I’m a little uncomfortable with Tumblr’s (for lack of a better word) glamorization/glorification of communism
mostly bc it’s by people from countries completely unaffected by it
like, dude. My parents were obliged to graduate from Marxism and Leninism. And mandatorily vote for that one party
their earliest memories are of Russian tanks in every corner of the country
yknow. it can be a bit of a sore subject
I don’t want to get too personal on Tumblr, but both my parents (as well as my mother’s entire immediate family and a good number of her other relatives) were forced or fled from their home countries due to Communism, so I hear you. Everything turned out all right in the end, which makes us luckier than a few million other people, but the frivolity can be grating.
(On the flip side, both my parents roll their eyes whenever conservative Americans panic over the “socialist threat.” Oh noes, universal healthcare! Oppression!)
This is a whole thing.
So. There has never been a nation that had real communism. The Soviet Union? Not communism. China? Not communism. When people talk about those damn Ruski commies, they never existed. What did exist was an INCREDIBLY oppressive socialist, imperialist regime that colonized and erased the culture of dozens of nations and ethnic minorities, and murdered not only them but its own people. The Soviet Union ruined millions of lives and the only thing that was ever communist about it was that it called itself communist.
So I want to talk about that a little bit because there are several things happening when we talk about “communism”.
What I am DEFINITELY sick of is people comparing the west and the east to say that capitalist nations are better or more progressive than communist/socialist ones. The Soviet Union, The Republic of China, and Cuba are not Evil, they’re different and have absolutely killed a lot of people— Stalin killed more people than any other person in history, I’ll be the first person to admit that and let me tell you about how that has irrevocably altered and traumatized Eastern European consciousness. But you know who else has killed millions of people? The United States. Let’s talk about U.S. imperialist wars or about how we incarcerate millions of black and latino people and funnel them into an endless cycle of crime and incarceration until it kills them. You want to talk about police states? Let’s talk about how you can get arrested for being black or for being trans or being a woman. (Don’t believe me? Google police discrimination in the United States or the One Condom rule in New York.)
You know what we call ignoring what the West does in order to point fingers at the East? Orientalism. Don’t be talking about the shit other countries pull to prop yourself up unless you’re willing to confront in excruciating details and frankness all of the shit YOUR country pulls. To be quite frank, I’ve never met a single person from the Western world that has ever tried to glorify what the Soviet Union and China have done. In fact, every person I’ve ever spoken to here has talked about oppressive and horrible they are with an implicit comparison to the U.S., pointing to how much better it is here.
To which I say: Go fuck yourself. All we have in the U.S. is a better veneer of freedom. (That is not aimed directly at OP and more of a general statement about conversations about Eastern Eurasia and the Global South.)
So, moving along to my final point:
I would argue that OP is ultimately incorrect. Like I said: real communism? Has very little to do with “communist” nations. They’ve never existed. We’ve never had communism on a large scale. Communism as an alternative social model for radical political resistance is an AWESOME model (I won’t get into the feasibility of large-scale implementation right now) and many of the people— often radical queers and/or PoC— who identify as communist or who are in favor of a communist model are very deliberate and conscious about what they mean when they say communist. It’s totally uninformed to conflate our world’s past history of non-communism with people who are genuinely fighting for equality and social change and stand for anti-oppression.
Look, it’s not that what any of what you’re saying is wrong, but “correct in the abstract” is not the same thing as “contextually relevant or appropriate.”
It’s great that you can have these meaningful conversations about communist philosophy with other activists and radical thinkers. I mean that with all sincerity. But that has next to nothing to do with the discussion eatingclouds and I were actually having, about our experiences growing up in the slowly-dissipating shadow of (so-called, yes) communist regimes, and how that shapes our discomfort with flippant jokes about communism on Tumblr (and, my addition, my and my parents’ irritation with knee-jerk US conservative paranoia).
No, we didn’t strictly define our terms, but that’s because this was a casual, non-academic conversation between friends who share enough context that strict definitions aren’t required to understand each other. (I will also add that eatingclouds is Czech, not American; lives in the Czech Republic, and — correct me if I’m wrong! — English isn’t her first language.)
You haven’t educated myself or eatingclouds about anything we didn’t already know. What you’ve actually done is:
- barged into a casual conversation
- derailed it into a springboard to talk about your own concerns and viewpoint, completely changing the topic in the process
- jumped to conclusions about the cultural context of the previous speakers
- ‘splained Stalinism and how it “irrevocably altered and traumatized Eastern European consciousness” … to an Eastern European and an American of immediate Eastern European descent. (The other half is Vietnamese, by the way. Why, yes, I am familiar with the concept of Orientalism…)
- castigated us for not using our academic jargon precisely in a non-academic conversation
- used your own lived experience to deny those of others despite the minimal relevance your experience has to the pre-existing conversation
- chided the OP for being so “uninformed” as to dismiss the work and philosophy of people she wasn’t talking about in the first place.
And then, cherry on the cake, you followed with another text post talking about what a “pet peeve” it is of yours when people make “uninformed statements” or draw “uninformed conclusions.”
It takes some gall to totally co-opt a discussion and then condescend to the original speakers for not talking about what you want to talk about in the way you want to talk about it.
We’ve known each other casually for a while, and I know you’re not a bad guy, but if you’re going to criticize American imperialism, I’m going to suggest that you take a look at your own behavior and consider the extent to which US-centric assumptions shaped the way you responded to eatingclouds’ and my posts.
(For the record: I asked and received eatingclouds’ permission to engage before writing this reply. All of the above is my own opinion, and she’s more than welcome to add, correct, or contradict anything I’ve said if her take differs from mine, particularly since I, too, have American/Western privilege, even if my background means I sometimes deal with its flipside. Other than that, I’ve said my piece.)