the ‘New Left’ on Communism/Socialism & Totalitarian/Fascism

My choice is to dig deeper into Noam Chomsky, as I’ll explain later, and I can only imagine how you’ll loathe the length.  But given that: ‘When Avram Noam Chomksy speaks: People Listen™…the length is unavoidable, imo.)

John Steppling’s Jan. 2, 2018: ‘Communism, Fascism and Green Shamingcounterpunch.org is almost too wide-ranging for me, but it did provide me with incentive to poke about a bit.  He opens with this quote:

In the United States, for over a hundred years, the ruling interests tirelessly propagated anticommunism among the populace, until it became more like a religious orthodoxy than a political analysis.”

– Michael Parenti (Blackshirts and Red)

Echoing Hynes in a third quote he writes that if one wants to ‘stop climate change’, protest war, close the 900 US bases, etc., then:

“Which segues to another trend I am seeing. The rise of what for lack of a better word I’ll call the anti-communist left, of the totalitarian left. There is a position which decries all socialist countries, past and present, as failures. But also simply parodies of “real” socialism. This is nothing new, of course. And while there is a germ of truth in this, the problem is the encoded message that accompanies these critiques. Given the hideous hegemonic growth of U.S. Imperialism, including the NATO countries, the dismissing of socialism as rank failure puts in the service of U.S. anti communism. One becomes allies with the likes of the Dulles Brothers, or Joe McCarthy, or Dick Nixon.

That the Russian and Chinese revolutions achieved almost unimaginable improvements to the lives of nearly everyone in those countries is dismissed. Not even mentioned. As if revolution drops from the sky now and then. That Fidel Castro and Lenin and Mao and Sankara and Ho Chi Minh were all just failures and parodies of real socialism is becoming a very popular meme, and one that coincides with the conflation of communism and fascism. Usually under the rubric of *totalitarian*. Again, in a real world of Imperialist violence and class oppression and manifest inequality, such flagrant hot house beatitudes is very distressing. And it is all but impossible to argue against this (much like the accusation of conspiracy theory) because one is quickly accused of willfully ignoring the flaws and failures that did, in fact, occur. But it feels almost like a demand for a certain kind of perfection. Again, the gains are ignored. [snip]

“But the point is not what worked, or what failed, but rather the alternative. Judging Stalin or Mao or Castro cannot be done from the p.o.v. of western chauvinism. A position that takes for granted the moral primacy of the Imperialist western state. But that is exactly what is happening more and more frequently. And giving any credence to the conflation of socialism and fascism is not just lazy, but deeply reactionary.”

Parts of this paragraph were inscrutable to me even given his earlier references, but the bolded portion is what caused me to go searching:

“So, we have a coalescing of white male repressions projecting outward by way of a latent Puritanical reflex, one that must keep someone in the stocks, with an insidious white nationalism out to create hierarchies within hierarchies regards passports and citizenship — in the interest of controlling surplus populations, and a neo left anti- communism made up of a structural Ayn Randian Capitalism, with equal parts Lyndon LaRouche, and Hannah Arendt by way of Noam Chomsky.

“The desire for “real socialism”, as a criticism, was summarised by Michael Parenti years ago…

“But a real socialism, it is argued, would be controlled by the workers themselves through direct participation instead of being run by Leninists, Stalinists, Castroites, or other ill-willed, power-hungry, bureaucratic, cabals of evil men who betray revolutions. Unfortunately, this “pure socialism” view is ahistorical and nonfalsifiable; it cannot be tested against the actualities of history. It compares an ideal against an imperfect reality, and the reality comes off a poor second. It imagines what socialism would be like in a world far better than this one, where no strong state structure or security force is required, where none of the value produced by workers needs to be expropriated to rebuild society and defend it from invasion and internal sabotage.

“Trump actually declared Nov 7th a national day for the victims of communism. No, this is not The Onion.”

As I hadn’t even finished typing ‘Hanna Arendt’ into my Firefox bar, the most curious thing happened: a Tweet dropped down among seven or so prompts below to an exposé of Arendt’s racist/racialist? screed on Africans.  I was flummoxed, to say the least, and yes, I did poke about for more, but that’s a story for another day…perhaps, and if I dare.  Digging deeper into convention brands ain’t always…appreciated, let’s say.

But given my earlier vexation with Chomsky, added to the fact that his 90th birthday was being celebrated, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without bumping into glittering paeans to the World’s Most Trusted Anarchist Academic, etc., I chose Chomsky.

In Stephen Gowan’s What’s Left 2013 ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised…Nor Will It Be Brought To You By Russell Brand, Oliver Stone Or Noam Chomsky’, the author offers:

“For Stone’s and Kuznick’s benefit here’s a brief history to fill the gaps of their knowledge”

He brings brief narratives on Kim Il Sung, Mao, a more lengthy one Stalin, including:

“As to the perennial charge that Stalin murdered millions, we can dismiss this as an unexamined legend that everyone believes to be true because someone (they just can’t remember who) told them it was, and about which they can provide no details, like who, how, when and why? [the late and great] William Blum writes:

We’ve all heard the figures many times…10 million…20 million…40 million…60 million…died under Stalin. But what does the number mean, whichever number you choose? Of course many people died under Stalin, many people died under Roosevelt….Dying appears to be a natural phenomenon in every country. The question is how did those people die under Stalin? Did they die from the famines that plagued the USSR in the 1920s and 30s? Did the Bolsheviks deliberately create those famines? How? Why? More people certainly died in India in the 20th century from famines than in the Soviet Union, but no one accuses India of the mass murder of its own citizens. Did the millions die from disease in an age before antibiotics? In prison? From what causes? People die in prison in the United States on a regular basis. Were millions actually murdered in cold blood? If so, how? How many were criminals executed for non-political crimes? The logistics of murdering tens of millions of people is daunting.” [long snip]

“Noam Chomsky is an endless source of slurs against Leninism, which he equates with “counterrevolution”,  a heterodox view of what revolution is, but certainly consistent with the Brand-edited New Statesman view that it’s something other than what you always thought it was, and what you always thought it was is actually quite a bad thing that should be avoided altogether. I suppose it should come as no surprise that Chomsky answers the question, “What does revolution mean to you?”, with an attack on Lenin, the leader of a revolution that succeeded, and praise for Rosa Luxemburg, a leader of an attempted socialist revolution that failed. Chomsky writes:

“I cannot improve on Rosa Luxemburg’s eloquent critique of Leninist doctrine: a true social revolution requires a ‘spiritual transformation in the masses degraded by centuries of bourgeois class rule…it is only by extirpating the habits of obedience and servility to the last root that the working class can acquire the understanding of a new form of discipline, self-discipline arising from free consent.’ And as part of this ‘spiritual transformation’, a true social revolution will, furthermore create—by the spontaneous activity of the mass of the population—the social forms that enable people to act as free creative individuals, with social bonds replacing social fetters, controlling their own destiny in freedom and solidarity.” [snip]

Chomsky has enormous respect for those who have failed at revolution, and enormous contempt for those who have succeeded. If we were to follow his lead and emulate the failures, while eschewing the successes, we would be sure to arrive at the same place the National Post wanted young political activists to arrive at: a political dead-end. Brand’s edition of the New Statesman follows in the same vein. Its positive statements are reserved for political action that leaves the established order in place: Chopra’s “internal revolution”; Apatow’s comedy; Lebedev’s evolution; Martinez’s new thinking; Tim Street’s “democracy.” Its negative statements are reserved for the revolutions that actually brought about the “revolutionary transformations of the deepest and most profound sort” that Stone and Kuznick say they want. So, the message is clear. Light a joint, work on your kindness and generosity, demand that corporations put people before profits, watch a Marx Brother’s movie, and tell Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Kim to fuck off.”

But I struck gold (so to speak) with Popaganda, lorenzoae’s wordpress, ‘Chomsky vs. Parenti, part 3: Support For “Actually Existing” Systems – Anti-Communism’ May 31, 2016.

This is meant as a look at some of the areas where Noam Chomsky and Michael Parenti differ most visibly in their analysis and biases. Given their similarities, comparing the two provides a rare opportunity at substitution analysis: to quote Chomsky himself, “you can’t do experiments in history, but here history was kind enough to set one up for us.” In short, the differences in Chomsky versus Parenti’s positions makes for a useful case study in what ideas genuinely make one a candidate for marginalization, versus what ideas are actually quite acceptable despite their transgressive veneers. Click here for an all-in-one post.”

(A few bits from a long essay):

“Chomsky pursues this line of attack throughout his career. In the Manufacturing Consent documentary, he equates Josephs Stalin and Goebbels. As Michael Parenti writes in his essay “Another View on Chomsky,” “Like Orwell and most bourgeois opinion makers and academics, Chomsky treats Communism and fascism as totalitarian twins, offering no class analysis of either, except to assert that they are both rooted in some unspecified way to today’s corporate domination. In Z Magazine, four years after the Soviet Union had been overthrown, Chomsky warns us of ‘left intellectuals’ who try to ‘rise to power on the backs of mass popular movements’ and ‘then beat the people into submission…You start off as basically a Leninist who is going to be part of the Red bureaucracy. You see later that power doesn’t lie that way, and you very quickly become an ideologist of the Right’.” As in the case of Lenin, the right-wing deviant. And while Chomsky treats communism as identical to fascism, it’s often the case that the worst thing that Chomsky can say about the excesses of the American system is that it resembles communism (as he perceives it). Chomsky criticizes the secret negotiations and lobbying work that went into crafting the Trans-Pacific Partnership as “adopted in good Stalinist style.” [snip]

“Not for nothing does Martin Niemöller’s famous poem begin with “first they came for the Socialists…” There are mountains of historical evidence that capitalist states tolerate or even prefer fascism in times of crisis—admiration which is often reciprocated, as in the case of Adolf Hitler drawing inspiration for Nazi race laws from Western colonialism and Jim Crow. The latter is one of the comparisons made by Domenico Losurdo in his text “Stalin and Hitler: Twin Brothers or Mortal Enemies?,” which finds in favor of the latter interpretation by marshalling a great deal of evidence, in stark contrast to Chomsky’s vague references to “neo-Hegelian doctrines.” In fact, Chomsky’s conception of modern corporatism as a truly bad kind of capitalism places him in the company of doctrinaire liberals, who argue that capitalism was mostly fine until Ronald Reagan came and ruined it. Chomsky’s claims that American democracy has become unmoored and is “drifting” towards plutocracy situates his criticism as a liberal one—the idea that a country born as slaveholding settler-colonial empire could function in an essentially benign way is plenty of things, but socialist is not on the list.”

“In post-9/11 editions of Herman and Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent, the “anti-communism” filter has been updated to “counter-terrorism” for the War on Terror era. This might seem a reasonable enough change, though it now aligns communism with both the nihilistic killings of al Qaeda as well as Nazism. However, two articles in 2015 show that Chomsky’s tweak to Manufacturing Consent might have some shortcomings. First was the article “Flakes Alive!” in Baffler magazine, deriding the “truthers, tankies, and tofu” that ruin socialism for decent Democrats. By way of smearing these “flakes” at New York’s annual Left Forum, the author identified the “wackjob nadir” as a panel that “featured at least one ‘tankie,’ slang for Soviet apologist, or actual Stalinist.” Left Forum bills itself as the “largest annual conference of a broad spectrum of left and progressive intellectuals, activists, academics, organizations and the interested public.” Left Forum is the largest conference for Leftists, but even a single defender of the Soviet Union is outré enough to earn smears from even a progressivey-leftish publication. The USSR was both the first large-scale experiment in a worker’s state, and the largest socialist nation in the world—why shouldn’t defenders of the Soviet Union, even defenders of Stalin, be present at such a gathering, numbering in the dozens or the hundreds?”

In ‘The Mainstream and the Margins: Noam Chomsky vs. Michael Parenti, May 2016, lorenzoae brings:

“As mentioned earlier, Herman and Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent was the second comprehensive look at how the media’s owners determine what is broadcast. As early as 1845, Karl Marx explained that “the ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.” Though there are many books probing the nature of broadcast media, Michael Parenti’s Inventing Reality (1986) was the first to provide an in-depth analysis of the corporate nature of the media using Marx’s dictum as a thesis. Despite Herman and Chomsky’s book coming two years later, the two don’t mention Parenti at all,  instead thanking Australian psychologist Alex Carey for inspiring their work (John Pilger, perhaps revealingly, credits Carey as a “second Orwell”).

Even a cursory glance at Inventing Reality’s contents reveals extensive similarities between Parenti’s analysis and that of Herman and Chomsky—hearing Parenti discuss his book at length further cements the commonalities. In fact, beyond these two works, Chomsky and Parenti share a great deal alike. Like his superstar counterpart, Parenti has produced mountains of scholarship and given dozens of easily accessible speeches and presentations. Parenti has been a strident critic of capitalism and imperialism for decades, writing over two dozen books on nearly every conceivable issue that relates to those subjects. In a neat biographical synchronicity, both are even octogenarian New Yorkers.

However, unlike Chomsky, Parenti can’t claim everyone from Bono to Radiohead as prominent fans. Chomsky’s influence is particularly felt now during the interminable American election cycle; as Kevin Dooley points out in an excellent post on Chomsky, he “is always at his most visible during election season,” when he can be found churning out almost-weekly interviews warning about the dangers of not voting Democrat. Video of Noam Chomsky’s latest event was uploaded less than a week ago, from a discussion with former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis held at the New York Public Library; in contrast, Parenti’s last uploaded speech was from a decidedly more low-key affair held at a Canadian university in 2014.

All this is to say that, despite their similar territory and Chomsky’s reputation, Noam Chomsky looks very much like a mainstream figure, and the label of marginalized outsider would be applied more appropriately to Parenti. To one who is skeptical of Chomsky’s outsider reputation, he looks less like a silenced dissident and more like the leftmost margin of permissible criticism—the point at which an idea decisively departs the realm of mainstream acceptability and automatically becomes tinfoil-hat territory.”

His  Part II ‘Conspiracy Theorism’ has too many Chomsky quotes and beliefs to bring, really,  but a couple shorthanded examples:

“Speculation was further fueled when former federal counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke said that Hastings’ accident was “consistent with a car cyber attack.” In response, Noam Chomsky claimed that “conspiracy theories” around Hastings’ death were counterproductive, and it was a better use of one’s mental energies to focus on the plight of imprisoned activists like Barrett Brown.”

“Tarzie points out that “we hear variations on this all the time on the Left, among people desperate to align themselves with the serious people for good radical reasons, no matter how blatantly non-analytical it requires them to be. A variation on the above is that conspiracy theories ‘ignore/obfuscate systemic analysis,’ which if you haven’t noticed is a concept that’s all the rage among people who like to tell people to shut up in fancy schmancy ways, not just about conspiracies. Surely the most dramatic manifestation of this bullshit—and surely the inspiration for a lot of it—is Noam Chomsky’s famous insistence that it really doesn’t matter who brought down the World Trade Center [or killed John F. Kennedy]. ‘Who cares?‘ the world’s most important intellectual said around the time.”

“In contrast to Chomsky’s stunning incuriosity, Michael Parenti has written the best material in defense of substantive conspiracy analysis—really, inductive reasoning—as has been produced in the English language. Deploying his trademark wit in a speech titled “Understanding Deep Politics [55-minute (arrggh) video].

From Part 5 Lesser Evilism, May 2016.

“The constant imputation of good intentions to Democrats, regardless of evidence, is something Chomsky does quite often—for instance, he speculates that Senator Elizabeth Warren supports Israel because “She probably knows nothing about the Middle East.” However, Chomsky extends these good graces to the internal affairs of the United States itself.  Chomsky will expound upon legions of horrors, but his conclusions in the past several years generally go something like this—by way of telling Americans that the “2016 election puts us at risk of utter disaster,” Chomsky says:

With all its flaws, America is still a very free and open society, by comparative standards. Elections surely matter. It would, in my opinion, be an utter disaster for the country, the world and future generations if any of the viable Republican candidates were to reach the White House, and if they continue to control Congress.”and further  white-washing.

He also quotes  Glen Ford noting that Democrats are ‘the more effective evil’.  In conclusion, he offers this from Kevin Dooley:

In the face of all this reactionary pressure, the importance of maintaining actual socialist principles can’t be overstated. The reason why things like lesser-evil advocacy need to be resisted so strongly is because of its pernicious effect on many people’s ability to reject the spectacle and see how their class interests are being sabotaged by people who present themselves as allies of progress. Ceding ourselves to a Democrat that signals towards our politics or public intellectuals who constantly use their platforms to counsel the tactical wisdom of compromise instead of the urgent necessity of revolution will continue to lead us exactly where we are. The sooner we remove these influences and start building something based on our own principles the better.

Amen.

Crossposted from: café babylon

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wendy davis's picture

i've tried cross-posting using two different iterations of early firefoxes that had still featured 'easy copy', but the tricks that had worked earlier (which version 'pitched', which version 'caught')don't today. none of the internal links came through. i'll ask jtc for help, but in the meantime, if you want to see any in particular, click thru to the Café Babylon version; you won't disturb anyone, as no one's there. ; )

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QMS's picture

You are saying that socialism is a threat capitalism? Still reading comic books I see. We have all been taught that capitalism = freedom = democracy = liberty = justice for all. Amirite? All that 'class divisions' theory is owned by commies, wobblies, and every other nation - state that dares to defy IMF, World Bank, US interests, etc. If you don't like the PTB raping the earth, you are being non-compliant.
Enemy of the state.

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Listen to your higher mind.

wendy davis's picture

@QMS
of the essays and exposés featured here are noting that noam chomsky writes at length against communism/socialism (save for here and there in the south) equates the historical left with fascism/totalitarianism of several stripes. wish i could have fixed the hyperlinks for more evidence of the same, dagnabbit.

when one steps on a Big Leftist Celebrity brand, one needs to provide ample evidence.

thanks, QMS.

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Big Al's picture

I don't know that much about him, never read any of his stuff. I did notice an article at Strategic Culture Foundation by Eric Zuesse the other day which had some interesting information in it. He sounds like a gatekeeper of sorts.

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2019/01/04/chomsky-unearned-prest...

It kind of brings up the issue of citizen demands. What do people want, do they want a revolution, i.e., a change in power from being ruled by the rich to a socialist worker/citizen owned society or do they want to stay ruled by the rich and continue to try to work through the oligarchy's two political parties for spare change.

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@Big Al
that article's analysis of Chomsky's remarks is accurate -- it may well be.

I do know, however, that Chomsky was already known for his political critique well before Manufacturing Consent was published, and he has been actively writing and commenting a whole lot of other stuff ever since. Thus I think that the notion, per the title, that Chomsky's reputation as a leftist analyst is "unearned" is not very creditable -- it derives, not from having his name attached to one catchphrase from one book, but from over 3 decades of steady, withering leftist commentary.

To be clear, I'm not a Chomsky partisan: I find much of what he writes compelling, but I've also seen people make a good case that specific stuff was hyperbolic at best, or lacking evidence, or in the worst case, untrue. Also, in terms of his science, there was a theoretical schism in which I belonged to the non-Chomsky camp. His partisans in that realm were occasionally perceived to be lacking ... perspective, courtesy, and decorum.

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The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01, a Boeing 757 (AA Flight 77) flew into the Pentagon.
If you can't accept these indisputable facts, I can't fake an interest in your opinions about anything else.

Big Al's picture

@UntimelyRippd and certainly Chomsky is much more than that book. I've never read any of his work, just some articles. Some of what I've heard about him, including here, don't really make me want to spend that time. Hell, it's practically February and I've got a garden to grow.

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wendy davis's picture

@Big Al

other day, and still have it on the word document for this diary, having meant to include a few bits and bobs from it, but the portion on main portions on syria are such epically long paragraphs i got cross-eyed trying to read again even now.

his main gripe was that chomsky was totally misquoting walter lipman, even though he said that's where the term came from. for me, funnier, was that parenti's book on the subject had preceded theirs by two years...with no mention of parenti.

but this paragraph is short enough to handle:

"There are many, many, other examples of Chomsky’s deceptions. For one, his championing of America’s invasion of Syria is, itself, terrific propaganda for the manufacturers of US weapons such as Lockheed Martin, and for America’s and its allies’ international oil and gas giants, and it’s propaganda for criminal US invasions and military occupations of sovereign foreign lands. Until recently, America’s invasion and occupation of Syria were relying mainly upon the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda to train and lead ‘our moderate rebels’ there to overthrow and replace Syria’s Government by one that would be selected by the Saud family who own Saudi Arabia and are the key foreign ally of America’s aristocracy — the Sauds are the people who, by selling their oil only in dollars, prop up the value of the US dollar no matter how big the US Government’s debts are and trade-deficits are. But more recently, the US military has been relying instead upon Syria’s separatist Kurds to take over in northeast Syria. Either way, it’s America’s invasion and occupation of the sovereign nation of Syria — an extreme violation of a nation’s sovereignty over its own territory."

as is this one:

"Propagandists take advantage of such tragedies, in order to deceive the public. Chomsky, a co-author of Manufacturing Consent, is an example of that — in this case manufacturing consent for US imperialism. What he has been saying about Syria is propagandizing for America’s invasion and occupation of that country. The means by which this immensely destructive invasion and occupation are done are not merely US troops training and arming the fighters, but are especially the fighters themselves, first mainly jihadists, but more recently and increasingly ethnocentric Kurds. The results of this ‘civil war’ have been horrific. “Gallup measured negative emotions in 138 countries in 2013 by asking people whether they experienced a lot of stress, sadness, anger, physical pain, and worry the previous day, … [and found that Syria] is the only country in the world whose Negative Experience Index score exceeds its Positive Experience Index score.”Iraq was found to be almost as bad — still, even ten years after the US regime’s destruction of that country, in 2003, by an invasion based on lies."

but i will say that kevin dooley's quote in rust at the end was extremely correct and mirrors your comment.

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arendt's picture

I, myself, had saved the Steppling article for future dissection. My only highlight upon first reading this was

a neo left anti communism made up of a structural Ayn Randian Capitalism, with equal parts Lyndon LaRouche, and Hannah Arendt by way of Noam Chomsky.

You might correctly assume, given my nom de plume, that attempts to co-opt Hannah Arendt into as nothing more than an "anti-communist leftist" raises my hackles. She had a special loathing for the Nazis. For over twenty years, there has been a propaganda campaign pushing the lie that the Nazis were some flavor of Communists (i.e., leftwing, instead of corporatist-to-the-core rightwing. That campaign usually begins by noting that National Socialism is a flavor of "socialism", akin to Stalin's "communism in one country").

Ms. Arendt is often cited in such propaganda. But, to her, the two totalitarianisms were never about their purported ideologies, but rather about being "secret societies in plain sight". Ms. Arendt found both Hitler and Stalin to be manipulating their respective ideologies in order to serve their sociopathic desires for mass murder and torture. IMHO, she believed that both men had hijacked their respective ideologies to enact their particular murderous pathologies. Ms. Arendt also delved deeply into the anti-Semitic backstory of Naziism, differentiating it from Stalinism, which was sort of an equal opportunity genocidal program, including all the minorities of the Soviet Union - Ukranians, Cossaks, and anyone unfortunate enough to wind up in the Gulag.

I must thank you for raising the profile of Michael Parenti, vis-a-vis Chomsky. As one would expect of a genuine critic of the dominant ideology, he has been marginalized. I confess to having similar misgivings to yours about Chomsky's politics in the last 10-20 years. At first I excused it as the result of being entangled in fights with the large number of critics who have engaged him on various topics over the *decades*. But, lately, I feel that he has joined in the whole "fake left" chorus of hatred for Russia and all things vaguely socialist. It is really sad to say that, because I have followed the man for *half a century*. But his stance as an anarchist always required the full power of his massive intellect to sustain, and I felt that he used it to deflect a lot of analysis of his position. Anarchism is not a viable form of social organization, the adolescent Libertarians and Randians are anarchists. Chomsky has to do a lot of talking to differentiate himself from that crowd.

I confess to reading F. William Engdahl's (a hardcore LaRouche-ite) political column because he argues so well. I always remind myself that he is a manipulative sociopath, but its hard to turn away from penetrating analysis. I never paid much attention to the LaRouche movement except to label it as a fringe cult. So, I am unaware of its current status and influence. I get the feeling from what you write that it has managed to make itself useful to TPTB by means of its analysis.

One has to worry when LaRouche and Chomsky are on the same page. An Arendt-ite like me cringes when Ms. Hannah is lumped in with that crowd.

I must thank you for the following succinct quote:

“Chomsky has enormous respect for those who have failed at revolution, and enormous contempt for those who have succeeded. If we were to follow his lead and emulate the failures, while eschewing the successes, we would be sure to arrive at the same place the National Post wanted young political activists to arrive at: a political dead-end. Brand’s edition of the New Statesman follows in the same vein. Its positive statements are reserved for political action that leaves the established order in place:

It summarizes my increasing distance from Chomsky.

At this point, I must plead exhaustion. I cannot give a thorough response to the immense amount of material you have posted. But I have saved it and will consider it as my energy level and other commitments allow.

Thanks for your efforts.

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wendy davis's picture

@arendt

thank you for your lengthy contributions. oddly, i can't even remember why i'd been so turned off by chomsky a decade or so ago, but all of this was by way of a reminder for me.

now i don't know laRouche at all, but i signed up for engdhal's newsletter as his topics are so wide-ranging, including terrifying GM organisms, CRISPR technology, anti-imperialism (great competitors: russia and china) and more.

given this you've said:

"Ms. Arendt found both Hitler and Stalin to be manipulating their respective ideologies in order to serve their sociopathic desires for mass murder and torture. IMHO, she believed that both men had hijacked their respective ideologies to enact their particular murderous pathologies. Ms. Arendt also delved deeply into the anti-Semitic backstory of Naziism, differentiating it from Stalinism, which was sort of an equal opportunity genocidal program, including all the minorities of the Soviet Union - Ukranians, Cossaks, and anyone unfortunate enough to wind up in the Gulag."

it's part of the reason that i'd aded the quotes from stephen gowawn and william blum into
the OP:

"“We’ve all heard the figures many times…10 million…20 million…40 million…60 million…died under Stalin. But what does the number mean, whichever number you choose? Of course many people died under Stalin, many people died under Roosevelt….Dying appears to be a natural phenomenon in every country. The question is how did those people die under Stalin? Did they die from the famines that plagued the USSR in the 1920s and 30s? Did the Bolsheviks deliberately create those famines? How? Why? More people certainly died in India in the 20th century from famines than in the Soviet Union, but no one accuses India of the mass murder of its own citizens. Did the millions die from disease in an age before antibiotics? In prison? From what causes? People die in prison in the United States on a regular basis. Were millions actually murdered in cold blood? If so, how? How many were criminals executed for non-political crimes? The logistics of murdering tens of millions of people is daunting.”

the section is much longer, of course, and you and others may consider it an-historical, but i tend to think it maybe correct. gowans did rather chuckle at brand's revoution and deep-pockets chopra's, didn't he?

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arendt's picture

@wendy davis

I can certainly agree with the demand for a firm accounting, instead of just throwing around round numbers designed to horrify.

We’ve all heard the figures many times…10 million…20 million…40 million…60 million…died under Stalin. But what does the number mean, whichever number you choose? Of course many people died under Stalin, many people died under Roosevelt….Dying appears to be a natural phenomenon in every country. The question is how did those people die under Stalin? Did they die from the famines that plagued the USSR in the 1920s and 30s? Did the Bolsheviks deliberately create those famines? How? Why? More people certainly died in India in the 20th century from famines than in the Soviet Union, but no one accuses India of the mass murder of its own citizens. Did the millions die from disease in an age before antibiotics? In prison? From what causes? People die in prison in the United States on a regular basis. Were millions actually murdered in cold blood? If so, how? How many were criminals executed for non-political crimes? The logistics of murdering tens of millions of people is daunting.”

The main thing to support is the demand to know how people died. For example, huge numbers of Russian workers died as they tried to work in factories open to the Siberian winter - because the factories had been shipped to Siberia just before they would have been captured by the Nazis. Were the workers "slave labor". That's a tough call. A patriotic/brainswashed Stalinist might have felt he was doing his duty to die producing steel for the army.

Also, something over a million Russians died in the siege of Leningrad. Does Stalin get the blame for that? I think not. The Germans rounded up an untold number of Jews with their Einstatzcommandos. They also shot untold numbers in reprisals against guerilla attacks. Those people are not the victims of communism.

So, I agree with Gowans that dead Russians do not automatically end up in Stalin's/communism's account. I also take his point about famines in India being ignored.

Where I get worried is in the case of famines in the Soviet Union. I think the Ukranian famine is well documented. The Communists confiscated the crops and left the Ukranians to starve. Don't have an exact body count; but that particular Stalinist horror is true, IMHO.

I'm also not instantly buying his dismissal of people who died in prison. The Gulag was a massive murder machine, way beyond a typical prison system. You can't shrug off the millions who died in the constant string of purges that went on for twenty years due to Stalin's paranoia. The horrible conditions in the Gulag were the equal of German slave labor and concentration camps. That is down to Stalin.

----

Anyway, the attempt to equate Naziism with Communism is now a major industry. Timothy Snyder, the Yale historian, has been dining out on that thesis with his "Bloodlands" book and his general stump speech demonizing all communists all the time.

My problem is that I just don't have a central stance to rebut all the commie/socialist hate. I am no defender of Stalin; but its a fact thatthe Soviets, within one generation, turned a population of backward, ignorant peasants into a country that all but singlehandedly defeated Germany. (Chinese communism took an unfortunate twenty year detour into the insanity of Mao. That left a deep black mark - once again due to the pathology of one person, which seems to have been the weakness of socialist state capitalism.)

Those improvements have to count for something. IMHO, communism, in its time, was great for booting countries into the industrial age. Today, I don't think building steel mills is the way to get into the first tier of economies. Today, it would have to churn out computer programmers, biotechnologists, computer designers, etc. That's a much longer jump from a peasant society starting point. So, I think communist planning has past its sell by date. But that doesn't justify trashing moderate Scandinavian socialism.

Just rambling, but it helps my thought process.

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wendy davis's picture

@arendt

my crap eyes are burned out & i'm exhausted:

"I'm also not instantly buying his dismissal of people who died in prison. The Gulag was a massive murder machine, way beyond a typical prison system. You can't shrug off the millions who died in the constant string of purges that went on for twenty years due to Stalin's paranoia. The horrible conditions in the Gulag were the equal of German slave labor and concentration camps. That is down to Stalin."

yes, i'd read two volumes of Solzhenitsyn's decades ago ('gulag? one day in the life of..'?), but still i wonder.

wish i had more energy, including for one more link to chomsky's western imperialism. but tomorrow for that. sleep well, arendt; we're all in this Imperialist/capitalist zeitgeist together, even when we disagree about particulars. ; )

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arendt's picture

@wendy davis

sleep well, arendt; we're all in this Imperialist/capitalist zeitgeist together, even when we disagree about particulars. ; )

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Azazello's picture

@arendt
Lots, but that's not the point.
Like you say, it's how they died.
In the '37-'38 purge, 700 thousand, more or less, were summarily executed by the Bolsheviks.
No charges, no trial, shot in the back of the neck in some NKVD dungeon.
I don't think anybody knows how many died in the Bolshevik famines.
I've read 3-5 million in the collectivization famine of the early 30s.
Those famines were not aimed specifically at Ukraine.
There was no Holodomor, all the peasants suffered, wherever they lived.
Kazakstan lost more people , per capita, than Ukraine.
The first Bolshevik famine, in 1920, hit Russians in the Volga region hardest.
I can't believe people are trying to white-wash the Bolsheviks these days.
I think maybe they should read more history.

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wendy davis's picture

@Azazello

see that many are white-washing the soviet revolution, and perhaps they are. but gowans writes (wrote):

"The numbers are, in fact, estimates derived by comparing the Soviet population with projections of whatever the author making the estimate thinks the population would have been at a given point had Stalin never existed. The difference between the two figures is then said to represent the missing population, or people Stalin “murdered.” It’s obvious that this method is open to abuse and that attributing excess deaths to mass murder has no other intention than to bamboozle people into believing that Stalin ordered the cold-blooded killing of tens of millions. This isn’t to say that Stalin didn’t order executions, and lots of them. He did. But executions in times of exceptional circumstances, when the revolution was under threat from within and without—as the Soviet Union was throughout the Stalin era–are no less necessary than the killing of soldiers of an invading army. It was war. Unless action fitting to war was taken, the revolution would fail. Everywhere fifth columnists facilitated the Nazi invasions, except in the Soviet Union where there was no fifth column. Stalin had eliminated it. He may have uniquely accomplished this feat by accepting a high false positive rate as the cost of extirpating the disease, catching the innocent and harmless in his net as well as the dangerous and guilty. But when it’s unclear whether the tissue is diseased or healthy, the surgeon who saves the patient cuts out both the clearly diseased and the surrounding suspicious (though possibly healthy) tissue. The question is: Did Stalin order executions to satisfy a personal lust for power, or to safeguard the revolution bequeathed by Lenin? Stalin’s political enemies have always favored the first explanation. And the CIA has ensured that those who favored it had a platform from which to spread it far and wide. "

i dunno, you might want to read the rest, see if he and others make a reasonable case.

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Azazello's picture

@wendy davis
especially the last couple since so many new titles came out around the centennial.
The Bolsheviks were nasty people. Stalin was not an aberration.

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wendy davis's picture

@Azazello

and as i'd said, my intro to stalinism was by way of aleksandr solzhenitsyn, so these narratives are new to me.

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@arendt one point is that to anything other than our imperialist allies in Europe, ever since the Russian revolution and the rise of socialism-communism we have been avowed enemies. That seems to have been our choice. Had we let well enough alone would we be where we are now? Then again, we always meddle, support dictators, autocrats and overthrow legitimate governments. We support these criminals for generations, until they're overthrown, making enemies for further generations. Mao and Stalin may have been paranoids, but they got a lot of mileage from their vows to protect their people from imperialists, just as we did saving our people from communism. Consolidating power is catnip to the 1%, no matter what stripe they profess to be.

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wendy davis's picture

@Snode

asked, amigo.

gowans again:

"When Stalin came to power, the Soviet Union was in a precarious position—its agriculture backward, its industry stunted, its military feeble. What’s more, fierce and fissiparous debate within the Communist Party about the way forward had produced paralysis, infighting and intrigues. The country was going nowhere, fast. Three decades later Stalin was dead. But in those three decades, with Stalin at the helm, the country had advanced from the wooden plow to the atomic pile.

“When Stalin died in 1953, the Soviet Union was the second greatest industrial, scientific, and military power in the world and showed clear signs of moving to overtake the United States in all these areas. This was despite the devastating losses it suffered while defeating the fascist powers of Germany, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria. The various peoples of the U.S.S.R were unified. Starvation and illiteracy were unknown throughout the country. Agriculture was completely collectivized and extremely productive. Preventive health care was the finest in the world, and medical treatment of exceptionally high quality was available free to all citizens. Education at all levels was free. More books were published in the U.S.S.R than in any other country. There was no unemployment.

“Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, not only had the main fascist powers of 1922-1945 been defeated, but the forces of revolution were on the rise everywhere. The Chinese Communist Party had just led one fourth of the world’s population to victory over foreign imperialism and domestic feudalism and capitalism. Half of Korea was socialist…In Vietnam, a strong socialist power, which had already defeated Japanese imperialism, was administering the final blows to the beaten army of the French empire. The monarchies and fascist dictatorships of Eastern Europe had been destroyed by a combination of partisan forces, led by local Communists, and the Soviet Army…The largest political party in both France and Italy was the Communist Party. The national liberation movement among the European colonies and neo-colonies was surging forward…The entire continent of Africa was stirring.”

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wendy davis's picture

good night, and from commie, hip-hop rapper boots riley and the coup:

You ain't sposed to know its opposable
We are not disposable
Muscle up kid
We got blows to throw
Til the folks have risen
There'll be no decision...

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Azazello's picture

but are they really that bad that we long for Bolshevism ?
Tough call, I guess.

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wendy davis's picture

@Azazello

comment is on the polemically teasing side, but you're allowing one revisionist (white-washing?) take on stalin to do so.

the point of this diary was to NOT allow spurious taints on communism/socialism/dems as lesser-evilism to trash our socialist principles (when applicable, of course). gowans is an amerikan anti-imperialist who sees the emergence of this new multipolar world as the greatest threat to the US hegemon, which loose cannon FP and foreign misadventures is still increasing, but academics like chomsky can't quite get, save for a few mild caveats.

'Noam Chomsky on Midterms: Republican Party Is the “Most Dangerous Organization in Human History”, November 05, 2018, DN

seriously, noam? how goof-ball of you.

Part 5:Part 5: Noam Chomsky: The Future of Organized Human Life Is At Risk Thanks to GOP’s Climate Change Denial'. yeah, because everyone knows that runaway climate chaos could have been stopped in its tracks if only Boss Tweet had come on board, as Obomba had./s

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mhagle's picture

and definitely not as well read as Wendy and other commentators here. But read this with interest as Pindar and I are working on an essay about current day agriculture in Cuba with possibly links to ag and land management in China and Russia as well. In this regard a communist/socialist smear campaign would be detrimental to our society.

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Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo

wendy davis's picture

@mhagle

diary on good agricultural practices. you might enjoy stephen gowans on cuba, not just the internet usage, but further down the page beginning with:

"Two further points.

First, the United States has waged a campaign of economic warfare against Cuba for over five decades. It’s impossible to say how large the Cuban economy would be today had it been allowed to develop unimpeded, but some estimates put the cost to Cuba of US economic aggression at $750 to $975 billion. [8] One analyst estimates that “Without the blockade, the Cuban standard of living today might well be equal to that of Western Europe.” [9] If so, internet use in Cuba would likely resemble European levels of 76 per 100 people, rather than today’s 30."

and ‘60 Years On, Revolution Still Alive in Cuba’, jan 1, 2018, telesur english

the huuuuge deal in latin america today is that nicolas maduro is being sworn in for his second term as president, amid:

"The inauguration comes amid threats of military interventions and coups against the progressive government by the United States and its allies in Latin America. Maduro's new mandate also comes despite the economic war that has been unleashed against the Maduro government by the United States and its European allies using economic sanctions.

A day earlier, Maduro warned that his country was facing a coup attempt ordered by the Donald Trump administration and the so-called Lima Group, the anti-Venezuelan organization founded in 2016 and includes 14 American states who are led by right-wing governments."

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mhagle's picture

way ahead of us agriculturally.

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Marilyn

"Make dirt, not war." eyo