The REDSTAR2000 Papers

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

Are Communists "Normal"? June 24, 2003 by RedStar2000

This question occurred to me a few weeks ago in the course of a discussion on paedophilia.

Of course, no one is "in favor" of paedophilia, but some of the participants in that discussion indulged themselves in blood-thirsty rhetoric more usually found in press releases by the U.S. Department of Justice or reactionary "traditional values" professional lobbyists like "Focus on the Family" or the "Laura Schlessinger Foundation".

So it got me to thinking: what actually happens inside people's heads when they decide to become "communists", that is, people who have decided to oppose the central "value" of the society they live in?

Usually it means a fresh willingness to question critically all of the "values" of capitalist society...indeed, I suspect many people arrive at communist ideas after having already questioned and rejected some of the "secondary" values of the prevailing social order.

But others seem to react in an entirely different manner. Having decided that capitalism must go, they cling all the more determinedly and even grimly to a host of "secondary" values associated with capitalist society.

It is as if they were saying: "I may be a communist but I'm still normal!"

And, paradoxically, this "habit of thought" leads, sooner or later, to the desire to make communism "respectable" in the eyes of capitalism. The revolutionary content of communism is slowly or quickly erased and the image of "communism" becomes that of just another political view, competing in the "market place of ideas" for "name recognition" and "market share".

What is going on here? It seems to me that, for some people, the "leap" to communist ideas imposes a tremendous strain on their mental ability to cope. They respond to this by trying all the harder to demonstrate that "even though" they are "outsiders" with regard to capitalism, they are "still part" of normal human society.

It completely escapes them that what they think of as "normal human society" is a social construct...a product of capitalism itself.

Thus you will find "communists" who defend male supremacy, violence against small children in the name of "discipline", police state terror against so-called "terrorists", and even imperialist war. And they will articulate such views with the same enthusiasm as Rush Limbaugh or any other quasi-fascist bastard.

So desperate is their desire to be accepted as "normal" inspite of their political views that they will eagerly join the frenzied attack against any other "despised minority" that happens to be taking place at the time.

Paedophiles, like "witches" in the Middle Ages, are such a despised minority today. They are sick people who need to be kept away from children...not agents of the "devil" who need to be publicly burned. A communist who joins in the "witch hunt" may have slightly improved his reputation with his witch-hunting neighbors; he has done nothing to advance the revolution within his own mind or within those of his neighbors.

I think we communists should celebrate the fact that we are not normal...not willing participants in a social order based on exploitation and oppression.

The communist critique of bourgeois society should be applied to every aspect of that society, and not simply limited to a narrow definition of "politics" or "economics".

And when the ruling class sounds their horns, we should not join the hunt with all the rest of the baying hounds. We should be asking instead: what is really going on here? Why this "fox"? Why "now"?

What are we not supposed to be paying attention to...instead of this diversion?

Think about it.

First posted at RedGreenLeft on June 10, 2003

I'm not clear what you mean by the phrase "one of humanity's base instincts".

I don't think "healthy" males and females have an "instinct" to have sex with prepubscent children; I think it's a consequence of an inability (for several reasons) to form sexual relationships with sexually mature individuals.

Perhaps there are paedophiles who are married with children and who nevertheless have the "urge" to have sex with small children...people are certainly not "one-dimensional" in sex or anything else.

But my impression is that paedophiles are "focused" on small children in a way that healthy people are not.

That makes them "sick" in my view...but not "evil". The proper treatment is to keep them away from small children under all circumstances...not impose draconian punishments on them.

Beyond this, I think we communists should always be suspicious when the ruling class cries "Monsters! Monsters!" They're not doing that for our benefit.

Remember in the 1990s, when there was a huge fuss about "Satanic cults" and "human sacrifice"?

It turned out that not a single example of such "cults" was ever found...and I very much doubt that was because of the "powers" of the "Devil".
First posted at RedGreenLeft on June 13, 2003


By base instincts I was referring to the need for sex.

True, I suppose. But somehow most of us seek out and successfuly find sexually mature partners.

The Catholic priesthood is, I will grant you, a special case (prisons are another). But do you think that priests "turn paedophile" because their religious vows have prohibited sexual activity of any kind...or were they inclined to paedophilia to begin with and chose the priesthood because they knew that was a socially-accepted way of avoiding sex with sexually-mature individuals? Or perhaps even hoped that being a priest would give them access to their preferred objects of sexual gratification? (Not a pleasant thought, that, but a possibility.)


Rapists/Paedophiles are not all crazy people who wait around parks at night...

Well, rape is a different subject. I think rapists are also sick people...but they are dangerous to so many people and the danger of harm is so great that severe confinement is clearly justified. Indeed, where guilt of rape is clearly confirmed by DNA evidence, I don't really have any problem with the death penalty for rape. Perhaps that seems be it.

In the case of paedophilia, things are a little different. The paedophile "courts" the child in just the same way that you or I would court a sexually mature individual that we desired for a sex partner. He attempts to "seduce" the prepubescent into a "voluntary" sexual relationship.

The way to stop this is by keeping him from having any access to small children. He can't "seduce" what he never gets a chance to talk to.

Perhaps this would mean setting up some kind of "reservation" for such people; or perhaps a somewhat less confining method will serve. Perhaps there will even be effective medical treatments for this condition in the decades to come.

Only the "undiscovered" paedophile is dangerous...and sophisticated kids can see what the paedophile is "up to" and give early warning to others, providing, of course, that kids are taught very early in life that it is "ok" to resist adult authority.

What was really reprehensible about the Catholic priesthood scandal was that the victims had been taught by their superstitious parents that "a priest is next to Almighty God" could a kid stand up against that?
First posted at RedGreenLeft on June 16, 2003


Personally I see nothing much in socialism that demands any special compassion for, or acceptance of, anti-social behaviour (such as paedophilia).

Perhaps, perhaps not. "Anti-social behavior" is a potentially enormous umbrella and can be defined pretty much any way anyone wishes.

What I am suggesting is that we "of the left" (communists, anarchists, democratic socialists) should be critical of any defintions of "anti-social behavior" offered by the current authorities...and we should do so regardless of the present degree of popular acceptance of those "authoritative" definitions.

I'm sure many examples will readily occur to you and other readers, so I'll mention just one: in the U.S. today, literally millions of kids (mostly boys) are being drugged on a daily basis "so they will sit still in class and pay attention to their teachers"...the natural urge for vigorous physical activity that exists in most young males has been defined as "anti-social".


This being so I would say that executing a known ‘evil’ which can safely only be allowed to live as a drain on society (i.e. if imprisoned) may serve encourage the others unknown ones to behave...

It is unquestionably true that the most "cost-effective" method of dealing with anyone whose behavior offends you is a bullet to the head. It's my understanding that the more radical anarcho-syndicalists in Spain had a remarkably simple "criminal justice system"; upon being found guilty, you either received a stern warning from the court or you were taken out and immediately shot. The anarcho-syndicalists regarded imprisonment as degrading and dehumanizing to both captive and guard alike. They had a point.

But to the best of my knowledge, the death penalty has never been shown to be a "deterrent" to even the most serious forms of "anti-social" behavior. States with the most aggressive use of the death penalty for murder do not have fewer murders than states which don't use it at all, for example.


In fact I do see paedophilia as ‘evil’ and hence very anti-social indeed. ‘Good’ and ‘evil’ are not properties written into the fabric of the universe. They are defined by a consensus among people about what is healthy and unhealthy for a society. People may not explicitly debate it in these terms but it is what underlies the debate.

Yes, I agree that the debate is implicitly and often explicitly framed in those terms. What I challenge is whether or not "we of the left" should accept the health of the existing society as a "legitimate" framework.

Only a half-century ago, it was the "consensus" of American "society" that homosexuality was "unhealthy" and those who practiced it should be imprisoned. It was also the "consensus" that violence against small children to enforce "discipline" was "healthy" and "good for society".

It took quite a bit of struggle--that continues today--to convert that "consensus" to its opposite...and those who hold to the old consensus are fighting a bitter rear-guard battle to make a come-back. And there are "socialists" and "communists", as I'm sure you know, that are openly homophobic and boast of their willingness to use violence or the threat of violence against their own children to enforce their rule.

I am suggesting rather strongly that such views say something about their "socialism" or "communism"...and it's not flattering.

With regard to paedophilia, it seems to me that the current "consensus" is simply wrong...that it paints those rather woeful individuals as "willful demons" intent on "doing harm" out of pure "evil".

Consequently, I think "we of the left" have an obligation to reject that we would reject any "consensus" of the existing society that we thought to be erroneous.


I feel that my position is merely pragmatic in recognising that current society is less idealistic than he is.

Perhaps. But the whole point of why I started this thread is that we should not be bound by what "current society" thinks. We may, upon reflection, come to a conclusion similar to or even the same as the existing society (is there any reason not to immediately execute a serial killer?)...but we should not proceed as if we were just making some political and economic changes and "everything else will be about the same as it is now".

It won't...and it shouldn't.
First posted at RedGreenLeft on June 19, 2003


I, however, do not see the renegotiation of all societies mores as a socialist issue. They are social issues of course, and would be debated in a socialist society, but to me they have nothing whatsoever to do with Socialism.

If Marx was right, then those "mores" reflect the existing material conditions (or past conditions) of a society. Even though socialism is still a form of class society (in my view), it would be dramatically more egalitarian than previous class societies; that would at least suggest strongly that the "mores" derived from previous class societies would be vigorously challenged...because they were based on a degree of inequality that no longer exists.


The views of socialist homophobes (yes I know a few too) say nothing to me about their socialism. It does say something about the individuals. Not the same thing.

Ok, that's one way to look at it. Now here is what I wrote in my initial post:

And, paradoxically, this "habit of thought" leads, sooner or later, to the desire to make communism "respectable" in the eyes of capitalism. The revolutionary content of communism is slowly or quickly erased and the image of "communism" becomes that of just another political view, competing in the "market place of ideas" for "name recognition" and "market share".

Can you have a "socialist compartment" in your mind and also have a "homophobic compartment" and, if you can, do they influence each other in any way?

My hypothesis is that our minds are ultimately "of a piece"--that when we hold views that are incompatable, those views "struggle" with each other and, sooner or later, one wins and the other loses. This is a process, of course, taking considerable time, and producing muddled and half-consistent opinions along the way.

But I would argue that the "socialism" or "communism" of someone who also held strongly homophobic views would degenerate into a vague sentiment having no measurable effect on their behavior.

To put it crudely, they'd be so busy telling "queer jokes" that they'd have no time to talk about "socialism" or "communism".

That's the worst case scenario, of course, and there are others. If such a person had comrades who argued vigorously with him/her--who made the point that their views were fundamentally inconsistent and they must ultimately choose which way they wanted to is certainly possible and perhaps even probable that they would choose to "give up" their homophobia because the winning of socialism or communism was more important.

The conjecture that socialism/communism/anarchism are "political/economic" theories that have little or nothing to do with gender, race, religion, etc. can be demonstrated, in my opinion, to be utterly false. Societies are not neatly compartmentalized any more than the minds of individuals; all of this stuff is tied together in very complicated and interactive ways.

Sometimes the relationships are pretty obvious; often they are very difficult to disentangle...but they have to be there, however subtle they might be.

Why? Because the alternative explanations are absurd. The bourgeois "explanations" of these things are "they just happened". Pre-capitalist "explanations" are even worse, revolving around "great men", "divine interventions" and such.

If any of those "explanations" were "true", then the possibility of any rational understanding of human society would be a "fool's project".

But we know that rational understanding of the material universe is possible and we know that humans are part of that material universe; therefore, it follows that rational understanding of human society must be possible.

While it is certain that Marxism is not "the last word" on the subject, no serious competition has emerged in the last 150 years. Consequently, the Marxist paradigm seems to me "the way to go" in examining all of the aspects of present class society and its hypothetical successors.

And so when someone speaks of some aspect of human society, saying "it doesn't have anything to do with socialism", my reply is inevitably "let's take a closer look"...because I "know" the connection is there, somewhere.

It has to be.
First posted at RedGreenLeft on June 20, 2003


I think that, after the horrific disaster of socialism in the twentieth century, most Marxists are in a pretty tight spot with regards to public relations, if you all catch my drift...

I think that if we truly wish to gain the support of the Western working classes, there are a number of things we must at least appear to support or oppose.

Pedophilia is one of them.

Therefore, for now, we should be vocal in antagonizing NAMBLA and other such organizations.

This is a not uncommon line of look at controversial social issues in terms of "market strategy" and "brand identification". Without intending to offend any one, I think it is a bourgeois outlook.

First of all, social revolution is not a "product" can't "buy it" at the neighborhood store or even on line.

Secondly, we are not seeking the "support" of the working class...we are trying to furnish them with the tools and the knowledge that they must have to liberate themselves from wage-slavery.

It's not a matter of having them "support us" at the polls or "follow us" into the streets--our "image" as a group or a collection of groups is trivial. What counts is how well they understand our ideas and can act on them.

But to understand our ideas, they have to actually encounter them and think about their meaning. If we attempt to "cut and trim" our views in such a way as to maximize immediate public acceptance, what will we have done?

We will have given people a partial understanding of what needs to be accomplished and left them to figure out the rest on their own...which they would, of course, discovering what we had left out, what we already knew but chose to conceal.

This seems to me to radically contradict our central give people "the whole package" that they need (or, at least, to tell them as much as we know, which is surely not everything).


All we disagree on is whether socialism can be 'bundled' separately. I'd say that it both can be and should be.

It can be because a perfectly feasible bundle of 'instructions' can be put together which define the economic relationships within a society without touching upon other attitudes.

It should be because it's both an easier sell and one which once sold will tend to promote the other things anyway.

Yes, I think that is the disagreement.

There's no question that what you propose can be done; it has been done.

The question to me is should it be done that way? Is that method, overall, the best method?

I think it depends, at least in part, on what we find acceptable vs. what we find desirable. To me, those two things pretty much match up; they are more or less identical. Others feel differently, of course...and would tend to be accepting of what they regarded as significant steps in the right direction.

A "bad" socialist society (how bad? the USSR?) is in my view not really worth fighting for at all, though I would defend it, of course, against U.S. imperialism. In fact, I know of no reason in principle why a "bad" socialist society would not get "worse" instead of "better"...perhaps even devolving back into capitalism.

It seems to me that the more people grasp "the whole story", the whole Marxist critique of class society and all of the oppressive aspects of the capitalist order...the "better" the socialist or even communist society they will establish and the less likely they are to permit a return to the old order.

I will concede that a "stripped-down" version of socialism (just straightforward politics and economics) might be an "easier sell" in the short-run...but, as you've probably gathered, the short-run is not terribly important to me.


To be a socialist Homophobe means (IMO) that you are a more misguided person than a Socialist non-Homophobe, it does not mean that your understanding of , or commitment to, Socialism is dramatically lessened.

I disagree. I think that reactionary attitudes towards gays, women, ethnic groups, kids, etc. directly attack one of the central premises of socialism/communism: workers of the world, unite.

If this revolution is indeed to be for all of us who are not capitalists or otherwise outright enemies of the human species, then attitudes of inherent "superiority" are a deadly threat to what we are trying to accomplish. If we try to simply "slide by" without attacking such ideas, they will certainly come back to "bite us in the ass" weaken, perhaps fatally, all that we have done. Again, I cite both Yugoslavia and the former USSR as examples of this.


Societies are not neatly compartmentalised; but that does not mean that some attributes of a society, such as a socio-economic framework, cannot be.

Yes, for certain analytical purposes, they can can break them down into very fine detail if you wish (bourgeois sociology). But I remain convinced that the fine detail, in isolation, will generate very misleading conclusions. I'm a "big picture" kind of guy.


I would say that defining socialism as the perfection of all social relations in a particular way introduces both massive subjectivity and renders it impossible to either sell or implement.

"Perfection" clearly goes too far. What I think is legitimate and even necessary is that we should be clear about the minimum that we will accept, based on our best available analysis, knowing in advance that it will not be "perfect" or that "perfection" is even a meaningful word.

As to speculations concerning "sale" or "implementation"...well, those can be debated endlessly. For my own part, I can only promise to keep pounding away on these issues until I convince some other folks to join in the effort...and then we'll see.
First posted at RedGreenLeft on June 22, 2003


What I'm hearing is that you won't join a socialist movement unless its goals conform pretty accurately to your personal view of morality in detail.

I don't think it's a matter of "morality", to be accurate. It's a matter of what reasonable conclusions (at least, reasonable to me) one has reached about the nature of the transition from capitalism to communism.

If one conceives of it as a linear journey from point A to point Z with stops at point B, point C...etc., then your way of looking at the matter makes a great deal of sense. You put things together in a step-by-step fashion until you have the more or less finished product that you want.

I think things work differently and in a much more complicated way. The process of "preparing" for a genuine revolution is one, in my view, that requires a fundamental change in the entire "world-outlook" of the working class, one that reflects their real class interests.

As a "good" Marxist, I naturally think that material conditions will strongly encourage and ultimately enforce this change...even if conscious communists did not exist. But it is obviously in my own class interests to deepen and broaden this change as much as I can.

How may I best accomplish this? When other folks "of the left" focus on intermediate goals as "steps in the right direction" (if they actually are that), they proceed on the assumption that the working class must "learn to crawl before it can walk". I question that assumption, deeply.

Certainly, I could be wrong about that. But, if I'm right, then the class will become capable of grasping the "big picture" prior to the revolution.

Indeed, I suspect that such a new "world-outlook" may be necessary to have a revolution at all. Perhaps before we can "smash the bourgeois state-machinery", it is necessary to smash the bourgeois paradigm...the whole train-load of assumptions and prejudices and superstitions that characterize our capitalist era.

You will recall that's how the capitalist class itself came to dominance; feudal-clerical ideology was in ruins long before the capitalist class itself formally took over the reins of power.

Perhaps that is what is "supposed" to happen, however unlikely or even impossible that seems now.


You cannot start of by demanding that the only acceptable definition is yours. Campaigning for your own view is one thing, refusing to accept that society can mandate something else is quite another.

Sure I can. I can exert any influence I may have to attempt to persuade people that "my definition" is the "only right one"...and people will either agree with me or not. Isn't that what we all do? Are you suggesting that I should remain silent out of politeness? Or because things will be in a turmoil if I speak up?

I would certainly like to flatter myself that my views will win some public acceptance, especially "on the left", over the next several decades...but I'm not "holding my breath".

But "popular" or not, yes, I will continue to raise "impolite" and "awkward" questions and will never accept any "answer" of the type "let's talk about that after the revolution". Experience has taught me that such answers are not only evasions but generally conceal less than admirable agendas.


If you wait until you have persuaded everyone to accept your view before agreeing to co-operate with anyone then you will in all probability wait forever. This is especially true given how much scepticism exists about whether your views are remotely feasible. A scepticism which would be much, much more easily bridged from the position you seem to say you will not cooperate towards than from what exists now.

Well, expecting "everyone" to accept my views would be asking a bit much, even for me; I'd be quite satisfied with a rock solid 75% majority.

If your perspective is correct, then the outcome doesn't depend on my efforts one way or the other. People will see your views as "practical" and my views as "crazy" or "infantile" or "purist" or whatever. This kind of discussion will take place millions of times in front of hundreds of millions of people and, almost always, people will decide in favor of your approach and against mine.

But, though this really does sound egotistical, I nevertheless identify very strongly with the old abolitionists in the 1830s...a tiny despised minority whose views were considered utopian at best and utterly reprehensible at worst.

They had, in their numbers, those who argued for a step-by-step approach to the end of slavery...but they also had those who thundered their total and uncompromising opposition to the institution of slavery in all its manifestations...and even took up arms against it.

And when Lee's ragged and starving army of slaveowners and fools finally surrendered, we know who was vindicated by history...and who was not.
First posted at RedGreenLeft on June 23, 2003


I think you are missing the essential point I'm making.

That is quite possible. It "seems" to me that you are advocating social change "on the installment plan"...something for a down-payment now, with more to come later.

You advocate this on practical grounds; it is an "easier sell", people are more open to gradual change and more likely to implement such change without catastrophic errors, etc.

Tell me if I misunderstand you.

I suspect this is one of those conflicts on the "left" that cannot be resolved by the usual measures of argument and evidence, although they are still helpful.

You see, I think in all essential respects, Marx was right. To be specific, he was right about the nature of class societies, right about the evolution of capitalism, right about the "normal" processes of social change (violent), right about the nature of the state as an organ of class rule, etc.

Because of that, I rather freely toss around the word "inevitable"...though of course I have no "cast-iron" way of really knowing that. That is simply the way things look to me based on what's happened so far.

To someone who is not convinced that Marx was right, my views appear almost quasi-religious, a search for "moral perfection", an irrational insistance on a world "that can never be".

To me, of course, things look quite different. Your views are based, I think, on the assumption that social change is "an act of will"...more complicated than changing a tire but, in principle, the same kind of thing. If the effort is not made, the tire remains unchanged. If people in massive numbers do not organize and vote for a "socialist" alternative, then socialism will never exist, much less communism or anarchy.

There is a plausibility in this point of view that appeals to many people. A small number of folks arrive through the power of reason at the conclusion that social change X is desirable; they convince a large number of people; and the change subsequently takes place. It sounds like "consciousness determines being".

In my view, and that of Marx, what really happened was something entirely different. The material conditions in that society had produced a conflict between social relationships...and only some kind of social change along the lines of X could resolve that conflict. When the conflict grew sufficiently heated, the "new idea" occurred spontaneously to many people and "made immediate sense" to many more.

I daresay there is a certain amount of randomness built into this process; it's not always material condition M produces social change X each and every time. But, in general, I think that is how history "works".

What, then, about individual human effort? Does it "make any difference" what we do or don't do? Since human history is a collective project and since there are billions of people who take part in it, it clearly makes no difference at all in the long run and possibly even in the short run.

Subjectively, it is a different matter...specifically, we like to think that we matter. To "push" history in the direction we think it "ought" to go is a self-satisfying activity. That's not just true of "leftists", by the way, it's true of everyone who takes any kind of serious interest in human social interaction at any level.

After all, even though material conditions in the 19th century suggested strongly that it was "time" for the discoveries of Marxism, would anyone care to wager that Marx himself did not take great personal pride in being the "pioneer"? He knew even in the 1840s that he had "hit on something big". He "mattered".

Thus it is for all of us, I think. We "make" history to suit our conscious purposes, but the history we make does not exist in the rarified abstractions of our consciousness but is constrained by real material conditions.

Being determines consciousness.

The appeal of our contrasting opinions will seem to be based on the merits of our arguments, their strengths and weaknesses. But, if Marx was right, then material reality will determine who was really "practical" and who was the "dreamer".

As well as, of course, who really "mattered" and who didn't.
First posted at RedGreenLeft on June 25, 2003
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