OxBlog

Sunday, January 26, 2003

# Posted 5:08 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

FASCISM VS. COMMUNISM REDUX: Josh is standing by his assertion that Communism and Fascism are moral equivalents, a point I have already deconstructed once. As before, Josh's argument rests on the construction of artificial standards for judging the moral worth of an idea.

In his most recent missive, Josh avers that "Nazism, like Communism, is a governing philosophy, and must be judged according to the way it governs. And that is overwhelmingly brutal." While my knowledge of philosophy pales in comparison to that of Mr. Chafetz, I sene that the term "governing philosophy" is no different from the more general term "political philosophy". Therefore, there is no reason to judge a given political philosophy solely according to how it governs, rather than how it functions in opposition, in the social and economic realms, or in the academy.

This point is critical because Josh absolutely refuses to acknowledge the moral significance of many non-Stalinist Communists search for social justice. Forced to admit that this positive aspect of Communistm did exist, Josh now responds that "Nazis supported some worthy causes, as well (decreasing unemployment and raising the standard of living for the working class, for one). Are we wrong to judge them, too, 'according to their political record alone'?"

There is a very simple answer to this question. The Nazis who wantd to raise living standards for the working class were the same Nazis who murdered 6 million Jews. But the Communists who worked for decades to organize labor unions throughout the United States and Western Europe often (not always) had nothing to do with Lenin, Stalin or other brutal Communist dictators.

That said, perhaps I can offer Josh a thought which will make him comfortable with accepting the multifaceted nature of Communism. It goes like this: Throughout the Cold War, at a time when Communism threatened to overrun the nations of Western Europe as well countless others, prominent figures on the intellecutal and political left sought -- sometimes naively and sometimes disingenuously -- to mitigate perceptions of a Communist threat by comparing the Communist record favorably to that of the Fascists. In doing so, these figures referred to the same positive aspects of the Communist legacy that I have referred to in my posts.

Such arguments were deeply flawed in both moral and political terms because they sought to mitigate the brutality of existing Communist governments through reference to the positive actions of those Communists who sought legitimate forms in the West. I rejects such arguments unequivocally. Nonethless, it is a historical fact that Communism gave rise to both brutal and humane political movements, the latter of which ought to be recognized for their contribution to social justice.

NB: Josh also raised the point that Marxism inspired socialists and social democrats as well as Communists. Thus, I was wrong to say that "political movements based on Marx's ideas have referred to themselves as Commuist rather than Marxist." What I should have said was that "political movements based exclusively on Marx's ideas have referred to themselves as Commuist rather than Marxist." Socialism and social democracy have a complex intellectual heritage which draws on many sources other than Marx. In contrast, pure Marxist political movements, as far as I know, prefer to refer to themselves as Communist. And it is these Communists who sometimes fought for social justice.
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