just take a look at history- read about Standard Oil and the British East India Company. “Granted,” one might reply “but the consumer still has a basic level of control over the monopolies- if there’s a Pepsi monopoly and Pepsi raises its prices too high, the people can’t be forced to buy Pepsi. In fact, Pepsi is limited to selling its products at the price the public will pay for them.” Very well then, but what about a different kind of monopoly. What about a lumber monopoly, or an oil monopoly? Society is dependent on these resources to function without regressing to the stone age. Even if a single monopoly were to arise that controlled the mining of Coltan (a rare mineral used in cell phones and communication), the world could be brought its knees.

But perhaps I’m getting a little off-track. The point is, after enough expansion, Capitalism can trade variety for cut production-cost profit. “So what if that is true? We don’t have monopolies at this point in time- Capitalism still offers us variety now.” For the sake of space, we’ll skip addressing the issue with concentrating only on the here-and-now and focus on how Capitalism, which, even at a pre-monopoly stage, reduces variety rather than promoting it.

As I was traveling through the US this summer, I was presented with an interesting thought. No matter how many towns and cities I drove through, there were always (to varying degrees) the same stores, restaurants, and hotels. Every hamlet in America now has a Wal-Mart, McDonalds, Starbucks, etc. Granted, it’s not dramatic, but let us keep in mind that this is only in a single country. Lets take a look at the world. Now with distances of over a thousand miles between some of these countries, one would imagine the cultures would be diverse- alas, this is no longer true. Due to the imperialistic march of McDonalds, Starbucks, and other companies, the cultures already present within are suddenly forced to compete with the Western culture these companies represent. Take the cases of Syria and Jordan, for example. Syria has, on the whole, resisted foreign interference in its affairs, and, after pretty much closing its borders to would-be investors such as McDonalds, has managed to retain much of its cultural heritage and traditions. The same cannot be said for its neighbor to the south, Jordan. Jordan has embraced the West and Western companies, such as McDonalds, Papa John’s, and various clothing outlets, have thrived there. If you were to walk down the fashionable area of Amman, it would be hard for you to tell if you were in the Middle East or Southern California. While Jordan does still have a unique culture, that culture has been drowned out by the commercialism of the West. Is this the West’s fault? No- not entirely, anyways. The companies that attempt to exploit foreign markets are spreading Western culture, but doing so only because they themselves are part of Western culture. Quite simply, if you are told it is fashionable to dress in Western clothes (and Western clothes outlets are more than happy to let you have that illusion), then chances are your traditional dress will be forgotten. If local restaurants are forced out of business by fast-food, then chances are the aspect of eating (a form of socializing in almost every culture) will change dramatically. In short, along with expansion of companies is the expansion of the cultures of those companies. As we can see by looking at the world today, rather than promoting diversity, Capitalism destroys it.

But what about Communism? Doesn’t it, like Capitalism, attempt to spread across the globe? Yes, Communism does attempt to encompass the world, but Communism has nothing to gain from a monocultural society. Quite the opposite, Communism can only flourish if variety and diversity are accepted- we can’t expect a society to exist if everyone acts the same way and holds the same values. Indeed, the very lack of corporations telling you what is and is not fashionable or desirable can lead nothing other than a diverse society. In conclusion, don’t be sold on the Capitalist illusion of culture.

16
Sep
09

The Common Good

It has been postulated by some that the way to a true utopia is the privitization of all industry. To these people, I present this BBC article as evidence that unregulated companies don’t exactly have the common good as their top priority.

Article linked here.

07
Sep
09

The Communist Perspective: Obama

Over the course of his campaign for the presidency and his past months in office, President Obama has been called many things, from messiah to monster. Among the wide range of names given to the president, one tends to stand out more than others: “Communist”.

We see these accusations everywhere, from bumper stickers replacing the “c” in “Barack” with a hammer and sickle to picket signs audaciously depicting Obama next to Stalin (who incidentally, was not actually Communist). Is there any substance to these accusations? Is Barack Obama a Communist?

The answer is a resounding no.

Now if Barack Obama was indeed a Marxist, we Communists would be dancing in the streets. Allow me to assure anyone in doubt, Barack Obama is most certainly not a Communist. He is a Democrat and he is left-wing within the sphere of the Democrat Party. However, having certain leftist stances does not make a person a Communist. So far, Obama has done nothing to indicate that he intends to abolish the class-system, Capitalism, or the institutions of private property and commerce. Higher taxes, more regulation, and higher government spending in no way equates with the principals of Marxism.

So what do Communists think of Obama? While opinions vary (as they inevitably do), there is both of a feeling of loyalty and disappointment among Marxists on the subject of the current President. After eight years of the generally right-wing policies of George Bush and faced with the prospect of McCain and Palin in the Whitehouse, Communists were of course happy for Obama’s victory, believing that after nearly a decade of right-wing control, any movement to the left would be a step in the right direction. At the same time, Marxists consider Obama and his policies to be addressing the symptoms of the disease, rather than the disease itself. Rather than attempting to solve the debt crises though pumping money into the economy, redistribution of wealth and property is needed to bride the social divide. Rather than attempt to regulate Capitalism, the system needs to abolished completely. In short, Obama is only aspirin for an injury that desperately requires surgery. Granted, it’s better than McCain or another conservative candidate, but Obama simply isn’t enough.

01
Sep
09

Communist Slang

Throughout the years, Communists have been depicted and portrayed in the media as always having beards, thick Russian accents, and a unique vocabulary used when interacting with Capitalists. While only some Communists actually ever had the thick accents and beards hair (let the facts be faced, Colonel Sander’s is just a composite of Stalin’s face and Trotsky’s facial hair) for once the media stereotype of Communists is accurate when it comes to the slang. Communism, you see, is not merely a political-economic system but also a worldview and a kind of culture, and like every culture, there’s a specialized vocabulary that goes along with it. Listed below are some of the more common Communist phrases and terms:

Comrade: Though originating during the French Revolution, the word first became associated with Communism during the mid 1870s, though it was briefly used by the Nazis during the Second World War. The word itself was created (and to this day used) as a term of address doing away with any titles of nobility and royalty. While used in a derogatorily and sarcastic manner by Capitalists to describe someone of a far left-wing orientation, the term “Comrade” is still used as a formal term of address among Marxists.

Imperialist: The term “Imperialist” is an insult commonly used throughout the Communist movement. While the word may have any number of uses, it is most commonly employed to describe a person or group engaged or associated with globalization, unrestricted international or “free” trade, or war. The insult has its origins in the early years of Communism, when imperialism was taking place under the name of colonialism. Sympathizing with the indigenous populations, Communists began applying the word “Imperialist” to those involved in the expansion of European (and later, American) power. The word is still used frequently today, though it is often paired with another word, creating combinations such as “Imperialist Pig” or “Imperialist Exploiter”.

Fascist: While “Fascist” does technically have its own definition (Fascist: noun. A movement or group attempting to maintain culture, Capitalism, tradition, and the status quo through whatever means available) when used as an insult, the word takes on the simpler meaning of “repressive”, “authoritarian”, and “totalitarian”. Often applied to the police, members of far right-wing/conservative groups, and the military, “Fascist” perhaps can be ranked as one of the stronger Communist insults. For those of you who may have difficulty discerning when a┬áCommunist is using “Fascist” to refer to the insult or the actual political theory, simply study the tone- if the Communist is screaming and/or throwing things at you while referring to you as a “Fascist”, chances are he’s using the word as an insult rather than a technical term.

Revisionist: While the word “Revisionist” may refer to a number of things, when used in a Communist context, this most commonly refers to heterodox Communist theory (i.e. “Communism” with one or more basic tenets changed). “Revisionist” is often used as an intra-Communist insult, used to attack members of a school of Communism the insulter deems to be strayed from orthodox Marxism.

Revolutionary: While technically used to refer to anything associated with the Communist revolution, the term, when used casually, is simply a positive Communist term meaning “good” or “excellent”. For example, while a Communist would not reply “revolutionary!” when informed of a good event (such as free pizza being delivered to his house), some Communists might describe the pizza as being “revolutionary”. While this term is by no means common, it is used in certain circles.

Capitalist: Like “Revolutionary”, the word “Capitalist” has both a technical and casual usage. Technically the word refers to an economic system based on private-property, free trade, and commerce, however when used informally, the word acts as the reverse of “revolutionary” (see previous entry)- used simply to refer to anything considered “bad” or “unfair”. For example, if a Communist did not like the price of pizza at a certain restaurant, chances are you’ll hear him angrily mutter something about the restaurant being run by “filthy Capitalists”.

Bourgeois/Bourgeoisie: Much like “Capitalist” the terms “Bourgeois” and “Bourgeoisie” (while technically referring to the middle-class) are used to describe anything distasteful or traditionalist. Essentially, the word “Bourgeois” is used to refer to anything considered to be “counter-revolutionary” or un-Communist. For example, if one person were to say to a Communist “My life’s goal is to get married and run a successful pizza restaurant”, the Communist may reply that this goal is sickeningly “Bourgeois”.

The Man/The System: While the exact era and region that this term originated in are unclear, most believe that the term was developed sometime between 1880s-1950s in rural America. “The Man” is a term used to refer to the government or indeed, any authority figure- derived from the word “management”. Likewise, the term “the system” is also used refer to political or social authority. Both terms are used in an extremely derogatory sense, though they are more often attributed to the left-wing in general, rather than Communism specifically.

Pig: While more commonly used in reference to the police (the exact origin of the term is unknown), when used among Communists, the word “pig” is often a suffix to a larger insult (i.e. “Capitalist Pigs”, “Imperialist Pigs”, etc.). It is commonly hypothesized that the origin of the use of the word “pig” in this context is derived from stereotypes of a pig’s nature, especially its association with gluttony.

Proletariat: (See “Revolutionary”)

Socialist: Once again, “Socialist” has a number of technical terms however when used among Communists, the word is often used according to its classical definition as being synonymous with Marxism.

Amerika/Amerikkka: Common Leftist derogatory refference to the United States, or right-wing elements of the United States.