The REDSTAR2000 Papers

Listen to the worm of doubt, for it speaks truth. - Leftist Discussion

No "Free Speech" for Reactionaries! October 7, 2004 by RedStar2000

This may well be the longest collection of posts on this site...or perhaps a collection of the longest posts.

I'm not sure why this should be such a contentious issue...but that it is cannot be denied.



Whilst many would say 'no free speech for reactionaries' - I would disagree. Indeed they more often than not do harm rather than good, but to repress?

We become as bad as that which we all despise.

We are as "bad" least if we're communists.

"Taking sides" in the class struggle is not a matter of a "higher moral commitment" to an "abstract good"'s a matter of one side wins and the other side loses.

Of course, either side may appeal to "moral values" as a matter of propaganda and agitation.

The capitalists do so all the time...and we know they are lying.

I have a rather strong bias against lying as a strategy...not because it's "immoral" but because it's ineffective.

I think we should tell the working class the truth...even when it seems "unpopular" or may be "embarrassing" for us. I think that's the core of a winning strategy in the long run.

In the "information age" more than ever, the truth will out. Let's tell it from the beginning -- "warts and all".

The more our reputation grows as the only political current where people always tell the truth, the more people will listen to what we have to say.

An important part of that truth is that we favor the unqualified victory of the working class and the unmitigated defeat of the ruling class and its lackeys.

Not only will the old ruling class be deprived of all their "rights"...they'll be damn lucky if they escape summary execution.

I know that sounds "harsh"...but go back and read what happened to the workers of Paris after the Commune was defeated by the French army.

You'll see what I'm getting at.
First posted at Che-Lives on August 26, 2004

It seems to me that there is a good deal of confusion in this discussion.

Perhaps I can illustrate this with a possible scenario...

Imagine that a revolution has just taken place. The armed working class has taken over all the workplaces. The old ruling class government has been smashed; the old army and police have been dissolved; the material wealth of the old ruling class has been seized.

Things are very disorganized...even chaotic. People are trying to organize themselves into a functioning communist society...but it's hard and there are difficulties.

Now, in the midst of this turmoil, some of you folks suggest that we should give the remnants of the old ruling class a "voice" and even a "press".

For what purpose?

Do we "need" or even "want" their "advice" about anything?

Should they have access to the public discourse, will these reactionaries have anything helpful to say?

Or would they use that voice to lie about and slander our whole project? Would they use it for the purpose of arousing opposition to everything we want to do?

In fact, won't they constantly agitate for the restoration of capitalism?

Do we need that?

Some of you folks seem to think the "only" alternative is some kind of "state secret police" to suppress pro-capitalist dissent.

But that's not true. Power is in the hands of the armed workers...why can't they also take care of this matter as well?

The presses are in their hands; why can't they simply refuse to print capitalist or other reactionary shit? Likewise for radio and television.

Even the internet service providers are now in the hands of the workers; why should they permit pro-capitalist sites to use their services?

Because of a "commitment" to an abstraction like "freedom of speech" or "freedom of the press"?

Let me ask you this: how much "freedom of speech" or "freedom of the press" has the capitalist class ever given us?

Is there some reason that we supposed to be "morally obligated" to "play fair" with the class enemy?

What is it?

The capitalist class has terrorized its working class opponents for...getting on towards a couple of centuries now. And things will probably be even worse (and maybe a lot worse) in the coming decades.

And you want to "make nice" with those bastards?

First posted at Che-Lives on September 12, 2004


Redstar, I think you missed the point most of us were making. In a Communist society, or whatever left wing society, it doesn't matter what the fuck cappies say, because they will be able to see for themselves that the right wing or cappie statements are bullshit. And since the revolution will be by the masses, for the masses, and the masses will control all means of airing a view at the initial stage anyway, how are the right-wing people gonna spread their views anyway?

This is not very clear to me...but it almost appears that you're saying what I have said in different worlds.

If (1) the working class effectively controls access to all the media; and (2) the capitalist class is deprived of their wealth...making it impossible to hire people to spread their views; then you have effectively suppressed "free speech" for reactionaries...without ever saying that you're doing that.

I can live with that.
First posted at Che-Lives on September 23, 2004


If anyone sees a program or reads a paper they believe is "reactionary" or "bourgeois", they go to the writer or producer and beat them up?

It might come to least in the early days.

When Nazis in San Francisco opened the "Rudolph Hess Bookstore" (early 80s), people did not demonstrate or go to the Board of Supervisors and ask for some statute to shut it down or hire lawyers to find some technicality in the city code that could be used against the Nazis, etc.

They just burned it to the ground.

That was the end of the "Rudolph Hess Bookstore".

quote: you call a special meeting of the entire collective every time someone disagrees? And how do you decide? Maybe the complainant does think it's reactionary propaganda, but someone else thinks it's legitimate criticism.

Well, I think you must give people some credit for common sense. If a particular individual or small group are "always bitching"...then people will simply ignore their complaints.

I think it might work, on a larger scale, much in the way that "ban threads" work on this board. In the past, some people were always wanting to ban this or that guy...and after a while, people grew weary of it. On the other hand, some bans were clearly justified...I recall one hapless individual that accumulated a vote of 27-0 in favor of a ban in less than 24 hours.


Otherwise we face the Periclean problem all over again, and whomever can "prove their case" better (i.e., whomever is the better speaker) will win.

I prefer this option to any form of "codified rules"...for precisely the reasons you outlined.

In matters of controversy among the people, it's a grave error -- in my opinion -- to decide such matters "legally"...that is, according to some kind of "code". To have formal codes and try to enforce them would simply be a bureaucratic nightmare.

I think it's much better if people informally work out, over time, what the range of "legitimate opinion" is.

It will be different in different places...though perhaps not on "major issues".

And much of it might well be left up to the media collective involved. Imagine a daily newspaper collective involving 200 or so people. One of them submits an article that is or could be construed to be marginally "pro-capitalist". A small fuss is raised.

He does it again and then once more. And his pro-capitalist bias becomes clearer and even strident.

A big fuss erupts...and by a vote of 116 to 62, he's out on his ass. Can he find another newspaper collective that will have him? Are there people who would be willing to work with him on a new paper? Would paper workers be willing to supply him with newsprint? Would workers who manufacture mainframe computers be willing to give him & his new collective one? How about presses? How about electricity? How about building space?

Sure, he could argue his views on the internet...though even then if people find out who he is, he could discover that no internet service collective would be willing to connect him.

He could even become something of a "social pariah"...few might even be willing to speak to him, much less socialize with him.

After 1865, anyone in the U.S. who publicly advocated the restoration of slavery would have been in pretty serious trouble...without breaking a single law.

I don't think I've ever read of such a case.

What I expect on the part of reactionaries is not an open expression of their views, but rather an advocacy of ideas that, if implemented, would re-establish the foundations of class society.

Watch out for people who consistently advocate greater centralization, new and larger bureaucracies, placing more power in the hands of "qualified" people, re-introducing "market mechanisms", "professionalizing" organs of repression or defense, etc. (And they'll blubber a lot about "freedom of religion" too!)

We don't need any of that crap and I don't see why we should permit it.


Capitalist society has not played fair, but in post-revolutionary society...who gives a damn. Concerns about "tit for tat" and "getting them back" are entirely petty.

It's not simply a matter of "class spite".

The reason that the capitalist class has never "played fair" with us is because they want to win.

Our motivation is exactly the same. If making it difficult or impossible for reactionary ideas to get a "fair hearing" will help us win -- and I think it will -- then I'm for it.


We need free speech and freedom of press; that way we have an opposition to keep us in line.

But "we" are not a "government" or a "ruling party". Communist society doesn't have those things.


Not all right wing ideals are bad and not all left wing ideals are good.

Well, I've read some "lefties" who do indeed have some pretty bad "ideals".

But "good" right-wing "ideals"???



The best way to keep a government's integrity is to allow criticism.

I repeat: we are not a government. Power in communist society rests in the people as a whole.

And they will criticize all the time!


Of course all of this would be state owned...

"Ownership" is a concept that does not apply in communist society; trusteeship would be a better word.

If a broadcasting collective began to broadcast reactionary ideas, the electrical workers could and probably would "pull the plug"...revoking the trusteeship, as it were.


So this is difficult.

I think the biggest difficulty in this whole question is that it tends to be raised abstractly rather than in real-world practical terms.

And when it is raised in practical terms, some people seem to have difficulties separating out the routine assumptions of class society from what would be far more likely to be the routine assumptions of classless society.

A new world is really that...not just the old world with a fresh coat of red paint.
First posted at Che-Lives on September 24, 2004


While such actions are warranted and even necessary during any revolution, once society has calmed, they become dangerous if too repeated or extreme.

I agree...there's always a tension between "not far enough" and "too far". Most likely, public opinion will oscillate. Sometimes reactionaries might be "tolerated" and sometimes, if they really piss people off, they might be summarily shot.

I'd probably be on the "tolerant" side long as they didn't make a public nuisance of themselves.


What complicates the matter, is that most of the "grey issues" won't be as clear-cut as bookstores named after famous Nazis. They will be concerns that really do require some consideration. It is in these cases that the risk of demagoguery or bigotry or even simple ideological disagreements really emerge.

Well, these risks are more or less with us always...we would argue against them as best we could, but unless we either do nothing on this issue or erect a bureaucracy to deal with it...those are risks we'd have to take.

If power is really to be in the hands of the people, then I don't see how we can "set things up in advance" so that they can't "misuse" it or "make mistakes".

In fact, I'd say it's certain that they will misuse it or make mistakes...from time to time.


Now, I am not suggesting that the "Adolf Hitler Memorial Shrine" is not deserving of some serious vandalism, but I am suggesting that the "Center for Critical Sociology" is not. And that while such an institution could be a cover for reactionary subversion, it is not necessarily, and there is a critical danger that if "bookstore burnings" are condoned by a society, any organization, location, or individual could come under fire for trivial or even illusionary reasons.

Yes, that could happen. And it would indeed be a shame if a group of harmless scholars were pilloried (or worse) for no real reason.

You or I and certainly many others would, I think, rise to the defense of those unjustly accused of reactionary subversion...and there would be a "big fuss".

And who knows how it would turn out?

But isn't that the nature of human societies...even classless ones? I simply cannot imagine the "abolition of controversy".


The second problem I see with "spur of the moment" censorship is that it inevitably leads to unequal justice.

I agree...and see no possible way any "code" would not have the same consequence. "Perfect justice" is a philosophical concept...on Earth, we're lucky to even get close.


From a more "down to earth" perspective, "reactionaries" will simply learn to "hide better" or learn what neighbourhoods will more easily "put up" with them.

I have no problem with this outcome. The "deeper" they hide, the less harm they can do.

And should a certain neighborhood develop a "rep" for "tolerance of reactionaries", then most others will simply move away. It will risk becoming a "pariah neighborhood" and others will begin to mull over the possibility of cutting off essential services to them.

That "reactionary neighborhood" could even find itself under military attack by surrounding neighborhoods who'd "had enough".


...the danger of "press rules" without codification is chaos.

Perhaps...but I think the risk of "chaos" is far preferable to the risk of an all-powerful "Ministry of Publications".


That is, the region or area that is the most permissive will simply become home to those who wish to publish or print things that would alternately be excluded. This means that, no matter what the "legitimate opinion" in any other area is, those residences will be subject to what comes out of the "looser" one.

Well, how will people respond to that? Will they just "accept it"? Or will they figure out ways to struggle against the "looser" areas? Perhaps even violent ways?

I'm not suggesting, by the way, that I "know" the answer to that question...if people's general consciousness finds all reactionary ideas deeply repugnant, then they will "carry the battle to the enemy". On the other hand, if they are convinced that "tolerance" is a "moral virtue", then they won't.

And the "looseness" will rot.


Because with each precedent set, be it in a "community wide" standard or the paradigm I outlined above, some sort of record must be kept (if only for comparative or scholarly purposes) and eventually something very much like a "law code" will develop. Precedent turns to practice, practice turns to regulation. In the end, it's the same problems all over again.

People are free to choose between precedents and thus change practice as they deem appropriate.

Once something has been institutionalized, it's far more difficult to change.


As for the question you ask, I think you are taking a rather "monolithic" view of society. You assume that all the "mainframe computer" manufacturers and all the "paper workers" and all the electricity providers and all the potential journalists agree with the decision to kick him "out on his ass".

Not "all", just a majority in the various collectives.

Of course, he might find other "potential journalists" who shared his ideas...but without the physical means of production, they couldn't do much.


As far as the basic supplies he'd need, I think you'd find it would be pretty easy. There's always someone who you can convince if you're persuasive enough, he managed to convince 62 of his old comrades and they knew the context.


There is always a range of possible outcomes to most realistic scenarios.

But let's say you're right and he is able to organize the production and distribution of a mildly reactionary new paper. Well, people will see it. And they'll react to its presence.

If the reaction is mostly hostile, then ways will be sought to stop it...just as we would seek ways to stop the erection of the "Adolph Hitler Memorial Shrine".

In the context of communist society, any expressed view that would suggest the restoration of capitalism is going to generate considerable outrage.

I expect the first issue of that paper will also be its last issue.


Because you really can't outline what is and what isn't permissible in a few paragraphs.

Once you get "down and dirty" you find that real honest disagreements are far more complex.

No, I can't "write a code" and don't want to.

But what I can do and did was offer an outline of "what to watch out for"...the details must be left to the individual collectives and the general society to handle on a "case-by-case" basis.


Yes, but we are discussing a world in which we have already "won".

I don't think we can say that we've "won" until after one or better two centuries of communism have passed.

When we reach the point that anyone who advocated reactionary ideas would simply reveal himself to be a crackpot...then we can be as "tolerant" as you like. It won't make any difference.

But I think the first five or ten decades are going to be tough -- and since we don't want a state-apparatus to impose our views at gunpoint, we need to be all the more active in arousing people to sharply struggle against and suppress reactionary ideas.

quote: the "real world" it is not that easy to differentiate between "reactionary" and "critical".

We must do the best we can to make that distinction. If we fail or, worse, don't even bother trying, then our prospects become very dim indeed.

Things might possibly still turn out ok...but I would feel the urge to hold onto my old currency -- there could come a time when it will be money again.
First posted at Che-Lives on September 25, 2004


While I acknowledge that "perfect justice" is unachievable, I must point out that it still must be attempted. You're concerned about the first "few decades" of communist society, well, nothing erodes faith in a society like blatant injustice.

That's actually two points.

First, should attempting to achieve "perfect justice" take priority over defeating our class enemies?

And second, if defeating our class enemies is our primary goal, why is it then "necessary" that we must engage in "blatant injustice"?

That some injustice will almost certainly take place, I concede. Why do you assume that it will be so frequent and outrageous as to deserve the label "brazen"?


If I know that my rights are subject to the whim and mood of a few "hotheads" down the road, I know I wouldn't feel too safe.

Me neither; I'd move and so would most sensible people.

But again, why assume these polar opposites? There are the calm and rational folks on one side -- who are "tolerant" of reactionary views...and then over on the other side are "hotheads" with "whims" and "moods" who think that anything they disagree with "must" be "reactionary" and is therefore a suitable target for a violent response.

Why can't you be "calmly and rationally" intolerant of reaction? And how can you be so certain that it won't be the reactionaries who are the "hotheads"?

The Nazis were and are not particularly well known for either their "tolerance" or their calm and rational approach to controversy.

You seem to envision communism as a perpetual "witch-hunt" and search for "heresy".

I don't see why that should necessarily be the case.


Issues that are either so important or so complex that they cannot be left up to random chance must be worked out to some degree. But since I agree with you that any such attempt will probably lead to exactly the bureaucratic outcome I outlined, I must oppose any attempt at external censorship.

Well, that only leaves you with two rather unappealing alternatives: you can simply remain outside of public controversy altogether or you will find yourself defending "freedom of speech" for some pretty odious characters.

I personally think you will lose more votes than you'll win on this issue...but I could be wrong.


"Big fuss" or not, since we've agreed not to impose a bureaucracy and to still attempt censorship, I can guarantee that it will happen again.

Other unjustified attacks (and, yes, worse) will happen again and again and again.

With no guidelines, but with the sense of "righteousness" that can only come with social approval, such activities will become commonplace.

But resistance to unjustified accusations will also arise "again and again" and, if necessary, "become commonplace".

A point I've made before: communist society is not "Heaven". People will still differ with each other and still struggle with each other to influence the course of events.

That need not mean "blood-thirsty mobs" storming through the streets looking for "a heretic" to hang.

And if some people decide to act like that, others will resist...violently if necessary.


But will it make honest critics, scholars, and journalists afraid to speak? Certainly.


To be sure, some folks might be feel induced to ponder their words a bit more carefully before they consider more thoughtfully the "larger" implications of their views.

But shouldn't we want people to "engage brain before opening mouth"?

I don't think there will be much public "outrage" over any honest and thoughtful criticism...unless it is clearly crafted in such a way as to attack (directly or indirectly) the fundamentals of classless society.

People who do that will, I suspect, know what they are doing and will have to accept the they no worse than expulsion from a collective and a "rep" for being some kind of reactionary.


This is the kind of chaos I'm concerned about. Not the kind that can be worked with and shaped, but the kind that leaves half of society terrified and the other half the reason why.

Well, it could happen that way...I just see it as a "low probability" outcome.

If things did turn out that way, then people would demand the "restoration of order" and they'd get the restoration of class society along with it...probably some sort of "left" despotism.

That would certainly be a great tragedy...but not necessarily "the end of the world". It took the capitalists a considerable period of time to learn "how to rule" -- and perhaps the working class will need to make several attempts at communism before they "get it right".


So what are we left with? Civil war?

Yes, that's also possible. There were hints of that possibility during China's "great proletarian cultural revolution".

I don't think it will happen that way in a "high tech" communist society...but the possibility certainly exists.

But I see no reason for "despair" if it does; the reactionaries and their supporters will be defeated again (hopefully!) and...things will go on.


If people living on one end of the street believe that someone should be designated to manage water reclamation, but the people on the other end disagree, what happens? Fight to the death?

Maybe. Unlikely but...maybe.

"War is the continuation of politics by other means"...but now we're talking about a society in which both politics and war are in the hands of ordinary people.

I think they will do better than all of the various elites of today and yesterday.

But we'll see.


In this scenario, every area will vie to be the "most leftist". No one will want to be killed for living in a "looser" area, so they will begin accusing the "next town over" and real criticism or analysis of anything becomes impossible without risking a violent response.

You have a very vivid and colorful imagination. Some of what worries you might take place on a small scale here and there...but as a consistent feature of classless society, I think it's a non-starter.

People have real lives, after all. Only outright nutballs would see reactionaries "under every bed"...and what kind of hearing are they likely to get?

What kind of hearing do "right-to-life" nutballs get now when they start taking shots at doctors and women's clinics?

If a small group of "righteous" nutballs take it upon themselves to start exterminating anyone they think is a reactionary, is it not most likely they will be quickly exterminated themselves as a menace to public order?

In order to arouse a violent response that will also be socially-approved, you have to actually convince a substantial number of people that in this case a violent response is appropriate.

That's not as easy as you might think. It might happen on Nazis and groups like them.

It's not going to happen to someone for writing a book or a newspaper article...even a very bad book or newspaper article.


Once people discover that they can go around burning anything they disagree with, it is unlikely they will stop.

Ah, but they can't. In fact, if a small group resorts to violence, then they will find out if they "went too far" from the surrounding community.

If the provocation was deemed insufficient justification for the act, they will find themselves in some very deep shit indeed.

It's more likely that the mildly reactionary newspaper will cease to be published after the first issue because the resources needed to publish it will simply be withdrawn.


A de facto police force is formed, as most people don't go around burning and destroying, there will be a select few that will "have" to do it for them. Not people appointed by anyone, but merely the people who have the ideological outlook and preexisting temperament to be the ones who would do it anyway.

A gang.

Will people "accept that"? If they do, then their "communism" is doomed's only a matter of time until the gang becomes a state.

You see, that's what "letting the people decide" means that we do not "run things for them" so they "can't" fuck up.

If people are so timid as to allow "left" vigilantes to "run wild"...then that simply means that they are not ready yet for communism...and, in one fashion or another, a new ruling class will emerge.

The only thing we can do is tell them what we think should or should not be done.


Our prospects are even dimmer if we start "punishing" those who speak out. The chilling effect is very real and very dangerous.

I'm sure it is. I've certainly had occasion to feel the icy wind on my neck often enough.

But who will feel the chill of suppression in communist society?

Everyone? Most people? A substantial minority? A small minority?

If "done right", only the "bad guys" should feel the chill. You seem to anticipate that it "must" be done "wrong" (to excess) and the resulting atmosphere will be simply impossible for people to tolerate.

I think people, using their ordinary common sense, will "get it mostly right".

I could be wrong, of course, but it's a chance I'm willing to risk.
First posted at Che-Lives on September 25, 2004


I would propose that the two aims are in fact one in the same.

They may be the same in the long run...but it's rather unlikely in the short run.

In any given country, if there are tens or hundreds of millions of people in general agreement with communism, there are also going to be millions or even tens of millions in general disagreement with communism.

It's hardly practical to just "kill them all", yet in some fashion they must be demoralized to the point of political passivity or ineffectiveness. The alternative is counter-revolution...or at least a really nasty and bloody civil war.

By stigmatizing their ideas and making it extremely difficult for them to circulate in the public discourse, we accomplish a necessary purpose without wide-spread bloodletting.


I don't claim it is "necessary", rather that it is unavoidable if we attempt the enforcement of "censorship" without prescribed limitations.

The two words -- "necessary" and "unavoidable" -- mean the same thing in this context.

Whereas I argue that injustices are possible and even likely on occasion but neither "necessary" nor "unavoidable".

And when injustices do occur, that doesn't necessarily mean that they will be "horrendous" and bloody excesses inflicted by "hotheads".

It can simply mean that reactionaries will be denied the resources to spread their ideas in a significant fashion.


To be fair, I applied the label "blatant", not "brazen".

And I used the word "blatant" specifically, because what you're proposing would not be the ordinary imperfect justice that comes with any society, but rather injustice that is specifically condoned by society.

I stand corrected for mis-quoting you...though again it would seem that in this context the words have the same meaning.

What I dispute is your contention that we would be guilty of "blatant injustice"...that we "would" unfairly and wrongfully stop the circulation of views that were not reactionary at all.

I can see people arguing in meetings about a particular set of views and taking varying positions: X is actually revolutionary, X is "harmless", X "implies" a reactionary outlook, X is "self-evidently" reactionary, etc.

Just as on this board, there might well be protracted public debate before any decisions were made -- there are majority views on this board now that two years ago were only held by a small minority. For example, Religion is now a sub-forum of Opposing Ideologies...two years ago that could not have happened.

You could argue that we have evolved an informal "code" now...a step towards eventually eliminating religion as a subject of serious public discussion here at all. I think the time will come (two years? five years? whenever) when anyone who writes a "pro-god" post here will be automatically restricted to Opposing Ideologies and, further down the line, will be banned.

The limits of acceptable public discourse will have been defined by the people here themselves...not by decree but by ideological struggle and democratic vote.

I think that's how it will work in communist society...though things may be somewhat less orderly in the early years when "tempers are high".

The goal is not "hotheads" running amuck...but a serious and long-term struggle to put an end to the public display of reaction: racism, sexism, homophobia, superstition...and any appeal for the restoration of class society.


The clear danger of any plebiscitarian system is oppression of the minority, what Oligarchs called the "tyranny of the majority". The Oligarchan solution [is to] centralize power, the better solution is to limit it.

What is more "limiting" of power than the absence of a state apparatus? You can't be arrested, imprisoned, or shot simply for expressing reactionary least that can't happen in a systematic way.

It could happen "informally"...if you really pissed off a whole lot of people or even a few "hotheads". I would anticipate that Nazis would be "censored" by summary execution.

But beyond this, I think this quote by you is a revealing one and cuts to the heart of the matter.

You fear the "tyranny of the majority" and wish to limit it.

I don't.

In my view, oligarchies -- even "people's oligarchies" -- are much more worthy of being feared...and despised.

I contend that by the time the working class is "ready" to undertake proletarian revolution and the project of a communist society, it will rule justly far more often than it will rule unjustly...and will continuously improve in that regard.

Of course, I could be wrong.

But that's where I'm putting my chips.

All of them.


Who's to say what is "crafted" to "attack (directly or indirectly) the fundamentals of classless society"? That is a very subjective judgment. Indeed, many may think innocent publications [that] have precisely that intent, whereas other may find innocent publications with ulterior motives.

Like all controversies, this must be decided on the basis of argument and evidence.

There may be subjective elements involved in such decisions and injustices may result from that...but I think ordinary working people will "get it mostly right."
First posted at Che-Lives on September 28, 2004


I am not proposing a "people's oligarchy", as you put it, but rather proposing that the power of popular decisions be limited based on human fallibility. While majoritarian rule has its clear benefits, ignoring the problems is ultimately self-defeating.

If the power of popular decisions is to be "limited", who does that?

And who enforces that?

Are we to rid ourselves of all the attributes of a state machinery "except" nine old men on a "Supreme Court" and a small army to enforce their decisions?

Or do you want "the whole bag of donuts"...multi-level courts, life-time judges, elaborate law codes, police, prisons, prison guards, lawyers, etc., etc., etc.?

How long would it take for all that to devolve into a new class society?


Basic human rights must be understood to be protected...The protection of basic rights is essential to ensure that everyone feels safe and secure in any society, the dangers of a plebiscitarian approach to everything are clear.

What is a "basic human right"? How could that be defined in a coherent way?

After all, capitalists sincerely believe that "the right to get rich" is not only a "basic human right" but the most important basic right there is...more important than all the rest put together.

Many superstitious people sincerely believe that "the right to be saved and to save others from eternal damnation" is the most important "basic right" there is, also more important than all the rest put together.

Nazis think that fighting for the global triumph of one's "race" is the most important "basic human right" of them all.

Many bourgeois liberals have a somewhat more humane approach (at least verbally): the rights to decent food, adequate shelter, education, etc. are "basic human rights".

And so on...we could, if we wished, make a very long list of what different social groups have regarded as "basic human rights".

Which ones prevail? In communist society, it would be the ones that a majority of people agreed with...the ones that would make them feel "safe and secure".

Is that wrong? Is there some philosophical or theological reason for assuming that "basic human rights" refers to an "absolute" standard that exists "independently" of real human societies?

Or is it not a fact that "basic human rights" are a product of a specific culture, a specific class (or classless) society? Frankly, that seems the obvious answer to me.

Every society has "its own" set of "basic human rights" derived from its own historical experiences and based upon the interests of its own ruling class.

It's true that in a revolutionary society we have a certain amount of "latitude" in proclaiming our own set of "basic human rights". People are "open-minded" about major changes in every area of human interaction.

But the changes that will "stick" are the ones that most people find are genuinely useful, those that result in real improvements in their lives, and those that definitively write finis to the old order.

That is what people will spontaneously enforce as the "basic human rights" of communist society.

I don't think "freedom of speech for reactionaries" is going to "make the cut".

Nor should it.


Flat out, what are the risks attached with allowing the free writing and distribution of material that you would deem to be "reactionary"?

1. It enhances the morale of the reactionaries themselves...their ideas are "not dead yet".

2. It encourages reactionaries to actively engage in resistance to the new society, including violent resistance. It "points towards" a civil war.

3. It appeals to a greater or lesser extent to anyone who may be less than satisfied with the new society..."pulling" them towards more coherently reactionary views.

4. And, by the same token, it acts as an obstacle to the deepening of revolutionary views throughout the new society.

5. In an atmosphere where it is socially acceptable (or semi-respectable) to express reactionary ideas publicly, it encourages the re-emergence of reactionary behavior.

6. Perhaps most importantly of all, it influences attitudes in a "semi-conscious" way -- a perfectly sincere communist could find himself advocating some measure that he "picked up" from a reactionary source without even realizing it...and it would be a measure that, if implemented, could end up promoting the restoration of capitalist society.

Do not overlook the fact that even in a revolutionary society, there is still an enormous amount of "social inertia" to be overcome if the revolution is to "stick"...reactionary propaganda on any significant scale will only make things tougher.

We don't need that.
First posted at Che-Lives on September 28, 2004


This encouragement will be there, regardless, because "reactionaries" will likely "hang out" with other "reactionaries".

That doesn't bother me...and there would be little anyone could do about it even if it did.

Should reactionary ideas be "part" of the "public discourse" of communist society...that's the question.

It occurs to me that "scale" might be one of the keys to this matter. You've said a number of times that reactionaries could always gather the bare minimum of resources to "publish" in a small way reaching a few people...perhaps on the internet or perhaps on a copy machine.

Whereas I've said that I think that workers should and will deny the large-scale resources required for reactionaries to spread their ideas on a significant scale.

The people who make and repair printing presses will not give them one. The people who run radio and television stations will not let them on the air. They might certainly acquire a home personal computer (anyone can have one of those)...but if the workers at their internet service provider find out what they're up to, the plug will be pulled.

So what can the reactionaries do besides mostly talk to each other?

That doesn't worry me.


On the contrary, if "reactionary" views are being read and discussed, it lessens the risk of civil war. The proponents of these ideas feel listened to and can visibly see that their ideas are not being accepted. They may attempt to change their tactics, but violence is unlikely.

For civil war to be a practical possibility, one needs a significant base of support. If reactionary ideas are part of the legitimate public discourse, they may either get some of that support or think they have it.

"Cooler" heads may prevail -- "it's too soon, we don't have enough support yet," etc. -- but they may not.

Historically, reactionaries have always been far more addicted to violence than revolutionaries...any encouragement they might receive from "being listened to" only exacerbates the problem.

If they are small and isolated and yet resort to violence, that's not too bad. They can be crushed. But if they are "allowed to grow"...then things could get very nasty indeed.

Civil wars, as I'm sure you know, are very bloody affairs in which many innocents are killed by both sides.

If they can be avoided by forcing reactionary ideas out of public discourse, I think that's reason enough.


People who are "less than satisfied" with communism will be tempted to consider other options regardless of whether they're at risk of being shot for writing about it; at least with free speech, they will be able to have a public debate on it.

Of course they will "consider other options"...but in the absence of a public reactionary "movement" put together around a reactionary media, their musings are apt to remain isolated and ineffective.

The phrase "at risk of being shot for writing about it" is disingenuous. Only outright Nazis/fascists are at serious risk of such a harsh response -- for obvious historical reasons. Some academic who wants to argue for the re-introduction of "market mechanisms" is, at worst, likely to get the boot by his colleagues.


If "revolutionary views" are so tenuous as to be shaken by the opinions of a few dissenters, these ideas are not particularly strong.

The key word here is "few". It's often assumed by revolutionaries that the physical existence of a proletarian revolution is sufficient, in and of itself, to "insure victory". When the last armed defenders of the old order surrender, "the ballgame is over -- we won!"

I don't think that's true. I think there will be a long period of time -- perhaps a century or maybe two -- in which "the struggle will continue". Sure, we will have a powerful edge and many advantages in that struggle -- material conditions being the most important of those advantages. We "ought" to win "easily".

But the kind of complacency that "tolerates" reactionary ideas in the public sphere is deadly.

You've probably heard the sports cliche that always comes up when a strong team plays a weak team: "they think they've won the game just by showing up".

It's even truer in politics.

Those who benefited from the old order (or think they did) are not just going to throw in the towel. They want a re-match very badly -- and I think it is vitally important never to give them that chance.


How?...And what, specifically, is "reactionary behaviour"?

1. Violence against women and children.

2. Racially motivated hate crimes.

3. Gay bashing.

4. Taking more goods than you can use from the public warehouse...deliberate waste or destruction of resources, sabotage of production, etc.

5. Inappropriate/unnecessary bureaucratization/centralization...the attempt to accumulate administrative "power" in the hands of an on-going and self-perpetuating elite.

These are reactionary behaviors that immediately come to mind at least. I could probably think of some others.

The public "toleration" of reactionary ideas will encourage some people to "do it".

They will.


Keeping such things quiet and forbidden adds to the air of mystery surrounding them...The "forbidden fruit" mystique is remarkably powerful.

Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.

Besides which I'm sure that there will be a flood of books -- "Capitalism's Hidden History", etc. -- about the old order once our historians get their hands on whatever secret records survive the revolution. Look at the enormous number of widely-read books that are still being published about the Third Reich.

Evil is "fascinating" least to many. Very well, let us tell them the whole bloody story in plenty of detail...from the communist perspective.

I think that will do the trick.


A one-sided debate is impossible, if people are deluged with nothing but communist propaganda, with no response from dissenters, people will naturally question whether there is a capitalist response to the charges that such propaganda levels against it.

Some may indeed do so...that can't be helped.

But, you see, I'm not concerned with "a fair debate" with our enemies...I want to beat them permanently and drive their ideas out of existence. Or at least discredit them so badly that should anyone raise one of their ideas, they will be immediately dismissed as a nutball.


The people themselves, of course.

They agree that despite emotion or event, certain basic rights will be protected by that community.

Sure...but why should toleration of reactionary ideas be one of those "basic rights"?

After all, what's at the heart of reactionary ideas generally speaking? Isn't it the contention that certain people (workers, women, people of color, gays, children, etc.) should have no rights at all? Isn't it the proposition that humanity needs to be ruled by an elite?

Why should this crap be "tolerated"?

Your argument seems to rest on the assumption that intolerance is a "slippery slope"...that intolerance of reactionary ideas "must lead" to intolerance for all ideas, especially new ones.

I disagree with that assumption vehemently.

The absence of discredited ideas does not mean the "end" of debate, discussion, intellectual ferment, etc. In fact, I think it opens the way for fruitful debate, discussion, etc.

That's what happens in science...and I don't see why that shouldn't happen in all of public discourse. There's a ton of debate in scientific journals...even though they won't publish a single article defending "creationism".


The more a society tries to hide opposing opinions, the more the members of that society want to see of them.

Have you noticed a big media market these days for material arguing in favor of the restoration of feudalism or slavery?

The "arguments" in favor of those systems have been suppressed.
First posted at Che-Lives on September 29, 2004


But regardless, what I think you're missing is that these groups can grow even within the restrictions you advocate. The difference is that they will do it more quietly and with less scrutiny than they would if their ideas were debated in the open.

Possibly, but possibly not. One thing we do know is that public toleration of reactionary ideas will serve as no obstacle to their growth.

You seem to be confident that even with all the public exposure they want, they'll still get nowhere.

You may be right...but I don't see why we should give them that chance at a "come-back".

Why make it "easier" for them?

As to growing "underground"...well, it's historically true that some underground groups eventually emerged into the open and became powers to be reckoned with.

Most, of course, began and ended in obscurity.

Thus the odds favor keeping them out of public discourse.

But should they emerge eventually, well, then it does probably mean civil war.


And without any real public discussion on the subject the ideas of these rightists will effectively go unchallenged.

Not necessarily. Suppose a reactionary tract fell into our hands. We might well decide to publicize it and even publish an annotated version and critique.

After all, it's sometimes the case on this board that we actually post extensive excerpts from some reactionary document, attacking it paragraph by paragraph.

But it is (as it should be) a one-sided "debate"...we "rig the game" so that our enemies "look" as "bad" as they really are.

We're "not fair" nor should we be.


You cannot kill an idea by blocking it out of newspapers, you kill it by showing it is wrong.

I think we will publish enough material about the old order to show that "it was wrong" and very convincingly.


Their movement has remained a vast minority because the ideas they advocate have been publicly discredited. It is the public discourse which has taught most of us that what they propose would not be good for society.

Quite so, but the discourse was essentially one-sided and not a "fair debate". Someone may have a website that argues the "virtues" of slavery or feudalism and may even print a small newsletter...but they do not get a "fair hearing" nor have they for many, many years. The mainstream capitalist media would not consider even for a moment giving them any serious, respectful attention...any more than they would do that "for us".

The absence of a "formal code" of censorship in capitalist republics does not mean that ideas aren't censored, and very effectively, by the denial of the necessary resources to reach large numbers of people.

I propose no more than that we do the same.


...and that group has been prevented from expressing its opinions in any public form...

Here again, I think you've reached the heart of the matter.

Your assumption is that if reactionaries are granted "freedom of speech" they will be "grateful" least sufficiently so as to be willing not to use violent methods to advance their "cause".

I don't think there's a shred of historical justification for that assumption. The record of reactionaries is conclusive: violence is their first choice whenever they have the opportunity to use it...regardless of how much "free speech" they might have at that or any other moment.


If their ideas are publicly considered and discussed, it is less likely they will engage in hostile actions, and more likely that their membership will shrink as more and more of the general population understands what's wrong with their position.

It's certainly not "less likely" that reactionaries will engage in "hostile actions".

If things go well in the early decades of classless society, their appeal will shrink...and it will do so whether or not they have "free speech".

Things don't always "go well".


...but a newspaper article proposing the reinstitution of currency is not going to lead to a string of violent assaults nor is an article on the need for "professionalism" going to lead to a mass abuse of public goods.

No, those things are not related to one another directly...though there might well be some foolish readers who would interpret an article advocating the reintroduction of money as an invitation to "stock up" on "stuff" while it's "still free". *laughs*

But you know as well as I that reaction is not simply limited to a particular viewpoint on a particular subject. It's a "world-view" (or a series of world-views...they have differences among themselves just as we do).

When a reactionary writes and publishes an article on "the natural subordination of women", he doesn't have to add "it's natural to beat your wife!".

It's "understood"...for those men predisposed to that sort of thing.

When a reactionary writes and publishes an article on the "moral failures of the urban underclass"...we know and the sympathetic reader also knows what is really being said. It's not necessary to write "bring back lynching".


I'm not advocating a "fair debate" because the principle appeals to me, but because pragmatically it is the best way to defeat "reactionary" ideas.

It didn't work in the Wiemar Republic.


Scientific journals won't publish anything unless it is peer reviewed and conforms to certain standards; it's a good thing, but I wouldn't want every publication to be a scientific journal.

Well, if you're referring to style -- that dreadful "third-person impersonal" -- I'd have to agree with you. *laughs*

But what does any editorial group do but "peer review" in one fashion or another? Everyone involved in that sort of thing has "standards" -- there's stuff they won't print. Even message boards will "censor" or "edit" after the fact (and sometimes before the fact -- we have that feature in the Che-Lives software but I don't think we've ever enabled it).


If such a standard as is employed in scientific journals were to be applied to all journals and newspapers nothing controversial would be published.

That's just completely wrong.

Perhaps you don't realize it. There are "conventions" of scientific controversy that can make it look as if scientists "don't argue" with one another -- one of them is usually avoiding any direct attack on the views of another.

But don't be misled. When an article in Nature concludes with a bland sentence like "We were accordingly unable to confirm the results of Dickhead, (2001)." -- that's a flame! Grants may not be renewed, tenure may be withheld, graduate students will change dissertation advisers, etc. "Heads will roll!" *laughs*

The standard of scientific discourse that I advocate has nothing to do with the bland "style" of their argumentation...and everything to do with their refusal to knowingly print bullshit.

I think that's good...and will elevate the standard of public discourse generally.

It does not "end controversy" but channels it into controversy about rational alternatives.


Because the only other alternative doesn't work.

It has worked very well for science. I see no reason why it would not work for communist society.
First posted at Che-Lives on October 1, 2004


Censorship by the state only encourages people to think the state has something to hide.

We are not talking about that here...there's no state in a communist society.

What I seek is a situation where responsible workers' collectives in the communications industry take it upon themselves to refuse resources to reactionaries and their ideas.

Some of those collectives will have more rigorous standards than others...and thus some mildly reactionary stuff might "slip through" from time to time. But most of it will never be seen...nor does it deserve to be.


The problem, of course, is determining exactly what is bullshit.

I think that most of the time it will be pretty obvious. There may be some marginal stuff and it will be a matter of chance whether it gets printed or not.

It's not a big deal, either way.


No one knows enough on "politics" or humanity to properly judge whether or not every opinion piece conforms to the rigorous standard of journal publication.

True, but they don't need to -- opinion pieces don't "carry the weight" of an article in a scientific journal. I'm assuming that workers' collectives in the communications industry will be pretty well informed of the characteristics of reactionary propaganda and will be vigorous in stopping it from ever seeing the light of day.

Mistakes will sometimes be made...but can always be corrected.


In short, the "bland style" you speak of isn't an attribute of scientific writing, it's a necessity of it.

Nonsense. In the 19th century, scientific polemics could be as vehement as anything found in politics. Even today, those few scientists who are not dependent for their careers on institutions possibly controlled by their opponents still polemicize openly against what they think are false hypotheses.


I'm not quite sure what you want...every newspaper article to be peer-reviewed and annotated? Every television program to be followed with sworn attestations?

No, it's not necessary to take matters to that's simply to follow the standard "we will not knowingly print/broadcast reactionary bullshit."


Without any other medium, these opinions simply languish with no exposure.

Here you seem to contradict a number of your earlier statements to the effect that reactionary views might "grow" if they were kept "underground".

I, of course, would be delighted to learn that reactionary views were "languishing" for lack of public outlets.

May they "languish" to the point of extinction.


People in the sixties and seventies didn't change their opinions on race because the "pro-capitalist media" wanted it, but because, finally, they were confronted with the issues and had to look at their prejudices and preconceptions.

Well, I was there...and I think you've over-simplified matters a bit.

For one thing, segregation in the American South and all the overt racism that went with it became an acute liability during the "cold war"...and many ruling class folks were painfully aware of this.

The capitalist media's contribution to this "debate" was to show, in vivid imagery, the behavior of southern cops towards non-violent demonstrators...scenes of such brutality as to "shock" the viewing public.

This could have been done as early as 1910 or thereabouts...but it was done in the late 1950s for reasons other than "conscience".

What the ruling class decided was that overt and visible racism (segregation) should be suppressed...and this was indeed done, mostly during the Johnson administration.

The "normal" racism of American society -- the routine daily discriminations and humiliations directed against people of color -- have never changed and may, in some cases, have gotten worse.

But no public figure can use the "n" word any more...that is no longer permitted. It's been suppressed.

Instead, code words like "urban underclass" are used.

I expect communications workers in communist society to be especially alert to the use of code words.


There is a much better word for this "form" of "debate": propaganda.

I can live with that.

In fact, I have no choice and neither do you nor does anyone else. Every human society "propagandizes" its members to think that certain things are true and legitimate and other things are shameful and disgusting.

People raised in a certain society from childhood will usually accept most if not all of its "norms" without serious questioning...and without regard to objective truth or falsehood.

If we can mostly stop the propagation of reactionary ideas, then generations will arise that should they encounter a reactionary idea, will find it shameful and disgusting.

What's wrong with that?


You seem to believe that the people are so easily deceived that the mere mention of capitalist arguments and they'll go running back to the dollar.

No, I don't "believe" any such thing...neither of us has any way of objectively predicting the outcome of our respective propositions.

I just don't see anything to be gained by giving reactionaries even the chance to make a matter how slender the odds may be of that actually happening.

You, on the other hand, seem to believe several contradictory things about the outcome of "free speech for reactionaries" but that overall "things will work out even better".

Maybe you're right.

But what if you're wrong?

What happens then?
First posted at Che-Lives on October 2, 2004


I think you should rephrase that to "we will not knowingly print/broadcast reactionary bullshit or permit anyone else to do so or allow internet access or printing materials to anyone who attempts to do so; and we will disallow distribution, publication, or broadcast of anything we deem to be reactionary bullshit".

I have said several times that I do not oppose journalistic editing, merely the suppression of alternate attempts at dissemination.

As long as it's understood that the "we" in your formula is understood to mean workers in the communications industry itself, I have no problem with that.

The "we deem" phrasing makes it sound as if such decisions will be arbitrary and whimsical in nature...but I think you know that's not the case.

Three days ago, a user on this board posted a blatantly racist rant. Within a few minutes, a moderator requested a ban. And within 40 minutes, I banned the asshole and moved his thread to Trashcan.

I hope that workers in communist society will act with similar dispatch.


Capitalist ideas will never fully vanish, not for generations. People do not need to be "informed" about "what capitalism is".

This again seems to contradict other things you've said to the effect that if reactionaries are not permitted access to public discourse, then their ideas will "appeal" (to some) due to their "mystery" and aura of "forbidden fruit".

In any event, there will be books and articles reminding people of the content of reactionary ideas...but they will be written from our point-of-view.

Propaganda, to be sure.

So what?


Your talking about subtle socialization, the natural programming that accompanies any society.

I'm talking about your "one-sided debate".

There's a difference.

Which is?

Shall we have "equal time" for cannibals? Or child-molesters? How about those in favor of human sacrifice to the "gods"?

If we agree that such views are outside of the range of acceptable public discourse, why should not the same be true of reactionary ideas? Why should they not be widely condemned and, where practical, suppressed?

The only difference that I see is that condemnation of cannibalism is almost universal now and it would be very hard to find anyone who would seriously argue in its favor. Suppression has essentially "worked".

Many people in the first few centuries of communism will, at one point or another, "toy" with one or several reactionary ideas...but when they find that such ideas cannot ever get "a fair hearing", they will mostly, I expect, "throw in the towel". They may retain a private opinion (something I'm indifferent to) favorable to some reactionary ideas...but they will be unable to do anything about it of any public significance.


That form of subtle passive propaganda is unavoidable, but what it isn't, is directed. It isn't active. This may seem unimportant, but it is in fact essential.

Any post-revolutionary society would "smell" active propaganda in a second, and they won't trust it.

Why shouldn't they "trust it"? It's not "made" by some central "Ministry of Propaganda" but by revolutionary workers themselves. Sure, those who are reactionary will dismiss what we say as "mere propaganda"...they are our enemies after all.

Otherwise, as long as we are truthful (and don't fall prey to "Comintern-speak" -- that preachy and horribly unreadable style that Leninists adopted after the death of Lenin), I see no reason why what we say should not be "trusted".


...but no matter how hard you try, you can never truly "kill" capitalist ideals.

Expecting a big turnout at the Temple of Zeus in your neighborhood this morning? What, you don't have one?

Gee, there's not one in my neighborhood either.

In other words, the "ideals" of capitalism, like the "gods", are mortal. Constructed by humans, they can be abandoned or even destroyed by humans. They have no existence independent of humans.

The time will come, I think, when reactionary ideas will be of interest only to antiquarians...rather like Zeus now.


You're trying to completely remove a set of values that have been a part of most of the world for the majority of the past three hundred years.

You can't do that with censorship.

It will not, as already noted, be done solely by censorship. There will be many overt attacks on these ideas in many forms.

You would call it "propaganda".


Sure, they'll have been told in school that they should find it "shameful and disgusting", but we both know how curious young people can be...

If I'm not mistaken, you are here alluding to the times when young people were taught that sex was "shameful and disgusting"...a campaign that always failed.

If so, I don't think that's a very good "parallel". Sex is highly pleasurable and therefore strongly appealing to the young regardless of "official morality".

I don't think reactionary ideas will have anything remotely approaching the appeal of sex.


In a few decades, the stakes get higher. After living in communist society for a while, people do start to get curious about "alternatives" and now they start to look to the media for"options".

If all they see is propaganda, they will look elsewhere, and so the counterrevolution beings...

I think the only reason that people would start to look for "alternatives" in a serious way is that if communist society had conspicuously failed to meet people's perceived needs. If shortages were chronic, if gross inequalities were permitted to arise and establish themselves, if some kind of political elite came to dominate the public discourse, or even if people found communist society unbearably boring...then I could see a serious search for alternatives.

Even then, though, there'd have to be a pretty major "disconnect" between the media and reality for people to start turning over rocks looking for reactionary options. That is, if everything readily available told you that things "are really great" when you know from your personal experience that things are, in fact, "really fucked up"...yeah, you'd be a fool not to start digging for serious dissent.

I simply don't think this is a realistic scenario. In fact, I think there will turn out to be a wide range of communist alternatives that will be contested and struggled over...without censorship of any kind being involved.

At this point, we don't know the range of those alternatives and what they would involve...but I think it highly unlikely that human innovation and creativity will cease on "the day after the revolution" or ever.

There may be ways of "having communism" that haven't even been thought of yet.

Reactionary ideas have nothing to contribute to that project.
First posted at Che-Lives on October 3, 2004


Whether it's a popular consensus or not, unless a decision is unanimous, some people will find it "unfair"

So be it.


Now, that may work fine on an internet message board, but if you want a society to function with similar "dispatch", you have to start adopting some of those "professionalizing" principles you so despise.

Why? Did I need a "college degree" or a "weekly paycheck" to spot the racism in a post that said "fuck n*****s"?

Do you suggest that anyone would have any problem spotting the racism there?

Do you think we should permit racism on this board?

Most of the time, detecting reaction is not "rocket science"'s as obvious as shit on the dinner table.

On those occasions when it's "well disguised", then -- as I noted earlier -- it's the responsibility of conscious communists and anarchists to draw attention to what is really being said.

If the working class finds our arguments convincing, then it's off to the trashcan with the disputed piece.


The point is that the details of capitalism will blur but the existence of capitalism and the "buzzwords" will persist.

"Individualism", "hard work", "make it on your own".

After a couple of decades, people will start to forget the practical realities, but they'll never forget that Capitalism is still out there.

After 20 years, no. After 200 years, yes.

How much of feudalism is still "out there"? Do you or any sensible person still think of it as a realistic "alternative" now?


It's called credibility, once you lose it it's damn hard to get back.

Agreed...but I don't see why we should "lose it" simply because we suppress reactionary ideas.

To lose credibility, we'd have to lie about stuff that people could see with their own eyes was a lie.

I hope that we would not be so stupid as to do such a thing.


Sure you change which books you burn, but the town bonfire's still there.'re really getting carried away with this, aren't you?

I see no reason why reactionary books might not be stored in a few libraries here and there -- they will be important for historians, after all.

The remainder will be pulped and recycled as new books...pretty much what happens now as a matter of routine.

Of what use are 50,000 copies of How to Succeed in Business when business no longer exists?


You think people can't tell the difference between a real debate and a "one-sided" one, that if you put enough of it out there, they'll believe it.

They should "believe it"'s true.


Ultimately, this comes down to trust.

You don't trust that people will make intelligent decisions if they hear all the opinions. You don't trust that they can identify propaganda.

I do.

Even if one of their "intelligent decisions" is to the effect that they don't want a society where reactionary ideas are considered part of the legitimate range of public discourse?

Do they "have the right" to decide that? Even if it's by a vote of 51 to 49?


Condemnation breeds debate and discussion; suppression breeds resentment and anger.

I don't know where you get the idea that reactionaries are going to find communist society more "acceptable" provided only that they are free to propagate their views.

They are "resentful and angry" with us now...and they have complete freedom to propagate their views (some of which are actually law).

They will be very "resentful and angry" in the event of a successful proletarian revolution. The fact that they are denied access to the arena of public discourse may well add to their "resentment and anger"...but it wouldn't "go away" even if they were permitted such access.

They'd simply use that access to interfere (as best they could) with the establishment of communist society.

And you think we should "debate" them?



To those who were not part of that decision, either because they disagreed or simply couldn't be "bothered", censorship will not be seen as mere "suppression" but as oppression. Human beings are emotional beings. Very few will coldly assesss, well, it was only a necessary self-regulatory resource allocation decision. Far more will ask what are they hiding...

Perhaps. I don't deny that humans are emotional nor that "unjust suppression" can become an "emotional issue".

But here as in the case of your previous posts, I don't think it at all likely that any significant number of people will react as you suggest.

That is, I think that most people will be quite happy to suppress reactionary ideas simply because they are disgusted by them. And further, I think most of the remainder will be completely indifferent to such suppression.

Only a small minority of reactionaries and a somewhat larger number of of their sympathizers will be "upset"...and since they are already upset anyway, I don't think we have anything to lose.


It isn't what's written that won't be trusted per se, but the lack of any voiced dissent.

Don't be absurd...there will be dissent and probably lots of it.

What will be missing is reactionary dissent...and who will miss it?


If that were true then what's the harm in allowing public debate?

Reactionaries would waste public resources producing shit.

They have no constructive role to play.

And if communist society does have "difficulties", we want to debate and solve those difficulties in a communist context...we neither want nor need a bunch of reactionary crap around to simply confuse matters.


Either people are fickle and are easily distracted from communism (i.e., reading an article makes them beat their wife) or they're not (i.e., reading an article doesn't make them beat their wife).

No, it's not a matter of such gross over-simplifications.

It's more like this: a society in which advocating wife-beating is considered a "legitimate expression of opinion" is conducive towards wife-beating matter how much you "debate" the advocates of wife-beating on their logical/empirical shortcomings.


And who's to say that those "communist" alternatives won't be judged to be "reactionary"?

After all, if they're new, they're different, maybe they're...capitalistic??

Who can say?

"Reactionary" is a relative term.

No, I think it's an objective term and can be determined by any person of normal intelligence willing to put in a little effort.

It may well be that some of those "new and different" ideas for furthering communism will have reactionary content...and that will be something determined by wide-spread debate and discussion.

But a genuinely new idea cannot just be dismissed arbitrarily as "reactionary" and subsequently must be shown to be reactionary through argument and evidence.

Most of the time, this will not be an issue. It will be known more or less widely what reactionary ideas are and what they lead to...and there will be abundant "propaganda" to reinforce those lessons.

And I don't think most people will feel "oppressed" by this at fact, I think they will insist on it.

Rightfully so.
First posted at Che-Lives on October 5, 2004


Stating that "most people" agree with you isn't logic, it's telepathy, something I doubt you possess.

Nor do you possess such a talent. Our respective arguments have largely been based on "how" people would react to our opposing perspectives were they to be implemented.

We are both speculating.


This society considers advocating communism a "legitimate expression of opinion", I'm doing it, you're doing it.



Sorry to respond "in kind", but your statement is either unbelievably naive or (equally) unbelievably myopic.

Where are our daily newspapers? Where are our radio and television stations? Where are our movies? Our best-selling books? Our mass-circulation magazines at the check-out counter of every supermarket?

They don't exist. Why not? We are denied the resources to create/produce them.

As even some bourgeois liberals have admitted: Freedom of the press applies only to those who can afford to buy one.

Let's suppose, for a moment, that we had at our disposal say $200 million...and we wanted to create some kind of mass medium for communism.

First of all, forget about radio and television...we'd never get a broadcasting license. Magazine wholesale distributors would refuse to carry a communist, no newsstand sales and thus no magazine. Same for mass-produced paperbacks.

We could make a movie about communism...but the film distributors would refuse to distribute it and cinema owners would refuse to show it.

So we end up spending the money to set up a daily newspaper. Now things get really interesting.

No one (with the possible exception of a few small businesses) will buy the actual cost of the paper must be much higher than capitalist dailies just to "break even".

And parents are not going to be happy about their kids having a paper route for a commie newspaper.

We can expect regular and frequent visits from building inspectors, occupational health and safety guys, and even the EPA...and they will "find something" to "write us up" on every visit.

If we own the building where the paper is printed, local property-tax authorities are going to re-assess it...upwards. If we rent, the landlord will try his best to evict us and will certainly not renew the lease.

Insuring the paper against fire and vandalism will be very expensive...and may not be possible at all.

Which is "too bad" because the threat of arson will be tremendous. Even our newspaper vending machines will be trashed regularly.

An amendment to the zoning code may be tailored especially to exclude us. (Our legal fees, by the way, are going to be enormous.)

We will have considerable difficulties in hiring competent will take a well-above-average wage to lure people into writing and printing a commie newspaper.

Our "credit rating" will be permanently zero...everything we buy (newsprint, ink, plates, down to the plastic trashcan liners) will be "cash on delivery".

Our initial investment of $200 million would soon melt away like a spring snowstorm. In a couple of years or so we'd be broke...and that would be the end of our "first amendment" exercise.

I trust you get the point: our ideas are not considered "legitimate" public discourse in capitalist society and will never be so considered!

We are and always will be excluded by the denial of resources.

Beginning with the fact that we don't have $200 million!


[Reactionaries] have an essential role to play.

The role of critic and of antagonist. They are an opposing position with which to struggle, an outside viewpoint by which to study ourselves. They are the other that allows us to refine our views and understand our positions. They are the reminder of the fallen order that we need to separate ourselves, and they are the continual reminder that we must constantly work or we lose it all.

I confess I simply don't understand this at all. Why do we "need" an "other" to "refine our views" or "understand our positions"?

When communists argue with each other, then the kind of development you describe here does take place; I've experienced it myself.

But I don't see what contribution reactionaries have to make to this process. I know what they have to say for themselves...and so, I think, will most people.

It's not as if there won't be a long period of ideological struggle against reaction prior to the revolution itself. And it's also not as if reaction won't be periodically blasted in the media of the post-revolutionary society.

To you that's "propaganda"...because we decline to furnish the resources for reactionaries to repeat their hoary cliches.

That's ok with me.


Censorship becomes haphazard, subject to the whims of the producers of the resource in question.

Yes...and that is as it should be. People will disagree, argue with each other, and eventually reach a decision on whether a "fuzzy" (or subtle) view is reactionary or not.

The workers' decisions are not "whimsical"...unless you also want to consider the decisions of contemporary bourgeois "gate-keepers" whimsical.

The obviously reactionary will never see the light of day; the questionable will be argued. And perhaps re-argued.

And eventually it will become clear to the people involved where this "unusual" view belongs.

The "mechanics" of how to make it work is a trivial problem -- the principle is that communications workers and those involved in the production of technology and resources for that purpose cannot be compelled to assist in the dissemination of ideas that they find repugnant.

The age of compulsion is over.
First posted at Che-Lives on October 6, 2004
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