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Mustn't Offend the Communists:

From the Ottawa Citizen:

A new monument in Ottawa to commemorate the victims of some sort of oppression was approved by the National Capital Commission’s board of directors Thursday, but the decision has left those proposing the monument confused as to what, exactly, was approved....

The NCC board passed a motion supporting the concept of the commemoration, “but perhaps with a different title,” after objections about the title were raised by nearly all members who spoke.

The title — “monument to the victims of totalitarian communism” — has already been changed once. In the first proposals, ... it was to be called “monument to the victims of communism.”

After beginning discussions with the NCC in March 2008, the groups had back-and-forth discussions with a committee of experts who suggested that the title be changed because it could be perceived as “unduly critical of Canadians who might associate themselves with communism,” Egan said.

The group then changed the name to include the word “totalitarian.” The title still did not sit well with the board.

“I was unsettled by this name, and other members of the committee agreed with me,” said Hélène Grand-Maître, speaking in French. “We should make sure that we are politically correct in this designation.”

Board member Adel Ayad said the name was troubling for its “very tight definition” and for the presence of the word “communism” in the title, as Canada has a communist party.

“It’s not communism itself that we should be fighting here. It is rather totalitarianism we are against in any form,” he said....

The monument aims to honour the 100 million people who died under communist regimes across the world .... The monument will also thank Canada for its role in providing a homeland for those coming from communist regimes.

The monument has a $1.5-million budget, all of which will come from private-sector fundraising, according to the proposal....

The National Post [UPDATE: link fixed] also adds:

One commissioner questioned whether Canadians could even legitimately point fingers at the brutality of Stalin or Pol Pot, given that our own federal government had put Japanese-Canadians in internment camps during the Second World War.

Perhaps, suggested another [Richard Jennings, judging from a reference in the Ottawa Citizen article -EV], the best route would be to be avoid specifics, strike "communism" from the proposed name altogether, and dedicate the memorial to "victims of oppressive regimes," so as not to single any particular ideologies out.

As always with these things, I should caution that news accounts may omit important context for the quotes; if anyone has a pointer to a fuller account, or a transcript, audio, or video of the board meeting, I'd love to see it.

Seamus (mail):

“I was unsettled by this name, and other members of the committee agreed with me,” said Hélène Grand-Maître, speaking in French. “We should make sure that we are politically correct in this designation.”



What's really funny is that she seems to have said that completely without irony.
9.16.2009 12:55pm
Dudeman (mail):
"Monument to those persons, animals, plants, and inanimate objects who have been the victim of any governmental entity, corporate entity, or private person."
9.16.2009 12:58pm
Seamus (mail):

One commissioner questioned whether Canadians could even legitimately point fingers at the brutality of Stalin or Pol Pot, given that our own federal government had put Japanese-Canadians in internment camps during the Second World War.



I'm sure the National Post paraphrased the commissioner in a way that distorted his/her words to make him/her look stupid. No way any sentient human being could actually make that kind of moral equivalency argument.
9.16.2009 12:58pm
Respondent:
Professor Volokh,

The second link is mistakenly linked to the Ottowa Citizen again.
9.16.2009 1:02pm
Respondent:
What are the forces in Canadian culture that allow people to think that Pol Pot or Stalin's killing tens of millions are not too far removed from interning Japanese in the heat of a war against Japan?
9.16.2009 1:05pm
anomdebus (mail):
Why don't we just cut to the chase and change it to playing "Caribbean Queen" in a deserted location at a reasonable time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSkik6EUQUc
9.16.2009 1:10pm
ShelbyC:
Why don't they just condemn bad things and get it over with?
9.16.2009 1:13pm
Seamus (mail):

What are the forces in Canadian culture that allow people to think that Pol Pot or Stalin's killing tens of millions are not too far removed from interning Japanese in the heat of a war against Japan?


It's pretty simple: During the war, the Americans and Canadians took ethnic Japanese and forcibly moved them to locations in the interior of their respective countries. Similarly, Stalin took the Volga Germans and forcibly moved them to locations (like Siberia) in the interior of the Soviet Union. So the two are totally equivalent.
9.16.2009 1:13pm
theobromophile (www):
Board member Adel Ayad said the name was troubling for its “very tight definition” and for the presence of the word “communism” in the title, as Canada has a communist party.

“It’s not communism itself that we should be fighting here. It is rather totalitarianism we are against in any form,” he said....

Wouldn't there be more, not less, reason to have the monument dedicated to victims of communism in a country that has a communist movement?

Moreover, it seems rather silly to lump everyone's unjust death together. While they are all morally wrong, they all stemmed from different sources; we cannot possibly hope to improve our world and ensure that this does not happen again if we avoid considering the causes of those deaths for fear of being politically incorrect.
9.16.2009 1:18pm
ShelbyC:
Well, I guess there's some basic economics at work here. When you pay people to sit around and discuss these things...
9.16.2009 1:18pm
neurodoc:
"The monument has a $1.5-million budget, all of which will come from private-sector fundraisingThe monument has a $1.5-million budget, all of which will come from private-sector fundraising" What exactly did the individuals who contributed the $1.5M think was going to be commemorated? That should be taken into account, shouldn't it? (Or if you give money for a poorly defined purpose, you won't be heard to complain later that the money was not spent in the way you think it should have been?)
9.16.2009 1:27pm
ShelbyC:
neurodoc:

...all of which will come...


Have they done the fundraising yet?
9.16.2009 1:32pm
neurodoc:
Seamus: It's pretty simple: During the war, the Americans and Canadians took ethnic Japanese and forcibly moved them to locations in the interior of their respective countries. Similarly, Stalin took the Volga Germans and forcibly moved them to locations (like Siberia) in the interior of the Soviet Union. So the two are totally equivalent.
For you it matters not how many in those groups did or did not die in the course of those forcible transfers; whether they were or not they were treated as slave labor and did or did not survive the experience; nor what corrective measures followed after the war? "Totally equivalent" in your view?
9.16.2009 1:35pm
Dave N (mail):
Stalin took the Volga Germans and forcibly moved them to locations (like Siberia) in the interior of the Soviet Union. So the two are totally equivalent.
Except, of course, the tiny little detail that 1 in 3 Volga Germans did not survive the relocation.

So, yeah, they are totally equivilent.
9.16.2009 1:36pm
interruptus:

Wouldn't there be more, not less, reason to have the monument dedicated to victims of communism in a country that has a communist movement?

The usual argument is that targeting "communism" is getting it wrong, because "totalitarianism" or maybe "violent political movements" is the real target. Eurocommunists, Canadian communists, and other such institutional, reformist, mild-mannered Communist parties, usually object to being lumped in with murderous dictatorial sorts, since they don't murder anyone or do anything more violent than nationalize companies--- not even when they have power, as the French communists regularly do in some cities and regions.
9.16.2009 1:38pm
sk (mail):
Note that this problem isn't restricted to Canada. Our own WTC memorial is having problems: the Flight 93 Memorial is having problems: if you've seen the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C., it is numbingly bland. Our culture simply can't be publically proud of itself.

Interestingly, there are individuals that are proud, and presumably a decisionmaking commission could conceivably be made up of a half a dozen or so of those individuals.

But its unfortunate that this happens, and its unfortunate that the kind of people who make decisions are always people like the Canadian commission members mentioned in the article.

Sk
9.16.2009 1:41pm
mrcausality:
All of our ideological discomforts could be easily solved if scientists would just invent a real-time media emitting feedback mechanism. When you interact with any form of media (a caption, an article, a monument, etc.), the media source collects your pyschoanalytics and emits the most pleasing formulation and presentation in conformity with your personal makeup.

This would be, to circle with the previous post, a good head start toward an [happiness]utility maximizing "experience machine".
9.16.2009 1:43pm
neurodoc:
ShelbyC: Have they done the fundraising yet?
Dunno. Some ambiguity in this regard, though perhaps it is more likely that the fundraising has yet to be done, rather than that it has already been accomplished. It may be in part the reporting, but it all sounds rather fuzzy.
9.16.2009 1:44pm
Tableturner:
In a related story:


A new monument in Ottawa to commemorate the victims of some sort of oppression was approved by the National Capital Commission’s board of directors Thursday, but the decision has left those proposing the monument confused as to what, exactly, was approved....

The NCC board passed a motion supporting the concept of the commemoration, “but perhaps with a different title,” after objections about the title were raised by nearly all members who spoke.

The title — “monument to the victims of totalitarian fascism” — has already been changed once. In the first proposals, ... it was to be called “monument to the victims of fascism.”

After beginning discussions with the NCC in March 2008, the groups had back-and-forth discussions with a committee of experts who suggested that the title be changed because it could be perceived as “unduly critical of Canadians who might associate themselves with fascism,” Egan said.

The group then changed the name to include the word “totalitarian.” The title still did not sit well with the board.

Board member Adel Ayad said the name was troubling for its “very tight definition” and for the presence of the word “fascism” in the title. “It’s not fascism itself that we should be fighting here. It is rather totalitarianism we are against in any form,” he said....

The monument aims to honour the millions of people who died under fascist regimes across the world .... The monument will also thank Canada for its role in providing a homeland for those coming from fascist regimes.
9.16.2009 1:46pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Hmmm... Seems like a genuinely politically sensitive issue.

I would title it: "Monument to the Victims of the USSR and Its Client States." I think that is sufficiently broad enough. That would cover the USSR, Maoist China, Pol Pot, Castro, Eastern Europe, etc. Oh and I would make sure Trotsky's role in these persecutions was documented.

It also legitimately asks the question of what role models we want.

That would avoid issues relating to possibilities regarding whether interpretations of Marxism which don't look to the USSR and client states for role models are possible or acceptable, nor does it seek to end the dialog over the proper place of Canada's Communist Party in national dialog.
9.16.2009 1:55pm
Pat Conolly (mail):
I strongly suspect Seamus was being sarcastic when he wrote his post. When I read his last sentence "So the two are totally equivalent" I imagine it coming out of the mouth of the stereotypical airhead student (or Canadian political commissioner).
9.16.2009 2:01pm
Hannibal Lector:
How about a monument "To Victims". Then everyone can feel that they and their ancestors are being memorialized and no group -- no matter how vile -- will be unfairly calumniated.

And Seamus is either a morally-challenged nitwit or a very subtle satirist.
9.16.2009 2:10pm
JPG:
Pat Conolly, your intuition is founded. In light of Seamus' first two comments in this thread, we can conclude neurodoc and Dave N were fooled by irony. It even happens to the best of us.
9.16.2009 2:10pm
Seamus (mail):
neurodoc and Dave N: You need to get your sarcasm detectors calibrated.


And Seamus is either a morally-challenged nitwit or a very subtle satirist.



If Hannibal Lector had read my first two posts, as Pat Conolly did, he might have been able to guess which.
9.16.2009 2:21pm
ChrisTS (mail):
“I was unsettled by this name, and other members of the committee agreed with me,” said Hélène Grand-Maître, speaking in French. “We should make sure that we are politically correct in this designation.”

What's really funny is that she seems to have said that completely without irony.


With the discussion of missed sarcasm, I am not sure what Seamus meant in his first post. However, it is worth noting for someone's sake that the commissioner undoubtedly meant 'correct in our use of political terminology' not 'politically correct' in the U.S. sense. You know, like when we worry about people calling libertarians 'conservatives'?
9.16.2009 2:30pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Hannibal Lector:

How about a monument "To Victims". Then everyone can feel that they and their ancestors are being memorialized and no group -- no matter how vile -- will be unfairly calumniated.


Great idea..... Let's revive animal and human sacrifices at that location as well!
9.16.2009 2:39pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
(As an interesting side note, "holocaust" comes from a technical term for a certain subset of Greek animal sacrifices as well.)
9.16.2009 2:40pm
Malvolio:
And Seamus is either a morally-challenged nitwit or a very subtle satirist.
Couldn't it be both?
9.16.2009 2:41pm
geokstr (mail):

ChrisTS:
However, it is worth noting for someone's sake that the commissioner undoubtedly meant 'correct in our use of political terminology' not 'politically correct' in the U.S. sense. You know, like when we worry about people calling libertarians 'conservatives'?

Oh, you mean, like, here in the US, when we worry about calling conservatives "racists"? Oh, but I guess, we don't really worry our pretty little heads about that, do we?

In the US, we don't even use the word "communist" any more, as that would offend the "Marxists" that make up the professoriat in the soft sciences at our own universities. After all, the fact that pretty much every communist regime that has ever existed was the most murderous and repressive government ever in all those countries is just pure random coincidence, and had nothing to do with the actual, like, ideology underlying Marxism. Not to worry, when it gets tried here, we'll do it right this time because our motives are pure.
9.16.2009 2:44pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Oh, Canada!!
9.16.2009 3:09pm
Badness (mail):
In a word: meh.

As an aside, conflating Communists the world over with evil is about as stupid as confusing conservatives with racism, or liberals with anti-semitism. It is a facile argument and does not reflect well on the person making it.

Is there occasional overlap? Yes. Is it universal? No.
9.16.2009 3:12pm
Seamus (mail):

However, it is worth noting for someone's sake that the commissioner undoubtedly meant 'correct in our use of political terminology' not 'politically correct' in the U.S. sense.



Why "undoubtedly"? I'm doubting it right now, but if you can provide evidence, I'm willing to be persuaded that in Canada, "politically correct" doesn't mean what it means south of the border.
9.16.2009 3:21pm
Steve:
I'm doubting it right now, but if you can provide evidence, I'm willing to be persuaded that in Canada, "politically correct" doesn't mean what it means south of the border.

She didn't even say it in English, for heaven's sake.
9.16.2009 3:38pm
Dave N (mail):
Seamus,

My apologies. You are right that your two earlier posts (particularly the second one) should have clued me in. You were just a little too subtle. Well played, though.
9.16.2009 3:38pm
NickM (mail) (www):

As an aside, conflating Communists the world over with evil is about as stupid as confusing conservatives with racism, or liberals with anti-semitism. It is a facile argument and does not reflect well on the person making it.

Is there occasional overlap? Yes. Is it universal? No.


Wrong. Communism takes as a tenet that violent revolution to institute its favored economic order is justified. That's evil right there.

Nick
9.16.2009 3:41pm
Seamus (mail):

She didn't even say it in English, for heaven's sake.



But I understand that the term "politiquement correct" carries pretty much the same meaning as the English term.
9.16.2009 3:42pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Seamus: Someone was looking for a way to achieve 'politically correct' in French and you assume that this is what every French person means by using that phrasing? Perhaps you can find us a cite for another way of saying, in French, 'the correct ploitical term'?
9.16.2009 3:49pm
ChrisTS (mail):
NickM:

You are incorrect. There are many varieties of communism. The use of violence to attain the desired outcome is not a necessary feature of communimisms as a theoretical set.
9.16.2009 3:51pm
Badness (mail):

Wrong. Communism takes as a tenet that violent revolution to institute its favored economic order is justified. That's evil right there.


I am impossibly amused.
9.16.2009 3:58pm
Seamus (mail):
ChrisTS:

Does this qualify?
9.16.2009 4:13pm
ShelbyC:

Does this qualify?


That has got to hurt. Seamus, you're on fire today. :-)
9.16.2009 4:26pm
egd:
ChrisTS:

You are incorrect. There are many varieties of communism. The use of violence to attain the desired outcome is not a necessary feature of communimisms [sic] as a theoretical set.

Fair enough.

Can you point to a practical communist system of government that hasn't used violence to attain the desired outcome?

Redefining violence to not apply to the bourgeoisie doesn't count.
9.16.2009 4:33pm
Badness (mail):
Seamus: While I pretty much don't doubt that "politiquement correct" here was used in the American sense, the Wikipedia entry doesn't make a slam-dunk case for you:


Dans cette province, l'usage préfère l'expression « rectitude politique », qui est plus « linguistiquement correcte », puisqu'il s'agit d'une équivalence et non d'une simple traduction mot-à-mot.
9.16.2009 4:42pm
ShelbyC:

the Wikipedia entry doesn't make a slam-dunk case for you:

Dans cette province, l'usage préfère l'expression « rectitude politique », qui est plus « linguistiquement correcte », puisqu'il s'agit d'une équivalence et non d'une simple traduction mot-à-mot.





Please correct me if I'm wrong, but that's just hyper-correction, right? Nobody's arguing that the expression doesn't have the american meaning.
9.16.2009 4:46pm
George Smith:
.........and so it goes in Canuckistan.
9.16.2009 4:51pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Seamus:

No, it does not. I asked you to find us a reference showing that there are other accepted ways to make the point that one wants to use a political term correctly. Your link is to a wiki discussion of how the French use a phrase to allude to the U.S. sense of 'political correctness.'

I admit, my own French is very rusty, indeed, but I don't think the link provides what I asked for.

I should probably say I don't much care. If the commissioner was using the phrase as you read it, I cannot figure out why she would have done so.
9.16.2009 4:55pm
ChrisTS (mail):
egd:

I'm tempted to say I cannot point to a practical communist system at all. :-)

Of course, my point was that folks who think of themselves as communists do not all advocate violence. I took that to be the point you were implying originally. I.e., that 'communists' = 'those who advocate violent revolution.' That is incorrect whether or not historical communist systems were all brought about through revolutions.

And, sorry about my arthritic typing.
9.16.2009 5:00pm
ShelbyC:

I admit, my own French is very rusty, indeed, but I don't think the link provides what I asked for.


Cuz you asked for the wrong thing. Just admit he nailed ya :-).
9.16.2009 5:08pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Why was what I asked for 'wrong'?

S suggested that a certain phrase has only one meaning and that the speaker's use of the phrase showed a lack of a sense of irony*.

I suggested it might have another meaning and asked him for some evidence that it could not; more specifically, I asked him for an example of normal usage to capture the other meaning I suggested.

I don't get the 'wrong question' bit.

* I still think, based on context, that it is unlikely she knowingly used a phrase with the U.S. meaning of 'politically correct' in support of recrafting the memorial's language. Rather, she could, if Seamus is correct about the linguistic issues, only have been using that phrase ironically, in which case she probably is not in support of the argument over the language.
9.16.2009 5:17pm
Pat Conolly (mail):
Pretty much agree with ChrisTS.
The communist governments that all derived from Lenin and Mao were bad, agreed. But I believe that the principles of communism don't require being imposed by another existing dictatorial state, or by a violent revolution. That's the way it happened in the 20th century, but that doesn't mean it's the only way it could happen.
I think theoretically a communist government could win an election. I'm thinking Allende in Chile was the closest to that.
Would it be work? Probably not.
9.16.2009 5:21pm
geokstr (mail):

Badness:
In a word: meh.

As an aside, conflating Communists the world over with evil is about as stupid as confusing conservatives with racism, or liberals with anti-semitism. It is a facile argument and does not reflect well on the person making it.

Is there occasional overlap? Yes. Is it universal? No.

Occasional overlap??????

More like a statistical certainty. Please point me to the historical example of it in action that you like best.

I suppose that, again of course by nothing but random coincidence, every country it's been tried in has required a massive repression of liberty, a total confiscation of private property, and a massive top-down control over every aspect of human existence, and that means for pretty much forever even after you've blown away a sizeable chunk of your citizenry.

What's that central slogan of Marxism anyway? "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" or some such profound blather. Oh, yeah, with an incentive system like that driving society, I can see how it would be so much better.

You can have all the warm fuzzies you want about how wonderful communist theory is, but the thing you always somehow need to do in reality is radically change human nature and repeal the laws of supply and demand to get it to work. And when that doesn't happen, well, what's a few tens of millions of broken eggs when there's that tasty omelette just down the road, just a bit closer every day... Be patient, silly rabbit, Big Brother is watching (out) for you.

Gawd, I never thought I'd see the day in this country when communists and their would be defended as just another harmless political philosophy. What do we require, another hundred mil dead before we wake up?
9.16.2009 5:31pm
Seamus (mail):

I suggested it might have another meaning and asked him for some evidence that it could not; more specifically, I asked him for an example of normal usage to capture the other meaning I suggested.



You did more than suggest that it might have another meaning; you said that "the commissioner undoubtedly meant 'correct in our use of political terminology' not 'politically correct' in the U.S. sense" (emphasis added).
9.16.2009 5:37pm
geokstr (mail):

ChrisTS:
Of course, my point was that folks who think of themselves as communists do not all advocate violence. I took that to be the point you were implying originally. I.e., that 'communists' = 'those who advocate violent revolution.' That is incorrect whether or not historical communist systems were all brought about through revolutions.

Let's agree to agree that "violent revolution" can be a necessary thing sometimes to overthrow oppressive regimes. However, will you also agree that the bulk of those 100 million people were killed by their benevolent communist rulers long after the "revolution" had already been won?

That's because, as I stated above, the inevitable conflict will not be against the previous regime, but with the citizens who object to the far greater oppression necessary to actually make the workers' paradise a reality (that is just always slightly out of reach.)

And of course communists don't come right out and say this kind of thing (unless, like with Ayers, they happen to get infiltrated by the FBI). That certainly wouldn't help get them elected if they said they'd have to kill or re-educate anyone who disagreed with them afterwards, now would it?
9.16.2009 5:41pm
Badness (mail):

More like a statistical certainty. Please point me to the historical example of it in action that you like best.


Two quick thoughts off the top of my head:

Communists in the U.S. were instrumental in driving the civil rights movement, and apt to defend and succour individual victims of injustice.

Communists essentially created and ran the French resistance during World War II, which was a fair bit more useful to the overall war effort than a lot of folks realize. Also, Stalin's Communists gave up a whole hell of a lot more to fight the war than Americans, and were at least as responsible for winning it as the Allies.

Succinctly, Communists are not universally, unambiguously, evil.

And, not to assert a false moral equivalency, but Communism is not exactly the only political ideology with blood on its hands.
9.16.2009 5:42pm
Seamus (mail):

While I pretty much don't doubt that "politiquement correct" here was used in the American sense, the Wikipedia entry doesn't make a slam-dunk case for you


But it's quite enough to disprove ChrisTS's claim that "the commissioner undoubtedly meant 'correct in our use of political terminology' not 'politically correct' in the U.S. sense." I noted, however, that if ChrisTS would provide me with evidence, I was open to persuasion that the commissioner meant something else that what I thought. Instead of such evidence, all I've gotten from ChrisTS has been repeated challenges that I haven't provided 100% evidence that the commissioner *did* mean what I thought.
9.16.2009 5:43pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Should Viet Nam erect a Mỹ Lai monument to "the victims of democracy"? Ideologies and political systems don't massacre people. Authoritarian ideologues do. So do random psychopaths for no ideological reason. The subjects of the memorial were victims of actual totalitarian Communist regimes with actual names and faces. The best description would be something like:

... victims of the following totalitarian Communist regimes:

Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin
Communist China under Mao
Cambodia under Pol Pot ...

but that's probably more detail than the planners have in mind, so a simple, adequately accurate description would be "victims of totalitarian Communists."
9.16.2009 5:48pm
Steve:
Is there a link to show that what the commissioner actually said in French was "politiquement correct"?
9.16.2009 5:54pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
geokstr:

More like a statistical certainty. Please point me to the historical example of it in action that you like best.

Isn't it your position that that's what we've got in the White House now? Whatever you think of him, you don't exactly see gulags and death marches, do you?

I know, "Wait." Right?
9.16.2009 6:01pm
Notacommie:
If everyone who subscribes to Communist ideals must also believe in the use of violence... then what the hell was this guy thinking?



What does communism mean in the last analysis? It means a classless society—an ideal that is worth striving for. Only I part company with it when force is called to aid for achieving it. We are all born equal, but we have all these centuries resisted the will of God. The idea of inequality, of ‘high and low’, is an evil, but I do not believe in eradicating evil from the human breast at the point of the bayonet. The human breast does not lend itself to the means.



I'm no Communist, and I don’t think Communism works, but why assume that everyone who thinks differently from us is either stupid or dangerous? Yeah, there have been Communist leaders that have done horrible things. There have also been tyrants, espousing other ideologies, that have done horrible things. Some people do horrible things when they’re in a position of power, regardless of ideology, and that’s been true from time immemorial.
9.16.2009 6:06pm
NorthernDave (mail):
As an aside it might also be related to the fact that Gilles Duceppe the leader of the swing vote BQ (a Quebec Nationalist movement that actually found itself in the ironic position of being Her Imperial Majesty's Loyal Opposition - largest non-government party - at one point.......) was (and some say still is) a card carrying Communist.

M. Duceppe might even be running Canada if Canada had a Presidential system as he always appears as if he just stepped out of GQ and doesn't speak much - (and when he does it is usually a statement of simple fact). I am astonished at the number of *Conservative* bring-back-the-good-old-days-of-slavery types that would vote for him....

(As usual with French Communists it would appear Duceppe considers himself Francophone First and communist second.....)

Communism always ends in a horrific Statist Ghetto. Those who remember have a duty to remind the up and coming generations of this (Germany is have some problems with this as rose-coloured glasses of the DDR are being bought into by a number of those born after the Fall of the Wall..).
9.16.2009 6:07pm
Notacommie:
Sorry, for some reason my links didn't show up. The block quote above is from Gandhi and the links I tried to provide are below:

http://sfr-21.org/gandhi-communism.html
http://www.mkgandhi-sarvodaya.org/momgandhi/chap52.htm
9.16.2009 6:08pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Pat Connoly:


The communist governments that all derived from Lenin and Mao were bad, agreed. But I believe that the principles of communism don't require being imposed by another existing dictatorial state, or by a violent revolution. That's the way it happened in the 20th century, but that doesn't mean it's the only way it could happen.


I agree with this. And this is exactly why I think it is important to say exactly what is meant. Speaking, writing, and naming things precisely is a virtue.

I would leave the word "Communism" out of the title altogether. We know who we are talking about so let's say so: The USSR and its Client States. This isn't NECESSARILY identical with Communism. It is identical with the specific purpose of the monument however and it avoids misunderstandings.
9.16.2009 6:12pm
NorthernDave (mail):
By the way, Communist Parties in Canada usually garner less votes than the Marijuana Party (who usually get a solid 50 votes per 100,000).

The only person up here I ever met who voted that way that I know of did so as an accident (she was an Immigrant from GB and saw a good Scots name, McSomethingorOther, and voted for him! Was horrified when she found out who he was running for - she was a staunch Monarchist :-) )

The BQ Gilles Duceppe runs isn't a communist party. It's a Quebec First party with a wide range of Quebecers with varying political views taking part (as long as their regional interests come first). Not stupid. Almost any electoral decision leaves them with the swing vote and the hammer hand......
9.16.2009 6:16pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Seamus:
I've gotten from ChrisTS has been repeated challenges that I haven't provided 100% evidence that the commissioner *did* mean what I thought.

Wow. Ok. I am not sure why this is such a point of heated concern.

I did say I thought she 'undoubtedly meant...' I said 'undoubtedly' because, as I read the post, she was agreeing that the language should be revised. If she did not agree, but thought it a matter of silly PC-ness, then her comment would seem to have been ironical.

My question about the phrase was pretty innocent, I thought. To reframe it so as not to seem to be a personal challenge to you, let's say, "Do we have evidence that there is another way to articulate a concern for a correct political designation in ordinary French usage?"

I still really do not know.
9.16.2009 6:36pm
ChrisTS (mail):
P.S.

I noted, however, that if ChrisTS would provide me with evidence, I was open to persuasion that the commissioner meant something else that what I thought.

I missed that request. The only 'evidence' I can come up with is what I have noted: that it would be a very odd choice of terms if she did not intend irony; in which case she was not taking the position that [I thought] the article imputed to her.
9.16.2009 6:38pm
Badness (mail):

But it's quite enough to disprove ChrisTS's claim that "the commissioner undoubtedly meant 'correct in our use of political terminology' not 'politically correct' in the U.S. sense."


With that, I have no issue. Moreover, I'm only passingly familiar with the Quebecois idiom, so I don't know for certain whether or not "usage" is meant empirically.

Though I would add that, in French usage, I have seen "politiquement correct" used in the sense of terminological correctness (though usually in a more narrow reference to particular politiques, rather than to political ideologies). As well as (though less often) in the American sense.
9.16.2009 6:39pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Geokstr:
Let's agree to agree that "violent revolution" can be a necessary thing sometimes to overthrow oppressive regimes. However, will you also agree that the bulk of those 100 million people were killed by their benevolent communist rulers long after the "revolution" had already been won?

I am willing to agree that revolutions may sometimes be necessary, yes. Quite willing to agree that millions of Russians and East Europeans, Chinese, and Cambodians were slaughtered, or at least left to die, by Stalin, Mao, the Khmer Rouge. That these people/forces should be described as 'benevolent,' I do not agree.

That's because, as I stated above, the inevitable conflict will not be against the previous regime, but with the citizens who object to the far greater oppression necessary to actually make the workers' paradise a reality (that is just always slightly out of reach.)

I do not know that this is 'inevitable. Also, thinking of the Tories after the American Revolution, I'm not ready to say that it is only objections to further oppression that give rise to abuse.

And of course communists don't come right out and say this kind of thing (unless, like with Ayers, they happen to get infiltrated by the FBI). That certainly wouldn't help get them elected if they said they'd have to kill or re-educate anyone who disagreed with them afterwards, now would it?

AFAIK, Ayers did not advocate violence in the name of communism; he advocated it in the name of civil rights. I am also not sure that he advocated revolution as such.
As far as the rest of your comment goes, you are simply parading your ivews; therefore, I have no need to respond.
9.16.2009 6:58pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Badness:


Though I would add that, in French usage, I have seen "politiquement correct" used in the sense of terminological correctness (though usually in a more narrow reference to particular politiques, rather than to political ideologies). As well as (though less often) in the American sense.


I think that makes the most sense, given the apparent context.
9.16.2009 7:02pm
Pat Conolly (mail):
One thing I don't get is, what is the point of this?
Essentially it sounds like they want a monument to the victims of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc., but not to the victims of Hitler, Idi Amin and others. But why make that distinction?
9.16.2009 8:11pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

Two quick thoughts off the top of my head:

Communists in the U.S. were instrumental in driving the civil rights movement, and apt to defend and succour individual victims of injustice.

Communists essentially created and ran the French resistance during World War II, which was a fair bit more useful to the overall war effort than a lot of folks realize. Also, Stalin's Communists gave up a whole hell of a lot more to fight the war than Americans, and were at least as responsible for winning it as the Allies.

Succinctly, Communists are not universally, unambiguously, evil.


So, you think Communists were the main force in the US Civil Rights movement? I'm glad to see you agree with J. Edgar.

As for WW II, what about the Molotov Pact in 1939? Did that help or aid Hitler? What about those Polish officers shot in the Katyn Forest. Was that part of winning the war too?

Communists have left a trail of death everywhere. So, I think your "Communists are not universally, unambiguously, evil." is universally, unambiguously wrong.
9.16.2009 8:20pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Pat Conolly

But why make that distinction?

It seems the people behind this want to make an ideological point, as is their right. But they shouldn't be officially sanctioned to tar anyone with that brush who bears no actual or moral responsibility for the killings.
9.16.2009 8:20pm
Cornet of Horse:
We're making this way to complicated.

Communists (as opposed to socialists) are explicitly anti-democratic. There should be no objection to democracies energetically condemning political philosophies that advocate the overthrow of democracy itself - with commemorating the horrific results of past overthrows (and the efforts of liberal democracies to oppose them/ameliorate their effects) being a particularly liberal way to do so.

If one wants to be a liberal democrat (as opposed to merely benefiting from the social benefits that rightly accrue to being thought so), one should not object to such efforts. Indeed, one should join them.
9.16.2009 8:35pm
Bpbatista (mail):
"Totalitarian communism" is redundant.
9.16.2009 9:28pm
NorthernDave (mail):
"Totalitarian communism" is redundant.

Best and most succinct comment I've seen in quite a while, Bpbatista. Genius.
9.16.2009 9:40pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
NorthernDave:

"Totalitarian communism" is redundant.

Best and most succinct comment I've seen in quite a while, Bpbatista. Genius.

Except that it also happens to be wrong. You could make the argument that totalitarian Communism is redundant, though even that's arguable, but totalitarian communism is definitely not redundant.
9.16.2009 10:12pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Bob from Ohio:

Communists have left a trail of death everywhere. So, I think your "Communists are not universally, unambiguously, evil." is universally, unambiguously wrong.


Hmmm... My mother had an uncle who was a communist. He was an interesting guy. One of the most intelligent and conservative lawyers I have ever known except a REALLY staunch civil libertarian.

Interestingy I always got the impression he was more of a French-model Communist rather than a Soviet-model communist.

He was also the one who clarified for me what the second amendment meant (and drew lines remarkably similar to what the court ruled in Heller but over a decade earlier.

Great guy and I miss our discussions.
9.16.2009 10:13pm
Milhouse (www):
Communism is always evil, because its evil is not some accidental impurity that it seems to attract, but its essence. A communist government is evil and illegitimate even if it is elected; just as a nazi government would be.

The communists helped defeat the nazis, not because they were less evil — if such a thing were possible they'd've been more evil — but because Germany attacked the USSR. The USA was lucky that Pearl Harbor happened after that event, and not before. The rivalry between communists and nazis was exactly like that between the Sicilian and Calabrian mafias; they weren't opposites but competitors. And for that matter, the Sicilian mafia helped defeat the fascists and nazis too; does that make them somehow OK too?
9.16.2009 11:02pm
pmorem (mail):
ChrisTS is unhappy with tying Communism with the murder of a hundred million or more.

He should be unhappy. That means he still has something of a heart.

If you don't like the unpleasant characteristics of your beliefs, perhaps you need to consider re-evaluating your beliefs.

Trying to conceal the consequences is fundamentally dishonest.
9.17.2009 12:32am
ChrisTS (mail):
ChrisTS is unhappy with tying Communism with the murder of a hundred million or more.

I am?
9.17.2009 1:07am
ChrisTS (mail):
Just to be clear for the reading-challenged:

I never said I was 'unhappy with tying Communism with the murder of a hundred million or more.' I am more than 'unhappy' about the deaths of millions.

Of course, I did point out that 'communism' is not euqivalent to the regimes of Stalin, Mao, and the Khmer Rouge.

Perhaps too subtle?
9.17.2009 1:10am
Ebenezer (mail):
Seriously? Communism is always evil? Every communist is evil? Because of some crazy bastards who killed a bunch of people?

I would hate to see what some you people would say about the United States, and the grand experiment of democracy, if our government had failed--after say 50 years--instead of having remained intact until today. During our first fifty years, we succeeded in violently overthrowing the government that came before us, we succeeded in whipping out and displacing millions of Native Americans and we continued to enslave large portions of our citizenry (3/5 citizens at that time).

Now imagine yourself (in my hypo) sitting in Britain in the mid 1800s, after the collapse of America. Would you be saying that all democracies, and those who embraced the theory of democracy, are inherently evil because of the horrible atrocities carried out by "democrats" in America and France (French Revolution was kind of a set back for democracy)?

The point is that even great ideologies like democracy can be misused in the wrong hands. And some ideologies can be misused to an even larger extent when a truly malevolent (and paranoid) person like Stalin or Hitler comes to power... But that doesn't make EVERYONE who ever considered themselves a communist evil.

Get a grip people. The world has a lot of room for a lot of different viewpoints, there's no need to point your finger and shout "bogeyman!" (or "commie!").

...

I know, I know... I just criticized 150 year old American policy decisions... the terrorists have won.
9.17.2009 2:36am
pmorem (mail):
Ebenezer wrote:
Because of some crazy bastards who killed a bunch of people?


I believe you've pointed towards the fundamental flaw.

ChrisTS, my point was really that there's a pattern we've seen repeatedly. The pattern seems to be that people espousing Communism tends to lead to the empowerment of crazy bastards and the deaths of millions of people at their hands.

If you keep rolling snake eyes, perhaps you might consider that the dice are loaded. Perhaps there's something you haven't considered that keeps warping what you advocate into horror.

I could venture theory as to why, but that's not really my responsibility. I see the pattern (and others do as well), and I call it as I see it. If that upsets you, that's really not my problem.
9.17.2009 3:51am
egd:
Really, I think everyone is missing the fundamental point here. Even assuming that Stalin wasn't a Communist (and I'm assuming it because I can't imagine the factual distortions to reach that point), or that somehow killing enemies of the state isn't really Communist, should the government even have a say in this issue?

The funds are to be privately raised, which means private citizens are the ones paying for the project. Therefore, shouldn't the private citizens who are paying for this monument have the right to determine how it will be titled?

If I want to erect a "Monument to Victims of Buddhism" on my front porch and dedicate it to the victims of the Russo-Japanese and Second World Wars, what would stop me? Who cares that Buddhism (like most other world religions) abhor the use of violence. Or that peaceful modern practitioners (a sizable number in any other world religion) would be offended.

It's a privately-funded monument and the naming decision should belong to those providing the funds.
9.17.2009 8:25am
11-B/2O.B4:
<blockquote>
Of course, my point was that folks who think of themselves as communists do not all advocate violence.
</blockquote>


Actually, that's exactly what they advocate, if they understand at all what they are talking about. Now, many in western countries without the balls or convictions to actually follow their philosophy are peaceful, but the difference between socialists and communists has always been the issue of working within a system. Socialists and communists have identical goals, but vastly different ways of getting there. Socialists generally advocate working within a system, more or less peaceful, slow, gradual conversion. Communists advocate complete, total, disruptive and violent overthrow of the existing order. If you know anyone who is a communist and does not advocate violence, kindly tell them that they're just a garden-variety socialist and to stop putting on airs.
9.17.2009 9:27am
Badness (mail):

Communists Americans Europeans Capitalists Christians Muslims Jews People have left a trail of death everywhere. So, I think your "Communists are not universally, unambiguously, evil." is universally, unambiguously wrong.


Honestly, you make this far too easy.
9.17.2009 9:57am
Seamus (mail):

Communists have left a trail of death everywhere. So, I think your "Communists are not universally, unambiguously, evil." is universally, unambiguously wrong.



I think the Communist government of the Republic of San Marino between 1945 and 1957 was pretty benign.
9.17.2009 10:57am
Seamus (mail):

Even assuming that Stalin wasn't a Communist (and I'm assuming it because I can't imagine the factual distortions to reach that point)



You need to be more imaginative. No true communist would do what Stalin did.
9.17.2009 11:01am
JPG:
egd: The funds are to be privately raised, which means private citizens are the ones paying for the project. Therefore, shouldn't the private citizens who are paying for this monument have the right to determine how it will be titled?


My understanding is that the monument will be erected in a public space, not on a private property, hence why the Commission was involved in the process. But informations are scarce and I could be proven wrong.
9.17.2009 11:30am
JPG:
ShelbyC, Seamus, Badness...

Regarding the linguistic use of the french expression "politiquement correct", I guess you guys missed the part of the wikipedia article you linked to, which goes like this: Avec le temps, l'expression a pris une autre acception, hors Amérique du nord, devenant donc l'équivalent de celle plus ancienne de « langue de bois » : un discours à base de circonlocutions, de périphrases, d'euphémismes et d'expressions figées, selon la technique dénommée communément « noyer le poisson ».

You'd have to scatch the "hors d'Amérique du Nord" part (my humble opinion as a 'Québécois').

In short, I'll assume you guys don't read french very well, it would be true to say "politiquement correct" or "rectitude politique" could have the same meaning as the english speaking "political correctness", but it generally has a milder sense in its french version, compared to the American usage of the term.

As to know what the commissioner had in mind when using the expression, that's another story...
9.17.2009 12:05pm
ChrisTS (mail):
pmorem:

ChrisTS, my point was really that there's a pattern we've seen repeatedly. The pattern seems to be that people espousing Communism tends to lead to the empowerment of crazy bastards and the deaths of millions of people at their hands.
If that upsets you, that's really not my problem.


I'm not the least bit upset; why should I be?

You are looking to an historical pattern - dominant though not universal - to support the claim that 'communism' as a political perspective [quite a range of them in fact] necessarily includes the tenet of violent revolution. Not all such perspectives do, in fact.

If one of my students brought up historical patterns showing that right-wing movements typically lead to oppression and brutality, I would point out that this is not grounds for claiming that oppression and brutality are tenets of all right-wing perspectives.
9.17.2009 5:05pm
pmorem (mail):
ChrisTS

"Violent revolution" is not where the body count comes from. Comparing body counts, the revolutions (including civil wars) have been relatively bloodless.

Stalin, the Cultural Revolution and the Killing Fields all happened after the regimes had taken power. North Korea had a 10% excess mortality period peaking in '97, long after the regime came to power.

It's an on-going problem, not a transition problem.

It's not the war that kills people so much as the "peace".

I'm also not saying it's a tenet. I'm saying it's a recurring feature. I would go so far as to say it's an intrinsic bug in the philosophy.

There appears to be a fundamental conflict between the philosophy and reality, which manifests as horrible unintended consequences. Reality is what it is, and there's scant evidence that wishing otherwise can change the relevant aspects.

Rather than trying to force reality to conform with your philosophy, there is another way. Learn.
9.17.2009 5:50pm
Pat Conolly (mail):
Wasn't Lucille Ball a member of the American Communist Party? Was Lucille Ball clearly, unambiguously evil? Should I throw away my I LOVE LUCY DVDs ?
9.17.2009 7:24pm
Pat Conolly (mail):
The Communist regime in U.S.S.R. was brutal. It imposed a Communist regime in, to pick one example, North Korea. That also turned out to be brutal. Was the North Korean regime brutal because
a) no reason, just a coincidence
b) because communism is inherently brutal
c) because it was imposed by the brutal regime of the U.S.S.R.?

My vote is (c).

If a dozen distinct states INDEPENDENTLY became communist, and most of them became brutal oppressors, I would agree that there was something inherently brutal about communism.
9.17.2009 7:34pm
markm (mail):
Communism's essential evil lies in it's root principles. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is a pretty good way to run a family, but on a larger scale it means that some government bureaucrats will decide what my abilities and needs are. In other words, a government following communist/Marxist principles will enslave the people, steal the fruits of their labor, and dole out the goods. And since the government officials are human, sooner or later that will mean that they give themselves the good stuff and dole out just enough to their slaves to keep them fit to work. Except when they miscalculate...

Now, enslaving the masses, stealing the fruits of their labor, and grudgingly doling out a bare living to the masses while living high themselves is not at all uniquely Communist. The first kings of Uruk 5 or 6,000 years ago undoubtedly had a similar plan for the citizens of the cities they conquered. Soon every tribe in Eurasia that kept up with the times was trying to do likewise, and this continued through Sparta and Athens, the Roman Empire, medieval kings, barons, and bishops, the British Empire and it's rivals, and it didn't stop with Hitler.

Marxism's special evil is that not that it combines slavery and theft, but that it hides it's essentially immoral nature in a cloud of wonderful-sounding rhetoric. The Urukians justification for robbing, killing, raping, and enslaving their neighbors was undoubtedly some form of, "We're special. The gods favor us. We're Urukians!" Non-Urukians would have been no better impressed by that logic than the British were by Hitler's speeches about German superiority. Other national leaders could adopt many of Hitler's ideas - but rather than supporting German superiority, they were in it to improve the position of their own countries. Fascism was thus self-limiting, as each dictator sought his own advantage.

Marxism and other forms of communism and socialism are not thus limited. They cross national borders quite well. They sound like a highly idealistic and wonderful theory. This makes them far more dangerous, because reduced to practice, they boil down to yet another group of enslavers and thieves - because the fundamental principles amount to "What's yours is mine", and "You must work to serve me". Most forms are not explicitly a violent ideology, but sooner or later violence will be needed to enslave people and steal from them.

As for the monument, call it a monument to the victims of over-powerful governments.
9.17.2009 8:16pm
pmorem (mail):
Was Lucille Ball clearly, unambiguously evil?


I do not speak too harshly against people who did not know something that was not known at the time. I wouldn't say Ignaz Semmelweis was a bad man, though he might have killed dozens of women with his own hands.

I do, however, have harsh words for those who steadfastly refuse to learn.

I don't believe most Communists are evil. Some are, like the ones who get their yayas talking about some "need to kill people". I suspect that most Communists are just trying to be "cool" or "intellectual", following along without any real consideration of the hazards. Orwell's sheep.
9.17.2009 8:17pm
marion (mail):
"Monument to those persons, animals, plants, and inanimate objects who have been the victim of any governmental entity, corporate entity, or private person."

Someone in my hometown tried to raise a memorial to suffering, oppression and forms of victimization. There was to be a large generic bronze statue of a couple sad looking adults with sad looking children at their feet, representing their sadness over being oppressed, victimized or what have you. (Now that I think of it, the tableau should have included a beaten dog to represent the animals.)

The idea was to ponder the statue and worry about whatever oppression or suffering was dear to your heart. It was so silly no one cared.
9.17.2009 8:52pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
Pat Connolly: "If a dozen distinct states INDEPENDENTLY became communist, and most of them became brutal oppressors..."

USSR
China
Vietnam
Cambodia
Cuba
North Korea

The score is 6-0 for Communist states independently becoming brutal oppressors. There are no counterexamples.

Nor is it reasonable to dismiss Lenin, Stalin, Mao, or Castro as "bad guys who just happened to be Communists". They were the most important and respected Communist leaders of their days, honored and celebrated by millions of other Communists, hailed as model rulers, their ideas held up as guides to the Radiant Future. Their regimes were lavishly praised by sympathetic foreigners.

However, the important thing that is willfully overlooked by all the apologists for Communism is that Communism isn't just extreme liberalism, or leftism. It is a fully organized political system, with specific doctrines based on specific premises, all articulated in mind-boggling detail by generations of exegetes.

Those doctrines explicitly justify totalitarian rule with all the horrors that necessarily come with it. Lenin and Trotsky believed that mass executions and forcible suppression of dissent were required by The Revolution, and the other Bolsheviks supported them. Communists in other countries instituted their own Red Terrors. In other words, it was not a bug, but a feature.

Communist doctrines require additional horrors to complete the work of social re-engineering. The Soviet Terror Famine was not merely a whim of Stalin the Brute and his cronies - it was considered a necessity by the entire Politburo, based on Marxist class analysis. In other words, it was not a bug, but a feature.

Mass murder and imprisonment, suppression of freedom, is as customary to Communism as human sacrifice to Huitzilopochtli was to the Aztec state religion.
9.18.2009 4:14am
ChrisatOffice (mail):
So much for Ghandi.
9.18.2009 1:03pm
ChrisatOffice (mail):
Pat Conolly:

Wasn't Lucille Ball a member of the American Communist Party? Was Lucille Ball clearly, unambiguously evil? Should I throw away my I LOVE LUCY DVDs ?

Only if you are looking for a job at HRW.
9.18.2009 1:05pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Chris,

Touche! :)
9.18.2009 4:29pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Leo: It was kismet. :-)
9.18.2009 7:53pm
PAT C (mail):


Pat Connolly: "If a dozen distinct states INDEPENDENTLY became communist, and most of them became brutal oppressors..."

USSR
China
Vietnam
Cambodia
Cuba
North Korea

The score is 6-0 for Communist states independently becoming brutal oppressors. There are no counterexamples.


A little puzzled. To continue with the example I was using, to me, the North Korean communist regime was clearly imposed upon it following the August 1945 takeover by the U.S.S.R. That is not at all what I mean by independently becoming communist.

I think the Allende government was the closest, so far, to what I mean by independently becoming communist. If the Danish communist party, to pick a hypothetical future case, ever won an election, and started murdering and imprisoning dissenters, I would agree, yep, there must be something fundamentally inherent that makes communism brutal and evil. Until then, or a similar situation, it's still an open question as far as I'm concerned.

Oh well, I'm going to be out for a week on vacation; by the time I get back this thread will be quite dead and forgotten.
9.19.2009 12:44am

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