The choice is only, do we resolve the contradiction?

A fellow socialist responded to the argument that I made in a previous post by saying,

Can socialism win the argument this way? The framing seems to me to be, since both socialism and capitalism produce mass murder, lets go with the more equitable of the two systems? Like, if someone is saying communism is bad because it leads to mass murder, and you say that capitalism is also responsible for many mass murders, then you haven’t addressed their bigger argument.

* * *

So in response I said this:

Hence the link to the “debunking anti-communism” post at the bottom. The point of the comment is just to open people’s minds wide enough to consider reading the things in that link.

Edit: And also, to be honest with you .. well .. the contradiction exists. People are just going to die right now because the contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the working class exists. And the way it manifests is significantly just in the hatred in people’s heads. The privileged in this world are prepared to violently resist the movement to take away their privilege. They are prepared to violently destroy those who talk about taking away their privilege. We have to acknowledge that fact. We have to acknowledge that if and when socialists take power, the Republicans will not be magically converted. I’m not saying we have to kill them all, but we do have to prevent the most extreme of them from trying to sabotage things or murdering the new leaders. They are so brainwashed that we should expect that that is exactly what they would do.

Anyone who doesn’t confront this kind of thing is not facing the real issues that those who would actually try to bring socialism about are facing. The world we live in is a horrible one.

Two things. A quote from Malcolm X and a quote I saw on reddit earlier:

Malcolm X said,

You don’t have a peaceful revolution. You don’t have a turn-the-other-cheek revolution. There’s no such thing as a nonviolent revolution. . . . Revolution is bloody, revolution is hostile, revolution knows no compromise, revolution overturns and destroys everything that gets in its way.

And the reddit commenter said,

No shit the Soviet Union had serious problems. The first French Republic had serious problems too.

The world is a fucked up one. Even if we win, we will be dealing with the problem of how to confront reactionary, bigoted thinking until the day we die.

To quote the PCR-RCP:

Our perspective is that the civil war already exists and that . . . the proletariat . . . are enduring and experiencing violence on a daily basis.

I am lucky enough to be privileged, and even more fortunately I am not any longer so blinded by my privilege that I fail to understand that the world is soaked in violence no matter what we do. The term “the contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat” is a polite term to refer to the fact that thousands of people starve to death, or die of treatable diseases, or are murdered by police or reactionaries, or otherwise experience any number of kinds of violence, every day. The contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the exploited classes, which is fundamental to capitalism, means the war is already with us–it is simply that the proletariat is continuously losing.

That “contradiction” will persist with us through socialism, shrinking but still around, until we have actually achieved communism.

The argument is that the contradiction exists. We can ignore it and let the war proceed against the exploited and oppressed as it always has and not fight back, or we can fight back and win, and bring about a lasting peace. Those are the only two options. There is no option that involves no war.

Edit 2: If armed revolution is the only way to end the scenario where tens of millions die from capitalism each year and billions more live on in suffering, you have no choice but to weigh the tragic inevitability of innocent people dead in a revolution against those millions of deaths every year and billions in perpetual suffering. There are thousands of innocent people dying from capitalism every hour in this world, and just as much force involved. You can throw up your hands and say you don’t have to choose, but a choice not to choose supports the oppressor–is a choice to sit by while the “contradiction” stands for all time.

The mass murder at the heart of capitalism: Or, a response to the claim that “communism has always failed” and “communism killed 100 million people”

I invite you to consider the fact that the system we have, capitalism, has led to mass murder–and I invite you to open your mind to the possibility that this murder has been greater than any ever created by a socialist government.


  • Extermination of indigenous Americans 1492-1890: 100 million
  • Atlantic slave trade of Africans 1500-1870: 15 million
  • French attempted repression of Haiti slave revolt 1791-1803: 150,000
  • French conquest of Algeria 1830-47: 300,000
  • The Opium Wars in China 1839-42 & 1856-60: 50,000
  • Irish potato famine 1845-49: 1 million
  • British suppression of the Indian Mutiny 1857-58: 100,000
  • Massacre of the Paris Commune 1871: 20,000
  • Famine under British colonialism in India 1876-79 & 1897-1902: 29 million
  • Military and police repression of labor strikes in the United States 1877-1938: 700
  • Blacks lynched in the United States 1882-1964: 3,445
  • Belgian exploitation of the Congo 1885-1908: 10 million
  • United States conquest of the Philippines 1898-1913: 250,000
  • British concentration camps in South Africa 1899-1902: 28,000
  • French exploitation of Equatorial African rainforest 1900-40: 800,000
  • German extermination of the Herero and Namaqua 1904-07: 65,000
  • The First World War 1914-18: 10 million
  • White Army pogroms against Jews 1917-20: 100,000
  • Italian fascist conquests in Africa 1922-43: 600,000
  • Japanese imperialism in East Asia 1931-45: 10 million
  • Fascist terror in Spain 1936-39: 200,000
  • Nazi terror/concentration & extermination camps 1939-45: 25 million
  • Allied bombing of German and Japanese civilians 1942-45: 1 million (inc. over 200,000 Japanese in atomic bombings)
  • Kuomintang massacre in Taiwan 1947: 30,000
  • French repression of anti-colonial revolt in Madagascar 1947: 80,000
  • Israeli colonization of Palestine 1948-present: 30,000
  • British repression of the Mau-Mau revolt 1952-60: 50,000
  • Algerian war of independence 1954-62: 1 million
  • Military juntas in Guatemala 1954-96: 200,000
  • Papa and Baby Doc Duvalier regime in Haiti 1957-86: 50,000
  • Vietnam War 1963-75: 3.4 million
  • Massacre of communists in Indonesia 1965-66: 1 million
  • Tlatelolco massacre in Mexico City 1968: 400
  • US bombing of Laos and Cambodia 1969-75: 700,000
  • Nicaragua civil war(s) 1972-90: 80,000
  • Pinochet dictatorship in Chile 1973-90: 3,197
  • Angola civil war 1974-92: 500,000
  • East Timor massacres 1975-98: 200,000
  • Mozambique civil war 1975-90: 1 million
  • Argentina “Dirty War” 1976-82: 30,000
  • El Salvador military dictatorship 1977-92: 70,000
  • Kwanju massacre 1980: 1,000
  • Bophal Union Carbide disaster 1984: 16,000
  • US invasion of Panama 1989: 3,000
  • UN embargo against Iraq 1991-2003: 1 million (inc. 500,000 children under the age of 12)
  • Destruction of Yugoslavia 1992-95: 200,000
  • Capitalist coup de tat in Russia 1993: 2,000
  • Rwandan genocide 1994: 800,000
  • Congolese civil war 1997-present: 6 million
  • Indian farmer suicides 1997-present: 199, 132
  • NATO occupation of Afghanistan 2001-present: 30,000
  • US invasion and occupation of Iraq 2003-2010: 1.2 million

Source


Beyond that, I invite you to acknowledge that 7 million people starve to death around the world every year. 7 million every year. You can add in another 10 million or more people who die of easily treated diseases every year.

There are two objections you might have now:

1. “Those things were just colonialism, not capitalism.”

If you want to know why capitalism makes colonialism/imperialism and inter-imperialist war inevitable, here’s a rundown:

Unlike previous economic systems such as feudalism, which did feature competition for accumulation, capitalism features competition for profit. Profit can only be obtained in a specific way: by selling a product for more than it cost to make. Now, Marx identified a tendency in capitalism called “the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.” In a nutshell, this is the tendency exhibited for all products to become less profitable to market and sell over time. The first business to sell a self-contained ink pen (like a “Bic”) made a fortune. But when more marketers of Bic-like pens moved in, the first marketer had to cut their prices to compete. This meant their profit per pen sold dropped. And then one of their opponents came up with a way of making each pen more cheaply, so that opponent was then able to lower their prices. The first business then had to cut their prices, too, and made even less profit. And this tendency applies across the economy to all products.

For the maker and seller of a product, there are ways to avoid this inevitability for a time: (a) you can find a new audience to sell to that is not already saturated with the product and can be charged a higher price; (b) you can find a way to access some new, untapped supply of the raw resources you make your product out of, allowing you to lower your overhead and make more profit per unit sold; (c) you can find a way to switch your manufacturing to incorporate laborers who will accept a lower wage than your current laborers.

The fact that capitalism demands that everyone compete for profit or else get outcompeted and bought up means that anyone who does not incorporate some of these strategies will get “eaten” by someone who will use them. And this eat-or-be-eaten logic of capitalism works at the smallest level and the large, because each country has a bloc of capitalists who must compete with all other countries’ blocs of capitalists. This means that in order to avoid being put in some other country’s thrall, each country has no choice but to try to be as colonialist/imperialist as possible or else it will get outcompeted by whichever countries will do that.

This means that, historically, capitalists have always supported and pushed for expansion into other countries to try to take their resources as cheaply as possible and incorporate their people into the workforce at as low a wage as possible. As capitalism spread around the world, this is the logic it has always obeyed. The system made it inevitable.

A better and more thorough explanation is given in Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism.

2. “Some of those, like the 2003 war against Iraq, were in an effort to take down bad guys. That wasn’t capitalism, just the right thing to do.”

I don’t know whether you’re naive enough to still view the imperialist countries’ actions through the lens of “fighting evil dictators,” but if you are, you really should just stop to consider why we work with Saudi Arabia and arm them when their record of human rights abuses is far worse than many countries’ that we’ve overthrown.

I’d like to put forward an alternative picture that I think has a lot more evidential support: the United States supports regimes that help it maintain its position of power and opposes those that defy its power. If you’d like a record of the United States’ history of violently opposing people’s attempts to free themselves of oppressive conditions because it threatened the United States’s power, trying to overthrow foreign governments some 26 times in the past 80 years, you should explore the book Killing Hope.


So now I invite you to consider one more thing: you have been educated in one of the most capitalist countries in the world. The rulers of our country are in a deeply symbiotic relationship with the biggest businesspeople and corporations of our country. They scratch each other’s backs. Often, as in the case of Bush and Cheney, they are literally the same people. Those with political power in this country have a massive incentive to tell a story that says capitalism is good and socialism, which opposes it, is evil. They have a massive incentive to paint it in as horrible a light as possible.

As with the government, so with the media–it is wholly owned by the wealthy and the super-rich. They have the ability to decide what gets on the air and what doesn’t. And they have been shown to consistently portray things that oppose U.S. and capitalist hegemony in the worst light possible.

I invite you to consider the possibility that, in fact, for your whole life, you have been deeply misled about how bad the failures of socialist countries were, what those failures could be attributed to (something intrinsic to socialism itself? or perhaps more having to constantly fight off capitalist countries’ efforts to undermine them?), and the degree of success they achieved if any.

If you are intellectually honest, you should recognize that every country’s citizens are indoctrinated in a way that supports that country’s interests–sometimes in extremely subtle ways. You should open your mind to the possibility that “collectivism = mass murder” is perhaps too simplistic an equation to actually describe reality.

And with all that in mind, I invite you to check out this list of claims about communist countries and debunkings of many of them. I guarantee it will contain the examples you’re thinking about.

A few thoughts on the geopolitics of the near future, communist talking points for the 2020s, and the ecocide at the heart of capitalism

This post is not intended to be a finely polished argument–it is intended to start conversations and spread ideas that I think are critical for communists to understand, discuss, and integrate into their practice.

Things that are coming: (1) peak oil; peak water; peak farmland, peak fisheries and other food resources, peak other resources such as phosphorous and many metals, and increased environmental disasters such as hotter summers, colder winters, flooding, droughts, and storms (here is a decent source on much of this); therefore, (2) increased scarcity of food, water, medicine, energy, and other basic needs everywhere, but especially in the poorer regions of the world; therefore, (3) massively increased refugee crises and anti-imperialist revolutions; therefore, (4) diminishing resource and labor base for the imperialist countries, increased volatility and unrest in the imperialist countries, and increased imperialist-country fascism, interventionism, and war; therefore, (5) overstretching and snapping of imperialist power and either global collapse, radically restructured global power structure, or global revolution

All these things and their consequences will not come all at once. These things will start small and trend upward in an oscillating fashion. We are seeing the first effects right now. A look at /r/climate, /r/collapse, and /r/peakoil will reveal that.

Communist talking points for the late 2010s and the 2020s

1. There will be new socialist countries and we must be prepared to defend them. Maybe a red Philippines, a red Peru, a red Nepal, a red Afghanistan, and maybe even a red India. Crossing my fingers for red all over the Global South. The pro-capitalists will trot out the same “dictatorship! totalitarianism!” arguments they did last time about China and the Soviet Union. The same ones they currently use against Cuba and Venezuela.

(a) We have to help our potential allies see through the false understanding that imperialist propaganda has given them of how things were and are in actually existing socialist countries. We have to get extremely sharp on our anti-anticommunism.

(b) We have to point out that the freedom to speak out against one’s government is directly proportional to that government’s perception of its own stability, and that the stability of a government is very much linked to the wealth (and therefore the pacifiedness) of its people–and that a high level of civil rights is therefore part of the imperialist countries’ wealth. That is, the “civil liberties” the imperialist countries pride themselves on and justify their imperialism by are in fact paid for with the very wealth they steal and have for centuries stolen through imperialism against non-European people. Not to mention, these civil rights are only available to the labor aristocracy–rarely to the people of oppressed nations or the poor within an imperialist country–and so they are moreso specifically a part of imperialist nations wealth.

Also, although there is plenty of suppression that occurs in the United States, this is definitely not the chief arena for U.S. sponsored suppression. It doesn’t make sense to compare suppression in the United States vs. suppression in Cuba because Cuba’s political-economic base is Cuba and the United State’s political-economic base is the whole planet. And in fact we don’t need to suppress too many people here because, as I was saying above, they benefit so much from the United States’s imperialism–but the United States does sponsor and arrange for the murder of leftists and anti-imperialists all over the world on a completely regular basis. Operation Condor is one particularly egregious example, but I recommend William Blum’s books Killing Hope and Rogue State as well.

(c) We have to help them understand that there is no choice of no contradiction (that is, no violence/force in the world), just a question of leaving the contradiction where it is or ending it via a successful proletarian revolution and long-term cultural revolution.

2. There will be environmental and economic refugees and we must be prepared to defend them. People will have lots of nasty things to say about why the governments of the countries that the refugees are coming from should have done something better or different so their people wouldn’t be in the position they’re in. We will have to be able to explain exactly why, due to colonialism and neocolonialism, those countries did pretty much exactly what the imperialists wanted.

The ecocide at the heart of capitalism

We must understand and explain which problems capitalism can and cannot solve. Capitalism can accelerate the development of more efficient solar, wind, hydro, etc. power (though this ability is tied to the price of the cheapest fossil fuel, and the relative abundance of coal means this ability will be quite limited for a long time) and battery and transmission efficiency. It may even be able to clean up certain continents and regions while polluting other continents and regions all the more heavily. However:

(a) Under capitalism, increases in efficiency tend to increase (rather than decrease) the consumption of a resource. This effect, known as the Jevons paradox, occurs because improved efficiency lowers the relative cost of using a resource, which tends to increase the quantity of the resource demanded, counteracting any savings from increased efficiency.

(b) Capitalism cannot solve the problem of reaching real sustainability*. It will always incentivize kicking the can down the road. This is because producing a product in a truly sustainable way is more expensive than producing it in a way that has an invisible-to-the-consumer environmental cost (such as using up a finite resource). Since, all things being equal, cheaper products that do the same thing will sell better, those who take the unsustainable route will undercut anyone trying to make things sustainably, drive them out of business, and take over their market share. The outcome will be a market full of actors none of whom will make truly sustainable products.

(* You know, actually being able to do it on an ongoing basis FOREVER. That is what the word “sustainable” should actually mean.)

(c) Nor can it solve truly global problems like global warming and ocean acidification. The logic of competition-for-profit means that one company/country/region will always be incentivized to pollute to gain an advantage over its rivals (or just avoid being outcompeted and eaten by them). All actors on every scale are incentivized to cheat as long as their existence and well-being is endangered by others possibly cheating more than them. It is worthless for a world full of capitalist countries, each with its own capitalist bloc that must compete with all others, to sign a legal agreement to try to solve this problem. As long as competition-for-profit continues to play any role at all in large-scale economic activity, that legal agreement must inevitably be disobeyed by all actors.

(d) Only in a global political-economic system that is actually being run according to a single, unified plan (at least ecologically speaking) where literally everyone’s material standard of living is both guaranteed and tightly tied to everyone else’s can these problems be solved. If all would-be “cheaters” had to share the “profit” gained from contributing to global pollution with literally the rest of the people on the globe, there would be so little personal advantage to be gained from polluting extra as to not make it worth it.

In this vein, it is very much worth noting that

Cuba is a world leader in ecologically sustainable practices. It is the only country to have begun the large-scale transition from conventional farming, which is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, to a new agricultural paradigm known as low-input sustainable agriculture. (source)

Also:

I go into greater detail about the problem of massive and ever-growing resource shortages (“peak everything”) in my post “On the end of the world, which will happen in your lifetime if we don’t replace capitalism with socialism”

Today something really fortunate happened. I was looking at Tinder, and gradually came to feel more and more agitated and disgusted with myself, because I found myself torn up about why I was using it and whom I was saying “yes” to and for what reasons. And though I have heard this before, more and more the idea that gender is —

This all began a long time ago. I think it first really started with Refusing to Be a Man. I mean there are things that set me on the course to read that, of course, so it began there. And it began before that. It all began a long time ago. But the revelation that I had today began with Refusing to Be a Man. And as I was swiping, there was such a resurgence of my porn mind. The fact was, I was deciding to declare, again and again, in as explicit and definitive way possible in many cases, whom I would fuck and whom I would not fuck. It was more complicated than that with many “swipes,” but with many it was not. And a greater and greater agitation and disgust built up in me, because truly I was saying about many women whom I thought I would probably not enjoy a conversation with, that yes, I would have sex with you. It felt .. so connected to pornography, and thoughts of the porn I had watched over and over, and the types of scenes and presentations I had searched for in porn came back and I felt the drive to watch it, and it’s been months now since I’ve masturbated, and I feel so grateful, so much calmer, so much more myself, at peace. I began to panic, I did not want to lose the thing I felt so lucky to have been able to build.

The phrase I’d read that gender is the eroticization of domination and submission came into my head, and eventually it drove me to the relevant section of Catharine MacKinnon’s 1989 Toward a Feminist Theory of the State. And then I wrote a reminder to myself for my Reminders file:

“Consider whether part of what you find erotic is intersubjectivity in the context of an anticipated relief from the threat you usually feel around others, and whether that is part of what some part of you finds “erotic” about the performance of submissiveness.”

It was really helpful for me to put it that way, because both realizing why part of me was so drawn to that performance and being aware that it is a performance of submissiveness together help me avoid making the cognitive mistake that allows me to pornify*** someone in my mind. It is always a human being, a man (in the sense of “one small step for a man” or “man is a tool-using animal”)*, performing submission—not a submission-creature, not a cute and self-devoid or personality-starved moon there, eager to reflect my sunlike glory**. My porn-mind is a hateful thing to me now, so to see it re-emerge and then have a little perspective from which to examine it was incredibly helpful.

* No, I’m sorry to say, more than that, too. I was telling someone earlier how productive the practice of imagining (cis) people as the opposite gender—and (I didn’t mention this) especially imagining women as men—was, and how it helped me identify a certain amount of sexism that had been in my head. All women are men in the sense that all women deserve the respect that my brain had only, up to the point where I had begun that exercise a couple of years ago, accorded to cis men. There is not some gulf between the inherent mind of a person with a female-sexed body and my inherent mind. When I began that exercise, I realized that I had been thinking otherwise, had been thinking that there were intrinsic aspects that were unknowable to me of the female-sexed mind. To really “see a man in there”—and I know it’s shitty that that’s how it has to manifest for me (and it really still does, to a very significant extent), but that is how it has manifested for me, so stab me through the heart if you have rid the world of all other people like me and would be rid of the last—changed an enormous amount for me. And so anyway, that’s what this post is about—“seeing a (hu)man in there” in one of the relationships in which my mind has still had trouble doing so.

** Thanks to LL for bringing that metaphor to my mind tonight.

*** Did you know that the word “porne” from Greek means “prostitute”? The other day KW said to me that there’s no such thing as a whore, and I really appreciated that.

Out of Babylon, into the great laugh of humynkind, and I shake the dirt from my sandals as I run

I see myself with my unshaved face and my imperfectly womanly skirtwear, and I see myself becoming more “queer-looking,” and I see myself drawn to dressing like something that I have to this point so often seen as muddy, as too-many-paints-so-anti-paint. Oh god, do I feel the liberty in it, oh god do I understand somewhat better. Oh god the majesty in it the size of The Motherland Calls. Oh god and truly, queer proletarian feminism is the ethics of communism. I thank god as so many straight white men before me have been unable to because they didn’t have any of it; but the struggles of so many women and queer people and people of color (and those who fit multiple or all of those descriptions) before me have laid the way for me to follow, have given me the bellows to push some real air into my lungs. They said,

“Run, comrade! The old world is behind you!”

but I have for these few minutes at least the breath of a new world in my lungs, and it feels real, feels like something not made of poison, feels whole, and I am so grateful.

“Every humyn being is primitively organized as a self, characteristically determined to become hirself; and although indeed every such self has sharp edges, that means only that it is to be worked smooth, not ground away, not through fear of humynness wholly abandon being itself, or even through fear of humynness simply not dare to be itself in that more essential contingency (which precisely is not to be ground away) in which a persyn is still hirself for hirself.”

Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

I think what Kierkegaard is saying is this: Our idiosyncratic motives for and ways of being in the world inevitably create friction between ourselves and others/the universe. The ideal solution is not to simply become bland and indifferent, to normalize one’s ways of being and numb one’s desires but instead to seek to preserve what is idiosyncratic about oneself, keep it alive, but work with it until it becomes something that causes less friction while still fully manifesting what is truly “you” about yourself.

Dr. Seuss once wrote, as part of a work to be presented to someone on their birthday, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” That is not a redundant statement.

We live in a world of pain. Pain almost always leads to fear. That is how the humyn mind works. Fear is not a bad thing in itself; fear is a self-preservation mechanism. Fear is a small, painful tension that makes the possibility of a future pain real to us and is “intended” to help us avoid it. Pain and fear very often lead to anger. And anger very often leads to the doing of things that precipitate fear and pain in others.

The less room to breathe, the less room to be oneself, the less free time and space to find out what exactly in oneself is causing so much friction and why, the less likely a persyn will be able to respond to pain with something other than anger, and the long cycle of pain–>anger–>pain will continue.

Communism is the world we hope to create where everyone has the time and space and support they need to respond in some other way than anger. In this way we can let the pain/fear/anger that has been cycling through human society and every human mind for thousands of years now–deepening, solidifying, and rotting–fall out.

I feel very lonely and hopeless sometimes, but sooner or later in my despair I encounter or remember some way I am connected, some way I am not wholly different or separate. Some realization that I am made of the raw and undifferentiated love that gives rise to all desire, in me and in all living things, and the heartbreakingly complicated lace-fractal-whirlpool-sky that this love weaves.