(Originally written July 22, 2019 on my Facebook profile. Reblogged here with minor edits.
Thoughts on “actually existing” Communism and the “no true Scotsman objection from those who insist that those failed attempts at communism weren’t really communism.
Here’s the thing about “No True Scotsman.” Everyone uses terminologies for ideological systems, but there is a real disconnect between what people mean by the terms and how one identifies what in the real world is an actual functioning exemplar of said system.
Identifying real-world Capitalism is much easier than real-world Communism because there’s more of a consensus on the features of capitalism. Marx actually spent volumes of research and writing identifying exactly how capitalism operated, e.g. Das Kapital v. 1. I personally think Kapital v. 1 is the earliest successful scientific analysis of capitalism, surpassing Smith, Ricardo, and others. And, it still holds up, imo.
Some have advanced the foundational success of Marx’s work, but no one did it better before him and few have done so since, mostly other Marxists.
And, Marxist economic theory is one thing, the political and economic practice of the multiple variations on Marxist politics is quite another. The successors of Marx, from Kautsky, Luxemburg, Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin, Stalin, Mao, Deng, etc, all claimed to be Marxists, but you couldn’t get most of them to agree on what communism in practice actually was.
There’s one exception to this ideologically complicated situation, Stalin. Almost every single defender of capitalism insists that Stalin, and only Stalin, is the only true example of communism in power. Mao comes in a distant second.
Why do the capitalists want to insist that Stalin is ONE TRUE COMMUNIST ever? Because it makes capitalism easier to defend. Bukharin, Trotsky, and many other Marxists were executed or assassinated by Stalin for dissenting from his regime. But, no, Stalin is the inevitable logical outcome of Marxism, must be.
I call bullshit.
I hesitated for years identifying as a Communist. I first identified as a Christian Anarcho-Communist in the early 90s, after reading Peter Kropotkin, Dorothy Day, Liberation Theology, and others. I came to the conclusion then that communism was in fact THE Christian economic model based on Acts 2:44. That conviction still holds, despite my Marxist leanings, because I’ve seen communism working up close nonviolently in Reba Place Fellowship for decades.
How to scale that up is the challenge, but the small scale successes of not only RPF, but the Hutterites, countless other communes, and the general desire I see in the world to end poverty, climate change, white supremacy, etc lead me to say that the Communism of Love is God’s will as depicted in the New Jerusalem. Every tear shall be wiped away.
I find the secular left difficult and riven by sectarianism almost as badly as Protestantism.
So, I’m a religious communist following Jesus. Christians and Muslims claim Jesus as one of them, which means over half of the earth’s inhabitants. I didn’t come to communism via Marx, though I urge every Christian to study some of his writings. I came to communism through Jesus and a careful study of the scriptures.
I can be critical of every attempt to create communism in secular terms because humanity isn’t secular, it’s fundamentally religious.
“Unless you give up all you possess, you cannot be my disciple.”