Synthesis: Talk openly about radical politics

John Winstead mug

John Winstead

As an avowed Marxist, one of the issues I bump up against in discussing Communism is the amount of propaganda around the Soviets. Despite my best efforts, any attempt at a frank discussion of socialism devolves into an argument over how many people Stalin personally killed.

I cannot help but feel cynical about how the atrocities of socialism are discussed in contemporary U.S. politics. Capitalism apologists never seem to think that U.S. chattel slavery or the colonial genocide of native peoples is enough to indict the U.S.’s political or economic system. Too easily we forget that one of our presidents, Woodrow Wilson, was sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan or that Franklin Delano Roosevelt imprisoned Japanese-Americans without due process during World War II.

Excuses are never in short supply for the crimes against humanity when the perpetrator is the U.S. We are quick to castigate the actions of other countries to justify our own crimes, especially those whose foreign and political policy is antithetical to our own.

The easiest contender for this kind of jingoism is the former USSR. Vladimir Lenin is vilified even though he brought universal suffrage to the Russian people and, like George Washington, overthrew a tyrannical king. When you compare their histories, you see more similarities than differences between the two — although Lenin never owned any slaves.

Socialism has become a word that we are beginning to contend with again thanks to people like Bernie Sanders. This is a new and exciting time in politics, and it is my belief that true political change is only possible once we cast off the throes of Cold War ideology.

We must be able to talk openly and candidly about radical politics, and also be willing to acknowledge the faults of our own society before we can accurately gauge the shortfalls of another. So before you grandstand against Communism on the basis of its evils, consider our own nation’s demons, and then we can have an honest and fruitful discussion.