Saturday, January 25, 2003

# Posted 7:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

It's not McCarthyite to call people who are communists, communists. Communists, as devoted followers of murderous totalitarianism, deserve to be called to account every bit as much as their Nazi colleagues. And in the 21st century, they can hardly pretend to be ignorant of their ideology's true nature.
Not so fast. While there isn't much good to say about the Communist record in world politics, it is important both as a matter of principle as well as matter of pragmatics to recognize that the Communism of Mao and Stalin was not the Communism of either Karl Marx or his Western heirs.

As a matter of principle it is important to recognize that the intellectual contributions of Marx and the Western Communist tradition -- as well as their passionate commitment to social justice -- should not be blackened by an unjust association with those who turned Marxism to their own brutal ends. In contrast, there was only one Nazism, that of Adolf Hitler.

From a practical persepctive, simplistic denunciations of Communism ensure the widening of the gulf that separates America from Europe. While 1960s radicals such as Joschka Fischer have become more moderate in the process of becoming mainstream political and social figures, few of them have forgotten what it was like to believe in the human potential of Communism. Misguided as their faith was, they still stand ready to denounce as unthinking conservatives those who cannot separate Soviet Communism from its Western European counterpart.

While paying closer attention to European sensibilities may not have a tangible impact on the current coflict over how to disarm Saddam Hussein, a greater willingness to talk politics with the Europeans on their own terms may help them build an intellectual framework for the post-Cold War era that is not anchored in the conflicts of the Cold War. With such a framework in place, it may become possible to avoid such coflicts the next time the West has to confront a brutal dictator bent on developing weapons of mass destruction. After all, no one benefits from such coflicts except the dictators themselves.

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