The REDSTAR2000 Papers

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

Once More: No "Free Speech" for Reactionaries! January 28, 2005 by RedStar2000

There is a rather smug belief in the "left" that "if only" we had a "level playing field", our ideas are so much superior to those of our enemies that any kind of repression would be "superfluous"..."no one" would listen to those "fools".

Our ideas may well be superior; but fools have gained a vast audience in the past...and there are no "automatic" guarantees that such will not be the case in post-revolutionary society.

Thus I return to this theme again.



There is such a thing as criticizing a leftist government from the left, and criticizing it from the right. How do we differentiate?

Criticism from the right: thinks revolution has gone "too far", wants to do more things "the way they were done before the revolution", thinks the masses are "undisciplined", "backward", "ignorant", or even "corrupted", etc.

Criticism from the left: thinks revolution has "not gone far enough", wants to do more things "in a new, communist way", thinks the masses are far more trustworthy than any "leaders", wants power radically decentralized, etc.


And a final reason not to have censorship, who actually decides what to censor? Who are the censors?

In the first place, the people who actually work in the media -- people cannot be compelled to print or otherwise circulate what they regard as reactionary crap.

Beyond this would be some community assembly that would decide if its resources should be used for the purpose of spreading what the people might or might not regard as reactionary.

We would certainly not want or permit some "central board of censors".
First posted at RevolutionaryLeft on January 12, 2005


Are you talking about a fully post revolutionary society or transitional phase?

Both...though it's obviously true that censorship ceases to be meaningful if the censored idea entirely disappears.

No one these days is spending much time stamping out Zeus worship -- it's disappeared as an idea.

But there was a period in which proclaiming Zeus as the "true god" could get you some nasty prison time.

Perhaps that's something to be emphasized here: bad ideas (untrue ideas) can be suppressed out of existence...if material conditions permit.

From a social standpoint, one religion is just as good (useful to a ruling class) as any the Christians successfully wiped out the old Greek-Roman pantheon. With the techniques at their disposal, it took them only a few hundred years to do it.

I don't see why it should take us significantly longer to extinguish the reactionary ideas of our own era.
First posted at RevolutionaryLeft on January 12, 2005


So far in the west, we have had free speech (to some extent), if we deprive them of theirs we are the monsters that we are saying that they are, and they will have an additional plank in their platform for counter-revolution.

I'm afraid that your premise is wrong...which means your conclusion ain't worth much.

One bourgeois journalist put it very bluntly: freedom of the press applies only to those who can afford to own one.

You think you have "freedom of speech" because you can criticize the existing regime on an internet message board read by a few thousand people.

Do you think you would be permitted to operate a large daily newspaper, a radio or television station, etc. and express your views freely...even if you had the capital for such a project in the first place???

The capitalist class has a long history of suppressing radical views whenever people were listening.

They are "monsters".

They do not believe in "fair play", "justice", "reasoned debate", etc. They intend to stay on top by any means necessary.

We are "monsters" too! Once we get them off our backs, we never intend to give them a chance to make a come-back.

Why should we?
First posted at RevolutionaryLeft on January 13, 2005


Redstar, your confusing free speech with freedom of the press. read your quote again.

"freedom of the press applies only to those who can afford to own one."

S/he did not say anything about free speech. We have free speech in most capitalist nations. Thats why we can say whatever we want to whoever we want. We just cant use mass media to say it... unless we can pay for it.

"Freedom of speech" is meaningless if no one can hear you.

That is why I inserted the "freedom of the press" phrase -- in capitalist society we have the "freedom to speak our minds" in exactly the same sense that prisoners have that freedom...if the guards aren't looking.

As soon as we get "on their radar", our "freedom of speech" is quickly curtailed.
First posted at RevolutionaryLeft on January 14, 2005


Who decides who is reactionary and who is not?
If certain people in the councils or politburo decide that a certain person has a conflicting ideology, then that person (who could be just trying to help) will be branded as reactionary. If you give certain people the power to limit others rights they will surely abuse it.

Most of the time, it's self-evident.

In "borderline" cases, there may have to be a discussion before an entire community assembly, followed by a vote.

It won't be a matter of "certain people" -- in the sense of an unrepresentative minority -- "abusing people's rights".


If you ever lived in a country where free speech was restricted you would not be saying it is meaningless without freedom of the press.


What's that crap supposed to mean? Are you a refugee from some dismal swamp of "totalitarianism" now overjoyed to breath the "free air" of the American Empire?

What the hell are you talking about?


And if free speech is meaningless without freedom of the press, then why restrict free speech for reactionaries in the first place? Wouldn't restricting freedom of the press be just as effective in achieving your goal of controlling peoples beliefs?

Yes, that's how it would work. Did you think we were going to plant microphones everywhere and then listen to terabytes of mindless babble?

And I repeat once again: there's no such thing as "controlling people's beliefs"!

What can be controlled (after a fashion) is the range of acceptable public discourse.


In a post revolutionary society there will be many working class people who want to voice their reactionary opinions.

Well, it's going to be tough on them too. Being "working class" is not a "license" to behave like a turd.


There's no need to feel threatened by reactionaries once they lose their monopoly on [the] mass media. In a socialist society, the reactionaries will no longer be able [to] manipulate people the way they do today. Without that ability, progressive thought will easily overcome reactionary thought on a leveled playing field.
-- emphasis added.

I'm glad you used that expression -- a leveled playing field.

I would now like to know just exactly why you think those bastards deserve a level playing field.

Have they ever given us one?


And what kind of message would our socialist society be sending to the rest of the world (assuming that not every country becomes socialist at the same time) if it were to ban free speech for reactionaries?

That we're serious.


The internet is such a good domain of freedom of speech. I can say (within reason) anything I want, with no penalty...

Notice your parenthetical phrase -- within reason.

That's a short way of saying that you can post comments that are within the range of acceptable public discourse.

Things that are outside that range risk persecution.

For example, dozens of indymedia sites were arbitrarily shut down in a number of countries for several weeks because one site posted photographs of undercover political police -- the FBI just demanded the servers and the internet service provider just handed them over.

More seriously, there was a fellow by the name of Sherman Austin who went to federal prison for a year...not for anything he said on the internet, but because he posted a link to what someone else posted on another site!

That's capitalist "freedom of speech".
First posted at RevolutionaryLeft on January 14, 2005


Most of the world is made of workers.

Not yet it's not; "most" of the world is still "made" of peasants. The global working class may achieve an actual majority (though a narrow one) by 2060 or thereabouts.

It will be at least another century (or more!) before the working class is a majority of countries like India and China.


And when we are free, and we really know and see what freedom is, the reactionaries can SAY all they want, none of their empty words are going to make us go back into our cages.

This is the "optimistic" scenario...and we can't say at this point whether or not it will materialize.

I think it foolish, however, to always make optimistic assumptions...things in history rarely work out "as planned". We cannot rule out the possibility that a substantial minority may like cages...and vigorously demand that we should be put back into them.


You know, people are going to say (or write) what they want, whether you hear it or not.

Indeed they will...but if it's not part of public discourse, I don't care what they say or write.


If we have an open society then we will raise revolutionary consciousness by debating their illusions right out in the open for everyone to see.

I would rather attack their illusions "right out in the open for everyone to see"...and give them no chance to reply at all.

Why? Because this isn't just an intellectual exercise; it's about whether we'll stay free or be put back in those cages.


No labor camps or repression. Fair and square.

I'm against labor camps myself.

But I'm in favor of "repression". There's no reason to lock up someone who advocates racism, sexism, religion, etc. All that's required is to deny them access to the public discourse...much as we are denied that access now.

I repeat: why should we be "fair and square" with people who have never been "fair and square" with us?


And we will win, because we have freedom and dignity and they have ghettos, war and fascism to give us.

Do you expect them to be honest about their ideas?

Does George W. Bush make speeches advocating "ghettos, war and fascism"?

No, they will frame their ideas in such a way as to make themselves "look good" and us "look bad".

Further, you may not assume that "our strength is as the strength of ten because our hearts are pure".

Most of the time in history, the "good guys" lose and the "bad guys" win...because the "bad guys" fight dirty.

Their objective in "debate" is not to win a "majority" for their ideas; all they require is an armed and determined minority willing to support a military coup.

They must not be given even a chance to do that.


Restricting free speech just makes us look insecure.

I do not care "how we look" long as we win.


We have freedom, and all they got are some tired words.

Those "tired words" have been very tenacious up to now -- nationalism, racism, sexism, superstition, etc. It would be very foolish of us to allow them to "catch their breath" and return to the battle.


After that wannabe-capitalists can say all that they want, they won't be taken seriously.

Maybe they won't...and maybe they will.

Don't forget that there will likely be many problems in setting up a communist society and "making it work". Our enemies will eagerly seize upon and exaggerate those problems...if we let them.

I think it would be "really great" if everything went smoothly and our enemies were so utterly discredited that no one listened to them at all.

But that's an extraordinarily dangerous assumption to make at this point.
First posted at RevolutionaryLeft on January 15, 2005
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