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Culture War Roundup for the week of October 2, 2023

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Yes, another top level comment about The Origins of Woke from me, in the same thread on the same week. But this is about something else. I had an epiphany while reading the book.

I've wondered for many years why Marxism is more socially acceptable than racism when it's responsible for even more deaths than the Holocaust. It's because companies are (de facto) legally required to fire racists, but they're not required to fire Marxists. In fact, firing a Marxist for merely being Marxist would be illegal in California.

California has a state law against firing people for their political beliefs, but it didn't protect James Damore, who was fired in compliance with the law against creating a hostile work environment for protected groups.

It all adds up.

I think it's difficult to understate just how important the effect of Stalin's takeover the Soviet Union had on American/European Marxist circles. There would forever after be two strains of thought that were perfectly intuitive and did not feel at all like a cop out.


Marxism works but starting it in Russia made no sense. The whole point is that Capitalism builds the capitol base and then once enough production exists only then do we shift how that production is distributed. But the only place Marxist revolutions happened were in Russia & China among peasants. This was an obvious corruption of original Marxism. It actually literally has never been tried.

For a modern day case of these, see Freddie DeBoer. The point isn't whether its true. It's whether or not a reasonable person who hasn't spend over 9000 hour studying microeconomics might find such an argument convincing.


It was going to work until Stalin betrayed the cause. A uniquely evil man. He corrupted Lenin's vision. He turned on all the original revolutionaries. He corrupted what would have otherwise been a functioning system. In this mindset the horrors of early War Communism don't exist. The USSR was going to work! Just look at those improvements in literacy rates! And Magnitogorsk! And all these rights that they had paper. But I'm not a fool. I know it didn't work. But just read Animal Farm. Or look at the Spanish Revolution. It's right there in how we were all working together until that bastard Stalin screwed it all up. I'm a communist because I approve of Lenin/Trotsky/Kropotkin's ideals, whose revolution was stolen away from them, but obviously i'm not a "Tankie". Those types of violations by the USSR is just proof of how Stalin messed it all up going forward.

And that's pretty much all you need. To the person who thinks in such a manner it doesn't feel like a cop out. It feels like sophistication. You can't even distinguish between communism, socialism, marxism, trotsky permanent revolution, Louis Blanque-ism Guaranteed Employment, Rosa Luxemburg thought, or Progressive Labor Union Revisionism for the Purposes of Getting Workers Used to Working in Committees Until the Actual Revolution. You just call all of it Marxist. But I know better. It's not that communism doesn't work. I know that in reality it was betrayed.

You don't even need to be personally invested in it all. You just need a disposition towards "everyone should have enough" and a smart friend who can answer your occasional question (or a youtube parasocial relation) and who can give you explanations that feel plausible. Enough to make you saudade for a world you've never known. Enough to make you put on the Soviet Anthem and smile on occasion before your next shift. Enough to make you call yourself a Marxist even though you don't think anything will change anytime soon. And then you listen to someone call Obama a Communist because he wants to create a.....marketplace for healthcare. And you roll your eyes and smile.

Because you know that real communism has never been tried.

Calling all artists on the Motte! I am currently looking for someone to ink some scripts I have written for a one-panel newspaper comic called Rosa Luxemburg Thought..., where every gag is based on a tiny little Robber-Baron-Era American Communist is asleep in one corner and the cartoon is a dream balloon of what Rosa is dreaming about.

Then in the dream-balloon, you cut out old circa-1980s Family Circus strips and paste them down.

Then I get 50 percent of the money and credit as "writer," but when people accuse us of plagiarism, I pin it all on you.

Any takers?

Great post, but Argument #2 can be made equally well about, say, Jared Taylor's belief system, whatever you call it. "The bad men who perpetrated Jim Crow weren't holding true to my ideas. Real freedom of association hasn't been tried."

I guess the point isn't that the argument is literally true, but rather, whether the argument can be used to justify taking other people's stuff and giving it to you. Which is extremely uncharitable of me to say, I'll admit, but that's the only way to look at this.

Should be noted there were a plenty of European socialists who argued the point 1 from basically the first years onwards, like Karl Kautsky (see, for example, this, probably considered the most influential Marxist thinker of that era at the time, including by the Bolsheviks who were aghast at his "betrayal". Ie. it's not just from Stalin onwards, though of course Stalin's era also caused a considerable amount of socialists to eventually turn against the Soviet Union.

The wider point is that Marxism, due to its longer lifespan and greater amount of regions it affected, just plain has a greater extent of meanings than National Socialism. Marxist movements and their accomplishments range from Stalin and Mao to the movements that liberated countries from colonial rule, fought as partisans against Nazi occupation and worked in a way that contributed to the eventual institution of welfare state in a number of countries. Marxist and Marxist-derived movements have been democratically elected in a number of countries and have proceeded to rule them with few major issues, whether that rule actually ended up being, strictly speaking, according to Marx's principles or not.

National Socialist movements took over one country, killed millions of people, brought that country to an utter ruin, and all the movements following it have basically been farcical LARPs of that one time with little success beyond terrorizing individual people. As such, someone calling themselves a "Marxist" might mean they advocate any range of positions from extreme to, well, someone that can live and operate in the general scheme of things: someone declaring themselves National Socialist usually means one thing and one thing only.

Your arguments against “National Socialism” only make sense if you apply a very strict definition of the term - i.e. claiming that the only historical example of it is whatever happened in the Third Reich - and ignore all of the other nations with structurally- and philosophically-similar political systems which emerged around the same time or afterward. Salazar’s Portugal, for example, or Franco’s Spain, or Pinochet’s Chile. Given what I’ve inferred about your politics I’m sure you think those were shitty places to live, relative to the alternatives, but I would hope you would acknowledge that reasonable people could interpret them as being successful in at least some ways.

Why do socialists get a pass on distancing themselves from Stalin, and get to appeal to nuance, but anyone who is sympathetic to at least some attenuated form of combining ethnonationalism, anti-communism, and statism gets immediately tarred with the Hitler brush?

Right, right, when writing I had though that the OP of this thread had been a Nazism vs. Marxism comparison, so I was commenting on that, but now that I checked it wasn't that.