Friday, March 5, 2010

monument to victims of "communism"

In my opinion, communism doesn't exist... I wish it did, but it doesn't. I've read that it probably existed in certain gatherer-hunter tribes and pre-colonial aboriginal communities, but I wasn't there, and I don't know if we could use our words for social, political or economic organization to describe something that happened in such a different context to the world that we understand. And yet the Canadian government plans to erect a monument to victims of communism. I want them to create one right next to it for victims of dragons- dragons are much scarier than communism, except possibly for the super-rich who could buy dragon slayers so long as they remain wealthy.

I have two problems with this monument. First, it encourages the dichotomy between capitalism and communism as the only possible ways to organize, with communism being represented by what I would call totalitarian states. This makes Marxist and socialist minded people appear to support Soviet style military control.

My second problem with it is that in demonizing 'communism' it further entrenches the belief that capitalism is the only option. What about a monument to victims of capitalism, as is suggested here. I would like to see a statue erected for all the people who died of hunger or froze to death while sleeping on the streets. All the people who had to struggle to make ends meet or go to bed hungry, whether they were working at low paid jobs or struggling to make a social assistance benefit last through the month. People who died, were injured, or became ill from performing dangerous work for very little money, while somebody else made huge profits. And yet, capitalism is the only socially just way of organizing, right?


  1. Funny, I live in one of the countries where millions of people were killed in the name of communism, and I think it's very respectful of the Canadian government to commemorate that. The comparison with dragons is totally offensive. I don't care if you think it was or wasn't communism, the fact that the criminals said they murdered and tortured and made their victims' life miserable "for communism" is enough for me

  2. I think that they should recognize it and I am all for a monument to the lives lost, I am sorry if that wasn't clear, and I am sorry if you were offended... that was definitely not my intention. I just don't believe that communism is the correct word to use for it.

    I don't believe it was done for communism, that is just the word they used for it, in my opinion.

  3. I have told her this before, and when I did look up the definition it states there is the meaning that a lot of us know concerning countries such as the Soviet Union or China, but there is also a meaning in Marxism that she uses. Beginning in the 1950's the term communism was used to describe something negative and this usage is restricted primarily to American English.

    "Pure communism" in the Marxian sense refers to a classless, stateless and oppression-free society where decisions on what to produce and what policies to pursue are made democratically, allowing every member of society to participate in the decision-making process in both the political and economic spheres of life.

  4. The "pure communism" or "Communism as envisoned by Marx" is a red herring anyway, since it's not actually what has happened. (The same argument is true of free market systems, in they they don't fit what a lot of people were envisioning for the system.) The actual systems that have come into being are the totalarian systems, plus some influence over some mixed economy systems, so that's what will get compared.

    The actual "pure communism" as described in the above comment has its own issues, depending on how the systems are actually organized.

  5. I think I can safely guarantee that when the Canadian government wants to make a monument to commemorate victims of communism, it does not mean victims of the communism as a pure philosophical idea of an oppression-free society, only what was done with the noble idea when it was implemented in reality.

    I understand that coming from a country which did not experience what was done in the name of communism makes you see these things differently, but implying that victims of communism are as unreal as victims of dragons is not ok.

    Just to be clear, I'm not a right wing radical, on the contrary, I consider myself a socialist. Only I have a lot of respect for the human beings whose lives were sacrificed for the greater good. I understand that there's an unbridgeable gap in our experiences and we will never agree on this

  6. But were the lives sacrificed for the "greater good?" Aren't former 'communist' countries almost all becoming capitalist? I have never experienced any government first hand other than Canada, which may be part of the cause of us not agreeing on this. My issue is with the language. I do not agree with using the word communism to describe what has happened. I believe that the reason it is used within a western discourse is to associate the word communism with tragic events like the deaths and poverty that came from totalitarian governments that pretended to be trying to become communist. In doing so, socialism, Marxism, and communism are effectively discredited and capitalist organizing is made to seem normal, natural, and free.

    All I am trying to do is separate the word communism with these particular events.

  7. What I meant by "for the greater good" was that the oppressors claimed that only through killing people who they didn't agree with could they build an ideal communist egalitarian and pacifist society. I used the expression sarcastically, sorry for not making it clear.

    I don't think you will ever convince anyone who had to learn Marx's works by heart knowing that Marx's works are used to rationalise killing people, that the word 'communism' can have positive meanings. Even most left-wing organisations here avoid the word - we use the word 'Marxism' instead.

    I am just afraid that if you succeed in giving the word a positive meaning in English, people in my part of Europe will become even more alienated from you and will be pushed even more towards neo-liberalism, because for years the word communism has meant crime here, and Western left-wing organisations, etc. never tried to claim it wasn't communism while it was still happening.

    I think in my country we could have (I use 'we' metaphorically, I'm not old enough) chosen a less radically capitalist path if non-capitalist people in Western Europe and America were more sensitive with their language and more mindful of our sensibilities. And maybe if they didn't use quote marks to refer to the "victims"

  8. Good point... and something I hadn't thought of. Thank you.

  9. Alot of people mix up the terms facist/socialist/communists with what they disgust: totalitarian statism, where the "guberment" wipes your ass and serves you fillet mignon from birth til death. Based on Britain (which has adopted such a statist model), it is bound to fail, too many people abuse it.

  10. looking at the title of this post again, i think the quotations marks should have been around the word communism, not victims... that was likely an significant oversight.

  11. I like your blog...