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The High School Commie's Guide July 9, 2004 by RedStar2000


There seem to be more high school kids interested in left politics these days than has been the case for a long time. And they want to argue with their peers over these ideas.

So this "small thread" just kept growing...and growing.


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quote:

I'm a Marxist in high school (going into my junior year) and I've pretty much hit a snag.

I go to school with a LOT of rich kids, who naturally are always reading books on business and how to get rich fast.

Problems, of course, come up all the time between myself (the only Marxist in school!) and the hordes of righties I confront sporadically in debates.

The usual lines I get?

-Anyone can get rich if they work hard enough!
-Do you think it's fair for a doctor to be paid the same as a janitor?
-We should have the freedom to get as rich as we want to.
-Communism is dead!
-If communism and socialism is so great, then why are all socialist countries living in dire poverty?

You get the idea. I was thinking, instead of EVERY SINGLE TIME someone brought this up in a debate, and me debunking it through a long explanation, that there should be quick, 'snappy' answers to ignorant statements and questions like these.

My REQUEST, really, is that you perhaps give a go at writing some kind of 'guideline' for us younger Marxists who have to deal with this kind of bullshit every day.

Just thought you might want to consider it.


Short answers to dumb questions:

Anyone can get rich if they work hard enough!

Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, "worked hard" and "got rich". Then he died. His three kids are now worth over 12 billion dollars each!

How hard did they work, climbing out of their mama's birth canal and all?

The Walton family need never lift a finger again...their fortune will grow inevitably.

When her parents die, Bill and Melinda Gates' little girl is going to be one of the richest individuals on the planet...did she work really hard for that money?

There are now hundreds of members of the Rockefeller family...all of whom are wealthier than 99% of all Americans...did they work "really hard" for their inheritances?

Capitalism is a big casino; for every huge winner there are tens of millions of losers...and work (hard, easy, or non-existent) has very little to do with it.

Do you think it's fair for a doctor to be paid the same as a janitor?

Why not? If there were no janitors, housekeepers, sanitation workers, what would happen? You'd either have to do all that clean-up yourself or things would get filthy, germs would breed, you'd get sick and die.

As a matter of fact, death rates started to decline in the second half of the 19th century...when medicine was still mostly quackery. Why? Because major European cities started building sewer systems and people stopped living in their own shit.

Every person who makes a genuine contribution to society deserves a living wage...an income sufficient to live with dignity.

We should have the freedom to get as rich as we want to.

Where do you think riches come from? Do they fall out of the sky?

You cannot create wealth out of thin air. The wealth that society as a whole produces is finite...a dollar in your pocket means a dollar less in someone else's pocket. Behind every rich person stand hundreds or thousands or even millions of poor people...losers in the capitalist casino.

So you are in the same ethical position as the old Confederate slave-owner...who thought he should have the "freedom" to buy as many slaves as he wanted to.

Are you willing to fight, kill, and even give up your own life for that "freedom"?

Communism is dead!

So why are you talking to me? If communism were really dead, you wouldn't waste a second of your time talking to a total nutball.

What you're really saying is that you hope that communism will "stay dead".

We'll see.

If communism and socialism are so great, then why are all socialist countries living in dire poverty?

They were even worse off before they had socialism. Places like Russia and China were shitholes still living in the middle ages before their revolutions; socialism created their modern economies out of nothing.

There's really only one semi-socialist country left -- Cuba -- and if you want to compare it with some place, compare it to Jamaica or the Dominican Republic or even Costa Rica...places where many (most?) people still live like it was 1850!

It's true that capitalism has been restored in Russia and China -- which is where that "communism is dead" stuff comes from. But that didn't happen because people wanted it to...there were objective material conditions that caused that to happen.

It's a complicated question; but the short version is that communism can only come into existence after a capitalist economy has developed as far as it can. Thus the people in Russia, China, etc. never had communism even though the ruling parties called themselves "communists". What they really had in those places was something they called "socialism"...but which was actually a kind of capitalism without capitalists. Eventually, the party bosses donated their red flags and membership cards to a museum and became openly capitalist themselves.

In the real world, things are not always what they seem.
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First posted at Che-Lives on June 2, 2004
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quote:

We don't live in a zero-sum economy and that simply isn't true.


A true zero-sum economy would be frozen in space-time; as a "snapshot" of things as they are in any given moment, it seems adequate.

Over time, wealth is created; economies grow (or sometimes shrink). As wealth is created, it is distributed disproportionately.

Thus, if you "freeze-frame" any given moment, it looks just like a zero-sum economy.

quote:

What the fuck?

Surely that's wrong, surely each should get a wage in proportion to the labour they put in, and the value of their work.


Ah, but who decides those things?

Under capitalism, the market decides...with disastrous consequences for most people.

Presumably under a Leninist-Trotskyist version of "socialism", the party would decide...and, naturally, it would reward itself most generously.

As long as money exists at all after the revolution (hopefully a very brief period), it is prudent to pay everyone pretty close to the same amount; little harm would be done (people would still want to be doctors) and much evil averted (wage inequality generates a psychology of elitism...and, if continued long enough, will lead to a new ruling class).

quote:

Communism goes against human nature.


I have the impression more and more that all pro-capitalist arguments reduce to this assertion in one form or another.

The fact that there's very little scientific knowledge of "human nature" or that such a thing even exists suggests the following reply:

There's no such thing as human nature!

And if the cappie disputes that assertion, invite him to prove it. (He can't!)

"Human nature" in the sense that they use the word must mean something common to all humans at all times...as, for example, the "stalk & pounce" impulse is common to all felines at all times.

But the insatiable greed that they posit at the heart of "human nature" is clearly not common to all humans at all times...and even when present, has taken many different forms, by no means all of them purely materialistic.

Once you have all that you can use, "greed", if still present, becomes pathological. In capitalist society, one in which uncertainty about the future is always present, you have to keep trying to accumulate more because of the risk of losing what you have. So it makes "rational sense" to be greedy under capitalism, to always want more.

In an egalitarian society (communism) where you would always be secure against sudden destitution, greed for more than you can use would be, literally, crazy.

Sort of like the Mormons who keep a year's supply of canned food in their basements...simply wacko.
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First posted at Che-Lives on June 3, 2004
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Actually, Vietnam is in the process of restoring capitalism, much like China.

Laotian "socialism" never seemed to amount to anything as far as I ever heard. They just put up some red flags and otherwise things stayed about the same. It's a peasant subsistence economy; they've renovated some Buddhist temples as tourist attractions.

quote:

I would strongly discourage anyone from trying to bring up the labor theory of value in any situation. It tends to discredit otherwise thoughtful arguments.


The LTV is indeed "a can of worms" these days...though there is a way to "say it" in a form that's difficult for cappies to mount an argument against.

No capitalist will knowingly hire you unless the value of the goods/services that you produce is greater than the wage he pays you.

From that difference, the capitalist pays all his other expenses and whatever's left over, he stuffs in his pockets...thus labor is the real source of profit.
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First posted at Che-Lives on June 9, 2004
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quote:

I don't find anything bad with renovating Buddhist temples. And why are tourists bad?


The tendency of the "hospitality industry" (as they're calling it now) is to turn everyone involved into some kind of grinning prostitute...no servility is too extreme in the pursuit of the tourist dollar.

If Laos were actually serious about socialism, even of a very primitive kind, they would not devote scarce resources to the renovation of monuments to superstition.

Education (especially for women) and agriculture would be their top priorities and then, perhaps, some light industry.

But I think the point is moot...I would be as surprised at any kind of interesting radical ideas from Laos as I would be if the ideas came from Angola.

Things are just too backward there.
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First posted at Che-Lives on June 10, 2004
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quote:

I get 'communism is slavery' a lot. Any rebuttals?


When people make really "wild" or "off-the-wall" statements like that, it's sometimes useful to press them to explain exactly what they mean.

Since people were not bought and sold in the USSR, China, etc., the statement can't be literally true. People worked for wages, just like they do here.

So it wasn't really "communism" at all.

Chances are they're probably referring to labor camps...which certainly were a kind of slave labor. We have a large prison labor complex in the United States as well...a point that deserves emphasis.

Should they wish to go further in this matter -- for example "the people in labor camps were political prisoners" -- simply ask them what they think the people in our gulags are? People in American prisons for illegal drug crimes are obviously political prisoners -- they actively dissented from official anti-drug ideology.
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First posted at Che-Lives on June 14, 2004
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quote:

Socialism takes the fun out of life.


For non-humans, life is entirely a matter of chance...there is little that an animal can do in the way of "rational" activity to "alter the odds" except that which instinct has already equipped it to do.

When hungry, a cat will hunt...and will do so first in areas where it has previously succeeded in finding prey. But if, for any reason, there's no prey to be found, the cat will eventually weaken and die. It has no alternative strategy and cannot conceive of one.

In a way, the story of civilization is one of reducing the effects of chance in human existence. When humans started to grow grain, they also invented granaries to store food against the chance of future bad weather and resulting poor harvests.

Over the last 10,000 years or so, we've built up a fairly elaborate technology for "altering the odds" to favor our own sense of well-being and security. But with all that, we are still the "victims of chance" much more than we would wish. A winning lottery ticket is "more fun" than a losing ticket...for the winner. For all the losers, it's a piece of shit.

Being born into the upper middle class of a wealthy country is terrific if you're one so favored; for all the billions of people who lost out, it's no fun at all.

The "chance" of birth into wealth is one that should be abolished.

It's not fair.
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First posted at Che-Lives on June 17, 2004
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quote:

Well, there's always going to be one greedy person.


Yes, and as soon as we catch him, we'll shoot the bastard. *laughs*

Seriously, every form of human society has a small number of sociopaths...people who, for reasons we don't entirely understand, have a "need" to hurt other people.

How we deal with that -- some form of humane re-education or some form of rigorous repression -- is always debatable...but every society deals with it in some way.

There may always be people who murder or rape...but we don't just sit back and tolerate that. The pathologically greedy would fall into the same category.

quote:

Scandinavian countries use socialism as a system of governance and capitalism as a system of economics.


Try not to be trapped into the "socialism = welfare" paradigm...a common cappie argument. The Scandinavian countries are capitalist countries in every significant way. The primary reason that their ruling classes began building their elaborate "social safety nets" back in the 1930s was the proximity of the USSR. The example of the Soviet Union "right next door" taught Scandinavian capitalists a useful lesson: it's better to give up a little wealth to save the rest than to lose it all! "Welfare" is a tool of capitalism; not a "step towards socialism".
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First posted at Che-Lives on June 19, 2004
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quote:

I get 'Stalin was a communist' most times.


I once responded, "Who's he?" *laughs*

I suppose it depends on how sophisticated the person you're talking to is. If they really know a lot of Russian history, then the arguments get rather complex.

If it's just some guy who remembers a few fragments of a program he once saw on the History Channel, the best response might be along the lines of: "Yeah, Stalin was a real dick...but so was everybody back then. Go read all the stuff written about Churchill or Roosevelt or Truman...not to mention Hitler or Mussolini. They all did heaps of evil shit."

Now, they're all dead...and none of us are "compelled" to imitate any of them.
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First posted at Che-Lives on June 26, 2004
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quote:

The doctor would have put a lot more time down on studying, than the janitor. He did get paid by this studying, by the high salary he has. So why should the janitor has the equal wage as the doctor, when the doctor has studied for years, and the janitor probably hasn't.


There are actually lots of angles to tackle this one from.

1. Ask them if they think that no one would want to be a doctor unless there was "big money" in it.

2. Ask them if it wouldn't just be easier to pay people to study...just as if it were a regular job.

3. Ask them why the kid who ends up a janitor should be penalized because his parents couldn't afford university tuition...or because he wasn't born "as smart" as the kid in medical school.

4. Ask them if they have any idea of what doctors actually do with their big money -- they usually don't have time to spend it. (Answer: they are financially conservative, so they usually invest it in rental properties...making even more money that they can't spend.)

quote:

"if Communism is so great how come it failed and if capitalism is so shit how come no one has overthrown it yet"


1. Communism didn't fail; socialism did.

2. Capitalism has been temporarily overthrown on a number of occasions.

3. How come we haven't sent a crewed spacecraft to Pluto yet? Things take time.
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First posted at Che-Lives on June 29, 2004
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quote:

If you don't have a (strong) government, women are going to go barefoot, pregnant and uneducated. Nazis and fascists will beat black kids on the streets.


This is the "government as protector of the weak" argument -- and is daily refuted in any newspaper.

The Bush regime and its supporters ultimately hope to end abortion rights altogether...keeping women pregnant and probably less educated as well. Meanwhile, it is police that beat black kids on the streets. Occasionally a scandal emerges when it turns out that some cops are Nazis or at least fascists.

quote:

This is a democracy. It is a government created by and for the people. We have the rule of law, not some anarchy dictatorship.


No, actually it isn't. It is, as conservatives used to say, a republic, not a democracy. It was not created "by the people" (much less "for the people"). It was created by a small group of very rich bastards who met in secret session in Philadelphia in the 1780s. They wanted to create a system that gave the appearance of democracy while actually keeping all the power in the hands of the wealthy.

They were successful.

The "rule of law" is just another way of saying the "rule of the rich"...since they are the ones who make the laws.

quote:

You cannot say that it is because of the lack of enthusiasm or ideological impurity of the revolutionaries...


Indeed not. Just as you can say that Leonardo da Vinci's project to build a working aircraft did not fail for lack of enthusiasm.

Leonardo did not have the internal combustion engine to power his aircraft.

Russia did not have the necessary economic development to make communism a practical proposition. Most of that country, in fact, still lived in the Middle Ages.

quote:

Communism doesn't work because lunatics take power quickly.


German capitalism gave us Hitler. American capitalism has recently given us Bush, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Rice, etc.

Americans are not in any position to talk about "lunatics" in power.

quote:

Capitalism may not be that great but at least it's stable. Communism lasted for 80 years in the USSR, and capitalism has lasted in the USA for over 200.


Capitalism has "lasted" but it's hardly been stable. How many wars has the U.S. fought? How many depressions have taken place?

You may think that things are "stable" because your parents are not unemployed and the bombs are not landing on your street...check back with me in a decade or two. *laughs*

quote:

Communism is as germane to our highly technological, computerized society as a stagecoach on a jet runway at Kennedy airport!


Saul Alinsky has always been an anti-communist prick posing as a "radical"...he's made a career of trying to keep working-class communities "under control" (usually his). His "strategy" was always "machine-building" on the old urban model; what we're supposed to do is organize a community "political machine" that can "exert pressure" on "city hall" to "gain concessions".

If any "model of social change" is genuinely obsolete, it's his. The ruling class doesn't "make concessions" to the "rabble" any more. He can kiss ruling class ass until his lips turn brown (if they haven't already!)...it will make no fucking difference at all.

He was never anything but a "Boss Tweed" wannabe...and he failed even at that. (Google "Boss + tweed" if you want to learn about him.)
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First posted at Che-Lives on June 30, 2004
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quote:

Marxism doesn't take [into] account that people are greedy and want to have nicer stuff than other people.


Yes, this is based on the observation that people will spend "more" on something that they think will give them "prestige" or "status" in the eyes of others...and even in their own eyes.

It's a consequence of marketing, of course: the idea that you are "inferior" unless you own lots of "big name brand" stuff. No one likes the idea of being thought "inferior"...so, if they can, they go into debt buying over-priced crapola to "show everybody" that they "are somebody".

The error is a simple one: we are not what we buy. If you seek your identity in what you can afford to buy, all you'll ever "be" is a very large pile of trash. All of that stuff that you paid so much money for will, sooner or later, be garbage. Your "identity" and "status" and "prestige" will end up as so much landfill.

The only real human identity is what you think and what you do...all the rest is hype to impress the dummies.

Communism gives people the chance to be real...and I think people will find that a very good offer.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 2, 2004
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quote:

"Communism cannot work because there will always be some people who will try to exploit it and seize power for themselves" (Like what happened in the USSR with Stalin)


There may well "always" be people who would like to try. That doesn't mean they will "automatically" be successful.

Early in the history of capitalism, there were many despotic rulers -- "Stalins" if you will -- but that didn't mean that capitalism "couldn't work" because it would "always" be taken over by a despot.

What really doesn't work very well in the modern world is despotism...regardless of the economic system that might be in place. Things are just "too complicated" to be handled by "one-man rule" anymore.

Only rather backward communists still follow the "great leader" model.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 3, 2004
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quote:

One dollar out of my pocket and into yours also means one dollar of goods or services from you to me. If I don't want to part with that dollar, I won't buy it from you. It's that simple.


Is that supposed to be a "defense" of capitalism?

If so, it assumes that price is actually equal to use-value...something that a bright four-year-old would question.

Over a life-time in capitalist America, I've probably purchased dozens of shoddy products that abysmally failed to accomplish their stated purpose...and I'm pretty tight-fisted with a dollar.

Sometimes, you can exchange the shit for something that actually works; often you are simply stuck!

Alternatively, perhaps this statement is meant to suggest that "choice" plays a role in capitalism that is, in some way, of "special" significance.

But there are some pretty important things in which you have no choice. You have no choice but to labor for some capitalist. You have no choice but to pay some capitalist for a place to live, food to eat, clothing to wear.

No matter how resistant you are to "consumer-mania", there are crucial limits to your "choices".

If, for any reason you are "unemployable", you have the "choice" of sleeping on the sidewalk and dining from dumpsters...or dying from malnutrition and exposure.

Go ahead, choose!
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 5, 2004
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quote:

Communism gives too much power to the person in charge so he will obviously become corrupt.


Yes, power does corrupt. Therefore, in a real communist society (not the USSR, China, Cuba, etc.), there is no state...no one is permitted to be "in charge of everything".

quote:

"If it isn't a democracy then everybody isn't equal" or "if there's someone in power deciding things for other people then everybody isn't equal".


In a crude sense, those are accurate observations...and we should not only admit those points but endorse them ourselves.

The Paris Commune (1871) was one of the best examples. There was no "great leader", no "vanguard party", etc. The government was elected by the working class and any member of the government could be recalled from office at any time for any reason. Not only that; people in the government made the same daily wage as ordinary workers.

When Marx and Engels wrote about communist society, they called the Paris Commune the world's first "dictatorship of the proletariat".

That's what they meant by communism...not what happened in the USSR, China, etc.

That's what we should mean as well.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 7, 2004
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That's really three objections.

quote:

Communism sounds wonderful, but the proletariat is largely conservative.


People's opinions change over time; very few opinions are "written in stone".

quote:

...and nobody has taken communism seriously since the '80s.


Meaning nobody on the front cover of Time or People. Nobody who is "somebody".

Considering the "intellectual fads" that come and go in the capitalist media, you have to exercise a certain amount of caution when speaking of "taking things seriously".

Last year's "celebrated new guru" is this year's nobody.

quote:

And whenever you quote Marx's ideas, you usually get Solzhenitsyn's quoted back at you.


Odd...as he's certainly become a nobody!

Solzhenitsyn was a huge embarrassment to the capitalist media. Originally hailed as a brilliant writer (they actually gave him a Nobel Prize for Literature), he turned out to be a clerical fascist! He was a religious reactionary who believed that it was the historical destiny of Russian Orthodoxy to save both East and West from their "sins". He scathingly denounced both "communism" and "western democracy".

Given his beliefs, I see no reason for anyone to believe a word he wrote about the "Stalin era"...any more than I would take Hitler's word for "what the Jews are really like". Solzhenitsyn despised the very idea of humans changing "God's plan for humanity"...so what reason would he have for telling the truth about the USSR? It stood for everything he hated.

For assholes like him, Stalin's Russia really was a "hellhole". Just not hellish enough.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 15, 2004
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