As my research has moved into the complexities of socialism in power, first in the Soviet Union and now in China, I have been struck by what might be called structural anti-communism in many Russian/Slavic Studies and China Studies programs. This is not a comment on individuals who often do excellent work, but on the structural formations of such places. My thoughts on this were initially triggered by Immanuel Wallsterstein’s observation that the disciplines of anthropology and ‘Orientalism’ arose as a way for Atlantic centres of power to understand and control large parts of the world over which they felt the entitlement to domination. However, after the Russian and Chinese revolutions, along with the huge anti-colonial movement supported (ideologically and materially) by socialist states, the game changed somewhat. Now government resources were channelled into Russian and Chinese studies. The reason was the need to understand the new ‘enemies’ who dared to challenge to world order. With this background, such programs and centres usually became structurally anti-communist, if not anti-Russian and anti-Chinese. Of course, it helped that fugitives from the Russian and Chinese revolutions (in the latter case from Hong Kong and Taiwan) often gained positions in such centres. But the key is in the structures of such places. Today we once again find that such centres have a new lease of life. Putin has become the number one enemy of the ‘West’ (often likened to Stalin, although Putin is anything but a communist). And China’s inexorable rise in economic and political power – led by the Communist Party – has led to a new batch of studies focusing on ‘authoritarianism’, ‘freedom of the press’, and the clampdown on ‘dissent’.
29 August, 2016
31 December, 2015
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In an earlier piece, I commented on the struggle over ‘traditional’ and simplified’ script in China, noting that Taiwan’s decision to keep the traditional script was a deeply anti-communist move. The same could be said of Hong Kong and some older overseas Chinese communities. To add to this, it is worth noting that the DPRK (North Korea) immediately fostered the hangul script (they call it Chosŏn’gŭl), which was first designed in the fifteenth century. By contrast, South Korea for a long time continued to use the elite hanja system (based on Chinese characters). Why? The southerners saw it as an anti-communist move.
But I am interested here in another feature of the politics of script. In traditional Chinese practice, it was the custom for a married woman to be called taitai, madam. Her full name would have her husband’s family name and then the title, as in Wang taitai or Zhang taitai. A husband would call his wife Wo taitai, ‘my madam’ or perhaps ‘my Mrs’. This practice is still common in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and older overseas Chinese communities. However, in mainland China the practice was eradicated after 1949. You do not call a married woman taitai, indeed you do not call her by her husband’s name at all. She has her own name. Guess why.
17 January, 2014
1. Constantly insist that Marxism is discredited, outdated, and totally dead and buried. Then proceed to build a lucrative career on beating that supposedly ‘dead’ horse for the rest of your working life.
2. Remember, any unnatural death that occurs under a ‘Communist’ regime is not only attributable to the leaders of the state, but also Marxism as an ideology. Ignore deaths that occur for the same reason in non-Communist states.
3. Communism or Marxism is whatever you want it to be. Feel free to label countries, movements, and regimes as ‘Communist’ regardless of things like actual goals, stated ideology, diplomatic relations, economic policy, or property relations.
4. If there was a conflict involving Communists, the conflict and all ensuing deaths can be laid at the feet of Communism. Be careful when applying this to WWII. Fascist movements who fought against the Soviets or Communist partisans are fine, but try not to openly praise Nazi Germany. Save that for private conversations if you must do so.
5. You decide what Marxism ‘really means,’ and who the rightful representatives of Communism were. Feign interest that Trotsky was somehow robbed of power by Stalin, despite the fact that you hate him as well.
6. Constantly talk about George Orwell. Quote from Animal Farm or 1984. Do not worry about the fact that Orwell never set foot in the Soviet Union and both of those books are novels.
7. Quote massive death tolls without regards to demographics or consistency. 3 million famine deaths? 7 million? 10 million? 100 million deaths total? You need not worry about anyone checking your work, which is good for you seeing that you probably haven’t done any.
8. Everyone ever arrested under a Communist regime was most likely innocent of any crime. Communists only arrested harmless poets and political prophets who had a beautiful message to share with the world.
9. Everything Stalin did or didn’t do had some sinister ulterior motive. Everything.
10. Keeping with the spirit of #9, remember that Stalin was an omnipotent being, perhaps an incarnation of the Hindu deity Vishnu, who had full awareness of everything going on in the Soviet Union and total control over every occurrence which took place between 1924 and 1953. Everything that occurred during that time was the will of Stalin. Stalin knew the exact details of every criminal case that took place during that era and out of his boundless cruelty, had tons of innocent people shot for no reason regardless of where they were or their position in life. Being omnipotent, he was not dependent on information passed up from tens of thousands of subordinates.
11. Constantly attack ‘Communist’ regimes for actions that occur in capitalist regimes up to this very day.
12. Claim that Marxism is utopian because of its description of a possible future society. Alternately claim that Marxism failed because it never gave a detailed description of how a Communist society would look. Do not pay attention to the massive contradiction here.
13. Start referring to Marxism as being some kind of religious faith, Messianic, or whatever other spiritualist bullshit you can come up with. When people point out that you can draw similarities between virtually any political ideology and other religions, ignore them.
14. Remember the one-two anti-Communist attack: Attack the post-Stalin system on economic grounds, and claim it just doesn’t work. Since an informed opponent will most likely point out that actual socialist economics did indeed work during the Stalin era, and in fact worked very well, attack that era on human rights grounds.
15. Two words – Human nature. What is human nature? For your purposes, human nature is a quick explanation why political ideas or systems you don’t like are wrong.
16. Bolshevik revolutions were carried out with violence and bloodshed. Bourgeois revolutions were all carried out by democratic referendums, and there was no violence whatsoever.
17. Use words like ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ constantly. Do not accept any challenge to define these terms.
18. Communists can be for or against whatever is popular in your particular area. If you are preaching to a right-wing crowd, Communists are for degeneration and homosexuality. If you are preaching to a more mainstream audience, Communists were homophobic. Essentially, Communists are for moral degeneration and puritanical prudery at the same time. Again, do not notice the contradiction.
19. Constantly flog Stalin over the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement, while totally ignoring massive support and collaboration with Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan on the part of America, Britain, and France, long before the war and even after in some ways. As usual, do not allow your opponent to examine the context of the non-aggression pact.
20. Praise the new-found ‘freedom’ of Eastern Europe. Ignore the massive depopulation via migration, plunging birthrates, huge alcohol and drug problems, political instability, civil wars, ethnic cleansing, sex trafficking and child prostitution, organized crime, high suicide rates, unemployment, disease, etc. Who cares about all that when you have freedom of speech?!
21. Constantly talk about the culture of fear in Communist nations, about that ‘knock on the door’ in the middle of the night. Ignore the ‘kick in your door in the middle of the night, stick a shotgun in your back, and haul your ass out of bed etc. because you are suspected of dealing,’ a normal occurrence in the American War on Drugs.
22. Attack Communists for suppression of religion. Attack Islamic fundamentalists for not being secular. What contradiction?!
23. Do not notice the irony that the US is currently fighting an incredibly expensive, losing war against an opponent which it funded, supported, and even handed its first victory in Afghanistan.
24. What should you say when confronted with all the continuing and often worsening problems in the world today, and asked for a solution? FREEDOM!! (Repeat as necessary until your opponent goes away)
25. Nothing from “Communists” can be trusted. Unless it somehow works in your favor, ala Khrushchev’s ‘Secret Speech’ from 1956, or anything Trotsky wrote.
26. Communist leaders were ‘paranoid’ for devoting so much time to security against counter-revolution. Ignore the mountains of evidence, including the restoration of capitalism in the East Bloc, that this threat was indeed real.
27. Communist regimes were never popular. If proof is presented in various cases to show otherwise, claim that the people were brainwashed. Make no effort to consider the budgetary and logistic constraints on such an undertaking.
28. Communist propaganda is crude and primitive. If someone mentions Red Dawn or worse, mentions the J. Edgar Hoover-endorsed comic book series known as The Godless Communists, run away.
29. Praise secularism in the name of ‘freedom’ and ‘pluralism’ until faced with a Communist. Then play the religion card.
30. Atrocities and other bad things that happen under non-Communist regimes are the fault of individual ‘bad people’. Anything bad that happens under a ‘Communist’ regime is the fault of the ideology and system. And Stalin.
31. Being an anti-Communist means not having to have any sort of ideological consistency whatsoever. Preach populist left-wing pseudo-socialism 90% of the time, and then compare the capitalist system to ‘Stalin’s Russia’ (if you never really studied the subject, just read 1984 and Animal Farm). Bitch about capitalism 99% of the time, but balk when someone suggests Communism as an alternative. Far right wing Fascist? Constantly bitch about cultural degeneracy under capitalism, while remaining fanatically opposed to Marxism for no discernable reason save for your affinity for historic nationalism.
32. If you’re an anarchist, keep pointing out the ‘failure’ of Marxism while ignoring the fact that your ideology has a 100% failure rate throughout its entire history. Blame those failures on Communists, or stronger military powers. Ignore the fact that the most wonderful society is worthless if it can’t defend itself from reaction.
33. Neo-Nazi? Communism is Jewish!! Debate over.
34. Neo-Hippy? Tibet!
35. Constantly condemn the genocide that allegedly occurred under Mao, while ignoring the US’ relations with China established by Nixon, and the massive role capitalist China has played in the modern US economy. When you want to talk positively about China, it’s a capitalist country. If you need to criticize it, it’s still ‘Communist’.
36. Claim Marxism is not empirical. Neither are neo-liberalism, ‘democracy’, or ‘freedom’, but don’t worry about that.
37. Always insist that despite the location, country, historical era, past experience, and all other factors, Communists must want to recreate a modern-day copy of Stalin’s Russia, and all that entails according to you. Do not notice the inherent idiocy in this concept, such as your particular country being already industrialized, and not having a historical problem of severe backwardness.
38. Learn to use the magic word ‘totalitarian’. This word allows you to link two ideological opposites, Communism and Fascism.
39. Ignore the fact that socialist states experienced more economic problems parallel to the number of market reforms they made.
40. When challenged about numbers or historical context, resort to labels like ‘ruthless tyrant,’ ‘cruel murderer,’ and such. Remember, people like Stalin were mass-murderers because of all the people they killed, and we know they killed all those people because they were mass-murderers. It totally tracks!
originally by J. Slavinski, ht cp.
8 February, 2012
How Western are the conventional and ‘universal’ categories of discrimination? Recently in Germany a woman took a case of discrimination to the courts. The reason: she had been able to obtain the documents she had submitted for a job application to a university post. Stamped across the front page in large red letters was the word ‘Osten’ – east. And then throughout the document every single one of her qualifications was circled, for they had been obtained in universities in the former East Germany. Obviously, she had been denied the job because she was from Communist East Germany. The problem the courts faced was that the anti-discrimination legislation had no category that related to her situation. Gender discrimination – tick. Racial discrimination – tick. Discrimination of the basis of sexual orientation – tick. Age discrimination – tick. Political discrimination against former communist countries – nowhere to be found. In other words, the very framework of anti-discrimination legislation is determined by Western, capitalist assumptions. And since you certainly can’t challenge these ‘natural’ and ‘universal’ categories, she lost her case.
21 June, 2011
Given that, in response to the sense that communism was better,
Poland’s fervent anti-Communists have revised the criminal code to include an official ban on all symbols of Communism. Under the new law worthy of the medieval Catholic Inquisition, Poles can now be fined and imprisoned if they are caught singing the “Internationale,” for example, or if they carry a red flag, a red star or hammer-and-sickle insignia, and other Communist-era symbols, or even wear a Che Guevara t-shirt.
And given that the only t-shirts I have are:
Not to mention my Danish Communist Party (DKP) t-shirt, my other Mao shirts, my Marx shirt:
I’ll just have to go naked in Poland.
22 November, 2009
Todayat the SBL in New Orleans I had to present two papers back to back – five hours of sitting through sessions in which I participated (you know, the polite thing to do, hang around).
Anyway at the second one, where I rattled about Louis Althusser and Burton Mack, I was told later that the following coversation had gone on in the back row.
‘Is that Lenin on his T-shirt’, asked one man,
The other leaned over, looked more closely and said, ‘Yes, I think so’.
‘The bastard’, said the first man, and promptly stood up and walked out.
I was, of course, wearing my Lenin T-shirt: