Friday, March 09, 2007

History for Sheeple, Lesson #1

The talking points mimicked by those who support neo-conservative politicians, pundits and their agenda (even if they most definitely do not understand the totality of that agenda), is annoying at the very least, and frightening in that it indicates both a lack of knowledge and empathy on the part of many of our nations citizens. The most disturbing of these, at least for me, is the repetition of the neo-con version of history, propagated by those without a background in the historical field, but only the wish to create and maintain a vision of history acceptable to their own narrow, egocentric worldview. Since I am myself a student of history I am compelled to offer these ‘lessons’ if you will in, clearing up willful misconceptions of history held by those on the extreme right. I will try and address such topics that are either a current talking point in the media or are just generalized misconceptions that have now become quite orthodox among the mass of ditto-head blog commenters.

For the first installment, my focus is on the confusion the right-wing masses when it comes to political systems. If you have called a liberal or progressive, both a fascist and a communist then you are guilty of this confusion, especially if you did so in the same sentence. I’m going to have to break this down into a few parts, so if you cannot be bothered to read the rest, and want a simpler and more humorous explanation, go here:

First off, one cannot call the same person both a communist and a fascist since both have been historically opposed to each other. Fascists hate communists, communists hate fascists, the only time they got along was the non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and we all know how well that went. To make it simple, Fascism is a right-wing ideology, and communism left-wing. The only similarity between communism and fascism is totalitarian form of government, which for communism is not part of doctrine and for fascism is actually quite debatable, especially in the case of Nazi Germany.

Communism, I must also note, is more of an economic system than a political system. Communism is opposed to Capitalism, not to Democracy. Actually, if communism were to adhere to pure Marxist ideology, it would be a democratic system, maybe even a pure democracy. Fascism, on the other hand, is capitalism gone wild, allowing for the economic and social hegemony of corporations.

What happened to communism, how it was perverted or misused, can be broken down into those who influenced such parts:

Leninism: Upon overthrowing the revolutionary government in Russia, the Bolsheviks needed to consolidate power. A major hurdle was for the new communist government were the royalist forces, who were funded by the West which opposed the new communist government fearing it to be a threat to their own capitalist hegemony. In response, Lenin took steps to focus the government in fewer hands so as to maintain power and be able to respond to threats. He also gave the excuse that the people of Russia were not yet ready, so he would hold onto power until a time when the people were ready to exercise it themselves. This of course, is a crock of crap, but it was enough. In short, upon gaining power the revolutionaries went from revolutionary leftists to reactionary conservatives who wished to maintain power.

Stalinism: I do not know if there is any other ruler who was so thoroughly totalitarian in their rule. No one but Stalin held the reigns of power, the party couldn’t control him. Even if he suspected someone was against him, they were dead. Good example of a government masquerading as communist when it actually is not.

Maoist: Like Lenin, lost sight of the cause in the interest of maintaining power. Was good at helping the people and bringing them together in living the communist life, but became reactionary once power was attained. Not only that, he could not govern. All his policies were attempts to revive the glory and the ability Mao showed at overcoming adversity. However, the fact that the communist government in China has been able to adapt and incorporate capitalist systems shows a difference from the Russian system, if not the Russian people, since it is still in existence.

Ho Chi Minh: Vietnamese ‘communism’ was definitely the most pragmatic of all the systems. The fact that Vietnam became communist is the fault of the West since they refused, after WWI, to give up their colonies. Ho Chi Minh actually admired the United States, and even quoted from the Declaration of Independence during an address on the occasion of the forming of the North Vietnamese government. They were quite independent from other communist powers, defied both Russia and China, even while facing the US in war, and invading Cambodia and deposing Pol Pot causing retaliation from both the US and China. Ho Chi Minh did not mean Vietnam to embrace a totalitarian communist ideology, but one of democracy. Seventy years of war, including the final 10 years which included our support of the illegitimate government in South Vietnam, is what caused the establishment of a more totalitarian state rather than a democratic one.

So, what is the explanation for the right-wing throwing all these negative labels at liberals? My theory is that the right is incapable of dealing with any system of thought that is not binary. Good and Evil, white and black, male and female are all examples of binary thought. Binary thought lacks the complexity needed to explain everything that does not fit into their narrow categories. Conservatives, of course, think that are gods own gift and can see themselves as only good. Therefore their opposition must, logically confined to their system of thought, be evil. Also, they do not see Nazism, thus fascism, as good, so it must be evil and therefore a liberal ideology. The logic only works, of course, in this narrow worldview.

Now, I hope that this little history lesson has cleared things up (for those who are capable of more than binary thought, anyway). Remember, if we are going to start throwing negative political system labels at each other, liberals are communist and conservatives are fascists.


gvaness said...

Excellent stuff - and thoroughly incapable of being understood by 98% of the right. I have a theory that the right, under reagan, has been intentionally dumbing down our school systems ( primary and secondary ) to create the type of citizen that you describe; binary is a good term. Since about '85, liberal thought and classes have been disappearing from our schools. Now we see those like the vile david horowitz trying to do the same with colleges. What we are seeing is the fruits of their labors, while progressive thinkers have more or less let them get away with it.
I have been a student of history for 45 years, and firmly believe that our schools today are woefully inadequate in teaching even the basics of this important subject. Once again, I believe this is deliberate, in the belief that non-critical thinking is critical to repubs winning elections.
I found your blog through Schecter. Fascinating, and right on the money. Hang in there degree-wise - I went back to school recently and finished up a double major at age 55 ( U. Wisconsin-Green Bay ).
I also believe that the repubs have shot their wad, and we shall regain our country in 08.
Good luck, Gary Van Ess, Green Bay, Wi. ( Navy, 68-74 )

Ashen Shard said...

Gary Van Ess:

Thank you for the feedback.
I agree that the right has had a hand and trying to dumb down the school system, but it may be do more to a more traditional right wing tilt of public school policy. Liberals just do not have as strong a presence in public schools as they were colleges and universities. Public school curricula are so strict, that every time a change is proposed, the right starts yelling 'revisionist history', not realizing that is the purpose of the history profession, to study and revise our understanding. Also, there is the ever present problem of the textbook and what information should be included. Typically what publishers choose is determined by what the Texas and California school boards will accept since they have the largest markets.

The problem is not just the schools also, since I came out of high school more liberal than I went in. The problem are the parents who are not as engaged in their children's learning experience. There is also the fact that education seems to be regarded as unnecessary, or even undesirable. I guess when we have kids that look up to Larry the Cable Guy, we have a real problem.

Anonymous said...

I have read a couple of your blogs and have learned a few things here and there. Thanks for the education. I encourage you, however, to read some of your own work. You accuse conservatives of being "binary" yet in so doing you are yourself being "binary".
You use a great quote in one of your blogs about an evangelical Christian in the 1800's stating we should abolish war. I agree that war is awful (dugh). Nobody wants war. The fundamental difference is in the best way to avoid war. I believe, as do many others, that "the only thing necessary for evil to exist is for good men to do nothing". As much as I hate war, I am glad we (the U.S.) fought in WWII. I am glad that evangelical Christians led in the abolition of slavery, even though that led to a bloody war. I equally think we need to be engaged in the middle east right now. It is awful but it is also necessary.
BTW. The public schools are getting worse but I think it is because of liberal, not conservative influences but, I must admit, I know excellent teachers some of which are liberal and others conervative.

Ashen Shard said...

I agree, some wars, such as World War II are a necessity. But I also think we do not need to be as engaged in the Middle East as we are military wise. More diplomacy would go a long way.
So you know, I couldn't vote in 2000, but I did support Bush. And I supported Bush in our invasion of Afghanistan because it was right, we needed to react and show Al Qaeda and its supporters that we would act if attacked.
Iraq, however, is totally irrelevant and has taken us away from our mission. During WWII we didn't turn on Stalin in the middle of wresting control of Europe from Germany. He was bad, yes, but not our target in the war. Same with the war on terror, Iraq was not part of it. As a consequence, our mission in Afghanistan has suffered immensely and support for terrorists has multiplied.
And as for public schools, many of the reasons why they are getting worse is because of conservatives in the government passing laws that make it more difficult for teachers to do their jobs and for students to achieve. The 'No Child Left Behind' has only made the work of teachers more frustrating, and forced the lowering of the bar for achievement so schools could meet the requirements of NCLB. Teachers, conservative or liberal, are typically not the problem. You get one kook from either here and there, but its the government, made up of officials who have no idea how to teach, trying to tell teachers how to teach that is screwing up the system.

Anonymous said...

There is theory, and then there is practice.

The simple fact is that fascism and communism, although in theory diametrically opposed, are in practical outcomes essentially the same because they are both totalitarian.

Fascists and communists are basically indistinguishable, because they all believe in colossal statism, whether they realize it or not. A totalitarian is a totalitarian is a totalitarian.

The Left and the Right are all equally idiotic.

Ashen Shard said...

Actually, communism does not necessarily have to turn out as totalitarian. This is due to the fact that it is more of an economic system than a political one. A communist country could easily, and quite practically, be a democracy. A Fascist state could not, since fascism is first and foremost a capitalistic state, but unlike a democracy that is capitalistic, a fascist state serves the interests of business almost to the exclusion of everyone else.

CB said...

Clueless simpleton!

Jonah Goldberg isn't the first to see fascism and communism as rival socialist factions. Fred Hayek wrote about the National SOCIALIST German WORKER's party in 1944 and others preceded him!

"Capitalism gone wild?" LOL! Capitalism is inherently a private, not public enterprise. If government has taken over, what is private about it, hence, what is capitalist about it? Industry functioned even under communism, just not well!

Then there's the trotskyist naivety in this that suggests that collectivism can be tweaked. Oh boy!! Good luck with that!

dave said...

True that Nazi's are right of communists, however you might check this guys opinion.